And on and on and on... 

Yes, the online course creation continues, and I often feel like I am drowning in details of an organizational nature. My nose is to the grindstone, and it's bleeding.

What's important to remember (and I may be just saying this for myself to hear) is to focus on the process, not the product. Also, and maybe more importantly, when it seems overwhelming, lower your standards and move on.

Kurt Vonnegut, a favorite author of mine, once said: "If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind."

Hi ho.

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Okay, so things don't always go as planned. I am still working on developing screenwriting skills, and I continue to market some of my finished materials. But, most of my time these days is being spent on creating an online course for the University of Oregon. This will be a six-week course called Student Success in Writing: A Six Traits Approach.

Dang, it's a lot of work. I am distilling the work I have done for the past seven years around the traits, including creating kid-centered information, biblio, and book activities for each trait. It will be good when it's done because I will have a great resource for the classes I teach, but right now it's a huge amount of detailed toil. It is going well, though, and I hope to finish it by the fall. The course will be available winter term, if the winds are fair.

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More Class 
Teaching the classes is just one step of the process. There's also the follow-up, which in this case, involves reading the work done by the participants taking the class for credit.

It's enjoyable reading the plans people make to enhance the use of nonfiction in their classrooms. What's particularly interesting, and gratifying too, is seeing how adept teachers are at taking an idea and making it better. While I'd like to think that all my ideas, strategies, and activities are perfect for all to use, I'm not under any illusion that they are. So, it's fun to see how they get adapted and improved to fit indiviuals.

Great job, teachers! I hope you'll share your work with your colleagues. Then they can adapt it for their classes. And on and on.

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Writing For Real Class 
Spent the last week or so working with some very fine teachers from around Oregon. During the two classes - one in Eugene, one in West Linn - we explored the world of nonfiction. Despite the time it takes (away from writing!) to prepare for these classes, I really enjoy sharing with other educators. Especially powerful during these classes is for teachers to share with each other. It's amazing what knowledge and experience there is in a group of teachers, especially one in which participants are choosing to attend on beautiful Oregon summer days. That's commitment! Their commitment always motivates me to do the very best I can and, at the end, fuels my desire to make the next class better.

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It's been awhile since I've added here, so please accept my apologies. There's been so much going on, writing and otherwise. I'm in the process of having a house designed, and that's gobbling a lot of my time. Also, I nominated a family to have an Extreme Makeover. It's the folks who run the wolf sanctuary in southern Oregon that I worked with in creating the Friends of the Wolf book you may have read about earlier. Anyway, they are in dire need of a new residence due to leakage, mold, and rotting floors. Any money they could use for repair is directed to basic care (food, vet care) for the 25 wolves in the sanctuary. It's a very sad situation, and one I hope I can help change. Being selected to get an Extreme Makeover is a long shot. But, it's a better shot than if we didn't try.

Despite all, writing continues. I have been in touch with an editor I had some contact with in the past, and I am sending her a few of my projects to review. I'm also working on my screenplay. It's a slow, learning process but it's fun learning another form of writing. Having done so much nonfiction, it's interesting and mind-expanding to be able to "make up" everything. I'm liking it.

Had a great experience working with first, second, and third grade students out in Marcola, a small rural community. They had read my Not Fair! book about Abigail Scott Duniway and written me very convincing letters to come talk with them. I shared how I came to write the book as well as pictures showing the printing process. Questions abounded, which I really enjoyed. Then we created human statues, showing important scenes in Abigail's life. A good time was had by all, expecially me!

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Nonfiction Is Alive! 

Nonfiction is alive at Willagillespie Elementary in Eugene. It was a great time meeting with the kids there yesterday and talking with them about real writing. I shared my interests and curiosities, and I learned about theirs. Kids of all ages have wonder about the world around us; nonfiction helps address those wonders and find the the answers to our many questions.

We ran a contest to rename "nonfiction," since it is such a negative and generally goofy term. Two winners emerged: the upper grade winner entered the word "realalistic" and the primary grade winner was "true real." Both interesting takes on the genre. And both, I might add, are better words than "nonfiction."

I am hoping the students I met with yesterday will continue to pursue their interests and questions through nonfiction, and that they will share what they find as well as their real life experiences with others through writing. We write because we have something to say. Everyone, no matter the age, has something to say!

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Still nonfictioning 
Work marches on for the nonfiction book. We are fine-tuning the tools (since the book is called The Readers'/Writers' Toolbox, activities are referred to as tools) and creating templates and gathering samples to include. There will be three sections of the book, focusing on three grade levels: K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. Each section will contain both reading and writing tools.

Hopefully, this book will help make it easier to include nonfiction in classrooms. After all, nonfiction reading and writing is done far more than fiction in the real world. Shouldn't we be training kids how to deal with it? Of course!
(sorry about the repetition of this thought; do you think I care about this?)

p.s. I am still rolling other books ideas around in my head. What to develop, what to write, what to market. I'll share some of them next time.

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Sunny (?) San Diego 
Before heading south I had a chance to work with some fifth graders at Creslane Elementary School in Creswell. Mrs. Robertson's class has been reading biographies and then will write their own versions for younger readers. They wanted me to share my experiences writing the Abigail Scott Duniway book. I had a great time there and am excited to return to see their finished products.

The San Diego trip was off the map! Lots of driving and plenty of fun. We drove the length of California, from stately Mount Shasta in the north, through the food-rich San Joaquin Valley,along the coastline, and into lush San Diego, where we experienced a combination of sun, clouds, and yes, even rain. We attended the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic (Japan beat Korea) as well as a college game (San Diego State vs BYU), during which we saw Stephan Strasburg, probably the #1 draft pick, mow down the batters with his blazing fastball. All was not baseball, though. We spent an afternoon at the Wild Animal Park, where we saw lions, rhinos, water buffalo, giraffes, elephants, gorillas, meerkats...okay, you get the picture. We also took in the Model Railroading Museum with its miles of train tracks in displays so realistic you'd think you were Gulliver.

The best part of the trip was seeing my son Tyler, who lives and works in La Jolla, on the outskirts of San Diego. It's been since last May that I saw him and, although we talk on the phone and e-mail regularly, those are no substitutes for seeing him in person. He's off to Thailand in a few weeks, but will be coming to Eugene at the end of June. I'm looking forward to it.

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Cold Day in March 
Daylight Savings today, and it should be a preview of spring, right? Wrong! Today's the temperature hovered in the 30s and it even snowed a few times. Fortunately, I had already returned home from my bike ride when the white stuff fell. Let me add: COLD bike ride.

And the book? Yes, it proceeds on, bit by bit. I'm closing out the primary section: now I have to work on examples for the tools and refine the words. Barry is working on the grades 3-5 section, which he will be done with in a few weeks. It's been helpful to focus attention on this project. Well, there's other things I've been workng on too: designing an online class, preparing for an upcoming author visit, and working on the two classes I'll be doing in June, one in Portland and one in Eugene.

I think I'm ready for a break, and next week I'll be taking one: a trip south to visit my son in San Diego (hopefully, sunny San Diego). There will be a visit to the Wild Animal Park and to Petco Park to see a World Baseball Classic game. I'm hoping for Japan against Cuba.
We shall see...

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Carrying On 
The work continues on the nonfiction book. I am currently focused on writing activities and strategies - we call them tools - for teaching nonfiction to kids in the early grades (K-2). This is a challenge for me because it's been a while since I've taught at that level. Fortunately, I have been able to work in a variety of primary classrooms to try out the tools.

It's so important to introduce nonfiction early to address the curiosity kids have about the world. Too often, nonfiction reading and writing takes a backseat to fiction. This book will encourage teachers to utilize "real" books and "real" writing, and it will provide them with tools to do it.

Co-authoring a book has its challenges. Barry Lane, with whom I am creating this book, lives in Vermont; I live in Oregon. So, obviously we don't get together much. Fortunately, technology helps us communicate. Each week we have a Skype meeting, which is a way to make phone calls from computer to computer. It's easy and free and allows us to keep our hands free to find papers, take notes, or drink tea. Pretty slick.

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