I'm still writing. "Me" writing. It's helping.

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Do the sresses, strains, and challenges of being alive get in way of writing? Not necessarily.

A week ago my dog passed away. Sombra, my 15-year-old border collie mix, was a loyal friend and constant companion. She died at home, surrounded by love.

The experience of her passing did not diminish my writing efforts. It diverted them. Instead of working on the varied projects in which I am involved, I wrote for myself. The audience was me; the purpose: understanding. By writing my observations, thoughts, and feelings I have been better able to make sense of this loss. I have been able to put into words the gifts I received from this special creature. As I work further, I hope to focus on the lessons I've learned and, better yet, put them into practice as I continue my journey on this planet.

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And don't think think for a moment that writing matters have taken a backseat to teaching matters. They haven't. I have been working hard to find a home for a picture book bio I wrote about A.C. Gilbert, an amazing and inspiring man. Well, I think that is coming to fruition through a deal with Discover Writing Press.

While this press produces mainly books for teachers, they do have some children's books as well. I will be honored to have mine join the list. But, of course, there's lots of work to do to. I'll be involved at all levels, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Don't worry, you'll hear about them all. In the meantime, Google A.C. Gilbert and you'll see why kids should know about this eclectic and innovative man.

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Please Remove Hats! 
Hats off to the hardworking teachers who extend their long days of teaching kids to take classes and attend workshops! I am having the pleasure of working with teachers in the Springfield (OR) district, focusing on tools for writing success and on nonfiction writing.

I am amazed and humbled by the teachers with whom I have been working. They are interested, engaged, and collaborative. Best of all, they are motivated to help their students become better writers.

There is no limit to what these folks can come up with. I have already seen the evidence of them taking a germ of an idea and developing it into an actual lesson that will work with their kids. Many more results will be shared when the group meets again. Can't wait!

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Marching On 
Progress has been made. Hurrah! I was able to get in the groove with the online class, break big tasks into smaller parts, and get things moving forward.

An important tenet of writing is to break it down into smaller bits, whether they be chapters, pages, paragraphs, or sentences. That, along with having an overall plan, can be very helpful in completing projects.

This is not to say that the online class is finished. It has to be reviewed by the University of Oregon, and I'm fairly certain changes will need to be made. But, the major work has been done.

Same with the Nonfiction Toolbox book. We are now working on the cover art, trying to decide what the "look" will be. Eight different possibilities so far, but we're getting closer. Everything else is moving along well.

In case you're wondering, I have not forgotten about the screenplay I started exploring. I still think about it, and that's part of the writing process. Its time will come.

Off to work!

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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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