Category Archives: Writing about writing

Never “too wordy”

Tink fills pages with words. She explains and expounds and exclaims. Her words are boisterous and vibrant, so eager to tell her stories that I can hear the notebook paper crinkle under the weight of their ink.

“Too wordy” is something Tink’s 5th grade teacher has taken to writing on her school work.

Those words make me angry.

“Too much detail” writes the teacher.

“More detail!” I write on my students’ papers. I want them to tell me their stories. Their stories. Their thoughts. Their ideas. What makes these stories and ideas unique? Their details. I ask for them, beg for them. The details make the writing come alive. “Make your paper crinkle under the wiggling weight of your words,” I want to tell my students.

Tink doesn’t need to be told. She knows how to write. I haven’t taught her. She just feels the story in her bones. She understands how to hook a reader, how to pull you in. She finds just the right word, just the right phrase. She knows that the story is in the details, and she uses them.

It upsets her when her teacher writes, “Too wordy.”

“I don’t understand,” Tink says, “She tells everyone else in the class to use detail, and when I use detail, she says I’m too wordy.”

“She’s wrong,” I tell Tink. “Tell your stories. Use your details. You know how to write.”

Tink smiles and bends over her notebook. She touches her pen to the page and the words begin to unwind across the paper. All the glorious details of her story stream out onto the faint blue lines of the college ruled paper. I hear the crinkling begin and soon that sound drowns out the teacher’s “too wordy.” The criticism is lost in the rush of glorious descriptions and details pouring from Tink’s pen.



Pulling on the string: Back to blogging

Typing “” into the address window made me a bit anxious. I haven’t been here in so long, which sounds crazy to say. It’s like saying I haven’t been in my own brain for so long. . . . or my own memory . . . .

I was almost afraid my blog wouldn’t still be here.

8 months with nothing from me. Not a post. Not a visit. Not a word.

I half expected to find the internet equivalent of an abandoned house waiting for me . . . doors hanging haphazardly on the hinges, shutters on the ground, ivy puncturing the screens and filling the windows. But I didn’t find that. My blog is still


just the same, just ever so patiently waiting for me to remember

how to write.

You see, I have forgotten again. My new faculty job filled my brain from January to June. I thought I would write again in the heat of the summer, sitting in the shimmer of chlorinated air next to the pool, finally unwinding my words again. But summer came and went and my words stayed wound like a tangled ball of string with a hidden end tucked away. I didn’t know how to start, so I didn’t


And then it was fall and a new semester and I stood in front of new classes. I started teaching my students how to find their words, but I didn’t try and find mine. I’m not even sure what my story is anymore. I’ve forgotten my narrative.

In 2006, I started this blog as a way to remember how to write. This was my practice then my memory then my voice for so many years. I can’t quite understand how I lost that voice and then that memory.

Now I’m back to practice.

NaBloPoMo starts today. I am going to use it as a reason to pick at my ball of string. . . pick at at until I find then end. Then I’m going to pull, and I hope all my words will come unraveling across this space. . . my memory . . . my voice. . . my words.

It will be a tangled, knotted mess of sentences, I am sure. I won’t promise anything good. I don’t know what my story is now or how to tell it, but I do know the only way to find out is to put the cursor over the “Publish” button and


NaBloPoMo Can Goooooooooooooooo

This post is the last. I did it. I finished @&#*!(*@&&!! NaBloPoMo.

I feel that finishing with a post where you declare that you finished really is cheating a bit, but I DON’T CARE. I did it. 30 posts in 30 days. (Even if one of those posts only happened because IT Guy wouldn’t let me quit.)

I’m not sure what was so hard about this year. In years past, I’ve enjoyed NaBloPoMo. It’s pushed me to find a daily writing rhythm that has served me well. I’ve generally been happy with most of the posts.

This month was just rough. I think it’s partially because I often felt I couldn’t write about what I was really feeling. Sometimes the story wasn’t mine to tell. Sometimes it would just come off as whining. Sometimes I didn’t have anything to say (like this entire past week of continuous plague.) I’ve often been exhausted to the core of my being and that’s just not good for writing. You have to be able to think to write. My thinker has been overworked and in the shop a lot this month.

No matter how many days passed, I never found my writing rhythm.

Ah, well.

Despite all of it, I finished. NaBloPoMo, we are done this year. I’ll see you next November when I forget how much I didn’t like you this year and take you up again.

I finished NaBloPoMo. It's over! (Thank god.)

The most boring blog post ever

This blog post is going to support all those criticisms that blogging is self-indulgent navel gazing by people who mistakenly think that others are interested in the dull, daily minutia of their lives.

Except I don’t actually believe you are interested in the dull, daily minutia of my life. I usually try to have something worthwhile to say here, and if I don’t have something worthwhile to say, I don’t post.

I’m stuck right now, though, because of NaBloPoMo. I said I would participate and post every day for the month of November. This is my fourth year doing NaBloPoMo, and I don’t want to blow it now with only a few more days left to go. I am bad at quitting.

Unfortunately, I have been home sick in bed today. I have done nothing worthwhile. I have thought nothing worthwhile. I have nothing but feverish, hacking, dull, daily minutia.

Feel free to stop reading now. I would, if I were you.

Here comes a dull list of the dull things I have done today:

1. Taken my temperature a million times

2. Coughed up my lungs at least 200 times

3. Finished watching the last season of The Tudors on Netflix

4. Eaten stuffing

5. Graded 10 papers while feverish. (Most of my comments make sense. I think.)

6. Taken my temperature a million more times

7. Sweat. Shiver. Sweat. Shiver. Sweat. Shiver.

So there you have it. I am beginning to seriously rethink the wisdom of NaBloPoMo, at least in terms of turning out quality work. It certainly leads to quantity, and sometimes you need that to break out of a rut.

But, sometimes, it leads to blog posts like this one – the most boring blog post ever.

Don’t worry. NaBloPoMo is almost over. I am counting the days.


This is me right now. I’ve been awake for 46 of the last 48 hours.

(You can tell because I am wearing my glasses. I only wear my glasses when I can’t pry my eyelids open enough to get my contacts in. I guess you can also tell because I look comatose.)

Too tired to blog. Words are hard.

I’ve been sitting here trying to do that thing where I put words in a particular order that says something meaningful. You know that thing? That blogging thing?

Yeah, well, hour 46 and wordz iz hurd.

That thing where I put words in a particular order that says something meaningful is not happening. What IS happening is I keep dozing off and drooling on my keyboard.

I think everyone gets one pass during NaBloPoMo when they can just post a picture and babble and call it a post. Today is that post for me because if I sit here much longer I am going to have a keyboard pattern imprinted on my face.

Goodnight, NaBloPozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Jim kicks Bill: Another NaBloPoMo Blogligation

I am beginning to question the wisdom of my participation in NaBloPoMo this year. It’s only the 5th day. Yesterday, I resorted to a nothing post (a blogligation, as Ruth calls it.) It’s early to be pulling out the writing just to say I wrote today. It might be okay, if I followed that weak post with a strong post today

But I’m not. There is no strong post here. It’s another space filler.

I honestly cannot form a coherent right now, mostly due to lack of sleep. The words are quiet. My fingers are thick and heavy on the keyboard. The words have nothing to say.

I did an exercise with my students today that required them to read overwritten sentences and then “Cut Out the Lard.” They had to edit the sentences until they were clear and concise.

“One can easily see that a kicking situation is taking place between Bill and Jim; this is the kind of situation in which Jim is a kicker and Bill is a kickee.”

What does that sentence say?

They can’t figure it out, and, yet, this is the kind of writing my students do all the time. They add verbage, stretching out their sentences, filling them with prepositions, stacking qualifications on top of qualifications; they perform Olympic feats of verbal gymnastics to avoid saying “I”, to avoid sounding dumb (one student tells me.) “You have to make it sound all academic and stuff, ” he says.

What does that sentence say?

“Jim kicks Bill.”

“You read this stuff all the time and have to figure out what it means?” says another student, rubbing her temples while she tries to puzzle out the meaning of a convoluted sentence. “It makes my head hurt.”

It makes my head hurt, too, particularly now, when I’m doing the same thing I spent an entire class teaching my students not to do. I tell them to consider each word. Don’t use filler. Make sure each word has a purpose in your sentence. Yet here I am writing strings of Times Roman nothing across this white screen.

I should just stop.

Jim kicks Bill. That’s all you need to know tonight.

Blogligation #2 with 6 minutes to spare.

I’m watching Buffy save the world for a little bit longer: Warning – angst ahead

This is the first time I have sat down at my desk in two weeks. I’ve been online using my iPad and iPhone, but I have not sat down at my computer to write at all.

I haven’t had anything to say.

I’m not sure I have anything to say now, but it’s been almost two weeks since I last posted, and that post didn’t even count as writing. I have to write something, so I can move forward, and I have to move forward again.

The past two weeks have been bruising. First, I found out that I didn’t get either of the full-time faculty positions for which I had interviewed. I wasn’t surprised about one of the positions, but the other . . . well, even though I know how impossible it is to land a full-time faculty job teaching English, I had started to believe I had a chance. I made it through two rounds of interviews and the field was down to 3 from 170 applicants. I was one of those three. My interviews went really well. I’m not sure I could have done anything better. I began to think that maybe, just maybe, it was my time.

And then it wasn’t.

I just started to write “I’ve been taking it hard,” but I stopped myself and thought, “I need to find a better, more descriptive way to say that.” Then I stared at the screen for 5 minutes without any words.

I’ve been taking it hard.

I haven’t been writing or thinking or even talking much. For the first few days, there was a great deal of crying. Lately, I’ve been rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All of it. I’m on the last season now. Maybe I’ll switch to Angel after Buffy saves the world one last time. That’s about the extent of my current planning.

Last week, IT Guy’s grandfather died. He was a wonderful man – kind, gentle and generous. He was 97 when he died. He was the beloved patriarch of IT Guy’s family. His life was an example of a life well-lived, and he was adored by his siblings, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It’s been hard on everyone to have him gone.

Then Friday night, the derecho came through, knocking out power to pretty much everyone including us. We are fortunate in that our power came back on on Sunday, but most of our area is still in the hot, July dark.

Between Buffy episodes, I wonder why I am having trouble starting up again. Why can’t I find my footing? I think about IT Guy’s grandfather. He was a wonderful man who lived long, full and happy life. He made his family his focus and that is what made his life worthwhile. I think about that as I drive my kids to camp or swim team or martial arts. I think about it when we eat dinner together or I toss them around in the pool. What IT Guy’s grandfather did for a living didn’t really matter much. It wasn’t what defined him. His love for his family did.

Perhaps that is enough?

Either way, here I am stringing out words again – moving forward. I’m going to need a new plan eventually . . . . soon . . . I’ll figure it out . . . maybe after Buffy saves the world just one more time.

I’m still here.

Anne left me a comment on my last post today. Since I wrote that post on March 24th, it was surprising to get a comment on it. It was surprising to get a comment at all because I haven’t written here in . . . what is today? . . . oh, wow. . . 4/27. It’s been a month since my last post. It’s been more than a month. How did I let that happen?

Anne wrote:

Where are you?  I can tell by your photos that life continues on, but your posts have stopped.  Are you done with your blog?  I hope not.  I may not comment much but I read you regularly and miss your voice.

I miss my voice, too, and I don’t think I realized how much until I read the question, “Are you done with your blog?”

No, I’m not. I’m really not. I think about this blog everyday. Everyday is going to be the day that I write . . . and then I watch old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix instead. And then it’s the next day that’s going to be the day I write  . .  and then the next.

Here’s the thing. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say; it’s that I have too much too say, and I’m not sure how to say it. Some heavy things happened in the last month. Actually, they have been happening all year, but I couldn’t write about them after awhile.

To avoid being cryptic, I’ll give you the cliff notes version. Ace continued to be bullied horribly at his middle school. By the end of January, I was done, but Ace didn’t want to leave. We had a brief period of calm, but then things got worse again. Ace wanted to leave. Three weeks ago, I applied for a transfer. My application form included almost two inches of documentation of more than seventeen separate bullying incidents this school year alone. Four days later, we got approved. Right after spring break, we moved Ace. The new school has been great so far. He already has friends. He’s on the stage crew. He’s happy. This story has a happy ending (I hope anyway), but the process of getting here has been nothing short of horrifying and I’ve been wrung dry by it all.

See, that’s not even the beginning. There is so much more to say. I have so much more story to tell, and that’s why I haven’t been writing. How can I write about anything else until I’ve written about how Ace was literally bullied out of school?

I can’t because it’s been too close to write about, and I feel like it is so important to tell this story – so important to tell it well – that it was overwhelming. So I stopped writing and I started watching Buffy. Things are simpler when the bad guys are vampires and all you have to do is stick them with a wooden stake.

But today Anne’s comment made me realize I have to start writing again. I need this space. I need to start writing again even if it is going to take me some time to tell all of the story about the bullies and the school and my incredibly resilient and amazing son.

I’ll tell it in pieces, and weave it through the rest of my life. Honestly, that’s how it has been – woven through everything, absolutely everything, for all of us.

Thank you, Anne, for telling me that you are still listening. I don’t know if anyone else still is, but I’m so glad you’re here. And I’m back here now, too.

Stay tuned.

A post about a post I can’t post: You probably just want to skip it

The post I can't post

I wrote a post for today about all the crap that has been going on today, but I can’t post it.  And I have absolutely nothing else I can possibly write about. There isn’t room left in my head for any other images or words or ideas. I’ve got nothing but this and I can’t post it.

We’re okay. We’re all okay, but the bullying situation has taken a rather alarming turn and we’ve spent all day trying to handle it. Ace is okay. He’s safe. He’s going to school tomorrow and maybe I’m making this way more dramatic than it needs to be. I’m sorry. If it wasn’t November, I wouldn’t post at all, but I don’t want to fail out of NaBloPoMo just because of some idiotic 12-year-old bully with a Google Buzz and Twitter.  So you get a cryptic photograph of the post I’m not posting and a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing below it. It sucks. I know. I’m sorry. Maybe I can post it tomorrow.

Move along, nothing to see here.

Another poet in the family?

I was recently listening to an episode of This American Life about middle school. It was incredibly enlightening. All these things about that have been driving me crazy about Ace lately turn out to not be uniquely Ace. Instead they are middle school issues and all middle schoolers are acting this way. If you have a middle school child, I highly recommend this program. It really gave me some insight into what Ace is going through.

One of the revelations in the program for me was  how much brain growth kids experience at this age. Apparently, Ace has more gray matter in his head right now than he ever will again in his life. He is literally becoming the adult person he will be right before my eyes. Things he practices now and parts of his brain that he uses heavily (like the Be Loud part of your brain – I’m sure he has one of those) will stick around and become move developed, and what he doesn’t use will just go away. His brain matter will whittle itself down based on how much of it and what parts of it Ace uses. He is sculpting the adult Ace out of his brain right now. It’s mind-blowing stuff, don’t you think?

Because of this brain sculpting process (that’s my phrase not theirs. I just can’t think of a better way name for it), it’s really easy for middle school kids to pick up new skills. People also tend to hold on to the skills they learn during middle school.

So I started thinking, what did I start doing during the middle school years?

Writing poetry. I started writing poems in middle school. My first poems were school assignments, but then I began to do it on my own. I liked crafting images, frozen moments in time, with nothing but words. I kept journals that I filled with poems, and I did this for years and years.  Honestly, I haven’t written a poem in awhile, but I do write, daily. Writing feels like a hardwired part of who I am. Writing is a big part of what makes me Megan. I am writer; it’s who I am and it started in middle school.

I thought about this yesterday when Ace came home from school and handed me a poem he wrote for English class. This poem . . .

A school assignment is how I got started, too, once upon a time in a land far away. I wonder if this will be a start for Ace.

If you ask me, it’s a pretty good one.