About writing: The oak that shook the world

Writing exercise 01Writing exercise 02Writing exercise 03

When I was finishing my MLIS at CUA in April 2006, one of the tasks we have to do was to prepare a portfolio with all the classes we had taken that somehow reflected our expertise in school libraries.

Today I was looking for something else and found that analog portfolio. I started browsing it, and caught my attention this piece I wrote (see above picture). I didn’t remember doing it, until little by little my brain started to put pieces together and recalling the details of it.

In the Fall of 2003, I was working as a resource assistant (interpreter and translator) at Barrett Elementary school, in Arlington, Virginia. My job was OK, have lots of interactions with parents, and worked very closely with the parent liaison leading workshop together for Hispanic parents around the Washington DC area. She became my best and lasting friend. Sometimes, though, I was buried in my office translating 600 reports cards comments. So, I was always looking for ways of learning more, and seeing ways of crossing the limitations of my position as an assistant .

When I learnt the teaching staff was going to take a class called The teaching of Writing, PK-6 with Jane Hansen, author of When writers read, and professor at the Curry School of Education from the University of Virginia, I remember running into the principal’s office (who at that time was now retired Terry Bratt), begging her to let me take the course. She looked and smiled at me, and was kind enough to let me participate. Thank you Terry!!!

All what I remember from now on it’s speculative. When I looked at the piece I wrote (and made), my guess was that we needed to write a book review of Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg, (Bantam, 1990). Probably, one of the exercises that Golberg (or our professor) was suggesting to do for writing was to cut unfinished sentences from magazines and glue them randomly, but in lines with space in between, on a piece of paper, and then…fill in the blanks without too much thinking. Probably that’s what I did (lot’s of grammar mistakes, but that’s just me, a life long ESOL ).

Here is a transcription of my piece. In bold and colored are the unfinished sentences from magazines (I kept the original upper and lower cases of the magazines).

Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life

by Natalie Goldberg,
(Bantam, 1990)

The Last Word of Goldberg’s book is write.
The first word is Life.
That’s what to certain degree reflects the idea of this book.
Writing is Life. Life is Writing.
Golberg is A Writer Who Beat the Odds of redundancy.
In Chile When Times Were difficult, we used to help each other.
There are True tales from her life. She loves to hear her voice. That’s for sure.
Why Even Try to write or dedicate your life to teach writing if you don’t write? DON’T BE so stuffy. Just let it go. Keep your hand moving, and let it run as smoothly as possible. Don’t let the editor to interrupt. How can we make the flow flow?

Tough, We Went ‘Bare’ riding bareback. That doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, while I’m sitting in my office I’m thinking in all the clothes I need to fold. Is your laundry amount as ours?
WHAT’S IN A NAME? 
Creativity, a history of searching.
Mine MAKE PEOPLE’S
 eyes pop out. It’s so difficult to pronounce [my name]. They say: “What a pretty name”, but I know what they really are saying is “What a strange name!”
The original or The Imitation?
I don’t want to divide our lives in your world and my world.
We are are two. We need TO RIDE together.  He looked at me with such a pain in his eyes, I felt a poison arrow in my chest. I hit him hard.
I was talking  about a culture on the verge of collapse. I was thinking that he LIVES BETTER. Calm, wise, firm, tender. All the characteristics of a good human being.
Everybody is accelerated.
We should pay more attention to MAGIC. Otherwise, There’s no relief in sight.
Everyday life has lost its sight. If true, we’re all in trouble. Where did we leave our dreams?
I do is to easy to say when you get married. Then Expect The Incomparable.
It’s like salt and pepper. Shake them well, and maintain them even. Don’t put too much though.
A FREE spirit doesn’t mean you have to destroy your opponent, to say mean words.
Slamming the others won’t take you anywhere.
I have to BURN BAD KARMA. An evil is inside my mind and makes me say mean words and be unhappy.
They were LEFT BEHIND! Why you didn’t wait for them? I JUST GO TO the laundry room. Remember? I have to do my laundry.
Now it’s My Turn of doing the dishes. Really? That’s nice, you know?
What a Long, and dreadful day I have today.

The jobless people in the States can survive. In Chile they don’t. Destiny or Disaster? Who knows.
If the shoe fits I will make Donna happy. The best thing to do is to get them as a birthday present.
“ALL OF WHAT I do, I do it for you. Liar! You do it for you. I WORK EVERY DAY to bring food to this table and never receive any kind gesture from your part. Why are we being so negative? Might be these words.Have a good trip AND ENJOY IT.”We will have time TO GROW older together.

WHY’S THE SKY BLUE? Because the elephant was tired of the gray firmament, put blue paint in his trunk and tossed it in the sky. The next morning the whole space was blue, cerulean blue.
The cereal is here. But it is too high. I cannot reach it, Mami! Go AND HELP your brother! Don’t you see I am busy? I have TO DELIVER this package, I have TO FEED the dog, and still you expect me to run immediately and get your cereal?

Oh well, IT’S GOOD anyway.
What?
The book. Kind of redundant. Yet Another source of inspiration. Some paragraphs are very entertaining and other are useful. It’s a Strange Trip to Golberg’s life. (Sometimes I couldn’t stand her examples). She wanted TO ILLUMINATE us, poor beginners.
Yeah! Look how good a writer I am.
You are mad.
No, maybe envious :).
(RE)COLOR MY WORLD. Give me a break.
And Now You Know what to say.
Rest in Peace?
No way. I need TO MEET my voice, my hidden voice. It’s Just the Beginning. Mix feeling of reading. If you like to look at my point as a way TO THRIVE in your writings.

An oak is massive. And firm. THAT SHOOK THE WORLD


 

Fifteen years have passed by. Certainly this was a fun exercise I would like to try again with students or with myself. Probably, I will have a tougher time finding the unfinished sentences from magazines. I might get a dentist appointment and steal some of them from the waiting room.

Mistakes, biutiful mistakes…

To the Beauty of Failure
To the beauty of failure

As perfectionist as I am, committing mistakes is part of my every day life. One of the reasons why I am not very good at writing blog posts is because I am scared of all the grammar mistakes I will commit. It takes time to write “the perfect post” in English. You don’t have an idea how many times I edit them, and how many mistakes I find every time I re-read them. I hate to commit misspelling mistakes. Even in Facebook, Instagram or Whatsapp. I wish I were like those young adults that write in social media, with awful misspellings, almost as a new language, and enjoying it.

Even though, I am aware I commit tons of grammar mistakes while writing in English, I am starting to shake myself up, and grow a “who cares” attitude. That’s the only way I can improve my writing, by writing and committing mistakes, catch them, and correct them if possible, or move on.

busy libraryfussyBut that’s a mistake that doesn’t do any harm (but to my ego), and I might not consider those as biutiful mistakes. A biutiful mistake is the one that makes you grow as a person, and hopefully become a better one. One of these mistakes happen to me one day while I was working after school at the library. They have been pressuring us to finish a cataloging project, and I had almost three hours ahead of me for catching up on the project. So, I was happy to be on the late shift. But, oh well, nothing is perfect. The usual group of middle school boys showed up. I called them the ¨soccer boys” since they dropped themselves in the library with an attitude, with their laptops in hands only to be used to play shooting video games, and with a loud voices to call people out from one side to the other of the room. They were noisy, bored to death and in the library just to kill time until their practice started.  They were also, quick, sharp, and funny. I think that to certain degree, part of their thrill was to make the librarian in charge mad. The library was the only place in the school after classes that offered them tables and outlets for their laptops, and air conditioning that they can request to be turned on or off at their leisure.

That particular day, they were tons of other tired younger students in the library struggling with homework, and older ones that were studying for tests. Usually, the presence of the soccer boys was for the rest of the kids, a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they got to laugh and get distracted; the younger ones looked up at them and admire their corky personalities. For the older ones, by being observant of a situation that they didn’t approve, gave them an opportunity to judge. The curse was that nobody got things done.

Shushing librarianAnd I lost it. Yes, I was so frustrated that I started shushing them first, and then getting out of my desk yelling. After like 10 minutes of back and forth arguments, I kicked them out of the library. It was not a planned or controlled madness, and that upset me the most. When I was done yelling, I returned all flustered to my desk and started scoping the space. I noticed that in a corner there were a couple of very quiet parents reading, They had witnessed my tantrum from the start to the end. I freaked out. These parents were going to sue me. I was going to be fired.

Eventually, I apologized to all parties involved. The soccer boys, the parents, and the rest of the students that wanted to do homework, read or study. I made sure that everybody understood that even though the boys’s behavior was not acceptable, my reaction was not either. That day, I stayed 2 more hours after the end of my shift since I didn’t get any cataloging done before. The cataloging was a soothing exercise.

Now, I breath before reacting, and I ask students what is making them distracted. I reach them, instead of sitting in front of my computer all frustrated, I move around, I greet them with a smile as soon as they enter in the library even if they want to ignore me. I don’t get as much cataloging done as if I were alone, but I get the students involved in my chores, or I get involved in their qualms. And I do it with or without parents present. Besides, why we need to catalog books for? A school library without noisy students wouldn’t be a school library. #CCCWrite

BookFace
Boys helping me taking down an old collection of book that I needed to catalog
DominoEffect1
After they helped me, I let them do a domino effect with the books. The conditions were two: they needed to count how many books were in the collection, and none of the books could fall on the floor. They were 91 books, and none of them were harmed in the making of this.