Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Few Spaces Left for "Write Your Own Novel" course at Huck!

Student Novels from Fall, 2010 Semester!
Our new semester at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning begins February 6th and I'll be offering six writing and literature courses for kids from the ages of 7-18!  Most classes are filled, but it's still a good idea to get on the waiting list as sometimes people's plans change.  There are still a few spaces left in my Creative Writing course -- "Outline your way to a Terrific Story" -- in which kids write a novel in a semester and publish it on  This is a course for kids 12+ and more information can be found HERE and HERE!

This is a challenging course, but I've seen students really grow dramatically as writers when they take on a project like this.  The planning, organizing and critical thinking involved have lasting effects on their writing abilities in other classes as well. Students become very comfortable with writing tasks and far less intimidated by big projects.  I'd be happy to answer any questions you have and look forward to working with all my emerging writers next semester!

Class Project book from my course: "From Novels to Knowledge"

This semester I tried a new approach to teaching literature for kids ages 9-12 at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning.  We looked at Newbery Award winning novels as a way of understanding both literature and history through writing.  Students improved in all three subjects along the way and created a beautiful Guidebook tracing their journey.  We focused on American History from the time of the Civil War through the Vietnam War by reading The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (an entertaining and educational look at life in Civil War America); The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (a "turn of the century" look at life in Texas as a young girl explores naturalism and Darwin's Origin of Species); Moon Over Manifest (the 2011 Newbery winner that focuses on life in a small Kansas town during WWI and the Great Depression); The Watsons Go to Birmingham (a hilarious book that deals sensitively with civil rights); and The Wednesday Wars (which focuses on a 7th grade boy in the 1960s New York, coming to grip with the issues of his day THROUGH Shakespeare -- yes, this was my favorite!).  For each of these novels, the students took on one of five roles (Historian, Character Analyst, Summarizer, Thematic Adviser or Passage Illuminator), switching for each novel, so that by the time the course was completed, everyone had a chance at each role.  They wrote an essay for each novel, based on their role and presented it to the class to help spark our discussion.  Along the way, they learned a lot about writing, history and literary analysis and this book (which contains all the essays, creative writing and drawings they did for their work on these novels) is a fitting tribute to all their efforts.  I couldn't be prouder of these kids!

If you'd like to see a preview of their Guidebook, it's Available HERE!  

Guidebook to Coming of Age Novels Published

This semester I taught a literature and writing class at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning (for kids between the ages of 12-16) and after a lot of hard work, the students completed their class project book, "The Read to Write Guide to Coming of Age Novels."  For the class we read Great Expectations, Siddhartha, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  For each of the novels, the students took on one of five roles (Historian/Biographer, Character Analyst, Thematic Adviser, Symbolist or Passage Illuminator), switching for each novel, so that by the time the course was completed, everyone had a chance at each role.  They wrote an essay for each novel, based on their role and presented it to the class to help spark our discussions.  The Guidebook pictured here is the result of all their hard work and effort.  This format worked beautifully this semester and the students' writing improved by leaps and bounds as they learned from each other in class.  I guided them and helped them develop, focus and organize their work, but the hard work they did on their own.  They learned a lot about literary analysis, writing and critical thinking this semester and I'm so proud of all of them!

If you'd like to see a preview of their Guidebook, it's Available HERE!

Short Story Anthology Published

After a semester of hard work, the students in my Short Story class at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning have their own Anthology to show for it.  These kids, ranging in age from 10-14, each wrote five original short stories for this anthology (basically one every two weeks or so).  In class we covered plot construction, point of view, dialogue, character development, details, hooks, mood, setting, conflict & tension, style (playing with literary language) and revision skills.  Along the way we read about a dozen classic short stories as well.  We had a busy and productive semester and I'm so pleased by all of their hard work.  It takes courage to come to class each week and take part in a round table writing workshop -- reading your work aloud and opening yourself up to the friendly critique of your classmates and teacher.  These students did a great job and I'm so very, very proud of them!

If you'd like to see a preview of their Anthology, it's available HERE!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Baby Surprise Jacket

Baby Surprise Jacket - Unfolded

Knitting ingenuity at its best!  Elizabeth Zimmerman has long been a favorite designer of mine.  I love her books, her newsletters and only wish I'd seen more of her original PBS show from the 70s.  One of the things I like best about her is that although she loves knitting, she's forthright about the parts that are a pain in the butt.  Happily, she and I generally agree on these parts, with seaming being at the top of the list.  I don't know why I waited so long to try her Baby Surprise Jacket, but having never made it for my own kiddos, I decided to try it out for my new niece -- scheduled to arrive sometime in March.

The brilliance of this design (as those familiar with it already know) is that it's knit flat in one piece and when you're done, you have only the tiniest bit of seaming to do on the sleeves.  The first time through is an act of faith that is generously rewarded.  As you can see from the picture above, when you're done knitting this one piece, you're left with an amorphous mass that most have difficulty folding into anything resembling a sweater.  It's fun to amaze your family and friends by challenging them with this misshapen, towel-like object.  Most give up and then stand in awe as you fold it up neatly into a sweet little sweater like this:
Baby Surprise Jacket - Folded into cardigan shape
I used Cascade 220 Paints #9938 (Superwash -- cause you know, I like this Mama-to be).  I striped occasionally with a chocolate Cascade 220 Superwash I had leftover from a sweater I made my brother for XMAS last month.  But, this being my first BSJ -- I made a rookie mistake and it's bugging me to no end.  I'm seriously considering ripping back to fix it.  I added a stripe one row after finishing the bind off on either side for the neck.  I just wasn't thinking.  Because you bind off the 1st 5 stitches on two consecutive rows, one side has an extra row and when I put in the next stripe (the one that runs along the bottom front and up the 2 front sides (near the button holes), it came out perfectly on one side and with extra space on the other.  As you look at the picture, it's the right side that has the extra space and now that I've pointed it out, I'm sure it's all anyone will ever see when they look at this sweet little sweater.  Now normally, I wouldn't think twice about ripping, but this is literally the only mistake I think I made on the sweater and I firmly believe every piece of knitting should have one good luck mistake.  I think this is called a "God's Eye" or a "Devil's Eye" -- it's one or the other and folk knitters who could easily produce perfect work would always add one mistake out of respect because perfection is the realm of God -- and only a devilish usurper would dare aspire to such lofty heights.  So, far be it from me to mess with such a tradition -- I guess the mistake stays and lovely little Aurora (my niece to be) will be free to be as perfectly gorgeous and talented as she's likely to be.  I've got her covered.