Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Dock and A Pond: Writers' Workshop

"An Undervalued Variable: Does your writing teacher write?" That was the title of my master's thesis.

About 90% of the writing teachers I surveyed do not write on anywhere near a regular basis: not even a twice-yearly newsletter. I wouldn't want to learn golf from a non-golfer. I don't want to teach writing if I'm not a writer: so I write.

Besides my own blog, I practice my writing at Pictures, Poetry, and Prose, aka PP&P. Laura Jane daily posts a picture and a prompt. I'm collecting most of my entries from there and posting them here. If you'd like to explore her blog, go for it.

I'm also posting a link to the photographer sites and the original PP&P site. For the adventurous, you can see more photos and read more entries on the picture of the day. (Perhaps you'll be prompted to practice your craft! Go ahead. Have some fun!)

Today, I've pulled two stories that have a loose connection: both pictures feature water.

Here is the picture that prompted the first piece. I wrote the piece from the point of view of the youngest girl on the dock. I have 36 first cousins: many of the female! I have two older sisters. I have daughters. It was no stretch at all to compose a piece from a young girl's point of view. (I also teach at an elementary school.) This entry won the daily prize at PP&P. The piece also reflects my general optimism.

Photo by Sabrina
Visit her blog - Nouns Make Verbs

(Other postings based on this photo at PP&P.)

This has always been one of my favorite childhood pictures. Aunt Joyce took the picture of the four girl cousins: the two older and the two younger. That's me on the far right -- the youngest.

We were at Big Bear Lake enjoying the sun in our cutoffs and shorts.

But what makes this picture my favorite is that Cousin Candy is wearing the friendship bracelet I made her at camp. (She's on the far left.)

It was the first time in my life that I felt included, valued, and loved by the older cousins.

That week changed my life, and this picture is proof of my arrival into the society of the girl cousins. I mattered.

The second piece I'm sharing today is based on the photo below. In addition to teaching writing, I teach math. Hidden in this short poem is a lesson on integers: positive and negative numbers. See if you can find it!

Photo by Lorelei
Visit her photo gallery at -
and her blog at -

(Other postings based on this photo are here at PP&P.)

Countdown and Beyond

A three-arched bridge.
A two-storied pagoda.
A single pond.
Nothing to do but sit.
One hour gone.
Two fish jump and disappear.
Three picnickers leave.


  1. Don, I tried to leave a comment yesterday, but for some reason I had trouble. So much is conveyed in that last line of the first piece: "I mattered". I love the spirit and nostalgia. The poem's imagery is wonderful. I feel like I'm sitting at the pond watching for something to unfold. Well done!

  2. @septembermom: Kelly, Thanks for your comments. I like to pick up some details from the picture and some details from my past. Usually there is some overlap. I also like to provide a window into a positive self-image. For some, the only time they feel they matter is via a work of fiction. A well-imagined experience via a story can provide a meaningful sense of validation. I think we all long for that.

    I had fun with this poem: putting myself in the scene and playing -- what if... Also, with the Eastern scene, I aimed for less words, not more.

  3. 'Countdown and Beyond' is VERY creatie, Don. I am really impressed! I like the way the negatives are used.

    And I love the dock picture, pure and simple. I know you didn't take it, but thanks for showing it. Awesome angles.

  4. Don! I realized I never answered your questions about my knitted dishcloths.

    They actually work very well! My friend has some she's had for years and years, just simple knitted things. Now, since they're handmade, of course if someone TRIES to yank them apart they will oblige. And that person will not get a refund, haha.

    They're made of 100% cotton. It's not as thick as some of the cheaper acrylic yarn, but then you wouldn't want to wash pots with acrylic, either. Cotton's the way to go.

    As far as washing specialty items...I dunno. *shrug* I would say....most things are fair game. If it's a burned pot, use a scrubber. :)

  5. @Saphron: Thanks for the comments and answers to my questions on your knitted dishcloths.

    On the poem: it was challenging to find the negative parts of a numerical countdown. Thanks for noticing. The picture, like your recent adventure, provides a mental entrance to a quieter place.