Mrs. McGriff's Reading Blog

Happy reading!

March 25, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
14 Comments

Totally Uninspired

imageI’m taking part in the weekly Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by  Two Writing Teachers, where teachers write and share each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slicers. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.

 

I stare at the screen,

my mind as blank

as the page before me.

I wander through the crevices of memory,

searching for an idea–any idea–

but only find crumbs and cobwebs

that scatter before my keyboard,

refusing to let me breathe life into them with words.

March 20, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
4 Comments

Case of the Missing Sequels

imageI’m taking part in the weekly Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by  Two Writing Teachers, where teachers write and share each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slicers. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.

 

I shooed the last students from my room

and raced to the library

in a desperate search

for a missing book.

Destiny said the single copy should be on the shelf,

but no matter how many times I raked

my eyes back and forth across the books

standing tall and straight on every shelf,

this title did not appear.

Next I hunted through the display case

when a glimpse of yellow and black

gave a glimmer of hope,

but the historical fiction tome

would not replace the dark and twisted–

and downright funny–fantasy I needed.

Just as I was about to give up hope,

I spied a different missing book

that had proved as elusive as the killer

lurking within its pages.

I snagged it from the shelf

and delivered it to an unexpecting student

who had never given up the longing

to read how the sequel spun its tale

while breaking bad news to another

that another sequel went missing.

March 18, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
6 Comments

A Taste of Home

imageI’m taking part in the weekly Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by  Two Writing Teachers, where teachers write and share each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slicers. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.

Last night was one of those nights that I did not have time to cook between the time I got home from school and the time we had to leave for three of us to be at two different meetings at the same time.  So last night, I dug in the freezer to bring out one of my treasured containers of barbeque.

Not just any barbeque.  This is barbeque that can only be found in eastern North Carolina.  It starts with a pig cooked slowly in a pit with a vinegar based sauce that simply cannot be duplicated outside the state lines.  The reheated barbeque from the freezer is not as good as the sitting down in my favorite restaurant back home, but it is still a treat that carries my tastebuds back.  If you ever drive through eastern North Carolina along I-95, pull off at the Wilson exit and find Parker’s or Bill’s and be prepared to feast.  Just don’t forget to take cash because plastic is not always accepted.

Here is a poem I wrote to try to capture the experience.  It doesn’t quite do it justice, but it will have to do until I make it back again.

A Taste of Home
 
A fleet of waiters–
young men with lanky arms and legs
that stretch across tables
and old men, short with pot bellies–
tap their feet as they wait
for the square tables to fill,
empty, and fill again as the tides
of hungry patrons ebb and flow
within the walls of warm pine panels
where time twists and turns and
stands still within a whirlwind of constant
noise and motion.
Our waiter swoops upon us
before we even sit down
in the wooden chairs crammed between
walls and table,
his pen poised to take our order
before we’ve been given menus.
I’ve been gone too long
and have to let my eyes linger on a laminated menu
before ordering what I always get–
steaming barbeque, crisp french fries, Brunswick stew, shredded slaw,
sweet hushpuppies and chewy cornsticks
washed down with iced tea so sweet and strong–
With another swing of the kitchen door,
our waiter strides across the hardwood floor
worn smooth with years of pounding feet,
his arms laden with plates piled high
with the taste that takes me home–
shredded pork barbeque slow roasted in a pit
and drenched with vinegar and spices
that can’t be found outside the radius of home.
Each tangy bite pulls me back through the years
as timeless sounds wash over me:
the clatter of dishes mingles
with the cadence of conversations
and greetings called out in a drawl
I’ve long since lost.
Brunswick stew threatens to ooze
into the pile of cabbage shredded into tangy slaw,
and I spare a few bites between sips of tea,
but my fork snags mouthfuls
of the shredded pork barbeque
that may be world-famous
the length if I-95,
but for me the blend of vinegar and spices
calls me home
as I push away from the table,
sated and satisfied until I can return again.

March 16, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Tug of War

imageI’m taking part in the weekly Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by  Two Writing Teachers, where teachers write and share each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slicers. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.

Ever since I moved to Indiana, I’ve heard people say, “If you don’t like the weather, stick around a few days.  It will change.”  After the past few weeks, I sure believe it.  We’ve had everything from snow and cold to sunshine and warmth to thunder and tornadoes.  Oh yeah, don’t forget the flooding and the beginning of allergy season.

Here’s short haiku I wrote and then published using Haiku Deck.

March 3, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
6 Comments

My Cello Belle

imageI’m taking part in the weekly Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by  Two Writing Teachers, where teachers write and share each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slicers. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.

Saturday we took my daughter to compete in her first state level solo and ensemble contest for strings.  She has practiced her cello for long hours in preparation and now it was time to play before the judge.  It was quite an experience.  (My husband said he didn’t know there were that many string players in the state.)  Here is a poem I wrote to try to capture the moment.

The hum of voices
and snippets of melody
swirl throughout a gym
filled with a maze of cases and stands
and string basses and cellos lying on their sides,
staking out claims for their musicians to practice and to wait
for their moment to play before a judge.
One girl curls around her bass,
caressing the neck in a one-armed hug
while drawing the bow back and forth across the strings.
Ensembles of violins and violas cluster
close as toes tap in time to dancing bows.
Even as the bleachers fill,
I can pick out the strains of melody
from Handel’s Sonata in C
that float above the notes
surging from a multitude of strings–
different melodies and harmonies colliding in midair–
but my ear tunes ever to my my cello belle.
 
Soon enough the door swings
shut on silence
and my cello belle sits alone
before the judge, poised to play.
As the piano fills the accompaniment,
her bow weaves across the strings
and fingers skip nimbly up and down the neck.
Rich notes escape and swell with music made
with nothing but wood and strings and air.

 I made a podcast of the poem as well:

February 7, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant and Marla Frazee

imageI was hooked from the title of God Got a Dog (Beach Lane Books 2003) by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Marla Frazee.  Each poem and illustration invites me to wonder just how much each of us–in all our diversity–are reflections of the image of God.

In each poem, God steps into our world to experience creation, whether sitting under a tree, floating on a boat, eating dinner alone, painting someone’s nails, or watching elephants in India.  Some of the poems made me smile, even laugh like the warning in “God Got Arrested” to “Just be careful/dropping names/in Kenny’s Tavern./Might be next to a relative” or the jab at doctors from “God Went to the Doctor” and said “you’re pretty good/at playing me.”

Other poems are playful and wondering.  Who would visit God if God got a cold?  Well, Mother Teresa.  God also wrote a book–not the one you’re thinking of–but a bedtime story for a little boy who grew up to be a writer.  The collection ends with the straggly stray that God took home and who now warms God’s feet at night.

These delightful poems and whimsical illustrations reflect more of our human experience as they invite us to consider a God who walks among us in surprising places and disguises.

January 2, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins

I have the best brother ever.  I would love to meet Ellen Hopkins at a book signing or conference, but so far that opportunity has not presented itself.  But when I saw that Ellen was going to be signing books at the Barnes and Noble in Phoenix, his new hometown, I started dropping big hints that I would love a signed copy of Smoke for Christmas.  Sure enough, he and a friend braved hordes of teenage girls and their mothers to stand in line to get autographed books for both me and my daughter.  They were the only men in the bookstore that afternoon.

I devoured mine the day I opened it. She is savoring her copy.  Burned has always been my favorite of Hopkins’ books–at least until that ending.  Now Smoke may take over.  Even better, I’ll just say that the two books together will be my favorites.  Smoke picks up Pattyn’s story shortly after Burned ends.  Pattyn is on the run after her father is shot.  He will never beat anyone in the family again.  Jackie, Pattyn’s next oldest sister, is left at home to pick up the pieces of her life after being raped and seeing her father die in the same night in the same shed.

I loved the alternating points of view between Pattyn and Jackie.  I especially enjoyed getting to know Jackie’s strength and courage as well as Pattyn’s love and loyalty.  Both girls find that their lives have taken unexpected turns and find refuge and help in unexpected places.  Despite the violence they have suffered in their pasts, they both find that love can worm its way into a broken heart.  The cracks and scars may never go away, but new life can bloom.

As always I am blown away by the poetry.  Each word and each line is crafted to hit home with power.  Some forms do double duty with words read within the stanza and  again down the page.  Not a word is wasted, and each word resonates with desperation and hope.  Best of all, Smoke is a satisfying end to Pattyn’s story that took me in directions I didn’t see coming.

October 12, 2013
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Hidden by Helen Frost

imageI cannot wait to introduce Hidden to my seventh graders.  There are so many things I loved about it–the innovative poetic structures, the multi-layered tension, and most of all the two girls whose lives intersect in unbelievable ways.

The premise of this book gripped me from the front cover.  Two girls–Wren and Darra–meet in Cabin 8 at Camp Oakwood.  Even though they have never seen each other, they recognize each other from a life-changing moment in their past six years earlier.  Darra’s father had stolen a car, not knowing Wren was hiding in the back.  Wren hid for days in their garage, desperately seeking a way out.  Darra guessed the truth and left food and water out for Wren, but she was devastated by her father’s eventual arrest.

Now that their paths have crossed again, will they be able to confront–and forgive–their shared history?

I wish I had read the Helen Frost’s note on the poetic structure first because as soon as I did read it, I had to go back and reread the book again to experience another level to the story.  On second thought, it was totally worth reading again.  Part I is in free verse poetry from Wren’s voice.  Once the girls arrive at camp, Darra and Wren alternate telling the story.  In the form Frost created for Darra, the end words in the long lines create new sentences that reveal Darra’s hidden thoughts.  Part II shares her memories of her dad before the kidnapping.  Part III reveals her thoughts during Wren’s kidnapping.

June 18, 2013
by Mrs. McGriff
6 Comments

Piano Girl

image

 

 

I’m taking part in the weekly Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Ruth and Stacey over at Two Writing Teachers, where teachers write and share each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slicers. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.

Every year on my daughter’s birthday, I give her a poem that I have written.  I hope she enjoys reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.  Today is her fifteenth birthday, and here is her birthday poem.  Yes, she does play piano–quite beautifully.

 

 

 

photo (16)Notes dance silently across the staffs

of a new piece of music.

Eighth notes tease the piano girl

with a strain of melody

as fingers tentatively brush against the yellowed ivory.

Chords coax her left hand into weaving harmony

among the scattered phrases.

 

The music reveals itself slowly

with practice and more practice

until halting chords and stumbling melody

resolve into a familiar hymn.

The notes echo through the early morning hours

and seep into spare moments

each time the piano girl gives sound to silent notes.

 

As the piano girl learns each new song,

she lives and learns the soundtrack of her life.

March 17, 2013
by Mrs. McGriff
12 Comments

Playing with Haiku

 

I’m taking part in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Ruth and Stacey over at Two Writing Teachers. I hope to write every day for the month of March and then continue weekly each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slices. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.

 

I downloaded the Haiku Deck app for my iPad and decided a snowy Sunday afternoon was the perfect time to play around with it.  It’s pretty easy to figure out, and I love the pictures.  I also appreciate the fact that the pictures can be shared with a Creative Commons license, something I preach at my students to use when including images on their blogs.

I forsook the traditional nature subject for haiku (thought it was tempting to write about the snow).  Instead I played around with one about reading:

Then since I stayed up way too late last night waiting for my daughter to get home from the Winter Jam concert, I wrote one about sleep: