This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A Publication of the South Coast Writing Project
Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, University of California at Santa Barbara
Jack Phreaner, SCWriP Co-Founder:
Constant Friend in Changing Times
A familiar and always welcome face at Summer Institutes, Renewals, and other writing project gatherings, Jack Phreaner has been co-director of the South Coast Writing Project since its inception thirty years ago. He was a distinguished and well-loved English teacher for decades until his retirement, has supervised student teachers in UCSB’s Teacher Education program, and codirected the Literature for Teachers Program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. A presenter at conferences, seminars, and in-services too numerous to list, Jack’s unfaltering dedication to SCWriP and to his students and colleagues is an inspiration to us all. He is pictured above during a recent visit to the construction site of the building that will soon house SCWriP’s new offices (story on page 6). Exciting changes loom ahead but we are grateful to Jack for his steadying presence, his sanguine perspective, and the constancy of his friendship.
From the Editor
One night as I lay in bed enduring a stretch of anxiety, I heard a sudden, steady clicking sound. After a few moments the clicking quickened and became a high-pitched rattling, disconcertingly near, and I fleetingly wondered if a rattlesnake had somehow entered. Then the room began to vibrate, and the vibration grew to a rumbling and finally a growl so deep that it was everywhere. My husband woke up. “Rocket,” he whispered. Now I remembered: A Vandenberg launch had been scheduled for the wee hours, some sort of weather satellite booster. I jumped up and ran outside. I wanted to see its fiery path in the sky. The sky was white with cloud and there was no visible trace of the launch, but the growling vibration continued. The deck was wet and the air smelled green and sweet; the night held wildness and life in its shadows, but everything was waiting and still. I stood there listening for a long time, nightgowned and barefooted, until the shudder of space noise receded into silence and the silence slid back to its own secret music. It seemed that I was bearing witness to some vast and wondrous mystery that had been out there all along. And I knew something special had transpired, but I understood it more clearly when I came upon these words in an essay by Orhan Pamuk: To sense that life is deeper than we think it is, and the world more meaningful, do we have to wake in the middle of the night to clattering windows, to wind blowing through a gap in the curtains, and the sounds of thunder? Sometimes I suppose we do. But once glimpsed, it is an awareness to hang onto. In these days of change and stress and constant calamity it is easy to feel buffeted about and disoriented. Let us remember, as poets do, that life is deeper than we think, and more precious and ephemeral; let us strive to be fully present. As the South Coast Writing Project moves into a new office and a new chapter in our history, we acknowledge all of the comrades and colleagues who have traveled with us thus far -- in particular, our steadfast friend Jack Phreaner, pictured on the cover of this edition, and our intrepid leader Sheridan Blau, who is about to set out on a different course, but we’ll let him tell you about it, as he does on page 4. We extend a special thank you as well to the teacher-writers who contributed to this Spring edition of PostSCWriP. From news and professional advice to poetry and memoir, these are folks who pay attention, whether the windows are clattering or not.
Cynthia Carbone Ward (’01)
In This Issue…
Jack Phreaner: Constant Friend Editor’s Message Words, Barry Spacks, Poet-in-Residence Letter from Sheridan Blau We’re Packing Up Those Memories Technology Update, Terie Cota, Linda Sparkhul, Mary Lourdes Silva Summer Institute 2009 Bulletin Board: SCWriP Announcements iChat, uChat, wiiWrite: Meditation on Collaboration Amy Christensen, Amy McMillan, Erin Powers Halls of Power Into Haiku: NWP Spring Meeting, Cynthia Carbone Ward Winds, Gaylene Croker Untitled, Maria Nodarse Out There; Harbor, Santa Barbara, Robert Isaacson Of the Happy Ending, Gabriel Arquilevich Last Poem In the World, Robert Isaacson Young Writers’ Camp, Aline Shapiro 1
3 4 6 7 7 8 9 12 14 16 18 19 19 20
by Barry Spacks
I never learned a merchant's trade but dwelt instead as a favored guest in the slow house of the words.
My laboring father lugged sacks of potatoes, banana stalks heaved on either shoulder, napped at the "Y," owned no car; set me to shelling lima beans from rotting pods, spoke to me in all his hard life maybe three or four times.
The children of workers, urged to get A's, finish school with ink-stained fingers, an early sensitivity lost, those weekend days when I worked at our fruit store: easeful melons, gorgeous eggplant, before the words words words.
A Letter from Sheridan Blau
Dear Colleagues, This summer we will conduct our 31st SCWriP Summer Institute. Our first was in the summer of 1979, which makes this year our Project's 30th year, and my 30th year as its director. When I started our Project in 1979 (with the help of Jack Phreaner, Stephen Marcus and, Carol Dixon), I had already taught for nineteen years. I began teaching in 1960 as a high school English teacher in my hometown of Trenton, New Jersey. So I have been teaching now for 49 years, almost half a century. Reflecting on that span of years, I consider my nineteenth year in teaching, the year I began to work with the teachers of our Project, as the year of my entrance into professional maturity. It marked the end of my professional apprenticeship and the beginning of a new and more professional life as a teacher and teacher-educator, becoming a contributor to a professional community of specialists in the teaching of writing and the education of teachers of English and writing. I didn't just join a community of 25 teachers who came together at UCSB to inaugurate the South Coast Writing Project, but I joined a national community of teachers who were creating a national movement that would change the way writing was understood and taught in our nation's schools and, just as importantly, change how teachers conceived of themselves as professionals. At the same time, we were changing the way that the profession of teaching conceived of professional development and teacher-leadership, and the role of classroom teachers as sources of knowledge and resources for the professional development of their colleagues.
So I have been teaching now for 49 years, almost half a century.
I know that many of the teacher-consultants of our Project and of every Project in the NWP network feel exactly as I do about how the writing project transformed our professional lives. Yet (perhaps like every enchanted lover) I can't imagine how anyone can possibly feel as grateful as I do for the
many blessings the Writing Project has bestowed on me and for the profound changes it has wrought in my work and life as a teacher and scholar and professional leader. Insofar as my academic life has been a success -- marked by honors, and publications, and awards, and public recognition, and academic positions -- I owe that success largely to opportunities granted to me by my role and work in the Writing Project and to what I have learned over the years from and with all of you. But I am now 70 years old. And for the past year and a half I have been on-leave from UCSB to serve as a Visiting Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, leaving the amazing Rosemary Cabe to take charge of our Project, while she also serves in national leadership roles for the NWP. But I have loved living in New York, where I feel I am starting another kind of new professional and personal life, and where -- because of what I have learned and accomplished, through the advantages afforded me by my work in the Writing Project-- I have now been asked to stay on as a long-term member of the Teachers College faculty in English education. So, having thought for some years already that I was coming to a point where I could serve our Project best by retiring and finding a younger and more innovative successor to serve as co-director with Rosemary, I have finally taken the difficult step of formally announcing my intention to retire from UCSB and from my position as SCWriP Director at the end of this coming summer. I shall thereafter be Professor of English and Education Emeritus and Director Emeritus of SCWriP at UCSB. And I shall live in New York (near my children and grandchildren and many of my relatives and oldest and dearest friends) and serve as a senior member of the faculty in English education at Teachers College, Columbia University.
I will be no more than an email message or a phone call away. You will remain with me in my heart and thoughts.
I will not abandon our Writing Project, however. I'll direct the Summer Institute of 2009 and continue to perform the duties of director as needed (to write grant proposals, for example) during the coming year, until we have a new co-director in place to work with the indispensable and brilliant Rosemary and our outstanding team of SCWriP teacher-leaders. And, of course, I'll be no more than an email message or a phone call away from any and all of you who will remain with me in my heart and thoughts as my dear colleagues and teachers and friends, who are already known by name and talent and special teaching practice from the stories I ceaselessly tell about our Project and about all of you to my new colleagues and students in New York. In the meantime, I'll hope to see all of you at our Spring 2009 Renewal Meeting in Ventura (at the Clock Tower Inn on May 15) and at some time during this coming Summer Institute on the UCSB campus. Faithfully,
Editor’s Note: Sheridan is well known for his outstanding scholarly work, but all of us at SCWriP who have had the privilege of working with him know that the important thing about Sheridan is his spirit. His enthusiasm is legendary, and he has a beautiful way of seeing (and thereby eliciting) the best in everyone. Throughout his long career he has managed somehow to sustain an ongoing sense of surprise and wonder, often asserting that he learns more from his work as a teacher than his students could ever learn from him, and that tells you something right there. Join us at the Cliff House on July 7, 2009 to celebrate Sheridan, reminisce together, and usher in a new chapter with friends and colleagues.
We’re Packing Up Those Memories and Moving Down the Road
Co-Director Rosemary Cabe and Office Manager Dionne Van Meter don goggles and hard hats for a tour of the new facility.
Next time you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and take a last sentimental look at the familiar offices above the Arts and Lectures Ticket office, modest headquarters of the South Coast Writing Project since sometime in the 1980s. In August we will be relocating to the spanking new Education and Social Science Building (ESSB) across from Robertson Gym just east of the intersection of Ocean and El Colegio Roads. The ESSB will consist of three separate structures totaling more than 200,000 square feet and housing various departments and programs, including the Gevirtz School of Education currently located in Phelps Hall, and the Carsey-Wolf Center for Film, Television, and New Media, which will encompass the 300-seat state-of-the-art Pollock Theater. The site is impressive but still under construction, and during a quick preview tour led by Assistant Dean Arlis Markel it took quite a bit of imagination to picture the empty rooms along a stark corridor eventually becoming our base. In a way, though, the move will mark the transition from one era to another, and we think some ceremony is in order. We have reserved the Cliff House on July 7, 2009 to say good-bye to the old and envision the new. Mark your calendars. Join us for a potluck dinner, reminiscing, celebration, and maybe even a moving sale. Stay tuned for more plans as they emerge. What is vital is that you join us.
On the Lookout for the Write Tech?
Although we have not yet figured out how to share tasty deli food via web conference, Jon Margerum-Leys (’94), who lives in Michigan and is an Associate Professor of Education at Eastern Michigan University, is present at our SCWriP Technology Committee meetings in every other important way. Recently, we gathered again to work out the details of this summer’s technology offerings. Jon is just one of our ten enthusiastic committee members, and he will be joining us in person this summer as one of our presenters. Would you value an opportunity to come together with others who are interested in conversation and thinking around the use of technology as it supports and impacts writing? We are happy to announce that July 27th through July 30th are the dates for our four-day Advanced Technology Institute, “The Write Tech.” Many thanks to those of you who responded to our survey regarding your interests and needs in the area of technology integration. Based on that feedback, such topics as the use of word processing tools to enhance collaboration and editing; podcasting; and a technology “round table”; as well as other scintillating topics will be offered to our fellows. Watch for further information about how to register for the Institute, and for more details on its focus. We can’t wait, and hope you are equally excited! Your Trusty Technology Committee
2009 Summer Institute: A Remarkable Group Is Coming on Board
Our 2009 Summer Institute promises to be an especially memorable one. This will be the last Institute that meets in Phelps Hall and the last one with Sheridan at the helm, so it already has a built-in special significance. But its 23 dynamic participants would make for a notable assemblage under any circumstances. There will be eighteen women and five men representing five different ethnicities and ranging in teaching experience from three years to 26. Four have been teaching for nineteen years or longer, and the average number of years of teaching experience for the group is nine. These teachers will be joining us from Santa Ynez, Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Lompoc, Bakersfield, UCSB, Goleta, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Camarillo, and one from as far away as South Africa. We are pleased to welcome this diverse, enthusiastic, and talented group into the SCWriP community.
The Bulletin Board
Chella Courington, (‘03), completes her MFA in Poetry at New England College in July 2009. Her work this year has been published in the journals The Griffin, Poemeleon, Iguana Review, and wicked alice, and in the anthologies Not a Muse and Women. Period. Santa Barbara Community College is once again holding its intensive summer course in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). The course runs five hours a day, five days a week for six weeks during SBCC summer session. Students who successfully complete the course receive a departmental certificate in TEFL, which is useful in taking first steps in the field. Interested parties should contact Lou Spaventa (’01) at email@example.com. Lou Spaventa (’01 has also been writing a bimonthly column called "The Heart of the Matter" for an on-line journal, Humanising Language Teaching, out of the UK: www.hltmag.co.uk Val Hobbs (’81) has won yet another well-deserved recognition: this time, the California Young Readers Award (intermediate category) for her book Sheep. The Natonal Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has declared October 20, 2009 as America’s National Day on Writing. Its purpose is to encourage writing and explore and celebrate its integral role in our lives. Beginning in the spring of 2009, and that means now, everyone—yes, everyone—is invited to submit a piece of writing for a soon-to-be-unveiled National Gallery of Writing website. For more information, go to http://www.ncte.org/action/dayon writing. If you belong to a writing group in Ventura County that would welcome more members, please contact Maria Nodarse (’01) at firstname.lastname@example.org. SCWriP’s four-day Advanced Technology Institute, “The Write Tech”, will be held July 27th through July 30th. Additional information and registration procedures will be announced soon. Speaking of technology, check out our terrific website: http://www.education.ucsb.edu/scwrip/ If you want to peruse or respond to PostSCWrip online, simply click on "Publications" at the left hand side, then click on PostSCwriP, and then click on "Volume 25-Present". Our Spring Renewal on May 15, 2009 will feature Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Assistant Professor of English at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Her workshop will focus on culturally responsive methods of teaching in language arts classrooms with diverse populations of students. Finally, save this date: July 7, 2009, 4 p.m., for a very special SCWriP pot luck and gathering at the Cliff House. Stay tuned for further details.
iChat, uChat, WiiWrite: A Meditation on the Collaborative Process of Three Presenters
by Amy Christensen (’08) La Colina Junior High School English Teacher Amy McMillan (’06) Goleta Valley Junior High School English Teacher and Erin Powers (’01) UCLA Professional Learning Partner
Collaboration: Erin Powers, Amy McMillan, and Amy Christensen and their trusty Macs.
Teachers love to talk. And so do our students. We believe there is a constant tension between teachers and students and our inherent need to talk. In a classroom, the trick is to get students to talk about what they are learning instead of focusing on the latest social news (although we know these topics are a natural part of group development). When the three of us were asked to do a presentation at the California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) conference on behalf of SCWriP, we decided to focus on this very topic. We have seen in our teaching practices that when students are given the opportunity to talk - and the tools to have an academic discussion they produce higher quality work and experience deeper, more relevant learning. We planned to share and demonstrate the ways that we teach students to speak and respond to one another in a discussion, including the following: SLANT (Sit up, Lean forward, Ask questions, Nod your head, Thank your partner), sentence frames, vocabulary banks, and cognitive strategies. While these behaviors are learned at home by some students, others need explicit instruction and modeling about how to engage in a conversation. All of these tools contribute to the constructivist classrooms that we strive to create. We had several months to prepare for our conference and we were excited about the opportunity to collaborate. The three of us had worked together previously at Santa Barbara Junior High, and during those years we spent countless hours talking about teaching, developing lessons, and sharing ideas. Now, at three different schools in two different cities, we rarely get to work together, and we missed the convenient collaborative process that we’d honed at our former school. To prepare for CATE, we met in person on three different Saturday afternoons over the course of two months, taking turns driving to and from Los Angeles, where Erin currently lives. As a result of our
meetings, each of us settled on one best practice to present. We also decided use the California English-Language Arts standard requiring students to find themes in texts as a starting point and to use an excerpt from Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. We wanted to demonstrate how students can use conversation as a means to discover themes on their own. Amy Christensen has experienced success with the Grand Conversation, an activity in which students each speak for one minute about something they’ve read and then respond to one another about what they heard. Amy McMillan decided to use Carol Booth Olsen’s cognitive strategies and sentence frames as discussion starters for students to We believe that the more analyze classroom texts. To tie it all together, Erin students talk to each other Powers showed how she uses the activity Give One Get One, which encourages students to share and revise their using the language of the thesis statements with each other before drafting. discipline, the more equipped One might assume that because we have such a strong history of collaboration and also maintain personal friendships with one another, this presentation should have been a simple process to develop. At our first meeting, we discovered something different. Instead of throwing it together in a few hours, we had to start from the beginning, and we forced ourselves to articulate why we use the particular strategies that we use. This dialogue became one of the most valuable aspects of our planning process. In fact, the presentation would not have happened had we not spent several hours talking about why we do what we do. All of us require our students to talk on a daily basis and we teach students how to listen to each other, but we teachers rarely verbalize, explicitly, why we are doing so. In discussing our presentation for CATE, the three of us reaffirmed the value of teaching students academic language and the procedures necessary for effective classroom discussions. We believe that the more students talk to each other using the language of the discipline, the more equipped they are to write in the same manner. Academic talk breeds academic thinking and writing. We realized that many teachers are somewhat reticent about using precious classroom minutes to allow students to For the three of us, our own chat. (Could this simply mirror the fact that schools are process of dialogue, generally not structured to include time for teachers to talk to discussion, and writing one another?) For a classroom teacher, there are several collaboratively empowered challenges to consider. Letting students talk in pairs or small groups is time consuming, noisy, and risky because the us to continue and to have teachers must relinquish some control. In spite of this, we had the confidence to share our seen how transformative good student discussions could be in ideas with the other our classrooms. We concluded that we needed to have explicit teachers. reasons to offer our teacher audience at CATE, justifying taking the time for classroom talk. Pausing our initial presentation planning, the three of us sat down and created a brainstorm about why we believe classroom talk is important. The following list, based on our personal teaching experiences and on research, turned out to be more extensive and powerful than we anticipated: • • • • • • • Our ultimate goal is to create proficient, independent communicators. Communication is an essential life skill. Discussion is important to writing and learning. We (teachers and students) learn from one another. It is more natural to talk than to write. If writers make personnel connections before drafting, the writing is better. Discussion helps to make these connections. When students learn from each other, they avoid simply parroting the teacher’s ideas.
they are to write in the same manner.
• • • • • • • •
Self-discovery is a more effective and long-lasting way to learn than simply listening to a teacher lecture. Talking creates buy-in and ownership among student writers. Talking about a concept to another person makes it more likely to be memorable. Discussion helps students clarify readings for one another. Students come up with more ideas and themes through talking and therefore have more to write. Group discussions allow students to consider multiple perspectives. Talking helps writers overcome the fear of the blank page. Talking to other people in respectful ways fosters lower affective filters and increases active learning.
After we saw what we wrote down, we knew we were on the right track and the rest of our planning continued smoothly. For the three of us, our own process of dialogue, discussion, and writing collaboratively empowered us to continue and to have the confidence to share our ideas with the other teachers at CATE. Interestingly, we realized that our presentation was better because we were able to talk to each other in the same way we ask our students to do. We felt that our ideas were valued, our experiences were validated, and we learned from one another, leaving each meeting excited about teaching. Our own experience assures us that the same thing happens with students. Although giving students time to talk to each other can feel haphazard or irresponsible sometimes, it increases their capacity for scholarly thought, effective writing, and future success.
The South Coast Writing Project in Partnership with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art presents: Joni Chancer’s new work on Visible Thinking in the Classroom – with a Focus on the Seeing/Writing Connection in K-12 Classrooms Visible Thinking maximizes the enormous potential that any teacher can tap into. Our students are exposed to images hundreds of times a day, yet they glance at, rather than think about, the images that they are constantly exposed to in our technology-centered culture. Visible Thinking invites our students to notice the details, connect ideas, discover what is important, ask questions, create hypotheses, and support their ideas with evidence. Visible Thinking Strategies (VTS) are for everyone, and especially serve GATE students and English Language Learners. The discussions help students become generative thinkers and synthesizers of information and input. One of the greatest strengths of Visible Thinking is the power to match abstract ideas to concrete referents, and to help children find the language that supports abstract thought. June 23-25, 2009, 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. at UCSB Cliff House and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art Registration fee: $150, payable to UC Regents. 2 quarter units of UCSB credit will be available. For registration form and additional information, contact the SCWriP office. “I want people to know how excited I am, and that this is the best thing to come along (I feel) in years and years. It has transformed and re-ignited my teaching!” Joni Chancer
Through the Halls of Power and Into Haiku
by Cynthia Carbone Ward (’01)
Over 400 educators converged in Washington, D.C. in early April for the Spring Meeting of the National Writing Project. Our primary purpose was to urge members of Congress to continue to fund the NWP, with a requested appropriation of 30 million dollars for fiscal year 2010, but it was also an opportunity for colleagues from all over the United States to meet, share ideas, and inspire one another in the way that dedicated teachers do. Rosemary Cabe, Jan Brown and I had the privilege of participating on behalf of our site, and I returned with a new awareness of the extraordinary network of which the South Coast Writing Project is a part.
I was unaware how much I had not realized, for example, that there are over 200 university-based NWP sites in all fifty states reaching persuasion, education, and more than 100,000 individual educators annually, and that persistent hard work goes in California alone, there are 883 programs at 17 different on behind the scenes to sites. I knew intuitively that we do good things, but now I can point out that nine studies from 2004 to 2007 across ensure that those dollars sites in diverse geographic regions of the United States keep coming. show statistically significant gains in writing performance for students whose teachers participated in NWP programs, and that independent national scorings of student writing reveal that NWP student improvement outpaces that of students in comparison groups. I had not understood the extent to which federal funding of NWP represents an investment (as opposed to an expenditure), for each dollar generates additional local funds and helps to sustain ongoing programs of proven effectiveness, touching lives in a far-reaching ripple effect. Finally, I was unaware how much persuasion, education, and persistent hard work goes on behind the scenes to ensure that the dollars keep coming. Next time I get one of those emails from the SCWriP office urging us to contact our Congressional representatives and ask them to support the NWP appropriation, I’ll give it the priority it deserves.
On the first morning, we gathered in the historical Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building. An imposing example of Beaux-Arts architecture, the building is connected to the Capitol by underground passages, and its Caucus Room has been the scene of much melodrama and ceremony since its completion in 1908. In this chandeliered room, hearings were held in 1912 to investigate the sinking of the Titanic, Joseph McCarthy infamously railed against alleged Communist influence in 1954, and witnesses were grilled about the Watergate scandal in 1973. But today’s was a peaceable assemblage. NWP Executive Director Sharon Washington welcomed us, Congressman Todd Russell Platts and other supporters encouraged our efforts, and a representative of a research group provided an independent perspective on the work and impacts of the NWP. Feeling reinforced and motivated, we dispersed into the halls of Congress to meet with our local legislators or their staff, either to thank them for their support (as in the case of Lois Capps) or help them to better understand the benefits of the project (as with Elton Gallegly). Meanwhile, Washington was noisy with the din of traffic and sirens, and the broad streets bustled with throngs of tourists and school groups and locals in suits who strode by with cell phones at their ears, but the air was warm and fragrant with bloom. The branches of the blossomed trees were delicately etched against a luminous silver sky that now and then rained lightly upon us. In the uncommitted spaces between business, Jan and I paid homage to a few monuments and landmarks, feeling patriotic, never cynical, but we’re teachers, after all. We got passes to see the Senate in
session, shedding our purses and electronics at security, briefly becoming unfettered nobodies (how odd it feels to be schlepping nothing) for balcony seats in a theater of power where Senators in living color were debating and voting on budget amendments. It was amazing to realize from that vantage point how much influence is held by so few, but it was exciting to bear witness and feel connected to it as citizens. Responsible citizenship in a global environment was in fact the topic of the keynote speech by Jacqueline Jones Royster. A professor of English at Ohio State University and author of several books, Royster emphasized the connection between literacy and the public good. She spoke of language and expression as being at the very core of who we are, and pointed out that writing is not just a subject, but the very currency by which we manage our lives and relationships. She spoke of the value of hope, the reality of intervention and redemption, and the lessons of history that have proven doubters wrong and those with faith right. Teachers, she said, are both enablers of stability and agents of change, but we must have compassion and fortitude, and we must be relentless in our effort and belief.
It was amazing to realize how much influence is held by so few, but exciting to bear witness and feel connected to it as citizens.
It was an inspiring talk, and I felt newly energized as we broke up into various roundtable discussions. In one, we revisited the mission statement of the NWP, tweaking the language a bit to better reflect its purpose and essence. The words and phrases I heard floating around the room were quite revealing: a unique network, writing, sharing, rethinking, training, renewal, linking, mentoring, gathering, collaboration, partnerships, infrastructure, transformative, long-term professional growth, organic adaptation of ideas, inquiry, effectiveness, good local work informing a national arena, the place of teachers, a home base in which to dream in collaboration with colleagues and the support to bring those dreams to fruition…you get the picture. And when you put optimistic and relentless teachers together, you do feel an outrageous sense of hope, even in a time that is strained and stressed and sometimes downright scary. Outside it was snowing pink petals beneath the silver sky and I was summoned by the fragrance of hyacinth to step into a haiku and inhale springtime.
Pictured below: Jan Brown, Cynthia Carbone Ward, Sheridan Blau, and Rosemary Cabe
by Gaylene Croker (’07)
"Those hot dry winds that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen." Raymond Chandler, "Red Wind"
I became consumed with digging through the mound and collecting different sized bottles and lining them up, creating families.
For four days now we here in Southern California have been dealing with these ninety-degree Santa Ana winds, and let me tell you, hide the knives, my people. Not only are these winds wreaking havoc with the wildfires that are occurring all around us, causing death and destruction, they are scrambling our brains and rewiring our collective nervous system. The only good thing about these winds is that you can spend much less time on a hairdo, since you can blame a disheveled look on the wind and everyone will believe you.
Now since I hail from Kansas, not exactly a "no-wind" area, you would think that I could handle these Santa Anas, but in Kansas the winds are not nearly as bad. "Oh?" you say. "What about those tornadoes?" It's true, we do have winds associated with tornadoes, but when they do come in the form of a tornado, they come, they blow, they destroy (or not) and then they go. They don't hang around for days and days and days. Tornadoes are the visit from the out-oftown bad in-laws; Santa Anas are the in-town bad in-laws. Tornadoes are the hand slammed in the car door; Santa Anas are the leg ripped off by rabid dogs. Tornadoes are the twenty-four hour flu; Santa Anas are the flaming hemorrhoids. When I was eight years old one of my favorite places to hang out The pickle jar father on the farm was back of the chicken house. It was a low building was sturdy and totally in that had a steep corrugated tin roof. The back area was the second stopping place for the cans and bottles from our love with the slender household that would eventually make their way back to the and lovely Wishbone dump by the creek. (Breathe deep, my environmentalist friends.) salad dressing mother. Since the wind and the rain had done their jobs, this plethora of cans and bottles was fairly clean. A brilliantly creative child, at one point I became consumed with digging through this mound and collecting different sized bottles and lining them up, creating families. The pickle jar father was sturdy and totally in love with the slender and lovely Wishbone salad dressing mother. The maraschino cherry bottle baby sat beside her older brother the mayonnaise jar. Grandfather Peanut Butter and the Grandmother Jelly came to visit quite often, and they would bring lanky, but socially awkward Cousin Catsup. Soon there was a neighborhood forming and it was a happy day for all when the family with the Campbell tomato soup triplets moved in. Even Uncle Butternut Coffee (nicknamed "Rusty" for his appearance) was happy there beside the Hormel brothers. Once the neighborhood was in shape, I began to scout for boxes. I had big plans for Main Street. It was on a windy day when I went out back of the chicken house to begin construction on the neighborhood school that Mrs. Butterworth was going to take charge of. (OK, I admit it, I had used extra syrup on the pancakes for days, just so I could justify bring in Mrs. Butterworth from the house to be the teacher.) I fought the steady wind all the way to the chicken house, and found my neighborhood intact. In fact, in back of the chicken house turned out to be the perfect place to hide out from the wind that was whipping over the fields.
Since Mrs. Butterworth was eager to get started and meet all the kids, I set The metaphorical about the work at hand, finding the perfect orange juice can to be an chickens in our orphan who would happily live at the school and help the other children lives are up there, as they studied her message to "concentrate" written across her side. The wind howling around the corners of the building was a familiar sound, and we know it. but I heard an additional sound that day, a slight scratching noise every so often. I tried to ignore it, but I kept hearing it--sometimes a short peeplike "stritch," sometimes a longer "striiiiiittttcccchh." I tried to place the sound. It was coming from above me, so I went investigate. I went far enough back until I saw them: three dead chickens in various states of decomposition on the slanted roof, one about three feet from the edge of the roof above where I was building. Apparently, my father had flung them up there to avoid attracting coyotes. Well, what would you have done? I set back to my work temporarily, trying to ignore the danger from above, but it was not the same. I heard the scratching sound, the yellow talons on the corrugated roof. The absolute horror of even the possibility a half-decomposed chicken falling upon me caused a knot in my stomach and the feeling of apprehension overwhelmed me. I was jittery and tense. I abandoned my project. There would be no school, no park, no church and hence, even though they were perfect for one another, no wedding for the earnest Mr. Pork and Beans and delicate Miss Vienna Sausage. Decades later, these current winds blow around me and I see how they make us all edgy and nervous. The wind stirs up things, pushes us around. We hear the scritching of the waxy yellow talons on the roof above us. The metaphorical chickens in our lives are up there, and we know it. After the winds go away, we will breathe easier and get back to our normal routines. Then, one day, out of the blue, the winds of nervous anticipation come whipping up unexpectedly in our lives. We hear about the company layoffs. We get that call that a parent is in the hospital. We hear that tone in the voice of a friend. We all walk a little hunched over then, anticipating nervously. Waiting, waiting, we pray that the winds are gentle and that this time the chickens do not fall.
Pictured above: a girl in the wind. (It’s not Gaylene.)
Want more fun? Read Gaylene Croker’s blog at http://bossybetty.blogspot.com/
Chapter 1: Excerpted from an Untitled Book in Progress
by Maria Nodarse (’01)
The author and her family, from left to right: her brother Alfredo; her mother Agueda Perez de Nodarse; her brother Lorenzo, Jr. (to the rear); Maria de los Angeles herself; and her father Lorenzo Nodarse, Sr.
A smudgy glass wall and a revolution kept Belen away from me. Black as onyx, she stood out in the mostly white crowd crammed behind the glass divide at Rancho Boyeros Airport, on the southern outskirts of Havana. She was wearing her Sunday best, a plaid dress adorned with a white collar. Her short hair had been straightened with a hot comb and was tucked under a black fish net. A gold bracelet graced her wrist, and golden loops dangled from her ears, jewelry she had bought with her hard-earned money in lengthy installments. Belen, Spanish for Bethlehem. I wanted to rest my head on her breasts -- two mountainous gifts of flesh, a rivulet of sweat running between them. I knew she would always remember what I said at that moment, so I told her, “Belen, yo me quiero quedar contigo.” “I want to stay with you.” Then louder, as if the pitch of my voice could alter my fate, I added, “Volvemos pronto, Belen.” “We’ll be back soon.” And I believed it. I believed it because, at fourteen, I had that certainty of youth, the certainty I would always see the people I loved again. “Maria de los Angeles!” My mother called me Maria de los Angeles when she was upset and “Puchita” when she felt affectionate. Her suitcase was about to be inspected. She was surrounded by bearded men in olive green uniforms, and I feared for her. Two grizzly soldiers who could hardly contain their long-repressed rage opened the big suitcase covered with peeling, faded, blue Pan Am stickers. Los milicianos, the militiamen, pulled out my mother’s neatly tucked away underwear with gusto. “Su cartera.” “Your handbag,” one of them demanded. My mother handed him her boxy, black patent leather handbag. El miliciano took out her wallet and counted the money.
“Is that all you’re carrying?” he asked. “Just what’s allowed,” replied my mother, without so much as raising her eyes. She lied. I knew she had rolled several hundred-dollar bills and had inserted them, like a Tampax, inside her vagina. She had told me so.
Taking pleasure in their newly gained power, two young milicianos inspected my small valise and looked me over from head to toe.
It was now my turn. Taking pleasure in their newly gained power, two young milicianos inspected my small valise and looked me over from head to toe. I was wearing my dormilonas, the small diamond studs I had worn since I was a baby, actually since the day I was born. “How much money are you carrying?” one of them asked while opening my purse. Before I had a chance to reply, he gave me one last look full of loathing and, closing my purse, said, “Proximo.” “Next.” Los milicianos then focused their attention on the next passenger, a man I had been watching because he seemed familiar. His straight silver hair, covered with Brylcreem, practically reflected light. He had an innate elegance about him, and that’s what I had recognized, the selfassuredness of the upper class. He was wearing a guayabera, the elegant, pleated, white linen shirt that Cuban men wore in lieu of a jacket. His features were European, as was his manner. I pitied him because he was attempting to maintain his dignity while submitting to a search, and the struggle made him perspire. “How long do you intend to stay in Miami?” growled one of the milicianos. “A month. I’m going on vacation,” he replied. Like us, he was leaving on a tourist visa. I hope you don’t lose your temper, I thought, knowing from his appearance that nobody had treated him that way before.
I looked up and saw Belen waving. I blew her a kiss, took a few steps, and blew her another.
I took a few steps and turned my head, looking for Belen. Around me were well-dressed women wearing high heels and stockings, men in guayaberas that had lost their starch or suits that were limp with sweat, suited little boys holding favorite toys, and little girls dressed like princesses, cradling their dolls. I didn’t see Belen. She wasn’t there, or I would have spotted her immediately. Was she gone already, I wondered?
As we approached the Cubana de Aviacion airplane, the passengers ahead of us looked up to the sweeping terrace on the airport’s second floor and waved one last goodbye. I too looked up and saw Belen waving. I blew her a kiss, took a few steps, and blew her another. My mother was inspecting the terrace, her eyes darting from one onlooker to another, until she found my brother. “Look, there’s Loren,” she said. Loren looked exceptionally handsome in his Cubana de Aviacion shirt and navy blue pants; he had a job at the ticket counter and was working that day. Loren’s decision to stay in Cuba had broken my parents’ hearts but he had just turned twenty-one and the choice was his to make. Inside the plane, I asked, “Mami, when will we be back?” Her eyes were fixed on the landscape—the copper-colored soil, the tall, slender, swaying royal palm trees towering over the island’s lush vegetation. “Despues del proximo golpe.” “After the next coup.”
by Robert Isaacson (’85)
They open the door To the south, the channel. A shaft of light floods the room. Through the door I see the rye grass, the foxtail gone to seed, and the wild oats bending to the sea cliff. We write, or try to write. Yellow blooming milkweed, a young tamarisk tree, press against the glass, peer through the window. Pages turn. Papers shuffle. Pencils scratch on legal tablets. But a purple radish flowers against the fence. And, offshore, looms The long fog bank broken loose from its moorings. Our room is not full of words. There is really only the light, and, within it, the very heart of the light, with all that it brings, pouring ceaselessly through the door.
Harbor, Santa Barbara
by Robert Isaacson (’85)
On the sea break Harsh salt air Wets and rusts The pipe railing, Standing into the wind, Flaking blistered iron, proud and failing. Most visits are alone, Bored with tide pools, Idling in gusty sunlight. In winter the sea Batters the break, Shooting white water High over the wall.
Last Poem in the World
by Robert Isaacson (’85) At the end, when we write,
Of the Happy Ending
by Gabriel Arquilevich (’01)
there will be a final poem, and that final poem will appear last of all, spoken in the great shuffling procession of time, as we all make our way out of the vast plaza where we have stood in the sun like spectators to a great pageant. The last poem will then disappear with no lingering
You’re home, and there’s still no moral to the story—the clamor and the wreck, shrouded pockets, changing lanes at speeds you think will get you where you are when you don’t even know how it feels. It’s only memory through these eyes,
only what you can’t believe in— the tanks and ladders, the warehouse militia hiding for cover from the guard dogs, from the ghosts of guard dogs. At the game, the cheer-
leaders kick their legs and pump their fists, the couple at the bowling lanes keep score. All pain and hardwood. And where would you go that the body won’t follow? Your clothes can’t protect you, and there’s no leisure, no compromise
in the now empty hallways where our voices might yet echo as they fade into silence, at peace, knowing that all that could have been said has been so nearly said.
once the cirrus calls, moth-white, stretching the sky, and in the field of blossoming oak, the trail and treasure of the happy ending.
Getting Ready for Young Writers’ Camp
by Aline Shapiro (’91)
Fellows participating as counselors in Young Writers Camp this summer had their big planning session in April. It always amazes me when I see the fresh exchange of ideas and excitement in the air as new and old teacher-consultants gather together to share and create a program that will capture and engage the minds of young campers. Campers become part of a writing community similar to the one created every summer in the Institute. They also make new friends, publish pieces in an anthology, and have a graduation at the end of their time in camp. There are eighteen Fellows teaching at four college campuses. At Cal Lutheran, we have Jerri LeJuene, Pat Bachamp, Mary Gutierez and Cathy Crook. At UCSB, we have Alison Bright, Matt McCaffrey, Amy Christensen, Bojana Hill, Barbara Conway, Janet Longpre and Peggy Nicholson. At Oxnard College, Sally King, Matt Urwick, Kimbrough Ernest and Darryl Lewis-Abriol are teaching. Lastly, Jan Brown, Sharron Luft, Mark Jasso and Vickie Gill are at Allan Hancock College. Please help us fill enrollment by doing outreach in your school community. If there are Migrant Education or Gate Coordinators at your school, make sure they have information about SCWriP and Young Writers Camp. Call the office if you need more brochures. We do have some in Spanish. Have a stack of brochures available at your Open Houses. Most importantly, send us the students that you know would appreciate and benefit from a summer of writing. Thank you for your continued support. Any questions? Email me at email@example.com.
South Coast Writing Project Gevirtz Graduate School of Education University of California Santa Barbara, CA 93106
THE SCWRIP DIRECTORIAL STAFF: Director: Sheridan Blau Co-Director: Rosemary Cabe Co-Director: Joni Chancer Co-Director: Jack Phreaner http://education.ucsb.edu/scwrip/
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.