Monday, October 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo Approaches

We are officially halfway through October and November is fast approaching.  What does that mean?  It's time to get ready for NaNoWriMo!

And guess what?  This year is my year for winning!  I feel it.  True, I've participated before but never been a winner crossing that 50,000 word line.  Until now...

The process is always valuable because it gets me writing.  Whether it is crap or not I'm writing.  And that's progress, my friend, because real life is all too real with a hubby and two girls---ages 10 and 3. Let's just say  I don't ever have to look far to find an excuse NOT to write. 

I really admire (envy?) "real" writers that started their novel writing lives while still working a full time job as well as being parents.  I'm honestly not sure how they do it---but more power to 'em!  Cheers to you if you fall in this category, and may I join your ranks soon!

Let's Write!
Mrs. S

Monday, August 20, 2012

Welcome Animoto Video

My animoto video for staff development...a quick intro to the library.  I did try to give credits for the images, but they don't appear to be showing up--will go back and edit to make sure it shows up!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rolling In the Deep---book lover's style

Just a bit of fun for the evening, found on Pinterest from YouTube---enjoy! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Overwhelmed by Too Much

image found at:

I'm feeling a tad bit overwhelmed today.

I have friends who seem to be able to do it all--and do it all well.  I tell myself it really isn't possible--that everyone is struggling to find balance, that no one really has all the answers.  That what they post on facebook are only the highlights of the game---not their real life in its entirety.

I do have many interests.  I know that--I always have.
I do have a 9 and a 3 year old--and  I constantly remind myself to enjoy the little moments with them more than pick up the house because time passes by so very quickly when they are little.  And they are so precious--even when they are driving me nuts.

So, until the lovely little faeries arrive, or my Bewitched-like powers appear, I guess I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other, trying the best I can to DO the best I can to BE the best I can.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner

I heard of Teacher's Write! (the oh-so-fabulous summer writing camp I'm participating in) through an email on a librarian's listserve I belong to, so I went to author Kate Messner's site for more details.  I knew I had recently put her books in my library, but I hadn't actually read them yet. 

I know, I's hard to believe, but there you have it.

I resolved that issue last night.  I made a late-evening trip to my library and picked up The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.   It was a lovely short break from my all-day-at-home-with-both-kids-whining life yesterday---I was the only one in the school, the only one in my library=utter serenity!

So I brought this little jewel home and thought I'd just start it so I could count it in my #summerthrowdown #teamlibrarian reading (check out twitter for more info)---not really intending to finish it.  After all, it was rather late when I got started (about 9ish) and it had been a really long day.
But, my!  I really, really (can I add another really?-yep, I think I will) REALLY loved this book.

Gianna is a 7th grader--an awesome runner and an artist.  Gianna and her family (including her beloved Nonna, and her joke-loving little brother) live above the funeral home where her dad works.  Her best friend Zig has been around pretty much forever--he's a brainiac and an all-around good guy. 

Gianna has an assignment---to collect, identify, label, etc. 25 different types of leaves--for her science class.  She's procrastinated a bit (okay, maybe a lot) getting it down---but in all fairness, she's had a lot going on.  I mean, to stay ahead of that Bianca in track takes practice (not to mention she loves running), and an artist must create art, right?  Plus, she's beginning to worry about her Nonna.  She doesn't seem quite herself these days--forgetting and misplacing things.  Who could concentrate on a stupid leaf project with all that going on, I ask you? 

Time is running out, though, and she must finish this project or lose her spot at the upcoming meet (to that Bianca--ugh!) and that just CANNOT happen.  Zig--great friend that he is-- offers to help her finish the project. 

The utter realness of the characters is striking.  Messner really gets this right!  The newly developing bits of tension between Gianna and Zig--- that we're-friends,-we've-always-been-friends-but-hmmm...I'm-starting-to-see-you-in-a-whole-new-light-and-I-don't-quite-know-what-to-do-with-these-feelings deal is greatness.  Sweet, not saccharine.   And I so feel the pain in the family over Nonna's failing health. 

With all that being said, my favorite part is the ending which, if you've ever read one of my book reviews you know I'll never give that spoiler!  But I really, really love that Gianna is true to herself. 

I highly recommend this read!  It was comforting and lovely and brilliant and real. Just like Gianna herself.

Read on, Gentle Readers; Read on!

Mrs. S

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Yippee for positive feedback!

Gae Polisner, YA author and Teachers Write camp advisor, gave me positive feedback on my writing today!  Giddy!

Teachers Write!

Looking back over week one of my summer online writing community (thanks a million to Kate Messner and friends!) it has been incredibly productive.

Not that I'm finished with the next great novel.  Not that I've even started the next great novel, for that matter, or really even worked on my WIP (work in progress).  But...what I have done is started to get back in the daily habit of writing.

Even when I don't have time.  I find a way to make time.
Even when I'm not feeling the call of the muse.  I try to call the muse to me.
Even when den is in chaos and the bed is calling my name.


Because in order to be a writer, one must write.
And in case you didn't know this about me, I really, really want to be a writer.

Thanks for listening.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My year in review: reflections on a school year

Having always been on a school schedule my entire life (my mom is a teacher; I went from being in school to being in college, to teaching by the time I was 21.  One of my children was born in August, the other *you guessed it* was born in May!), I think in terms of school years all the time.  January is always the middle of my year, signaling the beginning of spring semester in my mind. And so, that is how I've come to write my year-end reflections at the beginning of June. 

I happened upon another blog site this morning while going through the Teacher's Write blog posts.  The Life of a Conflicted Teacher posted about his year, and while I usually do reflect, I've never really blogged about it.  

Seems silly, doesn't it?  So here I am...thanks to Conflicted, ready to write my reflections.  

What went well:
  1. I feel great about the events I planned over the past year.  Teen Read Week was awesome---included the Ellen Trout Zoo educational folks, an author/story-teller/singer, murder mysteries, and several contests.  Our author visit with Neal Shusterman was fantastic, and taking teens to the TT4L day at the TLA library conference was amazing.  
  2. Circulation was up.  Loads of kids checking out books----what could be better than that? 
  3. I have, in particular, a few lessons that I thought really clicked with my kids this year.  Teaching all our 8th graders about Norse mythology and a bit about Viking culture was a real highlight for me.  When you have this age kiddo coming up to you and thanking you for your lesson because they really enjoyed it and learned a lot -- that's high praise!  I had so much FUN with this, too.  And...for YEARS I've wanted to work with kids on a genealogy project---finally got to do this, too, thanks to an awesome history teacher (and friend) who gave me the opportunity this year.  The kids had a great time and we all learned a lot.  There's even interest in me creating a genealogy club next year!
  4. I got brave, and took the plunge into genre-fying the Fiction side of the library.  It's a bit overwhelming to think about the amount of work in finishing this project (deep breaths, here) but I believe the payoff will be enormous.  Every kid I polled said this would be a fantastic change because it would help them find what they want in the library.  Ultimately, that's what sold me on it.  
Needing improvement:
  1. With no longer having an aide, I've had a real learning curve this year on getting everything done in the library that needs to be done.  We made it through, but some tweaks definitely must be made for next year.  I need to take more training time for the students that will assist me, for one thing.  
  2. Finding a way to get everyone in the library.  I would love to have every subject area feel that it is "their" place rather than "just Language Arts" and I really want to offer book clubs, etc. again.  It is a time-management not spreading-myself-too-thin issue, but there MUST be a way to work around the obstacles to have this happen.  Totally unwilling to give up on this----just need to figure it out.  
  3. Time for me to do my "shop" work.  I need to be better at scheduling in all those millions of behind-the scenes bits librarians do.  More often than I would have liked, that time got sacrificed for face-to-face time with the students.  What I need to keep in mind is that BOTH are important facets of my incredible job.  
  4. Our One Book, One School program was not the stellar success story it should have been.  I won't elaborate on this, but note that I do have plans for next year that should fix this issue.
Plans for next year:
  1. Keep the kids excited about reading.  and literature. and learning in every way.  Keep them curious about everything and teach them how to find out/figure out/the answers.  
  2. Make better sanity-preserving boundaries for myself (no working lunches) while still providing top-notch service for my school family. 
  3. Genre-fy like the wind!
  4. Remember to breathe.  And that ultimately it is all okay, because even if the carts to be shelved are overflowing, and the books aren't in the perfect order, and my circulation desk is piled high with to-dos, I play a big role of getting books into the hands and hearts of my children and I am truly successful at that. 
Read on, Gentle Readers; Read on!
Mrs. S

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I am not a laptop gal

I really, really want to be a laptop gal, one of those super-cool writers on their super-cool macs in the coffee shop.

But I have discovered I'm not.


A couple of issues:
1) I don't have a mac.  I have a school-issued hp.  I'm grateful, and it is great for checking email, etc. but is incredibly cumbersome for writing.
2)having the laptop out is like advertising free candy for my little ones.  The minute mama is on the laptop everybody has some sort of deep need for me right now!

So, I'm back on the desktop this morning.  Even with the sticky "n" key it is better than the laptop.  Or maybe it's just because the kiddos are still sleeping.  Either way, I'm excited to be writing again.

Today's prompt from Kate Messner's Teachers Write summer writing group:

Tuesday Quick-Write:
Write for two minutes to describe a very specific place.  If you’re just free-writing, it can be a place that you love, or have visited, or a place that frightens you.
This is one of my favorite places (which also happens to frighten me sometimes), the Florida Everglades.
Anyplace is fine. If you want to relate this to your work-in-progress, choose a very specific setting within the piece and imagine yourself there.
When your two minutes are up, stop writing.
Now…if your place is real and you can go there, go there now.  I’ll wait….
If it’s far away, find a picture of it. If it’s not a real place, put yourself there in your mind. Now write for one minute about each of the following:
  • Everything you SEE – Pay attention to big things and tiny things. Search for concrete details.
  • Everything you HEAR – Be specific. Don’t just say “a scraping sound.” Say a “high-pitched, raspity-raspity-screeeeeaking noise.”  You can make up words if you want.If you aren’t in the place, try to find a video. Or guess what you might hear.
  • Everything you SMELL – Especially pay attention to the smells that surprise you. If you’re not in the place, pictures can help you smell. Look carefully…what would that dumpster smell like?
  • Everything you FEEL – Weather, wind, things that land on you or brush against you. Again – pictures help you imagine if you’re not there, and if it’s not a real place, try imagining images and then assigning sensations from a similar place that might be real (desert, tundra, etc.)
Now, go back and rewrite that descriptive paragraph. Include your best tiny, surprising details, and work on senses other than sight. Better?  More vivid?  This is a fun activity to do with kids, too. Have them write about the playground or gym or cafeteria; then go there and hunt for sensory details!
I really love this prompt.  I've done my initial 2 minute write---about my library office, of all places! but I'm saving my rewrite till a bit later in the day since I am planning to go to work today. I really do want to experience my office with all my senses and then write.  Good idea, huh?  ;)
I've decided to throw caution to the wind and post my writing on my blog this summer---it is really hard for me to put myself totally out there to be judged, but I'm ready for some growth in my writing, so what the heck. Here goes...

My library office is one of my favorite spaces in the world.

Yes, it is cluttered with stuff; supplies for not only my library work, but on the table to the left, a tall stack of purple Gifted and Talented folders ready to be sent to admin for the summer; to the right an extra cart of new laptops that need to be cataloged, and a pile of papers that need to be filed for my Girl Scout troop that meets after school in the library. Oh yes, and books. Books line the shelves, of course; some of my favorites, some signed by authors, some from my childhood. Along the back of the office I have a cart of newly-arrived books just waiting for my finishing touches to make them shelf-ready. A special shelf of books that just might be a bit too much for my middle school readers is there, anxiously awaiting my reading and final judgment: do they stay or do they go? Photos of my family, the Cheez-It box signed by all the kids on the NYC spring break trip from the year we got stuck in a freak snow storm for 4 extra days in Secaucus, New Jersey (a whole other story), my Godzilla action figure, my Shakespeare puppet. I am surrounded in this space by the beautiful, the meaningful, and the whimsical mementoes of my life.

Each morning as I enter this sanctuary, I have what might very well end up as the only few moments of utter peace in my day. As a wife and working mother of two very darling and high-maintenance girls, not to mention working with tweens and teens and teachers all day, this brief time all by myself in my office feels utterly luxurious. My own secret garden, filled with the heavenly scent of coffee brewing and that lovely new book smell. The soft mechanical hum of my computer and the air conditioning unit that backs up against my office wall soothes many a harried morning. As I sip my coffee and check my email, I breathe deeply in my safe space. I exhale. I am girded and strong and ready for the day.

Let me know what you think...
Mrs. S.

Monday, June 4, 2012


It's Summer!


really pumped up about several things going on this of them starts tomorrow.

This is a virtual writing community for teachers and librarians (but anyone can join in the fun!).  I'm incredibly excited to participate this summer---and I'll try to be brave and post some writing on this blog just for fun. 

more to come!

Mrs. S

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

7th Grade History Projects

Super-excited to work with our 7th grade History teachers on research projects this year!  Here are the options you may choose to learn about:

1.  Salem Witch Trials

2. Roanoke

3. Spies in the Revolutionary War

4.  Sons of Liberty

5. Gold Rush

6.  Alamo

7. Spies in the Civil War

8. Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

9. Underground Railroad

10.Genealogy:  Family History Book

Daniel Stillman McCoy, Born 1877 in Gonzales, Texas
What was going on in Texas at that time?
What was going on in the USA at that time?
What was going on in the world at that time?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Norse Mythology

Excited to work with 8th grade ELA classes on Norse mythology this week
1.  Music

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bewitching by Alex Flinn

I'll let you in on a little secret....I have a thing for fairy tales. 

Way back when, as a tiny little thing, my mom read fairy tales to me at bedtime.  I went to sleep each night with visions of lovely dresses swirling to the music as my prince charming locked eyes with me across a crowded room.  I suppose it was around third grade when I began systematically checking out EVERY single book on fairy tales in the Sherman Public Library.  I literally read everything held in 398.2.  I delighted in learning about tales from various lands and loved the heft of the old books, with the plain old-fashioned covers that held dazzling stories of magic and beauty.  The books themselves, were like the quintessential fairy tale sorceress hiding her beauty to see who was kind and generous to her anyway...and I was the kid lucky enough to find them, to know that these books shimmered.

So, I suppose it isn't a real surprise then, to tell you I'm a fan of Alex Flinn's work.   Her stories are...well, Bewitching (clever, no?).  I've had so many students ask if there will be a sequel to Beastly----I really never imagined there would  be, but I'm thrilled Flinn has come out with her latest book!  And the cover is truly lovely---no longer the crone hiding her identity, but showing up in her loveliest incarnation.

Bewitching takes a closer look at Kendra, the witch from Beastly. 

Once upon a time, in the year 1666, our Kendra was a teenager living in  England. Tragically, she lost all family members except a younger brother to the plague.  Determined to save him, she seeks out her friend Lucinda, a woman said by some to be a witch, for a cure.  Finding Lucinda already gone, she and young Charlie set out--knowing they must leave their village.  Half-starved and not realizing her own powers, she and Charlie come across a dear little house---could it be?---made of GINGERBREAD in the forest.  Ravenous, they begin to eat---meaning only to take a little, but finding it so tasty and delicious they nibble more and more.  Enter the witch....

Bewitching weaves the story of the long-lived Kendra with the story of Emma--in a great Cinderella twist--and her step-sister Lucinda.  As Kendra decides whether or not to step in and offer assistance to Emma, we learn about various times Kendra's assistance....well, went rather awry.  I'm sure you've heard about the Princess in the Pea?  The Little Mermaid?  Yep, not all of Kendra's spells come out quite like she the question of whether to help Emma or not is of valid concern, for sure!  I mean, she actually likes Emma---she has a real friend for the first time in years...what if something goes horribly, horribly wrong?
I won't tell you everything, of course...but be warned!  The book itself is too delicious to be ignored, and once you get a little nibble, you too will want more and more.

Read on, Gentle Readers; Read on,
Mrs. S.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Web 2.0 in the library

Some of you (if anyone is still reading this) may have noticed I haven't really written many posts lately.  It seems the majority of my recent posts have just been links or youtube videos that I plan to use in my library lessons.  It has been most helpful to allow me to pull things up quickly now that my district doesn't block the entire WWW. 

However, I do PROMISE to get back to some actual writing someday soon---I've read a ton of great books that are dying to be reviewed on here, and some actual librarian ponderings to pontificate upon. 

Until that time, please bear with me.  Can you stand one more "lesson" posting?  Let's hope so because I've just been informed I'm doing a web 2.0 training tomorrow for some district librarians and I've got some awesome links and other info to share.  And really...posting them on this blog is so very simple, and so easy for me to access from anywhere....and isn't that kind of the point of the whole web 2.0 thing? 

Let's take a look at EDTECH, for example.  Tom Barrett is a techie genius. 
  (He's probably many forms of genius, but I know for sure he's a tech wiz.)

And how about DragonTech?  My friend and colleague Art Lieberman reviews a ton of great techie stuff on here. 

I'd also like to try having an online book club....doesn't this look cool?

For a research project I'm working on with some 8th graders, the classroom teacher and I have picked out 3 different techie products they can choose from: Voki, Museum Box, and Animoto

Wondering how to Tweet educationally?  Cybraryman has some ideas!

And symbaloo...we can't leave out's a look at mine on authors and series...

And so our district librarians can perhaps begin the web 2.0 collaborative process in earnest, I've set up this wiki. 

There are many great and wonderous web 2.0 tools that can be used in the classroom--the real trick for me is having enough quiet down time to search, read, think about, play with, and use them!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I'm looking forward to teaching classes on MLK, jr. today.  Here are some video clips I plan to use.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Research, here we come!

I'm so excited to collaborate on research with a particular group of 8th graders!  Here are some links to make tomorrow's lesson go smoothly.  No worries---I'll post a "real" blog post about all these lovely sites soon (well, I'll try to make it soon, really I will.) For now, this post will help me present the product options to the students:

Museum Box
MMMS Library

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Black History Month

February is Black History Month--and the History Channel has some great videos to share. Check this one out on the history of BHM. Also, for an amazing video on an amazing woman---here's the link to my archived post from last February on Madame CJ Walker. She is an inspiration to us all.

Read on, Gentle Readers. Read on. 

Mrs. S.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Library Love

Saw this in my FB newsfeed.  One of my friends/relatives posted it and I just had to share it with you all!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Joy of Books

I love books. 

No, I really, really do. 

I suppose that might seem obvious since I'm a librarian.  And my blog's name rather implies it. 

But you know....some might think that all teachers love teaching.  or their subject matter.  or kids, in general and that isn't always the case, but I digress...

I love the way books smell and the very heft of them in my hands.  I love the way they look on shelves and the magic I feel reading a good one. 

I'm not a technophobe---my masters degree is actually in Instructional Technology----and I'm adding ebooks to my library.  And maybe someday I'll even care to own a Nook or Kindle or whatever myself. 

I assure you ebooks will always be a standby, not a first choice for me unless I'm traveling.  And really, maybe not even then (I'm a beach girl.  Water + Technology = Ugly Mess)

An eReader just doesn't give me the warm fuzzies the way an actual book with actual pages does.

Whatever your preference, I hope you read.  Read what you like.  Read what gives you joy. 

The Joy of Books.

Speaking of which--enjoy the way-too-cool video above.

Read on, Gentle Reader.  Read on.

Mrs. S

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I've had a cold or sinus infection since before we rang in the new year.  I've become accustomed to waking up with crusty eyes and am now always prepared with enough tissue and cough drops to stock a Walgreens.  My morning coffee is especially appreciated as it eases my creaky-froggy throat.  I sound like I'm trying to be Kathleen Turner's stand-in.

With all that said, I've been feeling just meh.  I want to be up and at 'em.  I want to feel filled with the positivity and vigor a new year generally ushers in for me.

Currently I just feel more like hunkering down in a pair of flannel pajamas underneath my oh-so-cozy down comforter and only waking up for a spot of tea and some light reading before napping yet again.

With only one more day left of my sick days for the entire school year, that scenario--however lovely it may be--ain't happenin'.

So---I've made NY resolutions.  One of them involves writing more in this blog.
 *yes, it's a resolution again. quit laughing!*

but more than likely my goals will remain along the lines of dragging my sorry hiney out of bed each morning and functioning at whatever level I can muster throughout the day until I can crawl back under the covers again each night until I am fully recovered from this ick.


Read on, gentle readers. Read on.
Mrs. S.