I just returned from a hectic, but pleasant, weeklong trip to Tennessee, where I spoke at the Tennessee Reading Association conference in Murfreesboro and then did a two-day author visit to an elementary school.

It’s always fun to visit a state IRA conference and see old friends. In Tennessee, I had the chance to finally meet in person two contributors to Reading Today—Jacquie McTaggart and Madeleine Kuderick—with whom I had corresponded frequently over the years while I worked at IRA. It was a real treat to sit down and share “war stories” about life as a writer and public speaker. My breakout session on using “The Power of Poetry” with students in classrooms was well received. I enjoy talking with teachers and sharing ideas about how poetry can be integrated throughout the curriculum.

After the conference, I spent two days at Bradley Academy in Murfreesboro. With the younger students, I shared poems and discussed how a book gets put together. With the older students, I conducted writing workshops, and I was amazed at some of the creative poems the students wrote. I love watching groups of young people get excited about writing—especially students who initially enter the room looking suspicious about the prospect of “writing poetry.” After school one day I took some time to drive up to Nashville and visit the Country Music Hall of Fame.

As I worked my way back across Tennessee, I had dinner with my friend David Dotson of the Dollywood Foundation and then conducted an interview with 99-year-old cartoonist Martin Filchock (more about that in my next post). On my way home, I stopped in Blacksburg, Virginia, to visit longtime friend Judy Davis and her son, Ian. I visited Ian’s eighth-grade language arts class the next day to discuss the revision process with the students. I thank Judy and Ian for their hospitality in hosting me on both ends of my journey.

If this is a taste of life as a traveling speaker/author, I think I will enjoy it, even though I felt a bit drained after covering 1,700 miles in seven days. After nine months as a full-time freelancer, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to pursue this “dream career.” Many blessings to all of you this holiday season!

Random Writing Thought of the Week: Students are often amazed when I talk about how long the process of creating a book takes. I was a bit amazed myself when I realized last week that the book of beach poems I’m currently finalizing has been more than a decade in the making. I first drafted some of the poems back in 1999!

Comments on: "The Writing Life, Chapter 18: Tennessee Trek" (1)

  1. I wish I could could have been in that 8th grade class and heard your lesson on revision. That’s one of those classroom evils – teaching a necessary skill that ranks very near the bottom of kids’ “excitement scale.” I’m certain, however, that you did a fine job. Once the word gets around you’ll probably be in high demand. Get prepared.

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