Book Buzz: The Beatryce Prophecy

Read this book. Soon.

My intention here is to Book Buzz professional literature to give you an idea what it’s about and if it’s worth the read. Today’s Book Buzz is not a professional text, but I cannot stop thinking about it. The universe wants this book to be spoken about.

Last Saturday, I attended the 100th anniversary of TCRWP’s Saturday Reunion, like thousands of you did, too. Kate DiCamillo gave the closing and it is such a shame that her talk was not recorded. I completely understand why Teachers College does not record their sessions for later viewing; part of the magic is the in-the-moment synergy that is created by the presenters and attendees and there’s no way that would exist in a recording. But, Kate DiCamillo’s closing was a master class in storytelling, and I wish I could linger in her words again and again.

She told several personal stories that wove together with her latest book, The Beatryce Prophecy. Before she was even done speaking, I had purchased the book on my Kindle. That night I began a journey with Beatryce that still haunts me though I’ve long finished the book.

If you are looking for another DiCamillo story like Mercy Watson or Because of Winn Dixie, this book is not that. A few years ago, I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane aloud to my daughter who was probably 8 years old at the time. It was a miraculous and magical experience for us both. Beatryce is on another level than Edward. Where Edward is a tale that spanned a lifetime, Beatryce is a tale that unfolds much more quickly and urgently. Edward is tender and touching; Beatryce is mysterious, murky, dark.

The Beatryce Prophecy feels like a new era for DiCamillo, a new genre which she has mastered on the first go. If you personally love Kate DiCamillo’s work, read this book. You will inhale it. Her storytelling and diction is the finest it’s ever been. Then, think about the young people in your life. Would you recommend it to them?

I paused many times throughout the book to consider whether or not I would recommend it to my now-11-year-old daughter. Beatryce is heavy, full of death. A lot of DiCamillo’s books have sadnesses in them; often a parent is a dead and it’s the story of their child searching for something. This is true for Beatryce, too, but in a new and different way.

At the conclusion of the book, I told my daughter a little about the storyline and asked her if she was interested in reading it. She said she was. Perhaps there will be a Part 2 of this Book Buzz with her reflections.

Beatryce has stayed with me as have words from the book. I’ll leave you with two of my favorite quotes from the book as well as implore you to read The Beatryce Prophecy. Come back and tell me what you think. I can’t wait to find out.

“Because we must act to make our fate come true.”

“What world is this I now inhabit, and how shall I live in it?”

Writing Group #2: Always Read with a Pen in Hand

This week’s Writing Group tip is fast, effective, and easy to implement. Now, it may seem out of place here in our writing group – a strategy about reading. But, we all know and it has been well documented by the giants in our field the reciprocity that exists between reading and writing.

The next habit I bring forward for you to consider is this: Always read with a pen in hand.

This habit will change the way you read, and it will change the way you write. If you don’t have a pen handy, how can you notate the beauty of the author’s words – and remember where to find them later? This is why I still cannot fully get behind digital texts. Yes, I know, lots of platforms offer annotation tools, but it’s just not the same. I want to be able to think, “What was that wonderful line Delia Owens used in Crawdads?” and then scurry to my book, flip through it, scanning my underlines and circles to find just the phrase I was looking for.

How This Will Help YOU Grow as a Writer:

Engaging with a text under the supposition that you will encounter something worth seeing and reading and thinking about again changes the way you read it. This expectancy bifurcates your readers eyes into writers eyes, too. This is one way to read like a writer. This habit will make you think about your reading differently which will, in turn, make you think about your writing differently.

How This Will Help Your STUDENTS Grow as Writers:

See above.

Additionally, haven’t we all said to our kids that we need to live writerly lives in order to be our best writer selves? Well, this is one concrete, tangible strategy that can help young writers (and old ones, too) approach the world – their reading world – like a writer. This encourages the spotting and notating of writer’s craft which we then hope they borrow in their own writing. 

(BONUS: During a writing conference, you could even ask to peek at students’ jots and margin notes to get self-set goals in disguise. Lift them up, shine a light on them, and encourage students to try what that writer did. It’s not cheating; it’s approximating and learning.)

Until next time, inward and onward writers!

Book Buzz: Teach Like Yourself by Gravity Goldberg

For years I’ve wrestled with this question: How can one maintain autonomy and authenticity while teaching lessons written by someone else?

On the quest to discover wisdom around this, I found Teach Like Yourself by Gravity Goldberg. This book would be a good read for anyone in the educational ecosystem. The heart of this book is about helping the reader find their educational true north; this is a good idea for everyone whether you are a teacher, administrator, coach, etc.

Here’s what resonated the most for me:

First, Brené Brown. Her research and life’s truths are woven artfully throughout Goldberg’s original thinking. If you are a Brené follower, you will feel her spirit ebb and flow from start to finish. 

Early on in the book, Goldberg gives specific exercises to help the reader define their core beliefs. I found this so helpful. The world of education (and the world in general) feels like sand shifting under our feet. Once you define your why and your values, everything comes into focus. You have your yardstick by which to measure. This also reminded me of Brené’s words around having a “soft front, hard back”. This refers to the idea that we show up vulnerably and open to connection (soft front) while at the same time standing firm and living into our values (strong back). When we define and crystalize what we believe, our legs become sturdier underneath us, better abled to weather the undulating earth beneath us. 

Another fascinating section of the book teaches us how to “prime for power.” This is a mental exercise that helps you shift your thinking into a place of power rather than a place of powerlessness. It is really a mindfulness exercise and reminds me that we can choose how we think. This is both comforting and empowering.

The job title I currently hold says “instructional coach”. Goldberg talks at length about how teaching is selling, and I was giving her all the head nods and yesses. My husband is in sales and marketing, and long ago I made the connection that my job is really to sell myself, sell my services, and sell our curriculum. So, when Goldberg went there, I went right along with her. She references ideas from blogger and educator Larry Ferlazzo around two ways to sell: irritation vs. agitation. He says that irritation is trying to get people to do something that we want them to do. Agitation, on the other hand, is figuring out what they want to do and motivating them to do that thing. This is the core of my work as a coach, so it felt very affirming that really smart people are saying that teaching is selling and that helping people with their own goals is more impactful than imposing outside goals upon them.

This was a thought-provoking, easy, and fairly quick read that I’d recommend to anyone.

Read this book if…

…you are feeling unanchored. 

…you want to feel more confident in your own teaching skin.

…you need to find your motivation to teach again.

Writing Group #1: The Kitchen Timer Method

Several weeks back, I felt in a funk. (I lean melancholy. Hopefully, you’ll get used to it.) While scrolling somewhere on the internet, I came across a memoir written by Lauren Graham, fabulous star of stage and screen. I had no idea she was a writer; she’s not only written this quick and funny memoir but also TWO novels. I tapped my little fingers right over to Amazon and clicked “Proceed to checkout” hopeful this book would provide me some much needed levity.

Highly recommend.

Now, this was not quite a random purchase. I love Lauren Graham and frequently quote Gilmore Girls in real life and here so prepare yourself for that, too. I adored her in Parenthood, as well. Don’t you want to be an honorary Braverman? I sure do.

Sprinkled throughout Talking As Fast As I Can is talk (get it?) about her process as a writer. When authors pull back the curtain and give the reader, me, a peak at their writing methods I get giddy. You’re giving me your words AND insight into your writerly life? Yes, please. Two gifts for the price of one.

One such chapter in Talking is all about The Kitchen Timer method. Lauren did not invent this method, but it was shared with her as advice for how to curb her tendencies toward procrastination and meet her book deadlines. Click here to read all the details about 🔗 The Kitchen Timer Method

Friends, I have tried this method and it WORKS. The thing I love most about it is how kind and gentle it is while holding strong to boundaries. You set the timer for 60 minutes but only wrote for 45? My IMMEDIATE natural instinct is to shame myself over this shortcoming and add 15 minutes – or more! – to tomorrow’s hour as a way to teach myself a lesson. (Brene Brown would have lots of words around this. She’ll make frequent appearances here, too, in the form of my own thoughts because I don’t actually know Brene in real life.)

How nice is that? You didn’t meet your goal? That is ok here. It just means your goal was a wee bit off. Let’s adjust the goal to be a bit more realistic for tomorrow, shall we? Yes, let’s do that.

This method has transformed my productivity and the way I think about my writing. Genius.

How This Will Help YOU Grow as a Writer:

Writers, I encourage you to try out this method. I am not by nature a procrastinator, so I was not drawn to this method to help with that. But, if you do tend to dally, this might help.

Regardless of dawdling nature or not, this method helps prioritize your time and set boundaries. Most importantly, it helps build the daily habit of writing. And, in order to get better at writing, you have to write.

Give The Kitchen Timer Method a whirl and let me know how it goes. I can’t wait to hear how it transforms your writing and your self-talk about your writing.

How This Will Help YOUR STUDENTS Grow as Writers:

Staring at a blank page can be intimidating for students. This method will benefit them in three main areas: time, choice, and stamina.

Time: Setting the timer helps reluctant writers know this won’t last forever. This method also helps set the expectation to write the entire time no matter what content comes out.

Choice: Affording your students the option to either free write in their journal (that won’t be seen by you or anyone else unless they so choose to share) or work on one of their current academic pieces gives them the autonomy and flexibility to choose what they write about and for how long, until the timer goes off.

Stamina: Toggling back and forth between their just-for-me writing and their writing with an intended purpose meant for an intended audience will grow their writing stamina. Often teachers share with me that their students just can’t sustain writing for a very long time. This is true. Using methods like this to build strong writing habits will, in turn, build their stamina for writing long.

Pitch this idea of The Kitchen Timer Method to your students as an experiment and share your findings with me!

Until next time, inward and onward writers!

Welcome to Inward Literacy

The Door

Welcome. You are standing at the doorstep of a new place and time. Where the journey takes you upon opening the door is really up to you. Here at Inward Literacy, you’ll find content about hot-off-the-presses (and some oldies-but-goodies, too) professional education reads that can help you grow as an educator. We will also grow as writers through what I’ll call The Writing Group.

Intertwined through the educational literacy thinking we’ll engage in will be moments for self-reflection. This introspection will allow space for personal growth so we can become better humans, too. Everyone benefits when we embrace the notion that we are all learners and on a journey towards our better selves.

Inward Literacy is the place for forward-looking educators that like to look around the corner to see what’s coming. This is your digital soft landing place to look within, and then look back out to your school community and keep going, going, going and doing the good work.

My aim is to create a vibrant community of lit-within educators that are striving to know better and do better for themselves and their students.

Welcome. I’m so glad you are here.