Category Archives: Jo Knowles
I’m the author of LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL, JUMPING OFF SWINGS, PEARL, and SEE YOU AT HARRY’S (Spring 2012).
This weekend I visited my family in New Hampshire. My sister took us on a fun little hike in Center Harbor at the Chamberlain-Reynolds Memorial Forest. It was beautiful!
Here are two photos I took of the trail:
For today’s Monday Morning Warm-Up, imagine you’re a child facing this path. What would go through your mind as you began your journey down the wooded walkway? What would you see? Hear? Smell? Wonder? What would come next?
In honor of Banned Books Week, here are a bunch of essay-ish sorts of things I’ve written about censorship, being banned, and hope for the future. I particularly love the haiku’s many of you wrote way back when. Those were amazing!
“My Essay for Gay YA” http://jbknowles.livejournal.com/413098.html
“What is the Opposite of “Clean”? Part II” http://jbknowles.livejournal.com/390702.html
“I Could Use A Hug About Now” http://jbknowles.livejournal.com/346163.html
“Is it censorship? And a Poetry Friday Haiku Extravaganza!” http://jbknowles.livejournal.com/342629.html
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” http://jbknowles.livejournal.com/340750.html
For today’s Monday Morning Warm-Up, I’m switching things up a little. Today I am going to ask you to commit to writing a few short phrases every day for the next 4 days. It won’t be hard, I promise.
Here is the challenge:
Start noticing more.
Yup, it’s that easy. Almost.
Today, look with new eyes at your world.
What do you see that’s always been there, but that you never looked closely at?
What small phrase do you overhear, or even say, that catches you off guard?
What do you smell that you only smell this time of year? That reminds you of where you are in this big world?
Every day for the next 4 days, write down 3-5 things you notice. They can be small, they can be big. But they must be short phrases of a few words for each observation. (The challenge is to use as few words for each as possible to convey something bigger.)
Each day, add 3-5 more observations to your list.
By Thursday night at 8pm EST and NO LATER, leave your list in the comments section below and I will post it here for Poetry Friday.
In order to be listed you must:
1. Leave your list in the comments below.
2. Give me a name you’d like me to use (it can be just a first name if you’d like).
3. Provide a link to your web site or blog if you’d like it to be included (not required).
I think so!!
There will also be ANOTHER prize of temporary BE tattoos for up to 10 other participants.
So, who wants to join me? 🙂
I think this may have been the best birthday I’ve ever had. And it lasted all weekend! Friday night dear friends arrived so that they could get up the next morning and join in my 5-mile birthday run.
For some inspiration, we all put on BE tattoos (if you’ve read SEE YOU AT HARRY’S, you know the significance 😀 ). My friend David also sent me a joke gift with a funny message:
Here we are at the starting line (aka, the road in front of our house):
And here are some pretty shots of the run. The view was spectacular. (Photos here on out courtesy of my pal Erica)
Coming up on the last mile, there was this sign on the side of the road, secretly placed there by my dear friend Katy:
The little note on the side says, “You can do it!” I really really needed to see those words. And yes, I totally teared up. THANK YOU KATY! Then, Erica pulled out her iPhone and played the theme music to ROCKY and we all ran the last half quarter mile doing the Rocky fist pump.
And then… we finished at our church:
When we got home, the power went out and we couldn’t shower! Since we couldn’t run water, it was also hard to get ready for our music party planned for that night. So… we took our stinky selves downtown and walked around, and then came back home and played SORRY!. The power finally came back about 1.5 hours before the party was to start, so everyone took quick power showers and we managed to be ready by the time the first guests arrived. 🙂
Here are some friends making music in the living room:
It was a great day. I felt loved. I felt proud. And I felt really excited to have raised some money for a great cause! Thank you to all my friends who cheered us on, who donated, and who were there with us in spirit. Here’s me, feeling very full of joy (and maybe a little too much wine). Please don’t ask about that thing on my neck. ;-P
The next morning, we all got up and had a little breakfast, and then went for a 1.5 mile walk. It felt great to stretch those stiff muscles! And to say hi to the cows, our constant (albeit somewhat unenthusiastic) cheerleaders.
Monday Morning Warm-Up:
Think of a meaningful goal you can reach by your next birthday. Maybe one that is good for you, as well as good for someone else. Write it down. You don’t have to tell anyone else what it is. But know you’ve got cheerleaders if you need them (and I don’t mean the cows!). xo
I feel like I am constantly telling people that my struggles and triumphs with running (I use the word “running” but really, it’s an embarrassingly slow jog) mirror my struggles and triumphs with writing. But as I inch ever closer to reaching my running goals of
a) running all the way up a certain hellish hill on my route and
b) running 5 miles on my birthday
and reaching my writing goals of
a) finishing this messy first draft and
b) figuring out what the heck I’m trying to do with it by my birthday
the parallels seem to be uncannily close. Is uncannily a word?
Anyway, I thought I’d share some observations. I know they are painfully obvious in most ways, but I think a few might be a good reminder to anyone who might be struggling with a physical or writing-related goal. So, here they are. 🙂
1. It’s OK to be slow.
On running: I am a very slow runner.
On writing: I am a very slow writer.
What I’ve learned: As long as I finish, it doesn’t matter. I’ve learned to accept my pace and stop comparing myself to everyone else. If I try to keep up with someone when I run, I get out of breath and feel like a failure, even if it’s not true. If I try to write more than 1,000 words a day, I get sloppy, and feel like I’m writing just to fill the page, instead of finding meaning in my work. Instead, I’ve learned to embrace my own process and be be happy about my progress, no matter how slow.
Embrace your inner tortoise!
2. YOU have to do the work.
On running: No one can run for me.
On writing: No one else can write my book.
What I’ve learned: Cute running pants or fancy software programs are fun and shiny, but they aren’t going to make you run or write any faster, farther, or better.
Just do the work!
3. Making yourself accountable, well, does.
On running: Making myself accountable by sharing my goals publicly helps me get on the road 3x/week.
On writing: Sharing my word-count goals helps me put my butt in the chair and get the work done.
What I’ve learned: When I make Facebook or Twitter updates stating my running or writing goals, I feel more obligated to meet them because I want others trying to do similar things to succeed, too. I want them to say, “If Jo can do it, so can I! Not, “Well, Jo didn’t do it, so I’m not going to either.”
4. Some days, it’s really hard, but that’s not an excuse to not do the work.
On running: A lot of times I just don’t feel like going out there because I know how hard it’s going to be. I’m afraid of failure.
On writing: A lot of times I just don’t feel like facing my file because I know how hard it’s going to be. I’m afraid of failure.
What I’ve learned: But there has never been a time when I’ve regretted running or writing, unlike the real regret I feel when I don’t. There is no failure in doing the work. It’s all part of the process.
Face your fear!
5. Little bits add up to a lot!
On running: When I first started out, running for 1 minute was hard. Seriously. But I followed the Couch to 5K program, and every week I did a little bit more. Now I run for 45-50 minutes!
On writing: When I start a new novel, I feel both excited and overwhelmed. But by writing 1,000 words per day, I’ve been able to get a first draft done faster than I ever have.
What I’ve learned: We are capable of truly remarkable things when we commit to them. Even small steps will eventually get you where you need to go.
Take those steps!
6. A support network makes all the difference.
On running: When I announced I was doing the Couch to 5K program last fall, several of my friends joined in. We formed a group and checked in several times a week to share our progress, and ask each other questions about how to deal with various aches, pains and challenges. Without them, I am sure I wouldn’t have stuck with it.
On writing: Every day before I start writing, I check in with my writing partners and we share our goals for the day. We cheer each other on, and comfort each other through the rough patches. Without them, I am sure I wouldn’t have stuck with it.
What I’ve learned: I love my friends. I need my friends.
Be a good friend!
7. It feels soooooooo good to finish!
On running: Sometimes it’s all I can do do put on my sneakers and go outside. When I start running, my legs feel like they are made of lead. I feel like there is no way I will reach my goal. But then my breathing evens out and my legs warm up and I’m doing it! When I reach my driveway at the end, I feel shocked and thrilled. This is the first time in 25 years that I have gotten regular exercise. If someone told me last year I’d be running 3.5-4 miles, I would have laughed and secretly thought they were crazy.
On writing: Sometimes it’s all I can do to open my file. When I start writing, every word feels forced and stupid. I feel like there is no way I will ever finish the book. But then I get through the mire and find the heart of what I was looking for, and I’m doing it! When I finish a chapter, I feel shocked and thrilled. When I finish a draft, I feel like I am walking on air. If someone told me when I first started writing that I would sell six books, I would have laughed and secretly thought they were crazy.
What I’ve learned: Instead of laughing when someone believes in you, say thank you. Then prove them right. And then have a little laugh at yourself.
Believe the believers!
8. It also feels great to help others.
On running: I am equally excited and thrilled when my friends reach a running goal.
On writing: I am equally excited and thrilled when my friends reach a writing goal. Better yet, when they sell a book!
What I’ve learned: Just as your friends have a tremendous influence on your confidence, your well-being, and your happiness, YOU have the same influence on them! Show your support. Lift them up. Tell them you believe in them, too. When it comes to happy friendship moments, there is nothing–nothing nothing nothing–better than hearing a dear friend share their good news and seeing the disbelief and thrill on their faces. We are in this together. When a friend succeeds, you succeed.
I’m sure there are many, many more parallels that I will think of later. Maybe I’ll add them. But for now… I need to go face my fears, believe, and open my file. 🙂
Monday Morning Warm-Up:
What activities/challenges in your life parallel your writing?
Last week I didn’t realize when I posted that it was the “last week” of Teachers Write! And I had a final writing exercise waiting just for that week! So, I’m sharing it today. 🙂
This is actually a slightly recycled prompt, but I think fitting for the journey we’ve all shared this summer.
1. Find a photo or image from this summers’ writing journey that represents your experience participating in Teachers Write.
2. Describe the scene by making a “list poem” of the feelings, thoughts, insights, struggles, triumphs, discoveries, friendships, etc. of your experience.
3. Share your poem on your own blog. Better yet, share with Kate and all the others who made Teachers Write possible! 🙂
Here is the original post I based this exercise on. This could be a fun back-to-school exercise to do with kids, choosing their best summer memory. Or an end-of-school exercise, choosing their best classroom memory. It helps the writers see how important tiny images/details are in conveying the depth and deeper meaning of the “big picture.”
2. Describe the scene by making a “list poem” of the feelings, thoughts, smells, sights, tastes, etc. of the captured moment.
a table spread with warm dishes
from 7 different homes
piles of boots and shoes by the door
song books scattered across the coffee table
a plate of pumpkin whoopie pies and cake balls
balanced on a copy of Rise Up Singing
there is a carefully-guarded glass of pomegranate cosmos under the chair
and someone is sipping whiskey from a coffee mug
a glass of wine keeps the cosmos company
and all over, there are scattered juice boxes left half full
by the herd of children that runs upstairs
there is singing off key
the children stop to dance
and sometimes sing
then off they go back upstairs
they sneak a cake ball from the table
and a hug from a parent
heads gather around an ipad screen
searching for songs on YouTube
or is that Angry Birds they’re playing?
someone doesn’t admit she still isn’t sure what that is
we date ourselves with songs from the 80’s
there might have been Guns N Roses
and Neil Diamond? No, not possible
but there is laughter
and the warmth from a wood stove
and from the arm of a friend slung tight around a shoulder
there is music loud
and music quiet
a boy gets brave and sings his favorite song to loving ears
there are hugs good-bye
and promises for another gathering
there’s an open door
and black sky
and spits of white
and jokes that it can’t be what we know it is
there is a quiet drive home
and talks of how nice it is
to have such dear friends
3. Share yours on your own blog. Leave a comment with the link so we can find it! 🙂
Have a great school year, everyone!!!
Happy Birthday to Vampirina!!!!!
When Anne Marie Pace shared the F&G’s with me many months ago, I predicted BIG THINGS for this book. I stand by my prediction. With a nod to Elloise, this book has a certain nostalgic quality to it that reminds you of the magic a picture book holds. This one is really special.
I’ve been staying with my sister for the past few days and on arrival, found this message in the driveway:
Even though I know my niece was not writing this for me, I can’t help but think each time I see it, that the universe is trying to tell me something. There’s something about that capital L. It’s as if it’s telling me to both Fear Less and be fearless.
All summer I’ve been working on a new novel and all summer I have been a bit fearFUL of where this novel wants to take me. And then here was this message, FearLess. Almost reminding me that this is what I must be if I want to get it right. And not only that, but it’s OK. So stop worrying and just do it.
For today’s Monday Morning Warm-Up, I wanted to share this message with you, too. Because I think a lot of times when we’re writing, we let fear slip in without even knowing it. And we don’t write what our hearts truly need to.
Today, think about what your fears are in regard to whatever you’re working on. Write them on a piece of paper, or on a file somewhere. Half the battle in overcoming your fears is to name them.
Then, put them away and open a new file or take out a new piece of paper. Write the word FEARLESS on it. OR, print a copy of this photo (my niece won’t mind). Put your word next to your laptop or somewhere you’ll see it when you’re writing today, and…
Fear less. And be FearLess.
As I’ve mentioned, every summer I help teach a writing camp for 2 weeks. It’s for students in grades 7-12 and many return year after year and I get to watch them grow up and it is, simply put, wonderful.
During camp, we have an easel set up where campers can write down phrases for writing prompts. At the beginning of each camp session, we all write to a prompt that speaks to us. Here is a photo of our prompt board:
For Today’s exercise, choose one! Share! And as always, have fun. 🙂
I was so excited to receive the following Tweet from Kate Rudd, the narrator for the audio book of See You at Harry’s this morning:
Very excited that @JoKnowles See You at Harry’s audio received the @AudioFileMag earphones award. This story seized my heart completely!
Hooray! I haven’t been able to listen to the entire audio book, but that has nothing to do with Kate. She does an AMAZING job. I truly couldn’t be happier. But it is very hard to hear your work read to you. With every new chapter you’re afraid you’ll hear a mistake. Or a sentence that makes you cringe. It’s why I never read my books after they are published, other than when I’m asked to read short excerpts at book events.
Here is the review:
Thanks Kate, for your incredible narration!
Greetings, teachers! I hope you’re all having a great summer! I am on vacation in Maine with my family so this is going to be a short post, as it is supposed to rain today but it’s not raining YET and I have to get out on the beach and search for sea glass while I can. 🙂
Monday Morning Warm-Up:
I took the photo below soon after we arrived at the rental house. This is my son and his cousins. They ALWAYS jump into the ocean first thing, no matter how cold. Sometimes they don’t even change into their bathing suits first! But here they are, and I just love how they seem to be deep in thought.
So today, for something a little different, choose one child and write from his or her point of view. Set up the scene–not the obvious one, but the secondary story. Is he or she worried? Scared? Sad? Mad? See if you can incorporate some back story into the description. Throw in some dialog, too. Explore how there are two things happening at once here: the current situation (being in the water), and the one in the child’s head. Like in real life, there are almost always two things happening at once. Conveying this in writing is a challenge, but can make an internal moment where you’re describing a lot of “thinking” more active by showing what’s going on around the character in that same moment. Have fun!