a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I knew when I registered for the NCTE convention that it was sure to be a rewarding experience filled with opportunities and fuel for professional growth. 

But I had no idea how deeply I would connect during the convention.

Thursday I hopped on 55 north and headed downtown for my first session.  It was a clear day.  I rounded a curve and an excited gasp escaped my lips amongst the Bangles song lyrics I had been singing.  My inner city girl swelled with a sense of pride.  The Chicago skyline was far enough away to have blurred edges, but close enough for me to make out the shapes of individual buildings.  I immediately felt a sense of connection to the city and to the college girl inside of me who used to own it.

Friday morning held the promise of another connection—or rather an extension of the electronic connection I’ve had as a slicer via the Two Writing Teachers blog.  I cannot explain the connection any other way than to say that sitting with this group of slicers at breakfast felt like being at home.  I felt welcomed.  I had the sense that I was part of something bigger than me, bigger than us.  And I was.  I am.  We are.

Saturday I was finally able to take some time to walk through the exhibit hall.  I hoped to find some ARCs to stash in my bag, some authors to sign beloved books, and maybe even a new professional book to dig into.  Of course, I found all of those things.  And more.  First, I ran into Dr. Stovall.  Do you know how it feels to hear the most amazing college professor tell a colleague that you, YOU, are one of the best students he has ever encountered in his entire career?  And do you know it is the very professor you were almost in tears over every day because you were sure you weren’t measuring up to his standards?  It feels incredible.  Like you are connecting with the best part of yourself.

But that wasn’t even the best part of Saturday!  After the encounter with Dr. Stovall that made me feel warm and fuzzy, I ran into Mary Helen in the exhibit hall.  Do you know she is the kind of person that makes you feel warm and welcome and valued in the first instant you meet her in person?  You know, the way it feels when Linda or Deb or Elsie comments on a post of yours?  We headed to Ruth and Stacey’s session together.   I was filled with deep admiration of all Ruth and Stacey have accomplished and the level of professionalism they display as I watched them, but I also felt something else.  I felt a swell of something like...friendship, perhaps, for them.  I was pulling for them (after all, Katie Wood Ray was in the audience!), and I wanted to see them succeed.  I was able to—they rocked their session.   People were spilling into the room from the hallway to see them!

Sunday surprised me the most, though.  I think the connections of the past 3 days were sinking in and taking root inside me.  During a session, the participants were asked to do a quickwrite, turn and share it, quickwrite again about the experience of sharing, and then we debriefed as a whole group.  The woman with whom I had shared, raised her hand to share her response to the experience.  What she said floored me.  She said that the experience of exchanging ideas with me had made her feel connected to me in a way she hadn’t expected.  She said she doesn’t even know me, but somehow sharing our ideas made it feel that we did know each other, deeply.  I had felt the same way, and her words validated that connection.  In fact, her words articulated my sentiments about so many of the connections I had made over the past four days. 

I am not sure that professional development gets better than this.  I am not just walking away with new ideas, new passions, new insights. I am not just a teacher with renewed energy.  I am a renewed person.


  1. I first want to say what a powerful post, Christy. I can hear the enthusiasm spilling out. In a few paragraphs you've just written the best advertisement for attending a convention. I imagine the leaders would love to see it. I'm happy you had such a wonderful time and the worst part is it just made me want to have been there even more. Thanks for sharing! (I like that final story, too!)

  2. What a great way to spend 3 days. Wow Christy. Too bad our paths didn't cross but I was at the NWP feeling that great overwhelming feeling and hoping we are back next year, but it doesn't look good now.
    Too bad I couldn't join you on Friday but what I time you had,

  3. I was so jealous of you being there. I kept kicking myself for not going. I have never been before, but after reading about everyone's experiences, I am really going to try and go. Save your money and go again--we need to meet!

    And thanks for the comment on my blog about the slicer breakfast--it made me feel good!

  4. I wish to learn to write like you. I experienced a similar feeling last week (not NCTE, a different event) but cannot express myself with such detail and passion. I have learned that things that I can't even dream about happen sometimes. So I think that one day some slicers will come to Estonia or Stacy and Ruth will give a workshop in Europe and I will be able to attend.

  5. I am so glad you were able to attend and become rejuvenated. You've shared some tough stories this fall. Don't you just love a conference that values the work you do day in and day out? I wish everyone could have that same experience. Thanks for the kind words above. It's always a surprise (and thrill) to find one's name in a post.

  6. Thanks for sharing your excitement with those of us who couldn't be there! I love the kind of PD that is inspiring and exciting in the ways you described. I also like how you mentioned Deb, Linda, and Elsie's comments -- I know just the feeling you mean!

  7. I'm so glad we had the chance to meet up and chat over breakfast! I pinch myself whenever I think about the way the SOLSC community has grown since it began in 2008. It was a little experiment I decided to do to mirror what was happening in my classroom. Who would've thought a student's SOL about his sister's missing necklace would lead to friendships, presentations, and much more?

    Thank you, Christy, for your kind words about our session as well. I'm so glad you found the session worthwhile.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    My best,

  8. It sounds as though NCTE was a rich and enriching experience. I loved the way you closed this post - full of insight, comfort and gratitude. You are right, professional development does not get better than this!

  9. Christy, you are a gem! Meeting the slicers was one of my biggest highlights at NCTE. Thank you for your kind words. I must say it felt like we were close friends sitting in the session together. You have a warm, beautiful spirit. Thanks for impacting my life. Blessings! MaryHelen