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

Friday, March 22, 2013


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

Nikki Giovanni is hands down one of the coolest poets ever.  She has a tattoo on her arm that reads “Thug Life” in honor of Tupac.  She met Rosa Parks.  And the first time I met her, she walked into Anderson’s Bookshop and said, “Whew, it’s colder than a witch’s tit out there.”  From anyone else the shock of those words would have probably been offensive.  From Nikki Giovanni they just read: cool, hip, fearless.

Today, my 21 Voices Strong class used “Knoxville, Tennessee” by Nikki Giovanni as a mentor text.  We read the original to determine its meaning and celebrate the craft.  We noticed the opening, the way the lines were broken, the details that evoked the senses, the comparison in the final lines.  Then we wrote one together before writing our own.  Here is our collaborative version:


I always liked 21 Voices Strong
you can stomp your feet
during the mantra
and speak
and clap
and be heard
and write
lots of
and read
and escape
and find yourself
and imagine
you are as
powerful as
a superhero


  1. I loved that you crafted this together! Powerful - like a super hero! Bravo to your 21 voices strong!

  2. Beautiful and strong! Love that you did this with your class. :)

  3. This is one thing that Kelly Gallagher said he did with his students, use a mentor text so they could practice, and 'own' it so they could perhaps write their own. Just beautiful for your students' group. Thanks for telling about this, Christy.

  4. This is so awesome. Linda is right, Gallagher does this all the time. I've been doing this type of writing in Creative Writing too. It's fun and it get those reluctant writers moving! Cool poem. You should paint it on your walls!

  5. Love the way you created a mentor text from a mentor text. I will use this idea in my work with writers!

  6. I love the voice and power your kids have demonstrated in this poem. They are empowered. They are superheroes as they continue their education. Truly a testament to how they see themselves now. Kudos Christy!

  7. Kids LOVE to write together. What a wonderful poem you crafted as a class. This is something I really believe in as it scaffolds students' independent work. Great day, Christy!

  8. My favorite part:
    "...and read
    and escape
    and find yourself..."
    Christy, what a beautiful poem your 21 voices created.
    Now I want to hear them perform it for us!

  9. I love Deb's idea to paint it on the wall! Fun collab poem.

  10. I definitely think this needs to be posted somewhere! What a wonderful experience to collaborate on a poem like this after studying Giovanni's work.