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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WAR AND PEACE, continued

The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

M is still reading War and Peace.  He is on page 6.  Yesterday we chatted about how it is known as one of the longest books ever.  I was careful to make that detail sound like a badge of honor rather than a deterrent.  So far, so good.

I asked him today, “How is it going?” 

“It’s good so far.  There hasn’t been any action yet, though.”

“Oh, it is starting slow?” is what came out of my mouth.  I kept myself from saying what I was really thinking: “You think??  You are reading WAR AND PEACE for Pete’s sake!  Get ready for LOOOONG stretches of philosophical pontificating, buddy.  These 6 pages of no action are just the beginning.”

“Yeah, but I am going to keep reading.” was his response.

After independent reading, we took some time to practice poetry performances this class has been working on.  In preparation for writing and performing their own spoken word pieces, the students are performing, in groups, selections from October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman, which is a stunning book of poetry.  I don’t remember having taken a breath the entire first time I read it.

About 5 minutes into practicing, M bursts up to me waving one of the poems assigned to his group in the air.  I am anticipating a complaint about a group member not pulling his weight or an outlandish idea to “act out” some of the words of the poem (M is struggling to grasp the idea of performing with only his voice and his stance—his group’s physical use of the space). 

Instead, M gushes, “Look Mrs. Rush,” and points to the page.  I follow his finger.  His group is performing a poem titled “What You Can Do in Eighteen Hours.”  Basically a poem is a list of things one could accomplish in 18 hours—mostly including activities a college student might have actually been engaged in on the night Matthew Shepard was attacked, ending with a line describing what he endured after being tied to a fence and left for dead before being found 18 hours later.  M’s finger leads me to the line, “Read War and Peace.”

“I get it Mrs. Rush!  This is MY book!  She is saying that 18 hours is a long time because you could one of the longest books in the world in that time!”

Again, I play it cool on the outside, but inside I am one giant grin.


  1. That is indeed a smile worthy moment, Christy! October Mourning is such a powerful book - I always feel numb after reading it - how wise to have your high school kids performing these poems, getting inside those lines, taking to heart their message.

  2. As Tara said, wonderful to think about your students reading these poems in tribute to Matthew. And what a serendipitous moment, when he realized that connection to 'his' book. It doesn't get any better, Christy!

  3. I loved how you played it cool, but relished the interaction internally. I haven't read the book. Time that I look at it on my next visit to the library.

    BTW: I know this isn't really about War and Peace, but I picked it up when I was in first grade. Found it in my parents' closet at home. I BROUGHT IT TO SCHOOL with me. My incredible first grade teacher (to whom I dedicated Day by Day) humored me and didn't tell me to put it down knowing full well it was too hard for me. After two days of lugging it back and forth, I left it at home. The sheer volume of it (i.e., weight and text complexity) was too much for my first grade self to handle! Somehow, I think Ms. Snook knew I'd go right back to reading age-appropriate material which is why she didn't stop me.

  4. M's Aha moment gave me goose bumps. What a cool connection for him to realize. I think it would take me more than 18 hours to get through War and Peace.

  5. Just when I think things can't get any better in your classroom, I read the next day's post. I, too, am one giant grin on the inside, because I can't believe how lucky I am to know you online & in person. You inspire me to keep nudging for workshop even on the tough days.

  6. Please, please, please keep us updated! :) Love that he's really seeing this as something worthwhile and is so caught up in--regardless of the outcome.

  7. Love it! Your encouragement is wonderful!