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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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

STORY TIME


 
The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

Last night I started reading Being Henry David by Cal Armistead. It begins with a boy who awakes in Penn Station with nothing but a copy of Thoreau’s Walden, a small wound on his head, and a few bucks in his pocket.  He has no idea who he is, no idea how he got there.  I would’ve stayed up all night to finish the story had my burning eyes allowed me to. 

I woke up early this morning just to snatch an hour of reading time before my day began.   I read that the protagonist, who (for lack of memory of his real name) refers to himself as “Henry David.  Son.  Henry Davidson” and is quickly nicknamed “Hank” by a fellow street kid, made his way to Walden Pond in an attempt to buy enough time to regain his memory and avoid the danger of life on the streets.

That’s as far as I got by the time I had to shower and head to the grocery store. 

I stole a few more minutes to read in the backseat of the car when my husband picked up my father-in-law on our way to his sister’s house for an Easter meal.  Hank took refuge in a high school in Concord, Massachusetts and has started to have flashes of memory return to him in painful bursts. 

I peeled myself out of the story long enough to be present for a meal in good company.  I enjoyed doling out my Easter “aunt crap” to our nieces, who have learned that they never know what to expect other than that their gifts will be quirky.  This year, they were lucky enough to find such items as finger mustache tattoos, a bagel yo-yo, owl earrings, owl stickers, Squirmles, and a Fifty Farts deck of cards in their gift bags.  We also always, always give them cash.  The cash is a sort of pay-off in return for allowing me the fun of giving “aunt crap.”

I may have snuck a glance at the book peeking out of my purse while we sat around the table and talked after dinner, after egg coloring, but I did resist the urge to steal away in the corner to find out what happens to Hank.  The tug of spending time with family I don’t see nearly often enough remained more powerful than the pull of the story.

However, now that I am home, in pajamas, with lunches prepped for the week, clothes ironed for tomorrow, grades updated, and plans sketched out, the book patiently resting on the table across the room is drawing me near.  Hank and his story have waited long enough…

Saturday, March 30, 2013

FOUND


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

At a department meeting, when sharing what we’ve been reading, a colleague shared that she had gotten a box of books from an estate sale that her mom had purchased for a single title then passed the rest on to her.  Each of the books, she said, had an airplane ticket tucked inside—a record of where each book had been read. 

I like this idea.  It is the literal manifestation of books taking us places.

Maybe I will use this in a story one day. 

I do not tuck airplane tickets inside my books.  But some of them do hold notes.

notes about characters and plot from college

one of my mom's old book reports in a favorite childhood book she passed down to me

proof that my father was never a great speller (nor really into READING his books so much as doodling) in an old schoolbook of his

notes on characters and symbolism from a college course on Southern American literature on one of my favorite books

post-it notes marking some favorite poetry by Robert Frost and e.e. cummings in an old college textbook
I wonder who will find them at an estate sale one day.  Maybe they will use them in a story one day.

Friday, March 29, 2013

STUFF


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

Sometimes stuff makes me happy. 

I know there are more important things in life.  I know I don’t need this stuff in order to be happy.

But sometimes the stuff is icing on the cake (or frosting on the spoon) that just makes life feel good. 

Yesterday my dog had her last dose of medicine to fight her heartworms.  Since she survived the medicine (no allergic reaction), she is pretty much considered cured.  This is an incredible relief.

Yesterday I also found out that the teacher next door to me (new this year to replace my friend who took a curriculum coordinator position), to whom I’ve grown close, is not going to be RIF’ed or involuntarily transferred to another position.  This is amazing news that frees me to start working with her on plans for next school year. 

These are the things that truly matter. 

But sometimes, it just doesn’t hurt to get a new couch.  Especially if it happens to be the one I posted on Pinterest long ago and didn’t even remember I had pinned until after it had been ordered. 

from my "For the Home" board on Pinterest
And sometimes it doesn’t hurt to get a new rug.  Especially if it perfectly matches the curtains I sewed this winter.
new settee and area rug
And sometimes it really doesn’t hurt to get a king-size bed to replace the queen-size bed my husband has been teetering off the edge of for years.  Especially if the bed helps tie to together the beach cottage decorating scheme we have going. 
close-up of print hanging over bed--the design inspiration for the room
new {unmade} bed
Yeah, sometimes stuff makes me happy.  Especially when it is like licking icing off a spoon after eating a healthy, satisfying meal. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

THE WEEKEND TO-DO LIST I CAN ACTUALLY DO:*


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

  • return book stack to library and get lost amongst the shelves for hours
  • unbox latest Amazon purchase
  • avoid grading
  • live dangerously by grocery shopping on an empty stomach
  • listen to latest audiobook
  • catch up on this week’s episodes of People’s Court
  • snuggle the dogs while laying on the couch as if tending to dogs gives a semblance of productivity
  • chop fresh veggies for a healthy snack option
  • choose to eat a spoonful of vanilla frosting instead
  • write a new “to-do” list combining what still isn’t done from the last list with new tasks
*At the end of REAL SIMPLE magazine, on the very last page, there is always a humorous piece of writing.  Today’s slice is inspired by one such piece.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

MUSCLE


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

My body is itching for the weather to warm up enough for me to run outdoors on a regular basis (I can’t run in cold weather because it is a trigger for my asthma).  My muscles ache with the desire to be set free on the path near our house. 

I can count on my body to nudge me to get moving.  My muscles need to be stretched, warmed up, worked, pushed, exhausted.

Even my writing muscle.

My eyelids are heavy this evening. I couldn’t help but crawl into bed at a decent hour.  But after about 20 minutes of reading, here I am.  Out of bed.  In front of the screen.  Why?  Because my writing muscle ached with the desire to be set free on the keys of my laptop. 

Apparently, I can count on my body to nudge even the writerly side of me to get moving.  My writing muscle needs to be stretched, warmed up, worked, pushed, exhausted. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

POTENTIAL


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

“I have to tell you, I am really excited about the potential in this room.”

I said this to my students today.  And I meant it. 

A few weeks ago, we immersed ourselves in close study of text.  Mostly text pairs: fiction (including poetry) paired with informational text.  Some informational text in a variety of formats.  A few fictional texts.

Then students brought in the devices of their choice and I provided access to laptop computers for a week of research: ask questions, read and paraphrase, read and paraphrase, learn, learn, learn.

Now, the class is moving from learning and collecting to drafting.  This is the exciting part.  This is also the point at which things could fall apart.  I know this.  I am nervous.  I am also optimistic.  I am a firm believer in the power of positive energy to build momentum—the good kind of momentum.

There is potential in the room.  I can feel it.

L is working on turning her snippets of information on a school fire into poetry from multiple viewpoints.  Her mentor text is Worlds Afire by Paul B. Janeczko.

K is working on a picture book titled Death Gets Lonely to document what he found out about the way various cultures embody death.  His mentor artist is Todd Parr.

E is working on poetry about the eating disorders she explored.  Four poems, four points of view: a girl with bulimia, a girl with anorexia, and bulimia and anorexia personified.  Her mentor texts will be poetry from the iceberg’s viewpoint in The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf and poetry from the fence’s point of view in October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman.

P is working on a sort of comic book to capture his discoveries about graphic novels and they way they are put together.  His mentor texts are Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud and “Distant Rain” by Shaun Tan from Tales from Outer Suburbia

E is working on a fake chapter from Every Day by David Levithan to demonstrate her learning about synesthesia.  In this chapter, ‘A’ wakes up in the body of a synesthete.   Her mentor text is David Levithan’s short story (an Amazon exclusive) that takes place prior to the book. 

J is working on a short story about boy facing the challenge of dyslexia as a means of revealing what he learned through his research.  His mentor text is an excerpt from Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.

There is so much potential in this room.  I can feel it. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

EAST


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

Today I am off my game.

Today I am too busy waiting for a too far away spring break myself to corral a classroom of teenagers into focus.

Today I am ready to move on to next year when I will really get this teaching thing right.

Today I am struggling to find moments to be proud of amidst the ugly mess of teaching middle school language arts.

Today I am slicing beyond the deadline.  Again.

Today I am feeling like I don’t belong.

Today I am visited by three administrators who know little about me or my teaching, but know lots about making people feel judged. 

Today is over, for those who live by eastern time.

Today I wish I lived further east.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

POEMS I NOTICED


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

On Friday, my Voices Strong class read an article from the April/May 2007 edition Scholastic WRITING magazine titled “Walking Past Poems” by Steven Frank.  In the article, he describes taking a walk with his five-year-old son and attempting to answer the question, “What is a poem?”

Although he answers in a variety of ways, including creating a poem of the walk they took and sharing it with his son, my favorite lines from the article contain one version of his answer:
“For me, a poem is a hand taking hold of a moment in time, an emotion, or an idea.  Instead of skin and bones, it’s made of words chosen for their meaning and music—words tested, replaced, and tested again until they sing so clearly that the idea, emotion, or moment in time is no longer held by just one person.  It belongs to all.”

As suggested in a sidebar, I assigned my students the task of noticing 10 possibilities for poetry in their lives between class Friday and class tomorrow.  As soon as I had explained the assignment M asked, “If we want to write poems about what we find, instead of just making a list, can we do that?”  (the same M who recently attempted the first seven pages of War and Peace) 

“Yes, M.  You can do that.”


10 Poems I Noticed (just a list—I am not quite as ambitious as M):

1.  the rhythm of running on the path behind the village hall
2.  the surprise of a dusting of snow in the backyard
3.  a face in a crowd of people lighting up just for you
4.  new furniture
5.  an unexpected phone call
6.  a stolen shopping cart
7.  cold weather that holds the hope of spring
8.  a box of books waiting on the front porch
9.  the last page of a story I don’t want to end
10.  house sounds (clock ticking, water softener, thermostat, refrigerator, dog scratching before laying down, heat kicking on)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I TRY ON SLICES


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

I try on slices each day like I try on clothes. 

Maybe I should write about running outdoors for the first time since fall, I think as I puff breaths of steam into the crisp air.  I could write about how good it feels to put feet to path and pound out a rhythm of health.  But it isn’t all good, is it?  No.  I am struggling to breathe, my side is cramping, and these yoga pants that used to hug my body in celebration of curves are creating bulges where bulges should never be. 

I toss that idea aside like the pair of jeans I have to suck in my stomach to button. 

Perhaps today’s slice will be a moment from yesterday.  The conclusion of an ongoing story—M’s decision to abandon War and Peace in favor of another graphic novel. I could celebrate the way he said, “Mrs. Rush, I think I am going to stop reading this book.  There just isn’t any action,” instead of saying, “Mrs. Rush, I just don’t get this book.  It is too difficult.  I give up.”  I could celebrate the way he will always carry this moment of having begun reading War and Peace and having chosen to stop—not quit.  I could celebrate how this shows he has grown as a reader—how he has become a reader. 

I leave this idea folded neatly on a shelf like my favorite sweater, the one I have to be careful not to wear too often or I will wear it out too quickly.

Instead, I’ll try writing about my new couch. 

I drape the idea over the armchair, planning to pick it up and put it on another day—when the mood suits me.  I am careful not to rumple it, leaving it untouched and fresh for future wear.

Rather, I could craft a slice today about my sister’s reappearance in my life.  How all of a sudden a call on my cell phone is a casual occurrence.  How after years of no communication, she stayed at my house to care for my dogs while we were at the Illinois Reading Council Conference.  How although I don’t trust her so much that I am willing to unguard my heart, my mother is the only person in the world I trust more than my sister when it comes to watching my dogs.

This idea itches like a wooly sweater.  The one I remember feeling just too tight in all the wrong places.  The one I want to love and am not willing to let go of, even though I know it is unflattering ever since an ill-fated journey through the laundry.  Maybe one day it will fit just right again, I tell myself.  Maybe one day the damage will be reversed.

I try on slices each day like I try on clothes.

Friday, March 22, 2013

‘BEST’ POEM


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:

21 VOICES STRONG

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

SOMETIMES


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

Sometimes he squeals in delight when he realizes the new kid is “another little guy,” just like him.

Sometimes he writes “15 Big Ones” on the outside of his field trip money envelope.

Sometimes he tries to impress the guys with a magic trick involving levitating a five-dollar bill.

Sometimes he switches backpacks with his girlfriend and shows up to class with none of his supplies.

Sometimes he thinks listing “who invented condoms” as a possible research topic is funny.

Sometimes he screams at his mom until she points out that she is on the phone with his teacher.

Sometimes he takes a break from reading War and Peace to purchase a plastic tiger paw on a stick {instead of a book} at the book fair.
 
Sometimes he is a middle school boy.  Sometimes they are all middle school boys. 

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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

THE VALUE OF A 60-CENT BOOK


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS
After being out for the Illinois Reading Council Conference last Thursday and Friday I was scrambling to get settled Monday morning. 

The guest teacher left no notes regarding what was covered.  I was hearing from students what still needed to be accomplished as they passed me in the hallway before the bell.  My plans for the day were already being re-written in one corner of my brain while the rest of me was trying to be present, to greet the faces I had missed for so many days. 

That’s when M, a member of my Voices Strong class, walked up.  He held a book out to me and asked, “Mrs. Rush, have you read this book?”

Let me just tell you, M did not start the year off as a reader.  When he finally did start to take off and devour books they were all graphic novels.  The first book in prose to capture his interest was ZomB by Darren Shan.  It is a deceptive novel because, although it begins and ends with zombies, the majority of the book is the story of a kid named B coming of age in the midst of a racist, abusive, alcoholic father.  It is a thoughtful book—far more thoughtful than it appears, containing a plot twist that challenges even experience readers.  Needless to say he has grown this year as a reader.

I looked down at the cover and masked my surprise.  I shook my head no, “I am familiar with the book, but I can’t say I ever read it.  Why?”

“My grandma gave it to me.  It is old.  It was published in 1963.  This book only cost 60 cents back then!”  He can barely contain his excitement over this treasure.

“That is before I was even born!  I think that the story is even older than that.  1963 must be the publication date of that particular edition of the book.  Are you going to read it?”

“Yes!  It looks good.”

“That’s great!  I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts about it.”

I took another look at the cover before he walked away.  I tried to play it cool on the outside, but inside I was one giant smile. 

I don’t think M will finish this book.  Nor do I think M will enjoy this book.  But none of that matters.

What matters is that M’s grandma gave him this book—they had a conversation about books and a book passed from the hand of grandma to grandson.

What matters is that M appreciates the age of the book—he is not turned off by its history.

What matters is that M is going to open the cover and willingly wrestle with a text because it means something to him.

What matters is that M believes he is a reader who is capable of reading this book—so does his grandma.  So do I. 


Monday, March 18, 2013

CONNECTIONS FROM IRC


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

Although I learned a lot of cool things at the Illinois Reading Council Conference, the best thing about this kind of professional development is the connections it fosters.

So far, six people who attended my session have contacted me for follow-up information.  Some of who have shared their own ideas with me in return for requesting additional resources.

A friend I used to work with very closely who has moved and now teaches in another town attended a session I was attending just to steal a few moments to catch up.

The morning after I returned from the conference, I was invited to go to breakfast with three teachers from another district (one had also attended IRC) to share what we both gained from the conference with the other two teachers.

Today, I brought back copies of Words in the Dust for two of my teacher-friends at school. 

I also invited the class of one of those teachers to join mine while I shared a few highlights from the conference (the inside scoop on Shusterman’s latest books and the story behind Words in the Dust).  Not only did that connect me even more closely to that teacher, but I also built connections with another entire class of students.  In addition, my students gained a connection with the other teacher, who shared some of her husband’s experience when he was stationed in Iraq years ago.

What I learned at the conference inspires me.  The connections I am building as a result are my fuel.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

MY FAVORITE LIBRARIAN


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

When I first started teaching, the young adult librarian from our public library would visit my class to do book talks a few times a year. 

When she stepped into the room, it was as if magic fairy dust surrounded her and cast a book-loving-spell over my students.  The toughest thug of a kid would instantly shoot his hand up and strain in an effort to be noticed, to be chosen to have a book placed on his desk or to gain the privilege of selecting the next book to be talked.

I wanted to be her friend.  She was my people.

Eventually, she had a child, and went back to school to get her school librarian certification. 

Suddenly, a new librarian was visiting my room. 

It was not the same.  No magic book fairy dust accompanied the new librarian. 

The book talks became painfully long and boring.

During those visits, I had lots of time to think.  I thought about what it was that made fairy-dust-spreading Tasha different.  As a result of this thinking, I created a book talk template modeled after Tasha’s book talks. It is a foolproof formula.  It is magic. In fact, I think there might be some book fairy dust embedded in every copy.
What I Learned about Book Talking from Tasha


And I sought Tasha out to solidify a friendship based on a mutual love for books, for talking about them, and for (most of all) putting them in the hands of young adults.

This morning, I had breakfast with Tasha (and some new friends she has connected me to). We talked about teaching.  We shared titles.  We gushed about authors. 

We talked books. 

I went home surrounded by magic book fairy dust.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I’D RATHER BE READING


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS


My husband and I finally returned home from the IRC conference.  In a car filled with books. 

While we were there, it didn’t feel like I was buying THAT many books.  I didn’t spend that much time in the exhibit hall, where all the vendors were.  Really.  I would buy some books during lunch, make a trip to the car and tuck them away in the back.  It wasn’t until we got home and unpacked them that I realized I had purchased…58 books. 

I suppose it should have been a clue when I got to the slide in my presentation that contained a photo of my classroom library and there was an audible gasp from the attendees. 
my classroom library

I suppose it should have been a clue when I realized I still haven’t finished reading all the books I purchased at last year’s IRC conference.  This year, I will finish them all, I promise myself. 

And so, I leave you with the humbling sight of my purchases (I think 57 books are pictured because the 58th is already waiting for me on my nightstand—my personalized copy of Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy) so that I can tuck myself into a story for the night.

Abe Lincoln (high school student choice award in IL) books I don't already have

books by authors I heard speak at IRC this year

Caudill (student choice award grades 4-8 in IL) books I don't already have or of which I needed a new/additional copy

books purchased by recommendation of Becky Anderson (co-owner of Anderson's Bookshop)

books I knew I wanted or needed to re-purchase

Friday, March 15, 2013

BEAUTY


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS
“It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength. ”
Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia

The Illinois Reading Council Conference has been incredibly difficult for me to write about this year.  Usually I have difficulty condensing my learning to a digestible post, but this time the stumbling block is much bigger.  I have experienced so many rich and powerful presentations—the kind that rock my world—I am afraid I don’t have words worthy of conveying their impact.

One such session was ‘Trent Reedy and Katherine Paterson: A Conversation.’  Reedy and Paterson shared their connection to each other with the audience.  I was teary for the duration of the session.  I knew the whole time that their story is bigger than me—bigger than the giant room we were in—bigger than the words they were using to express it. 
Trent Reedy and Katherine Paterson

The basic story is that Trent Reedy, from Iowa, taught 9th grade English and was a member of the Reserves until he was called to duty in 2004 and sent to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.  In Sara Holbrook’s session today, she read us a poem she had written about the idea of a poet being sent into war.  Trent Reedy is just that guy.  He referred to himself as a “Teacher Made Soldier.”

When he spoke of his experience in Afghanistan, it was clear he was overcome with emotion.  He was keenly aware as he spoke that no words could possibly truly communicate to this group of teachers and librarians what it was like to enter the world of war torn Afghanistan.  And it was clear he wasn’t sure he even wanted us to fully understand the truth of his experience.  It was ugly to say the least. 

What he did want to seep deep into our souls is the lesson he learned.  Reedy found himself in a place where his physical needs for sustenance were being met: basic minimal requirements for nourishment and shelter.  What he lacked in droves was sustenance for his heart, food for his soul.  He was surrounded by weapons and men trained to kill.  He was charged with unspeakable tasks and faced daily death threats that grew increasingly dangerous. 

Then a copy of Bride to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson arrived in the mail from his wife, who purchased it for him on a whim. 

Reading Paterson’s story, one I have long loved, in the midst of his situation in Afghanistan was life changing for Reedy.  It prompted him to write a letter of thanks to Paterson, who was so moved by his story that she wrote back.  A chain of correspondence began between the two. 

Reading Bridge to Terabithia, writing to Paterson, renewed in Reedy a dream to one day become a writer himself. 

For next school year in the state of Illinois, Reedy’s book Words in the Dust is a nominee for the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (a student choice award).  It tells the story of an Afghan girl Reedy met.  His unit was able to help provide her medical assistance for a cleft lip.  Before leaving, he promised the girl he would share her story. 

It was a promise he kept. 
Trent Reedy with his book WORDS IN THE DUST

As Reedy spoke about the process of sharing the letters he had exchanged with Paterson, he shared a story of the first time they spoke together.  It was in front of a group of 6th graders.  Paterson had brought the actual copies of the letters Trent had written for him to share.  When he described the experience, his voice shifted.  He spoke of the sand, the dusty grains of earth in Afghanistan and how it gets into everything—how it will forever coat the letters he wrote while he was there.  Then with a depth of emotion that can only be felt in person, he said something like, “You can’t get rid of the dust.  It is everywhere.  I think you breathe it in and Afghanistan is always part of you.”

Afghanistan is part of him.  Through his story—his words—I now feel like I, too, have breathed in the sandy dust.  Although I fully understand that I cannot possibly understand all of the emotions behind his words, this story will always be part of me.  Now, to borrow Paterson's words, it is up to me to pay back to the world in beauty and caring the vision and strength I found today.  
"For Christy, Words have power! Trent Reedy"