You may stop holding your breath now. I made it home from my workshop with horror writers at the cabin in the woods.
Books with Bite was amazing, as was the entire Highlights Foundation experience. I’ll tell you all about it after I get some sleep and readjust to the real world, but today I want share one small snippet from my retreat.
One of the lovely things about my stay at Highlights was the word garden. On Friday, I walked around and, instead of moving any of the stones, I created a found poem through photos. This is what I came up with:
You know, it’s funny. The last thing I posted to my blog was a poem about all the things I hadn’t accomplished yet this summer. A poem about letting the to-do lists go and enjoying the moment for what it was. A poem that exuded relaxation and an appreciation for “slow and steady.”
Then, about an hour after posting it, I began the longest, most energetic, creative binge I’ve had in a long time.
Maybe writing the poem unlocked something. Maybe accepting the fact that I couldn’t do everything allowed me to do something. Maybe the summer solstice got into my blood. Whatever the reason, during the past six days I gave my website a complete makeover, opened an Etsy shop, started several projects for my shop, and rearranged my office. (Well, actually, I’m halfway through rearranging my office. Meaning my office is a mess. Meaning I had to find my computer in order to type this.)
This week, I spent several nights staying up until 3am, flitting like a hummingbird between projects until I eventually fell asleep and dreamed of things like photo layouts and fonts. This morning when I made my bed (for the first time in days), I found a pen in it, nestled between the sheet and the comforter. The last time I remember writing anything in bed was Tuesday, which means this pen and I have been bedmates for several nights. At least the cap was on.
These summer creative binges are fun, and very productive. But they can also make a person feel a little unstable. Waking up and wondering if it’s four in the afternoon or four in the morning can be disorienting, and shopping for craft supplies on Amazon after midnight should not even be legal.
Luckily, I balanced my nighttime-crafty-hermit tendencies with daytime social events out in the real world. To all the friends I hung out with this week, I want to say thank you. You may have thought you were just having coffee or a beer with me, but really you were helping to keep me sane. (And making sure I got some vitamin D.)
It must have been a good combination because I’m pretty happy with what I accomplished.
When you get a chance, take a look around my new website. I added some color and more photos, updated my About and Favorites pages, and tried to make my Published Work easier to navigate. I also added a Shop page where you can access my new Etsy store, as well as links where you can purchase some of the books that include my writing. Let me know if you come across anything that doesn’t work or if you find that one typo I always miss.
In the meantime, I’m going to finish rearranging my office. When I’m done, I think I might sleep for a day or two.
It’s hard to believe that just two and a half months ago I was still substitute teaching. I feel so at home in my new classroom and so involved in the lives and lessons of my seventh graders that I sometimes forget I didn’t start the year with them. They feel like mine now. My kids. And that feels really good.
The truth, though, is that ten short weeks ago I was still spending my days with other people’s kids, and I was reminded of that today when I found something in one of my notebooks.
Subbing can be a hard job. That probably doesn’t surprise anyone. But it can also be a really fun job, a really inspiring job. There are so many amazing teachers in Austin, and once in a while, as a sub, you get to see those teachers in action.
On September 2nd, I “subbed” a girls’ choir class at Bowie High School in south Austin. I put the word in quotes because sitting in a chair and listening to beautiful music for an hour and a half does not count as work. The class I was in was co-taught, so, as the sub for one teacher, I just had to sit by and watch while the other teacher– Randy Cantu— flawlessly and fearlessly taught/encouraged/conducted/coached 50+ high school singers.
I was mesmerized.
The girls were so talented, the class flowed so smoothly, and Mr. Cantu worked so hard every minute to make them better singers, better students, better people.
For an hour and a half, I listened, and I wrote what I heard. Words, phrases, advice, small admonishments, questions, answers, lyrics, and laughs. I filled my page and then some with the language of the lesson. Later that day, I sat down with my notes and wrote a found poem from the list.
I’m so grateful that I had the pleasure of watching this teacher do his job. His enthusiasm and work ethic and joy has stayed with me and, I hope, carried into my own classroom.
Here’s the poem I wrote from the words of Mr. Cantu and his students:
Listen Louder Than You Sing
1, 2, 3, ready and so fa me fa let me hear the la big beautiful brave sound tall vowels, lots of space make sure you travel sing what you see la ti la so la me re do tone, posture, contour now we are here
ma meh me mo mu think about that for 30 seconds ma meh me mo mu sing it in your head ma meh me mo mu
Do it again from the same place so me re me do it gets more complicated it’s breathy, uncomfortable don’t give up this business—it’ll get better over time keep singing from the beginning starting from scratch and it’s ok 1, 2, 3, ready, be brave
– Carie Juettner
[found poem composed of phrases heard while observing Randy Cantu’s choir class at Bowie High School in Austin, Texas, on September 2, 2016]