Friday, November 18, 2016


I'm coming to you from balmy Atlanta this week, where Mary Lee Hahn and I will be presenting later today a session called "Risking Writing," along with Dr. Shanetia Clark of Salisbury University and author Patricia Hruby Powell.  At the heart of this session is the writing of a poem brainstormed by Shanetia, drafted by Mary Lee, and revised by me.  Patricia will supply inspirational commentary. Do check back in to see what we came up with!

...And here we are, back from a really terrific collaboration between presenters--all the more terrific because none of us knew all the rest of us before we met in our session room!  That in itself was part of the risk.

Here's the photo--by Mary Lee, of course--that we offered as a prompt.

After brief introductions, Patricia kicked us off by emphasizing the fun in writing, reviewing some of the  techniques she uses, like keeping a bank of verbs related to her subject handy.  She spoke about emotion as the key both to authentic writing, and about its role in the teacher-student relationship.

                                                  Here we all are getting started.

Next, Shanetia brainstormed and Mary Lee drafted based on her ideas.  A document camera let participants watch this work as we all commented on the process.

Participants also brainstormed and drafted.  Then I narrated a process of revision, reading aloud to find the music in the words and also to hear where the emotion was coming through.


 Likewise, our intrepid crew of participants had a go at revision.  It was a lot more difficult to come to a conclusion
with our shared poem than we expected, and the feeling of being vulnerable in front of an audience--as our students are asked to be every day--was palpable!

Our poem may not yet be finished, but here it is.  You can follow the whole process by going to #riskingwriting on Twitter, where we hope that others will share their efforts at writing in front of their students!

The Voice of the Vegetables

We don't get to pick
the basket we land in--
pepper with eggplant with squash.

Grown apart, at market
we tumble together
on a background of red--
color and spice and crunch.

Unity is not a concession.
Stand, then speak, then lead.
(c) Shanetia Clark, Mary Lee Hahn, Heidi Mordhorst 2016

Here were the few slides of our presentation:

The round-up today is with Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales.  It's not much of a risk just joining in our friendly Fridays, but letting the poetry take you--that's riskier.


  1. Good luck today! It looks to be a fascinating presentation. I wish I could be teleported to Atlanta.

  2. Oh, Atlanta! I hear you calling. (I lived there for five years. Would love to come back for a visit!) Your presentation sounds terrific. Looking forward to hearing more.

  3. Sounds so great! Wish I could be there!

  4. This is such a great reminder to teach and to lead by example - if we are asking our students to take risks by sharing their own thoughts and ideas, which can sometimes feel intimidating or stressful, we should be willing to do the same ourselves! Such a fantastic reminder for all of us.

  5. So commenting late and I get to see it all. What a wonderful way to give a poetry workshop/presentation. I imagine those there will take this idea right back to their students! Keep having fun!

  6. Bravo, ladies! I love that your collaborative poem speaks to the importance of unity. I'm sad I wasn't there to see this magic unfold, so thank you for sharing your terrific session with those of us here at home!

  7. Oh my, what an amazing collaboration! Love the connection to the emotion (anxiety) students experience in similar circumstances in their classrooms. Thank you for sharing it with us. =)

  8. I came back to read the results. Wow, you guys! Nice way to tie in the current scene with vegetables! And to make it seem perfectly natural.

  9. I hope you had a great time at NCTE, Heidi! This is what I'm taking away from your session: "It was a lot more difficult to come to a conclusion with our shared poem than we expected, and the feeling of being vulnerable in front of an audience--as our students are asked to be every day--was palpable!" That is precisely what holds me back from workshop settings. That on-demand writing vulnerability. How often have I written something that I thought was brilliant only to come back to it and wonder what I was thinking?!! Thank you for showing vulnerability (and not finishing poems) is okay.

  10. I like that your veggies found their voice and expressed themselves. Very unexpected to hear them being so opinionated, but delightful to contemplate.

  11. Thanks for posting this. So sorry to miss your presentation. I think I would have loved it. You are some brave girls getting up and writing on the spot like that, but trusting the process will make it all work. As it did!


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!