It’s not everyday you get Don Graves’ feedback on your writing!

I learned so much at the final session I attended at NCTE today. The session, “Writing from your Teaching Life,” was led by Don Graves, Penny Kittle, Meg Petersen, and Karen Hartman. What a treat to have all of these great writers and teachers in the same room!

First, we made a map of our teaching hearts. Then, Penny Kittle suggested that we take one item from the heart map and do a “Quick Write” about it. I selected the Sadako Project, which I did in 2006. I wrote an entry, which I’ll share on Writer’s Notebook Wednesday this-coming week, quickly and then had the chance to turn and talk with someone near me. I was fortunate to be sitting behind Don Graves and had the chance to exchange my Quick Write with him and vice versa. Wow! What that man can write in under ten minutes is simply amazing!

My already high level of respect for Don Graves grew after listening to his Quick Write and after he told me that he thought the paper cranes were not just art-for-art-sake, but rather (like I thought and hoped it was) an opportunity for the class to come together and work on something with a common goal. (I was sure glad he liked the community building theme of the activity since, to this day, I’m torn over how smart it was to do this project last September. I tend to think it brought the class together in a really positive way, but as you’ll see in my notebook entry on Wednesday, part of me thinks I took away too much class time with this project — though most of it was completed for homework.)

Anyway, I digress…

A woman came over to me at the end of the session and said, “Wow! It’s not everyday you get Don Graves to read your writing.”

“It was a real treat,” I replied.

And it was… a real treat! And it wasn’t just his approval about my topic, but his willingness to say that this piece was worth going out into the world made me feel great. (Hence, it’ll be tweaked a bit by this week’s WNW.)

At the end of the session I asked Graves and Kittle to sign the book, Inside Writing: How to Teach the Details of Craft, they wrote together. They were both happy to sign it for me even though they were both heading out the door to get home! :) I was touched by their kindness and therefore wanted to share this experience with you.