Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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Famous Authors' Signatures

Famous Authors' Signatures | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
You know their words, now look at their writing. A collection of some of literature's most famous signatures.




Couldn't help but wonder how many of these writers were criticized for "poor penmanship" as youngsters? 


Encourage, Encourage, Encourage!


Who knows? Maybe they'll have something to say some day.


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Stephen King’s all-author rock band plays swan song on ‘The Late Late Show’ — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO |

Stephen King’s all-author rock band plays swan song on ‘The Late Late Show’ — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO | | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Every so often since 1992, an all-star crew of writers — which has included Stephen King, Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Scott Turow and...




The Rock Bottom Remainders are calling it quits! Imagine a rock and roll band comprised entirely of writers! 


"As it happened. As it was meant to happen Bokonon would say," (no Vonnegut never played with them) I happened to catch their last television performance while doing my stationary bike ride this morning. I'd DVR'ed it a couple of days ago not knowing they were quitting the business or that they would be guests on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.


Both King and Barry were interviewed separately before the remaining remainders took the stage for their last performance. 


If you'd somehow not known about the band, among its current and past members were the likes of  Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Cynthia Heimel, Sam Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Joel Selvin, James McBride, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount Jr., Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Fulghum, Matt Groening, Tad Bartimus, and Greg Iles. They were even at one time or another joined on stage by Lesley Gore, Roger McGuinn, Bruce Springsteen, and Warren Zevon.


Though they never took themselves too seriously, often hilariously self-deprecating, they did manage to raise a couple of million dollars for charity over the years. And, they had a rock solid following of Lit Lovin' Rock and Roll fans.


Among the famous quotes by and about the band are the following...


"We play music as well as Metallica writes novels." -Dave Barry

"Rock Bottom Remainders? Who the hell are they?" -Kirk Hammett, Metallica

"Your band's not too bad. It's not too good either. Don't let it get any better, otherwise you'll just be another lousy band." -Bruce Springsteen

"I picked up one of the two guitars I'd been using, and just as we were about to start, Stephen King tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'We have a special guest.' I turned around, and there was Bruce Springsteen. I still don't know how he came to be at this convention; I don't believe he's a bookseller. All I know is, he was picking up the other guitar. My guitar. 'Bruce,' I said to him. 'Do you know the guitar part to Gloria?' This is like asking James Michener if he knows how to write his name." – Dave Barry

"People are throwing panties at you. They certainly never do that at my book-signings." -Matt Groening

"There's an audience out there, and the key is to kick it in the ass." -Stephen King

"Roy actually coined the term for our genre of music; 'hard-listening music.' " -Dave Barry



Watch the two videos at the end of the article. I just smile thinking about writers getting together to do what they don't do best just for the all out fun of it.


And, I'm sitting here trying to picture Maya Angelou adding her decorum to an all out rock 'n roll experience.


Sorry you're hanging it up. But thanks for the memories! At least we still have those books you write.



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The Global Citizen: Finding Practicality in a Liberal Arts Education

What can you do with a degree in classics? How are you going to get a job with that degree? Many people still fail to understand what a liberal arts education is and how it translates into success in the job market.






Though I'm not certain all liberal arts majors graduate with more critical thinking skills than others, this article nails the biggest reason why I promote reading literature as a preparation for life in the 21st century.


It IS a global playing field. We can not, at least in good conscious, isolate our social concerns to our local geo location. We must care about the complex worlds beyond our own little corner of the universe because we are responsible for decisions made by those we choose to vote for; to work for;  to welcome. 


When we fail to understand the greater questions of what it is to be a humane being we are in danger of taking the "easy way" out; favoring self-serving or simplistic, or xenophobic, or culturally insensitive choices that bring more than global chagrin to us all; we are less able to see the folly of a "hell-let's-just-drop-the-big-one-on-'em" attitude when dealing with international business, crime, economic, social, and political issues. 


I've always wondered what it might have been like if every MBA program required a significant proportion of serious liberal arts based courses so that the blinders of their narrow focus on money could be removed and replaced with a deeper understanding of their responsibilities for humanity.


And, as what I call a "radical moderate," because moderate seems to be a radical position at the moment, I've also thought that all liberal arts majors ought to be required to take a significant proportion of economics-based courses so that their tendency towards idealism is tempered a bit by the complexities of the realities of complex problem solving.


My fear is that we are experiencing times when focusing almost exclusively upon what we want for ourselves is posing potential problems beyond what we have chosen to care about. 


But, of course, isn't that what pretty much every great work of literature tells us?


Can we really discover the "right answers" if we've never discovered the great questions?


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The Surprising Fates of Famous Americans

The Surprising Fates of Famous Americans | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
How well do we really know our historical icons--especially what became of them in the years after the events that established their fame?




How many of these "rest of the story" stories are you familiar with? I'd heard most of these stories somewhere along the journey of my life. And, yes as accused, discovering that much of the history I was told had been painted with pastels masquerading as "the facts," I did develop a pessimistic and skeptical view of what I had been told about history. 


Questions that occurred to me along the way towards what I call cautious skepticism...


If everything in the history books is "factual" but not everything that is factual is in the history books, is my end understanding factual or fictional?


If we cherry-pick facts to emphasize from history, are we being truthful, merely incomplete or deceitful?


Are we, or any society, better off by avoiding the circumventing the negative facts allowing our children to believe that forces of greed did not cause serious and long lasting harm? 


But, truthfully... my concern is growing in this regard rather than receding even though we now have access to so much of the rest of the stories. To know enough to temper our opinions of both adoration and abhorence of those who make it into the history books; of those whose actions and their repercussions continue to define the reality of the world we live in today, takes a bit more of a deeper dive into the facts than we "have time for" in the fast paced and complex world we live in today.


When things are moving fast, it is attractively tempting to treat all important input at little more than the skimming level, believing or merely choosing to believe that skimming headlines and tweets and 30 second fixed talking points is sufficient to justify simplistic opininons about complex issues. 


If we do not choose to make the time to be more informed about complex issues, we may be tempted take the short-cut of "just believing what we're told by those we "like" because they are pretty or handsome or funny or snarky or pandering to our ignorance with "fictionalized facts." 


Yes Virgina, there may be as much fiction in history as there is truth in fiction. 


This is not the conclusion of a pessimist; it is the conclusion of a realist who happens to believe, that like Martin Luther King jr, that real hope and optimism springs from knowing we still have work to do. And, knowing we still have work to do requires that we fact even those facts that make us uncomfortable.


Read. Read. Read especially the ideas of intelligent and informed people who you happen to disagree with. If you don't, then at turn down the volume. 



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Creative Cartography: 7 Must-Read Books on Maps

Creative Cartography: 7 Must-Read Books on Maps | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
From tattoos to Thomas More's Utopia, or what Moby Dick has to do with the nature of time.




I have to say that the Google Lit Trips project has led me on a most intriguing journey that among other serendipity has significantly enhanced my interest in cartography. And on that journey, I've developed a taste for cartography beyond the traditional paradigm of geography. 


The map as metaphor is such a perfect fit for so many concepts at the heart of being human and humane beings.


But, you're probably reading this blog because you're a fan of reading and literature. So I'd point you in the direction of the last book on this intriguing list; Maps of the Imagination. The intriguing interelationships between cartography and storytelling made this one a real page turner for me. 


In fact, just seeing it in this article reminds me that it's time to give it a re-read! An adventure well worth exploring for Lit Lovin' educators.


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Siri, Take This Down: Will Voice Control Shape Our Writing?

Siri, Take This Down: Will Voice Control Shape Our Writing? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Do our writing means change our written ends?






Much to think about here and, at least from my point of view, well worth reading. Does the writing technology somehow impact the written end product?


However, in phrasing the question that way, I'm aware that it assumes that there is an implied "yes/no" response assumption. 


The author is sophisticated enough to provide thought-provoking contemplations on "both sides" of the question. 


The article makes it fairly clear that whether or not, the written product articulates great ideas regarding the "universal truths," the opinions on the question of their writing "tools," whether opined by the likes of Plato, Milton, Mark Twain, or David McCullough existed within a time and place that would never have a universal baseline. What came before Plato in terms of story creation and recording influenced the impact of the technology shift. What came after Plato, was not changing storytelling from oral to written, but rather from written after the shift Plato was concerned about to written one way to written another way. The concerns that Plato had were probably legitimate while written stories were a completely new phenomenon. But, they would eventually become accepted and adapted to by those who loved stories. Addressing initial concerns and discovering unrealized advantages of the new put written stories in a different place than they were when Plato offered his concerns. 


Remember the switch from slide rules to calculators? The concern was whether we'd no longer be able to think if a machine did the thinking for us? But, today those who employ math in their required skill set seem to be doing math accurately, perhaps more accurately and definitely more quickly than in the slide rule days. And, because of those advantages, we all are benefitting from math in ways that were not yet conceived of during the initial transition phase from slide rules to calculators.


"New" takes time to find itself. "New" almost always meets resistance from those who "got the job done just fine" with a sliderule or a blackboard or a hand saw or a horse or a ... well, you get the idea.


But, this is not to say that "New" by definition is superior or that "New" does not bring its own unprecedented downsides. 


But the transition period between technologies is always "rocky." It may not be the best time to assume that the potential up and downsides of the new are well enough understood or that the up and downsides of the old may not not fade more quickly than is speculated; even as speculated by the greatest thinkers of the time.


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"book spine poetry" - Google Search

"book spine poetry" - Google Search | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

So these are cool. A concept I'd never come across before. Fascinating. Another wonderful opportunity for literature to engage our minds!



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Sue Corbin-Browne's comment, August 4, 2012 9:46 AM
I love this idea! I'll use it this year.
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Espresso Book Machine arrives in SA

Espresso Book Machine arrives in SA | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"The Espresso Book Machine prints a bookstore-quality paperback in minutes, and has been called the biggest change to publishing since Gutenberg's press."





Just in case you don't think the publishing industry is in complete upheaval...


I really don't know what to think about this concept. But, I thought it was interesting enough to share. 


Without really wanting to influence your reaction one way or another, I have to admit that two thoughts with negative edges did jump immediately into my mind. Though I think they may be more coincidental connections than arguments against the concept.


The first came in the first sentence of the voice over for the video where it appears that producing high quality books "with minimal human intervention" is a selling point. Yes, I realize that is not a comment about humans being "inconvenient" to the book production process. But, there is something slightly off putting about the term "with minimal human intervention" nevertheless.


The other thought that popped into my mind was Samuel Clemens' disasterous investment in the Paige Typesetter Machine which sent Clemens' into bankruptcy.


The story and a photo of the Paige Typesetter, which has a spookily similar look to the Espresso Book Machine, can be seen here:




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Ideas For Literary Olympic Ceremonies

Ideas For Literary Olympic Ceremonies | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
According to rumor, tomorrow's Olympic opening ceremony will feature a 40-foot Voldemort battling 30 Mary Poppins, who will float down into the stadium on their umbrellas.





In my earlier scoopit comments this morning, I gave a brief shout out to the Brits for including an homage to literature in the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics. 


Here's a prequel for a possible sequel.





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A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbino

A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbino | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

Just in time for the London Olympics!


Call it serendiptity. I'm very proud to announce the publishing today of a brand new Google Lit Trip on "A Walk in London" by Salvatore Rubbino. While the world is tuned into London what a perfect time to introduce children to London and its wonderful culture and traditions. 


Here's what Google Books has to say about this charming story...


"“London - the perfect place for a girl and her mother to spend the day! Follow them as they board the classic red bus and begin a whirlwind tour of some of London's most iconic landmarks. Try to climb the awe-inspiring lions at Trafalgar Square, take in the ritualistic Changing of the Guard, experience the whispering gallery at St Paul's and - if you're lucky - you may even spot the Queen! In this paean to Britain's bright and bustling capital city, Salvatore Rubbino's fresh, lively paintings and breezy text capture the delight of a young visitor experiencing the wonders of London first-hand. And of course, what's London without a little rain?”


This incredible Google Lit Trip was developed by Karen Arrington of Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, Texas. Karen has done a most remarkable job embedding rich supplementary media and web links that are absollutely perfect matches for elementary students who might be reading this book and "traveling alongside" the mother and daughter as they discover the wonders of London.


Be sure to check out the video preview link in the right hand column.



As a special extra bonus, Karen has also developed an extensive collection of wonderful resources to supplement the integration of her A Walk in London Lit Trip.


You can explore these resources at:



And for fans of other K-5 Google Lit Trips, Karen has also created similar additional resources for these Google Lit Trips, all of which are available in the K-5 section of the Google Lit Trips website at:



 • A Small Dog’s Big Life

 • Abuela


 • Big Anthony: His Story

 • Flotsam

 • Going Home

 • Make Way for Ducklings

 • Possum Magic

 • We All Went on Safari





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The Pixar Touch - history of Pixar - Blog - Pixar story rules (one version)

The Pixar Touch - history of Pixar - Blog - Pixar story rules (one version) | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Pixar story artist Emma Coats has tweeted a series of “story basics” over the ...




How many students (or teachers) haven't seen and probably loved a Pixar film? I remember when I first saw the shorts, "Luxo" and "Geri's Game." Wow! what very cool animation and incredible storytelling. And of course the list of full-length films have entertained both children and their parents as they somehow reached both audiences at different levels.


I'm wondering what those of us who teach the literature of well-told stories can learn from those who really know how to "show" a well told story.


This article rephrases some quite standard writing advise, but does so with a new turn. It builds the bridge from known visual stories to the elements of all great stories.


It starts with references to stories we tend to know and love and provides insights into the guiding principles behind all great stories. 


What would happen if we used this list in conjunction with a Pixar video to encourage our students to see and reach an "ah ha!" moment of deeper appreciation for the structures behind their favorite stories. I'd follow that exercise with a viewing of one of Pixar's lesser known shorts such as "Luxo"( or "Geri's Game" (


What if we split a class in half and then each half into smaller groups of three or so and had each small group in one half use "Luxo" while the groups in the other half use "Geri's Game" to see how many examples of the Pixar story rules they could find in each short video? My guess is the room would be abuzz with "ah ha" moments! 


And, then when the joy of "seeing between the lines" of a well told story was at its apex, I'd throw in a really short text-based story to "see" if the rules applied there as well. I don't know something like "The Gift of the Magi" for example.


By the way, here's an interesting website that illustrates the Pixar rules with, of all things, Legos!


 By the way, if you hadn't seen "Luxo" or "Geri's Game" before and you enjoyed them, you can see all of Pixar's shorts at:




Enjoy some great visual storytelling!




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Bedtime Stories - Duvet Cover

Bedtime Stories - Duvet Cover | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
‘Bedtime Stories’ proposes a different take on reading in bed which will please book and cuddle-lovers alike.





Well, the concept is intriguing that's for sure. Not entirely certain why the "pages" turn from left to right. 


Yes apparently there are pages to turn. 


I kind of wonder what it might look like with simulated highlighting and marginalia.


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Fictitious Dishes: 5 Meals From Literature | The Daily Meal

Fictitious Dishes: 5 Meals From Literature | The Daily Meal | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Graphic designer and photographer Dinah Fried imagines what it would be like to share a meal with five iconic literary characters – can you guess which is which?






A few ideas pop into my mind...


Translating text into visual (any visual) forces synthesis. We have to think about the "word-based" content before we can represent that content via a visual "re-respresentation." It isn't that the visual version equals the text version; but rather that the exercise of creating the visual requires lingering and contemplating the text version. 


These images provide an opportunity to wonder.

Is this exercise worthwhile?

Is the representation valid?

Can we contemplate additional facets about the story of value?

What other "arbitrary" visual connections could be made? (How would this character dress if he/she lived in today's world? What would this character's Facebook or LinkedIn site look like if he/she lived in today's world? What contemporary issues would be of interest to this person? etc.)

The value is the process more than the product. By reprocessing and representing our understandings via alternate media we engage in thinking about what we are reading rather than passing our eyes over the words attending primarily, if not entirely, to the developing plotline.


We ask ourselves questions as we read.


Of course, professional educators understand that this is what everyone should be doing while reading. However, we also know that many students do not read so attentively. 


We can reach them by contemplating strategies that give our students experiences in "engaged DEEP reading" that are much more effective, enjoyable, and perceived as being rewarding than the warning that "there might be a quiz tomorrow on tonight's reading."


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The Worst Craft Idea Ever [Updated]

The Worst Craft Idea Ever [Updated] | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
This is the perfect idea for someone who likes to pretend that they read. I feel like I'm watching a murder.





Why in the world would I scoop this video/article? 


A while back I caught some good-natured (?) kidding from some buddies after proudly posting my new iPhone charger. I'd "sacrificed" a copy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's AUGUST 1914 in order to hide the charger's long white wire inside the book with just the tip of the charger connector sticking up above surface of the book cover. (


But, I must say, this book destruction craft video bordered on horrifying, even though the intention to decorate with indications that reading is valued in this home, isn't all that different from my intention.


So why scoop it? Because not mentioned in the video but in text in the commentary below the video, Lemony Snicket, author of the mutilated books, gives his reaction to the video and it made me smile.



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21st-Century Students Need Books, Not Textbooks

21st-Century Students Need Books, Not Textbooks | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Textbooks are expensive, outdated, and stifling to creativity, says a veteran English teacher. And worst of all, they don't promote a love of reading.





Thanks to my good buddy, Jim Harmon (see his great scoop-it collection at:
for this lead.

As we watch the sea-change in publishing caused by ebooks taking place, there is a special element of that conversation that is getting too little attention. Whether you love paper and resent digital or love your iPad and have pretty much left paper behind, or like me just love the "word" and are willing to forgo your personal likes in that regard in favor of promoting whatever form of reading your students will engage with, traditional textbooks are a completely separate question. That they are paper-based certainly brings significant downsides just in the area of cost and heft, but those may not be the most damning characteristics when contemplating their value in the classroom.

Two lines jumped out at me while reading this article. The first, "...the textbook promotes the study of a subject—it does not promote reading. To improve reading skills, teachers need to offer students the kind of books that persuade them that reading can be a joy."

The distinction between studying a subject (literature in this case) and promoting reading is actually pretty significant. I was always honored to hear that a student of mine had decided to become a teacher, and particularly moved when that student had decided to become an English teacher. But, I never felt quite comfortable with the virtual default mode of most textbooks. They seemed to focus much more upon creating English majors than upon promoting an engaged reader who enjoyed reading the stories because they struck home, somehow reflecting "something universal" and therefore intriguing about what it means to be a human being; something that put "reading a good book" on the list of things they liked to do not just on the list of things they were required to do.

That paragraph ends with a rather simple point, "...research shows that reading for pleasure improves reading scores. No student reads a textbook for pleasure."

I've never been one to be too fond of absolutue statements. But, truthfully, my guess would be that textbooks really aren't the first choice for a pleasurable evening with a good book for many.

And I do believe that kids who read for pleasure do just fine on standardized tests. Whether they spend time reading Sci-Fi, YA, ChickLit, or any kind of book based (electronic or otherwise) stories, they are spending imaginitive time in other places, other cultures, other times, and amid other people's trials and tribulations.

I have no doubt that in the hands of a great teacher traditional textbooks can be the source of some pretty pleasurable engaged reading. But, for the most part that success would probably be more a result of the teacher's skill than the textbooks themselves.

And, given the article's excellent suggestions regarding alternative sources for pretty much everything that textbooks have provided, the argument for textbooks is getting harder and harder to make. It really has nothing to do with whether they are or are not paper-based; it really about the old school paradigms for teaching reading upon which they are designed.

And, by the way... those old school paradigms do not magically become new school paradigms when textbooks are digitized without taking advantage of the new possibilities that digital books bring to the table.


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From Jail to Harvard: Why Teachers Change the World

August has arrived, and you're heading back to the classroom, and all the familiar challenges will meet you there on Day One. Let me encourage you. Your efforts are valued, and what you do truly does matter.





August was always like spring to me. A time for new beginnings and renewed dedication to my commitment to the noblest profession of all.


It was time to remember what each of the particularly special teachers in my own educational journey had done for me and to rededicate myself to my personal vision statement, "Be for my students what my best teachers had been for me."


August wasn't the time to piss and moan about faculty meetings, or some administrative mandate that "inconvenienced me." It was a time to remember those teachers who were there for me; who cared about me; and to remember that they too worked within a system that had it's behind the scenes challenges and frustrations. Yet, they rose above all that when they walked into the room and gave us all the gift of their caring. No, it wasn't every teacher who was capable of that kind of personal strength and dedication. There were grumblers and grouches. But, they were never destined to become my inspirations; except by their negative examples.


The downsides of the profession are probably a constant. Though, in truth, it's easier to see those downsides if one is unable or unwilling to walk in the shoes of those whose responsibilities are campus-wide rather than primarily within only one of the many classrooms on campus.


But, the best rise above the challenges rather than marinating in their resentment of them.  


Set yourself an impossible goal. Rededicate yourself to being that special teacher that every single one of your students will look back on as one of the ones who made a difference.


And, while you're at it... if you happen to be a veteran teacher, try adding this goal. While you're remembering the best of the best of your own teachers, remember the first day you walked into the faculty room on the first day of your teaching career and which of the veteran teachers took the time to inspire you, to mentor you, to encourage and support you. Try to be the colleague to the new staff members that those early mentors chose to be to you. 


Here's to your students having a great school year because they were lucky enough to have you for a teacher!



 ~ ~



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Write Place, Write Time

Write Place, Write Time | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
If you look at anything long enough, say just that wall in front of you -- it will come out of that...




Interesting concept


I was intrigued as I viewed this collection of photos of writers' places. And, I couldn't help remembering the "rule" I was led to believe, though I was never very good at obeying it, that children should have a specific environment suitable for doing homework. It always included a "well-lighted desk" in a quiet place. And, heaven forbid there were distractions like music or television (remember when that was pretty much a complete list of possible distractions?).


As I contemplated these photos, I couldn't help but cheer a bit for those writers who worked in spaces more like the space I work in now that I get to adjust my personal rule set as I wish.


Yet at the same time, I felt a respect for those who prefer the tidier place. And, I am reminded thereby of the wonderful diversity of learners in my charge. For example, I always despised group work as a student, well at least after I'd reached the point where I felt the rewards of showing off what I knew or how clever my sense of humor could be, were worth pursuing. And, as a teacher it was easy to spot the students who felt the same way I had at the mention of group work. But, I also saw that many students do thrive in group work. Probably, depending upon the skill of the group management strategies in place, more students thrived, and more ideas were generated than not. But, I realized that I had to be cautious about assuming that one student's comfort zone was not a zone of agonizing annoyance for another.


BTW... it was the same with "warm up activities." You know, those attempts to instantly create a comfort with complete strangers who happened to sign up for or be required to attend the same workshop you happened to sign up for or be required to attend? But, I also know that some truly benefit from a transition activity from being in a room full of complete strangers to at least recognizing one or two people with whom a sense of security can be felt.


Yeah, yeah, so I'm happy to see that writers are people of many minds when they get to design their own places where they are doing what they really want to be doing.


Some of the ideas that passed through my mind as I looked at the places...

•  People who write often surround themselves with books; yet some do not.

• Some like cozy spaces, others prefer the austere. 

• I saw lots of Macs & several PCs and... I saw very few typewriters or pencil jars? How many typewriters can you find in this collection of images? (hint: there are several actually)

• Way more windowed than windowless spaces. Windows were frequently not only my distraction, but also my "space" for extended thinking about ideas. In that sense, the space beyond my space was where my visual attention could "unfocus" while I gave my mental attention room to focus for extended periods. I actually flashed back to a personal experience in school where I was reprimanded for "staring out the window" when I should have been paying attention and realizing that I had drifted not away from the topic under discussion, but more deeply into thinking about the very idea under discussion that I dwelt upon it a bit longer than the time period that the teacher had alloted for thinking about what she was teaching at us. 


• Lottsa Tchotchkes (spelled variously) You know..  small toys, gewgaws, knickknacks, swags, baubles, thingamajigs, doodads, trinkets, or kitsch. The kinds of things we would normally think of as  worthless junk, but we keep them, cherish them. Often thought of as dust collectors, they always survive "the annual spring cleaning; those bursts of belief that we can get back in control of the clutter while knowing full well that ... well, I ought not be making the assumption that what is true for me is TRUTH for all.


• Speaking of Tchotchkes, closely related, though not usually composed of worthless junk, there are lots of mini-shrines like variations of Zen Gardens of inspiration. 


• animals! stuffed or otherwise (can you find the moose head?). Other life or life-like forms to "be with" while writing while not necessarily having to pay any attention whatsoever to them. 


As an educator, I guess I found myself contemplating that yin and yang situation that I often found myself thinking about where rules and policies had (for good reasons) to co-exist with the "creative possibilities" of escaping too much standardization of thinking.



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Sorted Books: The Library as a Standup Comedian

Sorted Books: The Library as a Standup Comedian | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
What shark attacks and the New York art world have to do with Shakespearean codependence.





A better link to examples of bookspine poetry. 



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10 Cool Things for People who Read (Real) Books « My Life Scoop

10 Cool Things for People who Read (Real) Books « My Life Scoop | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Tips for a connected lifestyle....




Clever products. But, more importantly... what if our decor in both our homes and our classrooms really let the world know how large a role literature plays in our lives and our esthetic?


I have to admit that I've too frequently found the attempts at adorning our classrooms with the vast majority of literary posters to be saddening. Too many were really of little interest to me at least from an engaging design or visual hook point of view.  


So why would I really think that they would be engaging to my students? 


I want my home AND my classroom to "feel" like a place where reading is loved.


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Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference: Songs Inspired by Literature

Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference: Songs Inspired by Literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |






Ran across this today and thought it was a great idea. This list of songs inspired by Literature is only one of three such lists. 


Be sure to check out the links that follow the song list. I must admit I was shocked by the extensive LONG LIST link. What Lit luvin' teacher couldn't find some engaging learning potential here?


And b.t.w... Look for the asterisk by the song titles. The asterisk identifies a 


"Song (that) was inspired by the artist’s reading of the classic work. Confirmed either through album liner notes or published interviews that specifically mention the artist's sources of inspiration"


 A few of my favorites I didn't find on the list...


Cat's in the Cradle: ( I don't know if Harry Chapin was directly inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle or not, but I do know that the song's lyrics certainly remind me quite a bit of the relationship between the characters of Felix Hoenikker and his "chip off the old block son Frank. And then I am reminded of the repeated chorus in Cat's Cradle, "As it happened, As it was meant to happen, Bokonon would say..."


My Way: Once you've read this speech by Cyrano de Bergerac, 


"What would you have me do?
Seek for the patronage of some great man,
And like a creeping vine on a tall tree crawl
upward, where I cannot stand alone? No
thank you! Dedicate, as others do, Poems to
pawnbrokers? Be a buffoon
In the vile hope of teasing out a smile
On some cold face? No thank you! Eat a toad
For breakfast every morning? Make my knees
Callous, and cultivate a supple spine,-
Wear out my belly grovelling in the dust?
No thank you! Scratch the back of any swine
That roots up gold for me? Tickle the horns of
Mammon with my left hand, while my right,
Too proud to know his partner's -business,
Takes in the fee? No thank you! Use the fire
God gave me to burn incense all day long
Under the nose of wood and stone? No thank you!
Shall I go leaping into ladies' laps
And licking fingers? Or, to change the form-
Navigating with madrigals for oars,
My sails full of the sighs of dowagers?
No thank you! Publish verses at my own
Expense? No thank you! Be the patron saint
Of a small group of literary souls
Who dine together every Tuesday? No,
I thank you! Shall I labor night and day
To build a reputation on one song,
And never write another? Shall I find
True genius only among Geniuses,
Palpitate over little paragraphs,
And struggle to insinuate my name
In the columns of The Mercury!
No thank you! Calculate, scheme, be afraid,
Love more to make a visit than a poem,
Seek introductions, favors, influences? No
thank you! No, I thank you! And again
I thank you! But . . .
To sing, to laugh, to dream,
To walk in my own way and be alone,
Free, with an eye to see things as they are,
A voice that means manhood--to cock my hat
Where I choose-- At a word, a Yes, a No,
To fight--or write. To travel any road
Under the sun, under the stars, nor doubt
If fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne--
Never to make a line I have not heard
In my own heart; yet, with all modesty
To say: “My soul, be satisfied with flowers,
With fruit, with weeds even; but gather them
In the one garden you may call your own.”
So, when I win some triumph, by some chance,
Render no share to Caesar--in a word,
I am too proud to be a parasite,
And if my nature is not that which grows
Towering to heaven like the mountain pine,
Or like the oak, sheltering multitudes--
I stand, not high it may be--but alone!."



It's pretty tough not to hear it reflected in Frank Sinatra's version of "My Way."


Like Cyrano, Sinatra is at once both admirable and arrogant.


The Ghost of Tom Joad:  (not just BRRUUUCCE!!! check out the Springsteen cover by Rage Against the Machine for a very different take. 



And while I'm at it. What about songs that inspired Steinbeck?

One day while reading Cannery Row, I noticed that Steinbeck included specific names of serveral musical pieces when identifying the music "the boys" heard coming from Doc's lab. For the heck of it, I created a playlist of as many of those pieces as I could find in iTunes. My thought was that even if people didn't purchase those songs, they could hear a free 90 second clip of each to "get a taste" of Doc's music. Here is a link to that list.



I don't know if this is a fictional list created by Steinbeck or a bit of a crossover list from real life as the character Doc was based upon one of Steinbeck's best friends Ed Ricketts.




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Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story | Video on

TED Talks Filmmaker Andrew Stanton ("Toy Story," "WALL-E") shares what he knows about storytelling -- starting at the end and working back to the beginning.






Sure, Andrew Stanton has participated in the writing of some of your students' all-time favorite movies. Who has seen WALL-E, Toy Story, Bug's Life, Finding Nemo and not loved them?


However, within the first 1 minute 15 seconds you'll certainly be wondering what I was thinking when I scooped this video! And, you'll know that this probably isn't a video you'll ever be sharing with your students, regardless of what grade you teach.


But, stick around. Every second of the following 18 minutes is GREAT and must see viewing for anyone who has taken on the noble responsibility of sharing a love of great storytelling with their students. 


There are many articulations of the GREATER TRUTHS to be found in fiction. Facts alone can be useful in determining what is true and what is not true. But, those of us who teach fiction know that facts alone can not reach a level of TRUTH that great storytelling can reach, whether those stories are true or not.


Watch it. Confirm your faith. Remind yourself, if need be, of the ways in which fiction captures us, calls us, engages us, and can guide us towards lives of depth and understanding of who and why we are who we are and why we do what we do.


But, the reason I really like this video is that in telling us how great storytelling engages us, Andrew Stanton gives us the very list of strategies that we can use when teaching great stories. 


You may notice an extracted quote on the right side of the webpage that says, "Don't give [the audience] four; give them two plus two."


It certainly makes sense within his discussion of what makes a great story. It also makes sense within our classroom discussions when we're trying to engage our students in the greatness of reading stories.


Yet how often do we "give them four" and believe that this is an effective strategy?


 By the way... my guess that you won't share this with your students only assumes that you won't consider simply sharing it by starting after the 1 minute 17 second mark. But, that would certainly be a workaround if you think the message of this talk is worth sharing.



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Olympic Games Art Contest 1912 - 1948

Olympic Games Art Contest 1912 - 1948 | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"Art Competitions were held at the Olympics 1912 to 1948. The winners of the competitions were awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals, similar to the winners of the athletic competitions.
The events were inspired by Pierre de Coubertin, who wished to meld the competitions in sports with competitions in the arts. The art competions were dropped from the Olympic program because of the difficulty of determining the amateur status of the artists."





I love it when I discover how little I know about areas where I have a deep involvement. And then I wonder how little I know in areas about which I have spent much less time learning.


I never knew that it used to be possible to compete in the Olympics in Literature. Not only that, but there were multiple categories including dramatic works, Epic Works, "all Kinds," and lyrics.


Though a quick Google Search reveals several sites verifying this information, the most complete list of categories and winners I was able to find was on Wikipedia.

And, to add to my surprise, other non-literary Olympics competitions were held in such diverse fields as Architecture, Sculpture, Paintings and Graphic Art, Music, and get this... Aeronautics and Alpinism.



It's just a bit amusing that the Olympic Arts Competitions were dropped because "of the difficulty of determining the amateur status of the artists."


Maybe I'm an old fogey, but I still remember when there was an attempt to ensure that the Olympic ATHLETIC competition was limited to amateurs. Ha! I realize that there was little success in ensuring amateur athletic status, but there was something pure in the intent. But, then politics on the global scale became a pressure point on award counts and those Russian "Reds" were hauling in the gold and silver and bronze at record rates so questioning their athletes' amateur status became the cover issue for explaining why the "reds" kept doing much better than the "red, whites, and blues." Of course, it's all a mute point today as amateur status really isn't "spoken of" much given what everybody knows about what it takes to be good enough to compete at the Olympic level. 


Perhaps then it's time to bring the arts back to the Olympics. Hey! Here's an idea... why not run the Olympics sort of like the Miss America contest where there is an attempt to require the beauty queens to prove they also have intelligent opinions and/or "other" talents?


Maybe a Jeopardy-like pre-competition in the qualifying rounds and then a grand Jeopardy match .... oh forget it. That's probably silly.


I was a bit happy to see that the Brits threw in quite a significant homage to their literary history in their opening ceremonies. 


Keep the faith Brits! 


To honor the Brits' love of competive literature, here's an oldie but a goodie.


Monty Python's Novel Writing as a spectator sport.




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Literary Identity: The Composites Brian Joseph...

Literary Identity: The Composites Brian Joseph Davis collects faces. Specifically, he collects the faces of fictional characters on The Composites, his blog of police sketches driven by reader...




I love this story! It's actually about an intriguing concept that is at the heart of a website entitled "The Composites" ( (Personally, I'd suggest watching the video first, then going to the "The Composites" website to see more of what is being discussed in the video.)


Normally, I would have scooped the original site and referenced this site that includes a video interview of Brian Joseph Davis, the creater of the The Composites website. However, what I really found intriguing in this video interview was Davis' preemptive insights into the possible criticisms of his concept. 


He recognizes that he might be accused of "visualizing" for readers and thereby preempting the value of readers visualizing for themselves. Admirably he does not attempt to counter this argument. He acknowledges it as valid for those who would have that objection. He then gives his defense, but suggests that his defense does not trump the opposing point of view, but rather that it also exists for those who are not bothered.


Toward the end of the video, there is a wonderful interaction between Davis and the interviewer where you can just see the engagement with the characters' characters. (I think I got the possessives and plurals straight there) 


It was encouraging to see the conversation about the characters that resulted directly from a consideration of this project's premise and creations.


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Best-Ever Teen Novels? Vote For Your Favorites : NPR

Best-Ever Teen Novels? Vote For Your Favorites : NPR | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
To add a little drama to your summer, NPR is assembling a list of the best young adult novels ever written. Let the voting begin!





There has long been a debate over the literary value of YA Lit. There are those who believe that it isn't lit at all and that teens should be "discouraged" from reading anything less than the canon (sometimes referred to by supporters of YALit as the "Dead White Guys" books). 


There are those who believe that kids don't like that old stuff and that they can't/won't read it anyway and that the experience is so fraught with frustration that rather than elevating their appreciation for reading, it to often scars them and does little more than encourage them to hate reading and to stop reading as soon as it is no longer required.


I have mixed feelings. I do believe the classics are classics for good reasons. They are worth reading. That those who read AND ARE ABLE TO APPRECIATE them do have better understandings of life, and living, and loving. But, not every kid is ready for the "heavy stuff" at the same time (or more to the point) while they are in the same grade. 


I also believe that grade level and a book's reputation are not the only variables. There is both a science and an art to making a book come alive and be perceived as interesting and more important, relevant. For those not quite ready to read the best of the best, it is the art of the teacher that can tease the reluctant to consider expanding their reading worlds.


On the other hand, the YA Lit world has Vygotsky going for it. That is, by definition YA Lit starts closer to home. It speaks to the age group with characters of similar age and similar life challenges. If we are to face the truth that many students are, for reasons too numerous to list, not as ready or as receptive as we would hope they are, for the bigger leap from where they are to where we believe they "should be." 


The question about YA Lit though is, "Do the stories have merit?" Or, "Are they just vapid dumbing downs" of educational expectations? There is not doubt that there is junk lit. But, that is not to say that all YA Lit is junk. A given YA title may be junk for those students who are ready for greater reading challenges. But, at the same time the same title may be "just the right" next step for other students who haven't yet developed the necessary skills to appreciate swimming in the deeper end of the literary pool. 


I do have some concerns, though, about YA Lit. If we assume that kids can't engage in reading about people, cultures, and literary stories not so specifically similar to their own "smaller worlds" then YA Lit too often has a relatively short shelf life. Contemporary isn't contemporary very long if it relies too heavily upon very current allusions and references. Yesterday's trends are sillier in retrospect than they were when they were center stage basking in the spotlight. I still remember, and remember I'm OLD, when in 1963 or thereabouts, when I first saw West Side Story, "a contemporary retelling of Romeo and Juliet. I thought it was one of the silliest movies I'd ever seen. I know, many still love the film. But, truthfully, I wasn't yet interested in love. My appreciation for rock and roll  so dominated my little world of musical appreciation that musicals were perceived as no more interesting than my parents' old people music, and let's face it dancing singing gang members wearing neckties? Hilarious! 


But, I was a late bloomer to say the least. I wasn't able (or perhaps willing) to look any further than my own little world for reasons to appreciate either Romeo and Juliet or West Side Stories. And, I hadn't yet had the experience of reading The Merchant of Venice, Grapes of Wrath, T.S. Eliot, or e.e.cummings with Mr. Kay that magical senior English teacher who was an artist in the classroom, truly capable of shepherding guys like me toward the deeper end of the literary pool and liking it. 


It was a magical moment when my readiness and his artistry created an alchemy where he didn't quite turn my lead head into gold, but he did start me on the process. I was a catapiller and he got me into the cocoon of transition. 


So, along comes this article, (remember the article?) calling for a vote on favorite Teen Novels. What a cool idea. Let's not pooh-pooh them all as trash. Let's recognize that among the genre, some have more literary merit than others. By crowd-sourcing an evaluation of some of the more well known titles, perhaps we can add those "better YA Lit" titles to our palette as we do our best to do the best we can for every one of our students.


Every one of them is a potential work of art.


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QUIZ: Can You Guess The Literary Reference?

QUIZ: Can You Guess The Literary Reference? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Could book tees be the new music tees? Maybe not, but we certainly support their somewhat recent emergence!





How many of these T-shirts can you connect to a great literary work? Give it a try. I actually missed a couple that were about some of my favorite books.


This would be a great fad. I'd buy one for every book I taught!


They're real. Click the Meanfellas link to see more shirts. Meanfellas has a great slogan...


"Because not all T-Shirts need to make you look like a moron!"


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