Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zones Slice of Life Tuesday

Thanks to Ruth and Stacey for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  You can check their blog for more Slice of Life stories.

This week I am teaching an Advanced Summer Institute on Digital Writing with 2 of my favorite people and teachers, Gretchen Taylor and Margaret Towery.  All of the participants in our class are past participants in the Columbus Area Writing Project Summer Institute (which if you ever have the chance to participate in a summer institute, you absolutely must!).  Earlier in the school year, Margaret, Gretchen and I, along with the co-directors of CAWP met regularly with Troy Hicks to build the foundation of this class.  We learned so much from Troy and experienced first hand the struggles and successes of reading and composing digitally.

If you haven't read Troy's books, please check them out. Both are a wealth of information!  The Digital Writing Workshop was published in 2007.  Crafting Digital Writing is brand new.

Image from Heinemann.

Image from Heinemann.

Our class began yesterday.  As is always true, when there is a gathering of National Writing Project folks, good things are going to happen.  We have a dynamic group of teachers who are willing to take risks and step outside their comfort zones as we cover new territory (or in some cases, revisit old territories).

Today, Gretchen led us through Twitter.  I am someone who dips her toe in and then backs out and today I realized why I've been reluctant to jump right in.  I am one of those people who has a need to do it all.  (It's not a healthy way to be, so I don't recommend it).  I was shying away from Twitter because there was no way I could take in everything offered out there.  I realize how silly this is...what would I tell a colleague or a student?  I'd tell them to take what they could and leave the rest.  I decided to take my own advice (which is a little like taking your mother's advice) and give myself permission to take in what I can and not worry about the rest.  I will not be part of every conversation out there, and that's ok.

Tomorrow, I will be leading the group in learning about blogging.  Most of the class is interested in starting their own blogs and some want to blog with their students.  I remember how scared I was when I decided to put my voice out there.  I worried that no one would care what I had to say or that I wouldn't have anything unique enough to offer my audience.  Sharing our thoughts puts us in a vulnerable position and that's scary.

I'd love some feedback from the SOL community.  What advice would you give to new bloggers? How do you mangage your time for blogging?  Where do your ideas come from?  How do you keep going?  How do you even decide where to start?  What do you do when you don't know what to write about?

I will share your thoughts with the group tomorrow.  If you would please also leave your blog address in your comment, we can directly go to your blog.  We'll also be building RSS feeds.

Thanks so much!

Next week...I will be blogging from Turkey!  :)


  1. Blogging turned my world around and twitter connected my world to a whole new level. Blogging for me is about time to reflect on my practices as a teacher. I take the time to reflect and type my thoughts. Most of the time I share (post) and a few times I just write for me. The audience for both teachers and students is amazing and the virtual PD and collaboration is the BEST anywhere. Tweet away tomorrow so I can follow your class virtually as I head to #Allwrite 13

    1. Thank you for sharing your thinking Maria. :) #cawpasi: You can see Maria's blog at Her Twitter account is @MariaCaplin.

  2. Blogging is where I learned how to apply what I was teaching teachers about writing. I needed to be a writer to have authenticity to my instruction. It is a place I can try different types of writing and build craft into my posts. It is scary putting your thoughts out there, but TWT is the best place to find an audience. Tuesdays and March are my lifeline to writing. It helps me notice details in the world and save them. I tend to use a picture taken from my phone to support my writing and preserve ideas. Have fun with the teachers tomorrow. Can't wait to read about Turkey.
    My blog is elsie tries writing -

    1. Thank you elsie! Your blog will be an inspiration to the teachers in our cohort. I'm excited to share your writing.

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  4. Sorry for deleting, too many typos! Sounds like a good class, Julie. I started blogging over two years ago because I wanted to do more with the writing. I've always written, and written with my students, so started reading blogs, & one was Two Writing Teachers, so inspiring to read what everyone is doing, believes, etc. I am a workshop person, much influenced by Don Graves, Nanci Atwell, Lucy Calkins, & now Ruth & Stacey, Katie Wood Ray, et al, so I thought I had much to share about what I believe, how I teach, etc. I write personally too, about books I'm reading (mostly children's), and participate in Poetry Friday. I also want to capture experiences, with students, out in the world, my life, etc. And I want to capture questions-try to answer but put them out into the world to see what others think (just as you did). I too am going to the All-Write, so tweet @LBaie or check out my blog, Hope it's a great week for you!

    1. Thank you Linda. One of the things I so appreciate about you is the time you spend making comments on others' blogs. I hope that new bloggers will understand the power in receiving and giving comments.

  5. Ive been blogging for about three years now, Julie, and I find it hard to think back to a time when I did not blog. How did I begin? I read lots of blogs to get some ideas about the look and organization of things, then I just began. Slice of Life on Tuesdays, Poetry Fridays, and book review Mondays gave me a structure for the week, and then I filled in with teaching observations and ideas. I try to think of myself writing for an audience, but most of the time my blog is a place to think aloud and jot down notes. It's important to link to other blogs like your own in subject matter, and then to comment. But by bit, day by day, your blog takes on a shape and point of becomes an extension of your writing self and your thinking self. I can't always travel to workshops, or know what has just been published, so the blogging world becomes my PD connection. And, along the way, I've made friends and become part of a community. That's the best part! Here's my blog: Stop by for a visit!

    1. Dear Tara,
      Thanks for the advice. I agree that using some scheduled posts like SOL is a great help. Sometimes (a lot lately), that's all I get done. :)

  6. Julie, the connections that come through blogging are the most amazing part! (Wasn't it fun to share that our classes connected during the March Challenge when we were backchanneling along to Troy's webinar today? Yet if it wasn't for this community, I wouldn't "know" you -- even though we teach in towns that are next to each other!)

    Dear new bloggers,

    JUST DO IT!!! I remember being nudged by Ruth & Stacey's amazing posts to create my own blog... and then playing around with the design for a couple of weeks while I wrestled with whether or not I could actually do this... and then being ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED before I pushed "Publish" on my first "Slice of Life" that first Tuesday.

    Now, I wonder how I survived without blogging. My blog helps me:
    - be a reflective teaching who constantly strives to improve
    -share the stories of my classroom with the world
    - model a writing life (especially a digital, multimedia one!) with my students
    - experience the power of story
    - learn how to craft encouraging, thoughtful comments in response to the words of others
    - share my teaching ideas and be pushed by the ideas of other bloggers
    - experience an authentic community of writers and learn how to foster that for my students
    - carve out time for writing at least once a week, and usually more
    - "play" with new genres, styles, topics, etc.
    - keep writing in Spanish

    My best advice is to link up to a vibrant, positive community like the Slice of Life community so you have immediate support, examples, and authentic connections. Also, start small and do what's right for you -- you don't have to be the blogger that writes every day if that's not who you are!

    My direct link is: Feel free to tweet me at @readwritetech too, or come visit this year's "regular" CAWP institute in Ramseyer and say hi! Maybe I will see you at an advanced workshop in the future! :-)

  7. Hi Jennifer,
    I was at CAWP today and Melissa and I looked for you. I am hoping I get to meet you in person this week. :)

  8. I just realized that you and Jen are part of the same writing project. How neat!

    My advice for new bloggers is to read a lot of other blogs. Find mentors you admire. Comment on them. Build relationships with those whose writing you admire. Also, connect with them on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and/or Twitter. (Pick your poison, so to speak.)

    I'd also start small. No more than three posts a week. Setting a schedule will help you manage your time and will help your readers know when to expect new content from you.

    Hope that little bit helps!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Stacey. Let's hope we get some new Slicers. :) Love the "pick your poison."

  9. I will be honest, when things get crazy busy, my blogging is one of the first things to go by the wayside, but I always regret it later. Blogging is a great way for me to share my thinking about books and about the learning that goes on in my classroom. More importantly, it is a wonderful tool to connect with other educators. I try to spend as much time commenting/having conversations on other blogs as I do writing my own posts. The bloggers I connect with are a personal learning community for me.
    I learn so much from all the bloggers I follow, and I learn a lot about myself as a writer and an educator when I have to put words on a page as well.

    1. My blog is and my twitter ID is @karenterlecky

    2. Karen,
      Thanks for stopping by. I'm like you. When life gets busy, my blogging comes to a standstill. I guess we all need to find what's right for us. The connections you make through commenting on blogs is so powerful. I hope that I can share that with the teachers tomorrow.

  10. Julie,
    I wish I could sneak into the sessions. I learn something every time I am in a room (virtually or otherwise) with #nwp people. As you know, Troy's first book rocked my world. I haven't been the same since. I am looking forward to reading his next one.

    I am addicted to blogging. I have two blogs and have been better about blogging than any exercise plan I have tried. I wasn't sure I would like it or be able to maintain it, but I have found it the perfect place to reflect. To me, blogging is being part of a conversation. Many of the posts I write connect to conversations across blogs and on Twitter.

    I try to take time to comment as well. I learn so much reading other blogs and want to contribute to the community. I am amazed by all the smart thinking and collaborative learning happening across blogs. I am glad you are bringing new voices into the conversations.


    1. Thanks for stopping by Cathy. I remember when you took the leap. Your voice add so much to the critical conversations going on right now. I, for one, am glad you took on blogging.

  11. Julie~ I am so excited for the "Bloggers To Be!" Blogging was possibly the scariest thing I have ever done (professionally). It was also THE one experience that has forever changed my teaching, my understanding and my perspective! I can't imagine life without a blog.
    Bloggers To Be~
    -Start by reading READING lots of blogs, (someone brilliant, Katie Wood-Ray I think, once said- "Read what you're trying to write." Isn't this what we do for our kiddos?)
    -As you read DO leave comments! Audience is what motivates and inspires a blogger, we all like to know someone is reading and we LOVE to learn together!
    -As you comment share what you like, share connections & ask questions! This is the piece that builds perspectives and pushes the blogger and the reader.
    -Allow your thinking to change and connect to the blogs you read- allow the posts you read to inspire your teaching and writing—then blog about it!

    Connecting and building with others has been THE best professional development!

    -----One simple blog post and one humble tweet began the Global Classroom!

    ——One post began Poetry Tag!

    ___and recently reading and connecting with Maria Caplin inspired our Weekly Wonder (thank you for commenting! NOTE even Peter H. Reynolds joined our comments!) (on my blog) (actual weekly wonder on class blog)

    From little things big things grow! The beauty of this in the blogging world is YOU decide how big or small your "little things" will grow!

    When you write your first post please tweet me @deb_frazier or leave a comment on my blog~ Primary Perspective- so I can learn with you!

  12. Thanks for all the links Deb. You are on fire!! Your influence on Twitter and through blogging are inspirational.

  13. Hello, new bloggers,
    My advice is- “try it, you’ll like it!” I started my blog for the March 2012 Slice of Life Story Challenge. I wrote every day, and I am still writing and posting every Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers. I wrote every day in March again this year. Since I discovered how much I enjoy writing and how much I learn from it, I TAKE time to write, read, and comment. (Sometimes maybe too much!) Ideas seem to come from everywhere- when you write regularly, you notice more, and think about how you could write about what you notice. I have written about a billboard, a report on the evening news, an ad on a truck on the side of the road- ordinary things from ordinary days. I write about my faith, my family, my school, students, and colleagues, my friends, my memories- the things that are most important to me. You get ideas from what you read, especially as you read what others in the writing community are writing. I found I like to write poems (surprise!) and from other SOLSC writers, I’ve learned about and tried many poetry forms- book spine poetry, villanelle, arun, and triolet- and I keep trying to write the perfect haiku. Sometimes you just start writing about “having nothing to write about” and it turns into something, or you start writing a list and are amazed when it becomes “real writing.” The great thing about blogging is becoming a part of a writing community. You “meet” writers you love to read because you have so much in common and writers you love to read because their experiences are so amazingly different than your own. Through reading and commenting on each other’s writing, you come to feel as if you know each other. People connect to the content of your writing in meaningful ways that are personally encouraging. And through comments, you get feedback that helps you grow as a writer.
    My blog is

  14. Thanks for stopping by. Your comment about writing about having nothing to write about made me smile. The SOL community is so great, isn't it?

  15. I'm a fairly new, very inconsistent blogger, and I just want to thank all of you for your comments -- you've given me a lot to think about. I'm bookmarking this post in my Feedly to come back when I'm slacking :)


  16. Julie (and all who have posted comments) ... thank you for the inspiration to just take the plunge!

  17. Two years ago my writing life took a big swing up because of wanting to try the March Slice of Life challenge...I started Tuesday slices to warm up and then tried it...I haven't looked back. That's what I am telling my graduate students. xo I want to challenge myself with more. Thank you for the book reccomendations. xo

  18. Julie,
    Hi! Sorry this is late. Hopefully your day with blogging and bloggers went well! I really started getting into blogging after participating in the SOLC 2012! And then joining in on twitter last year brought blogging to another level-I have learned so much through connections made at TWT! I am grateful to have learned with the community!
    New Bloggers,
    Join a like minded community for support and comfort-connecting with others is the best way to begin!
    Thanks Julie!


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