With special thanks to Dr. Kim Johnson who hosted Ethical ELA’s Open Write last week with the invitation to compose “Your Life’s Table of Contents” poems. There is no formula, just lots of freedom; Kim said: “I started thinking about how I might write a table of contents organizing the poems I have written over these past few years, in verse…Imagine you are creating a collection of your own work, and try your hand at an organizing poem to be a table of contents or any other feature of a book.

My poem is based on a timeline of my writing history, starting at age 6.

My Life’s Writing Anthology

Bible story plagiarized
in blocky big letters
on lined newsprint paper

All About Me
carefully rendered detail

Myth of Shoeani
on the origin
of shoes

Dr. Heartbeat, Dr. Heartbeat
a play composed
around four words
—I forget the fourth

The Poetry Years
of rainbows
even a baby dragon
rhythms of my soul
attempting to understand

A short story
a mystery
a secret
a little girl
kept safe

research paper
on the function of 
King Claudius
in Hamlet
—still tied two of my best friends
for the highest marks in class

Oral tradition
of grandparents
put to paper
for the first time

Novel ideas
captured in notebooks
beginning to live
even if 
they haven’t breathed
in a while

Critical research
on children’s fantasy lit
taking the last of my strength
and the humanities prize

Short stories
hammered out
within word counts
for competitions

Mentor texts
for students
and teachers
learning how to write
and to love

The blog:
the archive
the scrapbook
of my writing life
my love letter
to words
and the world


The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 23, I am writing around a word beginning with letter w. How could it NOT be “writing”?

29 thoughts on “Writing

  1. What a wonderful endeavor, Fran. I found this type of poem interesting and no doubt that you dug deep into your life story to compose this cycle of events that shared your love of writing throughout the years. As always, your life unfolds in a literary way through your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this thinking about the history of our writing. Am so happy to see it move around our community in different forms. But your form, your form is breathtaking like so much of your writing, a joy to read and reread.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In library school, we had to write a summary of our reading lives. That was easy for me; I’d have to really dig deep to do the same for writing. I can see these stanzas displayed at the beginning of each chapter of your writing memoir, a lovely introduction to the prose. I can almost picture it printed and bound!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Such a fun idea, Chris… chapter titles for a memoir…!

      FYI – I’ll be catching up with my commenting on other blogs this pm; I usually try to do so late in the evening or early morning when I can think; our wifi has been worse than usual since yesterday. Just sayin’ – I will be making my rounds soon!!


  4. I loved reading this poem about your writing life and the timeline. All that energy! Your powerful close – “…my love letter to words and the world” – powerful and effective. A treasure and a celebration of your process, your triumphs, your passion, your love of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Of course w is for writing and I love the details of your earliest moments right up to the present time. I have no memories of most of what I wrote, so I am amazed at what you have recalled and all the different shades of meaning and thoughts they bring back to you. ‘My love letter to words and the world’, what a perfect line to end on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mostly these are highlights that stand out, as special moments or things with much meaning attached. When I started the blog I hoped it would uplift others; there’s too much out there that doesn’t. I so appreciate your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed reading your reflective poem. My favorite is the stanza is “the poetry years” — the baby dragon (I want to know more) and “rhythms of my soul attempting to understand itself.” I think that line pinpoints our writing lives. Don’t you?


  7. Every stanza contains the promise of learning the backstory of your writing life. I am a little sad that I was not nurtured as a writer in my younger days. I spent all my time reading, reading, reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Elsie. I adore reading and did so voraciously as a child, but writing…I did have teachers strategically placed in my life to make all the difference. Donald Graves said in Children Want to Write that in school, a much higher premium is placed on receiving messages instead of the ability to send them, and that personal messages in writing are not valued as much as the accurate repetition of the ideas in others’ writing (i.e, authors etc.) There’s so much truth in his words and fifty years after his pioneering of writing workshop… has this changed on a broad scale?? I’ve seen regressions – writing workshop, authentic writing from the hearts of kids, abandoned in favor of programs where they all write to the same prompt… I will stop here or it’s another whole slice. Just know you have touched my heart in a very tender place.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this writing life as poem as table of contents. I especially like how you move from timeline to poem because I recently had my students create a timeline as part of a morning prompt & now I’m thinking that maybe they can revisit this & re-create it in a new form. I think my favorite stanza is “A short story/ a mystery/ a secret/ a little girl/ kept safe” because it is more or less what you describe in and of itself – a short mystery!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Would be fun to see what the kids create with timelines in a different form – it’s astonishing, what they can come up with. That short story – I wrote it in for an English assignment; it took on a life of its own and was the first time I ever wrestled with what’s basically a plot hole. It was about a woman with a little girl named Serenity – they’d started a new life in a new town, and I had to figure out why so that it would make sense and still surprise readers. I entitled it “The Secret.” I have NO idea now what the original assignment was, but the teacher had me read it aloud to my classmates, who applauded — so it has a special place in my heart and on my timeline! So glad the lines pulled at you – thank you, Amanda.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow. This. Is. Stunning! I also love how you used a timeline to generate ideas for this poem. It’s so interesting to think about the history of writing…


  10. I love the idea of a writer’s timeline detailing your experiences as you grew. Your blog as the “love letter to words and the world?” Wow. I don’t think I could have put it much better. I need to remember those words the next time I have some doubt as to why I’m putting my writing out there anyway, or doubting what I’m trying to accomplish. Love letter to words and the world? That says everything right there. I’m also intrigued by the short story/mystery stanza. It’s tucked right there in the middle of it all – but there’s so much there left unsaid…

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was a fun exercise in remembering meaningful writing through the years…writing is such a joy to me. As I know it is to you, kindred-writer-spirit friend. Yeah that little mystery was a school assignment gone mad; it took on a life of its own and I was so proud of it (a mom moving to a new place to shield her young daughter. That was the initial image I had in my mind; I then had to figure out WHY. It worked me!).

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve had stories like that, that worked me over. I’ve completed some of them, and some are still stubborn seeds stuck in the ground…

        Liked by 2 people

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