Teachers Connect
Jul 11, 2018

ABC Peer Review

Two key aspects of the ABC Curriculum are revision and publication. The goal is to provide multiple opportunities for our students to share, receive constructive feedback, and revise their text. Put yourself in your students’ shoes!

  • Share (publish) one writing sample you’ve composed this week
  • Peer review two (2) of your colleagues’ work. Offer explicit suggestions for ways their writing might be improved (reference 6+1 Traits).
  • Reflect on your colleagues’ recommendations—what suggestions were offered that might improve your composition?

81 Responses to ABC Peer Review

  1. Caryn Michael says:

    I was born in Leap Year Day. Being Leap Year Baby has caused me to have a unique perspective to age, time, life, and experiences.
    2016 was a Leap Year; and in August of that year I started to think what I wanted to do for my 7th real birthday. I thought of several alternatives that all seemed trivial for such a special milestone.

    • Camila Salvatierra-Sinn says:

      I don’t know why, but this fascinates me! I have grown to appreciate birthdays and know some people that celebrate their birthday for an entire month. You should celebrate for your entire year when it is a leap year! Can’t wait to read the rest of your story (if that’s a possibility).

    • Liz says:

      I definitely wanted to read more. You hooked me with your first line and I was left wanting to know more. I can tell you thought deliberately about word choice (milestone, trivial, unique).I look forward to reading more about your unique perspective to age, time, life and experiences. I think the development of those ideas will make your piece even more interesting.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Of course, I want to know more about your unique perspectives! Please expand.

    • Megan Leong says:

      I am so lucky that I got to read a little bit more of your story and I can’t wait for the finished product! I can hear you so clearly in the voice you cultivate. Maybe for your next draft, consider focusing in on your perspective on age, time, life OR experiences, so your theme can pop more. Thank you for sharing with us!

    • Virginia Bute-Riley says:

      I think your opening sentence is intriguing because so few people are born on this day. You already have readers’ attention because many people wonder how Leap Year babies celebrate. I think the second sentence has set you up for the organization of your piece because we will read expecting to hear what your unique perspective is regarding age, time, and life. It’s also clear that you will focus on one particular event.
      Also, with just these few sentences you have established your voice and you have a nice, casual tone.

  2. Rachel says:

    Here is an excerpt from my narrative story today! Please let me know what you think.

    One of my favorite places to visit were clothing stores. To me, it was an indoor playground! I loved hiding under the dresses that were on clothing racks and brushing up on the smooth fabrics as I moved from section to section. I loved pushing the clothing along on their hangers and rearranging clothing that fell onto the ground or slipped off the rack and somehow remained squished and suspended between its neighbors. What I loved the most was standing on the clothing racks themselves. I’d squeeze my five year old body between the clothes and would wait expectantly for my mom to come across my face as she browsed through the shirts and dresses. It was particularly fun to surprised unexpected customers who rarely did much but laugh when they came across my face between two items of clothing. Sometimes, I would sit on the platform and just listen to the screech-screeching of the hangers sliding back and forth around me. If I ever drifted too far away or my mom was unsure of my whereabouts, she would yell out ”Rachel!” and I would respond to her or poke out my head to smile at her. One day, we went to Burlington Coat Factory which has many long clothing racks full of big puffy coats, towering dresses, silky shirts, and pants of all shapes and colors. So many places to hide and explore!

    • Payal Arora says:

      I can visualize you hiding under the dresses. Your use of word choice and imagery is very effective. I love visiting clothing stores too and as an adult am oftentimes tempted to stand on the clothing racks as well. I am looking forward to reading more.
      Thank you for sharing!

    • Jen Clontz says:

      Hi, Rachel 🙂

      Well done! I, too, can remember hiding in the department store clothing racks as a child. I reminisced as I read and couldn’t help but smile, such a happy time. I believe your theme is clear with strong details. Your point-of-view is strong and your voice is engaging. The imagery was so vivid I could see it in my mind’s eye. Great job!

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Nice hook! I’m ready to hear what happened next. Hiding in the clothes rack leads to ‘no good.’

    • Dara Case says:

      OH MY was I transported back to my childhood…when you used the word “screech” I immediately was reminded of the time that I rode one of the clothing racks into the emergency exit door- AND the alarm WENT OFF!!!! I was so scared and of course, my big sister said I was going to be arrested! (I wasn’t) Thanks for bringing back a memory of one of the most terrifying times in my life!

    • Sonya Braddock says:

      The details included in your story paint a clear picture of your childhood experience. I love the reference of an”Indoor Playground.”
      Both, your mother’s words and the customers’ reactions, contribute to the theme of your piece. I enjoyed reading it:)

      As you continue writing this piece, I would love to see a continuation of vivid words as you share your authentic experience.

  3. Natasha Thompson says:

    Typical of so many families, my family has secrets. Here is one I’d like to share with you.
    As long as I’ve known him, my father has been a free spirit: doing his own thing, scoffing at societal norms. I’d like to think I am that way as well. After a brief stint in the navy, Gregory Thompson drove his camper and lived in California for 12 years! Not much is known about his time here, my I’ll allow your imaginations to fill in the details. Upon his return to DC, he bought a motorcycle.
    My father, I’m sure, drove fast and wild. Until one fateful evening in autumn 1980. While out joyriding my father was hit by a car that ran a red light. Immediately, he was rushed to the hospital.
    His parents, Mildred and Isaac, not knowing whether he would live or die, decided it was time they shared a family secret they had carried with them for over 30 years: Clayton, whom my father believed to be his cousin was their child and as such Gregory’s brother. Prior to marriage, they had a child out of wedlock. The child was given to Mildred’s sister to love, cherish, and raise into a man.
    With this revelation, the burden of secret-keeping was lifted and a family reunited.

    • Deborah Rice says:

      I like how you changed the sentence structure when you talked about your father’s accident. I noticed that you made some changes after the first draft. I think they improved the voice of the piece. I’d love to hear more of this story.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Wow! Of course, I want to know the ramification of this illumination. I want to know how everyone felt. I want to know about the drama and the healing!

    • Peju Okungbowa says:

      I particularly like your choice of words – “scoffing at societal norms”. I would like to know if this led to more revelations from other members of your family.

  4. Jen Clontz says:

    Laundry Day

    It was February 2006 and my husband and I were watching tv while our 21-month old daughter played with her toys in the living room. As with many homes like ours, the laundry room was in the basement but the dirty laundry was all the way up in the bedroom on the second floor. Since I was 7-months pregnant with our son, I asked my husband, “Will you please bring the basket down so I can start the laundry?” He replied, “OK”. Then I waited and I waited and I waited. Finally I decided that if I wanted the laundry to get done that day I was going to have to get the basket myself, so I got up from the couch. “Take me with you, mommy”, Abby said. Together, we climbed the stairs to the second floor. I picked up the basket and headed back to the stairs. “Pick me up too, mommy,” Abby cried. I tried to convince her that she was a big girl and that she could walk down the stairs on her own, but she persisted. Wanting to avoid a full-blown temper tantrum, I conceded and picked her up, laundry basket under one arm and Abby in the other. We began the descent, seven steps to the landing and seven more to the first floor. It wasn’t long before I realized that this wasn’t going to end well. On the third step, I lost my footing and we began to fall: me, my unborn son, my daughter and the dirty laundry. Luckily, there were only four more steps to the landing. When we came to a stop, Abby and I both cried out and my husband came running. “Why didn’t you wait for me? I said I would get it for you,” he said. I simply glared. Without another word, he loaded us both into the car and we headed for the emergency room. Thankfully, Abby was deemed in perfect health. I, on the other hand, left the hospital on crutches with a prescription for one of those heavy orthopedic boots. The laundry never did get done that day and somehow we survived without it. My husband and I both learned something about communicating with each other that day. And eventually, we remodeled the master bedroom to include the laundry room upstairs.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Men! You should come out with Denise and myself. We share funny (but annoying) stories about our spouses. While we would trade them, that doesn’t mean that they’re without challenges!

    • Keith Pieschek says:

      Great idea for a story – the husband who doesn’t listen is a story many people can relate with! Also, good job establishing that conflict right away and foreshadowing that the stairs would be a problem. Great job including all parts of a plot for a complete story that makes a clear theme. One suggestion is to add more adjectives, to describe what it felt like going down the stairs will strengthen your Voice. What did it feel like waiting for your husband to respond – add a metaphor or simile. Instead of “asked”, is there a word that would better describe how you asked?

  5. Keith Pieschek says:

    For months, I had been meticulously planning my families visit. I plotted the cities we would visit, the sites we would see, mapped out transportation changes, and relished in the excitement of playing tour guide for my Wisconsin-born, farm raised parents on their first trip out of the United States. I had spent the last three months in a study abroad program in Italy and felt like I knew it all.
    After four amazing days of visiting galleries, tasting gelato and traditional Italian dinners, walking centuries old streets past centuries old buildings, I was taking my family out of the cities and into the only place I had not yet been. As we followed the signs from the train station, we stopped in awe of the sun glittering over the rolling waters of the sea. The stone raised coastline stretched out as far as we could see. It was as beautiful as I had been told. Friends who had been to the Cinque Terre trail in north west Italy described the winding trail that followed the coast, rolled through vineyards and lemon orchards, and was dotted with five, old and small fishing villages. As we walked for an hour, interrupted with continuous pictures poising by the coast, the wide, paved trail became a single track, dirt trail.
    “You’re sure I can handle this,” my mother half-jokingly asked.
    “Keith will carry you if you can’t,” my older brother jokingly interrupted as he put his strong arm around my neck and gave it a little squeeze.
    The glimmering sun on the water was getting lower on our left as we continued north. The occasional shade from trees as the trail moved slightly inland allowed good places to rest and re-hydrate. As the trail twisted back towards the water, I led the way across a pretty narrow part of the trail with a stone wall to the right and a small drop off to the left. As my brother and dad crossed, they made a little comment that it was pretty narrow. It wasn’t until we were all across that I looked back at my mom. I realized then why she had asked me if I was sure she could do this.
    “You can do it, mom. I’ll lead you,” I reassured her as I walked back to her on the other side. “Look how study it is. Just don’t look to your left. Look at the wall.” My brave mother followed me onto the narrow trail and kept a hand on the stone. This is going alright I thought to myself as we slowly moved across. But my optimism quickly stopped as I saw a small lizard on the wall. While this didn’t bother me, I knew from experience that it would add an obstacle to my mom who was already battling her fear on this narrow part of the trail. Thinking quick, I brushed at the lizard to shoo him into the cracks between the stones. Problem averted I thought proudly to myself. That pride would come tumbling down in just an hour.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      You clearly have talents as a writer. Your word choice is elegant…meticulously…relished…Wisconsin-born, farm-raised…combine to paint a picture of this family adventure. I want to know more!

      • Natasha says:

        I agree. This is a great start, and your word choice creates vivid imagery e.g. sun glittering over the rolling waters. Without ever visiting this place I’ve got a detailed picture in my mind. You’ve focused on one specific memory and chosen to tell the story using your personal voice. I can’t wait to read more.

    • Dara Case says:

      Hi Keith!

      I love your words that make a picturesque corner of the world come to life- even the retelling about the lizard makes for a detail that helps draw the reader in. I wonder, as you describe your mom’s fears and general state of nervousness about being in a “different” place, what will be the ultimate challenge she will face in this story.
      Your family is lucky to have you as their guide on this trip through Italy.

  6. Camila Salvatierra-Sinn says:

    Growing up, I would always run frantically around one of my father’s prized possession. An old, green camera that does not work, but when working, you would have to pose for several minutes in order to take a picture. I loved that camera as a young child because of how carefree I felt running around it in my colorful flowing dresses.
    My parents had to move back to Chile after I graduated high school within a short time period. I remember Papi purging his possessions. Books, art, and the old green camera went to a family friend without even considering if any of the children staying in the USA wanted them. Now, every time I see my the glorious old green camera in pictures or when visiting their home, I picture myself as a young girl running around it. I picture the possibility of my daughter having that same interaction with the old green camera. I also catch myself scheming the different ways I could convince this family friend to give the old camera back, and even ways I could sneak the 5 foot camera away!

    • Jen Clontz says:

      Hi, Camila 🙂

      You hooked me with “frantically”. That’s such a great word to emote your childhood experience. Your theme was clear to me and your words were well chosen. Great job!

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      I started paying close attention after ‘Chile”. I want to know more about your parents, and of course, that old camera!

  7. Camila Salvatierra-Sinn says:

    After only reading the beginning of your story during class, I enjoyed your organization when making the end of your story. For some reason, I love the word conceded and how I could visualize your body expression when picking up your daughter.

  8. Harlan Kinzer says:

    Here is my quick write inspired by “Pocket Mirror”:


    I was sitting in a restaurant about to eat my piping hot dinner when a sexy, provocative and confident woman walked in with her hands on her hips. She was dressed in vibrant, vivid colors. Her shiny maxi dress reflected pop culture with bold, classic patterns.

    While my realistic and blunt self was quite sure she was out of my league, I impulsively decided to ask her to join me for dinner. What did I have to lose? After all, we were both alone!

    Looking forward, I authentically asked this powerful, natural queen to join me. To my surprise, she accepted my offer and was quite down to earth and well-rounded.

    The rest is history! The sassy, intriguing beauty and I are now happily married and it is all because I took a risk despite our contrasting backgrounds.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Harlan! I knew you were adventurous. I was attracted immediately to your laugh, your care-free demeanor. There’s a lot to fill in between ‘she accepted my offer’ and ‘the rest is history.’ Please expand!

    • Sonya Braddock says:

      Your word choice and voice really drew me into your story. As I read your story, I could visual the scene and the character spoke like a poet.

      There were many details to describe the sassy beauty, but I would also like to know more about the speaker since the two have contrasting backgrounds.

    • Timothy Herzet says:

      It sounds like the opening to a movie and given the vivid word choice I can imagine that I am also there, sitting at the next table perhaps. I can really hear your voice coming through clearly and distinctly. I especially like the description of the dress. Although I love happy endings, I am left wondering what happens in between the first encounter and the marriage. Given the word limit, it’s hard to tell the story of the whole romance – along the lines of a movie, maybe you could have a break that says “10 years later” and then a scene of the couple together at their wedding, or other romantic occasion.

  9. Kay Hones says:

    When my goddaughter (who I raised) decided to get married in 2911, I talked to a dear friend, Kanani. We had been friends for over 20 years, occasionally working together.
    She immediately declared, “they should get married in Hawaii. My sister’s husband is a minister,”
    It sounded like an arduous process, BUT was completely the opposite!!!

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Of course, I want to know more. I would think that a destination wedding involves an arduous process….I want to know why it wasn’t!

  10. Louise Snyder says:

    Batman: DC Comics fixture. Fighter of evil and vice. Hero to thousands. Not a regular in nativity plays.
    The Emmanuel Episcopal nativity play is considered by many to be a relatively casual affair. Frayed and fluffy costumes are reused from year to year. Many young actors choose roles that are not gender conforming. Walk-up participants are welcome. There are a few requirements, however. The pastor asks that the mood be sacred, and that the script remain true to one of the Gospel texts.
    The parents and teenagers who corral and shepherd the youthful players behind the scenes and during the assembly are known for their ability to quiet any crying cow or donkey and calm any miffed wise man or member of the holy family. They wrestle children into costumes, soothe frazzled nerves, and encourage benevolence—and they adhere to the pastor’s expectations for sacred truth. Or at least they did. Until Batman.

    • Deborah Rice says:

      Great hook at the beginning and foreshadowing at the end. I can’t wait to read the rest of your story! You have used vivid word choice to enable me to have a movie in my mind of the night of the nativity plays. Very engaging!

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      I like the cadence of your writing…linear and to the point. Your charcoal sounds inclusive to all. Nice.

    • Peju Okungbowa says:

      I like that you started off with a prologue. The element of suspense in your opening paragraph gives me a desire to read more. Your word choice is very appropriate and your idea is a brilliant one.

  11. Timothy Herzet says:

    The $50.00 Bet
    On a Saturday morning many years ago in Washington DC, my brother came up with a simple bet. Who can buy the most records with $50 and carry everything back on the metro to our apartment.
    So off to the record store we went. We traveled to Northern Virginia via the orange line to a now closed record store that was huge and packed with records. My first thought was to buy all the records I could for $1.00 or less. After an hour or so, we started to checkout of the store. I had a box of records that totaled around 70. My brother had around 50 records. I was the clear winner. Or was I? The only problem with buying 70 records without a car is trying to get them back home. By the time I carried them to the metro, rode the train, took the bus and walked across the street to our apartment, my hands felt as if they were going to fall off. My brother on the other hand was laughing at me. I won the bet, but lost the feeling in my hands.

    • Payal Arora says:

      I can relate to your story as I loved to listen to records and go at lengths to run errands for people and collect money to buy records. Your story made me reminiscence those days in my life. I too ride the metro and bus daily and haul heavy teaching materials from time to time from school and back so I can empathize with the numb sensation of your hands after lifting those seventy records.
      I appreciated reading your story tremendously.
      Thank you for sharing.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      This is a lesson in not understanding the consequences of our actions. But me? I want to know what records you scored? Anything cool? Anything valuable? Was the quest worth the effort? Or was it a total bust?

    • Harlan Kinzer says:

      You definitely shared great ideas in your narrative, with words flowing off the page. You really intrigued me as a reader and I could really see you towing your records in hand. The one suggestion I have is to build out the imagery of your hands feeling as if they were going to fall off. Perhaps a simile stating that they were as heavy as __________ would work. Just a thought, feel free to use it or lose it.

  12. Laura K says:

    A year and a half ago, my grandmother was about to turn 80. Although she remained busy with her friends, family, and art, her unsuccessful knee-replacement surgery and pending move to an apartment in a posh retirement community depressed her as signs that her life was drawing to an end. Hoping to show her how valued she still was, her only sibling, my great-aunt, Virginia, hatched a plan for a surprise party. From Chicago, she coordinated with my mother and my aunt, Sarah, to rent out a restaurant outside of Richmond, where most of the family lives. Invitations were sent, RSVPs and letters describing fond memories returned, and the party was all set for Saturday. On the Friday before the party, my mother told my grandma that they were going somewhere or another. My grandma protested when she realized my mom was driving in the wrong direction. My mom insisted that she knew where they were going and when they got to the airport, my grandma thought that perhaps they were going on a trip. She was delighted to see her sister, Virginia, and they drove to dinner, where my brothers, cousin, aunt, and I joined them. We told her this, her sister’s visit and the dinner, was her birthday surprise. She seemed happy, feeling loved and appreciated.

    The next day, Virginia’s task was to get Grandma to go to the restaurant for the party without telling her that there was a party. She suggested that they go to this particular restaurant for lunch. My grandma protested, saying it was much too long a drive to just go to lunch. Her sister continued to insist and finally my grandma acquiesced, starting to drive them towards the restaurant. By this point, they were already projected to be at least 45 minutes late because it had taken so long to convince my grandma to go to the appointed place.

    • Kay Hones says:

      I enjoyed reading this family story with secrets and surprise for your grandma. Your descriptions of trying to convince her to go and the long treks were vivid and fun!!

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      What a lovely and memorable experience. I want to know if your grandmother was surprised…if she was happy. How poignant!

    • Dara Case says:

      Hi Laura,

      I hope you are the right Laura! 🙂

      I love stories about surprises, so I am ready to hear the rest. It is so hard as our family ages- and it seems odd to me that as technology expands, for many our ability to keep up with family lessens.

      At least that’s how it is with my family. We are like Thanksgiving Twitter-style.

  13. Liz says:

    I am a by product of home economics class. In eighth grade, Mrs. Chaet taught us how to make mushroom and green pepper pizza. That combination was never as delicious before or since.
    In high school, Mrs. Daly’s cooking class was my favorite. She possessed the joyful nature of Julia Child and the imagined sweetness of Bette Crocker. We laboriously copied recipes by hand in our little steno notebooks: rich raspberry Lindzer tortes, homemade manicotti shells with tomato sauce and parsley ricotta mozzarella filling.
    My passion compelled my 15 year old self to create cream of mushroom soup. From scratch. For Thanksgiving. I minced onions meticulously, lovingly wiped off each mushroom cap with a damp paper towel and chopped them carefully before sautéing them in a bath of melted butter. I poured the cream and added the seasonings.
    I enthusiastically, but mistakenly added one tablespoon of black pepper, not one teaspoon as the recipe required. The act of seasoning to taste was not something I did.
    It was not until we all sat down and I served everyone soup that I closed my mouth around that spoon and swallowed what seemed like flames of fire that engulfed my throat. I sputtered and choked and coughed. This wasn’t cream of mushroom soup, this was cream of pepper soup.
    My sister exclaimed, “Wow! That opened up my nasal passages!”
    My brother yelled, “What the hell?”
    Everyone voiced their distaste. Everyone that is except my grandmother. She told me the soup was wonderful and continued to spoon every last drop into her mouth.
    That could have been it for my kitchen career, but my grandmother’s words comforted my soul. I knew the soup stank, but her encouragement kept me cooking. I still love to make meals for people. But I always, always check (and double check!) a recipe’s quantities and sample the food before I serve it.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      You are not even close to my age, but I loved Home Ec., too! Do they even have home ec classes anymore? I don’t think so! The best way to become a good cook is to COOK! And, of course, learn from our mistakes. I bet every time you pick up the pepper mill, you think of the time you mistook a tablespoon for a teaspoon. (Did I say that right?) Ha! You get the point.

    • Megan Leong says:

      What a sweet story! I now I know that it’s not only mushroom and carrot loaf, but also mushroom and green pepper pizza and cream of mushroom soup. Yum! Your word choice when you describe preparing the soup had my mouth watering. I am so glad that your grandmother encouraged you. For your next draft, see if you can tie back her encouragement to the encouragement you found in home ec class to make the story come full circle. Thanks for sharing!

      • Virginia Bute-Riley says:

        Your word choice helps readers clearly capture a lot of sensory details–the smells and tastes of the ingredients and the meals.
        I enjoyed hearing the other characters voices and seeing their words in quotes. Using “exclaimed” and “yelled” to qualify their reactions helped paint a great contrast to your grandmother’s response.

  14. Payal Arora says:

    – A Lasting Impression –

    Ms. S, my second grade language arts teacher left a lasting impression in my life.
    Empathy, respect, patience and a good sense of humor were her defining qualities. Very rarely did anything upset her in our class.
    I remember, one day a student kept talking, giggling and disturbing the class; Ms. S instead of calling the student out in front of everyone, excused herself and the student from the class, took the student outside and talked at length with the student as to what was causing the student to act that manner. That was my first experience of how one could handle a problematic situation in a dignified, respectful way.
    On another occasion when a student was absent in our class for several days, Ms. S called the students home and inquired about the wellbeing of the student. When she was told that the students family was in a financial and medical crisis, Ms. S started a fundraiser and visited the family on a daily basis to render support.
    I distinctly remember the time when my father had to be rushed to the hospital because of a sudden onset of angina, a cardiac problem, Ms. S sat and waited with me after school for over two hours until my mother could come and pick me up. She did this out of the kindness if her heart, without any monetary expectation.
    She never worried about what she called ’small things in the midst of bigger things to worry about” such as turning in our homework exactly on the day it was due if for some reason we were unable to complete it. She would say with a smile, “Well, I know that the dog did not eat your homework, I’m sure you tried to complete it but if you need more time, let me know how I can help you.’
    Ms. S set high expectations for all of us and because of her positivity, calmness and respect for everyone all of us set those similar expectations for ourselves.
    As an educator, each day I hope that I am able to follow Ms. S’s positive examples and make a difference in the lives of my students.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Mrs. S sounds kind, and therefore, memorable. We should all strive to be like Mrs. S.

    • Timothy Herzet says:

      She sounds like a great teacher. Was Ms S the inspiration behind you wanting to be a teacher? I like her quote about the small things in life – I can see how that stuck with you after all these years. Given the word limitation, instead of offering 4 examples, I think the theme would be stronger with less examples (2?) but with more details in each example.

    • Rachel says:

      Payal! This is beautiful. Ms. S sounds like a wonderful teacher and as you said, someone to imitate. Your word choice elicits feelings of great positivity for me as a reader. Also, your voice shows the impact Ms. S had on you as a student and even now as a teacher. Do you have a particular climax or conflict that you plan to incorporate in your story?

  15. Virginia Bute-Riley says:

    My Writing excerpt:
    When I would go food shopping with my mother or my grandmother, there were always bushels of snails outside the door of the store. The grocery store wasn’t like the supermarkets you see today. Things were less packaged. A butcher cut meats. Fruit and vegetables were in crates and bins. Things had to be scooped and bagged yourself. The snails were stored in giant, woven straw baskets. The baskets came up at least waist high and they had no covers on them. When I passed by I would look in at all the swirly shells. The snails were mostly tucked inside but a couple would always be crawling along the brim of the baskets. Sometimes I would pluck off a sticky snail. Sometimes I picked one that was burrowed inside a pretty shell. I usually carried them around the store while we shopped. We never bought any snails. I knew I had to put them back in the basket before we headed home.
    One time I kept one. I put a snail in my pocket and brought it home. I wish you could understand what an exciting pet this was to me and my siblings. My mother let us keep him, stuck to the tiled bathroom wall, right near the sink. We would race to brush our teeth each morning–always curious to find out how far he’d traveled since the day before. We would brush for a loooong time while we watched Slimey.

    • Liz says:

      I like the way that you described with such detail the giant woven straw baskets with the snails nestled inside them. I also like the word choices you made (burrowed, pluck, sticky and race to name a few). What a vivid memory and appreciation for the natural world. I think it would be powerful to understand more about why this was such an exciting pet to watch and observe. Maybe you could try to remember and describe the way it moved and/or what that slow steady progress of the snail taught you and your siblings.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Going to the grocery store sounds like an aesthetic experience. I’m terribly empathetic; I’d bring home a snail, too. But I’m not sure I’d name him Slimy! LOL!

    • Caryn Michael says:

      Your vocabulary took me right into your world and made me appreciate snails and see them in a new light. Now I want to go snail hunting!!!! Well written and organized!

  16. Sonya Braddock says:

    The night sky has blanketed the city. White lights project black silhouettes on the crowded row houses. In the hustle and bustle of the city streets, horns and voices can be heard as people and cars move around. Where are they coming from? What did they leave behind? Do they see me? Are they aware of my presence? I gaze and wonder if they will leave behind something for me. My serious eyes are watching them. I catch the sight of a shiny, gold hoop earring on the gum smeared, concrete sidewalk. I look to one side and when my eyes look forward again, the earrings are gone. The earrings were a treasure for someone else tonight, but not for me. I keep watching and waiting. All of a sudden, there is a flurry of activity much closer to my vicinity. I hear panting and growling sounds. I see ten eyes looking at me. They are aware of my presence. The growls become louder and louder until the lady with the indigo headwrap quickly pulled the five ropes away. Whew! That was a close call.

    I am still watching and waiting for my treasure. The smells around me are mouthwatering. In the next block, a waiter pours a drink from a pearl white pitcher. The waiter’s slim neck leans down to a man. His lips were full and his cheeks were protruding outward. As the patron responded, I prepared to seize this moment. My eyes watched as a tiny morsel of food fell from his mouth to the ground. A look of surprise embraced him as he noticed my movements. I scurried my black, furry body to retrieve my treasure and then quickly disappeared in the alley. No more watching and waiting tonight.

    • Harlan Kinzer says:

      Engaging ideas, intriguing start, strong word choice and vivid imagery. Extremely rhythmic and enjoyable to read. I find myself wanting to know more.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Interesting point-of-view. I can infer, but even after several reads, I’m not sure! How might you add more clues? Or, maybe you want to leave your audience wondering.

    • Rachel says:

      Sonya, this is very well written. Your word choice was very precise and helped me to visualize the scenes in this fictional piece. Even in such a short piece of writing, you had a clear story elements and a moment of conflict and resolution. You also leave the reader with much to wonder (in a good way)! It’s suspenseful and allows the reader to make inferences about who this main character is, and what’s going on with her.

  17. Dara Case says:

    Here is the beginning of my personal narrative.

    There comes a time in every young woman’s life where there is a curiosity about what the future holds. I clearly remember in my teen years a conversation with my mother, and she told me a story that encouraged (hopefully) patience and discernment when choosing a life partner. (For the record, everyone in the story you are about to read is dead- or at least, to my knowledge. Therefore, I am telling this story without fear.)

    My grandparents emigrated from Italy with their 5 year old son, Michael. It was 1943, an uncertain time in the world, and my grandfather did not want to serve in the military. The decision to leave was clear.

    Unknown to my grandfather or my father, my grandmother had taken a lover, and he too was onboard the ship that would eventually land in New York. Shortly after their arrival in New York, my grandfather set up his medical practice in an office on Fifth Avenue. It didn’t take long for him to establish a successful practice, and by all accounts, his future as a physician, a wealthy physician with a young, beautiful wife and young son, was well on its way to being glorious.

    That was when my grandmother took my dad and left.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Ah, the decisions are ancestors made! But what a wonderful, romantic tale. Tell us more!

    • Keith Pieschek says:

      Excellent start to your narrative – you added a lot to it since just hearing the outline of it yesterday. I liked the precursor to the story, you set it up so the reader gets an understanding of what they’re going to read, how it’s connected to you, and what the theme of the story will be. I remember you describing some supporting ideas that you still will be adding. You have good word choices such as “uncertain time”, “establish”, and “glorious.” One thing I noticed is that I would sometimes get confused by changes in how you referred to people “his wife” “my grandmother”, “her son” my father.” I would have to keep stopping to try to remember the relationships. Maybe just pick one way to refer to each person. The part of your grandmother having a lover is told quickly like it is not important. Maybe add some more description to this as it seems like a big deal.

    • Laura K says:

      I love the expressive voice in your work! There is a great hook and I’m so excited to read what happens next.

  18. Deborah Rice says:

    Sometimes what we think we want is the opposite of what we need.
    I met my future ex-husband on October 3rd, 1990. I had arrived in Zaragoza, Spain the night before for my new U.S. Air Force assignment as the Deputy Contracting Officer. The major and the master sergeant met me at the airport the night before and told me to take a few days to relax, but the next day while I was wandering around the base, I walked into the Contracting Office at lunchtime. It was empty except for one man working. Bill was friendly, helpful, and kind. What I didn’t know until much later was that he was silently wishing that I would go away so he could get back to the game he was playing.
    As days went by, Bill helped me look for an apartment and drove me around Zaragoza until my car arrived. Then the weather turned chilly (Sunny Spain, my eye!). My winter clothes had arrived in Spain, but I still didn’t have a place to live and nowhere to store them, so Bill offered to let me have the boxes delivered to his apartment and the die was cast. The clothes were delivered and I moved in that day. We lived together for two years before we were married.
    I separated from the Air Force and Bill was assigned to a base in Germany. I went back to school to become a teacher. It was a year before I could start at the university, so I thought I would look for a job to help bring in some money. Bill wanted me to concentrate on my education and didn’t want me to work in a job that I wouldn’t enjoy. He supported me both financially and morally while I was pursuing my degree. For most of the marriage, he was the ideal husband for me: handy, kind, loving, supportive.
    Unfortunately, as time passed, he was sent on multiple temporary duty assignments and was gone at least four months at a time out of the last four years we were in Germany. We both learned to live on our own and found it difficult to transition back to being a couple when he returned from a TDY assignment. At one point I spent a month in Paderborn attending a course while he was TDY in Frankfurt. He worked nights and I attended class during the day, but we still managed to talk at least once a week, but once we both returned home, something wasn’t right, but he wouldn’t admit that anything was wrong. Then a couple of weeks later, I checked the mail and saw that he had received a postcard from a German woman who I didn’t know. The woman wrote that she missed their hot nights in Frankfurt and wanted to see him again. I was flabbergasted, but thought that explained his unwillingness to talk or even be in the same room with me. I confronted him, but he denied that he had had an affair. He claimed that one of the men working with him had used his name. Because I loved him, I chose to believe him, but there was no change in his lack of desire to be with me.
    Then he retired from the Air Force. He took a civilian job on base while he was applying for a job stateside. It seemed to me that we were getting along much better. Once he accepted a job in Virginia, I looked into licensure requirements and found the pilot Career Switcher Program offered by the Virginia Department of Education. I applied and was accepted. I had to stay in Germany for another few months to finish my thesis and the courses I was teaching for a language school while Bill moved to Virginia to start his new career.
    We had arranged for him to return the week before I was to move, to help close accounts and prepare for the movers to pack up our things. I was on my way out the door to pick him up at the airport when the phone rang. It was Bill, calling to let me know that he had missed the flight, and “Oh, by the way, do you really want to move to Virginia?” This was how he broke the news that as far as he was concerned, our marriage was over. However, I planned to move to Virginia and live with him until the Career Switcher course was over and I had found a job teaching. Before the course was over, though, the strain of living with someone who didn’t love me anymore became too much to bear, and I moved into a hotel.
    As much as I didn’t want to divorce my husband, the day I moved out marked a turning point in my life. I felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I was sad, true, but also felt a sense of lightness and relief from tension that I hadn’t even realized that I was carrying. It was the start of a new adventure that continues to this day.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      You told this story with honesty and compassion. Writing (for me) is therapeutic–and, of course, I want you to write your Chapter 2! Tell me all about that new adventure!

    • Louise Snyder says:

      Deborah – I find your narrative raw, touching, and real. The themes of hope, disappointment, and the return of hope are deftly woven. I admire your courage and am grateful for your candor. Keep writing!

  19. Sophie says:

    This is from the self portrait project! the question was: Where do artists get ideas from + what is the story behind this work?

    Last week, my mom and I were driving a packed car to the beach when she pulled off the road suddenly. She hustled through traffic to grab part of a truck that had fallen. “It was so shiny and I got an idea for a project!” she explained.

    My mom taught me that it’s okay to make art for no other reason than it feels good. She’d set up buckets of color in the backyard so my brothers and I could spend the entire summer painting and repainting the wood shed. When any of us came to her bored, she’d hand us a hot glue gun and direct us to the “junk box,” which is exactly what it sounds like. She refused to buy us coloring books but insisted we know how to freehand a perfect circle. She taught us an artist’s job is to make ordinary things extraordinary and extraordinary things accessible. Artists reveal what’s going on in their world and challenge the status quo by providing alternate scenarios. Artists get ideas from emotions and experiences, and from the materials that speak to us.

    This self-portrait shows my favorite version of me, which is when I’m brave enough to wear a combination of shapes, colors and patterns. My fashion aesthetic is equal parts middle aged hippie goddess and 12 year old boy on a skateboard. I grew up between two trash-talking, rough-housing, sports-obsessed boys and while I love being a woman I’m not particularly feminine. (Once — my hair cut just like my brothers and wearing their hand-me-downs — I was riding my bike when an elderly man approached to tell me “you’re doing great, little boy!” I eyed him up and down and told him “thanks, Grandma.”) I value comfort, color and comedy, and that’s what I want the world to know about me when they see me.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Thanks, Grandma? LOL! A saucy response to a confused old man! Your mother sounds like a free spirit …but it’s probably not a good idea to run through traffic to pick up car parts! Your writing made me laugh!

    • Keith Pieschek says:

      Your word choices and descriptions make your writing come alive and really engage the reader. It’s not a traditionally story with a plot, but it is highly engaging. Word choices that really stuck out were “packed car”, “hustled through”, and the list of how your mother made her philosophy on art part of parenting. Your Voice comes through by the many supporting details you add about the experience and your mother. If we’re making a narrative, my suggestion would be to think of one specific experience where you had to do one of those art projects at home. More imagery could be made by describing what the layers of paint on the shed is like (a simile/metaphor) or describing what it’s like rummaging through the pile of materials.

    • Laura K says:

      I love this! The description of painting the shed over and over, the bike ride – I can imagine it all. Also, that’s an amazing response to the elderly man. Excellent, expressive voice!

  20. Megan Leong says:

    10X2 quick write inspired by Afro Abe by Sonya Clark and some great discussion with my lovely table mates!

    I opened the mailbox and there it was. I slipped it out of the envelope and folded open the crisp horizontal crease. My eyes caught the seal of authenticity, the signatures of the scientists and the serial number that assured me that this paper belonged to me only.

    Who would it say I was? A descendent of Queen Victoria? 4th cousins with Abraham Lincoln? Perhaps a lost child of Russian Tsar?

    My eyes slid and looped around the words until I found what I was looking for: 64% English… yes! that makes sense… 12% Germanic… mmhmmm all from Grandma Rose’s side… 9% Slavic… that explains my sister’s easy tan… 9% Italian… my pizza skills have their origin… and… 5% Western African… what????!!?!

    I grinned, that was a texture in my fabric that I wasn’t expecting. I thought of trying to pump my curly brown hair into an afro, but I shook my head. My DNA test didn’t change who I am. For $105, it just added more dimensions to my portrait of me. And these leads into my genealogy, I couldn’t wait to add more!

    • Liz says:

      Megan, I’m impressed with the way the conversation about the DNA testing inspired this creative fiction piece based on Afro Abe by Sonya Clark. I also enjoyed the word choice of “my eyes slid and looped around the words”. What a descriptive way to explain what you imagined the eyes of your narrator doing. I also loved the rhythm and cadence of all the percentages with the internal thinking after each one. The conventions you used were effective as well. I wonder whether you might be able to explain what you meant by the leads into my genealogy, you couldn’t wait to add more. I was left wondering whether you meant adding more dimensions to the portrait of you or whether the narrator wanted to delve deeper in a different way. Maybe the ambiguity for me is because it’s getting late and I’m tired. I’d just like to know more of what you meant by that.

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      Those surprises are what makes life fun! It sounds like your identity shifted…just a bit…when you learned your test results. Your tale makes me want to give it a try.

    • Caryn Michael says:

      Omg!!! Fan-flippin-tastic!!! Your narratives just draw me and make me want to do more of my genealogy! Nicely organized!

  21. Peju Okungbowa says:

    “Dinner is ready”, said Mom as she set the table for the last meal of the day. She had just made our usual dinner of ‘eba and ewedu’ soup. It baffles me that we will have such a heavy meal every evening but Mom wouldn’t consider a change of meal. My two sisters, Dupe and Lanre helped Mom with getting bowls of water to wash our hands. We sat at the table and Mom asked each of us about our day at school. We all gave dry responses about our experiences at school. My eldest sister- Dupe, then asked Mom how her day was at the shop. Mom had just resigned from her job as confidential secretary in a big finance company in Lagos. She had always been an enterprising woman who had invariably longed to start her own business. We felt that this was the opportunity for Mom to launch her fashion house as she was a very talented dress maker or at least open a grocery store. Much to everyone’s chagrin, Mom didn’t start a fashion business neither did she open a grocery store, she launched a business of refilling cooking gas at the store in front of the house. What? Unbelievable! Fire, fear, horror, consternation… These were the emotions we felt when Mom announced her business decision. Every attempt to make Mom see reasons why her decision was a bad one for physical safety and mental health of the neighborhood fell on deaf ears as she was adamant and insisted on pursuing her ‘dream’ business. “I had an interesting day today”, Mom replied to Dupe. “Do you know that cooking gas business is a money spinner?” she added. Mom continued, “I made a lot of money at the store today”. “Hmm”, sighed Dupe as she listened to Mom’s chatter in an unconcerned manner.
    “Ding dong”, the door bell rang. “Lanre, check who is at the door”, Mom commanded….

    • Rosemary Fessinger says:

      It sounds like your mother enjoys meeting people! I bet, while refilling cooking gas (I’m not sure what that looks like), she visited with her customers. Maybe for those customers, it was more about your mother than the need for cooking gas.

      • Kay Hones says:

        The details you added about the dinner routine make the story so much more immediate & interesting. The background details about your mom’s ambition for a business in fashion are v ru compelling. When you specified where the gas shop was located in front of your home & the description of fear etc are strong foreshadowing.

    • Louise Snyder says:

      Peju – Your descriptions are vivid, and your narrative style is crisp and clear. Your use of dialogue also gives a great sense of authenticity to the scenes in your narrative.

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