Starfish and a Quick Update

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Purple starfish found near Bellingham, Washington. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

It’s dangerous to leave glass objects on my desk when I’m working.  Writing gets messy; I push notebooks and reference manuals around, sending knickknacks flying.  (A plastic wind-up crab is severely cracked, and my Wallace and Gromit figures may never want to look at me again.) However, I make one exception for the glass starfish pieces I’ve begun to collect.  I take extra care not to knock them over.  Typically, I’m not one to collect objects or figurines of any kind, but lately I’ve been drawn to starfish.  I look for them whenever I get a chance to walk along a pier or the shoreline of cities near the Puget Sound.  Of course, I capture a photo, but the urge to hold something solid and colorful is strong, so I settle for sparkling glass representations.

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Glass starfish on my desk. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

Starfish, with their ability to regenerate their own limbs–and bring such joy in color and shape, are uniquely inspiring to me.  Starfish remind me to create something new—and to count my blessings.  This year in particular, I’m grateful for the following:

New Work:

–Recently, I’ve enjoyed translating brochures and letters into Spanish for the Safe Crossings Foundation, an organization that supports Providence Hospital of Seattle’s Safe Crossings Program.  When children lose loved ones, such as parents and siblings, they need resources to help them heal.  Currently, those resources are in English, but I’ve been translating them into Spanish and have learned a lot about the grieving process in general.

–A promotion at my part-time gig as a writing tutor for an educational publishing company has led to new opportunities. I’m now training writing tutors and helping them effectively serve students.

Publications:

–In 2018, I published nine short stories in various literary magazines/journals, so my goal was to meet that number of short story publications in 2019. I succeeded—and may have exceeded that goal.  (Some stories have been accepted a few weeks ago and may be published in the coming months.)  My most recent publications are on the following web link: https://fixinleaksnleeksdiy.blog/other-things-i-do/

–My DIY humor blog, Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks (https://fixinleaksnleeksdiy.blog/) is in its third year.  Laughing while writing is therapeutic.  I’ve managed to post once a week and gain a following of over 1,300 readers.  I’m absolutely amazed by the support of the blogging/writing community.

–I’ve finished the outline and plot for a new novel.  Two completed novels need to be revised, but I can’t wait to get started on the newest one. My goal is to complete half of it by December break.

Running and Reading Projects:

–It has been three years since I’ve moved to the Greater Seattle area and I can’t believe I haven’t really met or interacted with the wonderful neighbors in my neighborhood, so I started a book club.  Several of us women in the neighborhood get together once a month over lots of wine, books, and laughter. So far, we have read:  All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doer), The Last Tudor (Philippa Gregory), and The Red Tent (Anita Diamant).  Currently we are reading, Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison).

–For years, running has been my favorite sport/hobby, though I don’t like to do marathons.  A 5K is fine with me.  I rarely do 5K races, but I’ve just found out about “virtual 5K” races and challenges—and now I’m hooked.  These races are run anywhere/any time within a certain number of months or weeks. The miles are logged online, and medals come in the mail.  Currently, I’m doing the Run Motivators’ “Run Like a Woman 100 Mile Challenge.”  With this challenge, I have between July 1 and September 30th to run, walk, bike, swim, canoe/kayak, etc. 100 miles.  So far, I estimate that I’ve done 240 miles, 115 of them running. My medal will come in the mail and I get to interact with all kinds of runners all over the country who are doing the same thing.  Very inspiring!

What about you?  What are your achievements—writing or otherwise? What goals have you set for the year?  Feel free to share in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Schedule: Paper/Rock Writing Consultations

A slightly cooler breeze floats in just under the sunlit skies of August–and I’m reminded that carefree summer days will soon give way to more steady routines.  I’m happy to welcome them back with my schedule book open. For those of you who would like to meet with me for writing consultations, I’ve included my fall schedule below. Feel free to click on the “Services” link from the menu above to see the full list of the kinds of writing consultations I can offer.  Cheers!

Cecilia Kennedy (ckennedyhola@gmail.com)

In-person times available, starting Thursday, September 6th-Thursday, December 13th

HOURS ARE IN PACIFIC TIME

*Please note:  Emailed essays/writing questions are accepted any time or day at the following address:  ckennedyhola@gmail.com. Turn-around time for comments/instruction/replies is usually 24-72 hours, but could take longer for larger projects.

M-W

9 a.m.-1p.m. (In my Snohomish home office or through videoconferencing)

3 p.m.-4 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)

Special Evening Hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays:

6 p.m.-8 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)

Thursdays: 

9 a.m.-1 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)

Fridays:

September 7th-October 26th:  3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)

November 3rd-December 7th:  3 p.m.-6 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)

Holiday Closings:

Wednesday, November 21-Friday, November 23rd

December 14-December 23, I will only accept emailed questions/essays. No in-person sessions will be held.

December 24-January 1, I will be on holiday with my family and will not be able to answer emails regularly.

 

 

 

 

The Places in Which I Write

Smooth, dark wood-grained surfaces of tables or desks have cast their spell on me since the age of four, which is when I can first remember having a tiny table of my own. I used it to color and cut out shapes—busying my mind for hours with imaginative tasks. The classroom desk later became the place where I wrote most assignments during my elementary and middle school years—followed by a writing desk I picked out for my bedroom during my high school years. Even in college and in graduate school, I believed that a desk in a quiet place would be most conducive to and appropriate for the act of writing. I thought that the space around me needed to be absolutely quiet and distraction free—contemplative even—and this kind of environment served me quite well for many years.

However, even during those years, there were other places where my writing took shape. In high school, I wrote one of my best speeches for “grandparents’ day” on a bus ride back from a Shakespeare festival in Canada. I was surrounded by loud, boisterous friends, while landscapes filled with green and gold-leafed trees and farm fields whirled quickly past the windows. In my mind, as I wrote, I was in Tucson, Arizona in my grandmother’s garden, wishing I could spend more time in the drier landscapes with bright pink cactus flowers and soft brown mountains in the background. These colors and shapes materialized before my eyes as I wrote, desk free on a bus bound for more Midwestern views. I guess I just needed the trees outside and the jovial laughter of friends to help me fully picture the desert sands of the Southwest, emptying out onto sheets of notebook paper.

My first scholarly publication took shape in several places: a library, my apartment, and a spare bedroom in my husband’s parents’ home in rural Ohio, where I was visiting for the weekend. These quiet spaces all added up to a well-researched piece that wove together a legend of St. Genesius, the patron saint of theater, and the power of a transformation that takes place during a theatrical production within the legend itself. The piece attempted to trace the various theatrical elements that took place under the direction of St. Genesius in the legend, and each piece of the larger picture became clearer in every new space in which I wrote: the library, my apartment, the quilt on the edge of the bed in the country.

Nowadays, I still prefer to write in a quiet space, such as the office inside my home, but I don’t always have that luxury. Sometimes I’m at my son’s swim meets—surrounded by noise—writing horror stories that take place in and out of the water. Sometimes I’m in an art museum or a restaurant or coffee house. Distracting sounds lift my eyes from the page, but they return with some new insight or information I frantically write down before the idea goes away. All the time I spend in noisy places away from a beloved desk—waiting on my son or other loved ones—never goes to waste. It just gets transferred—disappearing and reappearing as ink on paper.

 

 

Scholarly Writing

Gently poking and pushing the loose blocks in a game of Jenga can reveal the weak spots—the places where the structure might topple over, ending the game. When outside readers encounter your essay, they will look for the weak spots. In academic or scholarly writing, weak foundations are built from inadequate ideas, thesis statements, and sources. In other words, scholarly writing is more than just “sounding educated” or “professional.” It extends beyond “good grammar” and “sentence structure.” Most readers are able to forgive a few minor grammar or spelling mistakes, but if the central idea is not solid and if it’s not supported by appropriate sources, your essay will not be effective or convincing. Here are a few ideas and resources for providing your scholarly essay with a strong base:

1) Identify original ideas. If you are taking a psychology, literature, history, sociology, art history—or any other kind of course that requires a final paper—be sure to identify your paper topic within the first 2-3 weeks of class. In this way, you could give yourself enough time to research and write drafts. To identify your topic, you could:

–Pay attention to course lectures and discussions. Jot down ideas that sound interesting to you.

–Ask your instructor about current trends or interesting developments in the field at hand.

2) Identify experts in the field by paying attention to course handouts or other readings. Write down the names of the authors and look up other articles they’ve written. However, if your instructor doesn’t want to provide you with this information, you could look for academic articles on your own, using the videos provided in this post below.

The days of relying on news articles or links that “sound” scholarly on the Internet are over at this stage in your academic career. Scholarly writing requires a few more steps beyond the Internet search. These steps are provided in the following videos, in the hope of helping you find convincing and valuable information for building a solid writing project.

Accreditation Report Writing: Examples Matter

Through the open window where I taught my last Spanish course for the day, a crisp autumn breeze enticed me to finish a few minutes early so I could get started on my Thanksgiving break.   However, a sinking feeling set in when I realized that I still had a meeting to attend, so I could help write a part of the accreditation report, which was mandatory for everyone at my institution to do. When some colleagues asked the administration for extra pay for contributing to this report, they were reminded that this work was within their job expectations and necessary in order for the entire institution to maintain its educational standing. In other words, we weren’t going to get out of this task and we would not be compensated for it.

Accreditation reports and self studies may seem like thankless and time-consuming tasks, so it’s tempting to simply take the descriptions and requirements stated in the rubric for the report and turn them into sentences such as this one: Yes, we develop a curriculum that encourages independent thought and fosters diversity and respect. However, making these claims without explanations or examples takes away from the snapshot picture accreditation teams need in order to understand each institution’s unique opportunities and challenges, which faculty, administration, students, staff, and community members face. Adding examples and details could also lead to unexpected sources of support for facing the challenges and enhancing the opportunities.

When writing sections of the accreditation report then, it may be helpful to develop topic sentences that address specific questions or parts of the accreditation rubric. Then, the body of each paragraph could include a few concrete examples that mirror the atmosphere and personality of the institution—as community members, employees, and students see it. For instance, if a team of writers has to report on “systems for reporting, prioritizing, and responding to safety issues, repairs, and maintenance concerns of the campus and facilities,” (Northwest Association of Independent Schools rubric, 2017), these writers might consider developing a topic sentence that explains which opportunities and challenges community members, board members, teachers, administrators, parents, and students have identified regarding the safety of the campus and its facilities. Then, specific examples could be given to help showcase the institution’s initiative in taking care of these items. Or, if challenges have been identified, a bullet-point list or action plan could show the accreditation team that resources and a reasonable timeline are in place to tackle potential problems. In other words, it’s more valuable to show, rather than tell accreditation teams the important milestones that have been met.

Once the report has been compiled and written, a group of individuals can look it over and make sure that all parts are complete and that the report is an accurate reflection of the institution. However, it might also be beneficial to get an outside consultant’s view to make sure that the report flows logically, is easy to read, addresses any contradictions that might be present, and is free from major grammatical errors and shifts in font or formatting. Outside readers and consultants can also remind writers of the report to tell their stories. In fact, I recently took on this role for an independent school. When I read the report, I was able to identify parts where short examples highlighting creative fundraising and experiential learning opportunities could be included. It also became clear that the board had put together excellent policies in just a matter of a few years, so highlighting the processes they used to meet their goals would seem significant in the eyes of the accreditation team. In reminding the stakeholders to tell those stories and to include the warm, welcoming language of their newly-developed website, I hoped to encourage them to not see this task as a burden, but as a chance to highlight the mountains they move regularly with just a few resources.

If your institution is writing or has written an accreditation report and you’d like an outside observer’s insight, I would be happy to help out. Feel free to contact me. (Cecilia Kennedy, ckennedyhola@gmail.com)