Saturday, April 8, 2023

72 Hours

It’s not uncommon to think of inhumane historical events as non-repeating. The last few years in the US and frankly beyond our borders should awaken all to the idea the history is repeatable, especially outrageous acts of inhumanity. 

Women’s control of their own bodies is severely under assault by GOP-led politicians, judges, and pundits. The stance that a woman cannot determine her own well being is played out well beyond the matter of abortion. Women are positioned as chattel, items of property—not people. 

Racism is overt, cruel, and deadly especially for Black people. The ousting of Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson exemplify how bolden and brazen the Republican racism is in this country. These Republican elected officials in TN thought their actions were above critique or rebuke. Just read about the ‘Red Summer 1919’ when white supremacist terrorism ran wild without impunity and compare where we are now. 

Everyday there is gun violence in the United States. In the last 72 hours in the US there have been 60 gun incidents resulting in 30 deaths and an additional 52 people injured. Yesterday Gov. DeSantis joined Florida to 25 other states that allow concealed weapons to be carried without any kind of damn permit! 

72 hours from now in the US, there likely will be another 30 people dead, another 52 people injured and folks will continue to return to state houses and Washington the very folks who support this violence on women, persons of color, and the entire country.  

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Teaching Editing: A Few Favorite Resources

Abstract, (M.A. Reilly, 2022) 

Below are a few professional resources I have found helpful when teaching students how to edit their own writing. 

Profesional Resources: 

1. Teaching Books
Anderson, J, and W. LA Rocca. (2017). Patterns of power, grades 1-5: Inviting young writers into the conventions of language. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Anderson, J, and T. Leach. (2021). Patterns of power, grades 6-8: Inviting adolescent writers into the conventions of language. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. 
Anderson, J, and T. Leach. (2021). Patterns of power: Teaching grammar through reading and writing in grades 9-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. 
Anderson, J. (2007). Everyday editing. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Benjamin, A. (2022). Engaging grammar: Practical advice for real classrooms, 2nd edition. Urbana, IL : NCTE. 
Delpit, L. (ed.). (2008). The skin that we speak: Language and culture in the classroom. New York: The New Press. 
Graves, D. (1994). A fresh look at writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Hochman, J.  & N. Wexler. (2017).  The writing revolution. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 
Jansen, A. (2020). Rough draft math: Revising to learn. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. 
Johnston, , P. (2004). Choice words: How our language affects children's learning. York, ME: Stenhouse.
Lane, B. (1993). After the end: teaching and earning creative revision. Portsmouth, NH Heinemann.
La Rocca, W. &  J. Anderson. (2021) . Patterns of wonder: Inviting emergent writers to play with conventions of language. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers. 
Noden, H. (2011). Image grammer, Second ed. Portsmouth, NH Heinemann.
Shaughnessy, M. (1979). Errors and expectations: A guide for the teacher of basic writing. New York: Oxford University Press.
Weaver, C.  &  J. Bush. (2008). Grammar to enrich and enhance writing. Portsmouth, NH Heinemann.
Weaver, C. (2006).  The grammar plan book. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

2. Professional Journals
3. Popular Texts
Bradbury, R. (1989). Zen in the art of writing: Essays on creativity. Joshua Odell Editions.
Clark, R. P. (2008). Writing Tools: 55 essential strategies for every writer. New York: Little Brown.
Cook, C.K. (1985). Line by line: How to edit your own writing. Boston, Harcourt.
Fish, S. (2011). How to write a sentence and how to read one. New York: HarperCollins.
Fogarty, M. (2011). Grammar girl presents the ultimate writing guide for students. New York: St. Martin's.
Hale, C. (2001). Sin and syntax: How to craft wickedly effective prose. New York: Three Rivers Press.
King, S. (2000). On writing. New York: Scribner.
Lamott, A. (1994). Bird by bird: Some instruction on writing and life. New York: Anchor.
O'Conner, P.T. (2011). Woe is I The grammarphobes guide to better English in plain English. (3rd ed). New York: Riverhead.
Orwell, G. (2005). Why I write. New York: Penguin
Pulver, R. (2003). Punctuation takes a vacation. New York: Holiday House (Note: Robin Pulver has produced many picture books on the topic of grammar for children.)
Strunk, W., E.b. White & M. Kalman. (2007). The elements of style: Illustrated. New York: Penguin.
Strunk, W. (2011). The elements of style. New York: The Elements of Style Press.
Truss, L. (2006). Eat, shoots & leaves: Why, commas really do make a difference! New York: Putnam Juvenile.
Zinsser, W. (2012). On writing well: 30th anniversary edition. New York: Harper.

4. Resources to Use with Students:

Killgallon D. & J. Killgallon. (2008). Story grammar for elementary school: A sentence composing approach -- a student worktext.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 
Killgallon D. & J. Killgallon. (2006). Grammar for middle school: A sentence composing approach -- a student worktext. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 
Killgallon D. & J. Killgallon. (2007). Grammar for high school: A sentence composing approach -- a student worktext. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 
Killgallon, D. & J. Killgallon. (2000). Sentence composing for elementary school: A worktext to build better sentences.Portsmouth, NH Heinemann.
Killgallon, D. & J. Killgallon. (1997). Sentence composing for middle school: A worktext on sentence variety and maturity. Portsmouth, NH Heinemann.
Killgallon, D. & J. Killgallon. (1998). Sentence composing for high school: A worktext on sentence variety and maturity. Portsmouth, NH Heinemann.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

‘What will be the sacred words?’

Childhood (M.A. Reilly, 2022, collage)

I visited an after school program today and had an interesting conversation with four fourth grade girls who were discussing an article about Dr. King and the pain of racism today. They were at most 10-years-old. One girl said that her mom had talked with her about a white police officer who shot a Black boy (16-years-old) because he thought he had a gun. The child had a phone.  There was such abject pain in her voice as she tried to make sense of the threat caused by white violence. Who would look at a 16-year-old child and see a mortal threat? It’s a question we must keep voicing until we answer and respond, eliminating such threats to our children. These beautiful little girls who epitomize innocence carry a burden that never needed to be theres. 

A few hours later , I was home with a new copy of Elizabeth Alexander’s The Trayvon Generation and an urge to read. The opening essay returned me to the conversation the four children were having. Alexander writes, “When human beings look at other human beings in their midst and instead of seeing other human beings see a threat, see something monstrous, or don’t see at all, our very humanity is at stake” (p. 7).  She’s so right. 

How do 10-year-olds process such violence, grief, uncertainty, and fear?  What do these overwhelming feelings block out? Alexander suggests, “Our anxiety may even stifle the joy and exuberance that should characterize…childhood” (p. 7). 

Alexander tells us language is key, especially Black poetry to remember and memorialize—especially when Black people are excluded and missing from national narratives.  She closes the essay quoting Amiri Baraka’s “Ka’ ‘Ba”—

                         “We need magic

        now we need spells, to raise up

        return, destroy, and create. What will be

        the sacred words?

I hear it in my head most days: What will be the sacred words?

Monday, January 2, 2023

A Baker's Dozen: Foggy Images from 12.31.22

 Images made 12.31.22 in Ringwood, NJ

On the Reservoir (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Shoreline (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Kayak and Bird (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Bird (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Fog Weaving through Trees (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

 Drifting (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

One Man in a Boat (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Blue Kayak (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Bridge (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Fading (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Reservoir Inlet (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Thick Fog (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Ice Line (Ringwood, NJ, 12.31.22)

Sunday, January 1, 2023

#OLW: unhurry

Unhurry (Ringwood NJ, Dec. 31, 2022)

What can anyone give you greater than now? - William Stafford


Recently, I read John Mark Comer's The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. It was an unusual choice given how religious the text is.  That said, it was also what I most needed. There last 6 years have fundamentally changed me insomuch as I understand loss and living in ways I could not have understood before. I understand both as the same gift. Yes, I still feel sad moments inside ordinary days. These are often piercing. They also are bathed in deep wells of gratitude. To know love and loss is to understand that alongside hardships is peace. Alongside ambiguity is grace. Alongside loss is love. 

Feeling is a challenge given the frantic, hurried, speed at which I have been practicing living--especially the last 4 years. I am braver now--brave enough to recognize in my bones that I want and must slow down. Doing so requires me to learn the fine art and practice of being unhurried, being imperfect, being present. 


Early in the text, Comer asks: 

What if the secret to a happy life...isn’t “out there” but much closer to home? What if all you had to do was slow down long enough for the merry-go-round blur of life to come into focus? (p.10)

I think this is right. Every thing "out there" is composed within. It's a practice of naming, unmaming, renaming, or leaving the feeling unnamed, unrealized. Comer quoting Dallas Willard, explained that a friend asked him, "What do I need to do to become the me I want to be?”

Willard responded, 

“There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” (p. 19). 


My one little word for 2023 is unhurry. Yesterday it was foggy and although there were tasks to do, I left early in the morning with my camera, a travel cup of black coffee, and photographed for hours. I got misted on, rained on, my sneakers sunk into mud, and I spent a lot of time just staring and making images with my camera. It's been months since I have done this without a clock ticking in my brain.

It was a slow day. It was the first slow day I can recall in a long while.

It reminded me so much of how I lived for a long time: leaving for a day with nothing more than a camera in hand. When I am making or sighting a possible image, I breath in and out in syncopation with whatever I have connected to and am co-creating. I feel similarly in classrooms teaching.  A colleague remarked that when I listen to 6-years-olds, I listen with my whole self. True. 

It's this sense of now that hurrying eclipses and listening, watching, being embraces. At these moments I feel content, satisfied, happy, and connected to an energy beyond the moment and myself. 


For the last year, I've been following the images made by the James Webb Space Telescope. Perhaps you have seen some too. These other worldly images tell me that what I do not know is great, like the expanding universe we call home.  This is a brief video of what the telescope has captured. It is the definition of wonder and holy and goodness and mystery and see if it doesn't pull you into the moment.

These images remind me of my very, very infinitesimal place within the universe that is so grand and stunning--so wondrous. 

Seeing these images stops me.

That's what wonder does. It momentarily halts us, opening up a space for what we did not know could come next. I think that space is the nebula of possibility. That is what slowing down, living unhurried opens up.


Towards the end of the text, Comer offers advice on slowing down. He says that the first rule is to place ourselves in positions of waiting. Instead of veering from the checkout lane with five people with a very full carts, deliberately get in that line and learn to wait. I practiced this at Target. I had only been to a Target years ago in Virginia.  But five nights before Christmas, I was at a Target in NJ picking up glass bottles.  Every line was an opportunity to wait. And wait I did and it was oddly comforting.  I'm at the resigning stage, and I imagine a day when this too will feel like grace.

Comer offers 20 ideas for slowing down. The first three I am practicing.  Mind you I travel on five highways to get to work each morning. His first advice is: Drive the speed limit. Followed by: Get in the slow lane. Then Come to a full stop at stop signs.

Oh my. 

It occurs to me that the five highways to work are a choice. There are other ways to get there. And isn't that a grand metaphor?   So if you get to northern NJ, slow down. I'll be the driver in the small, white Volvo stopping completely at stop signs, and driving the speed limit in the slow lane.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

So Much Happiness


Tuscany (M. A. Reilly)

So Much Happiness

-Naomi Shihab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records . . .

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known

Monday, April 11, 2022

Winter Recipes from the Collective by Louise Glück


M.A.Reilly, December 2021

Winter Recipes from the Collective

Louise Glück

1.Each year when winter came, the old men enteredthe woods to gather the moss that grewon the north side of certain junipers.It was slow work, taking many days, though thesewere short days because the light was waning,and when their packs were full, painfullythey made their way home, moss being heavy to carry.The wives fermented these mosses, a time-consuming projectespecially for people so oldthey had been born in another century.But they had patience, these elderly men and women,such as you and I can hardly imagine,and when the moss was cured, it was with wild mustards and sturdy herbspacked between the halves of ciabattine, and weighted like pan bagnat,after which the thing was done: an "invigorating winter sandwich"it was called, but no one saidit was good to eat; it was what you atewhen there was nothing else, like matzoh in the desert, whichour parents called the bread of affliction— Some yearsan old man would not return from the woods, and then his wife would needa new life, as a nurse's helper, or to supervisethe young people who did the heavy work, or to sellthe sandwiches in the open market as the snow fell, wrappedin wax paper— The book containsonly recipes for winter, when life is hard. In spring,anyone can make a fine meal. 2.Of the moss, the prettiest was savedfor bonsai, for whicha small room had been designated,though few of us had the gift,and even then a long apprenticeshipwas necessary, the rules being complicated.A bright light shone on the specimen being pruned,never into animal shapes, which were frowned on,only into those shapesnatural to the species— Those of us who watchedsometimes chose the container, in my casea porcelain bowl, given me by my grandmother.The wind grew harsher around us.Under the bright light, my friendwho was shaping the tree set down her shears.The tree seemed beautiful to me,not finished perhaps, still it was beautiful, the mossdraped around its roots— I was notpermitted to prune it but I held the bowl in my hands,a pine blowing in high windlike man in the universe. 3.As I said, the work was hard—not simply caring for the little treesbut caring for ourselves as well,feeding ourselves, cleaning the public rooms—But the trees were everything.And how sad we were when one died,and they do die, despite having beenremoved from nature; all things die eventually.I minded most with the ones who lost their leaves,which would pile up on the moss and stones—The trees were miniature, as I have said,but there is no such thing as death in miniature.Shadows passing over snow,steps approaching and going away.The dead leaves lay on the stones;there was no wind to lift them. 4.It was as dark as it would ever bebut then I knew to expect this,the month being December, the month of darkness.It was early morning. I was walkingfrom my room to the arboretum; for obvious reasons,we were encouraged never to be alone,but exceptions were made—I could seethe arboretum glowing across the snow;the trees had been hung with tiny lights,I remember thinking how they must bevisible from far away, not that we went, mainly,far away—Everything was still.In the kitchen, sandwiches were being wrapped for market.My friend used to do this work.Huli songli, our instructor called her,giver of care. I rememberwatching her: inside the door,procedures written on a card in Chinese characterstranslated as the same things in the same order,and underneath: We have deprived them of their origins,they have come to need us now