Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#SOL17: Love

Top: Card from Rob. Rob and me in Maine, Devon took the picture.

I thought I was writing a story about grief. 
All the time it was a love story. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Online Resources for Literary Works for Middle and High School

Image: Serkan Özkaya, Proletarier Aller Länder, 2011. Published on Words without Borders

1. Words without Borders Magazine

An amazing resource.  This magazine publishes short fiction and nonfiction from various authors across the globe. It has been publishing since 2003 and all of the literary work is available online and organized by year and issue.  The September 2003 issue featured writing from North Korea.  You'll want to spend some time searching the archives.

2. Classic Short Stories
Huffington Post has 13 excellent stories linked to this post.  My favorite to teach is "Symbols and Signs" by Vladimir Nabokov.  

3. Kelly Gallagher's article of the week
I enjoy the articles he assigns to his students.  They are contemporary.  Here is a link to the archived articles.

4. Links to some short stories:

High School

Idolatry by Sherman Alexie
Bread by Margaret Atwood
Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby by Donald Barthelme
The School 'by Donald Barthelme
Snow by Ann Beattie
Major Maybe by Ann Beattie
Catch the Moon by  Judith Ortiz Cofer
The Cheater's Guide to Love by Junot Diaz
Monstro by Junot Diaz
Miss Lora by Junot Diaz
The Eyes Have It by Philip K. Dick
Black Box by Jennifer Egan
Accident by Dave Eggers
John Redding Goes to Sea by Zora Neale Hurston
When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa Lahiri
Year's End by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. LeGuin
Through the Tunnel  by Doris Lessing
Siesta by
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings byGabriel
Cinderella's Stepsisters by Toni Morrison (Essay)
The Bear Came Over the Mountain by Alice Munro
An Astrologer's Day by R.K. Narayan
Wants by Grace Paley
Pumpkins by Francine Prose
In the South by Salman Rushdie 
Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith 
Oliver’s Evolution by John Updike

Middle School

Snow by Julia Alvarez
American History  by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Eleven by Sandra Cisneros
Thank You M'am by Langston Hughes
The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones by Stephen Leacock
The Wife's Story by Ursula K. LeGuin
Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth (novel)
The School Play by Gary Soto
Seventh Grade by Gary Soto
La Bamba by Gary Soto
The Jacket by Gary SotoThe Night the Ghost Got In by James Thurber

5. Links to Ray Bradbury stories: A Sound of Thunder,  All Summer in a Day,  The Happiness MachineThe Veldt, The Pedestrian, There Will Come Soft Rains, The Murderer, The Drummer Boy of Shiloh

6.  Next Generation Press (non-profit):  These excerpts are from the book, Hip Deep: Opinion, Essay, and Vision from American Teenagers.  Brief writings by teens for teens. This is an interesting press and features teens voices from across the globe. FORTY-CENT TIP: Stories of New York City Immigrant Workers are texts written by NYC teens from three high schools. You can preview the entire book here.

7. Narrative Magazine Since 2003, this online magazine has been publishing literature online. An extensive archive can be searched. This is a favorite site.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Seven Artful Picture Books from 2017

from A Walk in the Forest

from Mud Book
Cage, John. (2017). Mud Book: How To Make Mud Pies and Cakes. Illustrated by Lois Long. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

A book a child can hold in one hand.  An illustrated guide for making by composer John Cage. Simple illustrations. 

FROM Mr. Benjamin's Suitcase of Secrets

Chang, Pei-Yu. (2017). Mr. Benjamin's Suitcase of Secrets. New York: NorthSouth Books.

Honestly who would have ever thought that a picture book about Walter Benjamin would be written. Top of my list. The tragic story of the philosopher, a victim of the Nazis, is told well and illustrated with lots of energy portrayed.

from A Walk in the Forest

Dek, Maria. (2017). A Walk in the Forest. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

It is the perspective that most captures my attention in this account of a simple walk in a forest. 

Miyakoshi, A. (2017). The Way Home in the Night. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.

A soft, gentle nighttime story. The art, like usual, is subtle and lovely. I love all of her books. This is no exception. Dreamy. Aesthetically pleasing and oddly familiar.

Schwartz, Joanne. (2017). Town Is By the Sea. Illustrated by Sydney Smith. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Press.

In praise of miners, this gentle picture book set in the 1950s in Canada tells the story of a young boy who moves through a typical day while his dad mines for coal under the sea. Moving.  

from Away

Sher, Emil. (2017). Away. Illustrated by Qin Leng. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books.

An exchange of written notes between a mother and her daughter is construct for this very lovely story about going away for the first time. Perhaps, the tenderness resonated all the more as my son, no longer a child, is poised to start his life away too.

Young, Ed & Barbara DaCosta. (2017). Mighty Moby. New York: Little Brown.

I thought this might be a retelling of Moby Dick and in many ways it is. But it is done with a twist and of course, Ed Young's illustrations are breathtaking.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

SOL17: The Play Set

Sing to Me (M.A. Reilly, 2017, acrylic, watercolor, pencil, gesso, digital remix)

It takes a little more than ten minutes to play Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and it may well be the saddest and most glorious music I have ever heard. It's best reserved for days that are cloudy, threatening rain. I was listening to the piece two weeks ago when my oldest brother showed up, sawzall in hand, and said he would take the play set apart. I had mentioned the previous week wanting to take it down as I readied the house for sale. It took Jack, Devon and I most of that day to take apart the large wooden play set.

Imagine hearing Barber's music and you'd have a fair representation of how I felt after the play set had been sawed apart.


We moved the pieces to a new location on the lawn: the small slide that used to fit Devon's body just right, the two benches and table where we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, the climbing bars Devon would swing from, the two swings Rob and I sat on moving back and forth as Devon commanded his world from the top of the set behind the acrylic bubble. Later that day after Jack left for home and Devon went upstairs I called a junk remover and set a date for these bits and pieces of my life to be taken away.

Now it is gone and the space left behind is large, looming, and mostly just empty.


Rob and I bought that large wooden play set when Devon was four-years-old and money was more scarce then not. One Saturday afternoon we watched from the deck as men assembled the set in the rear yard. We had moved into the new house the previous year and for the last fourteen years it has sat like a sentry in a corner of the rear yard.

Some days, Rob's death hurts in ways hard to name for somehow in the sting of all of that pain, time somehow moved on.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

#SOL17: Faith

From my art journal, 2017

is the bird
that feels the light
And sings
when the dawn
is still dark.

                                 —RABINDRANATH TAGORE

It was decades ago when I first heard Rob, the man who I would later marry, read a poem, "Faith," that he had written. I was in the basement of an old mill in Paterson, NJ--one of many in the audience that night. We had gathered to hear poetry read aloud. We were moved by the narrative in Rob's poem that chronicled  a neighborhood in Hell's Kitchen--a neighborhood he knew so well.

Friday, October 6, 2017

18 Children's Books about Photographers and Photography

  1. Bond, Rebecca. (2009). In the Belly of an Ox: The Unexpected Photographic Adventures of Richard and Cherry Kearton. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. 
  2. Gibbons, Gail, (1997). Click!: A Book About Cameras and Taking Pictures. New York: Little, Brown.
  3. Jenson-Elliott, Cindy. (2016). Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature. Illustrated by Christy Hale. New York: Henry Holt.
  4. Jordan,Sandra & Jan Greenberg. (2017). Meet Cindy Sherman: Artist, Photographer, Chameleon. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
  5. Kalma, Maira and Daniel Handler. (2016). WEATHER, WEATHER. New York: MOMA.
  6. Kalma, Maira and Daniel Handler. (2015). Hurry Up and Wait. New York: MOMA.
  7. Kalma, Maira and Daniel Handler. (2014). Girls Standing on Lawns. New York: MOMA.
  8. Kulling, Mionica (2013). It's a Snap!: George Eastman's First Photograph (Great Idea Series). Illustrated by Biull Slavin. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra Books.
  9. Lauber, Patricia. (1996). Flood: Wrestling With The Mississippi. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.
  10. Loney, Andrea J. (2017). Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee!  Illustrated by Keith Mallett. New York: Lee & Low Books.
  11. Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. (2009). Snowflake BentleyIllustrated by Mary Azarian. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. 
  12. Meyerowitz, Joel. (2016). Joel Meyerowitz: Seeing Things: A Kid's Guide to Looking at Photographs. New York: Aperture.
  13. Novesky, Amy. (2012). Imogen: The Mother of Modernism and Three Boys. Illustrated by Lisa Congdon. Petaluma, CA: Cameron & Company.
  14. Orgill, Roxane. (2016). Jazz Day: The Making of a Photograph. Illustrated Francis Vallejo. Somerset, MA; Candlewick.
  15. Radunsky Vladimir and Chris Raschka. (2014). Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs and Medium Verses.  New York: NYR Children's Collection.
  16. Rosenstock, Barb. (2016). Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth. Illustrated by Gerard DuBois. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek.
  17. Rubin, Susan Goldman. (2014). Stand There! She Shouted: The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret CameronIllustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Somerset, MA; Candlewick.
  18. Weatherford, Carole Boston. (2017). Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression. Illustrated by Sarah Green. Park Ridge, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Five Art How-To Videos: Expressive Collage & Mark Making

Sing to Me (M.A. Reilly, 2017)

Robert Burridge's 

BobBlast 104 "Collage & Painting Demonstration."

BobBlast 166 — "Why I Collage Before Painting."

BobBlast 95 "Drawing Back onto an Acrylic Painting

Jane Davies'

Expressive Collage and Painting


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

#SOL17: Birds Sung to Me

Night, I (M.A. Reilly, 2008)

"On starless nights, one can feel like a loose array of limbs and purpose, and seem smaller, limited to what one can touch."   ― from Diane Ackerman's  "Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day"


It was time to let go of our house where light fell through familiar windows and each creak of the staircase I knew by heart. It was time to pack away all that could not be carried further. Such cargo weighed too much and I carried it too far. Some truths took greater time to surface. Sea deep. They resided where sunlight did not penetrate. Oceanographers called this the bathypekagic zone. Poets knew it as the midnight zone. I, like every other widow, simply called it the blue-black absence of love. 

Across the last two years, grief remained a spiraling affair.  At times a darkness rose up to reclaim and then release me. Claimed and released over and over and somehow each time the sudden pain of it stunned me. The center I once knew by heart was blown wide open after Rob died making it hard to find my balance in the dark.


And yet, I stood 
          at the open window tonight
                               where the fall of late light
                               felt familiar,
                                      memories remained bittersweet,
                                       and the sharp desire to be still
                                       pressed against a need to move.  
Grief was a tension
that rose between then and next
leaving me only a slim truth:
Rob was dead and I was not.

Outside the window
           a pair of cardinals settled
                      on the limb of a bare tree
                 just beyond my reach
                 and sung to me.

As I listened even the darkness felt warm.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Be for Me, Like Rain

Be for Me, Like Rain (M.A. Reilly, Wall Street, NYC, 2010)


For the longest time, I've loved rainy days, held them close to the heart as invitations to stay at home. Rob and I took solace at home. These were days to read, dream, sleep in, drink too much coffee, go for walks beneath an oversized umbrella, read the entire newspaper and puzzle over the puzzle, write and write some more, cuddle, watch a film, and talk.  But Rob has been gone so long that I have forgotten the sound of his voice. I recall the look of him with his head thrown back, hair falling down his back, mouth open, and I know he was laughing, but I can't recall the sound of him. 

Each day something is forgotten.


Today, I want to feel the heavy moist air settle in my hair as I walk out beyond the borders of what I know. I long for the grey day, the light-diffused day, a day when the Celt in me knows that the barriers between Rob and me grow thin. I imagine that I could then extend my arm, reach a hand out as he repeats the same movements from his side of the veil and we almost touch. But he is gone and the center I've know has drifted like clouds blown fast across a sky.

Each day something is misplaced. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

#SOL17: Kneel Down

"We Have Chosen Hope Over Fear" (Reilly, 2012)


The day after Barack Obama won the presidency in November 2008, Rob, Devon, and I were eating dinner at a local diner when I looked up at an image of the newly elected President on a FOX News telecast and snapped a photo.  At the time I wasn't sure what I planned to do, but I knew I wanted to work the image into a collage. As I worked our flag began to emerge alongside images of children and young people I had taught across many years. Like so many others, I too felt strongly that "we had chosen hope over fear." The flag symbolized that hope. I remember Rob and I believing that our flag was a beacon that called attention to what was possible. Thomas Paine in Common Sense wrote, "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right" (p. 25). It was time, well past time, to set right what was and remained so very wrong. Not all  were treated equally, justly, equitably. As white parents to a child of color, we took hope that night that given the vote, other white people in this country finally understood that healing racial injustice was the most important step forward we could make as a country.  If we failed to do this, we placed in peril these United States. 

And now, nearly a decade later, that peril feels palpable. We are a long way from that night when a young Barack Obama and so many of us felt proud, and believed that perhaps America was ready, interested, and committed to heal our racial injustice.  That hope has
 grown dim these last few years. Now, we are led by a man, who at the very least, is highly sympathetic with white nationalists, who bates Americans to hate other Americans on a weekly basis, and who behaves as the bully of the country.  Our president, Donald Trump does not act like a man who loves America. Loving America and its people is the foundation upon which all other presidential responsibilities rest.


The national anthem and the US flag represent many ideals for citizens, ideals that some have even died for and these beliefs aren't singular, nor are they owned. What America means has never been a simple or singular belief, nor should it. Democracies are far more complex. 

Being a patriot ought to involve some self-sacrifice and that's what the young quarterback at that time playing for San Francisco did. Sacrifice. Colin Kaepernick knelt in protest when the national anthem played. He explained, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." In kneeling down, he stood up and did so at potential personal harm. Unsigned, the talent remains in the wings this season as President Trump rallies his mostly white, Southern audiences by calling black athletes, like Kaepernick who kneel when the anthem is played sons of bitches.

Last week President Trump went to Alabama and said this to a crowd of followers:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’ You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in the country.

Imagine, an old, white rich guy bating a hoard of white people at a "rally" by saying that his NFL team-owner friends (other mega-wealthy men) could be the most popular people in the country by firing black athletes for exercising the very rights that flag symbolizes.  Now consider that the man spewing such hate is the man elected to protect our basic ideals and frankly the only thing I am left wondering is why aren't we all kneeling down?  

Monday, September 18, 2017

#SOL17: Healing with Art

 Call and the Birds Will Come


A friend, Heidi, recently returned to school to study art therapy. I was delighted for her as this seems like a very good fit. I have no doubt she will be terrific. Thinking about art therapy led me to also think how for the last 19 months I painted most every day and in doing so I began to heal.

As some of you have remarked, the last few months black birds seem to have flown in and out of most of my paintings.  Another art friend, Jim, asked today why there were birds in so much of my work. I told him I was not completely sure why the birds are flying in and out, but I feel better knowing they are there. I also realized that the last section of the memoir I am writing has the subtitle, Wild Birds Rising. I suspect there is a connection. Perhaps the birds are spirits.


A few weeks ago, my friend Jane's sister, Susan, died. The birds showed up again in force right after her death.  I didn't realize until this evening that her death affected me.  For the last two weeks I have been feeling down, revisiting the sadness I felt months after Rob died. Susan was three months older than Rob. Both were far too young to die. Last year, I spent a week with Susan in North Carolina at the beach and the beginning of August I had the opportunity to visit with her while I was in North Carolina taking an art class. Some people I've know forever and others have come in and out of my life briefly and yet profoundly touched it.  That was the kind of person Susan was.  She profoundly touched lives by simply being herself.

Some days I think the birds are those spirits that carry away pain. Some days I think the birds are the departed who find ways to wing back to this world.


For me, painting reveals new ways of naming and feeling--ways I am often not aware of in a codified manner.

I sense knowing. '

Edward Hopper explained how the language of art opens us in ways that words simply do not.  He wrote, “If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”

Here are a few of my new paintings.

How I See You (acrylic, collage, pencil, Tombow markers, gesso, digital remix)

Prayer  (acrylic, Tombow markers, pencil, digital remix)

Through a Window (acrylic, gesso, pencil, digital remix) 

Tangled (acrylic, ink, pencil, digital remix) 

Self Portrait  with Black Birds (Photograph, paint, transfer, acrylic)

A few art therapy links (Activities and books)

Here's a link to 100 Art Therapy exercises. Does anyone want to take some of these on? I am going to try to work my way through the list.

Here are 20 art therapy ideas that also looks good.

Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul

Imagination in Action: Secrets for Unleashing Creative Expression

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

#SOL17: A Crazy Woman in Ringwood, NJ

Last night my son and I were coming home around 9:30 and a car coming off an Interstate pulled in behind us and talegated our car for the 15 minutes it took to arrive at home. We live at the end of a dead end street and the car not only followed us up our long hill, but also drove right in behind us in our driveway. I got out of our car and approached the two-toned sport utility vehicle, like a Suburban, to ask if the driver needed help. A woman in her 40s or 50s was driving.

"Do you need some help?" I asked, approaching the front passenger side of the car. The window was opened and I could see the driver quite well.
"Who is in the car with you?" she asked aggressively.
"Who are you and why are you in my driveway?" I asked.
"Someone in a car like that destroyed my property."
"My son is in the car. We did not destroy any property." By then, Devon had also gotten out of the car.
"Oh, I see his face. That's not him," she said contritely.
"Are you crazy?" I asked.
"I'm sorry I bothered you," she mumbled.
"Lady, what you're doing isn't simply a bother. You pursued us. That's aggressive and wrong."
Devon and I watched her back out of our driveway and then I went inside to report the incident to the police. 

It was disconcerting to have some crazy woman pursue us with the aim of confronting us about something we knew nothing about. What's very odd though was that it was a chance encounter, given that she had just come off of a highway and that is how she ended up behind us and we were miles from our home. Also, my son drives a very common car, a black Ford Fusion, hardly a unique car.

It made me wonder if Devon and I needed to fear having her return during the night, but I decided not to get caught up in this woman's craziness. I did call the police and reported what I knew and gave the dispatcher my home address. The encounter also made me wonder about the vigilante sentiment that Trump and his followers seem to embrace. Is this part of making American Great Again? Vigilantes driving around the streets? How bold and foolish this woman was to drive down our driveway. How entitled she seemed to feel and certainly acted.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

#SOL17: Saying No to Best Practices

(M.A.Reilly, 2017)

I woke up this morning and realized that I am tired of best practices. In education and otherwise. Every fall with the startup of school comes the ads, tweets, and posts for best practices of this and that. It's like some absurd Seuss riddle and frankly it is well past time to say no to the whole idea of a best practice in learning. It cannot exist. The logic is flawed.

To me the use of the word, best, is an example of foolish coding.  Place that adjective before any noun and it is likely an invitation to think that the matter has been determined. When used in education to connote a practice, it begs the question why someone or group would want to reduce discussion about learning and variables and anomalies. It also belies context. How could any one practice simply be best? For whom? In what situation?

Kurt Godel's Incompleteness theorem told us that best as the exclusive correlative of excellence was simply not possible. There is always that which does not fit neatly within a given set. I wonder if we might do better to consider the exception rather than the comfortable fit? 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

25 Books that Helped Me To Notice

from The Poetics of Space.

I wish I knew you. I wish I could stand for a moment in that corridor of craft and doubt where you will spend so much of your time. But I don’t and I can’t. Eavan Boland, A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet (p. 249). 

Under my childhood bed were boxes of writing--mostly poems. None survive to this day. On the walls of my childhood bedroom were images I painted. On the radiator were plants. And on the shelves were books. A large part of being a writer is listening and noticing. Below are a handful of books that have helped me to notice differently, listen attentively. Some are fiction, most not.

What books help you live more wide awake?

  1. Bachelard, Gaston. (1958/2014). The Poetics of Space. New York: Penguin Classics.
  2. Bateson, Mary Catherine. (2010). Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom. New York: Knopf.
  3. Berger, John & Jean Mohr. (2011). Another Way of Telling. New York: Vintage.
  4. Berry, Wendell. (1996). The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture. Sierra Club Books.
  5. Boland, Eavan. (2011). A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet. New York: W.W. Norton.
  6. Carse, James. (1986). Finite and Infinite Games. New York: The Free Press. 
  7. Danticat, Edwidge. (2011). Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work. New York: Vintage.
  8. Diaz, Junot. (2012). This is How You Lose Her. New York: Riverhead.
  9. Dillard, Annie. (2013). Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters, Revised Edition. New York: Perennial.
  10. Gaiman Neil. (2013). The Ocean at the End of the Lane: Audio CD. New York: William Morrow. (I could listen to him read for weeks and weeks.)
  11. Heaney, Seamus. (1997). The Spirit Level: Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 
  12. Heaney, Seamus. (2011). Human Chain: Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 
  13. Heat-Moon, William Least. (2012). Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. New York: Little Brown & Company.
  14. hooks, bell. (1997). Bone Black: Memoirs of a Girlhood. New York: Holt.
  15. Kawabata, Yasunari. (1972/2006). Palm-of-the-Hand Stories. Translated by Lane Dunlop. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  16. Lewis, C.S. (2009). A Grief Observed. New York: HarperCollins.
  17. McCarthy, Cormac. (2007). The Road. New York: Vintage.
  18. Merton, Thomas. (1979). Love and Living. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  19. Morrison, Toni. (2008). What Moves at the Margin: Selected Nonfiction. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.
  20. Oliver, Mary. (2006). Thirst. New York: Penguin.
  21. Rich, Adrienne. (2002). The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems 1950-2001 New York: W.W. Norton.
  22. Ruefle, Mary. (2017). On Imagination. Brooklyn, NY: Sarabande Books.
  23. Rumi, Jalal al-Din. (2010). The Essential Rumi. Translated by Coleman Barks. New York: HarperCollins.
  24. Solnit, Rebecca. (2010). A Field Guide To Getting Lost. New York: Penguin.
  25. Whyte, David. (2015). Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. May Rivers Press: Langley, WA.

from On Imagination.