Together We Make a Difference in Writing

Anyone who knows me or who has been through this way (my blog) knows how intensely passionate I feel about writing. To sharpen my heightened interest in it, I participated in the National Writing Project, which has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a recipient of one of its i3  “Validation” awards. According to Elyse Eidman-Aadahl of NWP, “The ‘validation grant’ recognizes the performance of a particular program…The focus is on high need rural districts and work at grades 7-10.” NWP is among 20 organizations the Department identified as having the highest-rated applications (HRA) for FY 2012.

Eidman-Aadahl explains further that the goal of the validation strand in i3 is to produce the data that would recognize (essentially qualify) an entity or an approach for further investment. If NPW does well, it will pass a huge hurdle for future federal investment, and that is a very significant achievement.

This validation is conditional, that NWP raises its own funds to match that awarded by the USDOE. As USDOE puts it, “Potential i3 grantees under the U.S. Department of Education’s i3 program are responsible for obtaining private-sector matching funds or in-kind donations.

Someone made a very crucial point. “It is absurd to imagine that any child will be able to earn a living, let alone contribute to resolving our world’s complex problems, without knowing how to read and write…” Isabel Allende

NWP needs your help to sustain the different programs it runs for our nation. Please support the national and the local (Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project) sites that continue to provide vital resources to schools and higher education institutions across the country.  Click on this link to give generously.

Your contribution supports:

  • Student achievement in writing
  • Teacher excellence through high-quality professional development for teachers in all disciplines, early childhood through university
  • Leveraging the power of digital technology and the internet for use by teachers and young people
  • Writing instruction for teachers and students in high-need schools and communities
  • A national network of teacher-leaders and Writing Project sites building knowledge about writing and learning in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Referencing the USDOE information on i3 validation, “These grants will (1) allow eligible entities to expand and develop innovative practices that can serve as models of best practices, (2) allow eligible entities to work in partnership with the private sector and the philanthropic community, and (3) identify and document best practices that can be shared and taken to scale based on demonstrated success.”–Investing in Innovation (i3)

I am a member of the National Writing Proram, a journey that I was very lucky to be chosen to be a part of this summer (2012), a journey that transformed my life, view, and appreciation of all teachers and students of writing.

Although teachers know the intrinsic connection between writing and higher level thinking, it comes as a welcome reminder when NPW awakens our awareness of that fact. “Across the popular press, reporters and commentators have sounded the centrality of writing in the Common Core; the significance of writing in coherent, thoughtful curricula; and the clear connection between success in writing and success in college and career.”

Thousands of teachers are members of NWP, and I am one of such lucky people. When you visit my National Writing Program page, you will see my Knowledge Cloud, words that I have used in my postings on the NWP site collected together much like a Wordle. That’s how amazing the National Writing Program is.

Writing is a very beneficial aspect of humanity, the most significant quality that truly pits the intelligence of humans above any other species. I am growing in my connection to writing and to writing friends. Together we can make a difference in writing and in helping NWP continue its unmatched efforts.

Frances Ohanenye’s Knowledge Cloud

What Will You Do to Keep from Getting What You Want?

Since the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project ended this summer, and I became a Fellow, I have been writing furiously in every quarter of my writing life. As furiously as I write, something or someone (me) is preventing me from getting the change I want: a situation I liken to someone shooting herself in the foot to prevent physical progress.

At the KMWP event, there sat a lonely book on a table begging for a good home. I, being a lover of all things book, picked it up and knew that I would give it a good home and a good read. I confess that, that book sat unopened for a few weeks while I wrote furiously in all quarters.

Something caused me to pick it up and flip to the introduction. I know as a teacher, a writer, and an avid reader that an introduction is the million-dollar Super Bowl advertisement for a non-fiction. If the introduction does not grab me, it will be a struggle to read the rest of it.

I opened up to the introduction and froze, forced to examine myself and the reason I have not been published, and forced to accept that I have prevented myself from being published. The question the authors ask (which they borrowed from the late William Perry of Harvard, a gifted trainer of therapists, counselors, and consultants): “What does this person really want—and what will they do to keep from getting it?”

I devoured the introduction, a ten-page volcano that shook me to my roots. The book itself is titled How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey.

Put simply, I know what I really want, but I have done everything to keep from getting it until now. I’ve made every possible excuse in the world. There is no excuse anymore. I’ve done things that are not-for-profit. They made me incredibly happy, still make me incredibly happy, but they do not need to prevent me from accomplishing my for-profit goals. Getting published is for profit, little or big, and that is the ultimate goal of every writer who labors, moi meme included.

I’ve labored for far too long. I’ve been writing since I was ten years old. I’ve been published in magazines and online, but you would think that I should have had books out and been filthy rich and world-famous by now.

What will I do (have I done) to keep me from getting what I want? Everything, but no mas! I made resolutions this year, and I will not allow this year to end without accomplishing them or most of them. Change has come to stay.

KMWP Wraps It Up with Fanfare: I Am So Grown!

All Good Things Must End

Added by Frances Ohanenye on Jun 28, 2012 at 10:57am

Is this phrase the coinage of a realist or the clamoring doomsday chant of a party pooper? Regardless, and sadly, our workshop ends. It ends without my desire. It ends according to schedule. It ends because there is a calendar that dictates the order of things, the end of things, and the finality to life and events.

It is unbelievable how much growth is possible in three short weeks. My mind expanded, my appreciation ballooned, my writing jumped up and touched the sky, and my empathy broke like a dam and spilled over.

I have made many new friends. This is really the coming together of the most profound think tanks, so gifted, so profound in insights, and so grateful to be handed the hand we were given, and what an endowing hand. I am transformed for ever and for good.

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Missing Something Before You Miss It

Added by Frances Ohanenye on Jun 26, 2012 at 9:32am

The thought of missing something puts us in a very pensive, regretful, and avoidance mode and mood. We start dreading that reality and wishing we could stop it from coming to an end. Such is the feeling rampant among many KMWP fellows this week as we wind down. We voiced different aspects of our day we would miss.

Most of us agreed that we would miss our morning report. More than anything, it revealed to us the ingenuity in each fellow as we dug deep into our originality to produce a report worthy of keeping sleepy heads awake and alive enough to bring forth laughter.

We will miss (and that is the phrase that resonates frequently: “We will miss…”) our writing time that forces us to put down thoughts worthy of publication. According to Dr. Rob Montgomery, our gifted and fearless leader, a talented writer without the discipline to write every day will not be as successful as a disciplined writer with little or no talent. The latter will make a lot of money because time is money and showing up dutifully to work guarantees a paycheck.

If I take nothing away today, it will be that I need to adjust the lens through which I see this writing thing. I have loved showing up to work daily as a reader. I just have to make myself show up daily as a writer. My perception has been clouded by many misperceptions and misconceptions. I will write daily. I will write daily. I will write daily...

40 views           Add new comment                 1 comment: Posted by Patricia Valley

June 26, 2012 at 3:35pm

It’s validating to know I am not alone.  But missing something makes us appreciate it more too.  We have a funny expression in my family that is meant the be endearing.  How can I miss you if you won’t go away?  🙂

Exiting with a Mountain-High Bang!

Added by Frances Ohanenye on Jun 25, 2012 at 10:04am

Today marks the last week of our KMWP summer fellowship journey. I fight the feeling of sadness that threatens to envelope me. I can’t help but want this session to last the entire summer. Alas, it won’t or can’t grant my wish.

Just like the lightning that struck my house over the weekend and created a very loud bang as it fried several electronics, we are going out with a definite and resounding thump as I hear the activities lined up for our last days.

I love to see my name in print. We are publishing an anthology, presenting a skit or some similar act, having lunch at a restaurant, having lunch at a former KMWP fellow’s house, having lunch catered on the last day, receiving our KMWP T-shirts, presenting our demos, meeting in our reading groups, meeting in our writing groups to finalize our skit, and so many other activities. If these all do not make a mountain-high of a bang, I don’t know what does.

Wednesday is my demo. As the last demo presenter, you can imagine my position. I am the last person to demo! Do you feel my stress? I want to go out with a bang as well, louder than the one the lightning made in my house. I have learned to make a grand exit (and entrance). I hope I won’t disappoint myself this time.

Third Week Is International!

Added by Frances Ohanenye on Jun 22, 2012 at 9:40am

Born overseas, I gravitate to all things of a worldly nature. I have always been a child of the world first before identifying with my country, Nigeria. This week has been of immense interest. We have savored foods from France, Germany, Brazil, and Costa Rica. We have immersed ourselves deep in culture and have grown in leaps and bounds for our open-mindedness.

Our perspectives enlarge and reflect our acquisition and appreciation of the different.  I cannot convey with sufficient eloquence and conviction my gratitude for being allowed to take part in the National Writing Project. I have met colleagues who fill my intellect with food for thought and meditation.

This is the third week, and we show no signs of staleness or tiredness. We still perceive everything in new light and still anticipate our event-filled days with a child’s rightful impatience. I don’t want to look at the end of the tunnel. I am busy enjoying all the landscapes, unique explorations, and captivating events that pile my minutes and hours.

I am ecstatic to be here.

Half of My Fun Is Still Ahead (KMWP)

Added by Frances Ohanenye on Jun 21, 2012 at 9:31am

We arrive at this juncture in the workshop, and I can either bemoan the past days or look forward to the remaining days, the equivalent of the glass being half full or half empty. I choose the glass being half full because I have so much to look forward to. Even if KMWP wraps up today, I still have so much for which to look forward, especially our reunion in October.

With the glass half full, I am looking forward to my own Demo (demonstration) of a lesson that I will teach when school resumes. The initial cloud of anxiety has cleared, and I am pumped up. I have observed several amazing demos from every teacher in here, past and present fellows, ideas I intend to use, ideas to propel my teaching forward exponentially. (I know, another “-ly” word just crept in.)

With the glass half full, I am looking forward to my writing group’s presentation, which we have not decided what we will showcase. I cannot wait to get there, to arrive at next week. Excitement fills me at the numerous events we have waiting.

I look forward to each day as it unfolds with uncertainty because no two have been identical and no two days will. I am growing, still.

Poetry, Poetry, Poetry, Wherefore Art Thou, Poetry?

Added by Frances Ohanenye on Jun 20, 2012 at 9:39am

I am re-learning poetry, rediscovering its makeup, its characteristics, its facial features, grooming, and wherewithal. I write poetry, but I don’t write the regular poetry for the regular person. I write poetry filled with elevated vocabulary. There are those who write with simple vocabulary. There are those who write with mid-range words. I write with “big” words that may cause one of two people a headache. I apologize in advance.

How can I be true to me if I change who I am? I use “big” words naturally. They just come to me. I don’t know what that means for the general poetry public: that my poems will never be read? That people will get turned off by my poems because they do not want to crack open a dictionary in order to grow?

What do we tell our students, our children, ourselves? We say, “If you are reading a book, and you know all the words, that book is below your reading level.”

That makes my point. I want people to grow intellectually when they read my poem. I want them to acquire new words. I want them to read, re-read, and re-read my poems until the poem make sense, until those “big” words get cracked through any skills the reader has: context clues, word association, and so on.

So I write and will keep writing poetry in that hope that I will not compromise me in order to be and sound like all other poets out there. In order to stay true to me, I cannot be the other poets out there. Does that mean that no one will buy my poetry books when I publish them eventually? I guess so, and I am comfortable with that.

Not to say that I am Missy Elliot, Kanye West, Michael Jackson, or any other artist out there who dared to be different. I feel in my bones that I must be true to me and let the world accept my poems as they are. I am hoping that there are those who will. Get a taste at Thank you for visiting.

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1 comment: Posted by Fatima Abdulkazem, June 21, 2012 at 10:09am

I loved your poetry… It’s fancy…it’s tasty!

I also loved it because it teased my brain…and knocked on closed doors of knowledge to open!

i am just discovering an emerging poet in me…Your poems are inspiring


The Progenies of Literature

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” ― Lao Tzu


I attended a writers’ event last night, and I was encouraged by the promise in the room. The baton-passing is in strong hands, creative minds, and agile legs. What am I rambling about? The young!

I started writing when I was very small, and growing up in Nigeria, there were no outlets for me and my budding-writer kind to take our dreams to the outer realm of creative exposure. Except for my elementary, junior high, and high school teachers who recognized my talent, there did not seem anywhere else to go with all that talent.

When I taught English, I always tried to pay it forward by exposing my students to writing competitions and other outlets. More recently, when I heard of the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project for the young, I immediately sent e-mails to all the parents of my previous middle school students encouraging them to align their budding writers with that literary outlet.

Granted, a lot of people give J. K. Rawlings credit for increasing the number of pre-teens and teens who started reading voraciously and devouring dictionary-volume books. There is another wave of pre-teens and teenagers who inspired me last night—the ones who can actually write from the wells of inner inspiration, not forced, coerced, or threatened.

These students won awards last night, and as the presenters read the excerpts from the pieces that won the awards, I rested assured that literature would be in excellent hands, that the baton has been passed on successfully, even as we older generation toil and pound words into obedience.

I heard flowery language enough to make me want to cry, something I seem to be doing a lot lately. As I listened to each piece, something moved in me; recognition dawned; smile spread broadly, and something within shifted as genuine respect, not grudgingly, but readily.

The little event last night mirrors a grander and more widespread one as writers, publishers, promoters, and those at the helm of literary and scholarly penmanship recognize that the young have a voice.

Every year, professional authors, hobbyists, writers, educators, creative leaders, and others (who have vested interest in the young) seek out budding and unheard voices. We recognize the names of these literary giants who won awards as young writers: Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, Bernard Malamud, Carolyn Forché, Richard Avedon, Andy Warhol, and many, many more who won or did not win awards but who wrote from their hearts with technical skills, creative take on words, originality of thoughts, and personal voice.

Below are some online outlets for budding/emergent writers who wish to enter writing contests and competitions. Placing this list on my blog is not an act of endorsement or approval. When in doubt, parents and students, my advice is “caveat emptor.”

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