Archives for June 2014

Introducing Young Writers at the Coffee Shop

The Sixth and seventh graders of the Happy Valley Writing Club were invited to read at the Rain or Shine Coffee Shop located at 60th and Division in Portland, Oregon. This invitation brought with it a lot of pride and some fear.

Stephanie, Long, Emma, Amanda, Vanisa, Natalia, with Priscilla

Stephanie, Long, Emma, Amanda, Vanisa, Natalia, with Priscilla

“I’m not a good reader,” whispered one sixth grader to me.

“But you are an excellent writer, so we’ll work on the reading. Not one of us is a good reader without practice, and that includes your teacher.”

She didn’t believe me, of course. I read aloud to them a lot.

So, I had to demonstrate how I used to read in public. I stood on one leg and jingled the change in my pocket. I mumbled with my head down, gaze buried deeply into my paper. My speaking speed was ninety miles an hour. I finished with, “I guess that’s all. It’s not very good.” And then I sat down abruptly.

That very honest demonstration brought hoots of laughter from the members. “Really?” Stephanie shouted. “That’s not true.”

“Not only true, but the story was long and I’m pretty sure even my mom was asleep when I finally stopped.”

Jelena and Amanda

Jelena and Amanda

“We can do better than that,” Amanda laughed.

“And so you can. Let’s get to work and be ready for our night at Rain or Shine.”

Rain or Shine Coffee Shop has worked with mystery writer Bill Cameron, and now with Oregon Writers Colony to host readings on Thursdays. The readers who are featured are usually adults with a lot of practice bringing their audience a great story.

We needed to work toward this event. So, for a few Writing Club meetings weeks prior to the evening reading, the students practiced reading slowly and clearly. We had good laughs and realized our distracting habits. We learned to look confident. We learn to look at the audience at the end of paragraphs, (creating a chance to take a good breath).

I knew that the mike at Rain or Shine is uni-directional, so if we turn our head to read toward the right side of the audience, the mike can’t pick up our voices. We tried to practice staying on the pretend mike that we had.

We had a whole lesson on pronouncing the consonants in words. Thus, during our Thursday night reading, there were a few jokes about not going to Mill School, but Middle School.

Natalia, Jelena, Amanda

Natalia, Jelena, Amanda

Eight of the twelve students read on that night. We shared fictional stories about the aftermath of an auto accident, the breakup of a family, learning to appreciate the protective parent and some very frightening encounters with fantastic monsters. The students did extremely well. I am proud of how well they write and of how well they read. They are an amazing bunch.

We had great fun. Thanks Rain or Shine and Oregon Writers Colony for putting this challenge before us.

And by the way, I am on the lookout for a mike to use when we practice in the future. So, if any of you have an idea where to look for an affordable mike, let me know.

Jared & his lucky Pen

Jared & his lucky Pen

Being Prepared for the Big One, and the Small Ones, too

My friend, Ruth Jones, has tried to take care of her neighbors and her friends by joining Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) program. Convincing complacent friends to be prepared has been an uphill slog for Ruth, but she keeps at it.

Last month, friends were at my house for lunch. We talked (not for the first time) about Ruth’s hope that we are actually collecting the things we need to survive the next (and way overdue) big earthquake in Oregon.

 Are YOU ready for the next big quake?Are YOU ready for the next big quake?

So, because Ruth has been trying so hard to get our attention on this subject, I challenged those who were at lunch to tackle the first and most important part of the list of emergency needs – water. My challenge was that by June (the next month) we should all have the suggested amount of water for every member of our family stored in our garage or basement.

Since I was the one who proposed the challenge, I had to go out and do. I bought a five gallon bottle of water for each person living in the house.

So, guess what we used when Portland recently had its boil water alert…

And now, I’m thankful and a lot more ready to get prepared for other emergencies.

I am going to tackle Ruth’s list from Neighborhood Emergency Team. I’m going to work down the list one item at a time because even one day of the Boil Water Alert showed me how much we take life in modern times for granted.

And, friends, I hope you will join me in getting prepared. There are great resources for us. The first place to go is  The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management. Take a look at the suggestions for planning, for collecting needed resources and especially for communication during an emergency.

Remember in a real emergency we may also be without the internet, so print off those to-do lists. Take them with you when you are getting items. Keep whittling down that list and meet me at the communications center tents set up for our neighborhood in the event of the Big One. (Mine will be at Irvington School playground. Figure out from the map on the website where your communications center will be.)

It doesn’t matter if the next emergency is just an icy winter, a boil water alert, or a more devastating event, I’d like to urge my friends to be ready, and then relax. Too often, I’ve relaxed first, thinking about getting ready. I’m glad I didn’t relax before I did step one – Water.

Become trained as a member of a Portland Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET). Or at least learn what you need to do to be prepared.

Visit The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management


Phone: 503-823-4375 Fax: 503-823-3903 TDD: 503-823-3947

Portland Bureau of Emergency Management