Saturday, March 17, 2012

Slave Diaries...

I teach my 5th graders American History and this year my focus has been slavery during the Revolutionary War period. I read Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson to give the students a perspective on the life of a slave girl and boy and background details of life in New York City during the unrest and upheaval in 1776. One of the assignments I gave was to write a diary entry as a slave child. I asked them to write about their chores, their slave masters, and include a metaphor for how they felt about being a slave. What my students wrote were both surprising and beautiful. It is some of their best writing I've seen this year.

Here are some pieces of the slave diaries of my 5th graders:

"When I think of my family I am as sad as the rain when it cries. I am a stump, a broken down train, a torn book, and a fever. I miss my family. I want to go home. How much longer do I have to live in New York City, this place smelling of smoke, the noise, not home?"

"Although I am only 11 years old, they work me as hard as an oxen going through the whistling winds. When I am with them, they treat me like I am the ugly duckling that needs to be slaughtered."

"When I am sad about my parents my eyes are like a rain cloud."

"My name is Casey, a slave in New York, and I have been literally ripped out of the arms of my parents and sold to a nasty owner named Beth. She makes me feel like a sole on a shoe, always being stepped on and scraped with no emotions coming from the person above holding me down, totally careless."

"I feel like a rock. If people want to hit a rock they hit a rock if people want to sell a rock they sell a rock. People treat me like I have no feelings. I hate being a slave. My mistress wants me to go fast but I can't go fast. I'm sad."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Smith Family Writers

It's fun to come from a family of writers. We share our work and we listen to each other. We talk about what we're working on, what we should be working on, and what we hope to be working on. Writing is hard work, no matter the genre. My siblings and parents and I all write in different genres but we all share a love for language. Writing is challenging and rewarding and compelling. I write for children (middle grade), my older sister, Robin, is a poet and also writes for teens, my younger sister, Cindy, writes romance suspense and mysteries, my brother, Dell, writes adult fiction, my mom has written magazine stories and romance novels, my dad wrote poems, humorous stories, journals, and cartoons. I think growing up around books and writing greatly influenced us kids. Can you tell? We call ourselves the Smith Family Writers and often send each other articles of interest. We give each other books for Christmas and birthdays. If not, gift cards to buy them.

We've always talked about who would be the first to publish a book. And now we know. Robin has had a book of poetry accepted by WordTech Communications LLC, Word Press imprint. It will be making its debut in December 2013. Go, Robin! You will be sure that we will have a huge launch party to celebrate her writing and her new book, Dream of the Antique Dealer's Daughter.