Amazing Dream Journal Available

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If you are interested in downloading the free pdf of Abe Table and The Amazing Dream Journal, jump over to The Stories page and check it out.

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Four Middle Level Books I Would Like to Read This Summer

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Who isn’t looking for sources for enjoyable reading? Mr. Renwick gives some excellent suggestions! I had to include them.

Reading By Example

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This title won the E.B. White Read Aloud Honor in 2011. It chronicles the friendship between a group of mice and a cat during the time of Charles Dickens. In fact, the author himself frequents the inn where this novel takes place. An initial listing of characters with names such as Pip alludes to the possibility of many Dickens references throughout the story. My favorite so far (on the back cover): “He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms.”

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I see this title frequently mentioned on Twitter by other educators. After picking it up at my local book store, I sent out this tweet:

It resulted in at least half a dozen replies, all highly recommending it. This fantasy novel pits four orphans against each other in a deadly competition…

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Story #5 Soon

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Keep your eyes peeled: the next Abe Table adventure will arrive soon. I am working through the outline right now on a crazy set of misunderstandings that will lead Abe to some wrong conclusions, as usual. In Abe Table and The Amazing Dream Journal, Abe believes that he is beginning to control his dreams. When he and Liz and Ray see a hearse with a wild looking driver from his dreams and a girl fleeing on horseback, he’s not sure if he wants to dream any more, much less try to control his dreams. When they both show up at his school he reaches his wit’s end; he doesn’t know what to do or what will be next.

Look for the story. I’ll have a release date countdown as soon as the outline is complete. In the meantime, watch for some new writing tips this week. Take some time this summer to create stories of your own! Start with some fun ideas, some crazy ideas, and let them build. I’ll show you how in the next “I hate writing – Help!” tips.

The Legend (Scene 2)

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Abe Table and the Legend of Burgess Clave continues. Here is Scene 2:

Nothing unusual about the day, I thought to myself as I climbed the stairs to Language Arts. Five hundred of us were going to the same class it seemed—the hallways and stairways were jam-packed. Other than that, and, oh, the fact that I had just promised to steal a key and break into the scariest part of my uncle’s cemetery, the day was just normal.

What was I thinking? My brain was scrambled already from the test that was coming up next period, and now I was more worried than ever that I was going to get caught, get in trouble and lose my job. Not to mention what my mom and dad were going to do. My mind was beginning to work overtime and I tripped going up the last step, spewing my binder into the upstairs hallway—which was like pitching it into a churning river.

“Table! Easy, Dude. You gotta control that massive frame of yours or you’ll run someone over,” Justin Placer said. He stood in the middle of the hallway forcing the traffic to go around like a giant boulder in the river while I grabbed my binder and the loose papers.

“Thanks, Justin,” I said after I got everything.

“Hey, don’t worry about it. Anything to help someone who may help me on my test today, right?”

I didn’t want to ‘help’ Justin. This could turn out to be a tougher day than I thought. I chuckled and shook my head. “Got to watch that sort of stuff, Justin. That could land us both in some trouble.” I was hoping my play-it-off thinking worked. The stresses of this day were mounting and I hadn’t even taken the test yet. I wondered (but wished I didn’t) how it could possibly get worse.

“That’s what I like about you, Table,” Justin said while nodding like a laid-back surfer. “You don’t pull any punches. I expected that from you.”

He fist-bumped me as we turned into the classroom. Whew! That was close. I didn’t even know what that saying meant, but I guessed it meant I was honest.

Gravy was in my Social Studies class and met me before I even sat down—a little too eager, I thought.

“Can’t wait to go tonight! Gonna be awesome,” Gravy said smiling like he just ate the last cookie in the lunch line.

“What’s gonna be awesome, Abe?” Liz said. It got worse.

I smiled on one side of my mouth and knew I shouldn’t have wondered about how it could get worse. Liz Strong was in Social Studies too.

“Yeah, Liz, no big deal. We are going to race go-carts tonight,” I lied. I didn’t know what else to do! Not only was I stressed about the test coming up, almost bullied into cheating on it, asked to steal the key to the mausoleum of Burgess Clave and lead a bunch of boys to break into it, now I was lying regularly like a card shark playing poker with a bunch of little kids. Would the day and its stresses never end?

“Dude, Liz, that’s totally not it. We are going to the mausoleum of Burgess Clave on Sleepy Knoll tonight at midnight. Abe here is getting us in,” dingbat Gravy said.

I was beyond frustration! How was I supposed to do well on my Social Studies test with stuff like this going on?! I felt like Charlie Brown at the moment.

Fortunately, Harrison rang his bell for everyone to sit down and quietly journal about the topic on the screen while he took roll. I saw that as an opportunity to calm down a bit. I breathed deeply to prepare for the onslaught of Liz Strong. She didn’t allow for much preparation.

“Abe,” Liz whispered from her seat ahead one and across the aisle. Her eyebrows were down-turned in the middle and the smirky smile she wore was like a happy face gone rogue—she was all too glad to know what the boys had planned. “Are you ghost hunting again? How’d that go for you last time?”

I thought about that for a minute and remembered the trouble Liz herself got into the last time. I wanted to get right back in her face, but I felt sorry for her. No time to worry about that now. I had to finish writing and ignore Liz if possible. Which was not.

We all had five minutes to find a partner and ask study questions with him or her from our interactive notes. I partnered with Gravy, who sat behind me, and thought I was going to be able to focus on the test.

“Better watch out up there tonight, Abe,” Liz said on her way to the pencil sharpener in the back of the room. She had a mechanical pencil in her hands. She didn’t even look at me when she said it.

How was I supposed to concentrate on the test? I didn’t put it past Liz to show up and try one of her typical tricks tonight. And thinking about what she had to say or what she might do was going to positively derail my chances of doing well on this ridiculous test.

When she came back by I couldn’t help himself. “You better watch out, Liz. My uncle’s not too friendly with uninvited guests after hours.”

“Good,” she said, “I hope he’s invited you and your gullible friends.”

She always got the last word and she was mean, but smart.

The test came and went and I wasn’t sure it was my best, but I had other worries now that it was over: the break in of the mausoleum of Burgess Clave. Why had I agreed to do this? Mr. Harrison invited my row and Liz’s to go to the library and meet with the media center coordinator. He had arranged to have a bunch of historical documents about Industrial America available for us. It was a whole process that we’d done for other topics. It was at the library, once we were in table groups—and Liz purposefully joined mine and Gravy’s—that Liz took over.

“Ever hear the actual legend of Burgess Clave, Elijah?” Liz used Gravy’s real name. She preyed on the weak. Gravy shook his head. He probably hadn’t. “He shows up now and then at the edge of the woods behind the mausoleum. Not all the time, mind you. Just sometimes. Chances are you won’t see him tonight if you go up there.”

He was listening and I was waiting for the spooky music to start playing. I’d heard the legend, of course, because my uncle owns the place.

“Chances are we won’t see him because ghosts don’t exist,” Gravy said.

“Suit yourself… Abe, here knows that’s not true. Why, the ghost of Burgess Clave has been seen on that hill before,” Liz said. She paused a bit before she continued, like she was thinking of the nicest way to break the news to poor Gravy. “Clave was rich, Elijah. He was worth a ton, but some of his closest people swindled him out of all his money.” She paused again.

I was about to interrupt when she picked up the little yarn she spun. I thought of a kitten chasing a piece of string. I wasn’t sure who was on the other end: Liz or Gravy.

“So, now, he appears only when someone who is dishonest shows up… someone who has stolen something or is trespassing maybe. He wants revenge against all thieves and trespassers,” Liz said. “I’d think twice about going up there at night.” Then she popped up and left the table.

Abe Table and The Legend of Burgess Clave – Scene 1

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Here is the first scene of the new story. The rest of it will follow later today as a file you can download. Enjoy!

 

The Breakfast Challenge

I might have seen a ghost.

For real. Convincing my table people that I did was a whole different bag of fries. They might actually be impressed if I could talk them into believing me. But that would take some work.

Some days just fall on the high side of the fun meter and the cafeteria is a great place to gauge that. This particular day brought great argument to my table—not that I owned the table or anything; we just always sit in the exact same spot every day of our lives so it feels like my table—Do ghosts really exist?

Extremely controversial, right?

New word from Language Arts class: volatile!

Oh, we’ve had the argument before. In fact, we’ve had it many times. Everyone has a ghost story, right? Well, today the guys brought out their best (including pretty darn good lies, I think).

Ray Medina, my best friend, kicked it off over a droopy slice of french toast and some breakfast tots.

“You guys hear about the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’ story from YouTube yesterday?” Ray is super smart and has time to like read and watch everything on the planet.

“Isn’t that from the Muppet movie about the Christmas Carol?” Johannes asked.

“Yeah… no, that’s not it. It’s from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens,” Ray said. “Anyway, some dude says when he puts a little nutcracker ornament that his grandma gave him on his Christmas tree, her ghost visits every night. He showed a video of some sort of eerie light when the tree lights are on, but heck, anyone could make that happen.”

I thought it was super odd that Ray brought this up because I thought I just saw one the afternoon before. Late afternoon, in my defense. You know… it was getting dark and all that.

Some other guys brought up stupid points like ghosts were real they just don’t like to show themselves to people, but I asked the question of all questions.

“Do you think they exist, Ray?”

I wasn’t exactly baiting him, but he was too smart to waste this chance. Sometimes I think Ray should have his own YouTube channel to share all the stuff he knows. He thinks I’m crazy. And with what I was getting ready to pop on the little knot of unsuspecting boys, I would confirm it for him.

“Come on, Abe. You know the trouble we went through with that little charade (Ray often used big words like that) with Liz and what we, you, thought was a ghost here at school. Remember? People make stuff up. That’s all there is to it,” he said… like there was no point in continuing. Conversation closed. Done. Don’t even think about adding something.

Well, I did.

“I saw a ghost yesterday afternoon,” I said. Not at all how I planned on breaking the news!

Gravy shook his head and said, “Yeah, right, like anyone is going to believe you after Liz.”

“You got proof?” Pick asked.

I’m sure at this point Ray was sizing up what I was going to say and wondering why I didn’t tell him before school. I totally forgot, really. We had a huge test in Social Studies and I had stressed studying my flashcards on my phone all night and wasn’t firing on all pistons. It was sometimes tough having Ray as a best friend because I wanted to be as smart as he was, but I had to work pretty hard to keep up.

Pick and Gravy are nicknames, by the way. Pick’s name is James and he is as thin as a… yep, toothpick. Gravy, Elijah, is pretty thin too but he really likes the gravy and mashed potatoes on Thursdays.

I didn’t know if I had proof or not. I didn’t have a picture on my phone, if that’s what he meant.

Looking around at everyone like I was a brilliant story teller, I said, “I saw him at work, he was in the woods at the top edge of the grounds.” I work at my uncle’s cemetery. If anybody had proof or a reason to have seen a ghost it was me, right? I didn’t say that though. “…by the Burgess Clave mausoleum.”

Pick  jumped on that. I knew somebody would. His eyes were wide and he said, “Like… the legend of Burgess Clave? That one?”

I smiled. “That one, Pick. Does that scare you?”

“Doesn’t scare me,” he said. But it did. I could tell. He wasn’t chewing his fingernails yet, but he had enough Shaggy from Scooby Doo in him. He would be soon.

“Yeah, that’s how it always is with these stories. Everybody can talk about it, but nobody can point to a ghost, Abe,” Gravy said.

“You show up, and I’ll do the pointing,” I said… with some bravado (another point for vocab in language arts). Like I thought anybody would take me up on that.

Just then the bell rang. We all got up to take our plates to the trash line.

“Well, maybe we should shoot a video at the cemetery and finally get proof,” Ray said.

Now my eyes went wide. What was Ray thinking?

“Maybe we can go into the Clave mausoleum and dance on the grave,” Gravy said.

“Would your uncle let us in, Abe?” Pick asked, leaning on his elbows over the table. He might have been shaking some too. Not sure.

“We can get in there whether he lets us or not,” I said. “I can get the key.” What a mistake! My uncle could fire me and I would get in all kinds of trouble at home. But sometimes you say stuff to show off. Most of the time, that’s just plain stupid. So we headed off to our lockers and I was more nervous than ever… and I hadn’t even gotten to my Social Studies test yet.

 

 

Many Thanks

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Thanks to Mrs. Saling’s class for providing thoughtful and constructive feedback and comments on Abe’s 2nd story, Hood. Their ideas will not only help me improve that story, but I’ll be able to apply them to future Abe Table stories (which I’ve already done with The Legend of Burgess Clave). What a powerful thing to do: help someone out by reading what they wrote and provide thoughtful comments.

Which leads to Writing Tip #5: Ways to Revise your Writing

1. Ask someone to read your work and give you specific advice (like, “Would you read this and tell me if where the details are helpful and where I don’t give enough?”).

2. Read your work again and see where it doesn’t make sense.

3. Read your work and ask if your main character has a clear goal.

4. Ask yourself who your target audience is and if you are writing for them.

Can you think of other ways to improve your writing? Share them with us as comments.

Abe’s 3rd Story Available Now

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Is Abe being haunted at home and at school? Could the lunchroom debate about whether or not there are such things as ghosts finally be settled? You don’t want to miss Abe’s attempt to capture a ghost in this episode of The Misinformed Life… catch Abe’s newest adventure here or in The Stories link at the top of the page. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for the next “I hate Writing – Help!” tip…coming soon!