Smarty Gras at Pima Community College

A legal pad that hosts a litany about a sick son, a hilariously hyperbolic resume on a computer word document, a memoir about a grandmother’s point shoes on a yellow legal-sized paper, a short ghost story in a powder blue journal, and a spiral notebook that reviews the book Hunger Angel. What do they all have in common? The answer is what I uncovered this weekend as I moved around the tables of the Amethyst room at Pima Community College’s Downtown campus. I was celebrating the love of writing with fellow writers and educators in Tucson.

Smarty Gras (the name given to this weekend’s professional development Saturday) contrived the ambiance of New Orleans' French Quarter as jazz music from the application Pandora permeated the facility. Yet just as quickly it began, it was drown out when the participants began playing kazoos, in unison, to the tune of When The Saints Go Marching In. One could hear a bit of harmony and rounds in the second and third repeats as the creativity and magic began. And the magic didn’t end until the writers had written their six-word memoirs, published them with the web-based publishing tool Poll Everywhere, and submitted them on the big screen for all to enjoy.

My favorite part of the morning was The Writer Igniter, a do it yourself web-based writing prompt generator. It sparked the audience to write! The “oohs “and “aahs” of the possibility of a mime in a children’s library with a lava lamp or a Pyromaniac in a garden with a love letter carried their creative minds to their writing spaces. In almost total silence the 200 plus attendees began to explore their thoughts. Five minutes into the writing, I had planned a short segway to bring the group together and point out the value writer’s place on sharing their writing. But my spiel was cut short as the room began buzzing with reading. Ah yes, writers know what they desire. How could I think I needed to provide such instructions? Another five minutes of sharing, and the crowd simmered into a smooth roll, and we continued with the writing and sharing of the remainder of the Key Note presentation.

The book trailer on YouTube for It’s A Book by Lane Smith garnered laughter. The banter of Jack Ass and Monkey found favor with the crowd and comments included, “Yeah, that’s me; give me my Kindle any day!” and “I love my books.” It is a fantastic children’s book that offers deep discussion about technology preferences and literacy. Participants used it as a jumping point to describe themselves as teachers who embrace, are challenged by, or simply avoid technology in the classroom. The module ended with the teachers exploring what their plans were to continue or to change their self-descriptions. It was an amazing morning!

Many thanks to the team who worked until the last minute to provide a cohesive and engaging session: Christina McGee, Flory Simon, Kate Foley Cusumano, Sarah Etters, and Stacia Reeves. You all Rocked, and I was proud to be a part of the festivities!

Table Sharing                                                               Six-Word Memoirs                                                    What is your technology temperature?