Margin Notes



What I Was Reading:

Ikkyu-san wrote a series of poems called “Skeletons” after falling asleep in a graveyard. He dreamt that the skeletons were all alive and living as they had when they still had flesh on their bones. One of them approached him and said the lines below. Ikkyu was one of the most prominent monks in Japanese history, yet he was irreverent about many things. He famously enjoyed alcohol and women until his end. He lived from 1394 to 1481.

This world
Is but
A fleeting dream
So why be alarmed
At its evanescence?

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • The author is trying to encourage the reader to forego any attachments to ‘this world’ and to embrace detachment.
  • He is sparing with his words and leaving pregnant pauses for dramatic effect.

Possibilities For Writers:

  • Ask students to write about all of the things that they feel ‘attached to’ in this world.
  • Ask students to write about all of the things they could easily live without.
  • Ask students to either agree with Ikkyu’s philosophy or disagree with it and give their examples/reasons.
  • Ask students to write about what advice someone who has died (either famous or personal) would likely give them.

Guest writer William Biolsi is an ESL/EFL teacher who spent 19 of his last 24 years living in East Asia. He is currently enrolled as a BEd student at the University of New Brunswick



What I  Was Reading: 


“The Swim Team” is the second story in Miranda July’s collection of short stories titled No one belongs here more than you. All of the stories in the collection are compelling due to the wildly imaginative inner lives of the usually lonely, bizarre, and socially outcast characters. While reading through the book, I noticed that July commonly excludes quotation marks to denote speech. In “The Swim Team”, this lack of punctuation serves a unique and interesting purpose. This story starts with a paragraph about how it is being written for the narrator’s ex-boyfriend in order to explain a specific time in her past that the ex-boyfriend had wanted to know about, and which may have contributed to their break-up. The story goes on to explain what happened during this secretive time and includes multiple characters speaking to each other without using quotation marks. The lack of quotation marks made me feel like I was not reading exactly what was said, but the narrator’s memory of what was said. Additionally, it made it so that the narrators voice was the only voice I heard while reading. In this way, the story sounded the way a story would if a friend was recounting an event that happened to them. This method of delivering the story made me feel a connection to the narrator, I was standing in for the ex-boyfriend and the narrator was telling her story to me.


What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • No quotation marks to denote who is speaking and when
  • Lack of separation between dialogue and description
  • Writing as if recounting a story to a friend
  • Writing as if you are speaking to a fictional reader

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Write a story from your past as if you were telling the story to a friend
  • Try telling a story with dialogue from one character’s perspective without using quotation marks to separate the speakers
  • Write a fictional story from the perspective of a fictional character to another fictional character

Guest writer Julia Mortimer is currently a student teacher at UNB. When she is not busy studying she enjoys staring up at trees in hopes of seeing a bird, talking to her cat, and spending too much time wandering in grocery stores.



What I Was Reading:

Game ChangerWhile I was reading Game Changer, I was struck by the many different ways Greenwald introduces different characters and dialogue without actually using any “traditional” writing styles. The story is about a thirteen-year-old boy who is in a coma from an injury on the football field, but the majority of the story circles around other characters who are trying to unpack what exactly happened to Teddy. We see a lot of different interactions with people within the story, and we get a lot of insight about how the characters are feeling about the protagonist’s journey, without getting an overload of information about them. I thought this was a very interesting and unconventional way to provide perspectives throughout the story.

Game Changer3Game Changer2Game Changer1

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • Conversations are happening in messaging format with the dates and times of when they were said and by whom.
  • You can see what perspectives of the characters are more widely shared in the book by looking at the number of “likes” the message has.
  • There is no description given to the characters speaking, but instead information about who they are and how they are involved are happening through online discussion.
  • Updates on the protagonist are given through hospital reports, or through what he hears from the people around him while he is in a coma.
  • Ambiguity around the circumstances of his injury is heightened from the amount of characters giving opposing perspectives.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Use one of the messaging conversations in Game Changer as a mentor text to get students to write out their own dialogue between 3 or more people. Have them use standard messaging techniques to provide meaning to the conversation.
  • Get students to write dialogue in a traditional sense, then have them try to take that same conversation and transfer it to a messaging platform – IMessage, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat – How does it change between platforms?
  • Have students think of a time they heard a conversation that they were not a part of, and get them to come up with a way to express that dialogue without using standard quotations.
  • Using the Game Changer example of the hospital report, have students describe their current mood or situation in a similarly unique manner.

Guest writer Lauren Sieben is a UNB pre-service teacher currently interning with Sara BeLong in Grade 6 English at George Street Middle School. Game Changer combined two of her favourite things: reading YA and football.



What I was Reading:

curiousThe curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon has many craft moves for writers to try. The narration and the way the novel is written is so unique and serves as a great mentor text for personal or instructional writing. The story is told from the perspective of Christopher, a neuro-diverse narrator who finds himself in the middle of a mystery he is determined to solve. While he brings the reader along on his quest, he spends a lot of time describing his unique feelings, beliefs, and quirks to us. In one section, he explains how he determines whether or not he will have a good day, while using a variety of techniques.


What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • He writes his labels for his days in bolded type, so when he references them again it’s easier for the reader to remember his definition.
  • He integrates his definitions into a paragraph in an organized way.
  • He writes dialogue without using any quotation marks.
  • He uses longer sentences with minimal commas so that his writing sounds like how the narrator would speak.
  • He creates a comparison between his own superstitions and others’/his own father’s superstitions.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Think about what constitutes a Good Day, Black Day, etc. in your own life and write about it, using this text and Haddon’s labels as inspiration.
  • Use the technique of bolding labels in your own writing.
  • Describe superstitions you have encountered in your own life and consider why you believe in them (or why you do not).

Guest writer Kristin Estabrooks is a Mount Allison University graduate, and is currently a student teacher studying for her Bachelor of Education at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. She is an avid reader who is now learning to read like a teacher of writing, and is looking forward to passing what she has learned on to her students.



What I Was Reading:

apolloNow more than ever there are a plethora of great YA novels to get our students reading. One such series that also has the benefit of enjoying a movie adaptation is Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. His spin off series The Trials of Apollo centers around the god Apollo losing his memories and becoming human. A strong recommendation for any students who like fantasy.

One of the things I really enjoyed was how every chapter begins with a haiku. These haikus, often humorously, foreshadow what is going to happen in the coming chapter. Not only is this a great writing move but it also pays homage to the source material. Many of the Greek myths and tales are either told through or prominently feature poetry in a number of ways: look back to Homer, Aeneid, and many of the Greek philosophers. So, given this is a story centered around gods and demi gods from the Greek pantheon, this is very fitting.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • The haiku always foreshadows something that will happen in the chapter.
  • The haikus vary in tone and subject matter for every chapter.
  • They operate as an epiphany, a comment or a thought on the story.
  • They often use metatextual references or break the fourth wall.
  • They always follow the 5-7-5 convention.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Provide students with a chapter of a book, short story, or video clip and have them write a haiku summarizing the content.
  • Provide the opposite: Provide them a haiku and have them write a narrative inspired by the content.
  • Have students provide haikus and/or writing to each other and for each others’ work.
  • Experiment with other poem structures to summarize a piece of writing or to function as an aside to what is happening (rhyming couplet, limerick, etc).
  • Encourage students to look into the genres they enjoy and employ something relevant to that genre, culture or tone. For example, introducing a science formula or a captain’s log entry at the beginning of a chapter of science fiction, a historical quote for a historical piece, or a text message exchange for a YA drama.

Guest writer Mitch Caissie is a nerd with a heart of gold and a head of hair, currently working through his Bachelor of Education and eagerly waiting to finish and begin his journey into teaching. He enjoys his wife, his pup, his video games, and his ability to speak in the third person.



What I Was Reading:

SissyI used to have a rainbow flag accessory on my phone, but it broke. My quick fix for making sure my students continue to be sure that I’m an ally of the LGBTQ++ community is to openly read very obviously queer novels. One of my favourites so far has been Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story by Jacob Tobias. It’s a hilarious and hard-hitting autobiography that discusses gender, sexuality, sex education, religion and all kinds of social issues that come along with growing up as a non-binary person within a society that upholds a restrictive gender binary.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

Jacob Tobias’ voice comes through so clearly in their writing. One of the moves I see Jacob making to emphasize their voice in the book are the little faux-footnotes they sprinkle in. Instead of elaborating within the text, Jacob sometimes just inserts an asterix and explains or elaborates points in a little footnote at the bottom of the page. These footnotes range from explanations of words that the reader may not be familiar with to little additions to stories they tell in the text. These little additions are usually more informally written than the core text, which makes it feel like the author is adding in these details just for you, and makes the text feel even more authentic and personal than it already is.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • I mostly see this craft move as a way to insert additional ideas into a text without interrupting the flow of the main piece of writing.
  • When writers are writing about something they are an expert in, a faux-footnote would be a great way to throw in “fun facts” that might otherwise throw off the flow of a piece.
  • When writers are writing a more serious piece and are struggling to have their voice come through, this craft move could allow them to add in some humour/personality without interrupting the decorum of their writing.
  • When writers want to make sure readers understand the point they are making, a reiteration as a faux-footnote is a creative way to ensure readers understand the idea they’re trying to convey.
  • As Jacob uses them, faux-footnotes are also a great way to define a word that is necessary to use but may not be known to the piece’s audience.

My name is Caroline Wilson and I’m a student in the UNB faculty of Education. I love to be able to recommend all sorts of books to my students so I have been trying to fill my Non-Fiction book gap with memoirs like this one. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about first-hand experiences in the queer community or about the gender binary.



What I Was Reading:

Humans of NYThis book brings a whole new meaning to the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Using photographs and short pieces of text, Brandon Stanton captures the stories of diverse New Yorkers who catch his eye on the city streets. Short texts that vary in length from a sentence to a page sized paragraph accompany the photographs, making for a casual but captivating read. As a reader, you immediately connect with the humans in the photographs and are greatly moved by their stories.

You can read many of the stories on the Humans of New York website.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • The photographer/writer is giving others a voice.
  • Using images to tell powerful stories.
  • Organized in a way that the stories can be read in any order.
  • Using different ways to tell stories. Some photographs are accompanied with short dialogues; some are the stories they share; and some are simple observations made by the photographer/writer.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Choose a picture that you feel tells a story of you. What do you think this picture says about you?
  • Caption a picture that you once took of somebody else, either with an observation, some dialogue, or a short story that explains the picture.
  • Ask your friends/family to send you some photos they have taken of you and choose one that you feel tells a story. What does it say?

Guest writer Rebecca Landry is a Bachelor of Education Student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and has an undergraduate degree from the Université of Moncton with a major in French and a minor in English. She hopes to become a Language Arts teacher at the Middle/Secondary school level.



What I Was Reading:

princess saves herselfMy co-operating teacher recommended I read this poem from The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace when she was using it with her creative writing class for students to read and imitate with any topic relevant to them. I like this poem because it’s a poem about facing the world and learning to stand on your own two feet. I think this poem is a great fit for high school students because of the message it sends (it refutes the fairytale idea of the prince saving the day when what we need to understand is that we can save ourselves) and because of the writing moves it shows writers.

Warning I:

this is not a
Fairy tale.

there is no

there is no

there is no

there is no

there are no

there is simply
a girl

faced with the
difficult task

of learning to
believe in


What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • Using parallel structure to create the idea of what this poem is not about.
  • Using periods as an emphasis as to what this poem is not about.
  • The author titles this poem Warning I to alert the reader that this poem will connect with other poems in the collection.
  • The author has organized the short stanzas in order to emphasize each point.
  • The writer organizes her writing in a way that invites students to emulate the writing.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Writers can brainstorm events in their own lives that have not had a “fairytale” ending and choose one in order to write their own “Warning” poem.
  • Writers can follow the organization of the poem to allow for emphasis on each point they make leading up to the final point.
  • Writers can play with punctuation to create the emphasis they want and impact the message sent to the reader.

My name is Katie Morgan and I am a pre-service teacher at UNB. I am from Newfoundland and am currently obsessing over Instagram poetry!



What I Was Reading:

I was first introduced to Billy Collins during a time in my life when I had no desire to enjoy poetry, and I was a little disappointed to discover that there was a poet out there – a Poet Laureate out there – whose poems I couldn’t help but love. Since then, I have gone through several cycles of forgetting he exists, then rediscovering him, and being equally excited by his poems each time. There’s something irresistible about the way he defies all the pretentious and irritating “rules” that turn so many people off of poetry. Many of Billy Collins’ poems are laced with cynicism, but somehow make me feel light-hearted and optimistic. “Introduction to Poetry” is probably one of his poems that does this the most explicitly. While re-discovering it recently, I was struck by how effective his use of simple and original metaphors is.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • Collins uses vivid and intriguing imagery to engage many of his readers’ senses (sight, sound, and feeling) in a way that leads us to understand and feel the unsettling truth in his message.
  • He uses line breaks (sometimes multiple) in the middle of sentences to control the flow of his ideas.
  • He uses metaphors to express an idea/opinion – in this case a criticism of how students approach, and are taught to approach, the analysis of poetry.
  • He uses very simple language to convey his ideas.
  • He uses contrasting metaphors to depict the way something is vs. the way it ought to be (two different metaphors to depict two different approaches/perspectives on analyzing poetry: i.e. stanzas 1-5 contrast with stanzas 6 and 7).
  • He also uses these contrasting metaphors to create a shift in tone at the end of the poem (i.e. between stanzas 5 to 6).

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Try to use original imagery to engage as many of the five senses as you can.
  • Try creating a shift in tone by using contrasting imagery.
  • Use contrasting metaphors to describe two different perspectives on the same idea.
  • Communicate an idea using metaphors and similes.
  • Experiment with breaking up sentences onto multiple lines and see how that changes the cadence and flow of your writing. Does this enhance the delivery of your message?
  • Billy Collins’ writing shows us that there is beauty in the simple. Try expressing an idea in one sentence. Revise your sentence using simple language. Does this revision make a greater impact?
Thea Froehlich is a pre-service teacher pursuing her B.Ed at the University of New Brunswick.  She loves spending time outside and staying active, especially in the form of whitewater kayaking.



What I Was Reading:

“An Open Letter To Those Who Want To Liberate Me From Wearing My Hijab” by Amira B. Kunbargi is a bold, honest, and witty letter to people who make false and harmful assumptions about women and girls who choose to wear Hijab. There are many beautifully written parts in this letter. Here is one section that stands out with moves writers may want to try:

I don’t need your life jacket. I am not drowning in dogmatism or ideological idiocy. Nor am I prisoner to a patriarchal rampart. I am not brainwashed, backward, or bound. You don’t need to rescue me so stop trying to save me.

I don’t need saving. What I need is respect.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • She begins claiming authority and control over her identity.
  • She uses words that others may have used to define her and strips them of their power.
  • She uses short, simple sentences, each with its own claim.
  • She shows her mature understanding of the world by using complex words within her short sentences.
  • She repeatedly uses the word “I”, which centers her as the one reclaiming the power others have tried to take away.
  • She ends with a clear statement of what she desires, what she needs.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Using a similar format, confront a stereotype or a label others have used to define you.
  • Be bold and specific with your word choice – using words in your writing that others have used to define you.
  • Address the possible political or cultural ideas of thought that have lead to you being labeled or stereotyped.
  • End with a demand of what you need from people around you in order to feel safe and valued.