Saturday, 21 December 2013


I am in Sweden now, in the cold, dark lands of the north, where there is no snow but rain, rain, rain in one of the mildest winters to date. I arrived yesterday morning and spent the better part of the day at my grandparent's, holding my grandfather's hand, and only took a later airplane to UmeƄ. I fell asleep at nine and slept until 8.30 this morning, and then we--that being me, sister Sofia, and mamma--decided to go to town and pop into a few stores and have fika at Nya Konditoriet. But it was cold, and I was ill-equipped to handle it, and so Sofia helped me search through the boxes packed away in the store room to find my long coat, which we did, and once we were all bundled up, we set off only to return a few hours later, with a new pair of gloves a hat with two tassels and a few other bits and bobs in tow.

We finished the evening by wrapping presents and writing rhymes to go with them. 

Monday, 18 November 2013


A gecko egg fell off my shelf and cracked.
Does your heart beat? Lungs contract?
Is your tiny flicker of a brain fully-formed?
Your thin snout, arms clutched close to your chest,
still, grey markings, the tiniest of webbed toes.
If you live
will you remember me, the earth-mother
hat helped to speed your passage into this bright

Beyond the Egg?
You lie very still, born too soon,
born too soon.

Monday, 11 November 2013


More recently I attended a traits of writing conference in Thailand with a few other teachers from our school. As a language arts teacher, I was expected to go forth and learn new things. I learned that my abilities to sit still and listen have deteriorated significantly since taking up my role as teacher.
This is the writing dinosaur, our table mascot. And a rubber nose.

Hannah draws.

Cheeky Ms. Day

Kelly listens in fascination

Chelsie entertains from across the table.

And then we left for home. I had fun with some other tourists at the Bangkok airport. The flight itself was as comfortable as a budget airline can get, and we experience some turbulence on the way back. 

 But not to fear! Jean Claude van Damme was there to save the day.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Pigeon Man

A collaboration between a seventh grader and member of staff.

Middle School

Eighth graders celebrating that I pushed their vocab quiz back a day

Seventh graders 

Yes, bow before your master.

 Jordan says goodbye

The remains of Billy Bob, a chicken mummified in history class 

Sometimes literature class gets out of hand. 

Don't ask.

Putting the final touches on David before his closeup. 

Parting is such sweet sorrow. Even if it's just for a ninety minutes.

My Week, in Pictures

Editing manuscripts in coffee shops
Meeting friends

Riding in packed buses

 Carpooling with the glamorous Green Knight

and teaching grammar to his lesser-known little brother.

Friday, 8 November 2013


With a long skirt, you will always look graceful, no matter your predicament or position.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


What is this?
I cannot write.
My brains have
crumbled piecemeal

turned to mush when past
that mark, those three hundred and sixty words. 
It will not go!

Mossy, mule-minded thing.
See if I care that you leave.
Yeah, go on. Get.
Who needs you anyway?

O god of words, I've failed you as a writer.
Only poetry awaits.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Measure of a Man

"You look very feminine today," Rebecca told me, because usually, you know, I wear black muscle shirts and cargo pants and a moustache or two. I don't know. I think turbans are pretty manly.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


Wherefore have I let this talent slumber?
I must unleash upon the world this great
and glorious purpose I have found today.
I must enlighten those whose fragile minds
can comprehend no thing of gravity
nor depth nor any sacred spark which may
uphold the soul and lift their instinct from
the base, primordial bog, that shallow thing
we gently call the human condition.

In other words, I mastered Paint and drew this.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Popcorn Thursday

I was informed that today was Popcorn Friday. Popcorn on a Thursday? This is madness! The world has shifted! But as I am a lowly bug in the ranks of the universe, unable to utter protest of any force or gravity, I write a poem to those from whom all declarations flow.

I feel as if the world has broken down,
been rent asunder by the forces far above,
Burnett, the Great and Mighty ruler of
us all, has shrugged and we have moved
to acquiesce upon the pain of death.
We bow before you, keeper of the corn.

Seventh Grade

Today my seventh graders are working in groups. They are making an "English Class for Dummies" pamphlet for aliens who have just arrived on earth and wish to ace my class. The students have to brainstorm how a good story is constructed, what is needed in a five paragraph essay, paper headings, format, grammar, spelling, dialogue, and sentence structure. What makes an effective essay? What makes a story interesting?

The students get to work quietly. I give them popcorn in brown paper bags. They applaud.

Then, a fight breaks out in the boy's group! Popcorn everywhere! Emanuel's down. A volley of yellow missiles--spinning rounds of death! Another assault! They've got gold fever. The war drums tremble. The sides draw together, yellow war paint across their cheeks, their brows. They scowl, ready for that shattering of shields.

Or, perhaps, the war was averted before the first kernel was cast. "If I hear the word 'popcorn' again, there will be no more popcorn."

Silence. The scratch of pens.

David uses the brown paper bag as a gas mask.

Ah, c'est la guerre. Pick your battles.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

All Done Up

This is one of my favorite skirts, and my red shoes make me think of Professor Kirk, and I have a sudden urge to walk around in a bathrobe and smoke a pipe. Perhaps I'll too find Narnia in my closet.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


Sometimes I wear things that are ordinary--such as this flowered shirt and leggings. And sometimes, like today, I wore tattoo sleeves and pirate pants and a headscarf, and I was anything but. My students were at once baffled and delighted by my tattoos and one strange woman in Starbucks took such a liking to them she asked me where I had bought them. Success.

Saturday, 21 September 2013


I was recently reading through a review of Singin' in the Rain and how the film was known for the sacrifice it demanded of its actors. Donald O'Connor had to be hospitalized after his "Make 'Em Laugh" number, Debbie Reynold's endured both harsh criticism and bleeding feet in the "Good Morning" song, and Gene Kelly, during his iconic dance number in the rain, was suffering from a high fever. Yet the audience is never allowed to see this. They see only the finished product, sleek and ready, without being privy to the weeks spent in rehearsal, the years of preparation and perfecting the art, the literal blood and sweat and tears that go into it.

As the boys from Film School Rejects so aptly put it.

"It's the MO of good Entertainment to hide the labor that goes into making good entertainment. It might seem fun and even, at times, effortless to us, but that's because we buy into the light tone that takes so much effort and work to pull off."

That is art, and it is the way I feel about writing. The Rebel Shang has been kind enough to read through many, many bits, pieces, and drafts of my current story, following its incremental progrress over a year, and I know that when she reads the completed book it will seem to her very short. I try to write every day, but even this is sometimes excruciatingly slow. I can only hope that my time and efforts result in something well worth the reading.

Friday, 20 September 2013


      Today in the seventh grade we read an excerpt from Gary Paulsen's work How Angel Peterson Got His Name, a non-fiction book of his memoirs. You may know Gary Paulsen from his Newbery Medal winning book Hatchet, which Mrs. Shirley Baldwin read to me and my class in the second grade. We read the bit entitled "Girls" which details thirteen-year-old Paulsen's first awkward encounters with girls and his nerve-wracking first date. Obviously it is one of the best pieces we read all year, mostly because I make the boys read it and it is just so much fun to watch them squirm and protest the subject matter. "Ms. Gabriel, you can't make us read this!"

Oh, yes, I can.

Paulsen describes the painful experience--his ridiculous get-up, the waxed hair, his sweaty shoes and clammy palms, his dead buffalo impersonation, how he keeps offering his poor date movie theatre sweets. At this point in the story, I make a joke. "Yeah, he probably said, 'Would you like an M&M? Melts in your mouth, not in your...nevermind."
A silence falls across the room. Glassy stares.
Then, a light.
Abel straightens in his seat. "Ooooooooh," he says, "I get it. That's funny."
The penny drops for a few more of them. They laugh sheepishly. A few clap, nodding in a sort of pleased defeat. Well played, Ms. Gabriel. Well played.
"Thank you. You're a great audience. I'll be here 'til Friday."  

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


Today my eighth graders had to master the rule of y to i, such as in satisfy to satisfied, merry to merriment, friendly to friendliness. "Glorious," I read aloud. "Loki came to earth, burdened with glorious purpose." The Avengers, as you know, can apparently be applied to anything: an exploration of internal/external conflict, plot diagrams, motive, the problem of evil. When I collect the spelling tests, I find this. Derrian has drawn me a picture.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Living Space

This is my living room. Over the years I had often dreamed of having my own place and decorating it according to my will, and now that I do, I realize it looks nothing like I imagined. But that's not a bad thing. It's just a different thing, maybe even a better thing. The final result will rarely look like the picture in my head, and I cannot let that disappoint or distract me. The creative process is organic--disciplined, mind you, but still organic--and alive to the moment, and I have to teach myself to follow where it leads and modify my expectations accordingly.


My father comes tomorrow! He is going to sleep on my couch, and we will both be working but we'll always have the evenings. My sister and brother and mother are currently all together in Uppsala, so it only seems fair that I be allowed to monopolize Pappa's time.

Joel, Sofia, and Sofia

Sunday, 15 September 2013


Farfar, my father's father, is old but quite content with life, I think.