Slice of Life Story Day 20 When A Writer Travels

This coming week I am presenting at a conference for school leaders. I am discussing their roles in the development of effective writing programs in schools. What is there contribution to effective writing? Are they visible as writers to their staff, students and parent community? Do they have secret reading and writing lives?

However, that is not what I wish to focus on here. As I sit here on this delightful Sunday afternoon preparing for the conference, I am aware of two suitcases open on the floor of my study. One is my Poet’s Suitcase where my collection of poetry books is stored. The other, I call my suitcase of surprises. The latter suitcase is the one I generally take on my daily journeys to schools. It is a small inexpensive case I purchased on
Seventh Avenue New York
for the princely sum of $25 back in 2006. I spotted it in one of those variety stores that carries assorted paraphernalia ranging from junk to jewels. It has been such a great resource, although it is beginning to look a little tired of late. I may have to put it out to pasture before this year ends I’m afraid. It’s okay though, I think I have another one stored in the loft.

When I enter schools dragging it behind me teachers often joke that I look like I’m heading for the departure lounge. Inside the case I carry assorted professional texts, novels and picture story books, numerous writer’s notebooks, folders, my netbook computer, pens, sticky notes and various artifacts. The contents change regularly depending on the school I am visiting and the particular focus of my work that day.

For the benefit of teachers and students I often extract something from the case that they have not seen before, hence the name suitcase of surprises. Sometimes it’s a new book, or maybe an artifact I hope will arouse curiosity and questions.

The other suitcase (My Poet’s Suitcase) is much older; having belonged to my grandfather. This one has no capacity for free wheeling and so I am forced to lug it about when I take it to schools. Containing up to100 hundred poetry books, it is extremely heavy. But, because it belonged to my Grand-dad it has special significance. I sometimes refer to it as my poet’s playstation. It is adorned with stickers and is a curiosity in itself. I reveal its contents with deliberate ceremony.

 As I prepare for the conference, I am assembling resources for my workshop presentations. What to take? What to leave home?  We all have baggage. This is mine...


  1. I love how the two bags have such different beginnings; one being a great buy and the other a family heirloom. Your photos were not needed as you described them both so well. Enjoy your journey and get those leaders writing.

  2. Well, I enjoyed that you told us the details of the travel baggage, but especially the 'suitcase of surprises'. It must be so motivating to be in your audience, to anticipate what you will show next. The grandfather's suitcase must also bring motivation to write the memories, for you of course, but also for the audience to re-think what they have to 'show' their students.

  3. I was identifying with students, who would be sitting on the carpet before you and your suitcases, anticipating just what you would withdraw from them. The title, Suitcase of Surprise, the descriptions, and the final photos created that feeling.
    I'm passing your post on to an assistant superintendent here as our leaders would benefit from an awareness of their roles in student writers lives.

  4. Your post alone is motivating. I wish I could hear your presentation. I'm sure it helps administrators be more effective instructional leaders.


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