Tag Archives: #readandwrite

This is NOT a Cat Lesson

You can’t always be certain.  Sometimes what it appears to be just isn’t so.  Sometimes it is something entirely different.  Sometimes it is what it is.  Most times this is the truth.
It either is or isn’t – a cat.  Right?

Recently, Minnesota author/illustrator Mike Wohnoutka addressed the Southwest Minnesota Reading Council hosted on the Martin Luther College campus in New Ulm, Minnesota.  I was privileged to attend with a former student-teacher gone teacher and two teacher candidates.  It was an evening filled with learning, laughter, reading, reflecting, doodling, and discussion.  What does a cat got to do with it, you ask?  Let me tell you….

Growing up with three older brothers, Mike Wohnoutka loved to draw, and he was determined to do well. From early on he would go to his room to read to get away from a little of the noise. He displayed talent early on, and his Headstart teacher noticed right away.  She wrote a note on his report card indicating that he was an artist and that he should continue to draw. Later on in life his high school teacher suggested that he go to the library to learn about and study others’ works.  He then went on to enter a contest in high school with a portrait of his dad, which drew him on the path to an art school in Savannah, Georgia with a 4-year scholarship.

Fast forward to today, and you will find that Mike had multiple opportunities to try out his talents – sometimes noticed and sometimes unnoticed.  His talent is obvious and telling. He drew a cartoon masterpiece within seconds right before our eyes. It was incredible.

Throughout his time as a write and illustrator, Wohnoutka has had opportunities to work with a plethora of talented folks.  He shared about his life as an author/illustrator and how each day starts with sitting in his study and thinking. It usually involves some coffee; sometimes there is music, sometimes there isn’t.  “Think about who. Think about what.”  That is telling lesson right there, and one we agree with as a principle.  Dr. Wendy & I tell our teacher candidates that we teach learners, not subjects. We teach who, not what.  When writing This is Not a Cat, Wohnoutka started with character development. That makes sense and is where we all should start – with the who, with us.

He talked about one particular work that we loved to hear about, to read about, and now to share with our students.  This is Not a Cat. It reminded us that what we see is not always what we should believe.  It also made me think about not being too overly confident with a decision; there is room for error in that suit.  The mice in this picture book are pretty scared when they see a cat, which turns out to be a rat in a cat suit.  Later, a real cat hunts that rat.  This made me think of the phrase “what goes around, comes around.” Karma.

So many lessons in that simple but awesome book.  Maybe I am grasping at straws but so be it. I saw the talent first hand. I am no literary award granter, but I like a book that can hook a reader and share a lesson or two.  If it can cause a little suspense and some laughter, even better.

Southwest MN Reading Council Executive Board Members with Author/Illustrator Mike Wohnoutka

In closing… recently our SMSU colleague family has experienced deaths that have caused us to reflect on what is important.  What is important to you? Find out and stay the course… Life is too important and too short not to know.  Know what is a cat and what is not.

Stay Calm & Draw or Write On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.




To Get Where You Are Going…Turn Left At The Cow

google images: thecrewcoach.com

Have you ever had to stop to ask for directions?  No? Lucky you!  Well, let me tell you that it can be a humbling experience.  I mean – at least that is what I have heard. 😉 When asking for directions, it is important to listen carefully to get all the directions just right.  It turns out sometimes the person giving the directions may not actually know for sure, but they sound confident and certain so you just go with it and hope for the best.  Giving directions is so much easier than following them. 😉 Thank goodness my dear friend Siri is on board these days so she can politely guide me where I need to go.

Recently, I had an opportunity to follow Siri’s directions to hear author, Lisa Bullard, speak to an audience at the Southwest Minnesota Reading Council fall conference.  It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other readers and writers.  From experienced teachers to beginning teacher candidates, we were fired up by Lisa’s story to get reading and writing and help guide the learners in our classrooms to do the same.  “The more we read, the better writers we become” as Lisa shared is something I like to share with my own learners.  “Reading and writing feed each other.”  Oh – that reminds me… the meal at the SWMNRC conference was fabulous!

Lisa’s story doesn’t begin with her writing since birth – although she did start writing early on.  Lisa is currently working on her 93rd book after first spending some time in the insurance field and then 16 years in publishing before turning to the dark side…authorhood.  Her ideas and stories come from life experiences and research.

A few key ideas that Lisa shared with the audience include:

*It’s not the author’s job to share the truth or real story in fiction; it’s the emotional truth that they are responsible for.
*Nonfiction and fiction writers need to research.
*Stories can sometimes be deep inside us.  We just need to research unusual facts and pay attention to life around us.
*Typically conflict needs to start right away to keep readers interested because of short attention spans.
*Perseverance is key.  Start with a word, then a sentence, then a page, then a chapter, then a book.

Lisa shared a lot of great ideas and a lot of great books with us.  You Can Write a Story! is a story-writing recipe for kids that I couldn’t resist purchasing – and getting autographed!  Oh – and we cannot forget the best titled book ever, Turn Left at the Cow.  You know you want to find out more about that one!

A major takeaway for me after listening to Lisa Bullard speak is to keep reading and writing – and to encourage others to join in on the hard work and fun.  We are all writers in our own right.  We just have to follow our directions to get where we are going – and to not be afraid to ask for directions when needed.


Stay Calm & Write On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.