What @TaylorMali Leaves: Reflections on #csuftcs

What Taylor Mali LeavesI’m a word girl. Written word, spoken word; no matter. Eloquent words; naughty words (especially those); words that calm; words that incense. When I write creatively, I pore over word choice, ensuring that each holds exactly the right weight. I obsess over the rhythm, the rhyme, the message. Am I making my point? Am I making it well? Am I trying to do too much? Am I offensive? (although with each passing year, I care less and less about the latter.) I like to smash words together and I like to take ’em apart. When I taught English, I tried to inspire a love of words and a passion for the power words hold in my own students. And I always appreciate the opportunity to be a student at the hands of a masterful artist.

My husband created Think.Create.Share conference in 2013, and, after falling down the YouTube rabbit hole this past October, said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to bring Taylor Mali here for Think.Create.Share 2015?” Months later that dream came to fruition, and I had the privilege of spending an inspiring weekend chauffeuring Taylor Mali, #csuftcs keynote speaker and master of the written and spoken word, around north Orange County.

We weren’t certain what to expect, but reality far exceeded anything we could have ever imagined. Taylor Mali’s poems are inspirational. Funny. Sometimes shocking. Potentially offensive. His delivery is effortless. He knows how to draw the audience in, caress them with his unique style, and then sock them right in the gut with the reality of his words. He talks of education, of students, of love, of loss. He can make a room of 300 educators sit in stunned silence for minutes. In real life, he personally connects with us “regular” people; he asks questions and he answers them, too. He shares stories about his life, and he listens as you talk about yours. He made us feel not like chauffeurs, but like friends.

I’ve been processing the experience, trying to synthesize the physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting rollercoaster of this weekend and find the meaning in all of it. So, I read one of Taylor Mali’s books, What Learning Leaves. I wrote two poems and this post. And in trying to grow my skills in sketchnoting, as well, I tried to sum up the experience in this visual representation of my thinking. What Taylor Mali LeavesI could never have been on the list of Mali’s Quest for 1,000 Teachers because I’ve known I would become a teacher my entire life. (It was my fall-back plan if acting didn’t work out. It didn’t). Instead, I’d like to put myself on a list of teachers who were inspired to try writing poetry. Creative writing is an outlet I’ve let sit dormant for too long.

What Do You Think?

What’s your creative outlet? Where do you find inspiration?