Lorrie Tom
Lorrie Tom
Writing Recipes - Whipping up writing love one teacher at a time.
 Photo by Kevin Peacock

Photo by Kevin Peacock

About Lorrie

I absolutely love teaching writing.  It's my passion. It's my calling.  I am a writing evangelist, convincing parents and teachers to see writing like I do - as the best tool for making sense of life.  It's my dream that everyone becomes a lifelong writer.

But, what about the teachers who hate teaching writing?  What about those amazing teachers who changes lives in countless ways, but quietly think, "Lorrie, you're a writer. I can't do what you're doing.  And I certainly don't have time." 

Telling an overworked and over-stressed teacher with limited time to attend yet another conference or read yet another thick book about Writing Workshop and using mentor texts and conferring and writer's craft and...and...and...is overwhelming.  It's like telling a brand new jogger, "Put on these new shoes. Then, let's run a marathon tomorrow! You'll be fine. You can do it. Just follow me.  It's easy"

Nope.  I've tried.It doesn't work.  Even with best intentions and endless encouragement, it's not sustainable.

Writing Workshop (from the brilliant minds of my beloved mentors - Donald Graves, Nanci Atwell, Lucy Calkins, Katie Wood Ray, Ralph Fletcher, Linda Rief, Georgia Heard, Shelley Harwayne, and Carl Anderson) - is the best approach I've ever used in a writing classroom. 

It is also the hardest. 

There were years when I just threw up my hands and said, "We're taking a Writing Workshop break."  Ah, the familiar comfort of a good ole simile worksheet!  And that's coming from someone who is a writer, from someone who lives for teaching writing!

Ultimately, I DO want everyone to do Writing Workshop. That's my end game.  I want to get you there, but let's get real.  Running a marathon on the first day of a new jogging regimen is not a good idea. 

We need to walk a mile together first. Then, someday, we can run!

And here's how we're going to do it.  Every month, I'm going take the best elements of writing workshop, add a bit of Lorrie Tom spice, and offer you monthly writing recipes that are doable, manageable, and fun - kinda like a tasty Top Chef amuse bouche that won't ruin your appetite for a bigger meal in the future. 

And know this, if all you ever do are the writing recipes I offer on this site (Hey, we’ve all made a satisfying and cheaper main course meal by ordering off the appetizer menu!) -- please know that it will be enough. And maybe even better because you'll actually keep using these recipes year in and year out. 

My recipes are sure to please every palette and they come with all the bite-sized trimmings:

  • response guides,
  • art projects,
  • curriculum extensions,
  • notes about writer's craft,
  • mentor text guides,
  • tips for conferring,
  • suggestions for revision and editing,
  • and saucy Lorrie Tom commentary!

So cheers to a new chapter in the story of your writing life.  I hope you'll join me as we whip up writing love - one recipe at a time. 

Always writing,

PS -- Keep scrolling if you'd like to read 10 Very Short Very True Lorrie Stories and 10 of my Very True Very Impressive Teacher Street Cred Stats.  

PSS -- But the most important thing is to see if we are reading kindred spirits!


10 Very Short Very True Lorrie Stories

1. When I was three, on a Joshua Tree camping trip, my mom told me not to touch the cacti.  Twenty minutes later, she was using Swiss Army Knife tweezers to take out hundreds of hair-like spines from my fingertips.

cactus thorns.jpg

2. The first book I learned to read was stolen property.  I showed my teacher how well I could read and she asked me, "Is this your book, Lorrie?"  "Oh, yes, Miss Valentine." She pointed to a stamp on the inside cover.  "Lorrie, can you read this?"  "No."  "Let me help you.  PROPERTY OF HACIENDA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL."  Uh-oh.

3. I quit law school to become a teacher. God said it was my calling. I decided to pay attention and do as I was told.  Quit for the win.

4. One time, when I got up from a nap, I saw my mom, grandma, and great grandma standing at the kitchen sink. Shoulder to shoulder. Laughing. Talking. Eating oranges. Juice dripping from their fingers. "Remember this," I whispered to my 6 year-old self.

5. As our cruise ship headed out of Long Beach Harbor toward Ensenada, an already drunk woman rushed up to me and asked, “Are you Monica Lewinsky?”  In my little blue dress, I stared at her in shock.  I had no words.  Of course, she had more, “Oh, honey, you full-figured girls are just doomed now.” 


6. When I was in 8th grade, I read Gone with the Wind in three days on a family road trip to Canada.  My dad was furious because he’d driven a long way to see those mountains and Rhett and Scarlett’s story was the only thing getting my attention.

7. While skiing in Mammoth during high school, I did a perfect front flip in front of cool dudes who started cheering when I stuck a perfect upright landing.  Truthfully, it was the unintentional result of reckless skiing.  Gravity and speed worked in my favor. Dad saw it.  Chewed me out in front of cool dudes. Moment of glory gone.

8. When I was in my early 30’s and hopelessly single, my brother gave me advice that led me to the love of my life. "Lorrie, I try to get rejected at least once a week.  It means I put myself out there.  Keep your eye on the prize, Lorrie.  It only takes one yes.”   He was right. 

9. Just before our daughter turned 13, we rafted down the Colorado River.  I’d been waiting for her to be strong enough to hold on for dear life when we came to the river’s big rapids. Every night we did a bucket brigade to unload gear for setting up camp.  All the hulking young men usually led the line, but my petite baby wanted to be in the thick of it.  A couple times I nudged her and said, “Let some of the guys go in front of you.”  She rolled her eyes with perfect preteen panache and kept tossing heavy gear bags like they were filled with feathers and ping pong balls.   I love my strong girl.

10. During my first year of teaching, I had a 7th grade student who said, "I hate writing. You can't make me write."  Well, I like a good challenge.  By the end of the year, he was reading pieces aloud, with voice and authority that kept classmates listening beyond the dismissal bell. By the end of the year, he was a poet, using words to make sense of a life that had already thrown him wild curves.  I think of that boy often, and wonder if he knows he was my favorite English teacher. Ever.



10 Very Short Very Impressive Teacher Street Cred Stats

1. M.Ed from UCLA* Graduate School of Education, 1989.

*My beloved husband is a USC graduate, but I don't hold that against him.

2. California Multiple Subject Clear Professional Credential from UCLA Graduate School of Education, 1989.

3. B.A. in American Studies* from Occidental College, 1985.

*Beowolf was too darn hard to understand so I switched from being an English major to American Studies with a literature emphasis.  When I spent my junior year in England, studying American instead of English classics, my professors thought it was a hoot.  

4. Ventura County Teacher of the Year, 2000.

5. Ventura Unified School District Teacher of the Year *, 1999.

* I was a legend in my own lunchtime.

6. Third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade classroom teacher* for Ventura and Palos Verdes Unified School Districts, 1989 - 2002.

* To the parents of all the students I ever taught, please accept my apologies for all the big projects that ruined your weekends.

7. Family of Writers* creator and teacher, 1997 to the present.

* Other than skiing, reading, writing, hiking, river rafting, road tripping, and eating kale, teaching this class is my favorite thing to do.

8. Fellow* of the South Coast Writing Project, located at University of California, Santa Barbara, from 1991 to 2001.

* I am also a member of National Charity League and in that organization I am called a Patroness.  I like fancy titles.    

9. Writing Consultant* for Palos Verdes Unified School District, teaching GATE and intervention students as well as providing professional growth for teachers, 2001 - 2014.

* Yeah! A another fancy title for me.

10. In addition to my students (secret - they are always the best teachers in the room), these are my writing teacher mentors.  I've flown across the country to hear them speak.  I've spent lots of money buying (and binge reading -- even before that was a thing) all of their books. If you recognize these names, you are my people: Donald Graves, Nancie Atwell, Lucy Calkins, Ralph Fletcher, Katie Wood Ray, Georgia Heard, Shelley Harwayne, Jeff Anderson, Linda Rief, Peter Elbow, Joni Chancer, and Gina Rester-Zodrow.

Queen Lorrie

Queen Lorrie

Photo: I asked my students to call me Queen. Only as a joke, of course, but it stuck so now I have a lot of queen trinkets.  Thus, this cute sachet filled with lavender sits on my bookshelf and makes my writing studio smell good.