Ms. Ziff always pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off.  She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.Georgia 9th Grade, The Buckley School
I learned as much from teaching with Vanessa as any of her students under her guidance. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History, The Packer Collegiate Institute
Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”.The Altmans
Vanessa got my 8-year old son excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing!Sally Micelotta
Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer.  We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.Jill and Larry Krutchik
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
I know that the many fun and challenging lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.Jaren S. 7th Grade, The Buckley School
Vanessa captured the essence of what I wanted to relay on my site without sounding trite, unlike my experience with previous writers.Martin Pugh, Musician
Vanessa’s vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Her passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.Michele Noble, Director, Writer, Filmmaker
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic. To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.Sarina Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.Melissa and Rob Weiler
Vanessa has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. She is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.Julie Moore & Rena Svetic, Young Writers’ Conference Founders
The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.Betsy Leva

Vanessa is an outstanding writer and a joy to work with.

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer, Kizmato.com
My son learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!Kim Ford
Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made communicating easy and learning exciting. She taught us to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.Alivia 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
It's obvious that Vanessa is a wordsmith: "Write. Observe. Revise. Discover...W.O.R.D."  These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.  Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
Vanessa’s greatest ability is to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!Jacqueline Frohlich
Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, Vanessa can do it all.Meli and Stephen Rose
What our daughter values most about her time in Vanessa's class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner.Laurie and Chris Harbert
The skills Vanessa taught my son--particularly the value of revising many times […] attention to detail, and high standards—are still with Nico several years later.Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures
Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She believes in a process, [...] the best of all being the Ms. Ziff approach, which makes her spectacular.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him.Liliana Benitez
I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.Maddie 9th Grade, Marlborough School
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. She’s extremely organized, communicates ideas effectively, helps motivate, and has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students.Howard Tager
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters' lives.Jack Tauber, M.D.
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students.MaryLynn Richmond

Proof in the Figgy Pudding: Holiday Writing Inspiration

 

Amidst sensory overload, the holidays provide valuable details for authentic storytelling. Have a journal handy, because proof of holiday writing inspiration is in the Figgy Pudding!

 

The holidays are a time of whirlwind activity, when writing often gets pushed to the wayside with the onslaught of baking, wrapping, socializing, and schlepping. But step back a moment to appreciate the frenetic scene and you’ll find valuable fodder for authentic storytelling. Grab a journal and pen or even a recording device, because there’s no way you can make this stuff up – or pass it up! 

Snowflake

Sights

Do you see what I see?  Grandparents playing with grandchildren, Dad’s crinkly brown eyes, holiday lights on houses, herds of people at the mall, Christmas trees splayed on sidewalks after New Years. WRITE. IT. DOWN.

snowman friends

Sounds

Immerse yourself in sound: Aunt Pat’s raspy cackle, cousin Ben’s crude jokes, latkes frying in the pan, the chink of glasses toasting to a new year, the slice of skates on the ice rink, the gasp of surprise when a gift’s been opened or a loved one’s stepped through the doorway after far too long. WRITE. IT. DOWN.  

orange and cloves holiday cookies

Smells & Tastes

Feast your taste buds on this most delicious time of year! A Ginger Baker Fizz cocktail, Nana’s famous spinach quiche, your signature banana walnut bread, actual chestnuts roasting on an open fire. WRITE. IT. DOWN.

Touch

Notice what actions invoke a memory or stirring emotion: the blaze of the fireplace on your cheeks, the nip of wintry night in your lungs. A beloved blanket, a satin ribbon. Palms against a windowpane, arms around an old friend. A cup of cocoa in hand and a kiss under the mistletoe. WRITE. IT. DOWN.

IcelandicHorseInWinter

Thoughts, Memories, & Feelings

Pay close attention to what sentiments the holidays evoke. One day your heart may be light; another, more melancholy. Writing of any kind must stir the heart and delight the mind. Every sensory detail worth remembering conjures an intense emotion, however fleeting or lingering, warm or frosty. Those emotions are connected to our deep-seeded thoughts and memories. Capture these moments honestly and accurately, in vivid detail, so that emotional undertones seep out of the spaces in between your words. There is nothing in literature more profound than authenticity.

 

A final thought…

Details bring writing to life, and details can come from anywhere. Live in the moment this holiday season. Tap into this burst of activity and emotion — this poetry in motion — by keeping your senses sharp and your notebook nearby. 

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