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
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
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
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
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
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
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

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

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer, Kizmato.com
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
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
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
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
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
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’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
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
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 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
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 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
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.
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
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

Magic Formulas, Multiple Intelligences, Voice, & The Kindle Fire

WRITE: Forget Magic Formulas. Find Your Unique Way.

Let’s pretend that writing derives from a mythic Magic Formula. I can’t imagine it being simple, for one thing (W = Butt-In-Chair x Heck-of-a-Great-Idea / 2 cups of coffee?) There are too many variables involved. This is more like it:

Now, on the surface of things, a formula is the process by which we’re able to spew out a solution on the other end. Formulas create order out of chaos, and that is why we gravitate toward them in every facet of our lives, even if you were to adamantly deny your affinity for math. Plug in the numbers, follow x, y, z, and Sha-zam! Success.

But with a formula as complicated as this (which, by the way, represents the calculation behind lacing an average shoe with six pairs of eyelets), you are bound to wind up with two trillion ways to success. (I’m not kidding. There are two trillion ways to lace a shoe.)

Being a busy and industrious person, pretend that you stockpile shortcuts to solving said mythic Magic Formula like a closet hoarder, based on the barrage of (mostly well-meaning) advice from Everyone Who Knows Everything, slung at you every day. The way you figure it on a Tuesday at noon, if writing 500 words per day works for (insert plebeian-turned-prominent author name here), it must be a smart path to The New You. (Denying, of course, that one-month later, you are still breathless at 250 words every third day, and your guilt about your lowly endurance and slow wit has now distributed ten new pounds of weight onto your conscience.)

A few issues have entangled themselves here, in case you couldn’t tell. For one, we all get caught up in comparing ourselves to others; sure that another’s path to solving a problem must be The One. Yet we know what “one-size-fits-all” looks like on us, and the same goes for advice. One social influencer does it This Way, another, the complete opposite. And inevitably, you swear off The End-All, Be-All Magic Formula, irritated that you’ve blindly been pushing yet another square peg into a round hole. The suffering! And duh! That’s because there are two trillion possible paths to writing that novel, or succeeding at any enterprise, really. And YOU – YOU ARE WORTHY OF FINDING ONE WAY THAT WORKS JUST FOR YOU.

Writing, like any other successful endeavor, is about self-expression. It’s about working hard and finding your own unique way out of two trillion to lacing a shoe with six pairs of eyelets. And you know what happens when you do? Serendipity wanders by, looking for a creative solution just like yours to share with the world. BOOYAH.

OBSERVE: What Type of Learner Are You?

Multiple Intelligences are In. Want to be smarter? Figure out your learning style and expand your modality range for greater retention, communication, and multi-tasking might.

There are 7 Basic Learning Styles:

Visual (spatial): You prefer using images and spatial understanding.
Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words in speech and writing.
Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body and sense of touch.
Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

   

We tend to specialize in one or two modalities, with a single style dominating, and we learn most effectively when teaching strategies are closely aligned with our preferred learning style. But why be one-dimensional when you can be dynamic? Improve your learning by pinpointing your weak modalities and enhancing your skills in these areas. The larger your repertoire of learning strategies, the better equipped you are to retain and make use of diverse learning environments.

REVISE: Grammar Girl on Voice & Tone in Writing

Grammar Girl asks Julie Wildhaber of Yahoo! to explain the value of and difference between Voice and Tone in writing.

  •  Voice = your distinct personality, style, and point of view, pervasive throughout every detail large and small within your writing.
  •  Tone = a subset of voice; the mood of a scene, a paragraph, a memo.

Searching for your Voice? Take 5 minutes and save yourself the next round of karaoke.

DISCOVER: Introducing the Kindle Fire!

D-Day: Giddy hubby opens front door two Fridays’ past and squeals (yes, squeals), “Finally!” UPS guy smiles like he’s Santa and it’s Christmas morning. “You and everyone else, man. Enjoy.” Our new Kindle Fire. Hubby cradles the package in both hands. And I have to agree with my super-geeky freak tech boy just this once: the features on this device are pretty great. Here are a handful that stand out:

 

Immersion Reading

Immersion reading lets you sync audiobooks with Kindle books. So if you’re out and about, listening to an audio version of a book, your Kindle will pick right back up where you left off when you access it for hand-held reading.

Whispersync

Whispersync for Voice lets you set a bookmark across both text and audio formats of the same book.

Real-Time Highlighting

If tracking is a problem for you or your child, you can enable the real-time highlighting feature, ensuring that you will never lose your place on the screen. “Bimodal” reading (aka audio + visual) is said to improve retention and comprehension, no matter what your age.

Kindle FreeTime

With a single swipe on a scroll bar, Kindle FreeTime let parents set controls on the amount of time each of their kids can individually play games, use apps, watch videos, and read on the tablet. Once time is up, the Kindle screen turns blue, easily seen from across the room.

In an interesting recent article from Slate Magazine, feature blogger Farhad Manjoo posts about the Kindle Fire, “This is not just a gadget. It’s a usable service within a device and that’s how Amazon plans to […] revolutionize the book industry. Bezos, at the recent launch presentation of the new Kindle and Kindle fire said that people buy nearly five times as many books in the first year after owning a Kindle. That should put a stop to the snobbish argument that Amazon is killing ‘literary culture.’”  Hmm…What’s your take?

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