Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Day in the Life

So, I feel like I should share some of what I'm teaching my high school students.  I teach Creative Writing to English 12 students for the first semester this year.  It's my first time teaching Creative Writing at this school, but I'm having a great time with it.  We started with plot drive stories and talked about letting the conflicts take the front stage.  They really enjoyed writing ghost stories and urban legends for that one. One kid's story was so good, it freaked me out (home alone) and I had to leave.  I told him he could be the next Stephen King - we shall see.

This week, I read 50 character driven stories in a week.  Some of them were amazing, but others read like newspaper articles.  I am trying to get across to my students that the dialogue must read like it's coming from a real person.  I'm also amazed at how many times I say "show don't tell" in class.  I don't think I ever really understood that until now.  It's funny how that happens.  I didn't understand grammar either until I had to teach it.  Anyway, it's been a fantastic experience. 

Next week, we start researching submissions.  Part of my class requirement is to submit a short story for publication.  When I reminded them of this a few days ago, a student said to me, "Why would they take us seriously?  They don't take you seriously and you're an adult.  We're just a bunch of kids." Before I address this, these "kids" are 18 and eligible for publication, so they're adults too.  Now back to serious comment.  I felt like I had been punched in the stomach and felt my face burn red with fury before I took a deep breath to calm down.  I then reminded her that with short stories, I have been published.  I may not have an agent for a novel, but that takes time and the right fit.  I'm also going to epublish (which I know is self-publishing) one novel, but that doesn't mean I'm giving up on getting an agent.  I felt like a fraud for a moment standing before a group of kids teaching them how to be "writers" when one called me out as being a failure.  I think this student may have used the word fail in the comment as well, but I think I may have blocked that tidbit. It hurt. I will add, though, that this student apologized afterward reassuring me that it wasn't meant to sound mean.  Ok.

Anyway, back to class. After break, we are going to discuss setting and then we jump into theme.  We're going to write, illustrate, and bind children's books which we are going to read to six schools of kindergartners. I'm so excited, I may write one too.  We have over 350 kindergartners coming to us over a course of five days and will be putting the illustrations on a giant screen behind the author for all kids to see while listening to the story.  It's soooo exciting. 

So this is what I do with my days.  I'm a teacher two periods a day of Creative Writing.  (The other classes are English as well, but literature based, so not really applicable at all to this post.) :)

I hope you all have a wonderful night/day/week/etc. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Upcoming Birthday

My birthday is next week and I'm turning 35.  I don't mind being in my 30s and enjoy it quite a bit, but I'm beginning to feel my age a little more every year, especially at work.  I started teaching when I was 22 and was afraid to tell the kids my age.  This continued until I was about 28.  I was pregnant with my second child and proud of all that I had accomplished, so telling my age wasn't a big deal.  I was still considered young to the older teachers, but having children made me more accepted by them, yet I still came off young and hip to the students. 

Seven years later, I'm turning 35 and in my 12th year teaching.  Where has the time gone?  I'm not sure, but now, I'm a teacher, soccer mom, wife, writer, multitasker, etc. and proud of it.  So you ask, what's point?  How am I feeling my age? Every year we get fresh new teachers straight out of college.  They're young and inspired and ready to teach.  They think that ALL students want to learn, they will make an impact on every student they come into contact with, and all parents are supportive.  These are the ideals all teachers start with before reality sets in.  I'm not bitter or jaded, but I know the reality.  We have students who don't give a crap about their education, there are students who think the teachers are idiots, and there are parents who genuinely believe their children can do no wrong.  It's part of the job. 

This being said, I feel my age today because as I sit and listen to new teachers talk about not wanting to have children, joking in a classroom is not respectable, and it's disgusting that students don't study enough I find myself irritated and unwilling to smile and nod any longer.  I love having children so when people make comments about children throwing fits in the grocery store being obnoxious, my blood boils.  I spend more time in my classroom with my students than I do with my family at times, so if I'm not supposed to laugh, then I don't want any part of it.  How miserable would that be! And last, kids are kids.  They don't want to study eight hours a night eating, breathing, living school.  They want to play, hangout, and be kids.  What I used to find endearing about new teachers, I now find to be annoying at times.  I want to shake them and say loosen up and enjoy your job. 

I may sound bitter, but I can assure you I'm not. I love teaching and I plan on doing it for my career, but kids can tell if you love your job or if you're just "doing it" to pay the bills.  So, going back to my age, I think with age comes wisdom - good and bad.  Patience ebbs and flows and reality takes a firmer hold.

So with my upcoming birthday, I hope for more patience and understanding towards the younger teachers.  I want them to be successful while I remember what it was like to be in their shoes. It's not easy learning the craft and they need support from the ones who have been at it a while.  I need to remember that next time I hear "I would never yell in my classroom" just as I will smile and nod next time at lunch I hear "I don't think parents should take their kids out in public unless they are able to stay quiet."  I will be patience and say it all in my head or in my writing.  I am older and wiser - or at least what I'm supposed to say. :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Deadline Quickly Approaching for ePub

Update: After thinking for a long time about this endeavor, I opted to continue looking for an agent/publisher for my book.  I genuinely want to do the right thing for my book and I believe deep down going the traditional route is the right choice.

I set a September 20th deadline for my epublishing decision.  That is 10 days away! OMG! I'm working on my final edit now that my texting formatting has been taken care of.  I still need to take out the tabs to my paragraphs, but I'm going to take care of that last.  I have a cover.
Hooray for my husband making this for me.  I had no idea he could do half of the stuff he does on Powerpoint, but that's what he used to make it.  For my birthday, my mom is buying me a bundle pack of ISBNs because apparently, every format of the book requires its own ISBN.  That means I need a minimum of three if I want to sell on iBooks, Kindle, and Nook.  I still need to look into all of the format requirements, but I'm starting with Amazon.  This is such a SCARY and HUGE process.  It sounds so easy until you start.  But I'm not giving up because it's not point and click.  I'm going to go the distance. 

I tweeted that part of me wants to hire someone to do the legwork for me, but I don't want this to feel like Barbazon.  I remember as a teenager having friends who said they were models for Barbazon.  My friends paid for the pictures to be taken of them and the agency "promoted" them.  I never dealt with this agency, but I don't think a model should have to pay the photographer.  I feel the same way about my book.  Amazon doesn't make the author pay to publish; they just offer a service and keep part of the proceeds (like an agent for a print copy).  Hiring someone to do the legwork (to me) would be like paying the photographer.  It may be easier, but I don't feel as much satisfaction that way.  Anyway, enough on that topic. 
Tomorrow is football, so while the games are on, I plan on finishing my edit and testing the format on Mobi Pocket Reader.  It's actually pretty easy to use, but it's been a couple of months since I first tried it, so I'm going to have to reread the directions.  I'm learning of more and more people in my shoes and am glad to see that I'm not alone.  ePublishing is growing so quickly; I don't want to be left behind.  I read on Twitter that an agent wrote epublishing is the new query (something along those lines).  It looks as though it is gaining respect across the board. With each post, I feel more and more confident about this decision. 

Anyway, I'm off to continue working on my new adventure.  Once Love and Texts is out there, I'm going to start working on Keridwen and writing To Where and Back.  I have a lot of projects in the air at the present, but I'm happy.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Isn't it Amazing?

It happens every year as a teacher...amazement.  There's always that one student who blows your mind and makes you hope they stay the course because if they do big things will happen for them.  This year, I've mentioned before, I'm teaching Creative Writing.  Today, I'm grading their latest stories, and the amazement just keeps coming...one after another.  I'm home alone today because my children have half days and I don't have child care midafternoon.  This means, I called in for today and tomorrow and brought my grading home wanting to save my weekend for my family and FOOTBALL.  (opening weekend for the NFL, it's a big deal here.)

Ok, so anyway, I gave this assignment for a plot driven story.  We discussed in class that urban legends are plot drive stories - they have characters and setting, but the bulk of the story is about a single conflict. So we start telling ghost stories and urban legends in class. It was fun.  We turned off the lights and scared each other with words. :)  Once I gave them the assignment, they were geared up to write.  Little did I know most of them would write scary stories. 

As budding authors, I don't expect to be wowed all the time with their writing.  There are some who are naturally good, and others who are really trying, but magic happened with this assignment.  I was reading at my kitchen table and finding myself looking around for sounds that didn't exist.  I admit it...I was freaked out in my empty house thanks to some of these stories.  A group of 17 and 18 year olds made me shake.  I'm impressed and amazed and planning on making my daughter sleep with me tonight. :) 

I still have 30 more to read today, so I need to get back, but if these 30 are anything like the first 30, I'm going to need a night light.

Have a great day!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Out of Time, Out of Steam

Every day I tell myself I'm going to write.  This has been going on since June, so over two months.  During the summer, I was busy with the kids and the house, but still there was time to do something.  School started and I find that I haven't had a spare minute to breathe.  I'm loving teaching creative writing, but I am grading 54 short stories every two weeks.  I also have three normal classes to grade as well.  At this point, I think my personal writing endeavors will have to be pushed aside for a bit longer.  I am swamped with school, kids and starting next week...soccer.  I'm going to make an honest effort to write at night, but I'm already going to bed at 9:00.  That being said, I'm logging off because I have a cold and need to rest for 30 minutes before the second half of my day starts. :)

Now, I turn this thought to you...is writing one of the first or last things you sacrifice to keep your family afloat?  How do you do it?