The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Sioux? Heading to Japan?

 Well, yes... if my son and daughter-in-law and grandson(s) relocate there next summer. (It's their first choice as far as new Air Force home. We'll see if they get their first pick.) If they move there, I will be going for at least one visit while they're living there.

                                                                       image by Pixabay

However, I did travel to Japan recently while doing some research. Not literally, but it was a pleasant detour nonetheless.

If you check out my WOW post, you'll see I began by writing about the importance of underdogs in stories... and then I ended up in Japan, in love with a real-life racehorse.

Have you been beaten down by rejection? Do you wonder if you'll ever succeed? Have you considered giving up?

If the answer is yes to any of those questions, go to my WOW post and watch the 18-minute movie. I (can almost) guarantee you'll be moved by it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A Writer's Faith

Too bad that George Michael is no longer alive. Perhaps if he was, he'd had written another song to help me along as a writer.

These days, I'm shuffling along. I sometimes say stumbling but really, most of the time it's shuffling. Stumbling implies a faster, forward way of progressing. Shuffling is less assertive, less confident.

However, shuffling is a slow but steady movement forward. That's not quite right either. So perhaps I should say, "I'm shuffling around, my writing progress stuck in the-middle-of-the-might mode, where I'm flailing my hand around in the dark, trying to find the light switch."

The light switch is what will illuminate my way on the path to hopefully eventually getting my manuscript published.

What George Michael song am I tuning into right now? (I'll bet you can guess.) What else did I write about my stumbling? Head to The Muffin and find out...

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Dog Days of Summer

Recently I wrote about my dog Radar going back to school. As is usually the case, it is the owner that is getting more "education" than the dog. Most of the time, dogs will do what they're supposed to do... if they're told to do it. If they're consistently expected to do it.

This is often how we find Radar during the summer.
A cool wooden floor + a hot dog = a great combination.

It's midway through the summer--for me as a teacher, it's more than midway. Beginning in August, something will happen. Either we will be planning on meeting in person in our classrooms, or we're going to start planning online classes, or we're going to create some hybrid approach--perhaps some in-person and smaller classes combined with online ones.

As a freelance writer, I need to follow the same guidelines the dog whisperers shared with me, as I allowed my 84-pound handsome guy drag me up and down the driveway as I  ran the gauntlet showed off my lack of dog handling skills.

If you'd like to read what I learned about myself as a writer (there's an even better photo of Radar as a bonus), check out my post And please leave a comment about any "old dog" habits you're dealing with, along with what new skills you're trying to work on.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Twists and Turns in Writing (and Life)

I’m twisted. I guess it would be more apt to say I love twisted writing.

I adore books and stories where the reader has to turn corners, clueless about what’s on the other side. Chuck Palahniuk’s writing is twisted in the best sense of the word. Joe Hill (he’s Stephen King’s son) keeps me on the edge of my seat. Sandra Dallas’s novels almost always have a major twist at the end.

These days are twisted… in the worst sense of the word.

To make sense of the world, what does a writer do? They write.

Recently I helped rescue a hawk. It was only a month old, and when a tree was cut down, the nest fell, and the baby bird was pacing in yards, desperate for food and water. My friend and I ended up taking it to the local wild bird sanctuary.

Slogging through an essay’s draft that’s simmering right now, a draft that begins with that baby hawk, I’m reminded of one of my favorite essays. It’s "Time and Distance Overcome" by Eula Bliss, and it's brilliant. It begins with a lot of information on telephone poles… and then it turns a major corner. A major corner.

Every summer I co-teach a graduate class. It’s full of teacher-writers. Usually it’s face to face but this year, it’s being conducted via Zoom meetings. Every summer I’m bowled over by the writing. This June is no different.

One of the teachers shared a short story she’d written. It was a moving tale of a mother who’s dealing with a miscarriage, a busy toddler daughter and a husband who doesn’t completely understand the grief she’s dealing with… and then I was punched in the stomach by the realization that what I thought was happening was not what was really happening. It was a whallop in the same vein as the one I got watching The Sixth Sense.

If you’d like to read an incredible essay—another one of my favorites—head to a post I've written for The Muffin. I’ve included a link to Brian Doyle’s powerful essay, “Joyas Voladoras.” It turns corners in a smooth and polished way.

And as far as my personal life, I turned a corner on Friday. I chose to not sign a contract at my old school, so I was (desperately) looking for a job for the last month or so. On Friday, I got a job offer (and accepted it). I’m thrilled. It's with a principal I love... which makes all the difference.

How about you? Do you incorporate twists and turns in your writing? How are you making sense of what is going on in our country?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A Tale of Two Cities

This time reminds me of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. Specifically, the beginning. In America, too often, it's the haves and the have-nots.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

The best of it? People are peacefully protesting the horror of what happened to George Floyd. Mayors and police chiefs are uniting and marching with their community members. The worst of it? George Floyd is one name in a string of names. Some people are choosing to loot and destroy. An age of wisdom? Newark and Flint--poorer communities--have had no looting. The police officers did not come out in riot gear and shields. They left their batons in their building. An age of foolishness? Our president has said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He’s got a horribly heavy hand. I could go on. And on...

image by Pixabay

We need to do some serious evaluation of what goes on in America. We need to do some amputation, some surgery. We need to undergo some honest rehabilitation… because America is not well. What is going on is sick. It’s horrible.

Before George Floyd was murdered, I wrote a post about the health of a writer for WOW. I’ve been reflecting on the mental and physical health of people who write.

Now, I’m worried more about the health of our country.

I saw Keegan-Michael Key, usually a hilarious guy, speak about this time. He explained, in a very simple way, why I (a white person) should never counter “Black lives matter,” with “All lives matter.” He likened it to thinking the fire department should spray down all the houses in the neighborhood, even if only one house is on fire. Yes, it’s important if your house is on fire. But right now, your house is not on fire.

Right now, it’s not a white person who just got kneeled on by a police officer (an officer who was so casual, he had his hands in his pockets) until he was choked to death.

Think about what we can do--what you can do--to make our country better… for all people.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Good-Byes... and Future Hellos

Yesterday I was part of a 12-person, 8-car caravan. We were on the road from 1-7, delivering yard signs and t-shirts for the 8th graders at my soon-to-be-former school. Like everyone else, these teens have had to settle for less as they settle into a different life. No graduation party for them. No mystery trip. No flurry of picture-taking and last-chance jokes before they head off to different high schools.

All the teachers signed each of the 26 signs with personal messages about how fun high school was going to be, what a pleasure they were to get to know--things like that. And a surprise: they had gotten a sign made for me and had covered the back with sweet notes written in Sharpies. When we stuck the signs in the yards, had the students put on the t-shirt and took pictures, we honked our horns and said silly things in a bull horn.

As I’m looking for a new school--a new professional home--I’m already missing my old work “home.” This is a supportive, funny, strong, bawdy and honest group of educators. There were times during this school year (more times that I’d like to admit) where I cried. Sometimes during school hours, and I’d have to open my eyes extra wide to keep the tears from brimming over as I turned with my back to the class. Sometimes after dismissal, where I’d hide in my room as the hot flood flowed down my cheeks… and each time, one (or more) of those teachers would hunt me down and give me a hug as they talked some reason into my head. Or they’d give me a card the next day with a lottery ticket or a candy bar attached. They were there for me during a rough patch… and for that I’m eternally grateful.

Radar looks way better naked than I do in sweat pants...

As I’ve learned (so many times) how hard it is to say good-bye, I’m learning things about myself and writing during this quarantine. Wouldn’t you like to know what Sioux is wearing these days? (Possibly not.) Would you like to know how she’s occupying her time? (Definitely not.) However, if you’re brave enough, check out her post yesterday on The Muffin.