The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tearing Out Hair and Gnashing Teeth...

         Many years ago, I  went to a workshop that focused on the social consciousness of kids.  Two of the books they used to prod us into writing had a permanent impact on me.

          One is Faithful Elephants.  It is a picture book, a true story, and is reportedly read aloud over Japanese airwaves every year, in the hopes there will never be another war like it.  Every time I read it aloud to a class, I am sure that--this time--I won't cry, because I am so familiar with it.  Yet every year I sob...

        The other book that made an indelible mark on my 
     life is Go Home!  The True Story of James the Cat.  I can 
     still remember the anguish as I listened to that story, 
     the first time, wondering how it would end. (It's the
     story of  a stray cat, and chronicles all the dangers a
     stray has to endure, in a very realistic manner.)

         Several years ago, having thought all along
   that there should be a companion-book for
   Go Home!, one about a stray dog, I worked
   for a year or two on a picture book.  I took it to
   a writing retreat and had a response group
   help me with it.  I met with a friend at a local
   book store---our own little writers' group---and
   got her to critique it.  I had my #1 editing
   friend give me her take on it. Then it sat for a
   couple of years, gathering dust.

           This summer I bragged in my blog that I was
finally ready to send it off.  I even stupidly said I'd do it by the end of the month (August). Someone I had recently met, Donna , made sure I followed through when she commented on my post, "So that means August 31, right?"  That meant there was no way I could back down...

        According to the post office, it should have arrived on September 3rd.  When I did not hear anything the next week, I was surprised.  But I gave them a little leeway.

        Now, since they have had it for almost a month, I am sure there is some incredible battle going on.  Probably, other publishing houses heard about my story, and have tried to snag it from Albert Whitman & Company. They probably have hired professional cat burglars who will rappel down the walls of the building at night, so they can break into the office where my manuscript is... 

       Or,  perhaps all of their editors are arguing.  Which one is going to get the privilege of working with such a gifted author?  Each one is vying for the prestigious position, and there is tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth over the prospect.

        If you are a writer, how do you wait patiently for a response? Do you let your imagination run wild (as I obviously do)? What do you do to keep your hope and faith from flickering into nothingness? 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's You and Me Against the Kids

         When you close your classroom door and begin teaching, it's a very private, lonely thing.  It's you up against 20-30 students, and your mission (if you choose to accept it) is to entertain and cajole and comfort and inspire as you teach.

          If you're the only adult, it gets lonely in there.  You yearn for a peer, so you can exchange knowing looks across the room.  It's great to have a colleague to get some feedback from.

          In my class, I am fortunate to have Mr. W.  He spends most of his day in room 12 helping out one student, but in actuality, helps out all the kids in the class and helps me out immensely.

            Working with students who are difficult to manage can be exasperating, yet I've never seen Mr. W lose his cool.  He remains calm at all times.  He has the utmost respect for the students, and it shows in his body language and tone and in his patience.

         Some educators are reluctant to have other educators push into their classroom but I have always enjoyed it. It's fun to bounce ideas off each other.  And it's great to have another grown up who "gets it."  (For example, the other day we were brainstorming situations that frightened us, for story ideas.  One student, when asked, "What scares you?" she said, "My dad's taser."  Mr. W. and I each raised an eyebrow at each other, and the discussion continued.  

            Mr. W. is only a special education substitute.  When the regular special ed assistant returns from her maternity leave (and she is phenomenal too; I tried to convince her to have her baby, and we could set up a little nursery in my room. For some reason, she didn't respond the way I would have liked...) we are hoping he can stay.  There is certainly a need for both of them.

          When he walks into the room, a bunch of kids always are clamoring for him to "Sit by me!"  He has handled every situation that is thrown his way with grace and wisdom.  Recently, he was able to speak to an angry family when he (unbeknownst to me) sang my praises and "got real" with the family.  After meeting with him, their attitude had completely changed (for the better).

          If you are a teacher, and would like a Mr. W. in your classroom, go to  Apparently, along with the 2nd job he has in the evening, he also has been in such demand with teachers, he has set up a lab in his basement and is cloning himself.  Good luck!  There are so many backorders, he cannot keep up with the shipping requests...  

A Great Quote

       I happened upon Sherry's jewelry site and along with some really unusual hand-crafted items, she had an incredible quote as part of her bio.  I am going to type it up in extra-large letters, so it can be emblazoned across all of our brains:

I'm not perfect, but I'm perfectly myself.
                                               ---Sherry Truitt

Keep that in mind, the next time you fumble or flounder and beat yourself up about it... 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Reminder---Definite Prizes, Possibly For You

      Finally finding my USB cord (?), I took pictures of most of the prizes for my writing contest.  (Check out the post on Monday, September 20 for details.)  The cord was in a logical place, which explains why it took me so long to find it!

     Here are the incredible prizes you could win with just 200 words.  (I did not take a picture of the box of staples, or the dry erase markers because I did not snag them from my school's vault yet figured no one needs a photo of those things. I also did not photograph the chocolate item, because I have not decided what that will be yet.)

This is a close-up of the scarf, which is hand-knit by a persnickety menopausal Missouri woman.
There will be a beaded fringe added to each end...

I am sorry---it comes on as upright, but when it's saved, it rotates...
This is a coffee-table type of book, featuring black and white photos of writers,
along with their thoughts on writing...

a writing journal, with lined pages

This is hand-quilted wall hanging, created by a pre-menopausal Missouri woman...

Please see the post on 9/20, and send your entry to

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Freedom---the Book

          At one point, I got his earlier book The Corrections as a gift.  I was not in the right mood at the time to read it. Now it's buried in some bookcase. (I think.)

           However, there's a lot of hoopla over his newest Freedom.  I hate to be left out, so sometime soon, I will probably be hitting a bookstore to pick up a copy.

          I read an excerpt of Jonathan Franzen's book . It sounds like something I might enjoy.

          Has anyone out there read it?  If so, what did you like/not like about it?Thumbs up or thumbs down?

A Bunch of Hooey

       If I was around my friends, I would not use the word "hooey," but since this is being viewed by the public, I will put my public face on and attach my public duct tape.

       I was so looking foward to the "documentary" Waiting for Superman when I heard about it six months ago.  I wanted to be inspired, to hear success stories.  Unfortunately, it is just another instance of teacher-bashing (from what I have seen).

photo by Chris Pino

       From what I have heard, no public school success stories are highlighted. Did you know that charter schools can kick a student out if they are disruptive/out of control/disrespectful?  Public schools must educate all the students in their enrollment area.  We take the tired...the poor...the wretched refuse yearning to breathe free (of boundaries)...

       In the movie, it claims that tenure comes after two years.  That is not the case. In my district, it comes after 4 years (or 5; it's been so long ago, I forget which).

         If you want to read a barbed (and honest) blog about this "shock-umentary" you should check out the Dream Teacher.  Her post on 9/26 is brilliant!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Delicious Ending---A Microfiction Story

          This is my microfiction story, based on this very haunting photo.

            She watched the waves, and thought how comforting it would be to succumb to their embrace.

         All it would take is a small shift, and she'd vanish.

         No one would miss her... 

Check out the other microfiction stories at Stony River

(If "characters" includes spaces, this is over the limit...Sorry if that is the case.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Scene-Stealing Stephen King


photo by che1899

         One of my favorite TV shows is Sons of Anarchy.  I liken it to the Sopranos on motorcycles.

          On the most recent episode, Stephen King did a guest appearance.  (He loves the show just like I do!)  I knew this was going to happen this season, but I had no idea what part he would play.

        Playing a cleaner (a person hired to clean up after a horrendous crime) King was---as expected---an oddball on the show. 

       If you are a Stephen King fan, or if you're a writer, read his book on writing.  Not only does he allow you into his head as a writer, he also weaves a marvelous tale about rejection letters and persistence.