The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 23: The Luxury of Time

A rainy weekend day. As I'm lulled by the sound of the rainfall, I write. It's too sloppy outside to play with the dog, and the gray clouds aren't luring me out to do errands. It's as if the skies are conspiring to get me to write.

All it takes is a willingness. Being willing and able to say "yes" to writing is a privilege.

Sometimes the weather--in its lack of cooperation--is uncooperative. Sometimes it's an impromptu trip to a coffeeshop that gets me writing. A change of scenery can do wonders to my word count.

And sometimes it's just time--no matter where I am. Today I'm writing with some unknown writing colleagues--students I've never met. It'll be three hours of writing.

Too often, we think we don't have time to write. We're too busy to write a short story, an essay or a novel. As teachers, there are countless priorities pulling us in different directions. 

However, how can we expect our students to write, to make a habit of writing, if we don't?

Short stories, novels and essays all begin the same: one word at a time... 

How about you? What is your favorite time or space for writing?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 22: Mrs. Wright

I'm so excited. Tomorrow I'm having lunch with a teacher I haven't seen in over 40 years. 

Will she recognize me? Back then I was thinner. I wore overalls and moccasins (every day). My face was unwrinkled.

Will I recognize her? I imagine so. Back in the 1970s, I thought Mrs. Wright was ancient. Old. Her gray hair (actually dishwater blonde back then), her senior citizen shoes (actually just sensible heels) and her polyester dresses and suits (that was the style in those days) all seemed laughable, making me almost dismiss her.

However, it was Mrs. Wright who made me do the hard work when it came to research. She taught me the value of revision (even if it took decades for me to fully embrace the concept) . She taught me perseverance.

That's Mrs. Wright--on the left--with a student teacher. 

This fall, in NCTE's journal Voices from the Middle will publish a letter I wrote to Mrs. Wright. (The issue is being dedicated to teachers from the past.) Because of Mrs. Wright I am a freelance writer... and a wannabe/soon-to-be novelist.

I can't wait...

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 20 and 21: An Unflagging Spirit

It was cold. If you're a parent or a coach, you know the Law of Ball Fields: No matter what the temperature is at home, it's always 20 degrees colder at a ball field. (This switches when the weather is sweltering.) Last night was no exception.

The small crowd at Belleville West High School shivered and huddled under blankets and coats. (This school is Home of the Maroons--we wondered what the mascot looks like. Are they simply a piece of maroon paper? Is the mascot a giant maroon crayon? We never found out.)

I came to watch a former student play lacrosse. As a first-time watcher, I was fascinated by the game. Those girls were amazing in their ability to hurl a small ball across a field to a teammate... the teammate then snagged the ball and kept it in a small net as they ran, their stick held upright.) She wasn't hard to keep track of. Elizabeth is incredibly tiny (I think she's under 5 feet tall) with blonde hair and blue legs. (Well, I imagine they were blue. Those girls wore shorts--and the majority wore no leggings or sweatpants under them.)

What remained long after the game was over was Elizabeth's spirit. Her fierce competitiveness. Like a wolverine, she kept preying on her opponents. Every minute of the game she was nipping at their heels. Or she was waiting for the enemy to race into her territory. Or she was standing on the sidelines (never sitting on the bench), poised... ready to get called back in--and all the while she was watching the game, her eyes darting from player to player.

The same spirit was exhibited in the classroom and the playground. Elizabeth was extremely competitive (with herself) when it came to academics, and she was her fiercest when it came to other students and her teachers. If a peer was being ostracized or a teacher was being disrespected, she couldn't help it: her claws would come out, her blue eyes would turn red and (almost literal) steam would shoot out of her ears. She never backed down, no matter how unpopular it made her with her classmates.  

Getting the privilege to know young people like this... teens who will soon be leading our country--is one of the many perks of being a teacher.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 19: Hiding the Tails

If you've used more than one kind of yarn or more than one skein, you have to weave the tails in. If you're skilled enough, the knot is small and is easily hidden. If you're an artist, you can slip the yarn--needling it in and out of the holes--so that it looks like nothing's hidden... so that, to the trained and untrained eye alike. it looks just like knitting, and not like concealing.

What do we keep hidden from others? I wonder. As we deflect questions and fail to open up to others... What knots are we hiding? What tails are we weaving in, until they're invisible?

Here are 2 truths and 1 lie about me:

1. Colin Firth and I were in the same social studies class when I was in 7th grade.

2. I've done 3 solo skydives.

3. I've played basketball while on the back of a donkey.

Which is the lie?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 18: Accentuate the Positive

I've been submitting my manuscript for the past couple of months. Those months came after several years of writing, researching, revising, editing, re-revising, (is that really a word, you ask? It is as far as I'm concerned.) and begging some beta readers to invest their time in reading the 53,000 words.

Each time I get a rejection, my confidence dips. However, I tallied them up, and so far, I've only gotten 4 rejections. There are 9 agents that still have not answered. If all 9 of those remaining also say no, I will look at my query and my first 10/15/30 pages to try and determine what's wrong. (Some agents want the first 10 pages, some the first 15, some want 30 and one agent wanted the whole manuscript.)

Keep your eye on the positive. Eliminate the negative. And give things time.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 17: Green All O'er

Smears of green across faces. Kelly green and glow-in-the-dark green and new-grass green shirts. Green beads draped under smiling faces.

A flood of shoulder-to-shoulder party-goers. The Tamm Avenue sidewalk is lined with them, from Oakland to Manchester.

Beer... (for some) the breakfast drink on a day like today.

Today I'll be watching the Dogtown St. Patrick's Day Parade. However, I'll be watching it while in the comfort of a home (a home belonging to two friends--surrounded by their family and other friends) with a bathroom (not a porta-potty) and lots of delicious food. 

This photo, taken by a Riverfront Times photographer, shows
a bit of the craziness that goes on during the day. The later the hour,
the crazier the party...

Happy St. Patrick's Day. Drink beer. Eat corned beef and cabbage. Celebrate a sturdy stock who helped form this country... thankfully, before a wall was being bandied about to keep out people from other countries...