Saturday, June 16, 2018

Summer Task Lists

Here I am finishing the hardest 5k I've ever run.

We're finishing the first week of summer vacation. Actually, I'm just thinking of it as "summer, "and not as "vacation." Last year, when I reframed the whole June-July-and August phenomenon as not time-off, but rather the start of my other jobs, I just felt much happier. I wasn't expecting to be luxuriating and feeling relaxed all the time.

Indeed, I'm not living a life of leisure over here. Instead, I'm being a novelist and a full-time parent and studying for my new job. All of these are time-consuming endeavors, but also a lovely change of pace from my normal 9-5. Or 6:30-5, as the case may be.

I've got a daily task list. It includes laundry and clutter clearing. And, most importantly, I've got butt-in-the-chair time to make progress on the book. The comprehensive revisions are due to my agent by August 6th. I'm excising two characters and adding one. I'm writing more internal thinking. I'm reworking the conflict. To be honest, it feels less like revision and more like re-writing, but so far, I think the changes are making the book more and better than it was before.

In addition, I've got running on the calendar. I joined a running team to celebrate my 40th birthday. I was lured by the possibility of scoring points for the team now that I'm old. Sure enough, I ran an extremely hard 5k last Wednesday. It was the slowest 5k I've ever run, and yet, I finished 2nd in the Women's Masters division. That's a point-scoring position! Yay for 40!

Let's do this, summer. I'm ready for you.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Countdown to Summer

We're here in the homestretch of school year 2017-18.

Here's the story: I have finished and proofed my report card comments. I have emptied my classroom. I have loaded a few belongings on a cart to take on a long drive (3 elevator rides and a trip through the courtyard) to Room 205, where I'll be teaching 3rd grade come fall.

At our assembly, my students reminisced about their favorite moments with me in middle school, which was very sweet. They remembered me leading them in dance moves from High School Musical and also commented that I'm quick with a sticker and a smile. 

I do love stickers.

Bring it on, Summer 2018! Only the Valleyfair trip, Shef's 8th-grade graduation, official high school graduation, and couple of faculty meetings to go.

I can do it, I'm pretty sure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Big News. Big. Huge.

Here's something pretty cool: I applied for a new job. I went through all of the steps. I wrote a cover letter, updated my resume, did a fifteen-minute screening call and then a one-hour in-person committee interview. After that, I became a finalist, and I did a full-day candidate visit complete with two demo lessons with real kids. There were also six interviews with real adults.

Isn't that a lot?

I'm lucky because at the end of it all, I got picked for the job. I think you're supposed to play it cool on the offer call and say you need some time to think about it, but I didn't do that. I basically interrupted my new supervisor to yell, "I'M THRILLED, AND I'M TAKING IT!"

The whole thing was for an internal transfer position at my same fantastic independent school, and here's the deal:

Beginning next fall, instead of teaching sixth and seventh grades, I'm going to teach third grade. Third grade! In a self-contained classroom where I can work on empathy and community and global competence all day long while also thinking about all the core subjects plus social and emotional coaching! Further, I'm going to handle walking in lines and distributing snack!

Lucky for me, someone I know and love a lot has expertly taught third grade for years. I called Lee. She totally coached me, you guys. She made me feel like I could do it. When I got the job, she said, "Welcome to Thirdland," and I felt like I was 100% on the team.

I think it might be the best thing ever.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Listen to Your Mother Twin Cities 2018

Here's a picture of me practicing for tonight's show. My lip might be curling in an unattractive way.
Photo Credit: Ann Marie Photography The lip curl is obviously not her fault.
In a few hours, I'll be reading a story called "Labor and Reunion" in a show called Listen to Your Mother. I wrote the story myself. It's a true one about being an adopted person and having two mothers. It's also about giving birth and being a mother myself.

That sounds like a lot, but my part only runs 4 minutes and 45 seconds, so there's no need to panic about length. And, I included a few marginally funny jokes. If you go to the show, please laugh in the appropriate places. You'll be able to tell, I think, that I tried for humor.

Of course, I'm nervous. Here are some particular fears:

  • That I'll trip on the way to the stage, need to catch myself, and shove my butt toward the audience in an awkward way.
  • That I'll choke on my spit.
  • That my bra strap will fall down.
  • That I'll lose my spot on the page and need to tell the large audience to "hold please."
  • That the audience will be weirdly silent without any laughter or reaction at all. This has happened to me before at a Back-to-School Night, and it's unpleasant.
Those are the major ones. Here are some minors:
  • That I'll have to go to the bathroom a lot of times in advance of the show and struggle to remove my jumpsuit. 
  • That the sash part of the jumpsuit will fall in the toilet during one of these trips.
  • That the reddish-orange jumpsuit will remind listeners of prison.
  • That I'll mess up the group bow.
  • That I've forgotten to shave one of my two armpits. 
  • (Update: I just checked, and we're good to go on the armpit front.)
I think that's it. Remember, I signed up for this. I auditioned for it, in fact. It's happening. Go time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Season of Psychosis

I've been super into this podcast called Happier in Hollywood. On it, two tv writers and life-long friends discuss their work, friendship, and "the war of attrition that's life in Los Angeles." I feel like these gals are basically my best friends.

I mean, not really, I have lots of amazing IRL friends who perform the role of stalwart pals and confidants. But, I also like these two podcast women -- my best friends for a half-hour on Thursdays. 

They've been giving lots of excellent advice about taking feedback (just take it--it doesn't mean that people don't like you or believe in your talent), owning your career (just because someone else can't do the job doesn't mean you can't), and the next big move (your job is what you do from 8-6, your career is what you do from 7-Midnight, or in my case from 4:45-6:10am plus summer).

Recently, the podcast gals helped me process the eleven-page editorial letter I received from my new literary agency. At first glance, the letter looks like, "Hey, thanks for choosing us to represent you! Now, here's how you suck! We'll detail for you, line-by-line and section-by-section, the many mistakes you've made in this manuscript! And, oh, by the way, it's terrible!"

Luckily, I already had a schema for this moment from Liz and Sarah of Happier in Hollywood. After a notes call on their first pilot script, they cried and told their agent they should probably quit the project because the development team must hate them. In fact, no. The "notes" phase is normal.

Feedback and a bizillion revisions are part of the process. Also, have you read Lee's book? She claims that pretty much every writer gets an editorial letter. She proves this assertion with evidence and examples. Every writer goes back to the drawing board with a book that's maybe above average and attempts to make it great. My one measly, eleven-page letter from my friendly agency is probably the first of several major guttings I and my poor book will endure.

So here's my plan: the two main characters are getting rewrites and extensions. There will be new stakes, maybe a new ending. The first chapter is going to start in a different place. Some minor characters, and maybe even some bigger ones, are getting cut. It might be hard to say goodbye, but the book may become better for it.

Let's hope that the book becomes better and that I can actually do what the agency's asking. I mean, I might as well try.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Here we are in NOLA

By some miracle, KK and I escaped the winter hellscape of Minneapolis and landed in New Orleans where we're participating in a Global Symposium for independent school professionals.

I have to say, it was sort of surreal taxiing down the ice-encrusted runway on Sunday in Minneapolis. I kept thinking we'd turn back toward the terminal. The snow kept falling. The previous day's flights had been widely canceled. We'd have to bag our talk about global competence and trot it out another time in another venue.

But no! Miraculously we de-iced, we took off, and we landed. We made our way to the French Quarter and checked into the Sheraton. Truth be told, we had a heck of a lot of work to do on our talk, so we haven't seen as many sites as we might have liked. But here's what we have done:

  • Had a Pimm's cup in a corner café.
  • Walked into the smallest bookstore I've ever seen.
  • Enjoyed some street performers, including some sweet electric violinists.
  • Strolled down Royal and Chartres and Decatur
  • Ate blue crab rolls, barbequed shrimp, pralines, red beans and rice, sweet potato gnocchi, praline bread pudding, and beignets.
Also, did you know that Starbucks now has matcha lattés? We had some in the hotel before we finished writing and practicing our talk. Later, we practiced and edited the talk some more. Some nice Catholic school teachers from Memphis told us about how they went dancing while drinking hurricanes. That sounded nice, but we've been in bed watching pay-per-view movies (Molly's Game and I, Tonya) by 8 both nights. We've had to get up early to write and practice the talk.

As I've mentioned before, people have different ways of having fun. I'm happy we made it here to NOLA. It's been worth it for sure, and tomorrow we'll do the talk. I'm pretty sure it'll be good enough.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Drop Me Off Down the Block

Not too long ago, the kids and I went to watch a friend of Shef's play in a high-level, high-stakes hockey game. It was really fun, and I especially liked how they blasted clips of classic songs like 1989's "Move This" by Technotronic before face-offs.

I got to thinking, I should take the kids to more school sporting events. We could wear our colors and root for the teams! Sounds wholesome and screen-free! I shared my epiphany with Shef, who is now fourteen years old.

"Hey," I said, "wouldn't it be fun to go to more school sporting events?"

"No," he said. The answer came swiftly and with zero hesitation.

"No?" I asked, surprised. "You don't want to watch your friends play lacrosse and stuff?"

"No," he clarified, "I just don't want to be seen with you in public."

Just like that! All matter-of-fact!

I think the inclination is probably exacerbated because I'm a teacher at the school, in addition to also being a regularly ignominious parent. Having a teacher mom is literally the worst thing ever for an eighth-grader, Shef says. I can't help that it's my job, though, and I also can't help that I'm so embarrassing. I feel I could be even more embarrassing if I didn't already put so much effort into my behavior. Shef doesn't know how lucky he is. One little slip and he could be the laughing stock of the entire school.