Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Status Report

Health: I have a cold! It's my first real cold since Covid because I've been pretty great about mask-wearing. But, Shef went to visit his pal in New Haven and came home with a doozy. I know it's a cold and not Covid because Shef and I each tested twice for the latter. The rest of the family also tested. It's just snot.

Running: We have to credit running with my continued (marginal) sanity. During the long lockdown of 2020, it's only because of running that I functioned, I'm pretty sure. Running, the love of my family, and perhaps the SSRI that I took on the daily. 

During this time of Covid, I bought a new fancy treadmill and also joined an online running team. The team was lovely. I enjoyed the workouts and accomplished personal adult records in the 5k and the half marathon. Sometimes I chatted with my comrades on an online message board. Lately, though, with the teaching, I haven't had time to engage with the cyber team, and I decided to switch to a local coach who writes workouts just for me instead of a one-size-fits-all plan for 80. The coach is the same Maggie who guides Shef and Mac, and they ran pretty well last season. Shef finished second in the whole state, so surely, I'm also on my way to expanded and boundless greatness.

Dogs: There are three of them here, as you may know. Ripper hides and dodges when it's time for a walk. Instead of chasing her, I've decided to teach her a valuable lesson by leaving her at home if she darts under the table rather than acquiescing to her leash. It worked once before, at least for a good while. We'll see what happens on today's walk. If I don't walk the dogs, things get a little hairy in terms of activity level, and for Skip, emissions in the house. Gross.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Setting the Crystal Free

I probably have mentioned that I'm really into crystals now. I just like them, and if I like them, then that's fine. Who are you to judge me for my interest in and affinity for shiny rocks?

Anyway, each week, I choose some to put on my desk, and then some students are drawn to them, and we talk about them. Sometimes, a kid will hold on to a crystal during class. My intuition told me to give a tiger's eye quartz to one student who then won a bunch of swimming races. So, we can all agree crystals enhance our lives and our powers.

Yesterday, a student came to see me during Flex time. She was experiencing grief and overwhelm, and since I'm not a professional counselor, I suggested she might want to hold on to crystal for the rest of the day. (I also, for the record, encouraged her to wander down the hall to see a professional counselor, which she then did.) From the crystal dish, the student chose a Botswana agate. We looked up its special properties and were amazed to discover it was good for grieving people! Crystals for the win!

At the end of the day, the student came back to me looking distraught. "I'm so sorry!" she shrieked.

"For what?!" I felt momentarily alarmed.

But then, it turned out that all that had happened was that she'd accidentally thrown away the crystal with her lunch garbage as if it were a retainer. No biggie. The crystals are actually rocks that I buy from a website for a nominal bulk price.

"You know," I told her, "crystal people would tell you its a sign that you no longer needed that particular one, that it had served its purpose." I arched an eyebrow.

"But, it happened like five minutes after you gave it to me." I could tell the student felt bad about bursting my bubble.

Yesterday, I couldn't make sense of the crystal loss, but now I think the purpose of the whole thing was to give the student and me something to laugh about together. And also to provide fodder for this exact blog entry.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Pit Stop

Just the other day, I wrote about how the solution to GCMB (Golf Course Murder Book) was going to be to write from the beginning, ten thousand words in a row.

But then, I had happy hour with my friend and story editor Chadd, and he told me that what I actually had to do was write the murder scene as committed by each of my seven suspects. He said, "Don't write this as Kathleen West, Author. Just write bullet points."

I did more than bullet points, but it's just an outside story about why each of the people in my novel would have killed Kit, how they got the means, and then what they might have actually done. Golf club to the head? Golf cart rolled back and forth over her neck? Shotgun from outside the fence? 

While I've been working, the exact place of the death has also taken on some significance. I might write some backstory today about Hole 6 of the Harmony Valley Golf Course. None of that, obviously, contributes to my first ten thousand words, but also? I'm learning a lot about the story. I think and hope all this thinking and bad writing will hasten my process down the road.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Getting Serious

I'm getting serious about drafting my next novel. To be completely frank with you, I should have been serious about this a few months ago.

It's not that I wasn't serious about it at that time. It's just that other things took up a lot of space in my brain and also I'm trying to do something new. That's always just hard. I generally write totally out of order in the beginning, and then when I have like 40 or 50-thousand words, I start to put the story in order.

But for this mystery? With the golf course murder? I think I might have to go from the beginning. A mystery requires quite a great deal more plotting than my other fare. 

So far, I've written about 20-thousand words. Just a couple of days ago, I started to go chronologically. This means cutting and dragging some stuff around, and also just writing new stuff.

I'm starting to think I can do it. Time will tell. When I get to 10k, I'm going to edit it and polish it and send it to some critique partners and then my agent. I've never sent stuff in such a small chunk before, but I think that's how it has to go.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Status Report

It's that time again. How's it going?

Teaching: The new job is a blast. The girls are funny and engaging and smart. The curriculum is fascinating and familiar. My teaching partner is a genius. 

Basically, I hit the jackpot with this gig. The downsides of my one-year part-time substitute position are very few. One is the students' tendency to have cool nails. Acrylics? Stickers? Elaborate polish? I'm not even sure how they accomplish these, but they make me feel insecure about my own chewed-up fingertips. 

Also, there's a faculty hazing ritual involving a holographic framed picture of White Jesus that appeared next to the 2009 encyclopedias in my classroom. This Jesus is labeled "Shepherd of the Shelf" and came with handwritten instructions to relocate him after a week. 

But, to whom should he go? This decision is causing some consternation. 

Running: I'm about two-and-a-half weeks out from a half-marathon. My training has been so-so, but also adequate. I'd like to run the race pretty fast, maybe the fastest I've ever run the distance. Still, if I don't, we all know it won't be the end of the world. Like publishing goals, running ones are best held loosely.

Writing: Stop it. Don't even go there. I'm taking no questions at this time. 

Ok, but, I am committed to writing 10k of my new mystery in order. This has started today. I have 500 words so far. 5% done. I'll report back.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

It's Homecoming Week

At my new school, there's a tradition called dodgeball. The girls (it's an all-girls' school) dress up in their house colors and then try to obliterate one another in dodgeball. 

It's the traditional dodgeball where people run to the center of the gym, retrieve balls, and whip them at one another while showing no mercy.

The whole tournament was slightly terrifying to me. First, you have to consider the noise. It was constant roaring. It was girls in tutus maybe experiencing catharsis through screaming, which reverberated from the gym rafters.

Second, there were the cheating accusations. Just imagining someone coming after me with their finger out, yelling about how I'd broken a rule--to be honest, it made my heart beat fast and sparked an urge to cower.

Third, I was struck by the contrast of the school's stated values and DODGEBALL. We're about kindness and gentleness and optimism, and apparently also about annihilation and humiliation. 

Perhaps more suprising than all of this was the girls' demonstrated affection for the tradition. I polled my afternoon classes about how they'd rank dodgeball on a scale of 1-5, with five being "awesome." I'd say the average score was 4.

So, there you have it. Watch out for the flying balls. It's possible I just don't understand. Yet.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

I Don't Want to Write Today

So this is my warm up.

My goal this week is really manageable. It's just 400 words per day. If I start, I'll be finished. But I feel tired and slow, and I don't want to start.

I should be riding high. I showered this morning and got dressed and left the house before Mac's alarm rang at our ideal departure time. A victory!

But after I dropped him off, I touched my face for a moment and realized I'd forgotten to put on any makeup. I do this about once per year, usually when I get ready in an out-of-order sort of way.

We wear masks at school, so it's almost no big deal to forget one's make-up, except I think a little mascara goes a long way, and I'm new to my job, and I want to make a good impression.

There's a Walgreens near the building, and I teach in the afternoons while writing in my classroom in the mornings. So, what was an extra ten minutes to stop by and pay thirty dollars for the concealer, eyelash curler, and a new Voluminous? I did the touch up using the sunshield mirror.

Nothing bad happened except it continued my discombobulation, and now I don't want to write. 

But it's just 400 words, and it's my job.

I'll do it.

I'll do it.

I'll do it. 

(Cue Cameron Frye in his car wanting and not wanting to let Ferris boss him around.)