Monday, March 27, 2017

Status Report


Well, things are sporadic and rather slapdash. That's okay. I've got other projects. Ok, well, mainly, I've got the book project. It's pretty much only the book project. The words are piling up, and I'm trying to organize the characters and their arcs. It's hard to know from moment to moment whether any one part is particularly good. But, that doesn't matter right now. What matters is writing the ending. I'm excited to do that. Once that's over, I'll be back to blogging. Doing the newsletter. The whole thing.


We're doing it right now in Colorado as we have done many times before. Good family times. Precious memories. The whole thing. I've been getting up early to work on the project mentioned above. Also to read a thriller called I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh. Have you read it? It was slowing down a bit, and I was wondering what I was missing when all of sudden - MAJOR TWIST. Now, I'll speed through the back half.

Social and Cultural Events:

My pal Emily recommended that I attend an event called Listen to Your Mother, wherein people tell stories about mothering and motherhood. I bought two tickets to this event. The second one I bought is ostensibly for my friend Anne, but if she can't go, I'll be looking for a date. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

One Word Writing Prompt: Lesson

I'm still in massive production mode on the book project. Unfortunately, that means the blog is taking a back-seat. When I do this to my poor blog, it doesn't just sit there, at peace with its neglect. It kind of taps at the back of my skull.  Like, why have you forsaken me? I've been here for you for twelve long years.

"Just write some short posts sometimes," Dan said when I explained the trouble to him yesterday. And, he's right. Let's just keep it alive.

Here's what I'm keeping it alive with today. A one-word writing prompt called, "Lesson." It's #2 on this list. Seems almost too easy for a teacher, no?

In English 7, I get four lessons per week to achieve my teaching goals. That's not a lot for a literacy educator - four, fifty-minute lessons. Monday's lesson is designed to get students ready to read a book called Nothing But the Truth by Avi. We used a time-honored activity called an anticipation guide. What you do is this: You pose a controversial statement to the group that reflects a theme in the piece you're reading, and then the kids tell you what they think about it. Sometimes they argue.

They argued hard about the statement, "We should say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem regularly at school." They also had strong feelings about, "If you don't like a teacher, you should consider switching to a different teacher."

Yesterday, a girl raised her hand and said, "When we did this yesterday, I couldn't imagine how these statements would all relate to the same book, but now I see they do."

See? Lesson planning. It sometimes works out.

Monday, March 6, 2017

One-Word Writing Prompt: Bullet

It felt like time to write a blog entry, but I had nothing. I think this has been happening because I've been focused on the book. Remember I said it would be finished with it (the complete draft - not the whole thing, duh) by the end of April? I've realized this commitment will require that I do very little of anything else (except work at my job, obviously, and keep my children alive and reasonably healthy) until the day comes when the curtain closes on the story.

That was kind of a funny thing that I did there in the last paragraph because there will actually be a theater performance at the end of the book. So that thing with the curtain was a metaphor, but also it was literal.

And, with that revelation, I think you now might be getting a sense of why it's been hard to write the blog.

But anyway, it's like all of the words and the ideas go straight to that project or to my actual paying job. Lucky for me, there are people on the internet that put together lists of prompts for writers who are stuck. I didn't want anything too complex, so I googled "one-word writing prompts." There are tons of these lists. I went with this one. #1 on the list of 153 one-word writing prompts is "bullet," which will now inspire this quick television review:

A good show to watch while you're cooking dinner or folding laundry is Schitt's Creek on Netflix. Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara (Johnny and Moira Rose) get totally bamboozled by their business manager and lose all of their millions of dollars. The only asset they have left is a town that Johnny bought as a joke for his unproductive son, David. He bought it because the town is called Schitt's Creek. Haha!

The funny comes from the titular homonym and also from the fact that this ridiculous family, accustomed to opulence, lands in a run-down motel in a rinky-dink town. None of the Roses have any transferrable skills. The "children" - adults who have never had jobs - attempt to make friends and feel okay about themselves. In a recent-to-me episode, David accepts an invitation to go turkey hunting with Stevie, the cute desk clerk at the motel. He ends up shooting a turkey in the neck with a bullet. "Now just wait for it to bleed out," a fellow hunter says, as David sits there in is ridiculous camouflage with his curated face stubble.

A potential pitfall of Schitt's Creek is that you could think that the show is making fun of small town life. I think it is, but it's okay because the show is mostly making fun of the Rose family, their entitlement, and their total inability to cope. The townspeople are the genuine, generous ones and, seemingly, the key to the Roses' redemption.

Schitt's Creek! Bullet! Blog for the day!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Writerly Wednesday: An Accidental Set of Memoirs

I push myself to read a lot. I enjoy it, and I feel like it enhances my life and keeps me sharp. In 2017, though, I'm trying to stick right close to the 52-book target and not overachieve. 

The first year of my 52-book reading target, I read 57 books. The next year I did 61. In 2016, the total was 65. You see where this could go, right? It could go down my typical "bigger, better, faster, more" path. That tendency doesn't reflect my best self. What am I trying to win? My prize for 52 books (a badge on Goodreads and a nice, credible list of favorites posted here) is the same as it is for 70. And there are other things to do like watch Big Little Lies on HBO, write resistance emails to Trump-complicit politicians, and hang out with my family. 

Ok, but so far this year, I've read nine books, and four of those have been memoirs. I usually don't clump genres like that. This has mostly been an accident of library holds and hearty friend recommendations. 

Here's what I've learned:
  • I think I might be the only person in the world who didn't love Glennon Doyle Melton's Love Warrior. I do feel curious about her, and I admire that she's made a career of writing and inspiring other people. And there were inspiring moments in this book, but some of the scenes made me feel super uncomfortable and cringey. Of course, that was the point: we should be honest with ourselves and others instead of masking the truth with substances, food, or other addictive behaviors. That makes sense, I guess, but it wasn't really for me.
  • Next up was Jessi Klein's collection of personal essays, You'll Grow Out of It. Less cringey, more funny than Melton's, I zipped through this. The stickiest sentiments: No matter how wonderful your life may look on the outside, you might still feel lonely and less-than. I learned this lesson while laughing out loud. Also, you're not alone, and you'll be okay. And finally, "get the epidural." Don't feel like you have to be a hero all the time. For what? What are you trying to win? As I mentioned, I'm always trying to win everything, so this was for me.
  • My takeaway from Carrie Fisher's 2008 offering, Wishful Drinking was this: Even if things are crazy, even if you're crazy (and who isn't?), just keep trying to do your best and also to make people laugh. This is a quick and pleasant read, and I have a full review coming soon on Literary Quicksand.
  • And finally, I listened to Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. This guy is really something. His anecdotes cover petty larceny, religion, and his complicated relationship with his white father. You can't really boil this book (or any of the others) down to a life-lesson, but that hasn't really been stopping me. Noah says, love your mother, put yourself out there, and fight injustice. 
I'm going to try to do good stuff today, inspired by my reading; but I'm not going to try to beat everyone while I'm doing it.

2016 Best of Audiobooks

Fun Home Musical Theater Review

The Benefits of "Not for Me" Reading