Dec 1, 2013

Entering Christmas

It's December 1st - Meteorological first day of winter, though we wait until the 21st for the astronomical 'shortest' day as the sun's position hits the lowest point for the northern hemisphere. But here in the USA, we don't often think of entering December, or even approaching the Winter Solstice, so precious a sign to all civilizations before enclosed homes with easily accessed warming devices. We are entering Christmas.

As a nation of all the religions in the world, worshipping in general the same Lord in so many creative ways, with or without Jesus Christ in our beliefs, December is filled with celebration:
Al Hijra, Ashura, St Nicholas Day, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, Virgin of Guadalupe, Santa Lucia Day, Los Posadas, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa. If we are conscious of the souls of all mankind, we can give thanks and praise nearly every other day.

And if we consider the rotten state of affairs in some countries, our own included, it's nice to know we'll be receiving thanks and praises along the way----all in proportion to those we give.

Let's enter Christmas with song in our hearts, love in our souls, and our eyes on each and every hungry sparrow.

Sep 8, 2013

Time to Shape Up for Teaching My Last Year

Ready for this?  The number-one reason agents pass on requesting a full manuscript after reading the opening chapters is this: the story does not have a forward-moving plot. (Kristin Nelson)
I agree, but I live with a much more important connection: IMO the number-one reason that students tune out of a class is this: the lesson does not have a forward-moving plot!
If ENGAGEMENT and ASSOCIATION to the CHARACTERS work for stories and novels, these strategies should be every teacher's tour de force in preparing lesson plans.  Tour de force: a feat or display of strength, skill, or ingenuity
So this year, of all years, my swansong, my curtain call, I pledge to be forward-moving, to be forward in planning, forward in triggering questions, forward in formative assessments--not so swift to judge and move on. Thanks to Kristin Nelson
If you're a teacher or a writer, or just curious, check her out at     The article about catching the reader in a vise grip is toward the bottom of the posting.

Jun 19, 2013

A Cheer, A Toast to Libba Bray - pajamas and all.

Yes - it's the summer of 2013 and a year has passed since the 4 day, 38 person wedding celebration complete with midnight dancing, hot air balloon wishes floating into the night sky, a second line through the house just before dawn, and more crayfish and hot peppers than we could eat.

I can't tell you I've been good -- but another year in the 9th grade is over and I am planning and writing again. This is the research leg of imagining a new cast of characters in a new situation older than mankind. Girl runs, boy runs, parents chase, and a little magic happens. Somehow it's never that simple, is it.

Today Libba Bray posted a rant against Writer's Despair that made the share upon share rounds on FB.

If you're a writer, read it. Just click and read it right now. Then take a deep breath and let a smile bring a little joy back into your eyes. This is the rant we all want to claim. I want that voice. I want to find that humor within me, and face it, we all want the time to step back and despair in agony so sublime as to have a book stretching and growing, expanding its ribs, filling its lungs, poking fists and feet against the embrace of safety. I guess the freedom to write whatever and whenever we want is too safe for us. Writers who are persecuted must make every moment hot and clear, to the point or woven in allegory--and do it in secret. We may not all be published, but we are not persecuted here in America. And yet, I believe Safety is the little killer (of adventure and curiosity, of world-making and self-reliance) not Fear, as we learned decades ago in DUNE.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me." Frank Herbert

Don't play it safe; don't expect your characters to come to life without your paying the ferryman an exorbitant fee in sweat and tears.

My comment to a reader on Libba Bray's blog sums up my confidence that one day there's nothing and then, there is a turning, a new thought, an un-jinxing charm, that will allow you to devise the plot your heart wants to find.....

[from the comment] I've read ‘Driven to Distraction’, consulted with a counselor at my junior high where I teach, and figured out that mild adult ADD is no different from an excess of passion and intent that transcends the ‘whatever’ attitude of so many people today. I too outline and actually lay the pages down and forget where I left them. Then I write 3-4 opening scenes so I can consciously, a few days later, rip one up and throw it away……and a week or so later, do it again, until I am forced to go on with the story because there is no opening scene anymore. I've eaten it. It's deep within my mind now-all the variations. When I want any part of this written and rewritten set of events, they're standing around, waiting to see if one or the other will fit. The reward is that I am not leaning on them, not worshiping how smoothly the hook was thrust forward, not hungering for someone to read it on the spot so I can hear the praises that surely would follow.

This linear  thinking and planning allows me to get along the trail, albeit slowly. I love this blog. I love this entry. (just in case you skipped it earlier!)

Libba, you’re not ADD. Writers who can do Victorian so flawlessly aren’t ADD. They’re simply smothering in runaway talent for storytelling. You’re being corralled by format – try throwing that out the window. Then sit down and write a long conversation with nothing in between for 20 pages. Let the characters take you for a long walk. [end comment]

Folks - I am not a consistent blog writer. I am more of a hawk scanning for a laugh on FB. I can't find anyone on my Twitter account that I personally know. And lately I pinned some nifty recipes on Pinterest and can't find them again.  But I know that getting started on a book and later, restarted is hard. Here's how it seems to work: Creativity Profiles
(i) Incubate (Long-term Development)
(ii) Imagine (Breakthrough Ideas)
(iii) Improve (Incremental Adjustments)
(iv) Invest (Short-term Goals)
For all of us who have days-weeks-ages of block, of distress, of starting over, I say
         Go out and walk around the block talking to yourself in character conversations.
         And eat more protein.
         And take a super complex B-vitamin daily.
         And suck it up with a chocolate kiss at least once an hour.

         Your brain runs on sugar.