Thursday, January 26, 2012

Perspective on Aspects

"You can't sit around and wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

- Jack London

I officially began the Write On to Build on Group on 01/10/12.

I wrote a POST about it on my blog.

I began my night class on 01/23/12.

It’s 22 days since we formed our group. I thought I’d give my progress.

I owe $1 to our chosen charity Build On

I’ve written 11,354 new words in my WIP and short story. 9,000 of these words are from my newly completed short story! YaY!

I edited 4 chapters of my WIP.

I’ve edited the rough draft of my short story twice.

So, yeah, I’m writing.

I’ve also been working on my writing “career”:

I’ve gutted and rebuilt my query for Naked Eye. (Thanks, Judy and Samantha! )

I’ve registered for NE-SCBWI conference in May.

I’ve entered The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest (ABNA).

I’m busy with family, school, and writing. But I will no longer let it be an excuse. Writing is one of my jobs. I’m a writer. It’s who I am. When I let it languish, a part of me languishes.

This is my new schedule:

In the mornings, I may check Facebook or blog or answer e-mail, but sometimes I write a little to. When I take my lunch, I write or edit for nearly the entire 30 minutes. If I’ve been productive with my writing for both morning and lunch, I focus on schoolwork or lighter stuff later in the day. If I haven’t, I try to write more in the late afternoon of evening.

For one day on each weekend, I must devote at least a couple of hours to writing. This will be my first weekend with homework, so this will become a challenge. But it’s in the schedule. I’m flexible about when it happens during the weekend, but it must happen.

Now that I have a brand spankin’ new query, I’d better start submitting Naked Eye again.

It just feels good to be doing something.

I’m not Super Woman (though I used to be Substitute Teacher Woman, which is a whole other post), so I’ve had to let a few things slide.

Facebook gets less attention (except for my writing groups).

Blogging time has been diminished.

I’m sleeping more; most nights I’m in by 9:30 or 10:00. Even 9:00 pm. Sometimes I lay down for fifteen minutes when I get home from work, time permitting.

My pathetic exercise routine of sit ups, pushups and leg exercises is now being enhanced with a stationary bicycle 2 days a week and yoga 1 day a week.

I’ve upped my intake of fruits and vegetables. I’ve shrunk my portions. (My wine consumption, however, remains steady.)

Whether I can keep these changes in the long term, I don’t know. I’m tired. I get cranky. I never feel like I have enough time with my kids (more because of their afterschool activities than all my stuff.) I need to make sure I take care of every part of me—


career (work and school)

body (exercise and rest)

family (heart)

writing (soul)

I can make excuses that my career means I don’t have time for other important aspects of my life. Usually what happens is body and soul are cast aside. Those are big parts of me. In the past 15 months, I’ve gained 10 pounds. If I’ve made that big of a difference in my physical appearance, what does my soul resemble after not writing?

"Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise the muscles seize up."

- Jane Yolen, Merlin

What aspects of you do you let fall by the wayside?

Or how do you make sure to cultivate all aspects of you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Droughts and Deluges

“Was a long and dark December

From the rooftops I remember

There was snow

White snow”

- “Violet Hill” by Coldplay

Dianne K. Salerni of “In High Spirits” wrote a post entitled, Resolutions and Revelations

The post was a revelation for me. She wrote:

Last year, I joined a number of writers in Resolution 2011 – Write Every Day or Pay. For every day I didn’t write in the year of 2011, I would donate $1 to the charity of my choice.

When I first wrote seriously, I wrote more than I do now. Part of it was because my rough drafts were a BIG mess, so they took me forever-and-a-half to edit them. As time went on, there were a few droughts, but I always found water again. In October 2010, I began working full time AND taking a night class. Then I had a huge drought. I feared the drought would never leave. Would I be like the Anasazi—the author me would disappear forever?

But in 2011 from February to March, I found my groove. I finished in April. I edited. I submitted. At the end of the summer, I began something new. I also began working full time again. Another drought. More doubt. I wrote a trickle in November. I wrote a little stream near the end of December. Work would begin in days. My grad class would begin in a few weeks. Would I ever finish this draft?

Then I read Dianne’s post and decided I had to do something DRASTIC. I belong to a group called “Writers Support 4 U”. I wrote:

Anyone interested in having a writing challenge with me? For any day we don't write, we'll owe $1 to a charity. We see how we do after 3 months and make the total donation at that time. If it's motivated us, we can continue.

A few other writers were up to the challenge. Lydia Kang found the education and literacy

Build On

Ann joined too.

Robyn Campbell joined as well.

Susan Oloier is also part of the group.

Crystal Collier signed up too!

Our group is called “Write On to Build On”.

This is our mission:

This group was founded on 01/10/2012 to motivate us to write. Any day we don't write, we'll owe $1 to the charity Build On. We can check our totals every three months to see how we've done and make our donation. Besides posting here, we should keep a personal account of the days we don't write. Writing a rough draft or editing counts, as does working on short stories, vignettes, and flash fiction. Let's post and make a comment thread of our daily progress at the end of each day.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Bottom of Form

I learned a lot about myself last year. When I present myself with a challenge, I MUST DO IT. When I decided to read 100 books last year, I read more than 100 books. Since I started the group, I’ve been writing up a snowstorm. Only 1 writing-free day. And now those 1-day dry spells will go to a good cause. I have a feeling I won’t have any more droughts.

I’ve become so prolific, when Old Kitty let me know about a Flash Fiction submissions being accepted for an upcoming eBook anthology to raise $ for victims of sexual assault/abuse (One in Four ), I was up for the challenge.

The flash fiction piece needed to be inspired by a song. I chose “Violet Hill” by Coldplay.

More about Caroline Smailes’s challenge is HERE

The authors who will be included in the anthology are HERE

Please visit Old Kitty and wish her hearty congratulations HERE

May your days be filled with a flurry of words!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Nicki Elson and Celery Tree

Nicki Elson is taking over my blog today.

That’s less scary than it sounds. Probably.

Celery Tree is now open! If you've been blog hopping recently, chances are you've already heard this news, but you may be asking---why Celery Tree? We've got Amazon, Goodreads, etc., etc.

Well, the cool thing about Celery Tree is that it's a more intimate alternative that showcases independent authors who often get lost in the fray at the mammoth-sized sites. In other words, Celery Tree aims to be the internet's answer to a small, cozy bookstore.

In the spirit of community, all the site's authors have agreed to purchase at least six titles from the Celery Tree collection throughout the year. As you know from the supportive blogging community, it's something a lot of us are doing anyhow, and ensures that Celery Tree will be an encouraging, friendly e-neighborhood---a welcoming place to hang out, which is exactly why I decided to join.

From the Celery Tree Blog :

The book world needs a vehicle to help overlooked but talented authors get discovered. The real judge of a book's worth should be made by the readers, not by the marketing dollars behind it. But how can readers find those books that don't have the big bucks behind them?

That's where comes in. It's like a cozy neighborhood bookstore where you can feel comfortable browsing for hours and discover some hidden gems of your own.

Authors helping authors, in an environment of books, blogs and reader reviews--similar to Goodreads but without the annoying side ads. The only ads on Celery Tree will consist of our members' book covers posted in strategic locations.

Hope to see you there! And when you're in the area, please come visit me at my: Hope to see you there! And when you're in the area, please come visit me at my

Celery Tree Author Page cel

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Something of Importance

My school

Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.


Those of you bored by following my “career” know all my valiant attempts have not led to a full time teaching position. Last summer, after having no interviews for any jobs I applied for, I started looking for full time instructional aide position.

The upside: stability

The downside: low pay

I received interview requests. When I went to these interviews I found out that I was competing with other teachers. Several years ago, people without college degrees were aides. Today they are certified teachers with Master’s Degrees.

Stupid economy.

By the end of August, I had two job offers—one for an extended term sub for a special education teacher on maternity leave and the other for a professional aide job. I took the latter.

It was hard to be back in a position without control of my own classroom. But the last few years have been all about hard.

I’m lucky. A wonderful teacher runs the classroom I work in. She treats me like a teacher instead of sending me to make photocopies all day. Based on her lead, the students accept me as an authority as well. I’m the only aide in my grade with my name next to the teacher’s on the door.

If I don’t find a job next year, I’ll be doing this again (as long as there’s $ for me in this district. Let’s hope there is). I could be placed in any classroom, with any teacher. Knowing this makes me appreciate my current situation even more.

My official ‘boss’ is the special education teacher. She has me busy. Because one student in the class has behavior/socialization issues, I follow the students to all specialists (music, art, language) and lunch/recess. The other class periods, I help the inclusion students who need academic support. I wear many hats. Sometimes I rotate around the room, helping anyone who needs it. Other times I work with a group of low performers. There are times I help just one or two students. Because I need to watch the student at recess, it means I squeeze in lunch alone during an academic period. This makes me feel guilty because there are kids who need help, but I’m not there. And sometimes I have to wait for the verdict while special ed. and general ed. figure out what I’ll be doing next.

When I decided to return to school to get a Master’s in Special Education, I did so with reluctance. I wanted to be a Social Studies teacher. What if getting this degree meant I wound up as a different kind of teacher?

But now that I’m helping children on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) I realize I’m good at this. Instinctually, I get how to reach them during reading group. Even better, I struggled in math, so when I teach them, I have strategies that WORK. I can REACH THEM.

One example was teaching long division. If the students had to divide 42 into 225, they didn’t know whether to put the 42 into 2, 25, or 225. How could I make it obvious to them? I said, “If I’m a size 42, can I squeeze into a little size 2 pair of pants?” They shook their heads. “If I’m a size 42, can I squeeze into a size 22 pair of pants?” They shook their heads again. “If I’m a size 42, can I fit into a roomy pair of 225 pants?” They agreed.

Just so you know, I do this complete with body movements.

From that moment on, they used the pants trick to figure out the answer.

Another example is when I read The Witches by Roald Dahl with struggling readers. Two students read with no inflection, made every sentence run into the next without pause and spoke so quietly I could barely hear them. When we got to the part with the Grand High Witch, I hammed up that Eastern European accent. When it was the students’ turn to read, I insisted on them exaggerating the voice loudly. Those two students’ fluencies and volume have improved ever since.

My favorite example is a student who always wears a vacant expression during math. If she’s in my group, I catch her staring into space. After a few absences, they had me work one on one with her to catch her up on fractions. That special attention transformed her. A few days later when she joined my group, she was engaged, the first to raise her hand, and KNEW WHAT SHE WAS DOING.

She beamed. I beamed.

I revel in those moments. Their successes are my successes. Even if they forget half of it the next day (because they have problems with memory retention) I reached them in the moment. They felt proud when it made sense. And I’m proud of them.

I’m not making a lot of money (sorry, husband). But I am doing something important.