NaNoWriMo 2019 Over Tomorrow!

What an interesting experiment. I started it when my daughter motivated me to join in on November 3. I took on the challenge to see for myself if I could keep up a daily writing routine – as so many master writers advise. I did not do a great job, but I did not do a poor one either. I managed about 13K words so far. I did discover that on days when much of my energy was exhausted after a day as a middle school English teacher, it was tough to get to the laptop that evening. It’s good to note that, the reality (at least of my life) is that I do not always have the  energy, discipline and creativity needed to approach the keyboard daily. That as I continue to walk the writer’s path, it will have to be a slow, deliberate journey, as I juggle the constraints of a full-time working teacher.

But slow, careful and deliberate is a nice realization to make – I find that when I was rushing my projects they lacked a certain something I couldn’t put my finger on – that “thing” I know now is the deliberate part. Not just writing for the sake of finishing, but rather writing for the sake of the story, keeping in line with the needs of the characters and working with a deep respect for the narrative voice – which yes, yes, yes, we all know can be edited and corrected during the revision stage, but should not be neglected on purpose throughout the creation process if at all possible. Stopping to question the next scene, the next choice the character makes is necessary (at least for me) and would be irresponsible if I did not – asking whether I’ve stumbled upon the right point of view – second-guessing a particular word in the drafting stage is not a crime against humanity – it’s normal – it’s, in the end, how I write – therefore, however it is we write, that’s how we should proceed – despite the advise of even the greatest of literary minds – because in the end, the truth of it is, we will write it the way we write it – because it is us writing it and we know no other way but our own.

My Favorite Time of Year: Back-to-School

First day of school is almost here!!! I LOVE SCHOOL. I’ve always had an inexplicable connection to, not just learning, books, students and the overall notion of school, but the actual physical structure – the school hallways, classrooms, courtyards, cafeterias, band rooms, P.E. fields, and (of course) the library which all bring me literal and utter joy in the form of embarrassingly, toothy smiles that  stretch across my face every time I’m at, or even near, a school.

When people ask me, what my favorite part of the year is, my answer always strikes everyone as bizarre. They expect my response to adhere to the few typical choices: holidays, birthdays, or Summer vacations. Still I hold my head high, shoulders proud, eyes focused and declare, “Fall is my favorite time of year because it marks the beginning of school.” After almost three decades knee-deep in the world of teaching and learning, I’m happy to discover that the first day of classes is still the most exciting for me. Before the trees begin their multicolored transformation from the deep green of Summer to the reds, oranges, yellows, and golden browns, I find myself walking the isles of office supply stores and booksellers. Before each carefully placed seat is filled with a new young face, I indulge in joys that seem specific only to me: the subtle invitations of unsharpened pencils, colored ink pens, and paper clips. The packs of paper demanding to be freed from their tightly wrapped plastic prisons and filled with short stories, quadratic formulas, diagrams, vocabulary quizzes and more. But there’s nothing in the world like the smell between the pages of a book. I often hold it up and take a deep breath into the crisp, newness of its bound sheets (peering over the top of the book to make certain no one catches me during this very personal act of lunacy). This aroma sends my imagination running through fields of old, forgotten fairytales, cherished stories, and memorable journeys alike. A good book can be better than a good friend. After all, when was the last time your friend whisked you away to a new undiscovered land filled with adventure and promises. When did they introduce you to great tragic heroes, or beautifully sad characters that beg to be remembered for all time.

When Poetry Comes Sailing In…

As a writer, I always assumed, since I struggled with words and sentences, with style and structure; since the beauty of prose eluded me as a beginning writer, that poetry would not be something I should dabble in.

Then, the last quarter of 7th grade, during our poetry unit, I needed to illustrate to many of my students that poetry was impulsive, untrained, rebellious, and emotional – that it could just happen with a “trigger” and the right frame of mind. And, by right frame of mind, I explained, I meant that students must be willing and open to follow that little voice inside all of us that when triggered or stimulated could take us places that would surprise even ourselves.

During this exercise, I asked students to think of a “trigger,” to give me a one word, so I could produce a poem from that one word. They all looked at each other with disbelief, but welcomed the challenge to see their teacher struggle with the task – or so they hoped i would. When they were done deciding – their elected volunteer called out “world” – and so our experiment began – I turned to face the whiteboard and wrote without thinking:

The World Today
The World Tomorrow
The World from Yesterday
The World that’s Yours
The World that’s Mine
The World that’s Ours
The World was here Before
The World will be here Again
The World is all around Us
The World is Us

That day, it was I who learned a lesson. Though, the students benefited from my display, I was surprised by the ease with which it had all come to me in a flash flood. No thinking. No questioning the next word or phrase. I just let one step of the poem take me to the natural progression of the next line. Not much regard for rhyme, repetition, similes or alliterations…I just let the hand move to the tune of poetry itself – no rules – just ideas, thoughts, concerns and feelings.

For months, I have been avoiding so many incredible narrative ideas, and have abandoned so many projects (some even just 2 or 3 chapters from completion) because I felt my prose lacked beauty, depth, all those things that make a piece of writing worthy of being read. And then, today, I woke up, picked up a pen and found an old small journal I bought in Paris summers ago. Instead of worrying about whether I could or not, instead of questioning whether I should or not, I put pen to paper and tried my hand at POETRY – less then 30 minutes later I had written 10 poems – ones I was not all together ashamed of – ones that, despite what literary critics will no doubt say, are pretty okay. More than okay, truth be told. These little gems are pretty good. I think from now on, I will be loyal to my newfound poetry calling and will share and post here (in an effort to share with the world – because good or bad, okay or mediocre, poetry isn’t meant to be filed away or left to collect dust in a drawer…it wants to be…begs to be freed…left to roam among the eyes, ears and minds of anyone who will pay attention…anyone open to its music…anyone answering its call!

My 1st….Featured-AUTHOR-of-the-month:

I do not have words to express how beyond taken I am with this new writer I recently discovered!  Therefore, I will give you roughly  four hundred and seventy-some words to tell you about  my newfound EXCITEMENT.

The last time I had a new author crush was a couple of years ago when I came across Lisa Unger and her “Red Hunter” (whose blurb you can access under “Book Reviews”) – but man, Walker’s narrative voice ( W H O A ) &  her ability to immediately throw me head first into the stories, these worlds she has created, is astonishing. I first dove into “The Dreamers” earlier this year and was so changed by the fictional town of Santa Lora and Mei’s story and all the other souls that lived and breathed and became my own worries and concerns throughout a telling that was equal parts horror and beauty! I knew the minute I opened the first page I wanted MORE! And by the time I got to the last page I NEEDED more of Walker’s writing.

Imagine my joy when I goggled her to find she had a debut novel I had missed some years before titled, “The Age of Miracles.” I cannot tell you how long it took me to minimize my google window (because it was under a fraction of a second) as I jumped onto Amazon to buy myself a copy. I started reading “The Age of Miracles” thinking at first, and prejudging as many of us do (despite the fact we should NOT) and questioned, given that it was her first baby, was she as lyrical, as powerful, and as precise and intimate with her words then?.

This debut would introduce us to a new fictional landscape; an apocalyptic end-of-the-world type of story with an inexperienced eleven-year-old as our central narrator. So, of course, I had my doubts…

…but then I opened the first page: “We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.”

WAIT, WHAT???? OMG! That is literally PURE POETRY: our days have smooth edges? And those edges were bulging? So much, they were like a tumor….but not any tumor…one that was “blooming beneath skin” – HOLY-MOTHER-OF-ALL-THINGS-LITERARY…..WALKER IS A GODDESS AMONG US ALL!

There is only ONE horrible, awful thing about her work….have you guessed it yet? It is AMAZING writing like Walker’s (which inspires me as a developing writer) but at the same time paralyzes me. It makes me want to stop my futile banging of the keys and pick up basket weaving or something. No ill will intended, but here’s to hoping she was a really sucky writer at some point. Fingers crossed that literary genius like hers can actually be worked at and practiced and developed (or close to it anyway).

This is the END OF MY VERY FIRST FEATURED AUTHOR POST – I will definitely do more of these – that was FUN!