31 January 2012

Thirty Days of TMI? Maybe.

I have been incredibly lax in the upkeep of my blog here.  I will articulate no apologies or excuses; it is what it is.

Here's my current challenge - to post something here every day for the next thirty days.  To keep myself motivated, I will adopt a long-standing blog tradition and post something about me.  As you glance through my list below, you'll notice there's perhaps topics you DON'T want to know about.  My worst habit?  Ick.  And do I really want to tell you? 

Bah - these are questions and concerns to be handled at the end of the thirty days.  Here's what you and I have to look forward to in the meantime:

  • Day 1 - your favorite song
  • Day 2 - your favorite movie
  • Day 3 - your favorite television program
  • Day 4 - your favorite book
  • Day 5 - your favorite quote
  • Day 6 - 20 of your favorite things
  • Day 7 - a photo that makes you happy
  • Day 8 - a photo that makes you angry/sad
  • Day 9 - a photo you took
  • Day 10 - a photo taken over 10 years ago of you
  • Day 11 - a photo of you recently
  • Day 12 - something you are OCD about
  • Day 13 - a fictional book
  • Day 14 - a non-fictional book
  • Day 15 - your dream house
  • Day 16 - a song that makes you cry (or nearly)
  • Day 17 - an art piece (drawing, sculpture, painting, etc)
  • Day 18 - my wedding/future wedding/past wedding
  • Day 19 - a talent of yours
  • Day 20 - a hobby of yours
  • Day 21 - a recipe
  • Day 22 - a website
  • Day 23 - a youtube video
  • Day 24 - where you live
  • Day 25 - your day, in great detail
  • Day 26 - your week, in great detail
  • Day 27 - your worst habit
  • Day 28 - what's in your handbag/purse
  • Day 29 - hopes, dreams, and plans for the next 365 days
  • Day 30 - a dream for the future
And away we go!

24 January 2012

Reject A Hit: Best Writing Exercise!

A member of the writing group I participate in stumbled across this gem in the Writer's Digest magazine - Reject a Hit.  The premise: to compose a rejection letter for a classic, popular, or otherwise timeless book.

Here's an example of one done for Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat

At tonight's group, we (by we, I mean the two of us) thought we'd have a bit of fun with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.  Here's mine - enjoy.  To those offended, no apologies.


January 24, 2005
Dear Ms. Meyer,

We have recently read your manuscript, Twilight, and while we appreciate your submission, we regret to inform you that many, many revisions would be necessary before we would consider accepting.  And even then, nothing is certain.

First of all, the timing of your novel is poor.  With the successes of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books and films, it is embarrassingly obvious that you are riding on their coattails.

Second, our target audience demands literature that contains healthy male-female relationships; we wish to provide positive social interaction examples for today's young women - and let us ask you, what is healthy about a brooding, sparkly vampire who lurks around windows to watch his girlfriend sleep?


As if this weren't bad enough, the main character of Bella is abysmally written.  As we read your work, one word for her came to mind - whiny.  And that is her most compelling characteristic!  Otherwise, she's got the personality of a paperclip...and we're supposed to believe she somehow attracts a perfect, gorgeous mate like Edward?  It's a stretch.

Bella is a character we disliked from page one, and that dislike spirals rapidly through the nine levels of literary hell...until at the end, we were desperately wishing a painful, horrible, torturous death on her.

Not quite the reaction we strive for here at SKE Media, Inc.

Surely, you understand our stance in regards to your work.  If we were to publish your novel, and attempt to market it as "quality literature", we would have to burn our agency in effigy in order to maintain any semblance of dignity.

Best of luck to you in the future!


Precious Baggins
SKE Media, Inc.

12 January 2012

First Day Reflections

Yesterday marked my first day back to work after nearly a month off for winter break.  My schedule this term is as about as pared down as I can possibly get - I teach two fifty-minute classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are totally free.

Homeschooling the twelve-year-old has taken more time than I thought.  He writes his daily assignments in his planner, and at the end of the day, I grade/score all of it.  Often, he's got redo work for the next day. 

Way back in August, the above plan seemed like a good one.  I assumed he would work, he would take his time, he would do it correctly, and he would learn lots.  And don't get me wrong, all of that is happening...like I said, he does a lot of revising.  I didn't like waiting until late in the afternoon to check his progress...by the time five o'clock rolled around both he and I were ready for school to be doe (and be with the rest of the family).  Consequently, there are some things I "fell off the wagon" on (i.e. grammar).  He took the whole month of November and December to participate in NaNoWriMo with me...but then, I didn't keep him very accountable.  I looked for shortcuts here and there to keep my homeschool work at a minimum.

Had I just morphed into public school, then?  Not to mention, because I worked every day at the college, there was no time for a field trip...something I said we'd do.  So, yeah, by the time, mid-December rolled around, I felt like the lazy homeschool mom.  In addition, and I think I've mentioned it before, I've been having work motivation issues...which contributed to that general sense of slackness.

So, I told my boss that I would like to only teach on MWF.  I rationalized that with two days open a week, I've have time to plan, to grade, or to travel with Spencer.  Also, home managements tasks would occur on those days too.  The other three days would be work, office hours, and business.  On a professional level, though, I told myself that if I couldn't get excited enough to work two hours a day, three days a week, then I was going to forgo this education career and look for something I was passionate about.

So...here we go...to make a long story short, I've just got the first day of work out of the way.  Only thirty-some class meetings left to go.  The first day of class is always kind of a drag - going over the rules, the grading, the schedule, etc.  It's a lot of me talking, setting the tone, etc.  For my upper-level American Literature class, I was a bit disconcerted to see that out of six students, only two had purchased the book.  Yes, yes, most students figure (and they're right) that teachers won't dig into the texts on the first day of class...but still?  I did actually reference parts of the books, and my efforts were just a little bit in vain.  My second class, a freshman-level Composition 2 class, went as usual.  My colleagues and I restructured this class a little - in hopes of increasing accountability - and it's an exciting change, but definitely more demanding for the students.  I ended yesterday's class with a homework assignment; students were to respond, electronically, to an email of mine with any questions or concerns. 

Not a difficult assignment, but a rather telling one.  I received my first response about twenty minutes ago.  I know college students are notorious for procrastinating, but usually, I can count on one or two ambitious ones to do an assignment nearly right after I give it.  Hm.

So, yeah, ultimately, I'm not wowed yet.  But two things to remember: it is just the first day, and I've got a totally different set of glasses on through which I'm viewing this semester.  After all, it's likely my last...as a teacher, that is.

02 January 2012

Day Two of Resolutions

I've never been much for New Year's resolutions.  I think the NYR hype is a huge commercial conspiracy on the part of the fitness industry to get us to feel super-guilty about ourselves...so that we purchase new shoes, workout clothes, diet food, gym memberships, etc...

Now that I've got that little bit of cynicism out of the way, let me also state that while I chafe at the idea of new year resolutions, change in general is a very good thing, and desirable.

On our recent drive through the Deep South, this theme of change was the very topic of conversation between my husband and I.  We developed a couple of general goals for the month of January (as opposed to the whole of 2012).

1.  Spend less.
2.  Get in shape/Feel less tired/Lose Weight
3.  Live with purpose

Perhaps you see the problem already with these resolutions: too vague, too general.  If we stopped here, we're already set up for failure.  After all, if Spending Less were as easy as just writing it down or saying it out loud, we'd all be doing it, wouldn't we?

So, now, let me include the specific steps for each goal.

1. Spend less

a. No grocery shopping at Walmart (we seem to always buy more than just food when we go here)
b. Use cash (withdrawn every month) for groceries and restaurants (this is our biggest downfall...we eat out a lot, and now, if we've only pulled out a certain amount of cash for that purpose, maybe we'll be wiser about choosing when to go)

2.  Get in shape/Feel less tired/Lose Weight.

a. "One Plate Rule"
b. Plan easy and simple (I may think I want to fix some elaborate three-course meal, but with four kids, crazy schedules something flow smoother if the evening meal is spaghetti and marinara sauce).
c. Theme meal nights (i.e. pasta night, soup night, etc.)
d. Keep a visible record of daily exercise (will hopefully facilitate accountability)

3. Live with purpose.

a. No electronics (laptops, cell phones after 7 pm - to better facilitate people interaction)
b. More people time, more interactions
c. Constantly question (why am I on Facebook right now?  What is need?)
d. Refrain from doing things because "we always do them)

Of course, this isn't failproof.  Maybe it even isn't doable.  But, we'll never know until we do it, will we?