Crushing Writer Fears

I didn’t always want to be a teacher. Like every other youth in my family I thought I’d go pre-med or go to dentistry school like my cousin who is also a USF alum. After turning eighteen and partying it up in the city, my grades suffered. But not all of my grades.

My savior in the form of Professor Marty (erm, I can’t remember his last name right now) took a chance on me and spoke to the Dean on my behalf. He explained that I was, in short, a good kid and deserved a second chance because I was getting an A in his class. The Dean agreed on the condition that I changed my major from science to ANYTHING ELSE.

It was a big blow to my ego that I was no longer a science major; after all, I (started to) kick butt in difficult science courses. I mean, who takes another science as an elective for the hell of it?

I do. It was marine biology and my teacher, Mr. Guardino, was awesome even if he turned in the letter of recommendation to USF late. I still got in. I still graduated. I still got a master’s from there.

But I was grateful for the chance to prove to myself that I could finish. It was by chance that a friend of mine suggested I teach a summer program for kids at the elementary school near campus.

What? Kids? Gross.

Ah, famous last words. 

I enjoyed picking these kids’ brains while making it seem like they were the ones guiding the direction of the class. Teaching and working with children just came easily to me. 

Writing also came easily to me when I was younger. I loved reading everything from magazines to Sweet Valley High so I thought the only thing better than consuming these literary works of art was creating them.

Like most parents, my father did not think I should become a writer because I wouldn’t be able to get a job after college. You know how on The Cosby Show, Theo got busted for bad grades and gave a touching monologue about how he wasn’t going to college to get a job but rather an education and his father totally called bullshit on him? Yep, same concept with my dad. 

I started writing again when I became a stay at home mom. I wrote A LOT. Like, a lot a lot.

I was hired to be a columnist for a now defunct children’s magazine. I reviewed CDs and DVDs, including Tenatious D before anyone had ever heard of Jack Black and won best article of true year for that site. I attended writing conferences, met the illustrators Diane and Leo Dillon, had a bagel with Jane Yolen, and introduced my son to the author and illustrator of Hugo Cabret! One of the authors even told me twice to get in touch with her agent after I pitched a YA story I was working on. I published a poem through Cricket Media, and even had the chance to interview Travis from Blink 182 and Steve from Blue’s Clues!

But I got scared. Everything moved so fast. 

Too fast.

There isn’t a moment that I don’t regret not taking my shot. (Yes, that’s a Hamilton reference.)

So now, I feel like it’s time. Little signs to go for it are everywhere in the form of encouragement from friends and my husband. Reminders of what I could have been doing RIGHT NOW. I’m finding all of my personal rejection forms, my old manuscripts, everything. 

If I really didn’t want to do this, I would have gotten rid of it years ago.

But I didn’t.

In one notebook and a file folder, I found two separate collections of poems, three outlines for YA/MG novels, four picture book manuscripts, and two unfinished YA manuscripts! I found three poems to revise and polished them with fresh yet wiser eyes. 

Here we go…

The First Day Abnormalcy

While most kids around the United States are sleeping in all summer, some are getting ready to go back to school!

I teach at a year round school and am fortunate to work at the same school my daughters attend. What’s even better is that I’m now full time! 

However it is way past midnight on the night before the first day of school and I’m still awake. 

You’d think that because this is my eighth “First Day of School”, I would be alright but no, I’m not.

Well, I am but it’s very exciting and terrifying and as you know, that combination results in too much thinking into the wee hours of the morning. 

Here are some pics of the classroom I’m sharing with a colleague and friend (who recently had a baby girl)…


We are doing a superhero theme and I so wish for the ability to fall asleep right now!

Good night! 

The Leech Lesson

My first teaching job was terrifying. Back in the 90s you didn’t even need a teaching credential, an emergency credential sufficed. I was in the middle of my teacher ed program and didn’t even have student teaching under my belt. Still, that did not stop me from working as a teacher at the age of 23! 

Almost two decades later and I can’t believe how much time has passed. Even with eight years behind me, I still feel like a new teacher.

Nothing is set in stone yet but I’m mostly sure I’ve still got a teaching position in the fall. I am very excited to share some moments from a teacher workshop. See if you can figure out what we were studying…

   
   
My mom watched the kids since R was at school and the workshop was in the evening. They certainly got a kick out of these pics and wanted to know which ones were coming home with me!

Sadly I broke the news that the animals and plants belonged to the college lab. 

My mom was fully disgusted by this little leech since it reminded her of navigated rivers when she was a little girl in the Philippines! I can’t even imagine! I did pick up that little guy (okay, it was a dare from my esteemed colleagues) but it never latched on. Blecch.

 
P.S. I would never hold a tarantula. At least not that size anyway. That spider’s a fake!

  

The Jason Conjecture

Hope you enjoyed your Halloween festivities! Our house goes all out for Halloween because

1. I’m an October baby and why yes, I am 257 years old this year.

2. I have a knack for after-holiday sales. I love cutesy decor and coffee mugs but I don’t like paying full price. 

   
 
I dressed up for passing out candy because I don’t want to be recognized! I’m in the business of educating children, not being liked. That said, I’m pretty sure there are kids and teens out there who would love the chance to take out their frustration in the form of toilet papering my house.

  
Most of the time though I had to take of my mask because I was groaning and hissing– too scary for tiny toddlers trick or treating for the first time this year. Still, I was recognized halfway through the evening: “Aren’t you a teacher at…?” Gah! Busted!

Trick or treating was dead on our street (no pun intended). Most of the neighborhood kids are now in high school and our cul de sac backs up to a busy major street. Halloween was on a Saturday this year so most families probably went to parties in other neighborhoods or towns. 

I spent the evening watching Doctor Who

  
and Pitch Perfect 2.

  
That’s not beer! That’s a Coke Zero!

I told my family that I was going to meet them at church this morning but time got the best of me. I thought I was going to be in and out of our neighborhood Target in no time flat but dammit if there weren’t already stay-at-home moms in line at the doors before they even opened! Damn you, SAHMS!

[NOTE: I love stay-at-home moms. I was one for many years and have proven that I can’t hang with you lot time and time again. The use of the term SAHM is not intended to offend but rather for humor only. No one messes with the SAHMs in my neighborhood!] 

Rather than rush in and interrupt mass, I will sit this one out and stay in the moment. 

  

The Thriller Fluctuation

I started my job teaching PE this week (I teach part time in 3 month-long blocks) and I am sore!

I wish I could say that I’ve been keeping up with exercise since I taught in August but lie detector tests would determine that was a lie.

Monday was my first day and it felt like I was hit like a ton of bricks. I know that is just an expression but after dancing for six hours with no previous weight training or stamina building exercises, it was as if I was dropped repeatedly onto a pile of bricks. 

I can’t complain for too long though because this is a pretty sweet gig. This week, we (and by we, I mean the entire school of nine hundred students) are learning the choreography for Michael Jackson’s Thriller for a school-wide flash mob on Friday! I won’t be able to post videos or pics for privacy but there might be a pic of my own kids I could use. 

My son took a class on video production last year and he helped me put these videos together. Working with him was like nothing I had ever experienced. He is extremely dedicated to his craft, a perfectionist with a one track mind, and very passionate about art direction. I can’t tell if he’s me or my husband! 

You are welcome to share or use these videos to create your own flash mob. Please send me a link if you can. I would greatly appreciate it.

  
You can click here for a sneak peek of the Thriller Dance Tutorial. 

Then click here for the full Thriller Dance Tutorial.

When I decided to show one class the tutorial, they were so excited! Some wanted to know if it was on YouTube and I had to say no… Because the YouTube channel was my personal channel. Not that my stuff is NSFW but my kids are in some silly videos and I didn’t want other kids to make fun of them. I made other goofy videos from comic conventions I attend and some of the panel discussions  are inappropriate. So I spent all day trying to erase the electronic footprint that I have created without regard that someday I would need to change ALL OF MY PRIVACY SETTINGS.

Mission accomplished. 

The Thriller Amalgamation

With Halloween and my job starting up again, I’ve decided to go for it.

I’m going to teach my entire school how to dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Well, not the exact choreography because it is very complex. I can’t teach something I don’t understand myself.

I took a handful of the most well-known moves and made a routine. Wanna see the tutorial?

Too bad. I haven’t created one yet. Don’t worry. You’ll be the first to know.

I will leave you with a few pics from the Sinister Creatire Con last weekend. Why yes, that stunning woman is amazing!

  
And don’t forget Kristin Bauer, of True Blood and Once Upon a Time. She’s pretty awesome too.

Here are some of the cast members of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. See if you recognise them. They were hilarious and I’m not at all offended that they swore in front of my child. It’s an honour, really.

   
 

The English Lit Renormalization

This week I am in a high school English class where I’m surrounded by To Kill a Mockingbird, college pennants, and the promise of the great unknown. Even over two decades since taking an English class, I feel the magic. 

  
See, I’ve never been the literary type. Yes, I read and yes, I appreciate most some classics but English class was never a strength. If I didn’t like a book we were reading, I totally shut down. Sorry Steinbeck, but I could never get The Red Pony

The Ox-Bow Incident? As slow as molasses and why would I want to read a cowboy book anyway? Do I look like a cowgirl?

Maybe I didn’t like reading with the class. Maybe reading in a chair with three dozen other living, breathing humans did not hold a candle to my preferred reading situation at the time: in my room and dressed in my pajamas. I loved reading in that musty, bile green psuedo-rocking chair in my room next to the windoe, devouring every Sweet Valley High novel I could find and its related junior high titles than I care to admit. 

Maybe I didn’t get the appeal with some genres. I couldn’t identify with themes, which were usually too sophisticated for a young teen, or with the people. 

I was neither black nor white, definitely not European and definitely not the type of Asian who Americans in the 1980’s could recognize. My parents were immigrants who had limited knowledge of this country’s bestsellers and classic reads. 

If I had read a book about Hee Haw and the rise of country music in the 80s, surely I would have rocked that unit. Admittedly, I could have tried harder as well but when you’re a teenager of the MTV-music-video generation, adults were in charge of me… until I didn’t like it and then I’d take it to the streets.

And by “streets”, I mean my journal. 

  
I did, however, fall in love with the Bard himself in seventh grade and decades later I wonder why. I couldn’t believe we were reading A Midnight Summer’s Dream. We were still kids and we were actually reading Shakespeare? 

I remember being enamored of the language, of strange words and even stranger spellings, the endless footnotes from the publisher. I needed so much help just to decipher a sonnet but I didn’t care. This was romantic. This was poetry. 

This was Shakespeare.

I went on to struggle with other novels and the conundrums that are associated with proper grammar and correct spelling. I later learned to embrace all of latter through creative writing. Words came easily when they didn’t have to be spoken. Not all of my writing was stellar but consistent enough that I still remember the praise from my junior high English teacher.  

I read Romeo and Juliet as a freshman in high school and again, I was swallowed wholly and without hesitation in the language. This was not my mother’s romantic comedy. No, this was real love. This was violence, passion, betrayal, murder, suicide. Okay, the latter two were not romantic but it was Shakespeare and in my fourteen year old eyes, he could do no wrong. 

And though this isn’t MY classroom, I still feel the magic. This elation from discovering the writing legends that are John Green and Scott Westerfeld, from sharing the anxiety of college applications, and from celebrating their light bulb moments, their good grades and their good-enough grades, and their college acceptance news. 

I have started to read a novel in the morning, read through my lunch break, and even stayed twenty minutes after my job was finished so I could finish the story. I have begged the school librarian for one more night with a book, despite me not actually working at the school site. Just today, I shared my excitement for the Uglies series with a junior who was trading in the first in the series for the next two. I feel very fortunate to be a part of all of this. May I share in this wonder this magic continue for students to come.

 *EDIT: I apologize profusely about the size of the photo. I will figure it out eventually and sheesh, I know I have a large head but that is ridiculous!