Monday, November 16, 2009

Llamas, opossums, and cats, oh my

Today was a great example of why I love teaching eighth graders.

We began a poetry unit last week, and there are several terms I have to try and get pounded into their brains for our state standards. We've talked about rhythm and rhyme, couplets, and free verse. At the end of the week last week, one of them asked about Haikus. We talked about those for a while, and some of them mentioned that they enjoyed writing them in elementary school. They asked if I'd accept a Haiku from them for extra credit. (Haikus are not in the eighth grade standards.) I said that'd be awesome, if some of them wanted to give it a go. Some said they would.

At that point, I grinned at them and said if I was evil, I'd make them write a sonnet - another type of poetry they need to be able to recognize. Well, they wanted to know why that would be so hard, and, of course, if there would be MORE extra credit available to them if they wrote one of those. I grinned bigger.

I laid out for them all of the requirements of a sonnet. 14 lines. Rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg. Iambic pentameter. Their eyes were as big as saucers and their mouths hung open. When they could speak again, they said, "Please don't make us do that, Mrs. Honeycutt!" I promised them I wouldn't, even confessed I'd never tried to write one myself.

Then it happened.

"Mrs. Honeycutt!" came a shout from the back. "I want to try!" And then, a second later, a voice from the front, "I want to too!"

I grinned again. And said, "Okay."

If they get it done, and get it done right, they'll get some decent extra credit points. But do you see the magic of the middle schooler?

I set before them a very difficult task. I told them they didn't have to do it. I even told them that I'd never done it. And some of them bit.

"I'm up to the challenge!" one boy said. And I do believe he is. Before class was over, he'd started his sonnet. He said it's about llamas and opossums. The other boy who told me he's going to try is writing one about his cats. How can that not brighten your day?

How many times as adults do we still say, "I'm up to the challenge!" with a wide grin on our faces, looking forward to the work? Not as often as maybe we should.

My middle schoolers energize me. (Thank God, because they also drain my energy on an hourly basis!!) I love that part of them - their willingness to jump in feet first, and to smile as they go.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

This Is It - It definitely would have been

People who know me well (or who knew me when...) will not be surprised that I went to see This Is It yesterday when it opened. For those of you who don't recognize the movie by its title, it's the footage from Michael Jackson's rehearsals for his last concert series scheduled for London's O2 Theatre this year.

From interviews I've listened to and read, I believe MJ gave the concert this name because he intended for it to be his crowning achievement, a lasting legacy for his children and his fans. This girl believes it definitely would have been.

I was fortunate enough to see Michael in his heyday - 1988 for his Bad tour. (I still have the ticket stub - I paid a whopping $25 for the experience. Think of that....) He was everything you'd expect, and I remember the feeling I had just being in the same building with him. No matter what else you say about the man, you have to acknowledge his creative genius.

Bad was the last album of his that I bought. I didn't continue to follow him, except for the snippets of news I would get nightly on TV or in the headlines of my local paper. I was never able to form an opinion as to what I thought about the allegations of molestation that plagued him in the recent past. The teenager that fawned over him in the '80s couldn't conceive of the idea that he would hurt anyone. The mother I am now shivered at the thought of what he might have done with those kids. All I know is that the criminal case foundered and he was never convicted of anything. I know his wealth would have been a beacon to unscrupulous people looking to make some money. Really, it doesn't matter what I think about that, does it?

The fact remains that a performer I was fanatical about as a teenager died so much sooner than he should have, taking his genius with him. Kind of. Because what we have left - This Is It - is a wonderful celebration of Michael at his best. The concert would have been phenomenal - amazing stage sets, new films shot to play behind his live performance on stage, choreography worthy of the King of Pop - and I would have paid several hundred dollars to see it. Thousands of people already had when he died.

This Is It does not exploit Michael Jackson. It does what he wanted his concert series to do: It plants him firmly back at the top of the pop charts. It gives us one more look at the performer who broke records - and hearts when he died - all around the world. It gives us a chance to remember him at his best.

And when it comes down to it, isn't that what all of us want when our time's up? To leave the best of ourselves behind? Michael did that. This Is It is it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The flour baby

My daughter is a sophomore and is currently taking the one required trimester of health. It's been an interesting week in that class, for both of us.

On Tuesday, I had to go to the store to buy a five-pound bag of flour which she promptly named Kadence Lily. Yes, she named a sack of flour. Why? you ask. Because for a week she has to pretend it's a baby. It - sorry, Kadence - goes to school with her on Monday, and then she drops her baby off at "daycare," which is her health teacher's room, for the day. When she's performing next weekend with her marching band, guess who gets to babysit. Oh, yes, Grandma Sharon. I am expected to take that sack of flour - sorry again, Kadence - to the competition and sit with it in the bleachers while I watch my daughter perform. I've already scouted the territory of, "Well, what if I just leave it - her - at home? Who's going to know?"

"MOM!" my daughter responded with mock indignation. "You have to take her!"

Yes, my daughter knows it's not a REAL baby. (Even if we did buy some onesies to dress it in. She swears she's not the only one doing that, and I do believe her.) But she wants this to be an authentic experience. She wants to play her part, so I have to play mine out of respect for her. (I'm taking a big tote bag to the band competition and Kadence is going to be at the bottom of that.)

Today, she came home from school and said that she'd been given a handout with diagrams that demonstrated how to do a breast exam on herself.

"Mom, it was an old woman with real saggy boobs and that's just wrong! I didn't need to see that!" We had a good laugh over it. (Especially too, because the handouts had been miscopied and on the flip side were diagrams demonstrating the proper method for checking oneself for testicular cancer. Imagine that in the hands of a 15-year-old girl.)

But after we got done chuckling, I talked to her about how important those self checks can be, and how frustrating they can be. It's difficult to know - at least for me - what's just me and what might be the beginnings of a cancerous tumor. I told her that if she actually started doing them now, maybe by the time that the threat of cancer is a lot more real for her, she'll have a much better idea as to what is her and what isn't. Practice surely helps.

Which got me thinking . . . Isn't that what we, as parents, try to do with our kids? Aren't we trying to teach them - while we have them under the safety of our own roofs - how to handle the twisted, slippery roads of life, both through our own experiences and theirs, as they grow? Don't we want them to practice their decision making skills so that hopefully when they're out on their own they will have honed those skills well enough that they'll keep themselves (relatively) safe, happy, and healthy? Of course that's what we're trying to do.

So bring on the flour babies. I'll babysit Kadence Lily whenever she asks.

Monday, October 5, 2009


My daughter and I were talking about serious matters last night, about choices we make in life, about the choices I hope she makes.

I've been honest with her about my life as a teenager in the hopes that maybe she won't make some of the same mistakes I made, that she won't live with some of the same regrets.

She told me she doesn't believe in regret. I responded, "That's only because you haven't lived as long as I have."

I went on to say that I think having regrets is healthy. Our regrets are evidence that we made mistakes, that if we could go back and do things over again, we'd do them differently because we've learned important lessons along the way.

She said that she believes in learning lessons from mistakes, but that you shouldn't dwell on the mistakes, that you shouldn't let them consume you and define who you are. In her mind, regret equals wallowing. I realized that in essence, we were on the same page.

Like her mother, she will make mistakes, and she will (hopefully) learn from them. My regret is that I haven't been able to prevent her from making them in the first place.

For another perspective on this theme, visit Billy Coffey's blog entry, The great front yard experiment. I love the way this guy writes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What is she thinking?

Teaching the age group that I do (12-14 year olds), I witness my share of broken hearts and the tears, anger, frustration, and doubt that go with them. There are a lot of similarities between a young girl's heartbreak and a grown woman's. The biggest differences are the girls' lack of experience and the thickness of their skin.

When we watch a young woman struggle with a difficult relationship - whether she's our daughter, our sister, or a student we care about - we offer our best advice, a strong shoulder, and a few tissues. Then we hope that she'll learn and grow from the experience, that maybe the next time around she'll choose a better boyfriend, someone who will show her more respect, or treat her with more kindness.

I really think, though, the best we can do for her, in the long run, is just be there for her. We need to reinforce our belief in her, that she is someone deserving of respect, that she is a person of consequence. If she sees that we believe that of her, she'll believe it of herself and she'll be more likely to kick someone to the curb who isn't treating her well.

One of my students today told me about her weekend. She and her boyfriend have been together for four years. (Can you believe that? She's in eighth grade!) This weekend was their anniversary. He stood her up the whole weekend - didn't show up when he told her he would on Saturday or Sunday. He lied to her about why he didn't come see her. She said he does it all the time. I asked her how she could possibly stay with someone like that and she said, "You don't understand. We've been together for four years." As if that was an acceptable excuse.

I was at a loss. I told her she deserves more respect than that. I told her if she keeps accepting his behavior, he'll keep treating her the same way. But I think it fell on deaf ears. She's a beautiful girl and a good student. She's sweet and kind to other students in the class. She exudes confidence, but obviously, it doesn't run to her core. There's something inside her that makes her believe she isn't worth anything better than what he's giving her.

Yes, she's an eighth grader. Yes, we adults know that these young loves are rarely as significant to our lives as they seem to be at the time. But what concerns me is her willingness to be treated as she is. When will that change? What will have to happen before she realizes she deserves better? That pattern needs to be broken, and now, if you ask me.

Who is going to help her do that? I only have her for an hour a day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It's the little things

My husband and I have been living a credit-crunched life for a while now, as have millions of other people all over the world, so there are many things we don't do that we used to, items we leave on the shelves that we used to put in the cart (even if it was a virtual cart - we do love the Internet and Amazon). But we do still allow ourselves little luxuries once in a while to perk us up, to celebrate a good day.

For example, my fingernails are currently painted with "Plum Seduction." I just did them tonight. (I've never, ever gone looking for a manicure - never had acrylics - nothing. So that's not a luxury I'm missing.) Tori and I went to CVS yesterday to pick up a few things and the makeup section reeled us in pretty quickly. Fingernail polish was on sale, so I bought a couple new colors. (The other is "Red Hot Tomato." I'm saving it for next week.) I like fun colors on my nails and this one definitely is. It was a quick and inexpensive little treat. (Tori got new lipstick, in case you're wondering.)

The other type of treat we often indulge in comes in a variety of colors, sizes, and weights - BOOKS. We all three devour them. I have been using my library card a lot more in the last year or so and not buying as many books as I have in the past. And you know, I've found that I get as much enjoyment out of reading a good borrowed book as I do from owning one. But once in a while, there's just one that I have to have. Plus, I'm a wanna-be author who hopes that people will want to own her books when they're actually on shelves somewhere, and not just borrow them from the library. The Literary Guild had a good sale a couple weeks ago. I bought two and got one free, plus shipping was nominal. I got A Bad Day for Sorry (which EVERYONE is raving about) by Sophie Littlefield, The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom, and Wicked Prey by John Sandford. I'm halfway through Wicked Prey and loving it. Treating myself once in a while to little things like new, playful makeup and highly anticipated books really does make me happy.

But you know what makes me happiest? When my husband comes home safely from another sales call. When my daughter bursts out of the school doors at the end of the day with a smile on her face and stories to tell me at 100 mph. When my five-year-old nephew comes running at me, grinning - my name on his lips, and ready to play. When my mom and dad hug. When my brother smiles - or laughs.

It really is the little things that make me the happiest - and the most grateful that I share this life with these people.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mean people really do suck

Most of us have seen the bumper sticker or the window decal. Whenever I see it, I nod my head in agreement, thinking, "Yep, they sure do." But you know, it's really true. Mean people suck.

I mean, we've all probably been guilty of being mean to someone in our lives. I know I have. I regret it, and I hope I've managed to apologize and make amends to the people I've hurt. But see, that's the thing. Most of us, when we're mean or spiteful and we hurt someone, we say, "I'm sorry" because we really are. We regret our words and our actions that were often said and done with tempers flaring. Hurting people doesn't give us pleasure, doesn't make us feel good about ourselves. Quite the opposite, right? We end up feeling ashamed and remorseful.

But mean people are different. Mean people set out to hurt others. They take pleasure in causing others pain. Usually, I think they feel the people they are hurting deserve the pain that's being inflicted. And I think there are very few people in the world who deserve to be hurt.

What I don't understand is why people choose to live their lives this way. Why would you choose to be mean and spiteful? The people I know who fall into this category are negative about so many aspects of their lives. They infect others around them and suck the joy out of life.

I think we ought to pity mean people. They're missing out on so much of the goodness life has to offer. I wonder if, when they're approaching the end of their days and taking a look at the world they created for themselves, if they have any regrets. Sadly, I bet most of them don't.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

We won!

Last night was another home football game. Fans and spectators filled the stands again sporting their best maroon and white sportswear. There was reason to cheer - and cheer loudly. Cowbells clanged as our team scored touchdown after touchdown. The final score was 40-6; we tromped 'em. I actually began to feel a little sorry for our opponents. After all, last week, it was us.

We've been back in school for more than two weeks now. It's my first year teaching at the local middle school - the same middle school my daughter attended a few years ago. Although I felt somewhat familiar with the building and some of the teachers when the year started, I am now feeling much more a part of the whole community.

They aren't my students (yet) out there on the football field, or in the marching band, or even in the cheerleader outfits, although I do know some of them because of my daughter. But it will only be another year or two before I will be able to look at the rosters and say, "He was the class clown the year I had him," or "She wrote the funniest stories!" Those connections will be there; they're already sprouting.

As I walked past the student section of the bleachers at half time, I heard, "Mrs. Honeycutt!!" I looked over and into the stands and there were three or four of my eighth graders, grinning from ear to ear and waving enthusiastically at me. I grinned and waved back, then found myself waving and saying hi to several more of them as I walked. Even the young girl who, I believe, is developing an enviable dry, sarcastic wit, waved discreetly at me. (She'd told me earlier in the day that if she saw me at the game and didn't wave, it was because she hadn't seen me.) I smiled at her and waved discreetly back.

We all go to those games for different reasons, remember? I went last night because my daughter performed and because it's a community thing, and - finally - I'm really feeling more and more a part of that whole. Once my daughter graduates, I'm still going to have reasons to sit in the stands and yell for the team.

I need to get a cowbell.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I've got a bite

I recently joined Facebook, so when I get home from work these days, my inbox is usually fuller than it used to be as I'm getting lots of notices about postings from my friends.

However, as I was scanning the list of new mail, one caught my eye and I held my breath. It was an email from an agent I had queried the end of July. It wasn't a reply to the email I had sent her. It was a new one. Could it be.....?

YES!! She wrote that she'd read the three sample chapters I'd sent her as well as the synopsis and she wants to read the rest of the book - if, she said, it was still available. If no other agent had snapped it out of my hands, she would like to read it.

As luck would have it, that manuscript IS still available and so I sent it off this afternoon. She emailed me back that she'd received it and would get back to me as soon as she'd had a chance to review it.

The waiting begins, again. But this waiting is so much more fun. I can daydream about her devouring my book, calling me to tell me she devoured it and wants to represent me. We'll talk about which editor she thinks will love it too and how many copies will be printed in the first run. Then, a year or so from now, I'll be able to hold in my hands a printed, bound, hardback (or heck, even a trade paperback) copy of MY BOOK!!!

Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Yes, that would be wonderful. And it is so much fun to hope.

Friday, August 28, 2009

First home game

Tonight was our high school football team's first home game. The bleachers were awash in maroon and black. I bought a new T-shirt myself just yesterday for the occasion. Although it rained most of the day today, the evening was perfect for football - temps in the high 60s with a light, cool breeze.

We cheered each time the team moved the ball down the field. We booed when the other team slammed our boys with late hits - twice in the same possession. We hollered our approval when our defense kept the other team out of the endzone, and some of us even clapped with the cheerleaders.

We lost the game 28-0.

There were lots of reasons for the loss, but my point tonight has nothing to do with dissecting plays. The biggest reason we lost is that the other team scored more points. (I stole that bit of sarcastic wit from my husband.)

What I want to focus on is that tonight's loss will more than likely have little to no effect on the attendance at the next home game. Anyone who has ever attended their local school's sporting events knows this to be true. Winning the game feels great for all involved but it isn't really why we go. At least, it isn't why most of us go.

We go to support the athletes on the field. Maybe they're related to us. Maybe they're our friends. Maybe they're our students. Or, maybe we don't know any of them at all, but we do know their parents or their grandparents. Somewhere, there's a connection between those of us in the bleachers and those on the field.

Sometimes, that connection is simply a vicarious one.

I went to the game tonight for a couple of reasons. My daughter performed with the marching band and her color guard at halftime, and I wanted my students to see me in the stands, to know I support them outside the classroom as well as inside.

But sitting there, watching the teenagers walk back and forth, back and forth, paying more attention to each other than they were to the game, I was carried back to high school. When a middle school girl stood on the ground in front of the bleachers and yelled up to a boy somewhere behind me in the stands, "Brandon, Amber likes you!" all I could do was smile. Who among us doesn't remember a similar exchange among our friends when we were thirteen or fourteen years old? And having the distance of (in my case) thirty-some years, we can smile now at the outburst rather than bury our faces in our hands in mortification.

Going to tonight's game hopefully strengthened my connections with some of my students. I know it made my daughter happy to have me there. But it also - for a moment or two - bridged several decades for me and allowed that teenager who I swear still lives inside me to take a few breaths of fresh, crisp, almost-autumn air. And it wasn't even homecoming.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What do you think?

OK...I've been pitching my novel ASSUMPTION for almost three months. I've had one request for a full but no others. I've tweaked my query letter and I've submitted it to QueryShark, hoping Janet Reid (who rejected my query) will critique my query and let me know what works and what doesn't.

If she doesn't, I was wondering, would you? I'm going to post the meat of my query here in this blog. You guys tell me what you think. If you were an agent, would it make you want to read my book? Sometimes agents will ask us to include a few pages from the novel with the query, so I'll do that too.

Be honest. Tell me if it hooks you. Tell me why it does or doesn't. I'd seriously love the feedback. I'm getting ready to work on Novel #3, another foray into women's fiction I'm titling 52 WEEKENDS.'s the query.

Dessa’s home is burning. Her children are trapped inside, screaming for help. She isn’t strong enough to break the iron grip of the police chief who holds her back, who refuses to let her rush into the inferno that’s swallowing her children.

She’s never been strong enough.

So her daughter Ginny, at only fourteen years old, decides it’s up to her. If Dessa won’t save them from Killian and his violent temper, she will – with two cans of gasoline and a match.

That’s how the fire started. That’s why.

No one was supposed to be home except Killian. The blaze claims the lives of all three of Dessa’s children and any hope she has for the future. Killian, however, survives. Facing a yawning cavern of despair with nowhere to hide from all of her mistakes, Dessa decides Ginny was right. Killian needs to die. She makes her plans and loads her gun, but will she really pull the trigger? And if she does, who will she be when it’s all over?

And now...the first few (about 4) pages.

August 15, 2003

Nothing ever happens in this town, but they still talk about that fire.
No one could believe Ginny Tillman – barely fourteen years old – had snaked gasoline through her home and struck a match to it, targeting her stepfather asleep in his bed. The feral screams – Ginny’s, Tacie’s, and Cory’s – branded those of us who watched them perish, engulfed in flames, trapped between the first and second floor.
A murderous inferno in the middle of this go-nowhere, do-nothing Illinois town grotesquely captivated its citizens. Wrinkled and gray-haired, Wendall Wallace leaned on his walker, staring at the conflagration, shaking his head in unison with his neighbor, a single mother of two that he barely acknowledged any other day. Her children, preschoolers both, clutched their mother’s legs while her arms shrouded them, talons of protection. They would never forget the wail of the sirens, the shrieks of the children – my children.
I am Dessa, and Ginny, Tacie, and Cory were mine. Ginny cloaked herself in the mantle of my responsibilities that awful August night and all I could do was watch as my children perished, and my husband ran for safety.
I am Dessa. My husband only thinks he’s safe.

Chapter One
October 28, 2001

The cake was wrong. I knew chocolate was forbidden when I snagged the mix off the shelf at Wal-Mart. I’m not sure what compelled me to do it. Maybe it was Tacie’s chubby hands clapping together and her wide grin gaping at me from the toddler’s seat in the cart. She loves chocolate, I thought to myself. She’d eat the white, argued the saner side of my psyche. Yes, went the counterattack, but she loves chocolate!
Ginny stood beside me, staring at the hem of the button-down shirt I had left untucked – thank God Killian couldn’t see me right now. When her wise, bold, blue eyes met mine, she took in the argument I was having with myself. She couldn’t hear the words, but she knew – already – at twelve years old, why my hand hesitated in mid-air, reaching for the chocolate as my gaze honed in on the plain white mix.
“Killian likes the white, Mom,” she said, verbally nudging me closer to safety. “It’s his birthday, not Tacie’s.” The meaning imbedded in her words, clearly voiced although unspoken, was Please don’t make him mad tonight.
Usually I tried to walk the peaceful path. I took the hints, I followed the clues. I tried to do what I thought he expected, hoping to protect myself physically and my children emotionally. So far, he hadn’t laid a hand on them.
But standing in Aisle 10 at Wal-Mart that day, I didn’t want to do what was expected of me. Stupid day to make a point, I know. Ginny was right. It was his birthday and everybody got to choose the cake flavor for his or her birthday. Unless, of course, Killian wasn’t in the mood for yellow when Ginny’s birthday rolled around, as he hadn’t been a few months ago. She had eaten the white cake with the white icing with a smile, telling me over and over again how delicious it was because my insightful daughter knew it had nearly killed me to make her that damn white cake.
Yes, today’s was a reckless choice, but I made it and smiled all the way to the checkout line with that chocolate cake mix in my cart. Ginny trembled walking beside me, her fists clenched at her sides. I had chosen white icing, thinking irrationally that maybe that concession to his taste would pacify Killian. It didn’t. I think it actually made it worse.
After we finished singing “Happy Birthday” to him, laughing together over the lopsided tune the way happy families are supposed to do, he cut into the cake. When he raised the knife after the first cut and it came out covered in chocolate crumbs, the light in the room disappeared quicker than when he had blown out the candles. It felt as if all of the oxygen had evaporated and I held my breath, afraid to breathe in the poison left in the air.
My husband’s hand hovered above the crevice he had cut into the cake, where he had severed the Kill– from the –ian in his name that I had written in red frosting. I focused on the first half of his name – “Kill” – and almost smiled at the irony of the blood red word as I waited for his rage to manifest itself in a closed fist. The backhand across my face caught me by surprise and knocked me to the cold tile floor.
I drew myself up onto one elbow and focused on my girls. Tacie was a cherubic statue, still kneeling on the chair at the table where I plopped her to sing the birthday song, her eyes wide and beginning to pool. I thought I heard her whimper.
No, that was you, I realized. Don’t lose it in front of the girls.
Ginny had taken one step toward me and frozen. She began to kneel while at the same time I felt Killian moving behind me. I caught Ginny’s eyes with my own and whispered, “Go!” She squinted and set her jaw, wanting so badly to rebel, to stay and fight with me. Killian stooped and twisted his fingers into my hair, pulling me across the tile. Trying not to wince or moan again with my daughters in the room, I stared into Ginny’s eyes and through clenched teeth told her one more time, “Take Tacie and go!”
Darting one dagger at her step-father, Ginny did as she was told. I watched her grab Tacie from her chair and hurry towards the back of the house to Ginny’s room. In a minute or two, my older daughter, in her role of surrogate mother to her younger sister, would have Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast singing at top volume behind a closed door.
A dream is a wish your heart makes, when it’s fast asleep, Cinderella would sing.

As Killian pulled me up to my knees by my hair and drew his free hand back to hit me again, I realized the only dream I’d had for years was simply to survive. When his smooth, strong palm connected with my face, splintering pain across my cheekbone and my nose, when I tasted blood and felt the familiar throb begin deep inside my skull, I wondered how much longer my fragile grip on that dream would hold.

So, there you have it. Any thoughts??? Anyone?? Bueller?? Bueller??
(May John Huges rest in peace)

Talk to ya later.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Medication and procrastination

It's been a good Monday so far, but I have many items left on my to-do list for today. In case anyone should happen to read this who doesn't know me personally, let me tell you what I do for a living.

First, I'm a part-time middle English teacher. I've been teaching altogether for nine years - this is my tenth. I've been teaching middle school for four years, going on five now. I love the creatures that are defined as "middle school students." They are unlike any other living, breathing being on the planet and I can't imagine my work day without them. That's not to say, however, that they don't drive me stark-raving crazy sometimes!

For instance, I have a student who is seriously incapable of being still. He can't sit without tapping, rocking, or contorting himself into some form of a pretzel. He often gets up and walks around. He talks out in class when he shouldn't, and often just talks to himself. He's a pleasant boy and I truly believe he doesn't mean to cause trouble. But he does.

And this is one time when I firmly believe some medication would help the situation. I'm not one of those who wants to tranquilize every student that talks without raising her hand, or that gets out of his seat a couple times each class period to sharpen a pencil, throw something away, grab a tissue from my desk, etc. Middle school creatures are very energetic. It's in their nature and we shouldn't ask them to be otherwise.

HOWEVER, there are some conditions that require medical intervention and I think this boy is walking case study. He can't concentrate on what we're reading, so he can't answer questions when we're done. On top of that, he distracts others around him.

So, my plea to anyone who might ever read this who might have a child similar to the one I'm describing is: If your child's teachers tell you they see this type of behavior and this behavior is interfering with your child's learning, please consider a visit to the doctor. Consider an evaluation. It might make the classroom a much more pleasant place for everyone to be.

This blog's run longer than I intended so I'll be brief on the procrastination (rather than put it off for another day). In addition to teaching, I also do some freelance writing. I read business books and write summaries of them. Occasionally, these books are interesting. You can guess what they are when they aren't interesting. But they help pay the bills, so I read them and write about them.

I put off reading the one I had for July for a couple weeks because it was summer and I wanted a break. My editor was awesome about that and gave me as much time as I needed. I turned in my summary about two weeks later than I normally would have, but I had to push to get it in before school started because I'd put it off for so long. Then, I had to push hard to get ready for the first couple of days of school. I have a novel that I'm pitching and another one I'm doing background stuff for so that I can start writing it. The new novel hasn't been touched for over a month. Bad writer. Bad.

When I keep myself organized - school, freelance, home stuff (laundry, etc.), novel - then I can pretty much stay on top of everything. But I'm telling ya, vacation's a killer. (But I wouldn't trade summer break for . . . well, for a lot of things. I would trade it for an offer of representation AND a sale of my book, though.)

OK....My newest business book is lying open beside me, calling to me for attention. I owe it at least another half hour. Then there are clothes to steam, dinner to make, and papers to grade.

Oh - and a novel to pitch and one to write.

I'd better get busy.
Talk to ya soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Welcome to my world!

A little over ten years ago when I was a newspaper reporter, I wrote a regular weekly column for that same paper, but I had a hard time coming up with a name for it. My editor suggested "Thinning the Weeds" because my last name at the time was Gardner and he said, "Besides, that's what you do in your columns."

Well, that's what I hope to do here. I'm a teacher and a writer - two (as yet unpublished) novels and the beginnings of a third. I'm hoping that if I share some thoughts from the classroom and from my attempts to write and publish my books, I'll make some connections with some of you out there, and maybe we can learn from each other. And hopefully laugh with each other.

A quick look inside my eighth-grade classroom today:
It was only the second day of classes, so I was talking to my students about why we read books. I asked them for names of books that they had read in the past and enjoyed, and I got a lot of responses. A boy said that he had liked Twilight. I asked him if it was Twilight he liked the best or the whole series. He smiled and said, "I liked the movie."
One of the other boys in the class said, "You can't read a movie!"
"You can if you turn on the subtitles!"

I couldn't argue....
Have a great day. Talk to ya soon.