Mondays.

Is there anyone who likes Monday?  I’m at work, dealing with students who are taking statewide standardized tests, and being as annoying as they can be about it.  And I’ve also got my kid in my memory, crying that she didn’t want me to go to work. 

What kind of world makes us spend most of our time away from the people who matter the most to us?  If I had my way, I’d be with my wife and daughter most of the time. 

Still dealing with the annual wait to see if I’m actually laid off or not.  I should know by my birthday (Memorial day weekend), but we’ll see.  If I am laid off, I’ll be looking for non-teaching jobs.  If I’m not, great. 

Why I like The Emperor’s Club

Most “teacher” movies are about how a teacher, usually young, usually in their first year, idealistic, bucks “the system” and inspires a group of kids.  They’re usually inspiring and cool… and total bullshit.

Even the ones based on a true story are usually 9/10ths hogwash.  Jaime Escalante didn’t succeed with all his students, just one group–and when he came from LA to Sacramento, he failed, and claimed that he couldn’t work well with anyone but the latino students.  Erin Gruwell did a great job with the students portrayed in her movie, but she isn’t teaching high school anymore; she left to teach at University and then founded the Freedom Writers Foundation, which has laudable goals, but isn’t really that big a force in Education at all.

These movies always portray the older teachers as burned-out, obstructionist, jerks who want the new teacher to fail and want to just ride a cushy wave of “good kids” until they retire.  While there may in fact be teachers like that, I don’t know any.  I know good teachers, and I know bad teachers, but I’ve never seen an older teacher act like as big a jerk as the movies make them seem.  I think these films do more to destroy the public’s attitude towards teachers than even the politicians.

Which is why I love The Emperor’s Club.  Kevin Kline’s Mr. Hundert doesn’t change the world.  He doesn’t turn a ne’er-do-well into a class act (in fact, he fails utterly in the attempt to do so, and hurts another along the way).  What he does is his job–teaching, and by doing that, inspiring, his charges.  He is lost when he resigns in a fit of pique, and only really finds himself again when he realizes he made a mistake and goes back to the classroom.

Now, granted, Mr. Hundert teaches the creme de le creme of students, rich kids whose parents pay a lot to send them to a boarding school.  Most teachers don’t work in that kind of rarefied environment, and the somewhat patriarchal tone of the school Mr. Hundert teaches in is alien to most of us.  But he’s still the epitome of a teacher–a man who does the best he can, and tries to inspire his students’ moral development, not just fill them with information.  And while we rarely see anything approaching modern teaching methods (which is a whole other post/rant I may engage in some day), we do see him interacting with his students, and not always in an authoritarian way.  He is inspiring, to his students and to me, as well.

Friday Fragment! This week: Chapter 1

I decided to start a tradition of posting a fragment of writing each Friday.  Sometimes it’ll be flash fiction, sometimes it’ll be a poem, other times a piece of non-fiction and sometimes even a chapter, finished or in-progress.   Some weeks they’ll be new, other weeks they’ll be from my personal archive, which means some weeks they’ll be examples of REALLY BAD WRITING. 

Today it’s chapter 1 of The Finder, which is book one (of three) of The Remembrance War.  The titles may change, of course. 

I’m not a pro.  Even if I was, the following would be true:  Feel free to comment.  I think I can take it, and if I can’t, what’s the worst that will happen? 

It probably goes without saying, but the following is mine.  If I find it online somewhere, lawyers will be mobilized. I’m pretty sure it’s not so wonderful that anyone would do that, but I’m covering my bases, here.

And so, it begins:

Chapter 1

The thing the books, vids, and hologames don’t tell you about space travel is that, generally speaking, it’s boring as hell. Sure, there’s the occasional fight–but that’s rare, unless you’re in the military, and I’d left the service years ago.

Well… it was rare.  Before the war.  Before humanity discovered just how much we’d been lied to. 

It all started with a distress signal…

Read More »

But will I love them tomorrow?

Got home with the bun and, since she was happily reading her new books, I opened up Scrivener and slammed out another 1000 words, bringing the word count on the WiP (the working title of which changes almost daily, so I’ve stopped changing it and just think of it as “The Space Opera of Space-ness”) to 5900 words.  Which means I have only 2000 words until I meet the Viable Paradise submission limit.  

The funny, or maybe even ironic, thing is that after talking with my wife, I decided not to apply to Viable Paradise this year.  I’d love to do it, but the money is just not there–with me staring down the barrel of being laid off, and my wife’s job situation iffy (she’s a contractor and her contract is up in August with no hint of whether or not it will be renewed), and our daughter’s new school tuition being higher than we’d expected to pay, all added to our desire to kill off our credit card and home improvement loan debts, means I should probably wait.   I’ll keep writing, and if I finish the book before then, I’ll start trying to sell it if I can or continue to write other things if I can’t.  

All in all, not bad.  I may write more tonight; I may just sleep.  Not sure yet which will make me feel best. 

State of The Book

Despite having plotted out Warden’s Call, I recently got a brainwave on Dreams of Earth (or whatever I’ll call it tomorrow) that fixed the problems I’d been having since losing the manuscript in the Great Disk Death of 2011.  This has led to a resurgence of actual writing in that story, and replotting of the novel, fixing a few plot issues while I’m at it. 

In the last two weeks (which sounds like two weeks, but really means two days, since that’s really all I spent on it due to Real Life issues), I’ve added about 2000 words to the book, bringing the total word count to 4700/100000.  Not a great deal of progress, no, but progress it is, and I’ll take it. 

Note for those who haven’t heard: Most of my actual work on stories gets done during the summer.  During the school year, I tend to spend most of my creative energy in my teaching, and when I sit down to write, I end up staring at a screen more often than not.  I’m working on that… but in the meantime, I write primarily during the summer months, in the moments in between caring for my daughter.  Fortunately as she gets older, it gets easier to write while she amuses herself, but she still needs me a fair amount.  Still, having fun and feeding my kid takes a lot less creative energy than teaching 160 kids who don’t want to be there.  So I get lots more done.  I’m also less guilty about asking the wife for time off to go write elsewhere when I’ve spent the day with the Bun. 

Anyway, that’s today.  I hope to get more work done tonight, but we’ll see how long it takes me to get my daughter to bed.

Inevitably, my brain kills my momentum

So, now I’m thinking “You’re an idiot.  Why are you even bothering with VP?  You won’t get in, and even if you’re accepted, you probably can’t actually go, so give up.”

And there’s some truth there–even if accepted, I might not be able to swing the money because of other things that need to be paid for, so is it really even a good idea to apply?  But also, either I want to write or I don’t.  VP shouldn’t even come into it.  So I’m just going to write, and consider the options regarding VP if I come to a point where I have something to send in.  I’m going to need to check finances very carefully, because while we can probably afford it, it may not be the best use of funds. 

But then I wonder if that idea is just my stupid self-image issues sabotaging me.

Spring Break Day 4

I got Warden’s Call plotted out.  I took the execrable third section of the story, warped some of it into a better story, and resurrected some old plot points I’d cut originally to make the story a little more sensible.

Now I know what to do with the book.  But I also have a conundrum.  I managed to resurrect Chapter 1 of Pathfinder (A working title only until I come up with something better).  So now I have two viable stories to work on, either of which would be good to send to Viable Paradise as my “audition” piece.  Since you spend the week of VP working on whatever it is you sent, I have to decide which of these I can get to 8,000 words on and which I’d rather spend a week working with pros on.

WC has about 4,000 words.  Pathfinder has about 3700.  Not a lot of difference.  So which one holds most of my passion? That’s the key question.  Secondly, which one has a better chance?  That one’s harder to answer, and maybe doesn’t matter as much.

Spring Break Day 1

I’m on Spring Break, and I really want to use the time to get a few things accomplished: 

  • Plan lessons for next week and the rest of the year in broad strokes
  • Get some violin practice in
  • Write
The lesson plans are partly done.  The violin?  Practiced, though I have lots more to do this week.  
 
This is not working so well. The writing, that is.  

I sit here and stare at the screen.  I have four chapters left to plot, and I can’t seem to make myself write the story until the whole plot is outlined in broad strokes–without that, I feel bereft of plot and purpose.  I have the feeling that I ought to just suck it up and start writing the second chapter, which is plotted, but I can’t seem to muster up the brain to do it.  

This day is a loss.  

On the plus side, my daughter just informed me, in her sweet four year old way, that she really likes how I look when I’m wearing my reading glasses.