On Race, Microaggression, and Teaching the Wrong Lesson

Like almost all white teachers who work in “urban” (which is EdSpeak for “mostly PoC and poor”) schools, I’ve been accused of racism for things like asking a kid who was being disruptive to stop and do his work.  Now, I don’t do that to only PoC, but when it is a PoC, sometimes they feel that I’m singling them out.

I’ve always scoffed at that accusation and made a joke about it.  But after today, I can’t do that.

See, Justina Ireland tweeted something today:


Now, I’ve heard this before, but I’ve always taken a bit of issue with it.  So I decided to ask:

Now, I’ll freely admit that question might be a little clueless, but hey–I’m speaking, and living, from my position of privilege.  And I’ve asked this question of others, and almost always got a reply that was utterly useless, consisting of just repeating what was originally said and expecting me to just accept it, with no attempt at explanation.  And while I know where that kind of response comes from, it’s not helpful. So I decided it was worth looking a little stupid if necessary to get a real answer, and I’ve grown to trust Justina’s commentary on this kind of thing as being pretty balanced.

Her reply was illuminating:


And I thought: Oh good!  Since that’s NOT what I do, I’m not being racist!  Keep in mind, you can say or do racist things and not be a racist person–in other words, and perhaps more clearly: You can think all people are equal and deserve equal treatment, but still say or do things that are racist, either because you never learned better, or because you just don’t think about it that way (but honestly, you should).

But then she said:



And that got me.  Because I have almost always said “Oh, don’t be ridiculous” and moved on.  And maybe sometimes that’s OK, because the kid isn’t being serious in their accusation.  But most of the time, I’d say I’m doing more harm than good with that response.  Because as soon as I tell the kid they’re being ridiculous, I’m telling them their concerns aren’t worth listening to, that they’ll get nowhere with me if they try to engage me on that level.  In other words, I’m acting like a racist.

What a lightning bolt.

I’ve known teachers I considered to be racist (not at my current site, but in the past).  And I’ve always been sure I was better than that.  Clearly, I wasn’t. In YEARS of inclusivity training, classroom management training, diversity training, it has never been explained to me in the right words to make me understand that.  But Justina got it to me in exactly the way I needed to see it.  And now I wonder at how much damage I may have caused in the past.  And I see why some kids just shut down and wouldn’t talk to me anymore.

So what does this mean?  It means that, this year, I need to work harder at not being That Guy.  I need to make sure I don’t just tell a kid they’re being silly, and ask them instead why they think that–maybe not at that moment, but before the day is out.  And I need to open my ears and my heart, and really listen.

I’ll fail, from time to time.  But I’ll keep trying.

Synopses: The New Hell

Before attending Viable Paradise, I would finish a novel, realize it was bad, and trunk it.  I did that four or five times.  Most of them have long since been lost to the vicissitudes of changing formats and the modern lack of floppy drives, and that is more than likely a good thing.

Now, I’ve finished The Widening Gyre, and rather than trunk it, I’m actually going to send it out.  I’m sure I could dither about with one or two more beta cycles, but the truth is, I don’t see a whole lot changing at this point.  I had six people take a look at it, and I utilized the vast majority of their feedback–I think there was one thing from a couple of readers where I said “Meh, that’s not something I agree with,” but most of the feedback I got was incredibly helpful and made me sit up and say “Oh, wow, she’s right.  I better deal with that.”  I’m sure that if an agent bites, I’ll need to do more, and if an editor bites down the road, still more–but for now, it’s done.

Which means I have to write the synopsis for agent queries.  And I’ve never actually had to do this before.  All the agents in my first round want 1 to 2 pages of synopsis, then a variable number of pages.  I did not like my first attempt at a synopsis, so I did it again and I like that one a little better, but now I’m paralyzed with fear that all the agents in the world will read the synopsis, roll their eyes, and reject it out of hand.  Which is probably silly, but what can I do?  Self doubt is my busiest demon.

Anyway, I’m currently on a ten-minute break from cleaning my office, and my time is about up.  So I’m going to go finish that job, and then come back to getting this thing ready for submission.  The sooner I do it, the sooner the rejections will come, right?


How I use Scrivener — A Step-By-Step Guide.

Scrivener is a great tool I’ve been using for a few years now.  While no writing tool will ever be the magic bullet that makes writing a snap, Scrivener has helped me in several ways. Most of the things I love about it are adequately covered on the information page for the program, so I won’t go into it here, except to say that Scrivener makes it easy to move around your manuscript in ways that would make Word or most other business-oriented word processors choke.

However, as useful as Scrivener is, it can also be somewhat difficult to set up.  I’ve also seen over the years that there are almost as many ways to use Scrivener as there are users. I thought I’d do a post on how I use it, for the curious.

First thing I do is divide the screen.  To do that, you click on the button indicated by the arrow in the picture below.


Now, normally, Scrivener divides the screen horizontally, but if you hold Option while clicking, it will split vertically, which is what I do.

Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.41.50

Okay, I hear you.  So you’ve got two screens.  Now what?  Well, what I do is click in the left pane.  Then I click the little clipboard icon in the top middle of the screen, so I end up with this:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 21.31.31

Next, I click on View -> Corkboard Options -> Cards Across -> 1.  This sets the cards in the clipboard view to resize no matter how big or small the window is.  It’s not a vital step, but it helps me.  Then I resize the window by putting the mouse in the divider and moving it to the left, like you do.  I put it as far to the left as it will go.

Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.46.08    Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.46.14

Next, I click on View -> Binder Affects -> Left editor only.  This means that when I click on a chapter folder in the binder (that’s the area to the left of the screen), it will open the chapter’s index cards in the left binder.  Then I click on this little button down here:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 Button

THIS little button makes it so that anything you click on in the LEFT editor window will open in the RIGHT editor window.  This makes it so that I click on the chapter I’m working in, which opens the cards describing the scenes in that chapter, and when I click on one of those scenes, it opens in the right editor window.  Like this:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.18.13

It may not work for all people, but it helps me keep my workflow straight.  One added benefit is that if I use the search window in the upper right to look for a particular text string, it shows up in the LEFT pane, leaving the section I’m working on at the moment alone.  Then, when I click the X on the search pane to clear the search, it’s all back to normal.

You’ll notice in that last picture that my scenes are “described” on the cards as short phrases.  I used to write detailed summations of each scene, but now I do this, which I learned from Jason M. Hough in this series of posts. 

The End is in Sight

I have finished the beta-informed revision of Book 1, which included some structural changes, mostly in the end of the book, and a few insertions where more of Character A was needed, or Character B’s arc needed some tightening.

Of course, I still have a bunch of comments in the Scrivener file.  Some are from me to remind myself to check or fix little niggling things that I didn’t want to waste time on during the major revision, such as “Make sure this word is consistent” because I changed the way I spelled it halfway through the manuscript.

My next step is going to be working my way through all of those comments, using the “View all Scrivenings” feature of Scrivener with the comments showing in the right hand pane.  I click on a comment, it takes me to where that comment is anchored, and I deal with it.

When all of those are done, then I’m going to go through it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure I’ve got as many of the typos and such as I can.  I’m undecided on whether I’ll do another beta pass, or if I’ll just start sending it out into the world and move on to the next project for a while.

And I still don’t have a great title for this thing.  As I’ve no doubt said before, the original working title is shared with a bona fide classic of the Literary Canon, so I’m not sticking with it.  I’ve been idling around The Widening Gyre, as it sort of works, but I’m not married to it.  But I need to figure that out before I can send it out.

Anyway, I’ve got some blog posts upcoming; then the school year is starting soon (WHY ME?).  School year notwithstanding, the next project will be an unrelated space opera.  If Book 1 here sells, then I’ll set that other book aside to work on the sequel–it’s plotted, but not yet written, and I need a break from these characters for a little bit.

What are you working on?