Saturday, April 25, 2020

Sunday Post #50/Sunday Salon #24

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz expanded Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read
Two weeks ago I read zero books. None. I picked up and put down a few, but between the shift back to teaching more or less full time, my kid's birthday, and still trying to win Camp NaNoWriMo, it didn't happen.

And who am I kidding--I couldn't concentrate anyway.

This past week though, I read three whole books, and I'm very happy about that. I read Go With the Flow, a graphic novel about a group of friends fighting for the right to free materials for people who get their periods at school. It could have been very didactic, but by focusing on the friendships, it became a fun book. Then I read Not So Pure and Simple, which was funny, but also took a good hard look at male privilege and expectations for girls and women. I liked that a male writer had his male character have to learn some stuff the hard way.

Go with the Flow       Not So Pure and Simple

Finally, I read Dig, by A. S. King. I love her work, but her last book was too hard for me, and I didn't finish it. A group of people who won the Book Love grant over the past few years decided to read it "together" and have a Zoom book club about it. I figured if it was indeed too challenging for me, a book club would help. Well, it was not hard at all, though it sure made me wonder and think, and I LOVED IT SO MUCH YOU NEED TO GO READ IT RIGHT NOW that is all.  Also, A. S. King came to our book club meeting, which was so amazing, and I promise I will share more in a later post.


What I'm Reading/What's Next
Who knows. We'll see. I still have so many books to choose from, so that's a good thing.

Three Things

  1. We spent the afternoon driving around the county, bringing books to my students and wine to my colleagues. It was lovely, and I got to meet several dogs, a goat, and a peacock. After the first stop, when my colleague walked right up to me, I made sure to have my mask on at every drop-off. Sheesh, people.
  2. My progress on my book has slowed considerably. If you count words from when I started writing in late March, I will hit the 50,000 word mark by the end of this month, but if you only count what I've done during the official Camp WriMo time, I'm pretty far behind. This will shock none of you, but writing is HARD. I mean, it's great fun too, since I have no external pressures on it being any good, and it's a terrific way to escape from the world right now, but wow is my plot meandering all over the place with no sign of finding a resolution anytime in the next week.
  3. I was walking once or twice a day the first few weeks I was home, but now that I'm working 40 hours a week, I'm struggling to fit it in again. Yet I am still baking, and in those video meetings I can literally see my cheeks getting fatter. Something's gotta give.
My family and friends all remain healthy, though I know of two students who have mothers with Covid-19. I can't imagine what it's like on the east coast or other hot spots. May books continue to offer you all solace and escape.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

TTT: Titles That Rock

 TTT (Top Ten Tuesday) is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl .  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check it out!

The topic this week is: Titles That Would Make Good Band Names 

  1. The Hand on the Wall
  2. The Queen of Nothing
  3. Thunderhead
  4. The Bone Houses
  5. Pet
  6. Kiss Number Eight
  7. Wilder Girls
  8. One Word Kill
  9. Once and Future
  10. Courting Darkness
I generated this list by the highly scientific method of scrolling through my Goodreads "read" shelf and picking out whatever jumped out at me. Fantasy titles make good band names, I think.

An Educator's Lament

It doesn't surprise me in the least to see posts and articles and tweets that veer between, "Teachers are lazy slobs who are getting paid to start summer vacation early" and "Teacher are goddamn heroes and we should give them all million dollar raises." These are pretty much the two positions you see in normal times as well. I've been teaching since 1992, and in that time I've seen very few heroes and even fewer lazy slobs. (Two, to be precise.) Most of us are just...teachers.

But what is hard to take right now is all the varying opinions about what we should be doing during the pandemic. I've been told:

  • Don't grade anything, because it's unfair to judge kids for how they perform during a crisis.
  • You have to keep grading, because otherwise the kids won't do anything, and any way, how else will we know if we are meeting our objectives?
  • Take advantage of this huge teachable moment to educate the kids about: the science and sociology of the Corona Virus, fact checking, developing empathy for Anne Frank and kids in refugee camps, etc.
  • You are piling on to the students' trauma if you force them to continue thinking about the current situation. 
  • Give lots of choice. They need flexibility.
  • Give them a schedule and clear directions. Choice is overwhelming right now.
  • Be mindful that some kids are now in situations that are unsafe for them, or have family responsibilities that will preclude them being focused on schoolwork.
  • Be mindful that assuming kids are worse off without school smacks of racism and white saviorism.
  • Kids are desperate for the normalcy and routines of school.
  • Kids are desperate for a new way of learning they aren't able to get in school.
  • Do video conferences so they can reconnect with familiar faces.
  • Don't do video conferences, because they're an invasion of student privacy.
  • You just do what is right for you and your kids.
  • If you think what you're doing is right for "your kids," you are revealing your ignorance of the nuances of our students' lives. 
You get the picture. 

As we started this distance learning experiment, I used to panic every time I read one of takes, because I'm so worried I'm doing it wrong. Then I started to get angry when I read them, because I realized NOBODY knows what "doing it right" looks like. But instead of saying, "Here's what I'm thinking right now about this," it's always framed as "If you are any kind of teacher at all, this is what you need to be doing." And the fact that I kind of agree with every single one of the above statements, even though they contradict each other every which way, goes to show it's much more nuanced than can be captured in any hectoring tweet or bossy article. 

Yeah. Well. How's YOUR job going?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Swimming in a Box

All right folks, are you ready for something new and weird?

I was on my high school swim team for two years, a fact that never fails to surprise me. I was, and I cannot stress this enough, not very good, but I had a blast. I was even occasionally able to earn a point for my team at meets. We had an unusually large team, and when it came to the 500m crawl, the longest distance at our level, many other teams only put forward one swimmer. Our team put forward two: the one who was really good at it, and me. I was often five minutes or more slower than the other two swimmers, but by golly, I would eventually finish, and get third place by default. And in a move that completely explains why this very non-athletic, non-competitive soul loved swim team, my teammates would cheer for me the whole damn time.

ANYWAY. I haven't swum laps in years and years and years. But I had a dream last night about swimming. And I LOATHE listening to other people's dreams, so I totally understand if you don't read any further, but honestly, what else do you have to do with your time right now?

In this dream, I was somehow both me now and a student in school. I had participated the previous winter in a tiny swim team, and one day we swam a mixed medley relay that got us a qualifying time for the state meet. Fast forward a few months, and it was the day of the state event. Our coach brings the four of us to this giant complex. I can't find the dressing room for the longest time, but eventually I get my suit on. I am painfully aware that I am not just the fattest person at this event, but the only fat person there. I tell my coach nervously, "What would you say if I told you I haven't been swimming since our season ended?" and she glares at me. I become separated from my team, and start to wander this building, looking for the pool.

I finally ask someone, and they tell me the pool isn't in this building. I ask where it is, but they won't answer. I go out and get into my car and try to follow other traffic to find where the pool must be. I have several misadventures doing this, though I do eventually find one of my teammates and offer her a ride. At long last, we find the pool and go in.

Only instead of a swimming pool, there's a box sort of contraption. Each swimmer individually is supposed to climb into it, and then somehow do some sort of swimming motion, which will be timed and added to your group's total time.

I freak out. There is no way I am doing this. I argue at length with my coach about how ridiculous this is, and she acts like I'm the weirdo. I eventually give in and try to get my layers off so I can swim. My jeans are somehow underneath my swimsuit, and my swimsuit keeps sagging to my knees, exposing my chest. It takes me so long to get into my actual suit that other people get bored waiting and take my turn. Now I finally see how the box contraption works, and try to explain to my coach that this was all I had wanted, to see how it was supposed to go instead of just climbing blindly into this thing, and she sneers at me, telling me it is easy and nobody swims any other way anymore.

"But that's not swimming!" I tell her. "I guess it's some kind of working out, but it's not swimming if there's no water! I don't swim for the workout, I swim because I love swimming!"

Then I woke up, as one does, and thought first, "What a weird dream!" and then "What an amazing metaphor my brain just gave me for teaching from home!" Because that, of course, is what my dream was actually about. I honestly find it fascinating that my subconscious developed such a convoluted analogy for what I'm going through, complete with lack of directions, people who refuse to give me good information, feeling woefully unprepared, and the expectation that I'm supposed to take something completely unknown and consider it a reasonable substitute for the real thing.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

March in Review

My Reading

# of books read: Fourteen. A lot? A little? Hard to say these days.
Best(s):(In which I tell you all my favorite reads and make up categories so they each win something)

Best modern adaptation of MacBeth featuring a very angry Lady MacBeth: Foul is Fair
Best sequel I didn't know was a sequel, which also happens to be the best first book in a series that I didn't realize didn't have the next book out yet, ARGH: Courting Darkness
Best sequel I didn't know is a sequel, with multiple points of view: Light It Up
Best snarky essays: We Are Never Meeting in Real Life
Best romance-slash-examination of class and poverty in our county: Jackpot

Wow, every single book on this list features one or more women who are absolutely seething with rage.  I wonder what draws me to that right now?  Hmm, a mystery indeed. 

There were a lot of books that almost made this list too: Half Brother, Bibliophile, Mary's Monster, It's All Relative, and The Lie Tree were all solid four star books.

It is weird to look at the books I read this month, because the "before" books seem SO LONG AGO.

Bookish Events and Happenings

I started to write a novel. So that's one thing. I also spent several hours at school one day bagging up books my students were reading before they left one Thursday and never came back, to have available to them if they came in to pick up packets this week or next week.

See that giant cardboard box to the side? Those are all books for one of my OBOB readers. Covid-19 really got going in Oregon the week before we were to have our Battle of the Books competition, and we were so crushed that it was cancelled. WE COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER!  

On the Blog

I posted eight times which is Normal? I think? Who knows any more? I started with my February wrap-up (go me for doing this two months in a row then), and participated in one Sunday post (boo me for not realizing there's more than one Sunday per month). I did two official TTT posts: single word titles, for which I came up with a title for each letter of the alphabet, and my spring TBR, which hey! Several of the books I read this month were on that! And I did one top ten list that just happened on a Thursday of my own accord, which was ten books to probably avoid right now, unless you are one of those people (hello Nicole!) who are drawn to apocalyptic fiction at the moment. I borrowed a quick tag from Anne of My Head is Full of Books, and I wrote a post about my affection for the Printz award, in which I use what might be a few too many gifs. 


Um, same as you, I assume. I've been in my house for three weeks now, other than the one day I went into school, after making an appointment so I wouldn't overlap with anyone else being on my hallway. In the quarantine bingo, things I've done include: bake bread, stay up until 3 am frantically refreshing Twitter and the news, go for walks, pick up and put down books because I can't focus, video conference with my colleagues, wear sweats or PJs all the time, play Settlers of Catan, and Completely Random Household Task which in my case was polishing my late mother's souvenir spoon collection. Squares I have yet to check off include: watching Tiger King (I tried, but one episode made me ill), hoarding TP, and watching that vile man's press conferences. Snippets are more than enough for me. 

And I'm lucky in that no Covid-19 cases, let alone deaths, have touched my immediate circle, or even the next layer out. It could still change, I know.  If you're up for a little Coronavirus humor, complete with liberal use of the f word, here are some tweets I've collected that made me laugh. If you're not, skip to the end for something sweet.

A chickadee pair has started excavating a next in the apple tree right outside our kitchen window. I did not know this is a thing, but here it is:

The only trouble is that my window is filthy dirty, and obviously I want to wash it so I can enjoy the show better--this is the same window we often see Jimmy Bunny out of as well--but I don't want to give the birds little birdie heart attacks by wedging myself next to their site.

All right, take care. Remember to breathe and give yourself grace.

My monthly summaries are always linked to the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up on Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight, as are terrific blogs' monthly reflections.  Nicole and Shannon usually put together a fun scavenger hunt giveaway too, so go check it out!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

This Is Not an April Fool's Joke

I'm doing it.

I have never attempted to write a novel before. I haven't attempted any fiction at all since, oh, fourth grade? Which would be 1978. I mean, maybe a teacher or two along the way made us write stories, but I don't remember writing fiction. I love stories, OBVIOUSLY, and I like writing, but I've always felt like I just can't think of a plot. And plots, I feel firmly, are an important part of novel writing.

Then I had a dream a month or more ago. In the dream, I had just leapt out of this long wooden boat as a fleet of similar boats beached around me, and everyone started running across the beach towards the woods. Only I tripped and fell flat on my face. This bearded man came back and looked down at me laying there and said, completely seriously, "I am beginning to think you are not as vital to this movement as I'd been led to believe." And I was so embarrassed, and also a little afraid that now he was going to kill me because he'd figured out I wasn't the Chosen One.

So that's the story I'm writing. I figure that moment will take place about a third of the way in, but I'm realizing that I'm going to have to edit like a mo-fo, because I'm ten chapters in and nowhere near that point. I mean, my two main characters haven't even MET yet.

But that's okay. Because all my life, I'd read a debut and think 'Wow, they wrote THAT GOOD and it's their FIRST TIME!? I could NEVER do that!" Then I started blogging and following authors on social media, and I found out that no, for most authors their first published book isn't their first book. That they learn by doing. That you can always edit a shitty first draft, but you can't edit a blank page. So I'm giving myself permission to write a terrible first book, with zero expectations. If all that happens is I finish the first draft and it's as long as two George R. R. Martin books combined because I cannot get to the goddamned point, that will still be an amazing win.

Plus, it's something to do while socially distancing besides freak out. I have heard plenty of authors saying they can't concentrate long enough to write right now, but I suspect that because this is NOT my normal, it feels like an escape to me. As opposed to actually trying to figure out how to do my job long distance, which is stressful and difficult and confusing.

Okay then, I need another 466 words today. If you don't see me much on the blog this month though, that's why.