BulgingButtons

Not bad for a fat girl


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Am I Really A Writer?

I like to think of myself as many things. Some of them are irrefutable. I am a mother. I am a teacher. These are simple facts. I have a son, therefore I am a mother. I go to work each day and spend the day teaching fourth grade students, therefore I am a teacher.

What else am I, though? And how do we verify these different identities?

Lately I’ve been a writer. How does one become a writer? By writing, some would say, but many others would say that one becomes a writer only when one’s writing has been published. Even that definition isn’t sufficient for many people. I’ve heard the argument that in order to be considered a writer one must be published and paid for one’s writing.

Well, I do write. And I have been published. I publish here, in my own little corner of the internet, regularly. Nobody pays me for it, though. I’ve also been published on other websites, like Scary Mommy and Education Week. Again, no money in that, but to me it’s still pretty cool.

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My design!

I have actually been paid to write. Not much, but I’ve submitted tips to a teaching publication that have been published and I’ve been compensated for them. I also designed a fish quilt that not only made it to the cover of Quiltmaker, a well-known quilting publication (it’s an inset photo, but hey, it’s still on the cover), and the design was turned into a kit complete with gorgeous watery indigo fabrics and magentas and purples for the fish. I was paid for that too, not much, but still they cut me a check. That one, however, wasn’t really a writing win, even though I was published.

I’ve been writing for NaNoWriMo, too. I finished a manuscript during NaNoWriMo in 2013, and I’ve been revising it with help from my critique group (another thing real writers do, I’m told). Now I’m into a new one story, about a young English teacher who needs to solve a mystery that threatens the security she’s found amongst the quilters she meets in a small town. See what I did there? Teaching, quilting, things I know and like.

I also teach writing. I teach it to my fourth graders, sure, but I’ve been teaching it in the summer too, for the past three years. Kids from seven to seventeen have come to these camps, and working with them as they explore the creative side of writing has been such a privilege for me. We’re not focused on grammar, structure, or spelling in these camps. We’re focused on imagination, empowerment, and risk-taking. We’re helping kids to develop their voices through their writing, whether in a poem about a leaf or an ode to their dog or a comic about super heroes and villains or an introspective look at their own strengths.

This type of writing is so powerful for kids that I’ve begun an after-school creative writing club at my school that is well attended. Both boys and girls come in to write and share their writing, blasting the stereotype we sometimes hear that “writing is for girls.” I’m sure Stephen King, James Patterson, Dav Pilkey, Neil Gaiman, Alberto Ríos, and many others would disagree.

So yes, I’m a writer, even though you won’t see anything I’ve done on the shelves at Barnes & Noble and if you search me on Amazon you’ll come up empty. I’ll keep at it, though, and maybe someday you will see my work there. Maybe someday soon.


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Is It Really Only Tuesday?

tuesdayI’m ready for the weekend. I feel like I’ve put in a full week already, but a glance at the calendar (as if I really have a calendar) confirms that today is actually only Tuesday. Dammit.

Like most people I have certain little routines and rituals that take me through the week. Yesterday I decided to revisit an old one, the Monday night Weight Watchers meeting. Oh yes I did.

I’ve been watching myself balloon up to a scary size with a correspondingly scary weight, and I’m tired of it. My giant sweatshirt doesn’t look giant on me, but it does make me resemble a giant. My airline seatbelt days were looking like they were on the path to extender city, a destination I would rather avoid.

There is no shame in going back, at least that’s what they say, because face it, most people who lose weight don’t keep it off. They count on people going back. They make good money on us.

The way I see it is this: I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again, and one of these times it will stick. Maybe it’ll be this time. I would like that a lot. So here I go again. Wish me luck.

Another Monday night tradition has become tv watching. I know I said I was going to reclaim my time, but I’m hooked on both Dancing With the Stars and Sleepy Hollow. 

Good thing we have a DVR, because by the time the meeting was over and we had cooked dinner DWTS was almost over.  We got comfy and started watching the recorded show from the beginning. By the time it was over, I was ready for bed. Sleepy Hollow would have to wait until some other time.

And writing? What about writing? Um, well, uh… there hasn’t been too much of that lately. Aside from blog posts, that is. I’m terribly behind on my word count for NaNoWriMo. I’m starting to feel like it’s NaNo-NoGo or NaNo-TooSlow. I’m not giving up, though.

Then there’s all the usual stuff that happens in a week. Mine all sort of seemed to happen yesterday and today. I’m beat, I truly am. I did have some great conferences with my son’s teachers this afternoon. They told me things that I already knew, but it felt good to hear it from someone else.

There’s more, too, but I can’t keep my eyes open. Maybe tomorrow I’ll edit this post and maybe tomorrow I’ll decide that it’s garbage, but for tonight it’s my daily offering.

 


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To NaNo or Not to NaNo

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbNovember is rapidly approaching, and I’m starting to get lots of e-mails from the folks over at NaNoWriMo. For those of you  unfamiliar with NaNo, it’s short form NaNoWriMo, which in turn is short for National Novel Writing Month. The NaNoWriMo folks have claimed November as theirs, and invited the whole wold to join them. Last year I accepted that invitation, and I wrote the manuscript of a young adult novel. In a month. Yes. I did it.

That manuscript is still very raw, in fact I haven’t done much of anything with it. I know so much more about writing now than I did a year ago, and what I’ve learned has left me feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the prospect of all the revisions that lay ahead. Gulp. But does that mean I can’t write something new? Of course not!

Completing NaNoWriMo was a huge accomplishment. It showed me that I did in fact have at least one book in me, and that I could find the time to create it. It also showed me that even when I was feeling stuck, I could make myself move forward. It was an important lesson. Of course it wasn’t without its freak-outs along the way.

Another lesson that it taught me was that I spend too much time on activities that give me nothing in return. I think many of us do. My main time sucker (and maybe yours too) tends to be surfing the internet. Watching tv is a big one for a lot of people too. Still, no matter how busy I felt, I was always able to at least put in at least twenty to thirty minutes on work days, then fill in with some extra time on the weekends. I knew that skipping days would stress me out too much in the long run, so I avoided it at all costs.

So now here I am, Mid-October, and decision time is looming. Yes, I think I’ll try it again, and this time I’ll incorporate some of the information on story structure that I’ve learned over the past several months. I have a new character that I need to get to know, and I need to create some really interesting things for her to do and say. I also need to stock up on Hot Tamales, they are my go to candy for writing inspiration and energy.

Hopefully this year’s 50,000 plus words come more easily than last year’s, but I’m not counting on it. Writing a novel is a really difficult process, but by announcing it, I’ve just taken the first step. Wish me luck!