Getting Serious About This Stuff

Two of my sons have convinced me I should switch from teaching full time to writing full time. I could return to a classroom this fall, but am going to take a leap of faith and write instead.

I’ve started a running record of what I do each day. I find the amount increases daily.

The first day I wrote 276 words.

The second day I wrote for 60 minutes. I see I made the comment, “felt like ten minutes” . . . well, good, maybe I’ll keep it up.

Third day . . . today, I wrote 1019 words in 42 minutes. These were words on four short books (may be short stories, not sure yet) that I am writing. There’s that grasshopper mind jumping from project to project . . . Then I spent twelve minutes finding a possible publisher for my bird poem.

A lot of what I do, I do during “down times”.  I will think about and mentally write stuff while doing dishes or some other mundane household chore. Sometimes I get inspiration while I’m outside. (If I had my “rathers”, I’d live in a tent. I love being outside.) I also will pick up the Writers Market or look through folders of things I’ve written and not count that time.

But for now, I am trying to document what I’m doing and when and probably half way doing it, because I can’t stop and jot down every five or ten minutes I spend.

I did not notice the time when I started this blog. I guess I won’t count it. No big deal.

Just trying to justify my new career. My goal was 4 hours a day, but it looks like maybe I’d be better off counting words?

I don’t think I can write for four hours a day. I heard somwhere that Hemingway (and I know I’m NOT Hemingway), but I heard he wrote 250 words daily and would stop when he reached that number of words.

I’m going to do it the way I’m doing it . . . do what I find interesting that day and write down what I did. I’ve been intending to submit that poem since the 1980’s when I wrote it. I guess that’s progress, whether they buy it or not, it’s been submitted finally.

I wonder how other writers account for their time and writing? Do they count the time or the words?

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Memorizing Poems

When I was in school, teachers required us to memorize poems.

In current times, the memorization of poems is not as popular. Some schools don’t even want children to memorize math facts. Memorization doesn’t hold the appeal to modern day teaching methods.

I am forever grateful for the poems I was made to memorize (as well as the math facts – we now have high school students still counting on their fingers, which was a serious no-no for us) . . . but back to the poems that I’m grateful for being made to memorize, because now in times of stress one of the poems, or a line, a verse from it, will pop into my head and comfort me.

Sometimes it causes me to search for the poem I am remembering, but can’t remember all of.

This morning I have hope. My youngest son, Anthony, helped me find it yesterday. And I remembered “Hope is like a bird” . . . something like that . . . it was a favorite poem, I remember. So I typed “Poem with hope as a bird” into google, and I found it. One of my favorite poets, and possibly my very favorite poet, Emily Dickinson wrote it.

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers – Poem by Emily Dickinson

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Stories Written By A Public School Teacher

I have taught in this state’s public schools for 18 years. I’ve seen and heard so many things. Often I was at Title I schools, which have the neediest students.

The students I worked with trusted me and confided in me. I probably knew more about them than many of the other teachers. I’ve found as I worked with children, even my own, that if you just sit and listen when they talk, you learn a great deal about them.

Much of the time I’ve spent listening to children, because I was a Reading Specialist part of those years, I was listening to how they constructed sentences . . . if they stayed on topic . . . there’s a lot you can learn just from listening to children talk. I always wanted my class to talk. I was criticized at times for having a noisy classroom, but having complete silence and not letting children interact during the day hampers their education in my opinion. There are times when silence is needed, or whispering . . . quiet times to think . . . in a classroom, but there is also time  needed for talking. I’ve heard teachers say things, like, “He doesn’t express himself very well.”  Well, did you give him a chance to practice?

Anyway, during my time teaching, some things that happened . . . many things that happened . . . have stuck in my mind. Some, I think, would make interesting stories, as long as I don’t reveal names or places. I’ve taught in several different counties in the state and hope I can camouflage the students so that no one recognizes anyone in my stories. Some of them are more about me than about the students. I don’t think any of them would embarrass anyone.

I went into that folder tonight and it looks like I have twenty chapters written already.

What am I waiting for?

I just edited two of the chapters. It is not the final edit, but it did fix some problems in the wording and explanations.

I have so many projects that I forget I even have some of them. I guess that’s a good problem to have.

I hope I can get these stories told accurately and anonymously.

I hope I can get these stories told.

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The Words Finally Came To Me

I am writing two books. One I call my Blindman book for secret reasons that will be revealed once it’s published. The other I call my Horse book, which also has a private reason for calling it that, but it also will be revealed when it’s published.

I think I have finished or almost finished my Blindman book. I am still in the process of printing out all the pages and putting them in order. I tend to write like a grasshopper hops. I’ll get a scene in my head and quickly type the words. So my books are written out of  chronological order, but with passion and hopefully so that the reader feels as if they’re “there”. The task of printing out the Blindman book and organizing it is taking longer than anticipated. I do also have the other (Horse) book to finish.

This morning the beginning, or maybe it will be the back of the book blurb, or both? for the Horse book came to me. I’ve struggled for years to figure out how to begin this book. I wasn’t sure where the beginning truly was. I found it this morning.

I just typed those words, and using the wordcount tool online, I found it was 348 words/ 9th-10th grade reading level. That surprised me. For some reason, my writing usually ends up 7th to 8th grade reading level, and I wondered why this morning’s level was higher? But I digress. I do that when thoughts are too emotional, or when the passion is too high. It may be part of my “grasshopper writer syndrome” and I just coined that phrase, as far as I know . . . but it suits me.

I guess while I’m printing and organizing the Blindman book, I will start writing more on the Horse book. That makes sense.

I also have a poem I showed a friend, and she loved it! She usually politely says my work is “good”, but after hearing how much she loved the bird poem, I think I need to seek a publisher very soon. I’ve sold poems in the past. They don’t pay much, but they do pay something, at least the places I submit. My poems are written when I’m inspired. I don’t just sit down and think, “I’m going to write a poem about birds”. I spend time with birds and at some point, it may be days later, even weeks later, a poem will begin shaping itself in my head from that experience, and I’ll sit down and type or write up the words. Someone once told me I had a muse. There’s something that starts the poem for me and helps me through it . . . that’s for sure. Whatever it is, I’m grateful.

This morning’s writing was very rewarding. I’ve tried for years, strained for years, to find a beginning to my story. I found it this morning.

True Calling

I was reading an article yesterday about rich people who own their own airplanes and looking at pictures of the interiors of the planes. I wondered why I didn’t own an airplane. It looked like a wonderful idea! Then I remembered I didn’t have enough money to buy one.

How did those people get the money to buy their airplanes? Some did inherit money, but others used their special talents to become rich and famous.

I heard someone say that most people never reach their true potential because they’re too busy trying to make money to survive. They went on to say that if we each focused on what we truly did the best . . . where our talent was . . . we’d have plenty of money to survive.

Some people think we were each put here for a reason. We were given a talent to use and if we didn’t use it, we didn’t complete our reason for being here.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always written, although I haven’t sold many things (yet) that I’ve worked on over the years. Was that my true talent?

I enjoyed teaching children and I was very good at teaching Reading. I don’t think that was my true talent. Or maybe I had two? Teaching and Writing?

I believe my teaching days are mostly behind me, but I have a slew of things I’ve written over the years that I need to market.

I wonder what your true talent is? Have you developed it? Have you worked on it? Do you view it as a hobby?

I’ve taken all the writing courses I intend to take in this lifetime. I’ve learned so much over the years. I took a Creative Writing Class at NCSU. It was during that class that my first poem was published (sold). I’d had a poem published in my school magazine, but wasn’t paid for it. I took a Correspondence Course through the Children’s Literature Institute. I took a Memoir and Truth Telling Writing Course at UNCW when I was a graduate student there. I took James Patterson’s online writing course. Perhaps there have been more? I know I studied the craft a lot.

My youngest son has tried, since he was a boy, to get me to market all the things I’ve written. I did submit and sell some things. Some I gave away for free. I was a columnist for my sons’ elementary school. I sent Dennis Rogers, who was a columnist for the News and Observer in Raleigh, anecdotes I’d written, and he’d use them in his Letters and Left-overs Friday columns. I was a guest columnist for the Durham Herald Sun one May (2005) when I was quitting Durham Public Schools.

So there must be some talent there. I just let life catch me up in surviving and making sure my sons survived, instead of pursuing a writing career.

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Autobiography

There is a Chinese curse which says “May he live in interesting times.” I believe someone uttered those words when I was born. My life has been “interesting”, but often not in a good way.

This morning I awoke with words heavy on my heart and I sat down to write them before breakfast. This seems to be my most creative time of day, and I often awake with words already swirling around in my head.

I thought the words belonged in a blog, but for some reason they ended up in a wordpad document. I’ve already checked the count. There were 259 of them. They contained my usual readability level of 7th to 8th grade. I don’t know if this comes from working so long with young children, or if there’s another reason I write at that grade level.

How easy it is for me to digress!

But after the words were written, I realized I was beginning at the beginning of my “interesting life” where I had first memories. I don’t know if anyone will ever want to read my autobiography, but it appears that I am writing one.

I made a new folder on my desktop and labeled it “Autobiography”. If words continue to arrive, I will add to it.

Some days I never know what I am going to write. Well, I should correct that to say, when I go to bed at night, I know I will write the next day, but frequently the “what I will write” is decided as I sleep.

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The Best Laid Plans . . .

From Robert Burns Poem, “To A Mouse” . . . from whence this was taken:

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men,
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy.”

or to paraphrase: “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.”

Personification

Personification is having something that shouldn’t be viewed as a person, actually act like a person. Many children’s books give animals the ability to talk and drive, and do all sorts of things they shouldn’t be able to do. The personification I refer to involves inanimate objects, ie: a talkng table, or a talking tree with eyes and a mouth . . .

When I was a fifth grade language arts teacher, I explained Personification using an incident from my own life. I had recently gotten a puppy and it appeared that its former owner had used a broom to frighten it. Any time I got the broom out to sweep, that puppy (Joy) would run and hide. I’m ashamed to say I used that knowledge to help train her. She didn’t always listen to the word “No!”, so I would get the broom and bounce the bristles on the floor and say, “Mr. Broom says “NO! DONT DO THAT!” and it would have the desired effect.

I mentioned to my students that when I pretended like the broom was talking . . . I didn’t hit her with it, I just bounced the bristle part on the floor while pretending to talk for the broom . . . but when the broom was “talking”, that was an example of personification.

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Book Markets for Children’s Writers

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was rounding up my Writer’s books and magazines – the ones that help me become a better writer, or find markets, etc . . . I’m putting them all together close to my computer so I will be inspired or perhaps pick one up and peruse it.

The whole time I was teaching school, I was also spending time writing. I would buy various writer’s books so that I could do more with my writing, but between raising three sons (mostly alone) and writing lessons plans at home (one district actually graded my lesson plans and I spent hours on Sunday afternoons that could have been better spent doing something else . . . that county required certain verbs be used from Bloom’s Taxonomy in my lesson plans, as if what words I put in my lesson plans mattered more than what I intended to do and accomplish) . . . but I digress. I’m merely explaining why these books were bought and neglected over the years.

One of those books was Book Markets for Children’s Writers 2012. It boasts that it has 612 updated and verified listings and 73 completely new markets. I began to study it yesterday. I have children’s books written that I would like to try to sell. In this book I found the Category Index, which tells me the types of books certain publishers publish. This is a very valuable section for me, and I’ve already underlined categories related to my work.

This morning I went to amazon.com and looked for the same book. My copy is dated 2012 and I wondered how much a newer version would cost. There is a book called

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2018: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published

Oct 19, 2017

by Cris Freese 
that looks similar. Since the 2017 book with the same title is by Chuck Sambuchino , I decided to see who my book is “by”.  Well, mine is a Writer’s Institute publication. I took a writing course from The Institute of Children’s Literature. It was a good course and this book may have been part of their materials. I never finished the course, but I almost did, and I learned quite a lot from them.
So, perhaps it’s not the same book. Mine has 616 pages and looks very thorough.
I was posting about this book to recommend it, but I’m not sure it can be purchased anywhere except the Institute of Children’s Literature. It says it’s a “Writer’s Institute Publications” book on the back of my copy. Here’s a website for them that comes from the back cover:
On their website, I found a book titled Book Markets for Children’s Writers 2017 and it is selling for $26.95. They also show other books, that are for sale, to help writers .
I’m not certain where I got my book, but I know it looks valuable to me as a writer of Children’s Literature.
As I search for ways to be a better writer and improve my number of manuscript sales, I share what I find that works for me in this blog. I don’t know if it will help you, but it might. It depends on what your goals are and what kind of writing you do – whether or not anything I blog here will help. I hope some of it does.
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