Monday, July 23, 2018

A New Journey...

A little less than a year ago I wrote a blog post about how I was stepping back from Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp and not growing the business. Due to some misunderstanding (which makes me wonder sometimes if I am really a clear writer or if there is just not clear reading being done) I suffered a bit of unnecessary backlash from it. Afterward, as I cleaned up various messes due to the misunderstanding, I decided that I needed to have a clear mission for the Boot Camp. I began to research and found that the true way to go with my writing workshops would be online.

After much time spent researching, planning, outlining, delaying because of nervousness, scared because of the unknown, and worried about putting myself out there publicly even more, I decided to use Udemy as my platform for my classes. Last month I began having a good, old fashioned debate with myself about continuing to use my business name because I wasn’t sure if re-branding would be the way to go. After all, I had been Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp for four years. I had over 1,150 people on Facebook following the page. I still had over 500 pens and notepads with the logo on them! The most important part of this equation was the key word: I. Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp was me. I had a handful of writers work with me, teaching workshops from poetry to screenwriting, but when it came down to it, every time I taught a class, my class sold out. I began coaching and now have half a dozen writers that I mentor on a regular basis. Why did I want to keep a name that may not make much sense if I decide to move? So, the decision was made. The transition to Rachel Pilcher WritingWorkshops became complete last Friday (Check the link above).

I am so relieved to have made this choice, but it does come with downsides. Unfortunately, placing my name on the business does draw attention to me, whether I want it or not. Sometimes it’s negative, or sometimes it’s just a bit too personal—like the influx of men who send me messages now with just the word “hey” on them. Um… yeah. Why use more than one word when you’re trying to get the attention of a writer?

I would have to say that the positives are far outweighing any negatives which may come up. If all goes well, my first online class will be up and running by this Sunday! Exciting times! More to come soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Dearly Departed: Mr. Arthur Matchette, Latin and English Teacher Extraordinaire

Mr. Arthur Matchette, from my 1992 yearbook.
I found out Saturday that one of the most influential educators in my life had passed away from cancer on Friday morning. Mr. Arthur Matchette was a staple at my alma mater, Amon Carter-Riverside High School, having taught there for over 30 years—his entire career— as well as being an alumnus. I’ve been seeing many tributes to him on Facebook, some of them pointing out his quirks (let’s just say he had a slight addiction to Carmex), his influence in musical appreciation (our unofficial class song was Dreams by Fleetwood Mac), and the multitude assignments he would give us (75 in one six weeks!?!). To me, though, he was more than that. He was hands down the person who directed my education and eventual certification to be a high school English teacher.

I had Mr. Matchette for all four years of high school. I took Latin I- IV, as well as honors English IV. Through taking his classes, I learned that organization would  help me in the end by making sure my work was turned in. I also wondered how I ever made an A, since it was pretty much impossible to turn in all the assignments he gave. I have since learned how that worked (#tradesecret-- teachers know). As a teacher, I truly appreciate the intellectual banter he would have with students. My own students should be grateful that I had this experience in school, because it gave me a great example as to how I should interact with students.

I owe my vocabulary to this man, especially the ability to pick out the Latin root of almost all words in multiple Latin-based languages. Without all those years of translating The Aeneid from Latin to English, then English to Latin, I don’t think I would have been able to stumble my way through college Spanish, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to translate half of the French I was faced with on my trip to Paris last November.

He encouraged my writing by telling me as a ninth grader that I could go to college right then and succeed in writing just as well as any college freshman. That was a huge boost— I wanted to go to college, but none of my teachers or counselors had ever said that they thought I should go or that I would succeed. This is so, so important for children to have this encouragement. If I hadn't had it, I'm not 100% sure I would have gone to college or have reached my current accomplishments.

I am, in part, the person I am today because I was graced with the privilege of having Mr. Matchette in my life. I hope that I’ve had even a little bit of influence on my own students that this man had on me. I wish that I could have made it to his visitation. It was held last night at the same time as I was representing my publishing company, Sleeping Panther Press, at a book lecture and signing by one of my authors at The Wild Detectives in Dallas. I think he would be forgiving of that, though. He would be proud of how far I’ve come as an educator, a writer, a publisher, and an intellectual.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Rebirth of the Artist

Pink Water Lily, or Lotus: purity, enlightenment or rebirth
I finally made it to summer break! If anyone ever states their jealousy about educators having 2-3 months off for the summer and all of those “vacations” in between, I would like to gently remind them that we get the breaks so that we have time to forget how stressful the school year can actually be!

I made a bold plan for my summer—work like a mad woman on getting out Panther City Review, do my own writing, get some of my writing courses up online, and to work my way through Julia Cameron’s artist workbook The Artist’s Way, plus all those honey do projects that I don’t have a honey to do them for me during the school year.

In beginning The Artist’s Way this time around (this is my third trip through the book), I’m finding that I am discovering so much that I didn’t see the first two times.  The first time through I was extremely depressed after an unexpected breakup and was looking for something to lift me up, help me gain back my confidence and wellbeing. It sort of helped with that, but I honestly don’t remember much of the lessons. I was a zombie in completing the work that year. I was pretty much a zombie with everything in my life for a while that year.

My second journey was the first that I co-lead the group on Facebook with Melinda Massie, which we called The Fabulous Artist’s Way BootCamp (feel free to join us!). I started out strong, but petered out at the end, shortly after my car accident. I just couldn’t focus on anything…literally. I tried, but ended up apologizing for not participating, or leading at all, then worked at picking it back up to finish the final few weeks. It didn’t work well for me at all.

This journey, though…I am ready. I feel more empowered because I’ve been working towards my creative journey for a few months. I’ve planned, outlined, and started many of my creative endeavors that are musts for me. This first week of Week 1 in the work has been so enlightening for me. I’ve always considered myself a shadow artist and created obstacles to my own breaking out of that pattern: I want to be published, so what do I do—start a publishing company where I’m publishing others instead of using that creative energy to get my own writing done. Not that I regret Sleeping Panther Press or any of the titles that I’ve put out, but…what I have I been doing on my own work? Not much. This summer is the plan to change that.

The thing is, more often than not, women put themselves in the Shadow Artist role, supporting other artists in their work, but having self-defeatist talk about their own creativity. This is not new—women have been in this position for millennia. It is traditional for women to keep the house going, take care of the family, make sure everyone is fed, clothed, and comfortable. I don’t even have a family, yet I use the excuse that I have to take care of others before I nurture my own art. Why? Well, when it all comes down to it, men are better at saying no to things so that they can do what they want to do. Women need to take note of this. Find other ways for things to get done around the home that don’t involve women doing all the work, even if that means that the work is only delayed or just doesn’t get done.

Before school was out for the summer, I used my calendar that I created for my Write Fearlessly workshop to do a time tracker—instead of tracking what I spend my time on, though, I decided to just put down what I planned on spending my time doing. That became my schedule for the week. I have three days where I work on business/writing related items. This could be publishing, working on my online classes, or writing. I have two days where I spend the mornings either working in the yard or cleaning the house. The afternoons are free to do whatever needs to be done, or do nothing at all. Saturdays and Sundays are free days where I can either do something fun, or work. I’ve built in exercise times as well as mealtimes. It’s pretty structured, but also flexible. This first week out, I was mostly on schedule. The thing is, on those free times, I can adjust, work on a Thursday afternoon, then go out and do something on one of my business days. When something comes up, I can go do it, but I now have to make up whatever was scheduled for that time later in the week. It gives me the freedom to look at the calendar and say, “No, I can’t do that today. I have to work on my screenplay.”

It all comes down to allowing myself to say no to things that do not support my creativity during my creative time. To tell my Shadow Artist personality to take a hike. I have things to create!

Friday, May 11, 2018

It's Teacher Appreciation Week, the One Week We Try Not to Knock Educators In the United States... At Least Not Too Hard.

This was originally a very long post I wrote over on my personal Facebook page, spurred on by a video shared by a friend of mine, shared here.

When I was a classroom teacher, there were several years I spent well over $1,000 for supplies for my classroom. Some of it would get permanent use in the room from year to year, but many times it was replacement items- paper, pens, pencils, markers, construction paper, books, printer paper, staplers, scissors, glue...and this was all for a high school English classroom!

I honestly get very angry when people say, "Well, it's a calling to teach" or "You knew what you were getting into," because, you know what...most of us were not called to go into teaching. I wasn't and I fought it tooth and nail until I realized that it would be the job I could get with my degree after being laid off from publishing. Most of us had no clue exactly how much we'd have to spend on our own classrooms. Most of us had no clue that, with every 2-3% raise, our insurance would go up 3-4%. Most of us didn't know that our retirement--that we pay into from our paychecks--would slowly be dwindled down and then we would be gouged with insurance premiums that were 5X what they were when we were in the classroom, with only 2/3 the income coming to us from our retirement (if that!).

The fact that right now, working in my district, our situation isn't "as bad" as a teacher in Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, or West Virginia, doesn't mean that we can't be angry when someone belittles our occupation. We are constantly spending our own money to improve our classrooms, either in supplies or earning more degrees or certifications. I spend many a summer attending workshops and reading up on the best practices for teaching my subject and my students. You can be envious of "all that time off" if you want to, but I will challenge you to spend 10 months with 240 17 year-olds, most of whom do not care whether they pass your class or not, but it is your job to make them care because whether you keep your job is determined by how well they do on a state-mandated test-- and by some miracle at the end of the year most of them do pass those tests and "prove" that you are doing your job (how many of you have your entire career hanging on how well a kid does on a test?).

I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if anyone who thinks teachers are whining, or thinks they should just quit if they are so unhappy (most aren't, they just would like a real, living wage for the job that they do that requires degrees and certifications and such. We feel the same for social workers or anyone else who is a professional, but still has to work at Starbucks after hours to make ends meet), or believes that vouchers are the answer to all our education ills (they aren't, especially for those who are poor because they still wouldn't have the funds to make up the difference in price for that charter or private school that may or may not exist in their area), or want to blame all our educational problems on immigrants (who, by the way pay taxes which fund schools, either directly or in-directly through rent or mortgages), have any clue about more than what it was like in their day in the classroom. School is very different, so much so I had to change my own beliefs about it from the time I graduated, way back in 1994, to my first year teaching in 2002-- less than 10 years. Of course, thanks to the internet and social media, everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks it's the best one, even if it is completely uninformed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Inspiration In All the Right Places...

A Bit of Inspiration from My Garden...
As of this last Sunday, I’ve done two Facebook Live events on the Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp page. I know that my last post was about Facebook Live, so it may seem a bit excessive to post yet another time on this, but I have to day, this one is a bit different from the last.

I’m finding, after doing these two events, that my own creativity has been sparked. I’ve been more excited to work on my personal writing. Ideas have been popping up in my mind as to how to improve the online class that seems to be taking me forever to compete-- and developing ideas for other classes. I feel more assured that this is the right path in creating these courses, in doing the Facebook Live events, in taking my business to a completely online format and interacting directly with the public. This path is the one that will lead to the most success.

I don’t know if that means that I’ll be able to finally settle in and get down to my own writing, but until I finish my walk along this path, I can’t move forward on anything else. This is where my creative energy will be spent. I just have to hope that all the stories in my brain, as well as held within my ideas book, will still be there when the time comes to write them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New Project: Facebook Live for Fort Worth Writer's Boot Camp

Click the image to go to the Facebook page!
Sunday, April 22nd, I did a Facebook Live test on the Fort Worth Writer’sBoot Camp page. Even though I was incredibly nervous, it went well. This brief introduction to future Facebook Live events was mostly a test to see if anyone would tune in to listen to me talk. I had three people comment live, and about ten viewers while it was live. Since posting it on the page, however, I’ve had over 700 views and a reach of over 1,800. I’m guessing reach means that people have “seen” it, but haven’t watched it. I’m good with that!

Using Facebook Live is definitely a great marketing strategy for any business or author to get word out about their brand. I've noticed many of the pages that I follow, whether they are writers, tour guides, podcasters, or life coaches, getting views through Facebook Live, and in turn, a dedicated YouTube channel, is a great way to find viewers, gain followers, and increase sales. I will definitely be continuing my live videos, at least twice a month, over on the Fort Worth Writer's Boot Camp page. There are definite improvements to come with lighting (I overlighted because I didn't want it to be dark!), and sound, but with more practice, I'll be a pro in no time!

I’ve already planned the next event, set for Sunday, May 6, 2018 at 6pm CST. The topic for discussion will be “I Want to Write, but Where Do I Start?” I have this discussion with many new writers, but also will be offering tips for seasoned writers on things you can do to stimulate your writing. I hope you join me over on the Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp Facebookpage, or if you don’t Facebook, watch the replay on the YouTube channel. Feel free to post comments or questions on either site!

Here is the first episode, up on YouTube:

Monday, April 9, 2018

Recap of TLA Dallas: AKA Librarianpalooza, Texas Style

Me, at the T&P Station, 6:20am, April 4, 2018
This last week I was off campus, hanging out with librarians for the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Dallas. I love attending TLA every year. This is the first year in the last 8 that I haven’t been on a committee, or in charge of a committee. It’s so strange to walk in and not have to check how much time I have until my first meeting, or what sessions I really have to give up because I have to be at the ceremony. I get to just enjoy the conference. The most difficult part of the entire conference was getting on the TRE train at the T&P Station every day at 6:20am to make sure I arrived at Dallas Union Station by 7:30am. I don’t think I caffeinated enough before I got on the train!

Being around literary folk—big name literary folk— always has an affect on me. Going to sessions where professional writers talk about their craft and influences just does something. I get the tingling of creativity pulsing through the air. I’m not sure if this is just a writer thing, or if everyone gets it, but it’s a great burst of energy. I spent most of my lunches doing research on a young adult historical (maybe paranormal) mystery series that I had thought up several years ago, but filed it away. I just have to keep the mojo going after the conference. The fact that I don’t have other distractions at the moment will make this an experience that I hope to carry over for the rest of the year.

Oh, and I learned some great library things, as well. I don’t want to discount that at all, but my library has been in a transition this year since we quit doing AR cold turkey and I’m still trying to find my groove to make programming mine. The best takeaway so far has been Adulting 101, where several high school librarians created groups at their schools to teach students skills that they need to know either for college or adulthood, but just haven’t been taught at home. I’m definitely taking that back to my campus!

If anything, attending TLA inspires dreaming in me. I dream of a better library. I dream of my own books I will write. I dream of someday being one of those authors up on the stage or in the signing line, having an audience who loves my stories as much as I do.