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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

March for Our Lives is NOT Just a Liberal Issue...

All people should want kids to feel safe, right?
This past Saturday I participated in the Fort Worth March for Our Lives rally. I was greatly impressed by the eloquence and maturity of the young people who organized the event (and I’ve known one of them since she was three years old, so this was a pretty proud moment). I Instagramed and Facebooked several photos in real time and was pleasantly surprised at how civil my friends were, even those I knew had vastly different political beliefs. The thing is, March for Our Lives is not a liberal issue. It is an issue everyone should stand up for: to protect our children from violence in our schools, as well as in our streets and homes. You can be pro-life and support children who are already born from dying in their classrooms. You can be a gun owner and still think that regulations should be in place to keep people with mental illness or multiple police visits from getting fire arms. You can stand by more than one political issue. In fact, that’s what makes our country a truly independent nation- the ability to have more than just a straight-ticket opinion about issues. Have we really become so polarized to believe that if liberals or conservatives support something, then whichever side we identify with, we should oppose the other?

What has become of our society? Have we really gotten to the point that, when children are afraid and speak out about their fears, adults think it is appropriate to mock them? A great nation (supposedly a Christian one) should not act this way towards its citizens. This emotionally immature behavior has to stop. Our leaders need to stick to the issues. Our leaders need to spend less time making fun of other people and get to work. There is no room in our future for people who cannot be decent to one another. It is a greatly held belief that “to get respect, you must first give it”— but who decides which person does this first? You do. I challenge everyone reading to approach your fellow human with respect, and more than likely, you will get it. If you don’t get respect back, well…that’s on the other person. You be the better human, even though it’s easier (and sometimes more satisfying) to have a great comeback.

Friday, March 23, 2018

What I’m Reading: Become a Fearless Writer: How to Stop Procrastinating, Break Free of Self-Doubt, and Build a Profitable Career

Considering I get so much done, I feel like I am the world’s busiest procrastinator. I try to not live that “busy” life—the one where, when someone asks how you’re doing, you say “Oh, I’ve been so busy…” It seems like the key to this type of conversation is just semantics. Don’t say you’re busy, even if you are really, really busy. I do feel that I am constantly on the go, though, with a multiple page to-do list for my library, business, writing, and home. Just writing down those four parts of my life gives me the anxiety that would send most people to their beds, pulling the sheets over their head. Hmm…that actually sounds nice. When can I do that?

Let’s face it—Life is busy. We all have things we absolutely have to do. What is important is that we take the time to get something done for ourselves. For me, that is writing. For too long, my writing has been an afterthought. It’s been one of those things that I put off for a day when I have several hours to just sit, relax and think. Now, I do love sitting, relaxing, and thinking, but with a full time job, a business that wants to be full time, and a house to take care of, those “nothing to do” hours are few and far between.

So, I decided I was going to stop my writing procrastination and get to it. I have a class called Write Fearlessly that I am currently transitioning into an online class, so when the book Become a Fearless Writer: How to StopProcrastinating, Break Free of Self-Doubt, and Build a Profitable Career by Nina Harrington, I had to check it out. After all, I’ve been procrastinating and I want to encourage others to become fearless, so… makes sense, right? It’s an eBook, so I’m about 18% into it. Everything is jiving with what I’ve been thinking or doing right now, and I hope that I do gain some new insight, not just for me, but something I can share with others. The sad thing is, as I read the book, I feel like I am procrastinating from getting other projects done. When did I become the librarian and writer who thought it was procrastination to sit down and read a book? That mindset has to go!

As of right now, I’ve actually written in some time on my to-do list to get writing done. I’ve written this post, so it looks as if it is working already. I’ll update my thoughts on this when I finish the book. No procrastinating on that!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Blame it on the Equinox

You know it's Spring when the coleus come out!
Today is the first day of spring. Since this is Texas, that means that it is 30 degrees cooler than it was yesterday—when it was still winter.

I was on Spring Break last week, and instead of going on some fabulous trip—like my Thanksgiving jaunt to Paris— I stayed home to get stuff done around the house. There’s the regular spring cleaning inside, but what really draws me in this time of year is getting the yard presentable. It seems to be the thing to do just as soon as the little green tips begin sticking their heads out of the ground. So far I have raked up 30 bags of leaves around the homestead (1/4 an acre in the city counts as a homestead, right?), and I have at least 40 more before I’m done for the season thanks to my 8 ancient trees. Boy do I like the shade they provide in the summer, though!

Last week also led to the planting of salad, herb and lavender troughs—goat trough gardens instead of raised beds. I’ve had these around for about 10 years. They’ve made appearances in earlier posts to this blog. This year they’ve already provided us with two salads and herbal accompaniment to another meal or two.

I have lots of pots of flowers and even a few pots of tomatoes. I love this time of year. It does seem to take over my life, though. Not much gets done anywhere else—house cleaning, writing, reading—when there is a garden to tend. It feels good to get it done. Bring in the beautiful so that when I do have time to stop to read or write, I’m able to do it outside in the garden!

The house cleaning, well…I unintentionally live by the late, great Governor Ann Richards’ theory of housework- “I did not want my tombstone to read, 'She kept a really clean house.'” I mean, I did change my sheets, but that was about it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bye, Twitter

Image via Virtualization Review

Y’all, I have a confession to make- while I am a social media guru of sorts for many people, today I did something that kind of stunned me, and it may you, too: I deleted my Twitter account. Actually, I also deleted Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp’s Twitter account, too.

I want to say it was a political statement due to the overuse of a certain highly powerful US politician overusing the bejeebus out of it, but really, I never could follow it. I never found the platform understandable (really, it seemed too all over the place to make sense), so I never actually went on it to “tweet” anything. I would cross-post from Instagram for my personal account and from Facebook for my business account, but I just never really got into Twitter. It also seems that Twitter never got into me. I never had any re-tweets, nor were very many of my posts liked. I am much more proficient at my favorite social media platforms- Facebook an Instagram.

The reality of the whole thing is that I just don’t think I was meant to tweet. Many of my writer friends will be horrified to think that I would drop a very important social media platform, which will obviously change the way the world finds me. Really, though, I don’t feel like I’ve lost out on anything. I don’t even think anyone will notice that I’ve gone anywhere. At least, they wouldn’t notice except that I’m posting this right here. Also, I will be sharing on Facebook.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Thoughts of an Educator When There are School Shootings...

My school home.

Wednesday—Valentine’s Day—while my students were all celebrating love and friendships during lunch, a school in Parkland, Florida was under attack. In 6 minutes, 17 students and teachers lost their lives. A fire alarm being pulled was part of the trap to get everyone out of the classrooms and into the line of gunfire.
Thursday—yesterday—we had an unannounced fire drill. This was poorly timed, to say the least, on the part of one of our administrators, but even more- how are we to trust that the fire alarms are now really for drills, emergencies or a trap?
As a high school librarian, I’ve always realized the vulnerability of being in a library during a potential attack by intruders. Libraries are inherently welcoming, inviting places- usually with windows and lots of open space. The two libraries I’ve presided over have been just that. My current library has five huge windows looking out into the hallway. The only way to lock the door is to go out into that hallway to lock it. Four of the five interior rooms have large windows that make them easy targets for anyone wanting to shatter glass to get inside. The fact that I’ve had to strategize with the two teachers in the library as to how we would hide any number of students who could potentially be in both their classes and the library makes this all too real for educators.
Educators have to worry about so much when it comes to our students. Will I teach them what they need to know to pass “The Tests?” Will my students be able to succeed in college or career? Will they be productive members of society once they leave the school doors? And now a new one- Will my students survive the school day?
Thoughts and prayers are nice condolences, but they do nothing for someone who has lost their family due to gun violence. The guns in these mass shootings were purchased legally. When owning a gun is more important than a child or educators life, we really need to re-evaluate our priorities. We need to legislate to make sure the part of that 2nd Amendment that says “well regulated” is actually well regulated.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Panther City Review 2018 is Open for Submissions!


I am so proud to announce that Panther City Review 2018 is now open for submissions! The theme for this issue is "Wisdom." The submission fee is $5 per entry (Poetry may submit up to 5 poems for $5). Please make sure to include the type of entry in the title of your document file (ie- nf=Non-Fiction, ss=Short Story, etc.). Please make sure your file is an editable file (ie- .docx or .rtf).

We are also seeking art for the cover. If you are an artist and interested in submitting for the cover art, please make sure to include a document describing the art you are submitting and how it relates to the theme of "Wisdom." Please make sure that your submission is a vertical image (the journal is printed 5.125" X 8"), and submitted as a .jpg file no smaller than 300 dpi.

Types of Entries: 
  Cover Art (Up to 2 entries and two descriptions per submission, vertical .png or .jpg, at least 
   300 dpi) 
Creative Non-Fiction (up to 4,000 words)
     Novel Excerpt (up to 4,000 words)  
     Poetry (up to 5 entries may be submitted for one fee of $5)
     Short Play/Screenplay (up to 15 pages)
     Short Story (up to 4,000 words)
  
All submissions chosen for Panther City Review 2018 will receive a complimentary copy of the 2018 issue as well as wholesale discounts on any additional 2018 copies. Any submissions not accepted will receive critique notes as a thank you for your interest. If you have questions, please contact Rachel Pilcher at sleepingpantherpress@fortworthwritersbootcamp.com.

The deadline is April 29, 2018, 11:59PM. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Lesson About How to Handle "Mansplaining" from Jane Austen

The scolding of Emma by Mr. Knightly. Emma. Miramax 1996
One day last week I had to help a student find a book in their Lexile- the new way my school district measures student reading levels. Unfortunately, our library books are not listed by Lexile, so it’s always difficult to find a book for students who are high up in the Lexiles, but books they would find interesting are not. The fun books are not usually very challenging. This is where I have to get creative with my recommendations- specifically, I have to make classic literature sound very interesting to a teenager. Not always an easy task. I have to make use my degree in English as a guide. Thankfully, I read many, many classics, so I can draw from what I liked back then to make those suggestions.

With this particular young lady, I knew that she liked realistic and chick lit fiction, so I went straight for Jane Austen. Due to her non-Lexile reading preferences, I hoped that Emma would be a good choice for her. I described how Emma thought she was a successful matchmaker, but the reality was very different. The student decided that was the perfect book for her. 

After the student left, I pondered the lessons taught through Emma, but thought nothing more of it until later that day, when I read a few comments on a Facebook post of mine. Two men who attended high school with me made comments that most would deem mildly as “mansplaining.” Initially I thought about asking if they really thought I was so stupid as to not know what they felt they needed to explain to me. Then I remembered the scene in Emma where Emma says something derogatory to Miss Bates, which Mr. Knightley promptly scolds her for doing. Miss Bates was not Emma’s social equal, so it was not kind for her to criticize Miss Bates, knowing that others would view the treatment as an acceptable. Mr. Knightley reminds her that she is better than that and that she should always show kindness to those below her social status.

So, how is this similar to my situation? Well, to my knowledge, neither of the men in question ever went to college, nor are they as financially stable as I am (from what I can tell based on their online presence). Technically, I am in higher standing educationally and financially than they are. How I treat them in my comments would give others a lead for how they would treat these men. Since it was on Facebook and not in the real world, it wouldn’t be as bad for the men, but I have decided that it really isn’t kind of me to be defensive over a stupid comment. Not only that, but is it really worth the effort to get worked up over an explanation that I did already know, but does not change anything in the long run? No, not really. This is what gets me sometimes about the accusations of “mansplaining.” Sometimes it is condescending and detrimental to relationships, but most of the time, as on Facebook and the like, it is just some guy getting their thoughts down and possibly not understanding that the information is already known. Charging men with “mansplaining” for minor comments only makes the woman seem insecure and men defensive and angry. There are many other things in life to get angry about, and usually how someone explains something shouldn't be one of them. If you're going to make a man defensive and angry with you, make sure it is something worth fighting for, ladies!

If you haven't seen the movie version above, check out the scene where Emma gets her scolding from Mr. Knightley... wait...is this mansplaining?


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fearless?

Close up of milk glass candlesticks from last post.
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
- Edith Wharton

I learn so much about myself by looking at candlelight. I know the image is the second I have shared of candles on my fireplace mantle, but the inspirational thoughts those flickers of light give me always lead me down the path of self-realization.

In the workshop I teach on learning to write without fear (which I will be releasing an online version through Udemy by the end of the month!), I work with writers on figuring out what the fears are that keep them from writing. Saturday afternoon I came to the realization that I’ve never put much thought into how much the rest of my life is lead by being fearful of one thing or another. It’s those personal fears that are the ones that hold me back-  moving out of my childhood neighborhood, asking the guy out (or even just flirting), expanding my business, writing my own books, strained familial relationships, and even my relationship with God and religion- that I desperately need to address. Along with my goals for 2018, I plan to face these fears head on. As I teach my writing students, I will never actually get away from the fears, but I need to learn how to make them work for me. I hope to develop the wisdom that will lead me to take my own advice.

Some of these fears I have will only be settled by writing them out. Some of them will require me to step outside of my comfort zone. It may also be that one or two may not ever be resolved. All I can do is decide that I will try. I am ready.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Apparently There Was a New Year Last Week?

My New Year Clearing Practice- Bringing Out the Milk Glass
I had so many plans for my winter break. Two whole weeks of uninterrupted planning and writing. It was going to be glorious. So, of course I did not actually have any uninterrupted time! There is no one to blame for this. I think my body just decided that it was time for me to rest, so it forced me to by getting sick. As I begin this second week of the New Year, I can say with certainty that I have more clarity now than I did during all of my winter break!

My newfound focus has come about due to one very important factor:  last Friday I had a small series of steroid shots to the nerves in my neck, hopeful that it will help them relax enough to let my neck heal. While I still have a tiny bit of pain from my March car accident, this has helped alleviate that pain quite a bit. The bonus side effect is that the tinnitus I was also suffering from due to the accident is almost non-existent. If you’ve ever had tinnitus, you know how debilitating that can be! I’ve had the most difficult time concentrating on anything since the accident, mostly because of that constant ringing in my ears!

This leads me to my New Year’s resolutions- I actually don’t have any!  I do always see a new year as a great time to start over, have a new beginning, but what I really need is a reset- of intentions, of practice, of strategy. It’s really a mental cleanse to prepare me to meet the goals I have set for myself, not just for the year, but for life.

If you haven’t set your new intention for the year, or feel like you’re already off any resolutions you put into place over a week ago, no need to worry about it. Give yourself permission to start over at any time. Every morning you wake up is the opportunity to begin fresh anew!