Not just a lilac tree

My sister texted my brother and I (I love our sibling group chats) about something yesterday.  One of my best friend’s parents are moving out to live near him in Colorado.  His parents, Jan and Jerry, have always been my second parents.  Jan was my mother’s best friend.  They’re getting up there in years now too, (early 70s) and their health isn’t so great, especially Jan’s.  She has Parkinson’s and a few other things.  It makes sense to move out to where their only child and his family of 5 kids live.  So their home is like a second home, but it’ll be up for sale in March when they move.

I didn’t even know this–or maybe I forgot? (which rarely happens)  My aunt (my deceased mother’s sister) bought Jan a lilac tree when my mom passed away in 1993.  It’s in their backyard.  When they sell the house… who knows what happens, right?  Knowing my hometown, some hillbilly will chop it down and build–something hillbilly-ish.  But the tree, right?

I don’t know how large it is, but I do have another buddy’s father who is also friends with Jan and Jerry who could possibly move it.  He also suggested taking “starters” from it.  I guess whose are little twigs or whatever that you can replant elsewhere.  Sounds like the best step really because moving the whole tree would only hurt the chance of selling the home and that would be selfish.  But where do we replant?  Dad’s selling his house and he doesn’t live there anymore anyway.  Maybe the new elementary school that they’re building could host it?  Maybe my buddy’s dad (Mark) could plant it in his yard.  He loves trees and would be very fond of its meaning.  Either way, it all stirs up emotion 23 years later.  I should talk to my aunt about it.  It’s an excuse to call her since I didn’t respond to her pretty depressing Christmas letter.  (oops)

I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

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I don’t like losing

But who does?  I lost in ping pong last night pretty badly.  I won the first two games, blew a big lead in the 4th, and ended up 2 for about 12.  Same guy, 67-year-old Paul.  Once he gets warmed up it’s like I’m in slow motion.  Sure, he plays hours every day, but I’m not used to being dominated in anything like this.  I had a younger brother growing up so I always won.  This is really giving me a dose of what his childhood was like.  It sucks.  I commend him for continuing to keep playing me is stuff like wiffleball, but it’s no wonder so many games ended up in tantrums and tears.  Sheesh, sometimes karma hits you before you die.

I feel the same way about my query letter.  Usually, whatever I do with a lot of effort leads to progress and improvement.  Alas, I don’t think it is in this situation.  I just can’t get it right.  I’ve taken a few days off to collect myself, but there’s no teacher or expert there to say, “Just write it like this!”  I have to crack the code myself and just like in ping-pong, when I don’t make progress, I get very frustrated.  In fact, I get even more frustrated with both of these things because I’m worked SO hard at them (okay, hard work and ping pong don’t mix, but you get what I’m saying).

For some things in life it comes down to talent.  Do you have enough to actually make X work?  I see it with comics who write and write and perform and perform and never get anywhere in stand-up.  I guess I’m blessed that I at least progressed on that though it was slow.  There was no one there to tell me I wasn’t very good at the beginning.  I actually thought I was good and ignorance was bliss.  Not the case in ping pong and query letters.  Plus I’m not a kid anymore (22 is a kid).  I don’t have the patience to suck at something anymore.  Yes, ping pong is fun, but I know I’ll probably never catch Paul, especially without instruction (I’m not hiring a coach, of course).

The thing is, part of life is losing.  You can’t be good at everything and it’s frustrating.  Some things come easy, but we don’t think about those.  We tend to focus on the abilities we’re deficient at.  Anything you want to excel in, without natural talent, takes years.  It was the same for my auditions for commercials.  It took until #18 until I finally got hired (token white guy in basketball court scene for a Budweiser March Madness poster back in 2008).  Eventually, auditions became easier and I got more parts–before I got busy with this whole teaching profession.  I don’t know.  Everything takes some time to just “click.”  It hasn’t clicked for ping pong.  It hasn’t clicked for book writing.  It for sure hasn’t clicked for query letters.  I guess at some point it clicked for teaching.  That was one of those I didn’t know how bad I was at in the beginning.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something.  It’s hard to reach that in anything though if I do, it’ll be in teaching.

Typos Greatest Hits!

I was commenting to a fellow teacher’s post on Facebook about how to handle phones in the classroom.  I wrote how I have “Boxie” and how we take guesses as to how many phones it will eat.  My last sentence was supposed to read, “Its fun because the students rat each other out.”  Except instead of “rat” autocorrect changed it to a different 3 letter word ending in t…eat.  Luckily/sadly I was back on Facebook in less than 10 minutes and someone pointed it out.

(Takes bow)

6 PM in Room 361

Long day.  I’m staying for curriculum night so that some 8th graders know what they want to do in high school…?  At 6:00 p.m. my air shuts off in my room.  It’s oddly silent in here.  Only the clock ticks.  It’s weird to think that I’ve been here for 11 hours and still have 2 more to go.  Ahh, volunteering.  I’ve got an easier day planned tomorrow, but I wish it was Friday.  At least it’ll warm up some.

I see a few of you have already posted (and gained some likes).  If you’re struggling, don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.  If this was 2002, this would be the “coolest thing ever.”  I don’t know why I just thought of that.  Anyway, it’s still cool in 2018.  I got a notification the other day that I’ve made 1,000 posts on here.  I tend to repeat a few things for the newer audience, but sometimes people miss things the first time through.  Anyway, if you read this far, be sure your scavenger hunt poem is printed and ready on Friday.

So…… Self-Publishing?

My query has been ripped to shreds on a website that’s supposed to give me feedback.  One guy was helpful, but even he stated that this is going to be a hard sell.  The characters and premise will be a hard sell they all seem to be saying.  As in, no one will be interested.  I can see that.  It probably comes across as sexist and stereotypical, and the book itself might be.  I did my best with it, but I can’t expect to be at the level of a professional when I have two other professions that I’m working (just fine) in.  Wow, this is a hybrid half-pity-party, half-I-know-I’m-okay.

The thing is, with books, people like–LOVE to critique.  You can’t put so much as a Tweet out these days without people coming after you.

So what does this mean?  It means that unless I miraculously pull off this query letter into capturing a more accurate description of my characters–and those characters are “too offensive” or “too stereotypical” than I still have a 1-100 chance of maybe being considered.

In other words.  I’ll be selling this book after shows, and at this point, I need to be okay with that.

Forgiving myself

I have a good memory.  There are things I replay like old DVDs (okay, VHS tapes because they’re that old) over and over, and once they’re in the brain, they don’t go away.  I don’t fall asleep very easily at night, so I often rehash them beating myself up, or sometimes it’s amusement.  It’s not abnormal really.  I think a lot of people haunt themselves.

I’m starting to forgive myself for how I was in my 20s (I’m 40 now).  I’m not proud of my first few years as a comedian (socially or professionally).  I feel embarrassed about how I was when I was single and “looking”.  I feel stupid for how people broke my heart, and I feel guilty for the hearts I broke.

When you look back at childhood, it’s easier to forgive yourself.  “So what, I peed my pants when I was 6.  I was six!”  When you’re an adult you still feel like your 20s aren’t that long ago.  You’re the same size (kinda).  You often still know the same group of friends (we’re all on Facebook even if we haven’t talk for years).  There are even pictures and other archives that can remind you.  I’m not one to throw things out.  So why don’t I?

It’s all compost.  My class this week will read the Compost Essay I read last summer.  It’s all a tool to fuel the writing.  I don’t have the time to research other things like a “real” author, so I have to use my human experiences…which makes it harder to sell anything.  But still, my writing about these things, it exercises the demons (that seems a little harsh…demons?), and I can finally realize how much time has passed and that it’s okay to forgive myself.

Checklists and other way to pass the boredom

It’s okay to be bored sometimes.  However, I had too much to do, so I made a list.  Wal-mart this morning, ping-pong (I did so so well on Friday), cleaning bathrooms (that’s been pushed off until tomorrow), grading, tons more of that coming up with journals being turned in, though that doesn’t feel like grading.

I’ve let my query drive me crazy some more. I’ve enlisted a few more eyes on it. Well 2, and they’re helpful. Every time I think I have it right, I wait, and it’s completely off. I’ve been outlining a little of my upcoming book (I’ve gotta start that first draft by golf season–and I will).  The outlining is helping quite a bit.  I know the major plot points up through the first 75%.  I don’t know exactly how to write the climax and most of the third act, but in my last two books that’s come to me while writing, so–roll the dice I guess and hope I get a good idea.  There are a few scenes I’m really looking for writing, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to show “lonely” in scenes where the character is by himself.  It’s so easy to make those sound melodramatic.

I had a weird idea though.  You know how in The Book Thief it’s narrated by Death? What if I narrated it with his conscious?  It was be telling the story in third person, but his conscious would be in first person referring to itself as well.  It might be tough to pull off, but it would at least put an original spin on the trope of the hot roommate.

I need a writing therapist. Sheesh, sorry.

Today in the writing center

First, get at least two of the poems we worked on this week into Docs.  Be sure you’re revising to make it sound better as you type it in.  Focus on including concrete objects (things you can touch so the reader has something to hold on to) rather than just abstract ideas.  So again, 2 out of the 3 (if not all 3) of the Random-autobiography poem, the coy poem, or the “Where I’m From” poem.  If you finish 2 with enough time, add the third, but just bring your favorite two printed out for class tomorrow with your name on both (staple together).

Next, you may freewrite in your journal (remember, 20 pages due by Tuesday).

Or, if you’re up for it, you can start your own blog like this one.  It’s fairly self-explanatory once you setup the basic account info.  Choose a free template of a style of your liking, and see if you can post your first blog.  There are examples of past students listed on the right side of my blog so be sure to check them out (and follow if you’d like).

Please use this hour for creative writing only.  No studying for quizzes or doing homework for other classes.