31 March 2013

Liebster Blog Award

When I checked my blog yesterday I got a huge surprise, Kirsten Hart has given my blog the Liebster Blog award - and I'm very grateful, Kirsten! It's fun to open one's dashboard and find such good news!

In order to accept this award, there are these requirements:

Things to do:

1. Post the award on my blog
2. Thank the blogger who nominated me and link back to her site
3. Post 11 random facts about myself
4. Answer 11 questions that the presenter of the award has asked me
5. Nominate 11 new bloggers with fewer than 200 followers that I want to pass the award on to
6. Ask the new nominees 11 questions

11 facts about me:


1. I teach English and Creative Writing
2. My favorite writers include C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald
3. C.S. Lewis is now my favorite poet
4. My first book (yet to be published) has talking animals in it
5. I played baseball in college
6. I like to garden
7. I'm trying to get on a digital diet
8. Robert Frost's poem "You Come Too" is one of my favorites
9. My family and I live in a small town and we wouldn't live anywhere else
10. Bare branches always make me stop and stare
11. Early spring is my favorite time of year

11 questions from Kirsten:


1. How do you drink your coffee? 
I drink my coffee black - pressed.

2. If you were a sandwich, what type of sandwich would you be? Why?
I would be a BLT because anything with bacon is just lovely.

3. What is the strangest job you've ever done?
I've changed some diapers in some strange places, if that counts.

4. If you could be invisible for a day, would you use your invisibility for good or for evil?
I might slap some former students...I mean, for good, I meant to say for good!

5. Other than invisibility, what skill or talent would you like to have? 
I would like to be able to hit a baseball over 400ft.

6. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
When I took my final teaching test I thought I had shut off my phone. I hadn't. I got a text with only a few minutes left and I had to pretend it wasn't me so I wouldn't forfeit the test. My heart was in my stomach and the guy next to me kept smirking. I got out quick once we were dismissed...

7. If you could commit one crime and get away with it, what would it be?
I might steal a van Gogh.

8. What is your favorite ice cream?
Chocolate chip.

9. If you could be a fictional character from film or literature, who would you be?
Luke Skywalker.

10. What is your favorite song lyric?
"You make beautiful things out of dust...you make beautiful things out of us." Gungor, "Beautiful Things."

11. If you could rule the world for a day, what would you change?
I would give every family an acre of land a piece so everyone could grow their own food.

And the nominations go to:


1. Heart of a Ready Writer
2. Faith, Friends & Flip Flops
4. Beyond Acadia: Reading, Writing, & Living Well
5. day of grace
6. Bouquet of Books
7. Life & Faith in Caneyhead
8. Awakenings and Reflections
9. Coffee in the Garden
10. Homeschooling in Arkansas
11. A Book a Day  

11 question for the new nominees:


1. What is the idea behind your blog?
2. Who is your favorite literary character?
3. What book are you reading right now?
4. What is your favorite movie?
5. How many hours to you sleep at night?
6. Are you a morning person?
7. Would you rather read an ebook or an actual book?
8. What is your favorite season?
9. Who inspires you?
10. What motivates you?
11. What takes your breath away?

Thanks again to Kirsten! Check out each blog I've nominated, they are worth following. And don't forget to drop by in April - the A-Z Challenge should be interesting.

29 March 2013

April A-Z Challenge 2013

Two days ago I was certain I would sit this April out; today I decided I would kick myself if I did.

Last year my theme was Beautiful Things, and I picked 26 things that I consider to be worth calling beautiful. I'm taking a different approach this year.

I'll wrap up my first year teaching creative writing this May, and I have challenged my students to do many things with their writing and thinking. This blog challenge is my way of modeling creative writing.

It's in that spirit that I'm going to attempt to write one short story in 26 posts. I'll tie in the successive letters of the alphabet by using them as the first letter of each post.

Come along for the ride!

26 March 2013

Age of Distraction

Doing research for my unit on Fahrenheit 451, I ran across a quote from a writer named Cory Doctorow. I wanted information mainly about the culture of distraction that we all live in now, or are at least tempted to live in, and his discipline is informing my daily writing routine.

  When I'm working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal - usually a page or two - and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I'm working on it. ...Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel a year...Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break.

I decided to give it a try, so I've been getting up a little bit earlier - scorning the snooze button - and writing a page a day. It hasn't been a week yet, but I've already produced six pages. This is my schedule:

530: Wake up, stumble to the den; read, pray
600: Write
630: Breakfast
700: Prepare for work
740 - 330: School
335 - 830: Family time (play w/ Thing 1 & Thing 2; lug Thing 3 around; converse with my lovely wife, bedtime)
830 - 1030: Edit my first book, blog, have an actual conversation with my wife, sleep

A few years ago I wrote my first book in the wee hours of the morning, and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that process. The morning is quiet, and my thoughts have time to roam, and my pen has time to slowly create.

It's also a time free from technology.

At school I find myself glued to my computer when I don't have to be. That's the new habit, and if I don't make a time for myself to read, pray, and write - especially a time when all the noise hasn't begun - it won't happen.

The time is there. It's the shaping it for what we really want it for that's difficult.

19 March 2013

Thank You to the Local Library for the Background!

I bought the books you see in the background at the library in our small town - these and another armful for $1 if I remember correctly. It's been a long time coming that I make a change to this blog, and I thought a stack of books would emit the right mood.

The top one is by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's  called Tanglewood Tales and is full of retold Greek myths. I was pleasantly surprised, and a bit appalled, that no one else had snagged it. The market for old books is a shrinking one, I suppose.

Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days comes next. The torn edges have since been mended, but it's a great look here (and I'm torn about the white markings on both middle books; sometimes I think they add charm, sometimes they annoy me...). Side note: I can't help but think about Back to the Future every time I hear the name Jules Verne.

The Works of Robert Browning is next, and though I haven't cracked it, I've discovered notes and an inscription that links the book to our local college. The name is from an old family here, and the notes are written in a neat cursive - which is almost as rare as the old books.

The bottom book is called My Love Affair with the State of Maine. I confess I picked that one up because I haven't yet read anything set in that state. I still haven't...

And that's the history behind the new background, hope you enjoy!

18 March 2013

Leisure to Digest

I'm going to subject my English II classes to Fahrenheit 451 this last nine weeks - I can't wait. My second time through the book was just as thrilling as the first. I found myself writing notes furiously as I didn't want to interrupt the pace of the plot; I almost feared I'd break the spell Bradbury crafted so well.

One of the many deep findings that I'll be emphasizing to my students is the part where Professor Faber is explaining to Montag what their culture really needs - besides books, that is. He says, and I'll paraphrase, we (yes, we) need three things: 1. Quality of information, 2. Leisure to digest it, and 3. Freedom to act on what we gain from the first two. Montag's initial reaction to the need for leisure is that there is plenty of off time, which is true. However, just like our culture, that off time is filled to the brim - and past the brim - with activity. It's not until the last few pages of the book that Montag experiences silence and true space to think. And at first it scares him.

Oh, how I see this filling of space with every spare moment we have because if we have to stop and think for even a minute even 45 seconds we might be alone with our thoughts and we might have a thought or that thought might be that we're alone or that we don't know why we're unhappy with what pop culture says should make us happy like our touch screens and our vast number of online friends that are swayed with the wind of the times...

These are some things we'll discuss:

We're forgetting how to be alone with our thoughts.

We're filling space with steam and smoke.

Being bored is okay.    No, really - it's great.

16 March 2013

A Plodding March

I'm not the only writer in our house...
The road back to a normal writing schedule is proving tiresome. I could blame yet another "first" year of teaching - as this year I'm teaching two new grades - or I could cast my woes of troubled progress on to house projects, health issues, little people who have to eat every day and want me to play Star Wars...the list is extensive.

But the real problem is me; I can track all my former success back to a well disciplined approach. In 2008, I wrote a small book while learning my way as a new dad and working a full time job. All it took was 30 minutes a day. In the span of one spring and summer, I wrote over 32,000 words. Not all that impressive, I know, but it was my first project, and my only one finished to date.

And now, well, I have so many fragments, so many ideas, so many notes that I want to pursue, but I lack the discipline to sit and pound out that first messy draft.

One victory: with the help of the resident editor (my lovely wife), I was able to submit a poem and a short story to a contest.

Another victory: I'm completing a short post here.

One step at a time...
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