September 21, 2009

what I’m reading

A Walk in the Woods
Bill Bryson

This is the fifth or so time I’ve read this book all the way through.  I use it in my Developmental English classes so they have something to write about for their grammar essays.  I have to be in the right mindset to enjoy Bryson (typically, a patient one) but as a whole I really enjoy his writing.  This book in particular is more accessible than some of his others.  If you haven’t read anything of Bryson’s, it’s a good place to start.

However, it can be a bit heavy at times, as he loves to go off on tangents to describe trees or history or such.  My students either love it or hate it.

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September 15, 2009

Kitties, kitties everywhere!

Here’s a blog post not related at all to what I normally blog about.  There has been a bit of a lack of blogging lately, but I’ve been a bit preoccupied with something else…

About a week and a half ago, on a Thursday, I stepped outside to get something out of my car when a kitty ran out from under our deck chairs.  I figured she was just a stray, but she didn’t keep running; she stopped on the driveway, sat down, and howled.  Full on, super vocal howling.  She kept on and on; I went inside and I could still hear her.

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The husband came home soon after, and she was still there.  He knealt down and she ran right over to him, wanting pets.  So I came out and rubbed her head and looked her over, and thought, oh no.

“Hon, does she look pregnant to you?”

Sure enough, she was pregnant.  We went inside to see if she would eventually wander off… she never did.

A week ago, the day after Labor Day, we took her to the vet.  Besides some fleas and being underweight, she had a clean bill of health.  The vet gave us a large crate to keep her in as we waited for her to give birth (to control where she’d pop out the babies).  We put her in our office, away from our other two kitties.

We woke up Saturday morning to this:

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Five little kittens.  From left to right: Great White Stripe (girl), Gray (boy), Blackie (girl), Fuzzy-pants (boy), and Paws (girl).

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They’re all healthy and doing well.  Krystal has been a great mama.  All around, she’s a fantastic cat.  She’s well socialized and cuddly; all she wants is to be petted and maybe get a little lap time.  However, we’ll definitely be trying to find homes for them once they’re fully weaned.

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I doubt we’ll charge any kind of adoption fee, but there are some charges we’d like the people who adopt these adorable kittens to follow.

1. Please please please please spay or neuter your kitten.  We won’t adopt Krystal out without spaying her ourselves (she’s been through enough).  However, the kittens can’t be spayed/neutered until a bit later in life.  We’re in this mess because someone was irresponsible enough not to spay Krys.  Even if you plan on keeping them indoors, what happens if they get out just once?  More kittens.

2. Keep them indoors.  These kittens will never have known the outside world.  What’s going to happen when you shut out one of these poor kitties?  Like their mama, they’re going to want human companionship.  What’s the point of having a cat if you hardly ever see it?  We tried leaving Krys out for a few days, until we got a checkup at the vet, and she was obviously unhappy out there.  Indoor cats live, on average, much longer than outdoor cats.  Plus, these kittens will be able to procreate before they’re old enough to get spayed/neutered.  Please don’t put more unwanted kittens out there.

3. Don’t declaw them.  Declawing basically means cutting off the ends of their toes.  Would you like for someone to cut off the ends of your fingers?  Cats have claws – be aware of this and don’t adopt a kitten if you can’t handle it.  As long as you get a scratching post, your furniture should be fine.  Keeping their nails trimmed will help as well.

4. Don’t abandon them.  If you find that one of these kittens has gotten pregnant (your fault) or you simply don’t want them anymore (again, your fault), contact us about taking them back.  We’d rather have to find another home for them than find out that one of these kittens had a hard life because of your actions.

Having a kitty is a responsibility.  It’s not a stuffed animal to just look at.  It needs food, litter, and lots of attention.  Krystal was dumped because her owners didn’t take care of her properly.

If you’d like to adopt a kitty, they should be weaned in another six to eight weeks!  You can see more pictures of the kittens and the mama here (updated weekly).

September 8, 2009

What I’m reading

The Dark Is Rising
Susan Cooper

The Dark is Rising (this one in particular, though it’s part of a series) was one of those books that had a profound impact on me as a kid.  I’m rereading it for the first time in many years.  I love novels that can stand the test of time, meaning I can enjoy them as both a kid and an adult.  For all its faults, the Harry Potter series excels at this.  There’s a lot of suspense in the beginning of The Dark is Rising, so I’m eager to read the rest of it.

September 7, 2009

Reasons Not to Quit

Agent Rachelle Gardner posed the question “As a writer or a publishing profesional (sic), how do YOU keep yourself motivated when you feel like quitting?”

I’d like to split the answer into two persona – myself as a writer and myself as a teacher of writing.

Myself as a writer:

1. I can’t imagine not calling myself a writer.  It’s such a part of my self identity that I’ll continue to write in order to keep that title.  It’s just what I do.

2. I read.  A lot.  Reading motivates me to write something better, if it’s a bad novel.  If it’s good, it gives me a level to aspire to.  I rarely think, “I could never write like that.”  I think, “I want to write like that.”

3. I think about the alternatives.  Do I really want to have a regular 9-5 job?  I love being at home, having the freedom to move around my own space.  I like being able to stay in pajamas.

Myself as a teacher of writing:

1. Reading the papers of my students motivates me more than anything else.  If you could read through a sample of some of the writing I come across on a daily basis, you would realize how important it truly is to focus on writing in schools.  These teenagers have the writing capacity of someone half their age.  It’s heartbreaking.

2. I fit right in the education environment.  I like learning and talking about learning.  I feel enriched by an environment that never stops thinking.  Some people hate every minute they have to spend in a classroom, but I thrive.  I’m not saying I was always the best student; studying, in particular, was not my thing – writing suited my personality much more.

3. Not having a 9-5 job.  Even if I taught full time, I’d still have much more freedom than having to stay in one place for a long period.  I want to be able to keep my future children out of daycare as much as possible, and teaching would certainly help with that ideal.

September 1, 2009

Etiquette for the First Week of School

We’re now into our second week of school, and I’ve noticed some behavior among my students that I wish I could have squished right off the bat.  I wish I could send this out to all my students as a before-I-even-meet-you memo.

1. Show up to the first day of class.  You don’t get a get-out-of-jail free card for the first day of class – if you don’t show, then you get counted absent.  If you miss the first day of class, you should probably ask for what you missed.  You probably need, you know, the syllabus.  One student showed up on the second day of class and kept interrupting me with questions that she easily would have known if she had bothered to come to the first day of class.  Such as, what books you need.

2. Don’t come in late.  You definitely aren’t impressing anyone.  One student apologized for being late, which I appreciated a bit, but it certainly didn’t erase the face that he was late to begin with.

3. Don’t make excuses for why you can’t buy a book.  I do my best to research book prices before I pick my books in an effort to keep costs to a minimum for my students.  However, textbooks are always expensive.  You need to get used to this idea early on.

4. Be on your best behavior.  Don’t talk with your friends, text, play on the computer, roll your eyes, etc, etc, etc.  It’s the first week of school – do you really want me to remember you as the student who complained about the amount of work you had to do to my face?

5. Keep the excuses to a minimum.  The last thing we want, while we’re trying to get into the groove of teaching again, is to be bombarded with excuses.  Already?  Really?  You couldn’t wait a while to start in with the excuses as far as why you don’t have paper to write on or why you were five minutes late?  Genuine problems are great, but there’s a bit difference between a problem and an excuse.

Those are the five that stick out to me right now.  Oh, teaching is so much fun!

August 31, 2009

What I’m reading

I’m currently reading:

Uglies
Scott Westerfeld

This book had quite the recommendation, so I decided to give it a shot.  When I was about halfway through, I found it to be very predictable.  Now that I’m nearing the end, I’ve been surprised a bit more and I’m getting a little intrigued to see what happens.  Since it’s YA, I suppose I’m not the target audience, but I find some of the best YA novels can translate across age groups.  I’m not sure yet if this series does that, but we’ll see.

August 31, 2009

Yes I did; no you didn’t.

Jennifer R. Hubbard posted (a while ago) about the idea of conflict in a book.  Instead of letting your characters argue back and forth, which can bore your reader, let the tension build by keeping the characters separated.

My two main characters in WINGED tend to remain quite separate through parts of the book.  They only meet during scenes in which something major happens – emotionally, physically, whatever.  Besides those scenes, they are acting independently of each other, brushing each other with their thoughts but that’s it.

I mean, what’s more interesting to read: two characters in a romance novel having sex right in the beginning, or having sex later on after thinking about it for many chapters?  See, delaying conflict could be grand.

August 29, 2009

What I’m reading

I’m currently reading:

Dead Until Dark
Charlaine Harris

This is my first foray into the Sookie Stackhouse books, having seen the first and (most of the) second seasons of True Blood.  I’m wildly enamoured with the TV series already, seeing it as a rather revolutionary concept in the wide world of vampires.

I’m about halfway through this book.  The writing style doesn’t sit completely right with me, sometimes a little too choppy and short with describing things.  Sometimes I think I might be confused if I didn’t already know the characters and plot.  However, Charlaine Harris also writes mysteries, so this could just be that point-of-view coming out.  I’m not a girl who partiularly craves mysteries – not in the sense of a pure mystery novel anyway – so this could just be a personal preference issue.

In any case, it just started getting good, so I’ll definitely finish it and pick up at least another one in the series.

August 26, 2009

what I’m reading

What I just finished reading:

Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert

The Eat part was great, the Pray love quickly turned repetitive and a little boring, and the Love part was fantastic!  I will definitely be picking up the sequel to this one.

August 26, 2009

Reading = Writing

If you want to write, I think the second most important thing you can do (beyond actually writing, that is) is read.  Read, read, read, readreadread.  Everything.

My daily reading generally consists of
1. a book/graphic novel of some sort
2. blogs (concerning food, writing, publishing, news, humor, and friends)
3. news sites, such as my local newspaper’s feed and CNN.com
4. student essays (not necessarily a positive in my reading development, but it happens almost daily)
5. whatever else I stumble upon

If you feel like this list is way too much, try to shorten it just a bit.  Read a book every night before bed.  Pick a few writing/publishing blogs to follow.  Pick a news site to read religiously (two with differing points-of-view are better, if you can).

Reading boosts my writing life in so many different ways.

1. Reading inspires me.  Other mediums can often do the same (movies, TV shows, art) but reading a book, especially in my own genre, gives me such a jolt.  I think, I want to write something equally as awesome.  Or even greater.  I actually began writing because of what I was reading as a kid.  I wanted a really good story to read, so I figured I’d write my own.  Even bad writing can be inspirational: “If that got published, then maybe I can.”

2. Reading makes you think about writing.  You see the words on the page, the way they’re put together, the patterns they form.  The language of them flows in your head.  I’ll finish a book and have the language floating around for days afterward.  For some reason, my own writing style comes out so much stronger after I’ve read a bit with a very distinguished writing language.

3. Reading lets you know what’s hot.  I especially like to pick up a book off the New York Time’s Bestseller list every once in a while.  If people are buying it, that’s what they’re into.  Keeping in touch with current trends can make you feel like your book has a future.  For instance, fantasy and paranormal is in hot demand right now.  So is romance.  Write a paranormal romance and you’ll at least know you’re writing in a genre that’s selling.

4. Reading educates you.  It tells you about writing and the world.  If you need to have a scene where one of your characters blows up a truck holding jet fuel, what are you going to do?  You probably can’t test it yourself and Hollywood is no help, so you need to research it.  If you want to write about Nashville, TN, you need to 1) actually go there, and 2) read about it.

So yeah, reading is one of those things I could do for hours.  Finding a fantastic book to pour into is the greatest high I could ever get.

In honor of this post, I’ll start sliding in little notes about what I’m currently reading and how it’s going so far.