Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First days of school

Jonathan went back to school one week ago.  We bought new notebooks, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, rulers, and pencil boxes.  

I went back to school yesterday, for my first day. 

Out in the back yard, the bind weed has been growing.  It grows up and over the other plants, wrapping around them and burying them in a pile of green leaves, white flowers.  I got behind on the weeding sometime in late June, which was really only a few weeks ago.  I stopped trying to catch up sometime in early August, which was just the other day.  During the past couple of evenings, when Jonathan has needed to be away from glowing screens, we've been in the back yard and I've been exploring the hidden territory under the bind weed.  When I pull it back, I find that the pretty ground cover with the yellow flowers has been spreading, along with the wild strawberries.  Did you know that gardens could grow under all those weeds?

Jonathan has been pulling the summer bind weed from his brain.  Multiplication.  Spelling.  French.  It seems that it doesn't take more than a few nights of weeding to find all that knowledge buried underneath the weed growth.  All that information is still there where we left it at the end of third grade, late May.  

I feel like I've been pulling bind weed from my brain, too.  I kept changing my mind on how I wanted to teach my new course up until just a couple of days before the class began.  And then I rearranged the schedule the day after we met the first time.  But I'm not as scared as I was last weekend.  Having met my students, and having spent an hour in front of them, I feel like we will be friends.  Or at least reasonably polite fellow travelers in our semester long journey.  I'm so glad it's only a semester.  Wish we were on quarters.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

On writing. (Not scholarly.)

About a year ago, I told you I finished writing a novel.  It was something that had been in my head for a while, and totally different from my day job.  In my day job, everything is logical and cold.  I wrote a story about magic and emotions.  Probably a balance thing.  Part of my brain felt heavy, so I wrote something to put the other part back into whack.  And then after I finished the writing, the responsible part of my brain had to put it all aside for months when my day job got too busy.  (The academic year started up.)

I pulled out my novel again several months ago on an airplane, and I really liked it.  I polished up some parts.  I figured out how to twist the tone of the ending to be the conclusion I really wanted, and felt super proud about that.  I let a few family members read the book, and they also (said they) liked it and gave me some helpful suggestions.  I know Deborah liked it -- she read it twice for me, and spent hours on the phone with me talking about it.  Tim read it twice, too.  He has been really encouraging.

So now the next step.  I'd like to publish it, I think.  The next step is to attract the interest of a busy literary agent with a very brief email message.  I've written a draft of the very brief letter.  I've made a spreadsheet of ten agents who have sold books similar to mine that I have read and liked.  Only eight of them are accepting queries, and only four of them take email queries, which makes my list very very small.  So now the real step is to send the queries out and pull in the four rejections.  I wanted to do this before the school year started.  But the school year is upon us.

So why hold back?  Why not just send?

I asked a friend, Norma to read the book -- the first non-family member I have asked.  She read it quickly, and said she liked the first 2/3 of the book, but then three things happened that didn't make any sense to her.  She told me what they were, and all three are important to the story.  I've been mulling over in my head how to fix them -- how to add a few sentences here and there so that they don't catch any other poor unsuspecting reader by surprise.  And I'm feeling kind of discouraged, I guess.  Lazy, maybe.  That was the word that Norma used (there is a reason I asked her to please read it).  She said it seemed like I got lazy 2/3 of the way into the book and I didn't prepare her well enough for those three things.

I get papers rejected all the time in my day job.  I make mistakes.  Sometimes I make big mistakes.  I pick myself up off the floor and get back to work.

Why has it been so hard for me to send the emails to those four people?

I'm scared of them.

Also, I guess I don't want to send the queries out until the book is the very best that I can make it.  And it won't be the best that I can make it until I fix Norma's three things.  And the second one of them should be fixed with a few sentences in a particular scene, and the third will take more fixes in more scenes, but will follow if I can explain to the reader exponential growth (still promise it's nothing like my day job).  But I don't know how to fix the first.

And now that the academic year is upon us again, and I have to teach a class on some of that cold logical-ness on Monday morning at 9:00 am, and I haven't even printed up the syllabus yet.  I am out of time again, and totally terrified of my Monday 9am students, whoever they may be.

Reader, are the things that seem most important to you also things of fear?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Philadelphia, August 2012

Jonathan and I just returned from a week in Philadelphia.  Jonathan spent his days at the Franklin Institute, at their kids' science camp.  I worked with a colleague up north.  Evenings and weekends, we were tourists.  

We stopped by the Liberty Bell and Independence hall, and picked up a Junior Ranger pin.  

We also stopped at the Constitution museum, which I hadn't been to before, but I thought was very well done.  

Inside, one of the exhibits concerned the current candidates for the 2012 Presidential race.  The computer asked which issues were most important to you, and how you would vote on certain questions.  It then computed your match with the two major candidates.  Jonathan's score:  He matched Obama 81% of the time.

He matched Romney only about 20% of the time.  (I forget the exact number.)

My little boy is growing up to be a democrat.

Me?  I was at about 55% one, 57% the other.  

And you thought you had me figured out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

BBC Olympics

Four years ago, we were living in England during the summer Olympic games, and we fell in love with BBC Olympic coverage.  This year, in the US, we are denied the option of watching the Olympic games aside from the filtered and censored version allowed us by the communist major TV network.

Luckily, Tim can still log into work in England and pick up a British IP address.  From there, we can access all the BBC Olympic coverage we came to love four years ago.

And I tell you, my friends, it has been wonderful.

Sunday morning, we were enthralled by live women's weightlifting, in which a short Kazakhstani woman won gold, then broke the world record by lifting 131 kg over her 53 kg body.  Last night, we watched the taped coverage of men's gymnastics, with British commentators going crazy with excitement as the British team won their first medal in gymnastics in 100 years.  We have also watched swimming and rowing and diving and archery, and we can see what we want without being interrupted by advertisements, and without having the coverage cut off once the US has done their thing with no care for the other countries or athletes involved.  With the BBC, you really get a sense for the whole competition, although you miss out on the fuzzy back stories with the tender glowing gold lighting that the US TV network has put together.  And with British commentators, the performances are "massive" and "brilliant", rather than strong or amazing.

Ah love.

Apparently, you can purchase access to a British IP address for somewhere between $5 and $15 per month, depending on your location.  Even if you have to buy a year's subscription, it's probably worth it just for the Olympics.