While I was not in class much this week, I did manage to have quite a bit of grading to accomplish. I try to balance my grading schedule so that I am not overwhelmed, but somehow this week I had two different classes turn in rather extensive papers. In an effort to follow my year-long mantra "Work Smarter, not Harder" I am trying to grade a few papers every day rather than all of them at once. So far I have stayed on task.
As is my typical fashion, when I have an idea I tend to zoom full speed ahead. Such is the situation with NaNoWriMo. Not only have I decided to attempt this challenge myself, but I have solicited interest among my students. I have organized an extracurricular "club" where these budding novelists can come and share ideas, frustrations, and successes. So far about ten students have registered and I am thrilled! Students do not need to write the required adult goal of 50,000 words, but they do need to settle on a word count that would be a true challenge for them. I envision us meeting about once a week in person and then online in a discussion board forum. This will certainly put the pressure on me to strive to complete the challenge - as I will have my own students constantly inquiring about my progress. See what I mean? I zoom full speed ahead without thinking of all the possible consequences.
I have continued the focus of my NaNoWriMo read-athon weekend to extend through this week. I quickly skimmed the book, This is the Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley. Vivienne mentioned this little book on her blog and I thought it would be worth a quick glance prior to the month of November. Since I have read several books on this topic over the past few months, there was not a wealth of new information here, but it was a good summary of the key elements. I still know that my biggest struggle (besides the fact that the mushy middle is not at all fleshed out) is that inner critic that will want to examine every punctuation mark and search for just the right word.
I also started reading Round Robin, the second book in the Elm Creek Quilt novel series by Jennifer Chiaverini. I picked up this book as "research" for my own novel. My NaNoWriMo book will focus on female relationships, in particular the sandwich generation of the protagonist being the caregiver for her two daughters as well as of her own mother. The stress of dealing with these domestic issues causes her to reach out to a former circle of girlfriends called the Stitch Group. Since Round Robin also focuses on female relationships in the context of quilting friends, I thought it would be a great place to start. The book is structured in much the same way I envision for my story, and I am learning how to develop character stories in the midst of the overriding narrative.
It is funny. My literary interests lie in suspense/thriller or literary fiction - but I find myself drawn to writing "chick lit" --- a genre that I have never desired to read. At first I was confused. Why would I not be inspired to write a book that I enjoy reading? Why am I motivated to write a book that I would typically ignore? But as I read this quilt series (yes, I do plan to read others) I have discovered that chick lit (at least as it is defined by this book) is MY life. I read to escape - so why would I choose to read a story about the life that I want to temporarily flee? But the old adage - write what you know - is true. This is my life - all the bumps, twists and turns, and there is story here that I need to tell. Not that I need anyone else to read --- I just need to narrate. I am hopeful that once I get this story in writing - I will be free to explore other creative writing adventures.
The weather here in Kansas has seen a slight warm-up - so while many of you are writing about cooler autumn temperatures, we are experiencing a sunny weekend with temperature in the mid-80s. I am now ready to say good-bye to these summer days and welcome more seasonal weather. I did take advantage of the sunshine, however, and went to the park to take some photographs. The leaves are still not at peak color in the Midwest - I am guessing maybe next weekend would be better - but I still enjoyed walking in the sunshine and watching families picnic at the water's edge and fly kites in the grassy plains.
In reading through the blogs this morning, I was inspired by two particular posts. One post came from the Shutter Sisters where the day's photographic theme is: What I need Now. Their selected photograph is a simple mug of hot tea. I haven't decided how I might capture "what I need now" in a photograph, but I think it is a thought-provoking assignment. What would your photo be?
Another post that caused me to pause and ponder can be found at Sunday Scribblings where the week's topic is simply Harvest.
As a teacher I live my life in the planting season. I desire fertile soil to plant the seeds of knowledge. Some of the students come to my class with a thirst for learning: their parents have prepared them well and they are ripe for planting. Some students need a little more work: perhaps a bit more encouragement, as they have already experienced one too many failures in their short academic career while others need more discipline as they have not yet discerned how to manage the priorities of life (delayed gratification has not yet entered their vocabulary). A teacher's planting season is but 9 months, while the harvest season does not come for several years. If we are lucky we might see the sprout of knowledge by May, but more often than not, the true harvest is not realized until after graduation - long after our diligence is passed.
Sometimes this can be discouraging. The harvest makes the hard work of planting and maintenance worthwhile. When you miss out on the harvest, it is difficult to remember that the sacrificial work and intense frustrations of sowing are ever appreciated. But sometimes, every once in a while, a former student will take the time to come back and say hi and give me a glimpse of the harvest. When they return as successful college students or career-minded graduates, it is rewarding to know that the seeds have indeed sprouted, grown, flourished and will now be shared with the next generation. It is nice to hear that the high expectations that I set in class have helped them to achieve their personal goals in life. And somehow this small glimpse of the harvest motivates me to return to the classroom with a renewed spirit that will carry me until the next time.