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Saturday, May 22, 2010

End of the School Year Braindeadery(ness)

Wow. Today I've been completely useless. Tomorrow I hope to get lots of hated yard work done, to grade a few papers, to refine my final, and basically get ready for a week that's sure to go quickly. We have finals on Thursday and Friday. I really can't believe it.

Later this week I want to relate our exciting fun times at Cedar Point amusement park on the senior trip.

And I'm reading a ton of books, particularly looking for books to add to the reading list for my Speculative Lit class for next year. And you know, just good summer reading.

I LOVE summer. Love it. I didn't become a teacher just for summer vacation, but I have to admit, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The End of the Year School Year, That is!

Oh wow, it's the middle of May. If we hadn't had six snow days, we'd be in the final final stretch for this year. As it is, we can see the final stretch...we're almost there...the weather is wonderful. The students are restless. The teachers (some of them) are getting restless. We're ready for the end...

Summer Vacation.

The only time in my life I didn't get it was in college, when I took classes and worked during the summer.

At that time I didn't know I was going to become a teacher, so I didn't know I would end up having summer vacation for the rest of my life.

The thing about summer break, is that we really need it. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the summer, the reasoning behind summer break is sort of archaic, but wow, when you're doing creative work day in and day out, and frustrating work, and trust me teaching is both creative and frustrating, you need a break.

We're at that point right now. I need a break, the kids need a break. I can't imagine a job where I had to do the same thing all the time with only a few weeks of vacation.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Parents and Naming

Well, how do you pick character names? I pick character names by thinking about the parents. Because I'm a parent myself, in fact I would have 7 or 10 more kids if all I had to do was name them and I didn't have to take them places, care for them, or buy them shoes.

I also still have lists of names from when I was choosing my kids' names.

Ezra sort of came out of nowhere. We found it in the baby name book and were like, kind of cool, but no way, and by the time he was born, there was Ezra Jude. Noel was the girl possibility when I was pregnant with Ezra, so when I found out I was pregnant with a baby girl who was due in December, well, what other choice was there? So we have Noel Jillian and Ezra Jude. Both two syllable four letter names with middle initial J. A little symmetry there, I think.

For both names we wanted unusual but not made up, classic, not frilly, with some sense of history. I think we achieved that.

In Handcuffs the characters are Paige, Parker and Preston. I named them because I felt like the parents were (before Parker's father lost his job) upwardly mobile and aware of being upwardly mobile. Those p names struck me as upwardly mobile names, and they had a sort of symmetry. The neighbors were Kyle and Marion, both fairly popular names.

I like names that sound like the same parents would pick them. What kind of names would the parents want, because the names the parents want somehow reflect the child the parents want, and while the child they get isn't always what they wanted, their desire for that kind of offspring is bound to have some impact on the kid.

So, unlike some authors, when I'm picking a name I think first of the parents, because I know how hard it is to pick a name. There are freaking checklists involved. And flowcharts, and opinions you will hear from all of your family and friends. All of which are long past by the time a YA character shows up in a story, but still part of their history.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reflections on Motherhood

I have a lot to say about motherhood and moms in YA lit, so I think I'm going to write multiple entries on this subject throughout the week. But today I'm thinking of my perspective of motherhood and the moms in my books.

Or, book, really. I'm going to focus on Mrs. Prescott, the mom in Handcuffs. First, she wasn't based on my mom at all. She was kind of based on...what I could become. My fears of myself. I have a friend who said that while you're pregnant it's like they implant some kind of guilt chip in you. And she was right. Once you have kids, everything is so intense, and it's not all good stuff, there's a lot of uncertainty and a lot of guilt. Are you doing everything right? Did you do something wrong? Did you screw those little people up forever? Are you the worst mom in the world?

There's also just a lot of constant movement and action. The thing I miss most from pre-motherhood is silence. I love silence, and these days my house is filled with constant noise. You don't get to do the things that you want to do when you want, you have to think of other people before you think of yourself.

Sometimes if feels like too much, and that's the point where I just want to clock out. Just ignore them, after twenty thousand inane comments, I just want to say, "I don't really care. "

If anyone is an Anne Rice fan and read The Vampire Lestat, you might remember that Lestat's mother Gabrielle sort of gave up on her kids and locked herself in a tower to read books. There are days when that sounds like the ideal existence, to me.

And because I have that capacity, that's the part of motherhood that scares me the most. That you spend so much time caring and feeling so intensely that you overload and just want it to stop. I'm afraid of the idea of being the mom who clocks out stops caring because caring is too hard. And fear is where we go to create characters, isn't it?

And that's sort of where I started with Mrs. Prescott. I think she's mostly a good mom, and she cares, but she's overwhelmed, and Parker is the kid she's sort of clocked out on, because Parker has always been easy...except when the book takes place, which is Parker's journey away from being the easygoing always good and dependable child.

A big part of the book is the mother daughter relationship, it begins with making her mom cry on Christmas, and ends with her talking to her mother. Pretty big relationship for a YA book, really.

Parker's younger brother Preston is extremely hyper and ADHD.(as she tells her older sister in the book, the H in ADHD stands for hyper) A kid like that would overwhelm me fast (remember silence, well moms of ADHD kids might not). Having a kid like that would make me need some staring into space collecting myself time, and a mother of three isn't likely to get that sort of time, particularly when she's holding her family together financially.

Mrs. Prescott cares about Parker, but she's never able to focus on her, and her unfocused misunderstanding (of is it a misunderstanding? Parker is incensed that her mom thinks she is just like Paige, but in many ways, she is like Paige) helps Parker to define and figure herself out, because she has to.

Being a mom is rewarding, and I wouldn't change anything about my life, but man, it's hard.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How do People Learn from Literature.

This question is kind of a big deal for me. Let's look at it a couple of ways...When I was in college studying education for my Master's Degree there were books that said every educated person should know and should have read certain things. I don't really agree with that line of thinking, although I do think there are things you should be aware of as an educated person...but the fact that I know nothing about musicals doesn't make me stupid, just maybe a little uncultured, I guess.

My philosophy as an English Teacher is that I teach elements of literature using good books, not the books themselves.

Okay, not take it a step do people learn from literature...

This is a response to an interview I did last year
I will commit the cardinal sin of commenting upon a book I have no intention of reading- just to say that this review has confirmed my worst fears. How wonderful that teenage bondage fiction has been written by a high school English teacher! She must be a real student favorite!
According to the interview, she holds some interesting attitudes :”You learn things by reading because you learn that other people have different experiences than you and other people have similar experiences as you,” Griffin said. “It’s not supposed to be, ‘Don’t do drugs. Don’t have sex.’ While I know ( from personal experience) that misquotes and misinformation abound in such interviews, I am appalled that this is a teacher’s response.

Okay, and even though it appalled that person, I stand by what I said. Books aren't meant to moralize. Nobody ever went to a bookstore to buy a NOVEL and said, yeah I want a book that teaches me not to drink too much. You buy books because they are interesting. And, though maybe I could've said it more eloquently, the idea that you learn that people have the same feelings/experiences is important, and learning about people with different experiences is important.
So, as you can see, this idea is a pretty big deal to me.
Here are the student responses. Let me add as a disclaimer that the most popular books in this class have been 13 Reasons Why and Living Dead Girl.
1. They learn lessons and gain knowledge for life
2, It has happened to someone else, you read about it and know how their actions affected their situation.
3. Why people do what they do, and what can happen to you.
4. For me, when I read I block the whole world out. After I think of how the characters got through something horrible, I think my life isn't as bad as sometimes I make it seem.
5. By looking at the world from a different perspective
6. They let you know there are people in worse situations and how bad life can be.
7. I think people relate through literature and learn to cope with things by finding a common problem.
8. by reading and getting something out of what you read.
9. they learn life lessons.
10. By seeing how people deal with problems in their daily life.
11. Relating to others and learning through their mistakes.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

100 Book Challenge!

So, I'm taking the 100 book challenge and trying to read 100 books this year. Considering I read a lot more in the summer, I'm right on target/above target, so yay!

These are in no particular order, not even the order of how I read them!

1. Need
2. Crank
3. The Child Thief
4. Impossible
5. City of Glass
6. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes (reread)
7. Cracked Up to Be
8. Handcuffs :) (with a class even though I swore I never would)
9. Peeps
10. Burning Your Boats (reread)
11. Skin Deep (reread)
12. Glass
13. The Dead Tossed Waves
14. The Ask and the Answer
15. The Hunger Games (with 4 classes)
16. Speak (also with 4 classes)
17. Shiver
18. Leviathan
19. Will Grayson, Will Grayson
20. The Road
21. The Tale of Halcyon Crane
22. Peeps
23. The Maze Runner
24. Catching Fire
25. The Giver (reread with Creative Writing)

I'd like to read so many books over the summer that I can take the rereads and class books off and still do 100 books. I think I can do it. I can read a book every few days in the summer, and my to read pile is insane and exciting.

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