So, What’s Been Happening, And What Comes Next

I hope you all enjoyed my Poem-A-Day series this year for National Poetry Month! I loved curating it and am already working on next year’s series. (In case you missed the poems from this April, though, click here to begin with the 1st and then follow the links at the bottoms of the pages to read them all.)

And then what came after National Poetry Month? May, also known as National Stress Out About Grades Month, or the Month of AP Exams and (in Texas, at least) Finals and More Grading Than Ought To Be Allowed By The Laws Of Human Decency. (Yes, I’ve heard the adorable arguments about assigning fewer papers so I’ll have fewer papers to grade. Doesn’t seem to help. Funny that.) At any rate, May is universally stressful for teachers here, and, well, that’s where things are with my day job. But I’m getting close to the end of all of that, because summer. I have, at the time of this post, 29 essay tests, 7 screenplays, and 29 in-class writing assignments left to grade before my final exam on Friday morning.

I can do this.

I think I can do this.

At any rate, it’s a finite problem. The semester always ends.

And once it does, I’ll be back to posting here on the blog. Not every day, dear readers. But the Monday Earworms, which seem to be popular, will probably come back, and there’ll be more substantive posts here and there as well. Maybe some poetry — maybe even some of my poetry.

What else is taking up my writing time these days? Thank you for asking.

Look for a new book of poems to be out later this year. (That’s Priority One at the moment, due to my editor in probably fewer weeks than it seems like.)

I’m also shopping around a high fantasy novel that’s the first of a trilogy.

For those of you who loved Finis. — and I’m so happy and grateful to those of you who have sent me emails and tweets and letters and marvelously illustrated cards about how much you’re still enjoying it! — there’s another story set in that world, currently in revisions. (Want to know whom it’s about? Think wolves. I’m really excited about this one!) Finis. is now also available at a new venue where you can purchase it as an ebook, or even read it for free: click here for the Myth Machine experience.

And because I just don’t have enough to do, I’m developing a textbook for the AP Gothic Literature class I’ve been teaching for the last quite-a-number-of-years.

Finally, as if that weren’t enough, I’m about a third of the way into writing a brand-new standalone novel. This one doesn’t have a working title yet, but imagine a Steampunk-flavored ghost story which includes political intrigue and romance, and you might get a little idea of what’s coming. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I had that manuscript ready to send out this time next year?

Yes. Yes, it would. We shall see.

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Monday Earworm: Bee-Gees and Pink Floyd

So Spring Break is over now, and re-entry after a holiday from school is always challenging. I’m frequently reminded of the day my mother took me to the parish school where I would be entering kindergarten (for the second time, at this new school, because the diocese didn’t think I was old enough for first grade). I stayed at that school all the way through eighth grade graduation, and their insistence that I start kindergarten with other children my age (despite my academic and intellectual abilities) was perhaps one of the few genuinely good administrative choices I ever witnessed there.

But I’m reminded of it because, that day she took me there to register me, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” had been playing on the radio in the car, and I remember singing the song’s chorus (the only part I could remember) over and over as we walked through the school building, and I kept misplacing the word “inspiration” for “education.” So I was singing, “We don’t need no inspiration…” And I asked my mom what inspiration meant, and she either didn’t or couldn’t really tell me.

I’m sure there are other deeper psychological reasons for my associating that song with the awfulness of my experience at that school, but I’ll leave that for another time.

This morning on the way to school, my kids and I cheerfully sang and danced along with the Bee-Gees’ “Staying Alive” on my iPod. (We are disco fans. They especially love it when I dance like John Travolta at the stop lights. Just the arms, of course, because, come on. No idea what the other motorists think. Not really sure I’m concerned about it, either.)

So in honor of how challenging it is to come back to school after a break longer than an ordinary weekend, I give you this. Enjoy.

 

Witchy Weekends: I Wish…

When I was a child watching the Saturday morning animated special movies for kids every weekend…

Okay, so you’re probably either groaning because you remember those or groaning because you’re conflating them with After-School Specials.

Seriously, though, sometimes those animated shows on the weekends were kind of cool. But the only one I really remember now was called maybe “My Teacher Is A Witch” or something similarly creative, and it was about a class of kids who got a new teacher one day whom they believed was a real witch. What tipped them off? The day she erased a really full blackboard full of chalk with a single swipe of her arm.

And I know it was just a cartoon and life doesn’t really work that way, but I cannot tell you how often, especially since becoming a teacher, I’ve wished that it did. I could really, really use that kind of speed and efficiency during the school year.

Especially this weekend, when I’m mired in grading and comments (two-paragraph narratives I write for the report card of every student in every one of my classes to discuss each student’s individual progress). But I don’t have that power, so this anecdote is about as substantive as my blog is going to get at the moment.

But here, to tide you over, have this lovely picture.

Monday Earworm: Rush

I love this song. I think I might actually like the studio version better than this live one, but this live one is still pretty great.

My relationship with Rush is tangential and hardly worth fangirl status. Several of my friends in college loved them, and so I started listening to them as well, and while I’m hardly well versed in their entire discography, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a song of theirs I didn’t like. Concept albums really appeal to me as well, so there’s that.

This song always reminds me of my students, especially my seniors, whose potential stretches out before them like an ocean. It also, oddly, reminds me of Justin Trudeau. Not really sure why. Maybe because he’s making a very good case for being the leader of the free world now that the U.S. has clearly relinquished that position? (And sorry, Angela Merkel, you’re otherwise kind of awesome, but no one who doesn’t support same-sex marriage can be the leader of the free world in the 21st Century, so.)

Okay, political rant over. Please to enjoy.

 

Poem-A-Day: Elizabeth Sewell

I’ve always been struck by the fact that the name we use for someone who suffers mightily, unjustly, and beyond all sense or reason is the same name for the work we do in order to earn payment that we might gainfully live.

I teach, and sometimes — like around this time of year — the beckoning breath of a break — in this case, summer — magnifies the stress of the workload I and most of my colleagues are laboring under. I’m lucky in that my administrators understand that “every ask is still an ask,” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a basketful of asks awaiting each of us — teachers, students, and administrators alike — around every turn. The weight of it is like stones piling on my chest, and like old Giles Corey, I keep coming back.

Case in point: here is my current grading stack.

This giant mug holds 20 ounces of tea and is nearly the size of my face. You know, for reference.

 

And here is an ekphrastic poem by Elizabeth Sewell. Note the rhyme scheme and rhythm, how they mimic orderliness, how they taunt. You know, like the act of grading papers.

Persist, my friends, persist.

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