I can haz accomplishment

I am an English teacher. On forced sabbatical at the moment, perhaps, but I am an English teacher. Moreover, I’m the daughter, niece, and granddaughter of editors, and just about everyone in my family compulsively edits everything and everyone around them. We are so known for this that friends and even family members purposely misuse words just to bug us (FUNNER IS NOT A WORD, COREY!!!). Ahem.

Netspeak

Whole phrases condensed down to three characters.

As a result, most people would assume that I am not a fan of netspeak. The shortening of words or substitution of numbers for letters so they are easier for people to type (especially on phones) has invaded every part of our written society. I have actually had to correct netspeak out of research papers, though not much.

Many think it’s a sign of laziness. Many also believe that it will cause kids to grow up not understanding how to write or spell anything because they are too used to abbreviations or substitutions and don’t understand that netspeak is not an appropriate form of communication in many settings. It has been suggested that netspeak and text speak will ruin all of the hard work of literacy programs for this current generation.

I don’t agree with any of those nay-sayers. Not only did I grow up in the generation that wrote the first netspeak, but I also have been part of the generation that has made texting a crucial technology for survival. I was one of the first people I know who knew where “I can haz cheeseburger” came from.

Studies have shown exactly the opposite effect to what aforementioned nay-sayers think will happen. This upcoming generation is one of the most literate, though perhaps not the best read. They spend their lives looking at text, most of which has automatic spell checkers actively looking for spelling and grammatical errors. Many of my students have had better grammatical skills than I have, and I have personally noticed a drop in misspellings and grammatical errors in un-edited papers that I’ve graded.

I also have always been fascinated by language and the ways it changes or stays the same. I would often tell people that I was going to college to get an English degree so that I could make up words.

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The Munchkin compels you!

So netspeak is just another form of communication. One that has its place in the world. One that really doesn’t belong some places, but that can be a really fun tool for those who are interested in using it. One should always be prepared, though, and find out how BEST to use it before they start spouting ‘L33t Sp34k’ or typing with numbers. I am an English teacher, after all, and I always encourage learning proper communication.

Tx 4 da r34d!

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Not-So-Back-To-School

I think I’ve mentioned on here that I went back to college with the intention of teaching. We have four or five colleges within reasonable commuting distance (I’ve driven most of an hour to get places from home for most of my life).

 

Pile of books and a laptop with an apple on top. http://straubroland.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/education_technology- resized-600.png

Books, technology, and fuel. Not necessarily in order of importance.

 

On a whim (or an empty bank account, anyway), I applied for a teaching position about six years ago and didn’t have the credentials to actually get it. That was when I realized that I really wanted to teach. This desire came as quite a surprise for me since I had spent five years of my Undergraduate career explaining to everyone that I was a writer and that I was NOT intending to teach.

I explored these feelings a bit more and realized further that I really believe that teaching is the way to make our world a better place. Teaching children to not hate someone out of fear or a misplaced sense of entitlement. Teaching people in our isolated part of the country that it’s important to reach out and become a part of the greater world surrounding us. Teaching and learning from a group of people who might not even LIKE English class.

Through Graduate school and a little bit after, I got to exercise those muscles and expand on the answer to, “Why is education so important?” I took entire classes that helped me figure out how to teach what I think my students need to know. I taught some incredible people how and why to have confidence on the page.

And it was just as awesome as I thought it would be. I was in a community and a position where I felt like I belonged and was doing something really important.

Misty 1st Avenue by Kathryn Morski. https://kathrynsopinion.wordpress.com/

The future is a little foggy

And now… I’m not. First I explored why I really really want to teach and finding all of those reasons to go back to school (taking the time a money to prepare myself for this career) and then I actually got to experience teaching. I loved the connection and education of a room full of people. Now, it is really hard for me to be in what I see as a holding pattern.

I understand that jobs in my specific line of work aren’t that easy to come by and I will have to be patient. I know that looking back I will probably be glad that I am not teaching three college classes right now while my children are small and need so much of my attention and focus. I keep thinking that maybe this is so I will take more time to work on my own projects (maybe finish my novel or get my Etsy page running) before I have to devote so much energy and attention to a classroom again. Or maybe I just need this time to focus again and reinforce myself.

Whatever the reason, I am not teaching at the moment, which is making this impending fall somewhat bitter-sweet. I love the change that the season brings even without the excitement of a new semester. It’s not gone, it’s just different.

 

Reading…

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Actual picture of my bookcase. Note the vases and general crap in front of all the books.

I have a confession to make.

I have not read a physical book of more than 25 pages since I graduated from Grad School.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I had to re-read The Hunger Games in order to teach it to my class last fall, and I’ve picked up various books to start reading them since then, but I haven’t really had/taken the time to actually read a book for my own pleasure.

Not that I haven’t been reading. I read at least ten books a day — Of the cardboard variety. And, of course, I read articles and posts online on my computer and on my phone all the time. Articles are much easier put down when someone shouts from the other room that she needs help wiping herself. The article doesn’t lose its place so that I have to re-read the same paragraph each of the five times I go back to it over the course of the three hours it takes me to finish reading it.

I haven’t thought much about this fact in a while. I read a lot while in college, of course, but not so much in grad school. I had less time and more going on outside of school to deal with. I read all of the books I needed to for school and loved it, but I didn’t really take the time to read anything that wasn’t assigned to me.

Another fact has become increasingly apparent to me, and I think the two are probably related: I haven’t been writing. Other than Facebook updates and things that are necessary for basic communications, I haven’t been writing on my novel, any songs, on any short stories, or here (as I’m sure you’ve noticed). And while the last couple of posts here have been about living my life and being okay with being away from my online presence, I think that this is something that I need to address in my life.

Because let’s face it, I still have a lot to say. I still have things I want to say to the world. I still have characters and stories and ideas in my head that are trying to get out. But these things aren’t going to find an outlet or a road into the greater world without a little help. Words pave these roads and blast through the mountains of doubt and writer’s block. Ideas help fuel the energy to bring incorporeal things to life, to create, to birth.

ThanksgivingCactusCropped

“Thanksgiving” cactus blooming at MorSkies Ranch

 

So in order to do justice to the voices in my head, I am going to try to focus back on my creativity. Writing has always been a big part of my life, but I’m not feeding it in the same way that I did. Without reading and putting in words and ideas, I’m not getting anything out. Anything that isn’t nurtured and taken care of isn’t going to flourish.

I’m just hoping that what I have is a cactus that simply needs a little water to bloom.

“Hi, I’m Caitlin, and I’m a writer…”

This is your cue to chorus back, “Hi Caitlin.”

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David H. from strobist.blogspot.com, "Book Club"

Again, I am being facetious (and if you don’t know what that word means, you should go look it up). While this post is about support for you and your writing, I don’t really think that every writer should be part of a twelve step program. While Anton Chekhov said “If you can not write, don’t,” (well, it has been attributed to many different people, but I heard it was Checkov), I don’t really see it as something we need to recover from in that way.

What I am talking about is support for you so you can write. If you have to take care of a day job, a night job, full time schooling, children, parents, a spouse, a house, a roommate… or any  combination of these things, you probably find it difficult to find time to write. While we have all heard about the people who have all or most of those things and still manage to eke out the best novel of the year that wins a dozen awards before it’s even published, it is much easier to write if you have help with the rest of your life.

This occurs to me this week as I celebrate my wonderful family for many different reasons. My daughter turned one, my grandfather is turning 89, my brother is turning 34, my dog and cat are both turning two, and it’s mother’s day, so we’re just partying as often as humanly possible. I am planning or helping to facilitate many of these parties. I stole time away while I’m baking a birthday cake to write this (hooray mutlitasking).

Obviously every parent needs some sort of support just for life, and if you can use that support to help you write, then you don’t really need this post. If it’s never occurred to you to use that support to help you write, then maybe you should start there and figure out if maybe grandma and grandpa can take the little ones for a few hours every Tuesday and Thursday or something like that. I see it as a blessing and a necessity for every writer to have someone who supports and validates their work.

And to that end, I would say that if you don’t have a very supportive family, you should seek out other like minded individuals. When I was in college, I had a group of friends who were all English-ly inclined, and we decided that we were interested in reading each others’ work and getting feedback on our own in a less formal setting. We started Girl’s Write Out, and we had a great time getting together, reading and commenting, generally kibitzing, and drinking too much coffee. It is pretty likely that someone in your area already had this idea, and there is some sort of writer’s group around that you can investigate joining.

It is important to be careful about the writer’s group that you join because some groups are far too critical of everyone’s work and some far too little. You really need to sit in on a few sessions, maybe ask them a little bit about your own work, and feel out if they are a good fit. While it’s a huge benefit to be in a group that you work well with, a bad writer’s group is much worse than not having a writer’s group at all.

Writing can be too solitary an exercise, and a writer’s group can not only help you move out of your shell and improve your writing, but often it helps you network and meet people who can help you with editing, publishing, and maybe even some day, cover art.

A misery shared…

Just kidding. Writing isn’t a misery… most of the time.

image Porter and Menolly, working hard at the “Learning Farm”

What I am laughingly trying to say is that if you’re having a hard time writing, you might consider a different approach: collaboration. It is amazing how much I can get hashed out just talking to a trusted friend or loved one about a story, and if the person you’re talking to has a vested interest in what you are writing, as in it’s their writing too, so much the better.

One of the tenants of first year English at the college level is workshop and collaborative writing. It always gets mixed results, and there hasn’t been any project structure that can account for all of the potential problems with group projects, but when it works, it is one of the greatest learning and writing experiences that you can get.

Now, most students have had a very bad group experience in school, and very few have had great ones. There is often one person in the group that is a leader and does most of the work, one who is a follower and will basically do the least amount of work to get a decent grade, and one person in the group who simply doesn’t show up. There are ways for individuals in groups to try and keep the work load and participation balanced, but so few students know these tactics or how to employ them, so they just go through the project as quickly as they can and keep their head down hoping for a passing mark.

This, of course, is not why teachers assign group work. If nothing else, seeing how other people view your work and getting their feedback on it is one of the best things to happen to any writer. While you might be writing for yourself, if you ever intend to be published, you are writing for an audience, too. If you don’t have any idea what the audience thinks about your work, you don’t know how to give the audience what they want.

On the collaboration front, if you have more than one mind working on a project, you’re guaranteed to get something more creative and more interesting to more people. You simply can’t get away from the fact that someone else will look at your writing with another perspective and other ideas will come to them that wouldn’t have necessarily come to you. If you’re actively trying to put your individual spin on a piece, you’ll get something even better because your separate perspectives are focused in one direction.

There are a couple of different ways that you can collaborate that are advantageous, and I’m sure you can come up with new ways, as well. You can write the entire story together, each pick a character or a couple of characters, switch off chapters, even one of you come up with character development and another work on plot while a third is creating the world. There are all kinds of ways for writers and creative minds to inspire each other and come up with great work.

So you might groan when a teacher assigns you group work, but there are a lot of great reasons to complete it, not the least of which is that you will probably have to do group work in the ‘real’ world, as well. And you never know, maybe this will be the group that changes your mind about group work?

And yes, this post was inspired by watching two one-year-olds (see the picture!).

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