Monthly Archives: April 2018

Thinking about Endings, Beginnings, and Balancing Twin Passions

    I know January 1st is supposed to be the beginning of a new year, but as a long-time teacher, my year has always started when school begins in the late summer or fall and ends when school gets out.             As the end of the semester draws close, I have my usual set of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m eager for a break from endless papers and grading and hungry for uninterrupted days to work on my new novel. I actually had a few of those last week before the deluge of my students’ final projects came in, and those hours holed up in my home office were heavenly! Creative work is… well, work, but it’s so engaging and gratifying.    On the other hand, I feel sad saying goodbye to students I’ve grown attached to. I have amazing students who inspire me and make me laugh—and sometimes cry.  In truth, I’m genuinely passionate about teaching. Having these two passions of teaching and writing has greatly enriched my life, but it’s also complicated it. Teaching writing is labor intensive. When I’m awash in lesson plans and my students’ drafts and rewrites of their papers, my own writing can easily fall by the wayside. Yet I’ve never been one of those writers who can’t wait to quit my day job. As I’ve often said, I am a teacher at heart, as well as a writer. I once attended a talk by a mystery writer who divided his [...]

By |2018-04-25T09:18:05-05:00April 25th, 2018|The Writing Life|0 Comments

Sometimes You Just Have to Ask

Folks often don’t believe me when I tell them I’m an introvert. After all, I’m a lively pistol of a teacher. I love to laugh, and I’m a good listener and empathetic friend. But like all introverts, I need my alone time to fill up my tank. This is a handy quality to have for a writer, because we need lots of solitude to get our work done. But when it comes to the other part of the job involved in being a writer, engaging in marketing and self-promotion, I’m actually fairly shy. However, I’m slowly learning that sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and ask. Yesterday, for example, I visited my local branch of the public library.  Two of my books are in the system, including my newly released YA novel, It Should Have Been You. But there was no copy of my new release at my branch. So, I approached the checkout clerk and inquired as to who orders the books for our branch. “Oh,” he said, “that’s all done centrally by the system’s Content Manager.” I explained my dilemma, and he guided me over to the branch manager. I pulled my novel out of my book bag and told him that while I was delighted my novel was available in the system, it would mean a lot to me to have a copy at my local branch. He immediately asked the clerk to contact the Content Manager and order a copy. But that wasn’t [...]

By |2018-04-17T10:32:20-05:00April 17th, 2018|The Writing Life|0 Comments

Comfort Television

Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo At least for the moment, I’ve O-D’ed on my obsessive binging on early morning political talk shows. Starting each day getting more and more anxious about the state of the world and our national politics wasn’t doing wonders for my blood pressure. So now, when I jump on my exercise bike and start pedaling, I only watch a few minutes of a political talk show.  Ever since I've discovered the wonders of a morning dose of comfort television, it doesn't  take long for me to switch the channel. When I tune in to Hallmark Mysteries and Movies, I can almost always find an old episode of Columbo or Matlock.             The characters in both shows are wonderfully eccentric and reassuringly consistent. Matlock is the curmudgeonly but lovable tightwad attorney who invariably gets his clients off by uncovering the real murderer. And Lieutenant Columbo, the cigar-smoking rumpled homicide detective, dogs his suspect until he traps him. It’s nice to step into their fictional worlds where the good guys never fail to get their man (or woman) and justice reigns supreme. And what endearing good guys these two are! I love checking into their worlds and getting some temporary relief from our own. Spending a few minutes with Columbo or Matlock calms me down and puts me into a space where I’m eager to develop characters in my own work. I have yet to feature any curmudgeonly or cigar-smoking characters in my novels. But you [...]

By |2018-04-11T12:34:56-05:00April 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Keynoting It!

  Last week was spring break, and I holed up for days getting ready for a keynote presentation I’m doing this coming Saturday for an adjunct scholars’ conference at Indiana University Southeast. My topic is: “Building Strong Student-Teacher Relationships and a Positive Classroom Climate.” I’m actually somewhat of an accidental keynote speaker. I submitted this topic as a workshop idea, and the folks at the Institute for Learning Excellence liked it so much they asked me to be the keynote speaker. I’m always nervous when I have to give a speech. As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out, most of us are so anxious about public speaking that we’d rather be in the coffin at a funeral than delivering the eulogy. But I’m also really excited because I’m genuinely passionate about this subject, and the research is compelling that student-teacher relationships make an enormous difference in student motivation and persistence in college.  With three master’s degrees and a varied background, my college teaching career has been eclectic, to say the least! I’ve taught dance, sociology, public speaking, interpersonal communication, and now writing. The reporter from the campus news outlet assigned to cover the conference asked me an interesting question—what I’d learned about teaching across so many different disciplines. I wanted to share my response with you, so here goes: What I’ve found is that teaching is a calling, an art, and a skill that is transferable from discipline to discipline. It has mattered less what I am teaching and more how [...]

By |2018-04-04T13:42:02-05:00April 4th, 2018|The Teaching Life|0 Comments