Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Getting A Good Dose of My Own Medicine

Do you know how long it took just to write the title for this blog?  20 minutes.  No joke.  I feel like kid who hasn't done their homework for 3 weeks suddenly showing up with the next assignment and no excuse for the missing homework.  I'm that disappointed in myself.  I could give you a boatload of excuses, but the real reason would come down to, "I just didn't MAKE the time to write today."

I started out wanting to call this blog "Teacher Crack". It's a reference to the last projects and writing submissions my students this year made: Their Poetry Triptychs, Their final Watson's Go To Birmingham, 1963 essay assessments, and first hour's final Video Voice project.  Grading/Working on all three was such a pleasure this year.  I was so pleasantly surprised at all of the care, depth of thought, and skill many of my students employed on these three projects.  It was actually almost a joy to grade them.  (I said almost, because let's be real here - the first 20 are a joy, and the other 65 are mostly work w/ flashes of joy because you've got a lot to do and little time to spread it out over.)  "Teacher Crack" seemed inappropriate for kids.  Snarky and like my sense of humor, but not appropriate. (I know...whatevs, Mrs. Wisniewski, we're SO not babies here!)

I want MORE of that feeling of accomplishment and pride for my students.  Hence the unwise drug reference.  So I thought about calling it, "Getting My Fix".  D'oh!  Same problem.  It sort of melted in one of my favorite Ray Bradbury quotes, "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." And I thought it would dovetail nicely into my plans for the summer.  (Sorry, no exciting trips planned or publishing deals on the table yet.) Because I want to set some deadlines for myself to write more.  Once again, looking at writing as a drug is beautiful in that I would like to think it's a healthy addiction, but, then again, by definition, the very word addiction suggests something unhealthy.  I wanted to depict writing as something that soothes, takes you on a journey through yourself, and heals. 

AHA!  Medicine!  Eureka! 

But it can't be medicine I receive from someone else, like reading amazing blogs by other teachers, it has to come from myself.  I will have to do the writing.  So evolved the title above.

Now, many of you (most of you?) know that I have written two books (both of which are still going through revisions, the most complete of which was Mojo Fingers - now called The Secret Order of Extraordinary Outcastz) and have started wrting a third. None of these books are published...yet.  But there are no publishers or agents that come knocking down your door asking, "Great Googly-Wooglies!! Do you happen to have a completed manuscript for an amazing adventure written for 10-14 year olds?"  This journey will definitely be a part of my writing plan this summer.

To paraphrase something that Neil Gaiman (love!) wrote in his quickwrite about the death of his friend, Ray Bradbury. Bradbury, one of the foremost science-fiction writers in the world, once took an entire half a day to spend with a kid (11 or 12 yrs old) he'd met who said he wanted to be a writer one day.  He spent the whole time giving the kid the unwritten advice that writers who make a living at writing need, first and foremost: "If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Every day.  Whether you want to or not.  It's work, but the best kind of work."

To that end, I'm doing a couple of things this summer to make my work as a writer and a teacher of young writers better.  Here's my to-do list:

  • I will be joining Teacher's Write! a daily (Wha- Daily!?!?!) blog by teacher and author, Kate Messner, to get teachers to write for themselves, write to reflect on their process, and write to become better teachers of writing.  I got the idea from an inspiring friend and colleague of mine, Mrs. Rush-Levine, (and those of you who know Mrs. Rush-Levine know what an exquisite writer she is), who is participating as well.  She constantly finds good medicine for herself.  I'm willing to dose myself with this writing medicine daily (take two teaspoons with coffee or iced tea daily).

  • I have set a deadline to finish revisions on Mojo Fingers (or, rather, rewriting Mojo Fingers into its new incarnation, The Secret Order of Extraordinary Outcastz).  That deadline is Fourth of July weekend.  That means I'm going to have to get off my tookas, turn off the television, put down a book occasionally (okay, that one hurts) and get to work.  As Ray Bradbury put it, "the best kind of work."

  • I would like to pay tribute to Ray Bradbury this fall using my Drama Club as the medium.  He has an incredible number of short stories out there with kids at the heart of them, meant to open childrens' eyes to the universe of possibilities and their own world around them.  I would like to adapt some of these into short plays for use during this fall's drama showcase.

So, Grand Plan for the Summer laid out, I leave you with another of my favorite Bradbury quotes,

Time to take my medicine!


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