Wednesday, April 20, 2011

yum! my first paycheck...

At the midpoint of my spring break, which I've also designated a writing-free break, I took the family out to our favorite brew pub for dinner to celebrate depositing my very first advance check into our (previously nonexistant) savings account.  Monkey was simply thrilled to have his "vewy own KNIFE!"

Strangely, my wild rice burger had a sad face made up of chipotle sauce.  Maybe because I ordered it without the pile of fried onions?  The sadface was a bit counter to our purpose there, but we said a toast and clanked glasses of "Daddy Pop" (and draft orange cream soda--yum!) and celebrated being a "real" writer.

I said, "Thank you, family, for being flexible with me so that I had a chance to write this book," and Jabber looked up from his new copy of the second Diary of a Wimpy Kid to say, "Whaaaat?  You wrote a book???"  I guess he thought I was just playing tetris all this time at the computer?

Monkey gleefully requested the slice of lemon that balanced on the rim of Jabber's glass, and then he took huge bites of the sour fruit like he has since he was just a tiny baby, pausing in between each bite to shudder comically, his little mouth twisting up into a pucker.

We made a stop at our favorite bookstore (The Bookstore at Fitger's) for some new picture books (and to feed Jabber's Wimpy Kid addiction), and we read the wonderfully onomatopoetic and alliterative Utterly Otterly Day, by Mary Casanova, while we waited for our food to arrive. 

(Yes. I am making a very strange face there.  Not to spoil the book, but there is a rather frightening scene involving a cougar!)

Now I'm going to go back to reading (Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon and Invincible Summer, by Hannah Moskowitz), playing guitar (mainly two Brandi Carlile songs about seven times slower than she plays them), and watching old movies I've somehow never seen (last night was Poltergeist--great fun!)

I'll start on the schoolwork on Sunday night, as usual, and next week will be back to business in the home stretch to summer. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

how to think...

How to Think/We Need Time To/Be Real creators/Turn unconventional Ideas Into News./Unite Spectacular Cosmic Leaps/dance, fool, enchant/Imagine Disaster and/Survive The World/then Stay That Way
Sometimes I have these today, the last day before spring break...when I decide to make paper airplanes out of my lesson plans and take a little side trip.  April is National Poetry Month, so all of my classes have been working with poetry in one way or another.  My eighth graders have been reading one poem a day, and we've had some wonderful discussions about them--about what they mean and how they're formed and how to read them.  My sixth graders have been playing with language, experimenting with poetic devices, making games out of rhyme and rhythm, and writing simile and metaphor riddles.  We've spent some time looking at the found poetry at Newspaper Blackout, and today I decided we'd make some cut-out poems using old newspapers and magazines.

I thought maybe we'd spend twenty minutes on it.  We spent the whole 80 minute block doing it, and although every student approached the assignment with a different style and level of enthusiasm, almost all of them managed to put together some interesting combinations of words and phrases.  Some of them are amazing!

I spent my own prep time today creating a found poem out of an old TIME magazine, and this week (while we're on break), I'm going to post some of my students' poems on our In the Middle (of a Good Book) blog, which has been languishing since the start of the new quarter, as I'm now lacking a blogging elective class and haven't quite figured out how to organize my bloggers into an extracurricular force of awesomeness.

In the meantime, here's a taste, with two of my favorites, from Abbey and Caleb.  Enjoy!
When you finally/ get me I turn into a/ massive disaster/ that makes you want to/ Try harder./ Thank you

Live it that way/tough guys enjoy people who kill the/love storys that look/bigger and better/to fix/what's wrong/with/me

Sunday, April 3, 2011

when everyone applauds...

This evening, after we had tucked in both kids and turned out the lights, Jabber popped up from his little blanket cave and said, "When everyone applauds for you, do you clap, too?  Because whenever people clap for me, this is something that puzzles me."

It's kind of a typical Jabber-question, pretty obviously something he's been turning about in his serious little brain for several weeks or possibly for the duration of his last three lifetimes.  "Well," said D, "I guess that depends on the situation.  When was the last time people were applauding you?"

And Jabber told us about the integrity assembly, and how "I didn't know what to do with my hands when everyone else was clapping."  I had to go over there and squeeze him tight because really.  What do you do with your hands when everyone applauds?

I am trying very hard to be more graceful at receiving compliments and congratulations (and improving, I think!), but it has always been a struggle. I know that the correct answer is always a smile and a "Thank you!", but that's always hard for me to pull off in real life, though it's getting better.  I remember at my confirmation in ninth grade, I stood on the staircase of my church in a receiving line, and the congregation filed past us, shaking our hands and congratulating us.  I realized afterward, in a state of dire embarrassment of course, that as I was shaking all those people's hands, I had also been nodding, smiling, and repeating, "Congratulations!" to them like a complete idiot. 

So there's my first possible response in the face of a compliment:  complete and total idiocy.  I'll usually get the smiling part down (probably with a blush to accompany it), and then something that makes absolutely no sense at all will come out of my mouth.  These moments are probably not that big of a deal--the other person probably forgets about it after a brief moment of thinking, "Oh, I embarrassed the poor dimwit.  Perhaps I'll saunter over here to the cake table."  But in my head, they replay over and over again.  Me, stammering nonsense.

Another common response is an attempt to deflect the compliment or make it sound like I don't really deserve it.  Oh, you like my hair?  "Gah! It's so unruly today, and it's a little too long."  My shoes?  "Oh, yeah, they were on clearance at Target.  Super cheap.  And look more closely--this buckle part is pretty ugly, no?"  It's worse if it's something I did or created that I'm being complimented on.  I did a wonderful job acting in that performance?  "Oh, I totally flubbed my lines in Act II, and did you see the way I tripped when I was supposed to be chasing Lysander?"  Well, no, Elissa.  They didn't notice.  Not until you pointed it out.

So what's the problem, responding to praise?  Do I really feel like I don't deserve it?  I...don't think that's it.  A lot of the time, I'm actually proud of the accomplishment, or I actually do like the shoes or the hair (after all, I bought them the haircut, haha.)  And really, when someone puts forth the effort of pointing out something they like or appreciate, they really don't deserve to have it thrown back in their face like that. Is it because I don't want to seem like I'm proud?  Like I have a big head?  Does it come back to that thing all the girls used to start their sentences with back when I was in middle school:  "Not to brag, but..."  Or is it just that it feels awkward to have the attention--like Jabber standing at the front of the gym, seeing all the rest of the kids applauding and wondering what he should be doing with his hands? 

So I started thinking about this in terms of my writing.  I haven't been published before, except for one poem in a very small journal that nobody ever read.  The truth is, not that many people have seen my writing.  So I really haven't had to deal with the response people might have to my writing.  Writers whose books are out there in the world talk a lot about how to respond to negative reviews or comments (i.e. not at all!), but now I'm imagining myself at some public event related to my book (eep, hives!), and instead of managing a winning smile and a confident, "Thanks!" I'll be grinning, drooling, and muttering, "Congratulations! Yes, I love this weather!" OR I'll point out all of my misplaced modifiers and continuity errors if they dare to say nice things about my writing.  (I hope there won't be misplaced modifiers or continuity errors, but if there are, I don't need to call attention to them!)

Maybe instead, I could burst into applause?