Saturday, June 10, 2006

baby pictures

A long time ago, I posted about waiting, how sick I was of WAITING for agents, for my husband's job prospects and to be pregnent. Well, one outta three isn't too bad, is it?

I've heard from lots of agents--usually the letters include phrases like "not quite right for me". Strike one.

Cerdito the hubby is ont he verge of a better job, though not the one we hoped he would be getting. Strike two.

I am, however, 5 months pregnent. Home run.

We had the ultrasound yesterday. For those of you who have never had one, one of the rquirements is to show up with a full bladder. So, bladder brimming, I was 15 minutes early (I wasnt eager or anything). I checked in and waited. Seems to be a theme in my life. At 2:15, bladder now bursting, I donned the fashionable hospitale gown and let the technician gel my tummy. they warm the gel, which is a nice touch.

The ultrasound doesn't hurt, but it's about as uncomfortable as one can get wihout pain. The technician has to get certain shots of the internal organs to check the baby's progress and health--these are more important to the technician than checking the gender. Silly technician, we wanted to know whether to paint the nursery blue and green or pink and yellow. So anyway, the technician sometimes had to really dig in to get the right angle. It didn't help that I am apparently pregnent with an acrobat. Baby was all over the place and had no intention of staying still for even a moment. I have a brusied belly today. Ouch!

The good news? Baby is in perfect health, is at exactly the right level of development and everything thing is fine with him/her.

The bad news? There's a flaw in the packaging. Namely, an unidentified tumor on my cervix.

So it's back to waiting.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Heart Scott Westerfeld

Yup, I admit it, I've become a fan girl. I always expected it to happen in high school or junior high or maybe college, but I missed all the crushes on Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio and even now, I can't really think of someone whose looks would make me swoon, or blog at least.

But Scott Westerfeld, now, he's da MAN.

It's a bit of a round-a-bout story. I teach 7th grade, which means access to bookfairs. It also means that the Gremlin does a lot of her Christmas shopping at the Dec. bookfair, which is how a copy of Uglies ended up under the tree that cold morning. I read it, enjoyed it, passed it to the Gremlin, who started it, then asked her teacher to read it to the class, which she did, and they loved it, so when I got it back, I read it to all my 7th grade classes. (Yes, 13-yr-olds like to be read to, just not by their parents.)

I've shared several books with my students over the years. Most of them appeal to a certain group: just the girls, or just the boys, or the high level kids, or the low level kids, or just the Hispanics, etc. Uglies is the first book I've shared that every kid, without exception, loved. That puts Westerfeld in a catagory all his own right there.

What was the appeal? The concept, about a world where everyone gets plastic surgery at 16 and becomes gorgeous, is intriguing. The details, like tricks and hoverboards, appeal to kids. Anything that has teens beating the adults is going to be popular with students, but Uglies has the added bonus of presenting the adults as an intelligent threat--it doesn't offend the adult audience by portraying them as idiots. So when Tally succeeds, it is a greater success.

But I think Westerfeld's real genius in the book is his structure. He knows exactly how and when to end a chapter. Writing guides will tell authors to end a chapter or scene on a sort of cliffhanger so the reader wants to go on. It's the "little bit further" syndrome that cost me so much sleep in high school and college (and after). Westerfeld is the finest example I've seen of putting that advice into action. Hardly a day went by that students did not beg for another chapter--please, just one more chapter--and when time allowed, I wasn't opposed to indulging them. After all, I wouldn't read the book aloud five times if I didn't love it.

Some students bought or checked out their own copies of Uglies and followed along (and read ahead). Others not only read ahead but then checked out Pretties from the library so they could really be on top of things. I haven't seen such literary enthusiasm among teens since Harry Potter hit the shelves--except that I think Uglies and Pretties (And Specials, which I haven't read yet) will last longer. These are books that teachers will want sets of so they can read and discuss them and get the students thinking about utopias, beauty, and how we see ourselves and our world.

My hope for Specials, along with a continuation of excellent plotting and storytelling, is a real rescue for Shay. She's had her life so messed up. Of course, so has Tally, but Tally seems to have more control, while Shay is swept along in her wake, whether either wants that or not. However it goes, whatever happens, I am confident it will be an excellent read.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Consequences and Accountability

The Gremlin--AKA my middle-school daughter--had the bomb dropped on her this morning.

Some backstory:
The Gremlin chose to forgo basketbball this year and participate in Destination Imagination, a program focused on competative problem solving. Her team had to create an 8 minute skit around the theme of rules and have at least one technical device that appeared to break a law of motion worked into the skit. They created the set and costumes themselves out of cardboard and duct tape (and I tell you, I should own stock in duct tape). They dressed as ants. Incredibly cute.

They won 1st in state in their division, which means they get to attend DI Nationals in Tennessee. They leave tomorrow.

But because the Gremlin is, in fact, a gremlin, with may fine gremlin qualities, there has to be a hitch: her make-up work for the trip. She will miss four days of school. When she returns, she will have only 3 days of school left. One is the carnival day, so no classes then. One is the BBQ for her group, so again, no class. That leaves one day.

Two weeks ago, her teacher, who is also her coach, mentioned to her that she needed to ask for her homework. That was the eighth. On Saturday the thirteenth, her team mates reminded her when they gathered to work on costumes for the costume ball. On Monday the fifteen, I reminded her, as did her teacher. Her team reminded her again on Tuesday, and her teacher reminded her on Wednesday. So she has had many many OFFICIAL reminders. El Cerdito (the hubby) and I also confinscated her MP3 play, CD player and boombox until the work was brought home, finished and returned. I was quite prepared to keep them through the whole summer if she didn't do the work.

But her teacher had a better idea. Today her class went on a field trip to the Territorial Prison in Laramie, WY (where my younger brother used to work, incidentally). Up until about 7:10 A.M., she thought she was going too. Then we called her down the hall and explained that the field trip was for students who were caught up with their work--which she wasn't, since she hadn't even asked for the make-up work yet. Instead of a bus trip with friends and seeing the prison and plays, she is sitting in ISS, doing her make-up work. If it isn't done, then tomorrow, she will be doing it on the plane. But I think (hope, pray) that she will finish.

And maybe--just maybe, the reality that a body must be responsible for herself and her work will sink in just a bit.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Rants, trivia, dogs, and popcorn

I had a rant about how difficult it is to find a modest swimsuit for a teenage girl these days, but blogger was down and wouldn't let me post it, and the wind went out of my sails.

My students worked on a series of trivia questions last week. From a teacher standpoint, it was a way to keep the faster writers occupied while the slower ones finished their state writing test (I won't start that rant again . . .). One question asked for the names of Santa's eight reindeer. Over half of the students listed Nixon as one.

According to them, Juliet Ceasar is one of Shakespeare's plays, along with Romeo and Julius, which takes place in New York.

Some days, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

With the advent of summer, I'm planning to teach my dog to pull a cart. In preparation, I've been spending quite a bit of time at Leerburg.com, an excellent place for those who want to train a good, solid dog.

Good dog training is very similar to good parenting and good classroom management:
1. Develop a good bond between yourself and the dog/child/student
2. Establish what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
3. Establish consequences for unacceptable behavior.
4. Consistantly and fairly follow through consequences, but also consistantly praise and reward good behavior.

Also, if the dog has been snarfing popcorn off the floor, make sure that he gets lots of outside time over the next 24 hours, because he'll be able to clear a room. This applies to certain students as well, whether they've had popcorn or not.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Un-teaching

My students are working on multi-genre research papers. I stumbled on the idea while reading Tom Romano's Writing with Passion (which is geared toward teachers, but I found very liberating as a writer as well). Basically, instead of researching then puking the facts onto a page--a project guarenteed to be boring to write and boring to grade--they will create five or more shorter works in genres of their choosing, so long as information on the subject is portrayed and reserach on the topic is evident. Naturally, we will be testing out several genres over the coming weeks. Currently, we are working on dialogue.
There's a hitch.
Why, when all the authors out there can quote the Turkey City Lexicon or Elmore Leonard, and tell folks that 'said' is the invisible word and the only thing needed as a dialogue tag, area ll the teachers telling kids to avoid 'overuse' of the word by using billions of synonyms.
When I tell my kids that they should use said 99% of the time, they think I'm nuts. (My 1% exception is using 'whispered' occasionally). Un-teaching is much harder than teach, believe me.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Head over heels in love

The tech gooroo/media center master of my school is always happy to pass new poetry collections on to me (I could spend all year having students study and write different form of poetry. I love the experimentation, the variation, the freedom . . .) Friday he brought me Jazz ABZ by Wynton Marsalis.

It is absolutely incredible. He goes through the alphabet with jazz musicians: Count Basis, Sachmo, Coltrane, Duke Ellington . . . I've long loved anything 1920's (I hate that I'm large-chested, because I love the whole flapper style). And jazz, oh, baby, jazz. It's already on my list of books to buy and authors to keep an eye out for.

Someday, I want to write a historical fantasy set in the 1920's. People always cite Lovecraft when I mention this, but my style and his are worlds apart. I just don't want to write it yet. I've written what I consider to be a good book. I think the next one will be better. I want what I write for the 20's to be the cherry on top of everything. I don't feel ready for it yet.

In the meantime, a hearty thanks to Wynton Marsalis.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Barnes & Noble, you oughtta be ashamed

This past weekend, my mother and I stopped by Barnes & Noble. Mom wanted another book by her favorite author. I was looking for Ann Rassios's Godquake, which they didn't have. At the checkout counter, Mom asked the checker how a new author goes about getting noticed: we had just spent over an hour looking through the sci-fi/fantasy section, and I was less than chipper.

The clerk talked about book signings, advance copies, and such, and then handed Mom a slick flyer with the announcement "Get published now" blazoned across the front. She passed it onto me; I glanced at the iUniverse lable at the bottom and resisted blurting out, "This is a vanity publisher or something. This isn't my idea of publishing." (At this point, I'm sure somone will come out the woodwork announcing that THEY published through a vanity publisher and everything is peachy, but hey.) I didn't want to cause a scene--I'm not good at real life scenes, only fictional ones.

On the inside of the brochure, a double spread says that , "Barnes and Noble is opening its doors to the very best iUniverse authors." Open it again and there are testimonials from Natasha Munson, Sharon Boorstin and Gary Marino along with the steps needed to publish your book now. (tempting so far, isn't it?)

Step one: Publish your book for an introductory rate of only $999 Now, I can't be ceartain, but I'm pretty sure that I haven't spent $1000 worth of paper, stamps or time on sending queries yet, so I'll stick to what I'm doing.

Step two: When you earn Publisher's Choice, iUniverse will present your book and marketing plan to the appropriate B&N buyer. So how is this better than getting an agent, getting an editor and having the publishing house market it to the best B&N buyer? I was watching publishers very carefully in the store, and I didn't see iUniverse on anything

Step three: You book will appear on the Trade Paperback New Release table in the high traffic area at the front of B&N for a minimun of 60 days. Appear, like magic,huh? Good thing I write fantasy.

The rest is up to you the brochure proclaims.

The only thing left is the small print on the back. Publishing packages range from $299 to $1099. Some include cover design, or even a cover design evaluation and a "tune-up" of the promotional text on the back cover. "A great choice for authors who want their book to be a serious contender in today's competative publishing environment."

They also offer editorial services "at an affordable price" and claim to "offer the most comprehensive range of marketing and publicity products avaliable from any publishing services provider."

I need to go lie down. I'm feeling faint. It could have been the nachos, but I doubt it.