Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Word by Word

That's how it will begin...and that's how it will end.  Yes, my newest is WIP is officially underway and promises to be even more exciting than the last, though this one has had a tougher launch.  Lots of distraction and a little obsession have de-railed my initial plan to blaze on through this one and have a smoking hot YA thriller to send out the door before Christmas.  Ha!  I can hope...  

Summer, car trouble, family entailments, new job—yeah, I can blame a lot of things.  I think the most devastating obstacle, however, has been my own ego.  Yep.  I've been obsessing over my many writing buds who are making their sales and celebrating big deals, while I feel like a failure and put one on the shelf to rest a while and start anew.  

Oh, I will still poke my head into this pity party every now and then, but enough is enough.  My WIP will never get written if I don't start laying down some words, even crappy words.  Besides, my last book is not a failure...it's just delayed.  So, off I go to write a slamming new YA and frankly, it will be awesome.  So to give myself a little kick in the butt, I thought perhaps I might post my word count on my blog.  I know, I know.  I could be setting myself up for utter humiliation, but I need to start somewhere.  So, I start at this moment with a total of 2,775 words.  I have a few more to add today, but that's where I ended up at 3:00pm.  

And that's how I will take this next part of the journey—word by word...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Before I started writing semi-full-time, I taught full time.  Believe me, there are very few teaching jobs that are "fluff" jobs, but lately there has been a lot of debate about the fate of tenure in American universities.  A recent essay by Christopher Shea in the New York Times Sunday Book Review addresses two books that tackle the question — Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — And What We Can Do About It, by Andrew Hacker and Claudia C. Dreifus, and Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities, by Mark C. Taylor.  Earlier in July, the NYT also posted a debate that considers the ramifications of eliminating tenure and restructure higher education altogether, a thought that makes me cringe, though I am no blind disciple of the system as it is.  

I'm not going to rant and rave about why tenure should be protected or why colleges should cutout the bulk of administrative fat that clogs the financial and social arteries of most institutions of higher learning.  However, I find it funny that so many people seem to think the majority of tenured college professors are self-indulgent fusspots who rest on their laurels and do little teaching and spend their time spouting communist propaganda and cranking out fluff scholarship and books that no one reads while the adjuncts do all the heavy lifting with no benefits or job security.  Come on folks!  For every job in America, from sanitation to corporations, you will find that guy.  

As an English teacher, I constantly warn my students against laying out sweeping generalizations to prove a point.  It undermines your credibility and obscures the real issue.  Yes, such examples of vocational gluttony do exist, and I'm sure those professors feel they are entitled because of their own years of slave-labor and hard-won scholarly credentials.  But most of the tenured professors I know do teach full loads AND work on research or scholarship or service projects.  Their extra-curricular work makes considerable contributions to their students as well as their field of study and their campus community.  

As for who gets the money...few college professors I know make more than $50,000-80,000 a year, while college administrators and athletic personnel go well into 6-digit salaries.  And that's where Shea gets it right:  
And if colleges are ever going to bend the cost curve, to borrow jargon from the health care debate, it might well be time to think about vetoing Olympic-quality athletic facilities and trimming the ranks of administrators.

I know that from city school districts to small colleges to major universities, administrations are far too often top-heavy and the distributions of funds less than equitable or reasonable.

When it comes to tenure, let me say this.  In a profession where speaking your mind is one of the most essential tools in your belt, as well as the most dangerous, and where your "superiors" can wield an Orwellian power that could extinguish a brilliant mind just for having an opinion if there were no protections against such dictatorial rule, tenure is merely a safety net that allows a professor an iota of freedom to do his job well.  Without it, education would cease to exist and indoctrination would takes its place.  Yes, that may be a little over-dramatic, but think about what a professor's job is all about.

Now consider the ever-growing complexities of the university system as a whole and the competitive playing field that now encompasses web presence, commercial appeal, financial growth, and social credibility in addition to its altruistic roots of education.

Every college or university has its own agenda...it's own "mission."  For some, research is their claim to fame, while others subsist quietly on the satisfaction of educating eager minds no matter what their next step may be.  So while I sit up and wait for my tenure-track professor husband as he sweats out the next book or the next service project or the next committee meeting along with preparing inspiring class lectures and activities and grading essays and advising students, I'll think about how "overpaid" he is.  Next time I take my calculator to the grocery store and put back six items because they just aren't in the budget, I think about how "overpaid" he is.   And next time I try to plan that family vacation that we have never taken in 15 years...I'll think about how overpaid he is.

At least he has job security...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I'll have a plate of Hypocrisy and a side of Stupidity, please...

I don't like to talk politics, especially on a blog, but when some ignorant group of fascists declares a "national burn the Koran day," I simply cannot hold my tongue. Yes, that idiot pastor Terry Jones appeared on a recent episode of HARDBALL with Chris Matthews as well as CNN to proclaim 9/11 as a demonstration against Islam. Sure, he says "Muslims are free to worship here, but they must respect the constitution...that's why we have declared 9/11 national burn the Koran day." Really? Are you kidding me? How can he not see the hypocrisy in that statement?

What gets me about these fundamentalists is their complete tunnel vision and lack of self-reflection. Shall we say that Jim Jones represented all Christians? How about the Ku Klux Klan? Or even Timothy McVeigh?

Mr. Jones calls for "radical times" and all but incites violence against Muslims. Interviewer Rick Sanchez called him to task, saying he does a disservice to Christians. Amen. What astonishes me even more is the fact that this guy actually has followers who take him seriously. This is how Hitler got his start, isn't it?