Saturday, October 30, 2010

Countdown to Chaos!

Less than 48 hours until NaNoWriMo begins and I'm not ready yet. Egads! I'm taking today and most likely tomorrow to get my plot straightened out and get myself poised for the attack. My students are doing poetry, which will make it a little easier on me as far as my reading and prep load.

I'm hosting a Write-In and believe or not, I think at least 3 people will actually be there! As far as I know, however, I'm the only kidlit writer in these parts. Anyway, ELEMENTS Coffe Co., crank up the expresso machine and the teapot and get ready for us!

Full disclosure, I am picking up my WIP for this one, but since I'm scarcely 4,000 words in, I'm taking it as a reboot and not vying for a win (if you know what I mean). Lots of buddies are participating this year, so I hope they have their extra powerful motivational boots on so they can kick me in the pants with wild abandon! Now, if you haven't yet checked out Nathan Bransford's awesome advice for NaNoWriMo prep work, get your buns over to his blog and drink it in.

Write on, folks!

Monday, October 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo...Why Not?

I admit it. I'm a NaNoWriMo virgin. But I'm putting it out there this time around, hoping that the community and the deadline will give me a little extra momentum as I try to get this next YA banged out. I've resisted in the past primarily because I was already well into a project and making steady progress. This time, however, I could use a little pick-me-up. So here I go.

I'm looking to my writing buddies and acquaintances for further encouragement, and they never let me down. Many of the gals from The Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors have participated and they're good at spreading the fever.  Stephanie Ruble has also offered some helpful tips for newbies like me.

So stay tuned...the counter should be cranking at top speed in about 2 weeks!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thank You.

This summer, Ghost Daughter attended a fabulous American Girl Summer Camp at Darton College.  As they learned about Kit and what life was like during wartime, they thought a lot about the service men and women who are protecting not only our freedom, but that of others around the globe.  To learn more about money, the girls put up a lemonade stand and used the money to put together CARE packages for some troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Not too long ago, we received a lovely surprise in the mail.  Warrant Officer Phillip Kelliher and his troops were so touched by the girls' notes and cards and thoughtful gifts that they dedicated a mission to the girls and sent along the flag they had flown over that mission as well as a certificate the named the date of the mission and its dedication to the girls.  The flag and the original certificate will be displayed in the Office of Continuing Education at Darton.

Reading the personal note from CW4 Kelliher touched both me and Ghost Daughter so much and inspired us to do a little something more.  It's not much, but Ghost Daughter wanted it to be personal and hand-made, so I knitted a couple of little soldiers to send CW4 Kelliher.  Perhaps I'll make some more.  I just know that whenever I think of him and his troops, I wish I could hug each and everyone of them and send them a little piece of home.

I have met a girl who truly knows the value of what these troops are doing.  A young woman who had to be smuggled out of Afghanistan before her mother's traitorous act of educating her daughters got them all killed.  She started her senior year (at a high school where I once taught) labeled simply as "home-schooled" and soared to the top of the class.  Other students were upset that based on only one semester, this stranger uprooted a classmate from the top 10.  It wasn't until the Senior Honors dinner that these fortunate young people learned what they really had.

Each student took a turn to stand up and introduce their special guest at the dinner.  Some of them brought teachers, some brought family friends.  This young woman brought her savior.  When her turn came, she stood and told a cynical public how her mother had hidden her and her sister away and educated them in secret because to do so openly could mean death.  That everyday, her mother had risked her own life to give her children a better one.  That this man, her dear honored guest, had risked his life to smuggle them out of the country just so they could be free to learn and live.  This is what an education meant to her.  Something worth dying for.

So for all those men and women who serve, thank you.  Forget all the political diatribes and posturing.  Think of those who lay their lives on the line everyday to protect our lives and our freedom.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Burn, Baby, Burn...

I've been absent from the blogosphere a bit too long, dealing with the sometimes overwhelming tasks of being a writer/teacher/mom/wife with a newly-minted teenager exploring his angst and a feisty 3rd-grader running all over.  But I have been checking in from time to time and read something truly heart-breaking.

Last week was Banned Book Week.  Censorship is nothing new and some of you may already be familiar with Risha Mullins' plight, but I am still sickened that such a witch hunt can take place in modern America.  I fear for our teachers who care about actually teaching our children and even more, about inspiring our children.  I fear for the countless kids who could learn so much and discover a love for reading by participating in innovative programs like hers.  I fear for the future of this country when small minds can level such ignorant accusations and cripple our schools and allow a fascist minority to dictate that No Child Left Behind actually means no child goes forward to discover the true meaning of critical thinking and growth because those are dangerous concepts.

Look at what a sharp, insightful, creative teacher can do and think about why our kids are in school.  Despite the moral majority's opinion, they are not there to pass a test.  They are there to learn and to grow.  Education is not about dumping information into kids' heads and hoping they can regurgitate it on an endless bubble sheet.  The word itself actually translates "to lead or draw out." It's about meeting them in their own space and helping them to explore their world and actually think about the connection between their own experience and all the world has to offer.  YA literature is an excellent place to share common experience and expand it to the uncommon.  It challenges kids to think about what they know and what could or could not be.

Do we really serve our kids by hiding the truth of human experience from them unless it fits neatly into our own little bubble of the unreal or chronologically irrelevant?  Yes, they read MacBeth and A Tale of Two Cities and Night and see some harsh truths about the human condition, but what about Speak and Soul Enchilada and Twenty Boy Summer and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?  While the classics may be great and important literature that will surely live on in English class, AP reading lists, and college courses, can't we make room for the YA experience as well?  If we have nothing to turn our kids on to reading, will they ever even open those so-called classics?

I won't go on and on about this because Risha's case sums it up so well, but I challenge those who would keep books from our students to spend a day or even an hour in the poorest neighborhood in town or walk with a girl on her way to planned parenthood or stand for even a minute in the shoes of a teenager wrestling with the truth of his/her sexual orientation.  Tell me what your experience is in that case.  I know it's not only the white middle class conservatives lodging complaints. Any closed-minded group  can curry oppression.  I once had an African American parent complain about the film The Power of One because it showed the abominable treatment of a black South African.  Never mind that the film actually abhors the injustice Apartheid perpetuated and celebrates the power of even one small voice to make a difference.  This parent couldn't be bothered to actually watch the movie or consider the power of its message for her child.  We certainly could not have read the book, because most of the kids in this class could hardly put a subject with a verb because they had skipped through school all these years without reading anything but the inside cover Cliffnotes.

I wonder if all the kids who read The Crucible in their high school English class have any idea that they are bubbling and burning in a crucible of their own...

Check out these links:

The Kids' Right to Read Project
The Book Smugglers
Controversial & Banned Books