Saturday, February 28, 2009

Writing Teachers

Okay, so I've written about this once before, but I'll elaborate here.

Ever had a writing teacher who just turned you off to it completely? I did. Now I'll admit I had a part in the problem, but I had help too. What was my part? I quit. I let it get to me. Stupid and weak, I know. Would that I could take it back....

When I was in High School my senior year, I took a course I was really stoked about called "Writer's Studio". Figured I'd love it. I didn't, for a number of reasons, but the professor was one of them. My laziness another.

It seemed to me that the only people who had their writing praised were those who wrote slice-of-life, mainstream type stuff. I didn't write that because I was a metalhead outsider who didn't read it. I read Sci-fi and Horror, so that's what I wrote. You remember me, I was the kid with the long hair and ripped jeans buried in a Stephen King novel when I wasn't telling you to piss off.

So that's what I wrote. I wanted to be the next SK.

Don't we all.

My teacher told me it was crap. I don't mean she said it in a nicer way, I mean she said it was awful. All of it. And that I needed to focus on more realistic writing. I replied that I was trying to write stuff like Stephen King, and why was that a bad thing.

She said, "Well, when you have published as much as he has, call me. Otherwise I say that trash will never do."

Okay, that's not a direct quote, but it's damn close...especially the first part.

I was crushed. Seriously thought I'd never write a damn thing worth reading. Ever.

I wrote one thing from 1992 to 2003. That's freakin' 10 years I could have been working and improving, and I'll never get it back. Yeah, I quit. Know why?

Because I thought, having been effectively told so by a 'recognized authority', that nothing I ever wrote would rise above the level of the garbage in a land fill.

And you know what? The writing I did in that class was awful. All of it. The premise, the structure, it was lame. But you know what I've learned since I started going to school to be a teacher? We're supposed to TEACH. So what she could/should/here's-what-I-would've-done is freakin' TAUGHT me what was wrong and helped me improve.

I may never get anything but a few shorts published like the one coming out later this spring. But I know this much: Any of my students whose writing is absolutely terrible in their HIGH SCHOOL YEARS can count on me to be honest about what's wrong, show them how to identify it, and encourage them to keep at it and never give up. Oh, and I know that of any book I do get published, I'll have a free signed copy for the lady in question, if she has the guts to claim it in person.

So how about you, readers? Have anybody you're saving a *special* copy of your first published work for, or that you already gave away if you are a published author?

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Medias wouldn't go In Res today....

Okay, so today I'm trying to help some of my Creative Fiction I students, many of whom are freshmen and just getting used to this 'we have to do work now?' thing called High School. Not many of them understand why they should be starting their stories with action and conflict instead of backstory. It was, unfortunately, quite useless to name from the ba-zillion novels that do it correctly, because not enough of my kids have read a great deal of fiction (popular or classic) yet. So I went with movies. No big deal, right? Gotta take them where they are and teach 'em up from there, right?

Only one problem.

I spaced.

Seriously. Me. The guy who posts movie quotes for all of my students to guess during the day. I wracked my brain for some good examples, and I came up with nothin'.

You get the picture.

So yeah, I copped out and asked them to volunteer some examples (those that got what I meant by In Medias Res, at least) and got a few good ones...the Bourne films, Bond films, the new one with Nick Cage (Bangkok Dangerous?).

But obviously, I need a much bigger list for next time, and certainly more of a genre variety. I am constantly chastised because I don't use enough quotes from "girl movies" (Better Off Dead counts, doesn't it?). So anyway, a number of acceptable "girl movies" that start in the middle of things would be massively helpful.

Whaddaya think, gang? Any ideas to help my poor burgeoning writers grow? Alex, I'm lookin' at you here (just kiddin')

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Tuffy ADOPTED

Sorry this one's coming in late, had computer troubles this week.

My wife and I went by the SPCA adoption center earlier this week and met all the pups. Let me tell you, if you like a dog who LOVES to play and is full of life, this is your guy. Tuffy and one of the guys that work there were outside playing with the soccer ball. Tuffy decided he'd rather PICK UP one of the small plastic kiddie pools and fling it around like a frisbee. After the guy working there finished laughing (and filming it) he decided he'd play a joke on Tuffy and stand in the pool. He almost lost his balance when Tuffy muscled up and dragged him around in the pool. I mean it, this dog is a fun-loving goofball. At the same time, families with younger children or no backyard should probably take a pass. Tuffy is rambunctious and probably wouldn't do well without a lot of room to exercise and play.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Comfort, where do you draw the line?

I know a lot of authors say they can write under some pretty extreme circumstances. Riding while the spouse drives, cramped up on a little hotel bed with the laptop or a pad and pen, circling Chicago on the El. I can write under some pretty rough circumstances if I feel the urge.

But not heat.

It's like going to sleep at night. I can be freezing and find a way to get to sleep, and I can write fairly well when I'm cold.

But heat? Not a chance.

See, all week in North Carolina we've had weather that's very spring-esque. That's great, except that our A/C at school hasn't been tripped. So instead, we get the heat running during the day. It's like 85 degrees in my classroom right now.

I can teach in that hot, humid level of sheer suckitude.

But I can't write. And it pisses me off, because my computer at home (where I would be editing) got all virused up, and I can't do anything at school because I'm pissed and miserable.

So what is the threshold for you? What is that one thing, that last straw that says, "nope, can't get it going because ________________"?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rescue of the Week - Mike ADOPTED

This week, we have an older fella who needs a good home. Typically, Dogs who undergo treatment for heartworms (either because they were out in the wild before, or because someone didn't do a good job keeping their heartworm treatment current) are a little calmer, but also less likely to live to the very far end of their age spectrum. So at seven years old, this handsome guy named Mike is likely to be a loving, loyal, ccalm companion for someone who just likes to relax and take their friend for a walk, or share a spot on the sofa. Please consider giving this good boy a home. The Wake SPCA will contribute up to $250 for his heartworm treatment.

****EDIT: YAY!! Mike has been Adopted!!!!!****

Thursday, February 5, 2009

You keep a-using that word...I do not think it means what you think it means...

Okay, so there is apparently something in the transatlantic water today. Zoe Sharp over at Murderati is blogging about getting some of the minor details correct (and we crime writers can have some interesting details we need to discover). Thing is, I was reading a book not half an hour after I first saw that post that had a very tiny little detail wrong. It is so inconsequential that it almost didn't even need to be there, but it had that niggling effect that shot the writer's cred on this one teensy issue.

Thing is, I happen to respect this writer a hell of a lot, and I really don't know if someone at the publisher changed it, or if the writer just got confuzzed for a minute. And I genuinely want to avoid being *that guy*.

You know the one. The guy who neener-neeners because he found an infinitesimal little error and wants to try the patience of someone genuinely more talented, because he knows that's the closest he could ever get to a published work.

THAT guy.

I'm not that guy. I don't ever want to be that guy. I genuinely want to be helpful, especially since I have such a high opinion of this writer and I kinda want to thank him/her for such a great read (don't worry Zoe, I brought you up because of your post isn't your book).

So, is there a really nice, helpful way to broach this subject in an email or letter, or should I just keep my big mouth shut and mind my own business?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rescue of the Week

The Wake SPCA has a gorgeous dalmation mix. His name's Oreo, and he is a very family- and other-pet-friendly dog. He's about 18 months old.