Thursday, July 31, 2008

Summer Is Almost Over . . .

Scenes from St. Augustine -- A really great house across from the Tolomato (sp?) cemetery, the night of our Ghostly Experience walking tour. I was drawn to the blue on the shutters and trim.

Oh, I have soooooo much to do before I go back to work next week. I need to . . .

1) Finish writing unit plans.
2) Make calendars for August & September for three classes.
3) Write letters to my homeroom kids.
4) Write parent letter and create postcards to go in said letters.
5) Get my hair cut.
6) Monster haircuts
7) Monster #2 checkup before school
8) Finish setting up my classroom
9) Call out technician to fix my dryer!

I'm probably forgetting some things. Anything interesting on your back-to-school TTD?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stuff and Nonsense

Scenes from St. Augustine -- More bay front buildings. I love the architecture -- all the second-floor balconies.

I don't really have a lot to talk about. I spent the day viewing two weeks' worth of graduate class videos and discussion posts. I'm working ahead. :-) Then I wrote a new opening unit for my 9th Lit/Comp class.

It looks like I might have a break between this grad course and the next one -- about a month, if I'm right. (If I'm not, that's okay too). The break would be nice, as the first month of school kicks my butt on a yearly basis. I always think I'm all prepared, and then I realize . . . I'm not.

On another note, the house is more organized and relatively clean. I'm hoping that this weekend, we'll be installing the patio doors and that will clear the way for painting in the living room. Oh, joy. I love the freshly painted look. The actual painting, not so much. But we're almost finished! Yay!

And on that note . . . I'm going to bed.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

You Tell Me . . .

Scenes from Renovation -- the DH nailing new panels into the kitchen. My poor house!
Okay, this is the pic that got me into major trouble. See, on the other side of the wall where the DH is nailing? Yeah. That's where the electrical box is. He hit the nail, I snapped the pic, the flash went off, the DH screamed (I was going to write "yelled," but really he screamed like a girl.).
Obviously, my camera flash mimics the electrical flash of someone nailing into an electrical box . . .
I keep trying to convince the man that with enough time and perspective, this will be our favorite too-funny-for-words renovation story. He doesn't agree, as he's the one who believed he'd just been electrocuted since his wife lacks common sense and foresight from time to time.
Just a hint for the future -- if someone's nailing around your electrical box, don't take their picture.
So you tell me -- funny? Or not funny?

Friday, July 25, 2008

More Pre-Pre-Planning

Scenes from St. Augustine -- This building fronts San Marco and faces the bay. It houses several shops and the A1A Aleworks. I've heard the food there is really good, although that's another restaurant in the area we haven't tried.

I pulled a sample framework from the GPS website for American Lit, but I think I'm going to teach it the way I normally do. The framework I found is chronological with the genres mixed (the traditional way to teach a survey course). It feels spotty to me, though, to hit a novel here, a short story there, etc.

A friend of mine from another high school introduced me to the concept of frontloading a survey course a few years ago. I tried it, liked it, then turned the fiction semester around so we start at the contemporary period and work backward. Last year was the first time I'd done that and it seemed to work well.

So here's my yearlong plan for 11th American Lit:

First semester: Fiction

1) Contemporary (or Post-Modern) period (short stories by Anne Tyler and John Updike)
2) Modernism: The Great Gatsby
3) Realism: The Awakening
4) Naturalism: Crane
5) Romanticism: The Scarlet Letter

Second Semester: Drama, Non-fiction, poetry

1) The Crucible
2) Colonial & Revolutionary period letters, journals, etc.
3) Transcendentalism: Thoreau & Emerson
4) Poetry: all 400 years of it

The second semseter also contains a 12-week personal research project.

I have to start making calendars for August & September soon. And set up my classroom. And . . .

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Scenes from St. Augustine -- One of the side streets during our Ghostly Experience walking tour. You can just see the guide, in period dress, beyond the blonde woman. The White Lion restaurant is to the left (I've always wanted to eat there). A wine bar was to our left and the drunk guys on the porch starting making ghost noises and following us. That was funny (and meant I had yet another drunk story to share from our trip). BTW, that's my DH to the right in the green shirt and white ballcap.
I've been doing school planning. Here are the outlines for my two ninth grade classes:
9th Lit/Comp

1st Semester: Fiction
The Short Story: Last Rung on the Ladder, The Scarlet Ibis, etc.
Novel Studies: TKAM, at least one more (A Day No Pigs Would Die or . . . something)

2nd Semester: Drama, Nonfiction, Poetry
Romeo & Juliet
Need one or two high-interest nonfiction books
Poetry study/anthology

9th Writers Workshop

1st Semester:
Skills for High School Success (Multimedia presentations, technical writing)
Literary response & analysis

2nd Semester:
Research: the I-search, unless I come up with something different for research since it seems to have migrated to the 8th grade, anyway an introduction to hefty research project
Poetry anthology to correspond with 9th Lit *or* writing a webquest
Here's my new assessment idea. One thing I do know I'm going to expect of my ninth (and eleventh) graders is the maintenance of an outcome-driven portfolio, which they will use at the end of each semester to lead a parent-teacher-student conference (I think this will be my semester exam the first semester). I've been sketching out my outcomes. Each portfolio should contain artifacts that are evidence of:

1) an engaged leaner
2) an improving writer
3) an active reader
4) a student working toward high school success
5) an active thinker

with the totality of the portfolio showing that the student is making progress on the standards and adapting the habits of mind. Portfolios can be multimedia. Following the parent conference, parents are asked to write a reflective piece on the student's portfolio/presentation. This will mean actively teaching kids how to be reflective, how to use the vocabulary of reflection.

I think I'm going to go back to my old way of teaching vocabulary, which is to integrate two words daily with my DOL. This way, they are still exposed to 360 new words per year. I am horrible about not grading vocab homework. Although, I hate to not use the vocab book. I may think of a way to integrate it (the book) differently, as part of an oral or journal activity.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Scenes from St. Augustine -- More houses along the bay front. The white on in the middle, with the balconies, this is a villa-style B&B and there's a martini bar downstairs with outdoor seating. This is so the kind of place I'd love to hang out with Mary and Connie and people watch.

My friend Pam is a middle school media specialist. We used to teach middle school English together (the principal hated us -- we could get into trouble by breathing). A couple of weeks ago, we went for coffee and swung by the school. It was weird being there, but good to be with her. Anyway, she went into her office to get some things and one of those items was a bright yellow folder. She called it her "bright ideas" folder. When she has a neat idea, she jots it down and it goes in that file.

Oh, my heavens. Why didn't I think of that?! I'm constantly jotting ideas for my classroom and lessons and things while reading for my grad courses or talking with fellow teachers or students, then I lose the sticky notes.

Hello! I need a bright ideas folder.

Isn't that a, well, a bright idea?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Scenes from St. Augustine -- The Oldest House. It's a museum now and supposedly haunted (the ghost throws Skittles). The Monsters were quite disappointed that they didn't get ghostly Skittles.
I'm having trouble getting motivated this morning. Had my day all planned out -- finish cleaning Monster #1's room, laundry, maybe clean the bathroom. DH wants me to find paperwork. Does he have any idea what's involved in that right now?! Augh!
Over at Samhain, Sharon Cullen's new release Deception is out today. It's neat to see this book release as I critiqued it during an early incarnation. (She was writing it while I was writing His Ordinarly Life, so it's really interesting to have her book coming out the week before HOL appears in print.)
Okay. I have to go search for paperwork. If I don't come back, y'all know what happened.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tori & Mark . . .

. . . have cover art!

I love it. Anne Cain is a cover goddess!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Brain is Shortcircuiting

Scenes from St. Augustine -- Two of the great houses on San Marco, facing the bay front. I'd love to live in that neighborhood.

My brain is doing weird things. Carol says it's stress. I think I'm just odd. I spent an entire day battling the "I've done nothing with my life, have nothing to show for it" depression, which really isn't me. I spent another few hours obsessing about something that is entirely out of my control. Then last night I had this weird movie-like dream about a possessed house, a dream which featured two of my characters. I never dream about my characters. It was strange and left me all scared, sad and disturbed because their relationship was destroyed by this possessed house and there was nothing I could do about it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I see the parallels.

Does your brain do weird things when you're under stress? Or is it just me?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Looking Ahead

Scenes from St. Augustine -- One of the cute houses I like in the historic district. Look, it's Cody, our droll carriage-ride guide! And part of Monster #1's hair -- you'll notice it is uncombed. He drives me insane with that.

Next week is going to be horribly busy for me. I'm working in the house -- not construction, but cleaning and organization. We have too much stuff and everything is in the wrong place. However, we've got to be better organized before school starts, or the Monsters and I will never survive.

I'd hoped the renovation stuff would be complete before school started, but it's not going to happen. We're much closer, but no banana. Maybe by Labor Day or fall break (October). Yeah, that would be good.

Fall Into Me is essentially finished. I have some clean-up, fill-in work to do, but I have until August 6, so I'm good on time. I'm still thinking through what to work on next. I probably won't start anything until after the beginning of August. My brain is tired, and I need to be focused on school prep right now.

Oh, yeah, I have to go work in my classroom next week, too. Where did summer go?!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Have a Great Weekend!

I'm painting and laying floor.

Tick and Cookie are loose in the Samhain Cafe. You can win print copies of His Ordinary Life if you go hang out and chat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Post About Nothing

Images from St. Augustine -- A white peacock from the Fountain of Youth. The attraction itself is a little hokey (although the planetarium is so worth it), but the fourteen acres of grounds are fabulous. I have a whole series of photos of Monster #2 getting up close and personal with this peacock. The fun part was the squirrels. There are coin-operated peanut dispensers near the gift shop. When you turn the crank, the squirrels come running. Tons of squirrels. Like a squirrel pack! And they will eat out of your hand. The Monsters thought that was fabulous.

I got nothing. Absolutely nothing of interest to talk about today. Author copies of His Ordinary Life showed up yesterday, which was kind of neat. The tub is sitting in the bathroom and we only scratched the new flooring a teensy bit (I refuse to stress over that. It's a house, not a showroom. It won't be perfect forever.). I painted the bedroom ceiling and refinished the headboard. Today, I have to paint the bedroom walls.

I was going to talk about the different sides of quitting, but I'm not coherent enough for it to make sense, so we'll save that for another day.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Keeping Track

Scenes from St. Augustine -- I should be able to tell you the name of this house, but I can't. It's on the side street which runs off of San Marco and down between the oldest drug store and the new parking garage. I snapped it because I love the feel of it, with the Spanish-style second floor balcony and the dormers and that painted stucco.

I am within about 2K of finishing Fall Into Me. Now, if I could just sit down and go straight through those scenes. But nooooooo. It's not happening like that. That would be too easy.

Mary (MJ) can't believe I posted a countdown to school. I actually need that ticking clock to keep me focused on what needs to happen in July. That would be . . .

1) Clean out Monster #1's closet.

2) Clean out Monster #2's closet.

3) Get my classroom ready (I always do this before preplanning. Preplanning is for, well, planning.)

4) Clear book closet in mobile unit for Connie. (I am so excited about sharing a unit with her!)

5) Write year, semester and unit plans for Brit Lit, Amer. Lit, 9th Writers Workshop, 9th Lit

6) Make August calendars for above classes.

7) Turn in Fall Into Me to Anne the Editor Goddess.

Then there's the renovation TTD list for this week:

1) Paint bedroom ceiling

2) Repair wall under bedroom window (Monster #2 put his knee through my dry wall trying to look out the window)

3) Paint bedroom walls

4) Paint dresser and headboard

5) Prime bedroom floor

6) Install bedroom flooring

7) Stage furniture.

Do you make TTD lists? Or are you a play-by-ear kinda person?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yes, I'm Talking About the R Word

Scenes from St. Augustine -- Another shot of the town square. Look how cool and shady it is . . .

Believe it or not, it's been five years this summer since I returned to writing after taking a sabbatical for about a year. Steph has blogged about how she misses the good ol' days of our early blogging, when it was new and fresh and we didn't know who was watching us. Scariest moment of my blogging life? Having an agent show up to comment that I really shouldn't talk about rejections on my blog. They didn't like to see that. Best moment? Having Deidre Knight show up to comment on one of my posts. That was cool.

But the truth is, rejection is hard. It's demoralizing. It's frustrating.

As an admitted control freak, I've learned that one of the hardest facets of being a writer for me is the letting go involved in submitting. However, the letting go is crucial. I can write a great book. I can put it out there. And that's where my control of the situation stops.

In the past five years, my outlook on submitting and rejection has changed. Early on, I took each rejection letter to heart. Doing so chipped away at me. I let it beat me down. However, over time and through some non-writing circumstances, I changed and that, to paraphrase Frost, has made all the difference. The rejections still sting. Sometimes they make me crazy.


My new attitude is this -- I can write a great book. I can submit it when it's requested. And I can let it go. At the time it goes in the mail, I've done everything I can do. At that point, it's a fifty-fifty shot and the outcome depends on the person on the receiving end. She (or he) will either like it or not. If I get a rejection, I can roll with that. That means pick it up, write something new, start all over again.

Recently I was cleaning out the office so we could complete the renovations in that room. In my old desk was the folder full of rejection letters. I considered throwing them out. I ended up carting them to school. Why? They're going on my wall as a montage, with a headline on them that will say something like "you don't lose until you quit." I think. I'm still thinking through that part. If you have suggestions, I'm open!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thirteen Things to Relish About Summer

Scenes from St. Augustine -- The town square. And yes, that lush St. Augustine grass feels just as fabulous on bare feet as it looks.

Thirteen things I love about summer:

1) Not having a schedule

2) Staying up late to write

3) Sleeping late

4) Hanging out with the Monsters

5) Going to the lake (which we haven't done this year)

6) The smell of freshly cut grass

7) The way the freshly cut grass smells after a rain

8) Going for ice cream. Just because.

9) The pool (which is green and nasty right now. We're having an impossible time maintaining it this year)

10) Hanging out with my friends (another thing I haven't done much of this summer, since we're all too dang busy)

11) Grilling out.

12) The beach

13) Coffee on the front porch

What are your favorite things about summer?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Book Pimping: Vanessa Jaye's New Release

I've known Vanessa a looooong time (since all the way back on the eharl boards) and I love her. Anyway . . .

Is available! Go check it out!

I Can See the Finish Line!

Scenes from St. Augustine -- Flagler College. Is that a gorgeous building or what?

I'm in the last chapter or so of Fall Into Me! Whoo!

Only endings are the hardest parts of anything for me to write. And once it's finished, that means I'm on page one again . . .

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Scenes from St. Augustine -- The Oldest Drug Store. It has a poltergeist, supposedly the angry spirit of Indian Chief Tolomato (sp?). I know this because we sat in the dark in there one night while we listened to ghost legends. There's a headstone belonging to the chief in the store. Monster #1 knocked on it. I'm like, kid, didn't you see Poltergeist?!

I'm less than 10K from finishing FALL INTO ME (the new title for Troy Lee's book). If I turn it in early, I'm seriously tempted to take a week, maybe two, off from writing. Tempted, but then my brain is thinking . . . you could get a great start on the fall project in two weeks. But I don't want to burn out, either, and I've been writing fast this summer.

I'm officially half way into my graduate degree. I only have five more classes and I will be finished! Well, then there's three years of doctoral work. I think I get a break between this current class and the next one. That would be nice.

What about you? If you write, do you schedule yourself time off or is it all-writing, all-the-time?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Elements of Romance

Scenes from St. Augustine -- I think this is one of the many B&B's in the city. I snapped a lot of architecture and atmosphere photos during ghostly carriage tour. This is one. Wouldn't you love to be sitting on that upper porch, taking in the sea-scented air?

Carol teased me last night with the beginning of her western romance. I say teased, because after reading those first few pages, I am in love and want more. We talked about why I'm in love and a big part is the hero. He's great and he's been lost in unrequited feelings for the heroine for a long time, it appears.

Let me tell you, I love me some good pining.

Here's my list of the elements I love in the romance novels I read (some of these you may never find in a Linda Winfree novel, though):

1) Pining. (See above)

2) Alphas who are alpha, but not above groveling to win the heroine back.

3) Groveling.

4) A Big Mis plot, if it's really well done and I can suspend disbelief.

5) Relationship in jeopardy plots.

6) A strong heroine. I don't like whiny women in real life, why would I want to read about one?

There's more, of course, but that's a start. What are your favorite romance elements?