“I can’t wait for A.J.’s monthly update on her New Year’s Resolutions,” said no one.

What I hope this blog will be after I finish all my little changes. (Image courtesy of Marc Falardeau.)

Which is why, although this is July 2, there is no resolution update here. Not today, at least.

The fact of the matter is, I am teaching a blogging course for my community college’s extended studies program, and I’ve spent a lot of time on class prep.

Ironically, the frequency of my own blog updates has suffered because of this. Not because I’m too busy to update, but my blogging course has prompted me to make some changes to what I do here. Most of my work on this blog has been more structural lately.

You may notice that some older content is disappearing. You may notice a change in my categories. You may notice a design change on some of the pages as well.

Actually, scratch that. Those are tiny changes.  I don’t think you’ll notice any of them unless you’re bored and spend a lot of time on this site. And by “a lot of time,” I mean “a stalkerish amount of time.”

What else is new?

I’m setting up some Beware the Hawk readings and getting my book into some Connecticut bookstores. Progress there is slow, so I can’t really tell you too much about some of the engagements until I get more details hammered out. I can tell you, however, that I will be reading at alumni day at Enders Island in Mystic, Connecticut on Thursday, July 19. I will be introduced by the delightful Kate Gorton. I will also be selling and signing books with the rest of the Fairfield University MFA alumni authors.

What else? I’ve been working hard on some creative endeavors, including a piece set in the Beware the Hawk universe.

I can’t say much about that piece because a.) it’s not done b.) no one has even remotely agreed to publish it and c.) it’s bad policy to do any egg-counting while your eggs are still inside the chicken. Also, that’s just messy.

Which reminds me, I still need some suggestions for my protagonist’s name. That contest ends on July 19.  I have a few suggestions, ranging from Sarah (as in Sarah Connor) to Rufus T. Firefly. For real. So I would love to have some more. Please comment or email or Facebook me with the name you think my protagonist should have.

I’m also working on two other projects, including a Snow White reboot. Because that’s what we need in 2012. More Snow White. You’re welcome, world.

It’s a time for evaluation, and letters of recommendation …and other things ending in “ation.”

It’s college finals time, a special time that only comes twice a year and, as the title of this post suggests, has certain traditions associated with it.

As does Hogswatch.*

Maybe that’s the reason I simply cannot concentrate on writing and revisions. The steady pace of the college semester is replaced by two weeks of constant motion for everyone in the college community – be they adjuncts, or students or professors. I’m just an adjunct, but there are still plenty of emails to send, and plans to be made and grades to be given. People who might be employing me over the summer break need to be called and emailed. Letters of all kinds must be sent.

So it could be that’s what’s breaking my stride this week as I try to buckle down and work. Writing has been unreasonably difficult this week. I  find myself staring out the window at weather that’s not so great. Or zoning out in front of my computer with a blank document open in front of me. Or clicking on Yahoo! News items. (“Star’s incredible transformation into Linda Lovelace!” “Kim dates Kanye!” “Mom takes toddler tanning!”) Or typing the same words three times and then deleting it all and cleaning the bathroom instead.

Really? What happened to all that April productivity?

It could be the changed pace of finals that’s throwing me off.

Or it could be my birthday, which falls this month. My mother used to say that as soon as my birthday rolled around every year, summer would begin for me and me alone. In my mind, my birthday heralded the start of a big ol’  Festival of Ann that started in May and stretched into the summer. I thought I’d abandoned that mindset in middle school, but hey, maybe my 34-year-old self is trying to regress.

Whatever it is, I’m going to beat it down with a word count of 500 words a day, even if they are 500 awful words a day. And I plan to do that while writing letters of recommendation. Even if I’m staring out the window between paragraphs.

* See below for the Terry Pratchett clip I’m paraphrasing. Recognize someone from Downton Abbey? You’re welcome.


The nuns

Sister Mary Stigmata never taught me.

I was just reading some fiction which featured an archetype that’s been in heavy rotation for at least half a century, and at most, a thousand years: The Evil Nun.

You all know The Evil Nun. She hits poor, defenseless, innocent children with rulers and singles them out for shame and humiliation. Her anger and frustration cause her to brand little girls as tramps and little boys as shifty truants. She’s violent. She’s mean. She’s ruined your formative years, and she’s been in more movies than Kevin Bacon. She’s appeared in The Blues Brothers and, in a slightly more nuanced incarnation, in Doubt. All of you – even if you never went to Catholic school, even if you aren’t Catholics, even if you’re a very peaceful Quaker who has no argument with anybody – you all shudder in her presence.

Except I’ve never met the Evil Nun in person. And I went to Catholic school. While I was there in the ’80s I met strict nuns. I met emotionally distant nuns. But never once did I meet The Evil Nun. Not once. And I feel like I’ve missed out on a great shared experience of 20th century Catholic school students. I really liked the nuns who taught me. What’s exciting about that? Continue reading


Me, planning next semester's syllabus.

It’s finals day here at Fort Davis. This means that although I don’t really have that many students this semester, I’m spending the day surrounded by final projects, two copies of my class’s final student newspaper, my attendance book, a collection of pens, two cold cups of coffee and random pieces of paper that have been living in my bag this semester.

I don’t post much about my job as an adjunct professor at a local community college, mostly because I don’t want the kind of trouble that comes from writing about the workplace online. But I don’t think any harm can come from posting my feelings about the end of the semester, which are always bittersweet.

On the one hand, the semester always ends exactly when it needs to. Right when the pressure is the highest, and people start getting the flu, and everyone’s motivation has flat-lined, bam! No more classes. We have finals and then we’re outta here! Woohoo!
On the other hand? I always end up missing my students. Especially the ones who are going off-campus for good, graduating or transferring from community college to a four-year institution. I’m happy for them, but I’m sad to see them leave.

I was unprepared for this feeling when I started teaching three years ago. When I was a college student my own reaction to the end of the semester was a big, unmitigated YAY! Granted, things were busier for me then –  I was taking five and six classes a semester, working two on-campus jobs and working as a college newspaper editor at the time. I used to say good-bye to my professors with abandon. I cut them loose the moment I walked out of the final. My thought was that they would never remember me anyhow – they had so many other people to teach, why would they remember who I was? Until I ran into a former prof and he remembered me. Moreover, he was pleased to see me and interested in what I’d done with my life. And now, when I run into former students, and they’re happy to see me, or when one of them emails me with a question, I find that I am always ridiculously pleased. If I knew what an awesome feeling it to be contacted by a former student, I would have contacted more of my teachers. Actually, it’s probably not too late for that.

All right. Enough blogging from me. Back to the finals. I’ll be writing more about teachers  – although not college teachers – tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’m writing about nuns.


Classroom stage fright

I teach at the local community college. But one day a year, at my department head’s behest, I teach three workshops of high school students at the college’s high school journalism symposium. This is my fourth year of teaching the workshop, and every year I kind of dread it.

I have to get up earlier than usual, I’m not used to dealing with high school students, and I never know what kinds of kids are going to be walking into my workshop. Plus, despite the fact that I’ve been standing in front of a class twice a week for the last few years, teaching gives me a wicked case of stage fright. Even if I’m teaching kids I’ve been working with for years.

So needless to say, the high school journalism symposium gives me palpitations. Every year, I’m awake all night before the event. I worry about everything. I’m not sure if what I say will be interesting to the students, I’m not sure if I’m going to make myself look like an idiot and I don’t know if I’m going to have a disciplinary problem on my hands.

But you know, it’s never as bad as I’m afraid it’s going to be.  I think I’ve only had two belligerent high schoolers in twice as many years. For the most part, they’re respectful, cooperative and fun. I’m almost always sad to see them leave at the end of my workshop.  They ask good questions. One of the best ones I heard today came from a student who has been on her high school newspaper a month. We were talking about interviews, and she asked me if I’m ever scared when I’m about to interview someone.

Yes, I told her. I’m always scared before an interview. Without exception. I get butterflies before I make a phone call. I have to take a deep breath before I go into someone’s office to ask them a few questions. I am always, always nervous. Because you never know what that interview might turn into.

It’s kind of like teaching, actually. And usually – like teaching – the interview goes way better than I thought it would.