Build it and they will run?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Hours upon hours are spent on my butt creating feedback on student work. I want to spend hours upon hours running through the woods or at least strolling around. Hey, I know—let’s combine the two!

Okay, so does anyone use a desk treadmill? Is yours homemade or was it built to do the jobs you are asking it to do? My wife is getting a recumbent exercise bike at 2nd Wind. She can get almost free ($150) delivery and in-home set-up if she spends more than $2,000. The bike is only $500 or something. I’ve been daydreaming about the NordicTrack desk treadmill because it’s a brand I trust and it’s attractive. Plus it doubles as a sitting desk, standing desk, walking desk, and a plain 10mph treadmill with 10% incline if so desired. I can’t say “doubles” then, can I? It quadruples as…etc.

2nd Wind doesn’t have that one though. They have some other desk treadmills, but they only go 4mph. So no run replacement options. I realize running and scoring kid work could lead to shoddy teachership. Or broken body parts like an unstrung neck or dislocated pointing finger. But on 16 degree, low scoring-load days, I’d still like the option of replacing an outdoor run with an indoor run in the 1950’s paneled, mirrored luxury of our basement.

So here’s what I’m thinking, and here’s where your opinion matters. What if I buy a real, plain treadmill from 2nd Wind so my wife gets free-ish delivery and set-up, and I BUILD A DESK on top of the handrails? What do you think?


Friday, January 1, 2016

Friday, January 1, 2016

One page coming up! 365, or so, adjusted for Leap Year, pages. Teacher Memoir? What about those summer days? No problem; it’s not as if some school doesn’t happen every day, even in the summer. Thoughts at least, hey?

So what schoolish things went down today? I looked into Google Classroom. My co-teacher, Amy, created the spaces for us. I wish it looked more like a video game. Perhaps it will as I get more into it. I also peeked at Meghan’s, our literacy coach’s, copy of The Common Core: The Standards Decoded by Jim Burke. Literally opened the booked, noticed that the cover and back cover are falling off—not from overuse but from shoddy wiring—hoped she wouldn’t think I did it, looked at a few headings trying to figure out if it covered all core areas—it does, I think—and closed the book. Then I called Barnes and Noble because I really want to buy something. They didn’t have a copy of it in store, but they’ve ordered on for me.

So yeah, that’s the extent of it. Do people other than teachers buy stuff that will let them be better whatevers? Probably. Maybe. I don’t know.

Wait, another schoolish part was waking to a dream where I was a science teacher. I walked into a lab bustling with busy students and realized I’d prepared nothing, nada, zilch, for my seniors. One kid looked like he was making a bomb, so I checked in with him first. He said, “Oh, no, I just made it so cold water runs first, not hot.” I looked again. It wasn’t a bomb but rather plumbing. “Good idea,” I told him.

Oh yeah, we also drove past school because I told Chou to go that way on our way home from skiing in the park. I just really like seeing the school. Guess that’s a good sign. I’m still very happy, after two and a half months, to be living so close. Eight walking blocks. Ten minutes on foot. Unless there are eagles playing above—then it’s fifteen minutes by foot. I’m happy to live close. Who would have thought? And that’s that. The first day of the year. Thank you and good-bye 2015. Hello 2016. May you be a good year.






My fingers hover over send.  This is the last real creative interaction I’ll have with my second novel.  The next time I see it, it will be in the form of galley pages, ready to go to print.

I think one of the few entries here is about saying goodbye to Laughing Down the Moon before zipping its little jacket up to its chin, kissing its papery check, and waving a tear-dampened hanky at it as it boards the bus. Do I have issues with completing projects?  One look around our home says yes I do.

This novel, formerly known as … is now going by the title, Tilt-A-Whirl because its old title gave away the entire plot.  Don’t go looking it up unless you want a spoiler. If you already know its old title, wipe it from your mind.  We never had that conversation; you never saw it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bella Books. What an interesting experience it has been to rename it.  I’ve known the story and its characters for years, since 2010. That’s like living with a sweet, responsive dog for over three years and calling her…uhm, let’s call her Banjo.  So for years, she’s answered to Banjo.  When you think of her, you think of her as Banjo.

Then, one day you take her to the vet, and the vet says, “Wow.  Banjo, you say?  Her name doesn’t really work.  It gives her no privacy, so you must change it in the next week or so.”  And you’re standing at the counter, Visa in hand, jaw on the mostly sterile floor, going, “Huh?” And so for the next week, you wander around in a daze, speaking (out loud, unfortunately) as you try out new title after new title.  “Leapfrogs,”  “Leapling,” “Chasing Down the Tilt-A-Whirl—no, people will think it’s a sequel to Laughing Down the Moon,” “Bodoquito—no, English speakers will avoid it and Spanish speakers will be let down.”

Well, what then?  The name I really wanted, Tilt-A-Whirl, was already used in 2006 by another writer.  Wouldn’t having another dog in the neighborhood with the same name be confusing?  I consult the vet.  No. Happens all the time.  Look up the name Rover (she actually told me to look up the title Indiscretion.) 629 hits. Okay. Tilt-A-Whirl it is.  And it’s nice that it’s a shout-out to Minnesota, too. I wonder if Herbert Sellner ever thought his ride’s name would be the title of a lesfic novel? Chances are, no. Here’s this from Wikipedia:

Herbert Sellner, a woodworker and maker of water slides, invented the Tilt-A-Whirl in 1926, at his Faribault, Minnesota, home. Over the next year, the first 14 Tilt-A-Whirls were built in Herbert’s basement and yard. In 1927, Sellner Manufacturing opened its factory in Faribault, and the ride debuted that year at the Minnesota State Fair.

Family legend states that Herbert experimented with a chair placed on the kitchen table. Herbert’s son Art sat in the chair, and Herbert rocked the table back and forth.

The earliest Tilt-A-Whirls were constructed of wood, powered by a gas motor, and featured nine cars. Today, the ride is constructed of steel, aluminum and fiberglass, is powered by seven small electric motors, and features seven cars.

So, good then. Come, Tilt-A-Whirl. Sit, Tilt-A-Whirl. Good girl.  It works for me. Let’s try this one: Go get printed, Tilt-A-Whirl, go to Productions… Good Girl.

I hit send.

Creative Procrastinator

February 17, 2014

It is now editing time for my second book, Twinsight, which is supposed to have a birthday sometime this spring.  I did learn some things during the editing process of my first book, Laughing Down the Moon.  I took copious notes for myself so that I would have an easier time with any future editing.  That was a great idea, but where are the notes now?

Without the notes, only three big lessons remain lodged in my mind among the names of 145 second-semester students, the due date of my library book (last Friday), and “i” before “e” except after “c.”

The first lesson I remember is to ask questions about deadlines when they arise rather than waiting until beyond the last minute because I am scared of the answer. For Laughing Down the Moon, my editor, Katherine V. Forrest, had to plead for an extra day from the publication department because we ran behind schedule.  I like waiting until the last minute to do things. True. And the entire time I was addressing the needs that arose during editing, I held this little scrap of wonderment, like a fortune cookie’s paper, in the back of my head.  On the fortune paper was written, “When is this thing due?” I was so scared that the answer would be “tomorrow” that I never asked.  Hence, an extra day had to be granted in order to get the novel out there in time.

Lesson learned; yesterday I emailed Nancy Ashmore, my editor for Twinsight, and she said I have ten days. Ah ha! Fabulous! Hm.  Why am I writing this instead of editing and revising? I’m getting to the answer here.

The second lesson is that Bella Books, my publisher, does not appreciate the serial comma.  The comma that comes before the “and” in a list. I had about 451 serial commas to remove from my first novel. No biggie, I can live with that despite the fact that I feel like a hypocrite in my classroom when I teach the students that the serial comma is imperative. This can be my “do as I say and not as I do” moment. My delicious secret life of breaking grammatical laws.

The third lesson I found tucked away in the gray matter is to not procrastinate.  (Yeah, whatever.) One issue with Twinsight that Nancy Ashmore pointed out is that the lesbian, Minnesotan protagonist keeps making references to her upcoming unlawful marriage.  I started writing the book in 2011, but the legality of same-sex marriage has evolved for Minnesotans so quickly that now much of the protagonist’s thinking and saying would have to be changed in order to reflect those legal updates.  I like my protagonist’s thinking, and I like what she says, so I don’t want to mess with it.  Lucky for me, my editor suggested setting the story in October 2012, adding some dialogue and reference to the “vote no on the anti-marriage amendment,” and keeping the protagonist’s ideas intact.

Cool. One problem.  I’m not a calendar person.  It is right now; it’s always right now.  I rarely know the date.  I usually know if it’s a school day or not, but the number on the calendar? That’s not for me.  So now I need to calendar out Twinsight because in this novel there are some critical dates, for instance, a birthday, a few holidays, and some specific Thursday parties.  Okay, so I went in search of a blank 2012 calendar to use in mapping out this story.

Want to know the calendar that I found nestled in my bookshelves?  It is blank and untouched… a purely virginal calendar…it is the “Do It Later! A 2012 Planner (or Non-Planner) for the Creative Procrastinator” by Mark Asher.  Is it any wonder that I am just getting around to using it now in 2014?  Huh. I better get back to editing.

Wait. Right after I  ImageImageImage

Laughing Down the Moon

Laughing Down the Moon

My first novel comes out today! What a magical way to close up 2013. I can’t express how very excited I am about this. It’s like passing a note in fifth grade, chewing your bottom lip until the little origamied message makes its way hand-to-hand across the room, breathing a sigh of relief that the teacher didn’t notice, and then watching your best friend laugh as she reads what you wrote. No. It’s even better than that–if you can imagine!

The link to buy it from the publisher’s (Bella Books) website is

There is also an appetizer at Here you can enjoy the first ten pages.

Happy New Year to you!!! I hope it is a magical one for you!

Maybe No One Will Notice

100_0915Readers need a certain level of tension in order to stay involved with a book, right? I spent this weekend reading my galley for Laughing Down the Moon, and I realized in one scene, Allura, the protagonist turns the gas stove on under a tea kettle and then leaves the house for an emergency. No mention of the now bone-dry, piping hot kettle follows. How’s that for tension?

In the galley stage, you can’t change big things, and you can’t change insignificant things—say turning “scarlet” to “crimson.” My editorial director said the galley proof was just for catching glaring typos. So, by the time you read the book, the tea kettle should be a mere cinder.

What’s the funniest oops you’ve ever noticed in a book?

And Out You Go

empty nest

In The Eleventh Draft, edited by Frank Conroy, William Lashner so aptly describes what I’ve been feeling lately. He writes, “When I complete a book, I am supposed to be happy, relieved. I am supposed to rejoice that I am finished, but what I feel more than anything is loss. When I turn in a manuscript for the final time it is as if, in the garden of my novel, I have eaten from the fruit of completion and, as punishment, been banished.”

Having just submitted my final manuscript for Laughing Down the Moon, I felt adrift. The tide pushed me towards the security of my local library. The book, The Eleventh Draft, is one I checked out from what I thought to be an underwhelmingly small selection of books on writing. I’d been impressed before by this library’s collection on the writing craft, so I thought that either some new writer was fresh on the scene and had checked everything out, or that I was missing something. Turns out, all but The Eleventh Draft and a couple other writerly books were being displayed next to the banks of computers, alongside some flyers for classes on memoir producing, character creating, and conflict escalating (or topics along those lines.)

I first cracked the book open to a random essay inside during silent reading time in the English 12 class that I teach. This was the paragraph my eyes landed on. It was quiet enough in the tile-floored, fluorescently lit room to hear the squeak that snuck out of my throat. Paper pages turned, fingers glided across e-reader screens, and I re-read William Lashner’s words. He felt loss at being done with the writing of his manuscript. Loss. Loss when he should feel joy. I was relieved to read that.

Just two nights earlier I had emailed Laughing Down the Moon to Bella Books, for what, I believe, was the final time. Laughing Down the Moon is my first novel, so I’ve never been here before. I had been under the impression that I’d feel like celebrating, singing, and dancing at this moment. Instead, despite the champagne that Florence popped open for me, I had a glimpse into the emotions of an empty nester. Never having had kids, I don’t know if this is a fair comparison, but my baby had just moved out. No, I pushed my baby out. I’d never again wake up in the middle of the night saying, “You know what would be cool in that Solschristus scene? A burning tree! I’m going to start the dang thing on fire!” Well, I might wake up saying that, but it would be too late. My book is done. I can day, or night, dream all I want about what the characters might have said if…or might have done when…but it is too late.