Friday, May 29, 2009

Sex Ed - English Style

I had to explain to my students what "begat" means. It happened like this:

We were reading Inherit the Wind in class. At one point, one lawyer in the play asks another if he feels people begat now the way they begat in the Old Testament.

Beth, of course, giggles, because its funny. But the rest of the room is silent. Their sweet, innocent faces are confused. Why is the teacher laughing?

Stupidly, I ask "Don't you know what begat means?" You can guess their answer, which was unanimous.

So, I had to explain it to them. As in Beth and Mike got married. They begat a son, Joseph. Because they did it. Had sex. Begat Joseph.

I'm assuming they enjoyed my explanation, based on the laughter. And the snickers. I'm fairly certain that I heard a boy in the back of the room say, "She said sex." This, coming from students who watch the same movies I do, listen to sexually graphic music and would probably "begat" in the hallway if we let them.

Beth's explanation 1 Begatting 1

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So You Think You Can Write?

As I prepare for another season of So You Think You Can Dance and pay close attention to those contestants I will later choose for my draft, a rather unpleasant thought occurred to me. Over and over on the show, contestants make fools of themselves, performing amateur moves, falling down or dressing in ridiculous bunny outfits. The goal? Make it to "Vegas".

Similarly, one could compare the unpublished author to the dancer that didn't get the ticket to Vegas. Let's take a closer look.

Dancer: Wants to get a ticket to Vegas
Writer: Wants to get an offer from an agent.

Dancer: Wants to prove they are an accomplished dancer.
Writer: Wants to prove they are an accomplished writer.

Dancer: Doesn't want to fall on their face.
Writer: Doesn't want to write a manuscript that makes the reader want to fall on their face.

Dancer: Doesn't want to look like a fool.
Writer: Ditto

But what if I am that horrible, bunny suit wearing, fall on your face dancer in the writing world? The idea is deeply unsettling, yet not completely off . . . or so I think. My husband disagrees. But then again, he is smart and wants to avoid the couch tonight.

Bunny suit -1 Beth - ?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not Cool

My husband just created his blog. It is already cooler than mine. How did that happen??

Beth's husband 1 Beth 0

A School, or a Zoo?

Summer is almost upon us. At school, this change is very apparent. I'll list the reasons why:

1. I'm seeing more skin than I care to.
2. I feel more like a zoo keeper than a high school teacher.
3. They are louder. If I hear them singing "Mother Lover" one more time I'm not going to be able to contain my laughter anymore. Bye bye decorum.
4. Students who don't shower after gym have a rather distinct odor.
5. They actually want to write poetry . . . if we can do it outside.
6. They seem surprised when I want to teach them.
7. The make-out sessions in the hallway have increased. I'd yell "get a room," but that seems a little innapropriate considering they are teenagers.

The end of this year is bittersweet for me. I'm excited to be at a new school next year - which is only five minutes from home - but I'll miss the students. Each year I think I'll never love another group of students like I care for my current classes, and each new year proves me wrong. Nine months down . . . three weeks to go.

Summer 1 Students 1 Beth 1

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Embracing My Inner Geek

I sat in Northern Virginia traffic today on the way home from work. Office Space, stop and go, mind-numbing traffic. As my car crept forward and stopped yet again, my thoughts wandered to green pastures and lollipops in a hopeless attempt to stay sane. Just then, I happened to glance at the car next to me. Inside was a man who couldn't be more than thirty-five. His hair was black, streaked with gray and pulled back into a tight pony-tail. His face was thin, cheeks sunken, and had that "I live alone" look.

The man leaned over, completely oblivious of my staring and picked up a huge blue binder. At first I thought he was looking at a photo album, but upon further scrutiny I realized he was looking at a card collection. I could be mistaken (not likely), but I'm certain the cards were fantasy/graphic novel related.

This is the point in the story where I'm ashamed of myself. I love fantasy novels. I write them. Harry Potter is one of my favorite books. But I laughed at him. I turned my head away so he couldn't see me, and I laughed. There was something so comical about how engrossed he was by this card collection in the middle of rush hour traffic. It was so stereotypically geeky.

Eventually, however, I was bored again. To combat the monotony, I pulled The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile from my purse and began reading. It didn't take long for me to ponder what reading in stop and go traffic said about my "coolness" level. I couldn't help but compare my social status to that of fantasy card collection man and ultimately didn't find any differences. But I still didn't put the book away. Perhaps the person next to me got a good laugh.

Card collections man 1 Beth 1 Inner Geek 1

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Death to Query Letters

I hate query letters. I would rather write an entire novel than one query letter. Why can I write a 300+ page novel, which is complex and rich, but have a difficult time with a one page query letter?

According to the folks at Absolute Write, (God Bless you, by the way), I have trouble transfering the voice from my novel, to the voice in my query letter. The words "not exciting" came up several times. Sigh. My query shortcomings frusterate me in a teeth clenching, eye-rolling, shove my face with Doritos and finish the bag kind of way.

And so I suffer. The letter still isn't perfect. I'll probably revise it ten more times today. Ok, fifteen.

Beth 0 Query Letter 10 and counting