GUEST POST: Eric Wood’s “Remembering Students”

Today I have a guest post from a friend of mine, Mr Eric Wood. Eric has his own blog called All In a Dad’s Work, where he talks about being a dad, life in general, and whatever strikes his fancy. In this post that he has shared with me, he writes about how the loss of a student can affect a teacher.

I love teaching. I love filling little heads with as much as I can. It has some great perks, too. June, July and August to begin with. Though, here in Nova Scotia it’s only July and August. Still. If I were a full time teacher here those would be two months of “no work”. I used quotes there because there’s always work to be done. Whether it’s a course to keep up with current methods or conferences or preparing for the upcoming year, there’s always work. So don’t think teachers get two or three months paid vacation. Besides summer breaks, there are also recess breaks, lunch breaks, and prep periods. The kids are delightful 90% of the time. I can be a teacher anywhere. I may have to get my teaching license transferred like I did when I moved to Nova Scotia, but I can go anywhere. It won’t make me rich, by any stretch of the word, but it’s plenty fulfilling in other ways.

However, there’s one thing that gets me. Gets all of us, I imagine, though I’ve never heard talk of it.

The death of a student.

I’ve not personally had a student pass away while they were my student. But once a student enters my class they are mine for life. I taught 4th grade for 6 years and my first class of 4th graders are now juniors in university. Some even have kids of their own. However, two of them didn’t survive. One died in a car accident. She left behind a daughter who is just a toddler. Another drowned. He was still in high school. The third, though technically I was only a substitute teacher to him, I saw frequently in the classes I subbed in. He was hit by car while riding his bike. All three were great kids who were a joy to have in class.

We were playing a game as a class. To earn points you had to perform a silly task. Her task was to find something that could be pushed with her nose. There was on her hand and knees, nose to the floor, budunkadunk in the air pushing a pencil. I was roaring. The class was roaring. She was roaring.

He told me he was performing in church the next Sunday with two of his cousins who were also in my class. I told them DW would come watch. Crash was only a few months old at the time and we took him with us. The three of us were in the minority that morning in the Baptist church. But we were welcomed with smiles and open arms. It started at 9 and we listened to the preacher until it was time for the dance routine of my 3 students. It was impressive and, of course, I was a proud teacher.

I don’t have a distinct memory of the third. It’s more of his personality that stuck. He moved away before I really got to know him. Whether I saw him in class, in the hallway, in gym or library, he was always smiling. Like the other two, he was fun to have in class.

Now, at the beginning of every year when first enter a class I silently hope that all “my students” lead a long, fulfilling life and I never have to read about them in that section of the newspaper.

A reminder that I am running a contest throughout the month of March. For each comment you post on my blog throughout the month, you will receive one entry toward a draw for a hard-copy of my zombie apocalypse novel, “Nowhere to Hide”! Please note that in order to accept the prize, I will need you to give me a mailing address where I can have the book sent. If the winner drawn did not intend to enter the contest and/or does not want the book, I will draw another name. Please also note that obvious spam/duplicate comments/etc. will not be counted toward an entry…play fair! And good luck! <3

~ Contest Time! Win a Free Book! ~

Ladies and gents, I think it’s about time I had a contest.

It has now been approximately five months since I self-published “Nowhere to Hide”, and I’ve yet to give away a free physical copy of the book. I would like to rectify that, so throughout the month of March I’m going to run a “comment contest”.

Exhibit 1: The Prize!

Exhibit 1: The Prize!

All throughout March, every time you comment on a post on my blog, you’ll get an entry into the contest. The more you comment, the better your chances are, keeping in mind that I’ll ignore any comments that are obvious spam/doubles/etc. At the end of the month I’ll randomly draw a name from the entries, and that commenter will receive a free copy of “Nowhere to Hide”! If the name drawn is of a commenter who didn’t intend to enter the contest, already owns a copy, or otherwise does not want the book (make me cry, why don’t ya?), I’ll continue randomly picking names until someone accepts the prize.

So what do you think? Want to win a book? The contest begins with this post, so feel free to let me know that you’re going to be trying your luck! <3

Authors Answer 17 – Writing Influences

TraceyLynnTobin:

My answer for this week’s question is not exactly my best, but this week’s “Author’s Answer” is still definitely worth a check out! The authors and I talk about our influences today. :)

Originally posted on I Read Encyclopedias for Fun:

Every author has someone or something that influenced them.  They can be anything from another author to a style.  Even a single book can be an influence.  This week’s question is brought to us by H. Anthe Davis.

J. R. R. Tolkien inspired an entire genre. J. R. R. Tolkien inspired an entire genre.

Question 17: What authors, styles or intellectual movements have most influenced your writing?

Elizabeth Rhodes

First it was Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.  I liked reading multiple storylines at once from many points of view.  There are many authors who use this technique, but I saw it in Puzo’s book first.

The second was a movement that I’m not sure has a name.  I grew tired of stories that boiled down to clear-cut forces of good and evil fighting against each other.  Despite what we may feel, no one person or cause is completely good or evil.  Instead I wanted to write about heroes that…

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Past, Present, and Future of the Mind

Let’s play a game. Imagine yourself from 10, 15, or 20 years ago. What do you remember? Do you see that time in your life through rose-colored glasses, or does even thinking about it make you cringe? If you asked other people about that time in your life, how do you think they would answer?

Now let’s flip it around in the other direction. Imagine that 10, 15, or 20 years ago someone asked you what your life was going to be like that many years in the future. What would you have said? Where would you have expected yourself to be? What would your closest friends and family have said?

Here’s the thing: human beings are absolutely awful at both viewing the past and predicting the future because our brains tend to want to glorify or vilify everything. Did you get teased a lot as a kid? Even if it was bad, you probably remember it being a lot worse than it really was because the memories of the teasing overwrite the good times in your mind. . Did you party every night in college and have the time of your life? Even if there were lots of awesome moments your brain probably glazes over all the epic hangovers and panicked all-nighters. As for the future, did you imagine yourself in your perfect job with an awesome house and a cool car, because you knew that you would settle for nothing less? Yeahhhh…how did that work out for you? That’s not to say that your life turned out poorly, but if you were to answer honestly how many of you ended up exactly where you expected to be when you thought about the future a decade ago?

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Can you say “Throwback Thursday”?

16-17 years ago (man, that makes me feel old…) I was in the middle of junior high, which for those of you who don’t have the same kind of school system set-up, is the 8th grade, or 9th actual year of public school. That’s me, second from the left in the first row, taking a weird pose because there actually wasn’t enough room for me on the end of the bench and the guy who was taking the photo couldn’t have cared less. I do not recall this time in my life with a great deal of fondness. Junior high is a period of time during which young people start to be real jerks to each other, and I exacerbated that by being an awkward, self-conscious nerd. I was constantly teased and tormented because I was good in school and liked things like Star Wars and anime, and I made myself an even bigger target by neglecting to keep up with my peers…I didn’t wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, or pick up the right habits. I was a loser, and I was convinced that I was both fat and ugly. Seriously, look up at that picture again, and consider the fact that I thought I was fat and ugly. It was an absolutely awful period in my life.

Except, that’s not exactly true; it’s just the way the awkward, self-conscious girl in the back of my mind wants me to remember it. The truth is that I had several good friends, many of them in this picture with me, and we had lots of great times together. I was making excellent grades, developing a life-long love with writing, and I was in the best health of my life. I had an excellent support system in my friends and family, and I had the freedom to choose what clothes I wanted to wear, what music I wanted to listen to, and what habits I wanted to keep. I was a good kid with a good life. It’s just difficult to remember this because time has a way of warping memories in one direction or the other. The teasing and tormenting left a mark on my psyche that persists to this day, always desperately trying to push the good out of the way so that I have to focus on the bad.

Thinking into the future, of course, is a different beast because it doesn’t involve memories, but it’s similar in that we rarely see it the way it is likely to turn out. When a junior high student thinks about her future life and career she doesn’t consider that her hopes and ambitions may have changed, that her priorities may have shifted, or that the opportunities that she took for granted would be available may have never shown up. Back in the days of the above photo, I knew that I was going to be a writer. I’d had other dreams and ambitions up to this point, but right then, right there, I knew for sure that there was no way I was going to be anything else. I was going to write novels, and someone was going to pay me to do it, and I was going to be happy with that. I had no image in my head to represent a husband or children, because those things meant nothing to me at the time. I never would have imagined living anywhere except right in my own hometown, because the concept of not being able to work and live right there was ridiculous. If you had told me that I was going to end up working a job that required me to spend 20 hours on a plane twice a month and work 12-hour days for 14 days straight, I would probably have fallen into a deep depression because that couldn’t have been further from the “reality” that I had in my mind.

And yet, my life has turned out pretty wonderfully. I have a loving husband and a beautiful daughter, and we live in a great house in a quiet part of town. At 30 years old I am very close to having all of my debts gone. My job is not ideal, but it allows me to have extended periods of time off with my family. I’m surrounded by things I love, and I even managed to go ahead and publish a novel as well. Past me may have looked at this picture and seen a hundred things wrong, but future me thinks that things developed pretty well.

And I find that kind of funny, myself. The human mind is a strange thing that likes to warp memories and distort future realities, and only by understanding that can we create a more accurate image in our minds of our own lives.

So look back at the questions above again. How do you remember yourself from the past? Can you admit that your recollection might be a little warped by the extreme good or the extreme bad? What about the present? How different is your current life from the expectations you had in the past? Now take a look at the future. Can you imagine it with clarity and realism, knowing that we can rarely predict such things with accuracy?

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Cut Off from, Well…Everything!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Cut Off.”

Today The Daily Post asks us “When was the last time you felt really, truly lonely?

Now, if you read this blog regularly you’ll know that writing isn’t my day job (though I wish it could be). No, for actual finances I work as an industrial instrumentation technician on the Alberta oil sands. This kind of job is a “fly-in, fly-out” situation, which basically means that I fly across the country (approximately 3000 miles from home), work 12-hour days for 14 days straight while living in a work camp, and then fly home for my days off (which, currently, is 14 days, but is really only 12 days because of the time lost to travel, and can be as little as 5 days depending on the kind of job you end up with).

As you can imagine, this kind of set-up is not always the greatest emotionally. For 16 days out of every 28 (remember, the days of travel cut away from my time off), I’m 3000 miles away from my husband and daughter. I’ve never been bothered by it as much as some people, but for even the toughest person those 16 days can be an emotional roller-coaster ride sometimes, and of course that involves loneliness. At my job I’m surrounded by people for 12-hours a day (15ish-hours if you take into consideration the time spent on buses and puttering around the camp for food), but none of them are the people I want to be around.

So the last time that I felt “really, truly lonely”? It was definitely this past Valentine’s Day. I don’t go in for Valentine’s Day so much, but this one was particularly lonely for a couple of reasons. For one thing, though I couldn’t care less about things like flowers and little stuffed animals holding plush hearts, it’s a bit disappointing to see Instagram and Facebook photos of every woman you know getting a pile of gifts for V-Day when you can’t even get a kiss from your loved one because he’s almost the entire width of the country away from you. For another thing, though my daughter is usually super excited to talk to me on Skype each day, V-Day was one of those days when she decides that she’s way more into what she’s playing with at the time and can’t be bothered talking to me.

...what is this witchcraft??

Technology, man… Turning our youth into extra-tiny zombies one kid at a time.

So to recap, I spent Valentine’s Day working a 12-hour shift, 3000 miles away from home, unable to get so much as a snuggle from my sweetheart, and my daughter chose that day to decide that I wasn’t important enough to have a five-minute conversation with. So yeah. I spent most of that day feeling pretty damn lonely.

What about you? When was the last time that you felt “really, truly lonely”?

Sometimes You Just Have to Admit Defeat

When you’re someone who works in the art forms, you have to have a certain amount of dedication and determination. Writing, music, artwork…these are difficult worlds to break into. They all require some unknown combination of talent and luck, and the only way to increase your chances is to just keep pushing forward relentlessly, creating more and more works and putting them out there with the hopes of some glimmer of success.

But sometimes you also have to step back and realize that you’re pushing too hard, and something is going to break as a result.

Two weeks ago I asked for guest post submissions so that I could focus on a project that I really, really wanted to get done. Within days of that post I realized that no matter how much I wanted to complete this project, there was simply no way that it was going to happen, and if I pushed forward anyway I was just going to end up hurting myself.

Long story short: a local publishing house called Third Person Press has had an open submission period going on for the month of February, and what they’re looking for is speculative fiction (also known as exactly the stuff I write). I knew about this several months ago because they posted about it in the local newspaper, so I got to work trying to get Book One of The Other World finished as quickly as possible. I did a ton of writing, there’s no doubt about that. I started in November with NaNoWriMo, and in the four months since I’ve completed the manuscript… But it’s only a first draft.

I could submit the story today – I could press forward with all that dedication and determination – but in this case it would be a bad idea. The story is unrefined. It hasn’t been beta-read. It has tons of typos, plot-holes, and assorted errors. I could submit the story today, but it would come back to me with a rejection letter politely suggesting that I go back and learn the basics of storytelling before I attempt to submit again.

The thing is, how can you expect a publisher to take you seriously if you submit a manuscript that is clearly incomplete? How can you expect them to take you seriously when it is obvious that you didn’t take the refinement of your own manuscript seriously?

So I’m putting the “project” on hold, for now. There will be other open submissions, and by then I’ll have a manuscript that I can be proud to submit.

That said, I’m still open to guest posts, if anyone is interested. It’s nice to change things up a bit and give myself some extra time to work on other stuff. ^_~

Authors Answer 16 – Writers’ Resources

TraceyLynnTobin:

Are you a writer yourself? Then you probably need a little bit of help here and there. Today the authors and I share some of our favorite resources…check it out and you just might find something that helps you finish that next chapter!

Originally posted on I Read Encyclopedias for Fun:

Not everything comes from an author’s mind.  Probably not a good idea, anyway.  Sometimes they need help, whether it’s research, editing, critiquing, or creating covers.  There are some great resources online that can help with these and more.  This week’s very useful question comes from Amy Morris-Jones.

tourist-information-symbol-iso-sign-is-1293Question 16: What are your favorite online resources/websites for writers?

H. Anthe Davis

Whee, link time!  Alas, I lost a lot of my links in my computer upgrade, but I do have a few of interest.  I make my own maps using the GIMP 2 program (like an open-source Photoshop), following the advice of a great mapmaking tutorial.  I use this color chart sometimes, and this medieval demographics calculator (though just for a rough guide), and I find Peter Menzel’s photography site (and books) to be really helpful in visualizing the differences between cultures in terms of food and home-goods consumption.  I also…

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