Friday, December 01, 2006

What I've Learned

My class at good ole Faulkner has been nothing short of great. I love teaching and I'm happy to be paid for it but, the students are the greatest aspect of the class. They aren't the best writers in the world. But, they have an ability to express themselves that intrigues and even impresses me. There's an importance to what they have to say.

As a writer, I have never appreciated that as much as I do now. When you write, you're consumed with your own characters, craft, and creativity. No one else's art seems to matter as much as yours. After all, you're making up a whole world and following in the great steps of the literary fathers. But, none of that matters as much as the heart and soul of the person who tells you about her losses or the end of his life as he knows it.

So, in some ways, writing is a great equalizer. It reaches into the parts of us that we didn't look for before. Some will tell THE story and some won't. But, we'll all find something good and maybe even great. I think what makes this writing different and wonderful to me is the fact that these people are not writers. They don't care to be writers. But, they yearn to be understood; to express in some way who they are.

The result is a colorful mixture of words and phrases that delve into a world rarely witnessed by the uber-literate. The words say something true and unmuddled. They speak in kind, warm declarations. And somehow, in flattening themselves, these people make themselves rounder. I'm privileged and blessed to have seen the contents of humanity, clearly printed on the page. It's something I'll never forget.

Friday, October 20, 2006


My first week as an English professor was fun, enlightening, and tiring. It looks like I'll have six students altogether. They're all adult students and they're all trying to better themselves, so I have received good reactions to assignments, class participation, etc.

The fun part, though, is the teaching! Tuesday night, I introduced the course and did a little writing exercise with the students. I asked each of them to write a sentence that described their favorite food. Afterward, I took up the sentences and we all had fun suggesting ways to make the sentences better. Then, I gave them a writing assignment and sent them home. The assignment was based on a Langston Hughes essay titled Salvation. It was about him going tot a revival meeting with his aunt when he was 12 years old. It was something of a rite of passage. So, I told my students to read the essay then write a 5-7 sentence paragraph about a change that had occurred in their lives for good or bad.

I got the responses back last night. I skimmed them briefly. One was from a young man whose mother had made him a ward of the state of Hawaii. Another was from a woman who had been through an awful divorce. They were stories they needed to tell.

Last night, I started the class by reading a narrative essay titled Brothers. It was about a man and his brother, how they grew up, grew together, apart, away, etc. We looked for changes that happened as the story progressed then talked about how to make transitions in our own writing. It was tough getting them to see the transitions and changes, but we all learned something.
The last half of class, we looked at writing as a process: prewriting, drafting, revision, editing/proofreading, and publication.

I taught and watched as they finally understood that writing was more thatn putting words to paper. It was cool.

Then, I gave them an assignment to write 3 paragraphs based on a reading about a woman finding her Cherokee heritage.

I told them to write the introduction about their family (member(s) or whole). The body was to be written as an explanation of how their family introduced their heritage. The conclusion is for them,so they can talk about how they plan to carry on that heritage.

I wonder what they young man who was given to Hawaii will write about. I wonder if they know their heritage. Perhaps they'll discover it if they don't. Watching grown people grow is miraculous.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Harry Potter Must Die

If you hate speculation, don't read this. There aren't any spoilers, just some ideas I've been kicking around.

I've been speaking with a fellow here at work about Harry Potter lately. He's really into it and tends to get a little upset at the notion that good ole J.K. might off her wizardly hero in her seventh and final installment of the great HP line.

He strode by yesterday and engaged me in conversation, as he is wont to do, about the idea that there's no way Rowling could kill the boy wizard off since she'd be forever hated and her fan base would feel betrayed.

My response didn't comfort him much. In fact, I think it upset him a little.

J.K. Rowling is following a line of thinking and writing akin to that of such great Fantasy writers as Lewis and Tolkein. If you have ever read The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings, you know that at their respective ends, the main characters all essentially die and go to Heaven.

Of course, in those series, the only satisfying end to the books is for these characters to not reap the "expected" reward for their travails, but instead be rewarded in ways both unexpected and far exceeding the rewards the reader surmises.

How then shall Rowling create a satisfying ending to her voluminous tome? Harry has already lost many people he loves. His parents were killed when he was a toddler. His only remaining family either disdains him or has been recently killed-off. Even his respected mentors have either died or abandoned him.

So, I ask again, how can Harry be happy except to go where his loved ones now reside in a blaze of victory that will rid the world of wizards of the evil Voldemort forever?

I don't think she can present a satisfying end without the ultimate sacrifice, my friends. This is, of course, only my speculation. But, it follows a tried and true method. Either Harry's happiness must come to him or he must go to it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

My Professorial Debut

Tomorrow night at 8 PM, I'll start teaching my first college class. The class is EH0302 or Fundamentals of Reading and Writing or Remedial English.

Yes, I'm teaching the folks who couldn't pass that exam we all took when we started college that told the academic overlords whether or not we should go straight to 101. The thing is, these people (at least most of them) are not traditional students. They're in the adult program. So, I'll be teaching people who have been using incorrect grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure for 20 years plus.

But, I'm looking forward to the challenge. I hope that something I teach them will make the difference in how they progress through the remainder of their studies. Maybe the single Mom with two kids will get that job she needs because she was articulate and knowledgeable in her interview. Perhaps the man who will be the first person in his family to hold a degree will learn how to read and comprehend more effectively so that he can create a heritage of words for succeeding generations.

I know these are big ideas, but I take this seriously. Hopefully, they will too.

Monday, October 09, 2006


I was afforded a very special honor Sunday in the form of an invitation to speak at Homecoming at Luverne church of Christ. When one of the elders called me a few weeks back to ask if I would speak, I was shocked. I couldn't say no.

LcoC was the first congregation I ever attended. I went there with my family from the time I was born until I was about five years old. Then Dad went to work with another congregation. But, I have always considered Luverne home. I remember going to fellowships, get-togethers, game nights, and so many other church functions with the people there. I remember children being born and old folks passing away. It was my first, Christian family.

I was asked to deliver three lessons. The first was for class and the others were for the two worship periods. I used Colossians 3 for the class. The other two lessons were taken from an article I recently wrote for a Christian publication. They were mostly taken from I Corinthians 13 and were titled "Love As A Lifestyle".

Everything went well, but after all the teaching, preaching, singing, eating, and preaching again, I was exhausted. I'm still recovering today, but I'm happy that I got to go home in one of the best ways possible and I can't wait to go home for good one day.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Sudden Outcast

I went to my first book signing last night! Tom Franklin, the author of a new book titled Smonk, was there with his wife, Beth Ann Fennelly, who was also promoting her new book, Great With Child.

The gathering was held at a jewel of literary solidarity in Montgomery, Al called The Capitol Book and News. The owners write a weekly review column for the Pulitzer Prize winning paper The Montgomery Advertizer. I arrived early and got to talk to a few people.

One of the people was a man by the name of Wayne Greenhaw. He is the 2006 recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished writer. After a few minutes, I began to realize that pretty much 14 out of the fifteen people in the room had published books, were publishers, or were otherwise connected in big and important ways with the publishing industry.

I am an extrovert. I never, ever feel nervous in a room. I can enter a room full of strangers and leave 30 minutes later with phone numbers, email addresses, and names. But, this gathering was a whole different story. I felt like the youngest child sitting at the table with the adults when I knew I was supposed to be at the short table with the rest of the kids.

I did, however, ask some questions during the Q&A session after the authors gave their talks. Everyone was nice and I learned a great deal by just listening to other people talk, ask questions, and give answers. It was one of the most daunting, exhilirating, and educational things I've ever been to and I can't wait to do it again!

Here's the link for their website:

You can request their free newsletter if you like. It would probably only be useful for local people, but here it is. They have actual, published authors signing books there every month and there are usually 5 or 6 more there for the talks and Q&A sessions. It's very cool!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

a contract, of sorts

This post is a little old, but I figured I'd post it here anyway.

I got a contract for publication on my first book, Runaway Swimmer. Why did that last sentence not have an exclamation point at the end, you might ask?

Check this place out:

They're an ebook publisher and completely legit. They pay 45% royalties and all that good stuff. But, they don't have a Google ranking to speak of, don't appear to be hooked up with Amazon, B&N, etc., and don't seem to have any good stats on sales and other marketing plans.

So, while it is encouraging to have a contract, I think I'll probably turn the tables and reject them.This feels weird, but I also have to consider that I have two different agents reviewing two different books right now and a print publisher is reviewing Runaway Swimmer.

So, there's still hope. There's always hope.

The Old Becomes New

I updated my Runaway Swimmer Website. It now has a home page off of which my RS, The Tower Quail, Articles, and Blog pages link.

I replaced the link on here, but here it is if any of y'all want to take a look: