Sunday, November 27, 2011

"The Question" Has Changed

The great question used to be "To be or not to be."

Now, it's "To blog or not to blog."

What is that saying: All you have to do in life is pay taxes and die? Well, now it's all you have to is blog, pay taxes and die.

I used to think "I want to blog this morning"; now I think "I have to blog this morning." It's gone from what I like to do in my spare time to another thing added to the list. Yesterday, I sat down grumbling about my new "have to" and started a post about how I'm going to be an aunt for the first time. I typed away about the pressure of being an aunt and the importance of that role in a satirical, yet light-hearted way.

Then I realized that most of the people who read my blog probably don't give a shit that my sister is having a baby.

Those who follow my blog are my *clearing throat* audience.

If I don't produce for my audience, I'll lose them. Therefore, I have to blog. If I lose my audience, will I stop writing? Do I have an audience so that I can write or do I write so I can have an audience?

Enter Sellout.

Enter Ego.

Enter Creative Frustration.

I started blogging as an avenue of self promotion that will (hopefully) help me snag an agent. Once I have an agent, he or she can do all the damn promoting.

(I know; in my dreams.)

My point is that the blog started as something I had to do. As I posted more and more, and my audience grew and grew, and --god help me--I produced quality a few quality pieces that might never have been born without the blog, I found that I wanted to blog. It wasn't taking away from my creative energy; it was pushing the boundaries of skills. Making me more versatile; more deft in my craft. I had never written flash fiction before blogging; my musings on language actually got put into language.

But, the pendulum has swung. It's been two weeks since my last post and I feel pressured. Updating the blog jumped back onto my list of things I have to do.

So I sit down, planning on blogging about my inability to blog (might as well capitalize on my ego causing me to sellout resulting in creative frustration).

Enter Instant Message: the greatest time-suck, procrastination aid (along with its siblings texting and Facebook) every invented.

Chicago, online friend that I stumbled across as while I have been traversing the online dating and blogosphere scene, is checking in on my evening. And I am more than willing to provide the details of my very boring Saturday night.

Before I know it, I am co-writing vampire horror erotica. Chicago has been nudging me to compose his ideas for erotic horror fiction, but I've resisted. I feel as if I have enough of my own projects to not get wrapped up in someone else's. I have written vampire fiction; I occasionally write erotica; I frequently write horror, but I had no plans on combining them.

As it turns out, I ended up with the draft of what could be a good piece. And I was just pounding it out. In my effort to avoid my creative frustration, to avoid updating the blog, I managed to sink my teeth into a new vein of my creativity. (This is called hitting you over the head with metaphor or in other words, bad writing.)

So there you have it: my blog update about how in avoiding updating the blog, I wrote a new piece which I will not be including in my post.

Is there a blog award for "worst post ever"?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Little Fact; A Little Fiction: A Weekend of Bad Ideas

I spent the last lovely weekend in Stockton, California. If you aren't asking "where is that?" you are asking "why would you do that?"

Answer to question #1: the city with the worst crime rate per capita in the nation. Answer to question #2: for my sister's baby shower given by her in-laws. The moment my brother-in-law graduated from high school, he got the flock out of here.

When I would share my weekend plans with friends and colleagues, they would respond with: well, at least you'll have plenty of material to blog about.

I didn't think I would be the material.

Actually, I shouldn't be that surprised. I am one of those people who is either a genius or a moron. As my friend, Cher, often says: "You are one of the smartest people I know, but man can you be dumb sometimes."

I don't know if "dumb" is the right word for how I rolled it this weekend, but I had a lot of bad ideas.

It was a bad idea to eat at Denny's. In Bakersfield.

I was a bad idea to spear a cherry tomato while wearing a white shirt.

It was a bad idea to take three Unisom last night.

It was a bad idea to kill an hour in Macy's during a sale when the only credit card I brought with me was American Express. Gold.

It was a bad idea to attach a giant clay penis and testicles to the clay baby I sculpted as a shower game. (My sister's nephew announced to the rest of party: "Holly's has balls!") My sister sunk down into the couch and hid her face in her hands.

It was a bad idea to protest when my clay baby didn't win.

It was a bad idea to use the bathroom after an eight-year-old boy did.

It was a bad idea to not seek out my brother-in-law's uncle once I learned that he was "probably in the garage smoking pot."

It was a bad idea to go down to the hotel bar, which was full of men, to do some writing during a televised UFC match.

It was a bad idea to smile coquettishly at a guy sitting a few chairs away from me just as his wife was returning from the restroom.

It was a bad idea to work on revising my piece that involved me boffing a twenty-eight year-old while my mother peered over my shoulder and asked, "What are you working on?"

It was a bad idea to only have one Cosmopolitan before grading my students' papers.

It was a bad idea to take a steaming hot bath while eating tomato bisque soup that I had microwaved to the temperature of Hell's summer.

I'm sure that it is a bad idea to eat about 20 Godiva chocolates right before bed.

And tomorrow, when I get up and check in on my blog, I'll think it was a bad idea to publish a post on my bad ideas.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Campaign Challenge #3: The Awakening

Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:
·         that it’s morning, 
·         that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
·         that the MC (main character) is bored
·         that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
·         that something surprising happens.
Just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: "synbatec," "wastopaneer," and "tacise."   (NB. these words are completely made up and are not intended to have any meaning other than the one you give them).

The Awakening

Rocking back on his butt, knees hugged to his chest, Rick turned narrowed eyes at Kristina. The sunrise glow added an orange hue to her placid face; the warmth of it touched his strawberry curls. After a few minutes, Rick exaggerated a sigh, but instead of engaging his silent partner, it sucked up a bubble of acid from his stomach that burst at the back of his throat.
Smacking his hand against his chest, Rick sputtered. His nose switched against the acrid tinge on the wind. His guts lurched in protest.
Hitting the 3636 last night had been a bad idea. The drinks might be cheap, but they were synbatic.
                “Kriiiiiisssss, what are we doing here at this tacise moment?”
                No signs of life. Rick slouched forward. The offspring produced from “exact” and “precise” one night after too many beers always made her laugh.              
                “Dude, I got wastopaneered last night,” he muttered rubbing his eyes.  When he blinked them open, they caught on a strange sight.
                A young girl seemed to be rising from the surf.
                No, not a girl, a child.
                Curly black hair framed a porcelain visage, with glittering black eyes and rosy cheeks. A doll trudging her way through the seaweed to the shore.
                Rick leapt to his feet, “Kris, there’s a fucking kid in the water.”
                Glancing down at her, his next word stuck in his throat. She had tilted her head back, so that her lovely face, with tears rolling down her cheeks, seemed to almost admire him.
“I’m sorry, Rick. But she wants through and that’s impossible if we are both alive.”
                Whipping his head around, Rick searched the water for the child.
                But she wasn’t in the water any longer.  She stood right in front of him, smiling. And she was bone dry.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

To Quote My Grandmother: "Why Are Teenagers So Stupid?"

I promised myself that I would not use this site as a teenager-bashing forum. But, I just can't resist putting this up.  It just happened in one of my senior English classes.

Currently, we are reading Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; we are seven chapters into it. This is one of my favorite unit to teach: I read it aloud to the students with plenty of dramatic flair, I am really good at connecting the protagonist's experience to theirs (and with teens, if you make it about them, they are in), and using it as a tool to build their skills of analysis.


This is the cover of their copies.

They've taken a couple of quizzes, we've had discussions, and they have had a copy checked out to them.  At this moment, the students are working on completing some analysis questions for those chapters we've read. I always preface these questions with the statement, "These are not recall questions. This story is not that hard to follow. These questions require you to think of the significance of what's happening in Holden's life."

Students nod, either to acknowledge an appreciation for their budding intelligence or because they just want me to shut up so they can figure out where they are going to get wasted this weekend.

I go to my desk to input attendance and to email my sister. Oh, and to check in on the blog.

I see the blur of a white T-shirt in my peripheral as a student approaches me.  "Uh, Ms. Vance, who is Salinger."

Without shifted my eyes from the computer screen, I throw out the side of my mouth, "The author of the book."

A few minutes later, an second student asks me the same question. Much to my chagrin, I realize that students are getting stuck on question #3: "Compare and contrast Ackley and Stradlater [characters in the novel]. Why do you think Salinger has Holden interact with them?"  To try to waylay further irritation, shuffled over to my podium so that I am at the center of attention and announced to the class: "J.D. Salinger is the author of the book."

A chorus of "Ohhhhhhh"s fills the room. I smile, give them a curt nod, and return to my computer.

One young lady, who is very pretty and therefore very popular and therefore, therefore hasn't seen the need to develop her brain says, "Oh my God, this is a biography?"

I peer from around my computer screen, "No, honey. Make-believe stories are written by humans too."

She blinks at me, and then to save face, flicks her hair back. I think two boys who sit across the room from her swoon. Fluttering her beautiful green eyes to the ceiling, she says knowingly, "Oh, so then he's one of the characters. But, which chapter was he in?"

Holy shit.  And it's only 2nd period. I have two more periods of seniors ahead of me.

For 3rd period, I decide to nip this in the bud. As soon as I pass out the questions, I tell the class to look at question #3 and then say, "Salinger is the author of the book. I just wanted to make sure you all knew that before ten of you ask me and I flip out because several people last period asked me who he was."

This time, I get a chorus of, "Who doesn't know that? What dumb-asses [I think the exact word they use is  'fuck-tards' but I find that really offensive and dumb-ass means the same thing]," but then I notice a few of their classmates studying the cover of Catcher, as their shoulders roll forward, they hunker down a bit, and then glance up nervously to see if anyone else noticed that they were one of those "dumb-asses."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Third Campaign, First Challenge: Flash Fiction, Baby!

The first challenge for us campaigners is to write flash fiction starting with the phrase "the door swung shut."

A Discovery

The door swung open and Detective Corey Malone eased into her apartment.  The reek of rotting flesh made it difficult to breathe.
     Her eyes scanned for signs of blood on the walls, on the floor. They caught on a pair of feet protruding from her bedroom. 
     Squaring her shoulders, she inched forward. 
     Corey began a slow examination of the entire body.  The victim lay naked, face-down, but she knew it was male: his hands were large, his waistline straight, and the angles of the shoulders square and sharp.  Bruises spotted his back. The head was crushed on the right side, hunks of brain tangled in the blood-drenched hair. Her eyes searched the body, trying to piece together what seemed strange about it.  Obviously, the victim sustained a series of blows to his back, shoulders and head, but even with the swelling, she noticed that there was a lack of synchrony amongst the different parts of his body.  And the way he was lying -- it seemed awkward.
      Awkward.
      Corey was staring at the corpse of a teenager. A teenager that looked just like her partner’s son.
      A warning. She was not doing what the killer wanted.
      The front door swung shut. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

To Quote My Grandmother: "Why Are Teenagers So Stupid?"

The only good thing about starting the new school year is that my supply of funny teenage anecdotes will be replenished.

This is my fifteenth year of teaching, so those first few days of school have lost their novelty. I no longer spend days in the summer decorating the classroom (the posters from last year are just fine); I sleep soundly the night before; and I am not pulsing with excited, nervous energy as fresh new tanned faces come beaming into my room. It's kind of like birthdays after 30: whatever.

But I did learn a few things during this first week of school.

I learned that I am completely desensitized to teenage shenanigans. As an ice-breaker exercise, I have each student introduce themselves by paring an adjective that starts with the same letter as their first name with it and then explain how that word reflects an aspect of their personality. It introduces alliteration, helps them practice elaboration, and helps me learn their names more quickly.

Of course, I demonstrate: "I am Hilarious Holly because I love to make people laugh."

And to ward off trouble, I remind them that their adjective needs to be classroom appropriate.

But this year, first period of the day, first student to introduce himself says this: "I am Juicy Joshua because when you squeeze me you never know what's going to come out."

Day 1, people. Really?

My reaction: I yawned. Forty pairs of wide eyes stare at me. Silence blankets the classroom.  Smacking my lips together, I say, "Thank you Josh for demonstrating what is not classroom appropriate and for making me throw up in my mouth before it's even 8:30."

I also learned that I have "swag."  In case you don't know, "swag" is short for swagger, which means confidence and "game." So, I guess I'll add that to my dating profile and maybe I'll get matched with twenty-one year-olds. Groovy.

My colloquial lexicon continued to expand. When I asked "Beast Brandon" why he chose that word-- after I told him that it is not an adjective, so then he said, "I meant 'beasty'"--he looked at me and said simply, "Because I'm a beast."

"Well, you don't look very hairy to me," I said.  "And your hands aren't claws, so I'm not sure what you mean."

I wasn't sure I wanted to know what he meant; the echoes of "Juicy Joshua" ringing in my head.

"It means I'm tough," Brandon tells me.  Then he flexes his cannons, just in case I need a visual.

Upon asking for a more specific definition, I learned that a "beast" can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. Stars of actions films are usually "beasts," like characters played by Chuck Norris and Jason Statham.

And finally, I can add "put her (or him) on the blast" to my harvest of knowledge for the week. In my junior college class, I have them introduce each other, and one student said about his partner, "She is very shy so she hates that I am putting the blast on her right now."

Being a trained professional and holding a master's degree in English, I was able to figure out what the student meant, but I inquired anyway. I want to throw down my slang accurately. What "putting the blast on someone" means is to draw attention to or put the spotlight on someone. I asked if I could shorten it to just "blasting him/her," but I was told that the "put her (or him) on" part was critical. "To blast" someone is totally different than "to put someone on the blast."

So, now that I've finished putting my first week of school on the blast, I'm going to use my swag to tame some beasts. But, I am not getting anywhere near anyone who is juicy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Attention All Writers: Be a Campaigner

The lovely and talented Rachael Harrie is hosting one of her famous Campaigns! Sign-ups start today and ends on August 31. All writer's should participate (and all readers should check in and enjoy). I have been trying to get into one of these for a while because they are such a fantastic way to network, exercise those writing skills, and experiment with style and genre.

Click here to check it out: http://rachaelharrie.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Give Me Your Words, Your Views, Your Huddled Masses of Humor": a Contest

I love words. Some of my favorites are superfluous, gorgeous, seize, pugnacious, nostalgia, genre, dynamic . . .

The list is endless.

What I really appreciate is how words are put together to create humor. And I not referring to the comedians who are (were) writers such as Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, George Carlin, but those writers who infuse humor as engaging detail. Some of my favorites are David Sedaris, Chuck Palaniuk, J.D. Salinger, and Nelson Desmille.

There are so many ways to create humor rhetorically: satire, metaphors, imagery.  Hell, even a single word can create humor: the word chicken cracks me up.  So do the words naked and shit.  Kumquat, that's a good one too. Scamper will always make me smile.

Put them together--Naked, I scampered onto the front lawn to snatch up the chicken before he could shit -- and that's funny! Even if you don't find the diction humorous, the image certainly qualifies.

I have always been the "funny one" of a group. I'd rather be the "sexy one" or "the rich one," but since I have a penchant for being friends with smoking-hot women, I am stuck with the role of being entertaining. And I have to say that I am usually successful. But it's time for me to give credit where credit is due. My humor was passed down to me from one of funniest people I know: my father.

He's not a writer; he's an engineer. But, he is a master of humorous rhetoric. As my mother says to him often: "How do you come up with this shit?"

Nobody knows. But, we certainly enjoy. Well, most of us. Those who have been blessed with one of his infamous nicknames might feel otherwise. My father has assigned such names as Hairball, Lactose Intolerant, Hockey Puck, and Studebaker to my sister and my past boyfriends. And he doesn't distribute them arbitrarily; they are tailor created for the person.

My father's humor is constructed in one of two ways: diction choice and imagery. Here are two examples:

While at my parents' house one afternoon, my mother mentioned she had to get something for me out of her bedroom and that she'd be "right back." Well after about a half hour, I said to Dad, "Wonder what happened to Mom?"

His response: "Maybe your mother tripped on a dust bunny and broke her arm."

I laughed so hard, tears were rolling down my face by the time my mother returned.  Not because I thought the idea of her getting hurt was funny, but because of the image. The specific diction made it easy to picture and the randomness made it funny.

Not only is my father great at creating imagery, he can work magic with alliteration (and consonance). One of my favorite "Dadisms" is "monkey fuck a football."  He doesn't use it as a sentence, but as a noun or adjective. Grammatically, it should be punctuated as "monkey-fuck-a-football." It means an awkward or an uncoordinated act. Synonymous with slapstick.

Here's an example for how it is used:

Yesterday, my sister, her husband, and I were assisting my parents in moving a daybed from my aunt's place to theirs. My aunt lives in a condo on the fourth floor of a complex. When my sister arrived, the code to open the door wasn't working for her so I went down to let her in. The elevator in the building is old and rickety (and I don't like elevators anyway) so I always take the stairs. By the time I reached the lobby, I heard the elevator doors closing and saw that my sister was no longer standing outside. With a huff, I turned around to climb back up the stairs. Just before I reached the fourth floor, my sister jerked open the stairway door and, "Holly, I'm here."

I said, "Jesus, this is like monkey-fuck-a-football."

Unfortunately, my father cannot produce his rhetorical genius on command, and even if he could, I doubt I could use it for what I need it for. This is where you, my followers, come in.

To begin the new school year on August 31st, I want to ease my students into the beauty of language. Instead of spending the first few days going over class procedure, homework policy, how they will be graded, and basically scaring the shit out of them, I have decided to play a little word game. Show them that English is fun! I've got the logistics of the game all worked out; what I need are the game pieces, aka, words. More specifically, sentences.

You've enjoyed my humor long enough, now I want you to reciprocate.  Before, I wanted your dirty minds; now, I want your silly minds.

Contest: who can come up with the most clever sentence that a teenager would find humorous? Edgy is okay, but it does need to be classroom appropriate so tone down the profanity and nothing pornographic, please. The sentences must be created by you: no quotes from movies or books (unless you wrote the book).

How to enter:

1) If you aren't already following me, please do so. I will not consider sentences from non-followers. Don't know how to do that? Read "Attention All Creepers" post.

2) Type up your sentence as a comment.

3) You can enter as many sentences as you want.

I will select five winners who will have their choice of prizes. For winners who are writers, I will do something to help promote their writing: buy something online, put a copy of their work in my classroom library, or write a review for a poem or short story. For winners who are not writers, I will send you a Starbucks or Amazon GC.

Entry deadline is August 29th, which is my father's birthday.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Woman's Greatest Fear


I am good at a lot of things: cooking, making friends, teaching literature, making people laugh, cleaning, organizing, picking up on women, spending money, scaring the shit out people, and dare I say, writing.

I am also bad at a lot of things: baking, teaching high school freshman, science, multitasking, computers, picking up on men, saving money, chilling out, and singing.

Of course, the things I'm good at don't help me more than the things I'm bad at fuck me up.

For example, if I could teach high school freshman I would have a lot less grading. If I was more technologically savvy, I would have a lot less stress in my life. I'm straight, so my ability to pick up on women and my inability to pick up on men is almost funny. Singers get way more ass than writers do.

And being able to save money would make paying my rent a lot easier.

As a teacher, I get ten paychecks a year from October 1st to July 1st. I know banks have summer saver programs for us assholes; yes, I've participated in them;  and yes, I still end up financially fucked in September.

And there's no use trying to figure out where my money goes. A cure for cancer will be found before the cure to my financial irresponsibility.

Even though I taught summer school this year, I find myself unable to pay my September rent.  Believe it or not, I have never been in this situation before.

Thank the goddess, I have lovely landlords who are more than willing to work with me. As we negotiate via email on payment options, I always end mine with "or I'll sell my body and pay September rent the day it is due."

I'm joking (sorta) hoping that my humor will detract from my assholeness.

But then I thought: What if they've had enough of me? What if they're sick of me tromping through their backyard looking like hell to get my laundry while they are trying to entertain guests? What if they're sick of the heavy metal music (David Draiman, if you are reading this, will you marry me)? What if they're sick of me lying out naked on the roof? What if they're sick of my wine bottles leaving less room for their wine bottles in the recycle bin?

What if my landlords demand the rent on September 1st because they see a way to finally get rid of me?

It's not that I'm afraid so much of having to prostitute myself to stay off the streets, but what if I can't? And I don't mean "can't" as if I get the john up to my apartment as then burst into tears and scream, "I can't do this!" I mean what if I can't get the john up to my apartment at all?

Few women are willing to sell their bodies under any circumstances, but we all want to believe that we could if we absolutely had to. There is just something hot about men wanting to have sex with us so bad that they'll pay cash for it, and we want to believe the reason we don't do it is because we choose not to.

Consider the way Hollywood glamorizes prostitution. Eleven Oscars and even more nominations have been given to women for their roles as prostitutes and/or strippers.

Maybe Ms. Roberts didn't win the Oscar, but she certainly combined the fairy-tale ending with selling yourself. And remember that she used some of Mr. Gear's money to pay her rent.


And even Shirley Jones, the Partridge Family mom, won an Oscar for playing a prostitute. 

Instead of playing a mom peddling her children's musical talents, she plays a mom peddling herself in  I Want to Live!

Shit, if she can pull it off, maybe I can too! But I need the money more than the Oscar. I could roll it Charlize Theron style and be an ugly prostitute that kills her johns and then takes their money. If I get caught, well, I'll solve my rent issues. Also, my ability to pick on women will become useful.

That is, IF I CAN GET THE JOHNS TO BUY IN TO BEGIN WITH.

I started my morning worried about being homeless. Now, I'm frantically searching for my feminist soapbox while worrying about not being able to be a whore. Not only could I be homeless, but I could be homeless with an inferiority complex.

Holy shit.

BTW, I will not accept any loans from any of you. This post is not a ploy to get money. If you want me to take your money, you're gonna have to sleep with me. And that's final!

Or, you can buy about 100 copies of my short stories available online.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Teacher's Purgatory: Summer School and Technology

If you've read my posts about how the iPhone jacks up my life, or if you've interacted with me in person for more than fifteen minutes, you know that technology and I have a tumultuous relationship.

I accept the necessity technological competency; I accept the benefits of technological progress. If it weren't for computers, it would have taken a lot longer to produce my novels. And yes, I am willing to admit that it has contributed to my growth as a writer because I can type in time with my thoughts and experiment with different genres and styles more easily.

BUT

It complicates my life, much like the iPhone. My attitude doesn't exactly help: it bores me and because of that I don't spend a lot of time futzing with it. So when I have problems (which I frequently do), I am unwilling to spend a lot of grey cells or time on it. If I have a computer issue during one of my high school classes, I just freak out until a student helps me either out of pity or out of a desire to shut me up. If I have one at home, I call everyone I know until I find someone who knows how to fix it.  If I can't find a lifeline, I take my laptop to a repair shop run by a couple of Russian gentlemen and roll in with a lot of cleavage, batting my eyelashes and feigning helplessness.

I have yet to pay for computer repair, but I'm pretty sure they are on to my game.

The fact that I am publishing some of my work online is pure irony. Or hypocrisy. Whatever:  TomatO, TomAto. (Note that I can't even figure out how to add an accent mark to the appropriate letters. Oh well, can't capitalization be used in any way that I need it?)

Therefore, my feelings about technology + the importance of technology in contemporary society + the fact that I'm OCD + the fact that I have the worst memory = disaster.  Add to that the trials and tribulations of summer school and you'll begin to understand that I am armed to bring in the apocalypse (I need to give Apple some competition).

Allow me to explain.

I am teaching two classes this summer: one high school; one junior college. Two different campuses; two different classrooms (neither of which are mine during the regular school year).  FIVE different computers.

I try to avoid using my personal computer for work--courtesy of OCD--, but in the cases that I absolutely have to, I save everything to a flash drive. My personal computer has Microsoft Office 2010; the computer in my classroom has Microsoft Office 2007. Simpatico.  But I am not in my classroom for either of my summer classes.

No problem, the high school just bought me a laptop; I cart that sucker around.

Silly me. I should have known that even though the school was generous enough to purchase me a laptop, it couldn't help throwing in a monkey wrench: Microsoft 2003.

No problem. I happen to have bought Microsoft 2010 to install on three computers and since I only own one, that leaves two computers to benefit from my generosity. As it turns out, I can't even change the date and time on the computer without an administrative password, and believe me, no one in their right mind would put the word "administrative" anywhere near my job description.

I called one of the head mucky-mucks of technology for our district and asked if I could run my new laptop by his office so he could install the program for me. He told me that he couldn't do that. Apparently, only programs bought by the district can be installed on its computers. In other words, they can't install one program that I bought onto one of their computers, but if the district buys it, okie dokie. Only after I put in a work order and wait for two months for them to get to me.

My plan to install a program that will single-handedly bring down the entire school district under the guise of Microsoft 2010 was thwarted.

But, I had a plan B: I re-saved all my files onto a flash drive in Microsoft 2003 format  and then transferred them to my work laptop and if I used only that computer for work I wouldn't have to keep remembering to save in 2003, because with my memory, I'd forget more than I'd remember. And I didn't worry about not wanting to haul the laptop around because my OCD would demand it.

In the classroom that I teach my high school summer class, I use my laptop for instruction, but I have to use that room's computer to go online so I can take attendance and update grades. If the district won't allow me to install Microsoft, it sure as fuck isn't going to give me the password to tap into the wireless network (believe me, I've already asked about that. Their answer: NO ONE has the wireless access code).

Clearly, I don't get paid enough to understand this shit.

No biggie. Running back and fourth between computers gets some exercise in. It does get risky when it comes to printing, because I have to remember to eject my flash drive so I have it for my college class.

For my JC class, I have a computer in that classroom which is hooked up to a LCD projector, DVD player and surround sound speakers. But, no printer. I have to go down the hall to the part-time faculty lounge to print anything.

At least their computers don't have Microsoft 1800 on them.

Despite all of the differences between computers, I had been managing with few hiccups . . . until last week.

One of my JC students asked if he could take the final early so that he could attend a family reunion and I acquiesced. He was more than willing to work around my schedule and made sure to ask me before adding the class. When the time came to do so, I had to scramble to get it together because I had procrastinated. For those of you who aren't teachers, writing a test is actually quite difficult. And it takes a lot of time.  And if you are me, you will make it 10x more difficult than it needs to be (refer back to the formula for the apocolypse).

The night before I needed the final ready, I decided to go to dinner with a couple friends, drink some wine, and then go home and write the test.  Great plan, right?  It gets better: I left my work laptop at the high school.

But I had my flash drive (because I have that thing duct-taped to my body at all times).  After dinner, I simultaneously wrote my final, chatted with my friends, and drank more wine. Once finished, I printed that bad-boy up and put it and my flash drive into the bag I carry all my JC stuff in.  How responsible am I?

But, I did not lay the bag against my front door, so the next morning, I left WITHOUT it. No final. No flash drive. No brain.

I didn't realize my error until I had reached the high school. I live too far away to turn around and get it before my morning class, but I could go in-between my high school and JC class. But, the extra two hours that would put me on the freeway was not attractive.

Luckily, my friend Cher works from home and lives only blocks from me. And she has a key to my apartment.

I called her to tell her about my dilemma. After she finished laughing, she told me to email her all the passwords, name of files, etc she would need to get onto my personal computer and email it to me. She ducked out during her lunch break, emailed me every file with the word "final," "test," and "exam" in its title and even took my personal laptop home with her just in case.

Cher may be on a mission to ruin my playlist, but she also is on a mission to save me from myself. Thank God.

Six files were emailed to me; none of them was the final I had written the previous night. As I was reaching for the phone to give her a call, I remembered that I had saved the final to my flash drive only.

Fuck me.

Let's all say "yay" for OCD.

Cher would have been willing to go back to my place to get my flash drive, but I figured I had asked enough of her for one day. Keeping me alive is a tough job, and I wanted her to save her strength for the next time I screwed up. Also, all my materials for my JC class were also at home, and even though I have my JC files on my high school computer, they were probably out-dated (I revise my curriculum often). I had been willing to wing it, but now I figured I had better just man-up and drive home.

The round-trip commute should have taken about 1 1/2 hours. It took 2 1/2 because a) It was 3 p.m. and b) every street between my job and my home is currently undergoing major road construction.

I showed up to administer the final late, sweaty, and pissed. But the real bummer is that the only person I had to blame was myself.

Moral of the story: do not disrupt The Vancester's system.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How My Friend Is Ruining My Music

And I am not going to change this friend's name; I am throwing her right under the bus.

My two BFFs -- Lisa and Cher--and I decided on a last-minute trip to Solvang, CA for some quaint culture, boutique shopping, and WINE. I have known both of these amazing women for 30 years. As teens, we had similar music tastes; as adults, we have definitely struck out on our own: I love hard rock; Cher, country; Lisa, Indie Music spiced up with some Top 40.  It was my turn to drive, but feeling unusually accommodating, I decided to create a playlist that all three of us could enjoy (I almost made Cher psychotic after forcing her to listen to my music during the four-hour drive to Las Vegas).

So, I created a pretty cool playlist featuring the favorites we all shared from our youth -- Duran Duran, Def Leppard, Beastie Boys, Depeche Mode-- with a few of Cher and Lisa's current favorites thrown in.

Well, Cher must have not approved, because during our drive home, she managed to ruin a few of my favorites.

During the Bee Gees hit, "You Should Be Dancing," when they hit the first chorus, Cher said about the line, "What are you doing in the back, ahhh?" she said:

"Don't you guys think he's saying: 'Do you do it in your butt?' It sounds like he certainly does."

The next time the chorus rolls around, Lisa and I focus and burst out laughing: "He totally does!"

Every time they sang the chorus, all I could do was guffaw like a 16-year-old stoner.

When TLC's song, "Silly Ho" filled the car, after the line, "I'm not a chick you can hit," she asked, "Did she just say 'I am not a chicken head'?"

Yes, Cher. R&B artists often use farm animals as metaphors.

That is how she sang that line for the rest of the song.

The final shot? As she climbed out of my car, the song "She's Crafty" by Beastie Boys was thumpin' and she drops, "And with this one, it sounds like he saying, 'She's crapping'."

I will never be able to listen to those songs again in the same way. Next time I'm loading up Disturbed, Avenge Sevenfold, Seether, and Breaking Benjamin.  I can totally handle psychotic better than the visual of the members of the Bee Gees in sliver, skin-tight body suits) having anal sex while singing.  A disco balling spinning above their heads.

I guess I could do the same to her the next time she drives and I must endure her music. But, she listens to country and there's not much more damage I can do to their lyrics.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Teacher's Purgatory: Summer School

No high school teacher wants to teach summer school: not even the teacher who loves his/her craft, who loves kids, who would still teach even if he/she won the lottery.

Yes, even that teacher doesn't want to teach summer school.

Any teacher who teaches summer school does so because he/she has to for financial reasons. And I mean I-won't-be-able-to-eat reasons. These teachers aren't good savers--or have financial goals beyond a normal teacher's salary and might want to consider administration. Those fools have to work in the summer as part of their contract, but they make A LOT more money.

I'm a little of both: I don't save well and I live like I am already a published and a successful author. So, my punishment is summer school.

And since I am angry and have a flair for drama, summer school for me is HELL. Total hell-- flames, pitchforks, and demons to rule over. So, I guess that makes me Satan. You'd think that prospect would make it more attractive, but . . .

It's HELL I tell you.

Homelessness, starvation, the pole are looking better and better every day.

I have 48 students (no, that's not a typo) ranging from ages 14-17 who have all failed English. 38 of them are boys.

I'm in HELL.

Picture dealing with 48 of your worst customers, clients, or employees for 2 1/2 hours a day for 24 days. The most immature, the most idiotic, the least motivated--the ones with the most attitude. All at once.

I just finished day 12 and I might not make it without committing a felony.

I take pride in my work. Yes, I entered teaching to pay the bills until I get published, but much to my chagrin, I find that I do love it--during the months of September- June.  But, faced with having to teach this summer, I decided that all I wanted to do was get through it.

That takes a lot of patience and very few standards.

This is where I might get myself in trouble because I know one of my current bosses and one of my former bosses (you know who you are, mister) will probably read this, but shit, I have tenure.

I am not showing movies. I teach vocabulary and grammar every day. The students have a test every week. I make them read. I make them write.

But, I try to make it interesting: right now, we are reading literature related to insanity. We've read excerpts from Fight Club and One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest; we've analyzed "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" as a poem. Read some Edgar Alan Poe. Currently, I do have them working on a synthesis essay, but I am offering so much guidance a monkey on acid could follow me.

You wanna listen to your iPod (my school has a strict no-iPods-ever rule) while working? Okay. Keep that phone out and update your Facebook periodically--as long as you are fairly focused. While I am distributing handouts, go ahead and play Angry Birds.

You hear this phrase a lot in my room: "Okay everyone, unplug and look up here because I've got something to tell [teach] you."

During the normal school year, I send one or two students to the dean.  One or two a year. Last year, I didn't write a single referral. I have excellent classroom control. In fact, when I do send students to the dean, they send SWAT up to my room because they assume something HUGE is going down.

My reputation among the students is that I'm a "hard-ass" who makes my students work, but that I'm cool. I have a strict "no bullshit" policy, but enforcing it is a bitch with summer school kids because they assume I am as clueless as they are.

On the first day, I had a student taken out of the room by security for defiance.

I had a student claim that the giant bong he drew on his paper right in front of me was a cup with a straw. When I rolled my eyes and informed him that a) I'm not a moron and b) I have a legal obligation to report suspicion of drug use, he accused me of being judgmental.

Right kid, people who don't smoke weed draw bongs all day long.

I threw his ass out.

Yesterday, this a student said to me with much indignation: "I'm not stoned, Ms. Vance, I am hungover -- okay?"

My response: "Well, since you are in summer school, how do you think that drinkin' thing is working out for you?"

On that note, another student who has attended 5 out of 12 days so far told his classmate that he hasn't been coming because he's been smoking too much weed--I heard him loud and clear even though students believe that teachers become deaf and blind the moment they sit at their desks. And then he strolled over and asked me for make-up work.

I have perfected my fuck-off expression.

A student threw papers at me.

That one almost required SWAT. Let's just say he's not in summer school anymore.

I've put students in corners. Straight-up desk in the corner, student staring at the wall.

I've lost count of how many I've had to send outside for a little chat.

One particular day, after sending two students to the office, I said: "Okay everyone, all iPods and phones need to disappear. I see a wire or an earbud, hear a bleep or a buzz, I am taking you phone, iPod, hand-held center of your world, and running it over with my car."

"I'm done with you," I continued. "I am trying to make this as painless as possible by reading stuff that is edgy and interesting. But, I have no problem handing out worksheets for 2 1/2 hours and if you even fart without asking permission, I'm throwing you out."

"No more Fight Club. No more Metallica. No more Angry Birds. Nothing but Puritan Literature, Charles Dickens, and T.S. Eliot poetry."

Well, that is if I can figure out what the heck Eliot is writing about. That dude is complicated.

"Test prep until your eyes fall out."

Tomorrow? "A thirty-minute lecture on the dash vs. the hyphen." And I'm not nearly as entertaining as Missed Periods.

Forty-eight pairs of wide eyes staring at me in fear.

I finish with, "You want the bitch? Here she is!"

From somewhere in the room, I hear whispered, "You mean she gets worse?"

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Artist teasers: Interpreting "the 4th" in a Different ( and disturbing) Way.

My serial-killer thriller, The Artist, begins after the murder of the fourth victim. Below are some snippets from the first chapter.  I'd love, love, love some feedback.  Enjoy!

The killer always called Detective Corey Malone at home after committing his crime.
      The first phone call came four months ago in October.  He had called at 2 a.m. waking Corey from a seldom-found deep sleep.  Her answering machine had caught the message, projecting his voice throughout her apartment.  At first it had lingered in her ear, intermingling with her dreams. A haunting ancient sound he made, like something trapped within the walls of her childhood fears.
        Corey. Coreeeey.  I've left you a present. 
        The present? A mutilated and murdered freshman college girl.
        The phone had rung two more times since October.
        Now, a few minutes after midnight, the phone rang for the fourth time in four months.  
        “I’ve left you a present." The killer left the name and address of an apartment complex and hung up.
        He didn't give Corey a chance to respond to him.  He left her dumb with the receiver perched at her ear.  She listened to the buzz of a disconnected line and the thunder of blood rushing through her head. 
      But that was her relationship with him: a disconnected line.
      Corey grabbed her car keys, cellular phone, brown leather jacket, and gun. 
     She lived west of the Las Vegas strip on Jones Boulevard. She decided to go north to take Charleston across the Strip to avoid the mass of tourists that the huge hotels drew. Her heart pounded, sending vibrations through her entire body.  She was like a young lovesick girl late for a date. 
       Date? Could a police detective have a date with a killer? Definitely. Dating was part of many relationships, and enemies have relationships just like friends.  Enemies exchanged pieces of themselves, hoping to extract something new, something desired, something one needs and does not have any other way of getting, just like friends, or even lovers.  Corey gave the killer the attention he hungered for and in exchange she wanted a glimpse of his mind.  Corey needed him to call, yearned for it like a junkie.  But how else could she catch him?  Police no longer hunted criminals. The life of an undercover was slowly becoming the technique for all types of investigation: become the think you are trying to catch.  Vice cops did drugs; Corey allowed a serial killer to use her home phone number. She must indulge the killer: allow that twisted part of his soul to seep into her house through the ring of her phone. Doesn't the phone goes both ways?
      By the time Corey reached the location her tires were squealing and her nerves were screaming.  Checking her watch she noted the time at 12:37 a.m.  Gripping her gun, she climbed out of the car and hurried toward the apartment buildings. 
      She should call her partner. She should call CSI. She absolutely should not enter the scene alone.
      But Corey had to see his gift as he intended: she, alone; the scene, undisturbed. 
      The designated apartment door grew and swelled in her vision becoming a blue blur. She squatted down and scurried up to the door.   Staying low, she pressed her back against it closed her eyes and counted to ten.  Holding her gun with one hand, she raised a trembling fist and pounded on the door.
      "Police," she shouted.  "Open up."
      No answer. She tried the knob, but the door was locked. Squeezing her eyes shut, she cocked her head and bit her lip.  Her mouth silently formed the word damn.
      She unfolded into a standing position, angled her body away from the door and kicked her right leg out.  Her heel slammed into the doorknob, knocking it loose so that the second kick busted the door open.
      The scream that tore from the apartment nearly blasted Corey back over the railing.  The unexpected violence of sound hurled her into a state of hesitation and confusion.  She lingered in the terror of an unsuspecting citizen for only a few seconds before this killer's present jolted her back into a homicide detective.                                      
      “Police,” she blurted. 
      A few drops of blood led from the doorway to a mass of entangled limbs 6 or 7 feet away. A sour stench wafted thick in the room.  Corey placed her hand over her mouth to restrain the gasp bubbling in her throat and to keep the smell from becoming a taste.  At first it appeared as if the victim sat with her legs outstretched and her upper body bent over them so that her head hung between legs and her hands had been tied to her ankles with rope. The victim’s head bobbed while the hands flexed and clenched.
      "Thank God," Corey whispered and began to approach the body, careful to walk in a single path from the door to the body with as few strides and possible. A quick scan of the apartment revealed the tracks of a vacuum.  Then she froze, her pale face shining, her eyes bursting with a flame of horror.
       The head and arms did not belong to the same body as the legs. The arms were milky white and the legs, tanned.  Urgent glances caught only pieces of the picture but as Corey's nerves calmed her perception sharpened.  There were two bodies.  Two women had been stripped naked and placed in a 69 position.   Each girl had her wrists tied to the ankles of the other.
The girl on top was alive. The girl beneath her was dead. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill"-- Buddha

If Buddha is correct, then I am doing my part to destroy the future minds of America.

Some of the funniest incidents come from misuse of words, and if you teach English to teenagers, you will find yourself giggling (or screaming) a lot.

Or, if I am your English teacher, you'll find yourself giggling (or screaming) on the way to your therapist.

Available from Cafe Press
On the second day of the new school year, I used to teach students about the difference between Standard American English, slang, and dialects to help them understand why certain situations call for certain ways of speaking: you wouldn't use Standard American English when socializing with friends just as you wouldn't use slang with a teacher, employer, or anyone else not from your generation.

One year as I was transitioning from slang to dialects, I announced quite loudly: "Okay, now we are moving on to dicks." Immediately after I heard my diction faux pas, I threw my arms in the air like a referee signalling a touchdown and shouted, "Day two everybody!"

Forty pairs of wide eyes stared back at me.  That their teacher even knew what a dick was seemed to have stunned them.

Last year, while reading from "Narrative of Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson"--a horrific account of her imprisonment to the Native Americans in 1675--I managed to turn a scene of violence into a snuff narrative. After reading about "bowels being split open" and a nursing mother and her child being shot through, I concluded by saying, "the Indians getting up upon the roof of the barn, had advantage to shoot down upon [the pilgrims] over their fornication."

I stopped. The last word was supposed to be "fortification." I pictured a bunch of pilgrims doing it doggy style while shooting up at the Indians on the roof.  I couldn't help sputtering a few Beavis and Butthead chuckles.

I know. There's something wrong with me.

Of course, I was the only one who laughed because the students had no idea what "fornication" meant, even though they probably engaged in it more than I did. So, instead of seeing this humor in my mispronunciation, they watched me giggle at the idea of innocent men, women, and children being slaughtered.

Then there was the time I told my students to "put away their notebooks because I was passing the testies out." I was trying to play off a persona that is so not me: cutesie and playfully condescending (I'm naturally sarcastically condescending).

And I often say fuck-tion instead of "function."

I could be on Law and Order Special Victims Unit. As myself.

I really threw out a good one the other night during the Advanced Composition class that I teach at the junior college during the summer. This class was dedicated to diction: denotation, connotation, phonetics and such.  I end the class with a lecture on the phonetics and purpose of profanity. Clearly, I cuss a lot during this lecture.

I had decided to give the students a break beforehand. As they were getting up to leave the room for a break, I overheard a student utter to another student a phrase that included the word "fuck" as a noun, adjective, and adverb. I smirked at the versatility of the word, which alerted the student that I could actually hear him. Embarrassed, he apologized for his language. To put him at ease I was going to say, "Don't worry about it, I'm going to say 'fuck' a lot after the break."

But, that's not what I said.

I forgot a word.

(drum roll while readers try to figure out what I did say)

Wait for it . . .

Wait for it . . .

Instead, I said, "Don't worry about it because I'm gonna fuck a lot after the break."

Let's just say no one was late coming back from the break.

And my second period seniors will not forget to turn in their composition notebooks on Wednesday. Why? Because when I reminding them, I said, "On Wednesday, I am going to start collecting your condoms."

From the silence, once small voice utters, "Well, we know Ms. Vance had a good weekend."

OMG.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Qurious Quirks

Good thing I'm pretty, because I'm not too bright.

Almost jacked-up the blogfest. 

But, I've regrouped and am ready to OWN IT!

I wrote my first novel when I was 16, while grounded for a very long time (I fucked up big, yo).  It started as a Stephen King It rip-off and has been through several revisions since. The exploding YA market combined with the fact that I was a YA when I wrote it makes it the logical next project. 


It is horror, of course, called The Gifted, the Cursed, and the Wicked.


It has eight main characters. Eight. And about 5 supporting characters.  As much as it hurts--deleting a character feels a lot like murder--I need to scale down.


Luckily, I stumbled onto this great blogfest:


Hosted by Paper Mountain
I am going to use it as an opportunity to a) fine-tune characters developed by my 16-year-old brain and b) figure out which ones can go. *tear* I am to develop five questions that will bring out a "quirk" in one of my characters. Those participating will answer my questions in the comments and I will do the same on theirs!


Those of you not participating, answer the questions for yourself! Or answer them from the perspective of your favorite fictional character! Or, or answer them from the perspective of someone you would find intriguing.


I'm going to develop my questions around Kristina Knight.  She was supposed to be me, or what I wanted to be, and now I feel she needs to be her own person and not my ego, so I think she's a good candidate.


1. Which bad habit of your character drives other the characters crazy?

Kris will open up a can of Diet Coke, drink part of it, and then forget about it and go open another one. She'll have six cans scattered through her apartment by the end of the weekend.

2. How would your character communicate "I need help" with just body language?

She crawls into her boyfriend's lap and contracts into a fetal position.

3. If your character had only one night in Las Vegas, what would he/she do?

Kris would hit the night clubs and dance all night long.

4.  How does your character regard his/her cell phone?

An onerous necessity. She keeps it on her so that her friends don't bitch at her for not responding to their messages right away. But it's not a smart phone; it's not decorated. She does not cross off the days of her calendar anticipating when the first day of her early-upgrade window. 

5.  What habit will your character never be able to break without some kind of intervention?

Chewing on her cuticles while watching television.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Minz, what did you put in this wine?": Submission Day

I might be drunk. I've had ONE glass of wine, but I am pretty sure that Minz put something in it. I'm sitting here, giggling at nothing.

Or, I might be punch drunk.

Or, it's The Crazy.

JennyB, Minz, and I have been submitting to agents all day.  We call these "submissions days." I know really creative. Or as Minz suggested: "Our motherfucking postal days."  We try to have one every few months.

Minz
JennyB

My submission day picture is not appropriate for public view.

My back hurts, Minz's ass hurts, and JennyB is getting angry, which is pissing me off because I am the angry one.

We've been at this for 6 1/2 hours.

When Minz asked, "Is it time for wine?" JennyB and I nearly shrieked, "Yes!"

I've stopped sending queries because at this point, I'm going to replace, "May I send you a partial or complete manuscript?" with "Stop fucking around and publish me already!"

We had plans to go to Restorative Yoga, but that went in the shitter, because now Minz is drunk.

JennyB just said, "I submitted eight! Eight is enough, get it?"

Ya, that's where we are at.

Now, Minz and JennyB are exchanging French phrases.

I don't know what's going on.

Update:  JennyB snagged an agent yesterday! And, Minz had a short story accepted! Ladies, please comment about the details of your success. The rest of you--go to Missed Periods and congratulate JennyB!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To Quote My Grandmother: "Why are teenager's so stupid?"

As my recent post indicated, I teach seniors in high school. It is 8 days until graduation. I no longer stand in front of a room extemporizing on the beauty and relevance of literature and rhetoric while 40 pairs of wide, shining eyes gaze up at me, eagerly hanging on my every word. No more hands shoot into the air as students cry, "Pick me, Ms. Vance. Pick me!" No more do I hear the phrases, "That poem was awesome!", "This novel changed my life," or "I am learning so much in here."

Because you know that shit happens every day in my classes.

Regardless, right now, I am just trying to stay alive. My most conscientious seniors won't do anything--except ask me 1000 questions about graduation procedures even though I have ZERO to do with coordinating the ceremony. But, I am bombarded with calls from counselors and parents concerning failing seniors, wanting final grades even though finals weeks isn't even here yet; juniors who just now decided to ask me about making up that test from February; papers that I've procrastinated grading; one principal telling me to teach until the bitter end while another one tells me to turn in my textbooks, NOW!

To quote a colleague: "My brain is hammered right now."

Still, I am trying to maintain some fraction of decorum. I still enforce showing up on time, I refuse to take any late work, I've assigned each class a "project" to keep them busy (which we all know I probably won't grade) and I have not shown a single movie!

NOT ONE.

But I am losing my grip, finger by finger.

Thank God teenagers can be so stupid--it is keeping me entertained.

One of my senior classes took a final today on the novel Frankenstein. Multiple choice. Fifty questions.
After writing question #49, my brain just died. Fizzled out. Shut down.

Shouldn't have done all those drugs in high school.

So, I tacked on this question to the end of the test:

50. Ms. Vance is all EXCEPT:
            A. Brilliant
            B. Beautiful
            C. A man
            D. Funny
            E. The ruler of classroom R102

Out of 38 students 35 answered C, 2 answered B, and 1 answered A.

Two students think I am an ugly man; one student thinks I am a stupid man.

Awesome. 

I pondered not changing their answers on the scantron and making them take the one-point hit on their grade. Yes, I found the error (or prank) hilarious, but what I found even more funny was the fact that they forgot to take into consideration the fact that I HAVE TO MAKE AN ANSWER KEY.  Instead, I changed their answers and then sent an email to the entire staff at my school about the incident (leaving the students' names out, of course), but the aid that is in my room during that class called me immediately to asked which students, so I told her and let the power of rumor do its work.

I don't just open a can of worms; I open a vat of worms. My inbox blew up with not only sarcastic retorts, but also affirmations that I was pretty and that I was smart and that people liked me dammit! I oscillated between laughing and saying "ahhhhh" for the rest of the day. I think my favorite was the phone call from one of my colleagues, who has also been a good friend for the fourteen years I've taught, asking, "Is the stupid, ugly man who rules R102 available?"

I should have said, "No, because he's with your wife," but I was too busy laughing.

By the following day, rumor had done its work. The three confused students (or pranksters) rolled into class wailing with excuses and apologies for their error while I feigned offense for all about 5 minutes. They claimed that they though they were marking what I was, not what I wasn't.

I love adolescent back-peddling.

But, when the Assistant Principal popped into my class to discuss the importance of graduation and how it represents all that they've accomplished, he jerked a thumb at me and added, "I mean, you've had to put up with this ugly, stupid guy all year."

The class exploded in laughter.

Bravo, sir. Bravo.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

To quote my grandmother: "Why are teenagers so stupid?"

When I started blogging, I promised myself that I would not allow it to turn into a mock-my-students blog, and believe me, I've got enough material to take the blog down that road.

This blog is supposed to be about writing--my writing specifically. And it's been relatively easy to keep it all about me.

But today, I can't resist.

Inspired by Lana Banana's post, I must share the greatest student quote EVER.

At the high school where I teach, we are in the final stages of the senior project. It's a district requirement for graduation; an assessment of the cumulative skills of seniors. Every senior must complete it--no exceptions.

Here's what the babies are required to do within a semester: write a 6-page research paper on a topic of their choosing, take the content of that paper and put it into practice for 15-30 hours of fieldwork under the guidance of a mentor, and then present their experience to a panel of judges from the community. This project is designed to push students out of their comfort zone, make them responsible for their learning, and help them explore career paths--a cutting of the umbilical cord, if you will.

And it's an excellent torture device for us teachers; only the most sadistic (and masochistic) of us get to teach it.

I've been teaching it for 14 years.

As my colleagues who are also mothers have said, "The senior project is like childbirth: unbelievable pain that results in the greatest of rewards."

Right now, I and my fellow SP teachers are in hard labor.  The final presentations are Thursday and Friday of this week.  Tensions are high because teenagers are freakin' out, and teachers have had it. Because the senior project is so individualized, teachers are scrambling to solve a variety of "hitches" spiced up with an abundant amount of teenage drama and a barrage of parent phone calls wondering why we can't dedicate hours of our time to their lovely child who up until now hasn't done DICK.

So let me be a little more specific: senior project teachers are currently akin to schizophrenics in hard labor. Without our medication. And the anesthesiologist is nowhere to be found.

I know that on Thursday and Friday, it will be rapturous as I watch my students march off to their presentations and return glowing and elated. There will be laughter, hugs, and camaraderie. It's the type of day that reminds me why I stay in teaching (I went into it to pay bills until I got published--ha, ha).

But right now . . . the pole as a source of income is looking better and better.

Right now . . . I want to change "what I'm looking for" criteria on my online dating profiles to "an elderly, rich man with a delicate ticker."

Students are currently practicing their presentations, which covers everything they have learned and highlights the specific skills they have acquired.

One of my students did his project on rap music and poetry.  In his research paper, he justified rap as a legitimate form of poetry that adheres to the traits of great poetry as outlined by the masters. For his fieldwork, he took an online poetry class, wrote his own song, and recorded it. Overall, I thought this project to be pretty good.

But, this is how he started his presentation (and here is the greatest student quote EVER): "Poetry has been around before literacy. Ya know, back when everything was oral? Ya know, before Christ."

He finished his presentation by plugging his iPod into my portable speakers and rapping for five minutes. No mention of his paper; no mention of the skills he learned during his fieldwork. Even if I had had an Urban Dictionary on hand and several gang members to act as consultants, I still wouldn't have had any idea what he was talking--excuse me--rapping about.

At this point, I just want the doctor to come in and say, "Fuck it. We're doing a Cesarean."

So, in honor of the end of the school year, when teachers are exhausted, crawling toward the finish line, piles of students on their backs, I invite my community of educators to share those moments that justify the title of this blog series. I need the laugh.

Shit, we all do.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Give me your words, your view, Your huddled masses of dirty thoughts and nasty rhetoric"

To all the men out there: I need your minds.

Yes, gentlemen, your minds (I'll be asking for your bodies in the next post).

To be more specific, I need your dirty minds. Your filthy minds.

No, this isn't a dream.  There are no hidden cameras. I have not been hired by any of your wives or girlfriends to entrap you.

But I need to get inside your head. Way up in there. So far up I have a hard time finding my way out.

Guide me. Teach me. Corrupt me.

I need to know how the most childish, perverted side of you would describe a woman's body --any woman's body-- to another man. How does a conceited, smooth, unscrupulous womanizer see a woman? How would he describe having sex with a woman for whom he feels nothing but contempt?

I want the words, the slang. Unleash the inner asshole. Turn him loose . . . turn him loose on me. I want crude, rude, and raw. Offensive.

No, this is not for my sexual gratification (well . . . maybe a little).

This is for a piece I have written called "The Basement" (see review from Garrett Calcaterra at the right). It is one of the very few pieces where I take on a male persona and I want to get it right before I submit. I think I am close, but I think the voice is off a bit. So, some gentlemen feedback, pretty please.

Below is an excerpt. You can comment by suggesting substitutions for my current rhetoric, or if you could just leave me some key phrases or diction that's be great too.  I need man language.

Disclaimer: I do not think this is how all men are. I am trying to write the voice of a total dick.

The Basement

She was on him like a cat the moment he walked through the front door: jumping onto his back and clawing at his face. Cursing, Justin reached back, trying to grab her by the hair and yank her forward over his shoulders.  He was going to throw the bitch across the room, find the money, and leave. And if she tried to stop him, he would not hesitate to punch her straight in the face.
            But then her fingers hooked into his mouth. A chalky, bitterness bounced back into this throat.
“What the fuck!” he barked, shrugging her off of him, he staggered forward. He hunched over, contracting his throat in an effort to cough up whatever she gave him. But it was too late, his coated tongue smacked against the roof of his mouth. Straightening, he turned to bolt, but only managed a few steps before blackness overtook him. As the room jumped and he plummeted, he saw her out of the corner of his eye, her arms crossed over her chest and those painted red lips smiling.

                        *                                                           *                                                           *
            Justin snapped his fingers in Stan’s face, “What the fuck dude?”  He was right in the middle of telling them about how he dissed this chick who was in his Poly Sci 101 class when Stan suddenly straightened up like someone had jammed a stick up his ass and looked passed Justin toward Legends’ entrance.
Twisting at the waist, Justin looked scanned the busy scene. It didn’t take long for him to find the interruption: short, black hair; white skin; black eyeliner an inch thick around her blue eyes, extending out from the corners like she thought she was Cleopatra. Lip piercing in the corner of lower lip, sporting a black hoop. Nose piercing; eyebrow piercing.
            Bright red lip-stick.
            Fishnet stockings, a short checkered skirt, and a black T-Shirt with the Goth version of that white cat—Hello Kitty?—printed on the front. Great legs: thin and long. Perky tits accentuated by the tight shirt. Justin snickered. Ms. Emo had a chill.
          Justin leaned over to Kyle and said, “She must be lost. Should we tell her that the cutting party is probably downtown?” Sunday football at Legends sports bar didn’t exactly attract her kind.