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.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Artist teasers: "Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish" --Ovid

As I trudge through the submission process to find that perfect agent who will recognize my nurtured talent and my innate creativity and usher to fame and fortune, I find that I am often asked to submit the first ten pages of my  novel. 
And since I've been rejected about thirty times, clearly these prospective agents aren't reading past the first page.
So, I must ask for your opinion. Below are different potential beginnings of my novel, a serial killer thriller, The Artist.  The first excerpt is the first page as of now. The second excerpt is the beginning of a section that begins on page 3.  
Please comment: Should I stick with the beginning I have now, or should I try sending the second excerpt to agents I query in the future?
When he first tore her open, Janet Cooper didn’t understand what was happening.  
One minute she had been in her bedroom checking her email, trying to ignore the music thundering from Teresa’s room, and then the next minute, on her way to ask her roommate for a little quiet, a gorgeous man emerged from the bedroom. Gently closing the door behind him, he smiled warmly, and she stopped midway down the hall.  He wore a pair of loose-fitting blue jeans and a black V-neck sweater.  The hint of a solid strong body shifted beneath his clothes as he transferred his weight from one leg to another.  
 “Teresa mentioned that you’d be home soon,” he yelled over the music.  He took a step closer to her and when the light fell across his face, Janet’s lips parted, the tip of her tongue gliding across them. 
 Janet heard a rip, felt the fire burst between her legs, and saw the red stain spread through her white pants.  Her knees buckled and she began to sink to the floor, but the man seized her by the base of the neck and slammed her up against the wall, his palm pressing her airway. Her jaw dropped open, but swung as if hanging on overstretched joints while a gurgle swished around in her mouth.


The killer always phoned Detective Corey Malone on her land line after committing his crimes.
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 archaic 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.
 I’ve got something to show you.
She had gotten out of bed and staggered half asleep to the answering machine.  The message consisted of an address and ended the second her fingers touched the stop button. She stood, slightly confused and frightened. The abrupt completion of his message at the very instant Corey attempted to speak to him disturbed her. Coincidences always disturbed her. She reported the call and then searched her small apartment, white knuckling her 9mm. 
A murder victim had been found at the exact location mapped out on her answering machine.