Rerun: To You Who Are Doing Rejection Wrong

I was reminded today in an email about happy I am being a writer, working with other writers and publishing professionals who care deeply about excellence in literature.  As a reader, some of the most rewarding and amazing books I’ve read have been published in the past five years. As a teacher, I am especially grateful to the gatekeepers and writers of the YA world.  Today’s September Back-To-School Issue challenge is a rerun of a post I wrote a couple of months ago in response to an incident of online abuse hurled at a literary agent by a disgruntled writer. I was angry when…

What Resilience Looks Like

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from DH Lawrence’s “Self Pity:” I never saw a wild thing  sorry for itself.  A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. My students have stories that I sometimes never hear. We are busy people in the classroom. We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk about our feelings and cry. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to know the true resilience of the rising generation. Their stories evoke the tenacious bird of the poem, its gnarly little feet curled around…

Big Day of Giving: 916 Ink

Katie McCleary, the writer goddess who is the executive director of the Sacramento organization 916 Ink, talks a lot about giving young people a voice. Here is what 916 Ink is about in their own words: 916 INK seeks to excite young people with language, particularly written language; to instill in children a sense of joy, wisdom, whimsy, and wonder with words; to celebrate syntax; and to support teachers, schools, and libraries in their efforts to share the benefits of reading and writing with all area youth. Check them out here: I want to tell you what I think about…

Avoid Complaint

Today, I complained at one point that it was still morning and not lunchtime. I complained about Loretto High School closing while I was still working there. (This was a sad event, and perhaps worthy of complaining about. Seven years ago.) I complained about the requirement of having to stop at a stoplight on the way to my child’s dentist appointment. We had plenty of time. We got there early, in fact. Right now I’m complaining about my complaining. Language makes reality. Complaining does not reflect reality. At the stoplight I was a woman in America with the means to…

Write Letters On Paper

My friend Laura and I have been exchanging handwritten letters for twenty-eight years. The first is from the summer of 1988. I still have it. The last was from over a week ago. I read it and reread it. My friend Laura is an excellent artist and writer. She is a storyteller like no one else I know. When email started being a thing I was afraid our letters would stop. She lives in L.A., I live in Northern California. Email was so easy. We can’t write too many emails, I warned her.  I shouldn’t have worried. Now we message…

Just Say Thank You

This was me when Sue, the wonderful organizer of Sacramento Stories on Stage, first asked me to send her my work for consideration: “Oh, no.  Are you sure you really want it? I’m not that good.” My friend Valerie grabbed my arm. “When someone asks to see your work, always just say thank you.” Thanks, friend. I needed that. My first reaction to a compliment, a gift, a favor, or an offer, is some kind of waffle-mouthed “Oh no, surely you don’t mean it, I don’t want to be a bother, I couldn’t possibly accept.” Reader, it’s bullshit. I never…

Be Generous

2016 is going great so far. Amazing great. For example, this month a friend gifted me with a two-day writing workshop with the author of the truly excellent short story collection Refund, National Book Award Finalist Karen E. Bender. I am an enthusiastic fan of Ms. Bender’s work and vision, and I was going to have the chance to work with her in a small group format. In the two-day workshop, we listened to Karen Bender’s wisdom about the craft of writing fiction. All of the participants read one another’s work and came prepared with notes on each story. Everyone got a turn for…

When I Spill Coffee on My Laptop Say Thanks

I had an entire year once of annoying events. It started on January 1st when a tree fell on our house in a terrible storm. Our kitchen floor became alarmingly spongy. The water heater broke. An airport van driver ran into my car door in the Safeway parking lot and drove off without even giving me her name. Money shrank as the list of wrong and broken things grew. A strange string of other distressing people and events served to vex us throughout the year. We invented a comforting mantra: Well, that was annoying but at least it wasn’t evil. As a sort of bookend…

Go To Sleep

When I am taking the best care of myself, I treat myself like a Waldorf child. I eat fruits and vegetables instead of candy. I read instead of watch television. I spend time in nature. I get enough sleep. I need eight hours a night. I also need a half hour nap in the afternoon but that doesn’t happen very often. I would take one every day except it would be weird for my students if their teacher curled under her desk in the middle of the lesson and tucked herself in. I knew a great high school football coach once…

Friday Free Topic: Thank You for Everything

My usual gratitude lists are reserved for things I feel actual gratitude for. This week I’ve been saying thank you for everything. Because when you’re having dinner at someone’s house and she serves brussels sprouts or whatever, you don’t go, “Oh my God. Craptastic.” No, you say, “Thank you.”  You express gratitude as a form of good manners and also because you understand that it is a privilege to be at the table in the first place. So I say thank you for My anger management problem The way even one piece of candy awakens a hunger dragon inside of…