A List of Hobbies I Gave Up When I Got Serious About Writing

Baking Gardening Thai food cooking Garage sales Beadwork Jewelry making Watercolor painting T-shirt painting Apron painting Hot gluing used coffee filters to the tops of glass jars and stamping them with Amish-style stamp designs Hot gluing cotton balls to the tops of glass jars and then gluing fabric over the cotton balls to make the lids puffy and then filling the jars with candy Wreath-making from vines I cut from random bushes on the side of the road Knitting Cutting hearts out of the pages of old books and Mod Podging them to glass jars and putting candles inside Mod…

One to Watch: David Pino

I love hearing the news that a former student is making waves in writing. In my One to Watch series, I highlight up and coming former students who are using writing to do great things. David Pino was in my Advanced Placement English Class seven years ago at a school called Sacramento Charter High. He knew more about most of the curriculum than I did, and was an encyclopedic resource for our Mythology and Archetype unit.  Also, I can never read Frankenstein again without thinking of his brilliant dramatic presentation of the Monster. He was a wonderful student in a…

5 Things Exercise Taught Me About Writing

I can do more than I think I can. When I begin, I can’t imagine finishing. Just go for ten minutes, I say to myself. Just give it a try. Focus only on this rep, this workout, this page. I try not to notice that it is five in the morning and dark outside. I once wrote ten thousand words in one day. Most days I work out before the sun rises. This isn’t the Army. This is my life. I can do more than I think I can. I can ignore the inner (and outer) naysayer.  Getting up at 4:30 in…

5 Ways I Find Time to Write

1. I found a day job that respects my boundaries. I am a full-time English teacher. Any teacher knows that this is a job that can take over a life. The best thing I ever did for my writing is find a school community that allows me to enjoy the ever elusive work/life balance. 2. Stop doing hobbies. Here is a list of hobbies I had before I finally focused on writing for good: beading, jewelry making, knitting, gluing sticks onto glass jars to make votives, making books (not writing them), gluing pictures onto notebooks and giving them to my friends, baking,…

There Is No Such Thing as Writer’s Block

There is no such thing as writer’s block. You just don’t feel like writing. So don’t write. Why should you? Unless you are a student tasked with completing an assignment for a grade, there is no reason to write. Unless you are a worker who has to communicate to someone in a written fashion at your job, why write? There is no reason to write. Unless there is a man or woman you love so much that your voice quits when you try to explain. Love letters are important. So unless you are a student, a worker, or in love,…

6 Smart How-To-Write Books

I don’t give writing advice very often, but I know good writing advice when I hear it. The following six titles are a sample of some of the best. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King When I was in college in the eighties, a classmate announced that some day Stephen King would be considered a genius. Everybody scoffed but I knew she was right.  The author of Salem’s Lot, The Stand, and The Shining has forgotten more than most of us will ever know about weaving great stories. In On Writing, the master  is generous with advice,…

The Best Writing Advice Ever

Here is my writing advice: Whatever you do, don’t ask me for writing advice. Asking me for writing advice is like asking a thrasher in a mosh pit for ballet lessons. Ask Janet Fitch, writing professor and author of White Oleander and Paint it Black: 10 Writing Tips That Can Help Almost Anyone Listen to Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, The Sandman series, Ocean at the End of the Lane, and so many more wonderful stories: Advice to Authors Be inspired by Joyce Carol Oates: Writing Advice from Joyce Carol Oates Get off your butt according to Cheryl Strayed: Dear Sugar…

A Great Yes: The Camera Man

Ten years ago a  young man was beaten almost to death in his high school bathroom. The kids who jumped him broke his jaw. The police caught the kids who jumped him because a friend of theirs had filmed the beating and posted it online. The news announced that the police were still looking for the camera man. Online beatings are a thing now (i.e. WORLDSTARHIPHOP), but ten years ago this was a newsworthy event. Talk radio shows invited psychologists to talk about the kind of young person who could take video of a victim’s beating and not do anything to…

Notebooks

On the way to the gym this morning, I heard this story on NPR  in which Eric Weiner reported that Moleskine’s business is booming, and research shows that  all the cool kids write in notebooks now. I was fascinated but also horrified by this story. Listening to an interview with a guy who revealed that he wrote in notebooks like it was a new idea made me feel  sort of the way I did when the lady who wrote Freedom Writers came to town and everyone at the school where I worked got very excited about her revolutionary teaching technique of having her students write in journals.  My…

A Snazzy Quote

A student in my Advanced Placement class just asked me for a “snazzy quote about the important of perseverance as a writer” to augment his research project about what it takes to be an author. This particular student is a brilliant writer himself and also a nice person. He’s the kind of young man that makes a teacher glad to work the job. The future of our world is in good hands with the likes of him, and of all my students. The pressure to come up with an original snazzy quote is more than I can bear on a Tuesday…