Thursday, March 25, 2010

Something about eating babies

I gave my students the option to choose one of seven different novels for senior English this year and I'm starting to wonder if I bit off more than I can chew. I think this group is independent enough not to need constant direct instruction-just today I was going to teach the pardoner's tale and gave up because a) I had already related the neat-o plot orally earlier in the year and b) they already know dramatic irony from Sophocles... so, instead I asked them to read something at random from the textbook and be prepared to tell the class about it... "pick something short." I'm so glad I did! They showed me so many cool pieces I'd overlooked, like Wole Soyinka's "Telephone Conversation" a prose-poem of sorts that rocks my socks. He wrote a book while wrongly imprisoned in Nigeria. It's called The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka. I hope to track down a copy soon. We also read some weird thing called "Two Sheep" by Janet Frame and this other thing by Harold Pinter. It was an authentic string of moments. So... I'm hoping I don't have to do too much hand holding during this novel unit. I might have trouble keeping all the books straight. I know I could teach Siddhartha and Angela's Ashes blindfolded... probably blindfolded while sitting in the lotus position. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone might be a little challenging because we're doing a book called The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter in addition... and I've been talking trash about being a Potter expert, so I better know my stuff there. As for The Road, 1984, and Crime and Punishment-they're new. I've never taught them. I read The Road in one sitting two years ago on a plane to Hawaii, so I'll have to re-read that one, obviously. One of my male students said, "We'll just watch the movie," to which I replied, "Good. If you can get through it without curling into the fetal position and sucking your thumb go for it... and it's less intense than the book in many ways. They don't eat a baby in the movie. The movie will "e-road" you from the inside out." Another male student said "If they eat a baby I'm not reading it." I give him a lot of credit. I'm ashamed to admit if I were in high school the promise of a baby-eating scene would have driven me to the page. That and I only read Crime and Punishment (at first) because of the axe murder. But hey, I've come a long way since high school... I have a baby now, and I don't think I'd eat him for anything in the world.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Writing Exercise: Conflict

Can't remember if I've posted this idea yet or not.

Choose a superhero with whom you are familiar. Consider their character. Do they strive to create order and enforce rules? Or, do they enjoy reveling in chaos and give into their primal urges? Better yet, are they a mix of the two? Do you have them in mind? Great.

Now put them in a scene that requires them to act in a way opposite of their nature. Emphasize your character's inner conflict. Show how inner conflict can lead to external conflict.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reading Workshop 20

Choose at least one of the following questions to answer about your chosen book.

If your book were an Olympic sport, what would it be, and why?

If your book were a celebrity, who would it be and why?

If your book were an element on the periodic table, what would it be and why?

If your book were a monster, what would it be, and why?

If your book had the choice to fly or be invisible, which would it choose and why?

If your book was a color, what would it be and why?

If your book had the choice to use nails or screws, which would it choose and why?

If your book could turn into a bat, would it hide in a cave or bite someone on the neck? Why?

Monday, March 1, 2010

...that's definitely not going to pass code...

I've been spending some time lately learning the ins-and-outs of electrical wiring. I am tempted to go into detail here about the project but that would be a little too much like reliving a nightmare so I'll skip it. Speaking of nightmares, I read a scary story called "The Bees" by Dan Chaon last night before bed. There's a house fire in the story and I couldn't stop thinking about my electrical work before bed. Finally I had to get up and go touch the wires and the junction box to make sure they were cold before I could sleep. Jeez-oww!

I've been working on little stuff here and there, my own writing that is. I'm rewriting the novel, the one about the chef, in the first person. It's been a lot more fun now that I kind of know the story and I don't have to worry about keeping a straight face the whole time. I just finished re-revising chapter one just the other day. I feel pretty good about it I guess. I think the first couple pages are still going to be confusing, but I've been working on it. I think the relationship stuff regarding the main character and his roommate are much more realistic, and I think his "career dissatisfaction" is more evident, and (I hope) more funny. I hope there are a lot more funny parts, actually. I don't know, we'll see. I have an idea for at least one new character once the story moves to the school. It may very well take me another couple of years to finish the second draft. In the meantime I'm listening to the voices in my head. And working on story about a guy that can't stop vomiting.

Well, kids, that's about it. In the meantime I'm looking for something else to read that made me feel the way The Wild Things by Dave Eggers made me feel, and that is, like a kid again. Maybe I'll read Hendrik van Loon's The Story of Mankind?