Thursday, January 30, 2014

Teaching assistants and cats

Communication with children, communication with children and parents whose first language is not English, child safety, child development, childhood transitions, inclusion, case studies, National Curriculum, setting up displays, and what the roles of each member of the school entail.

This is a list of some of the topics what the course I signed up for yesterday will cover. I want to mention that as part of first week pre-planning as a teacher in Florida we were given a brief about what to do if we suspect child abuse, and how we can never lay our hands on a child, but I was never, ever taught child development. I was never taught how inclusion works, how to help students with different learning abilities, etc. I was pretty much thrown into a classroom and left to my own untrained devices.

The TA course starts after Easter and I’m super excited because it’s close by, and my job placement school said they didn’t mind if I didn’t come in to help out until April. (Something I was a bit worried about since I asked about getting that placement in December. I was going to start this local course in Jan, so I thought, but the tutor yesterday said they just didn’t have the means to do it until Spring.)

Eh, fine by me.

Now that I’m registered and have stuff to look forward to again, stuff that may actually help me with my teaching dreams in the long run, I feel 100% better. (Steve also only has two more days of work until his vacation. Hooray!) I walked a lot yesterday to get to the adult learning centre instead of taking the car. This made me super exhausted and in need of a nap after dinner (tea, you know) but I stayed in the bed all night.

Well, until the cat decided to start peeling the wallpaper off the wall in the bedroom at 7AM. What the heck? But, that’s his routine. He usually starts trying to wake us up at that time because he thinks we’ll starve him or never clean his litter box, or whatever goes on in his catty brain.

We’ve contemplated getting a female cat sister for him. He’s going to be 8 years old on Valentine’s Day (wow, my life has changed so much for the better in those 8 years) so I’m not sure if he’s mellowed in his middle age enough to have a cat friend on his turf or not. I would rather get a rescue cat who needs a home and is use to other cats around. I’ve just not gotten the nerve to go to the RSPCA and investigate the situation. (Because I know I’ll fall in love with one of them and take them home.)

Of course, I want a dog, but we don’t have a house, so that may be too much of a pain for us and the dog.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An abundance of writers

Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. ~ Tyler Durden

Today I saw a reTweet of something to the effect of, “Plenty of people want to write a book, but there are only a few who actually do.”


Actually, the biggest problem we have as writers is the overabundance of books in the market; self published or traditional. Writing is not some unique, starving artist mysterious lifestyle that people dream about anymore. Books sell and now more than ever people are trying to get in on the cash.

Here are some articles about the amount of writers and books that are out there currently:

  • How Many Novelists are at Work in America? – “Can we agree on a low-end pool of 250,000 active novelists? If I had to account for all the people writing novels that will never see the light of day, in either self-published or published form, I’d put that number at one million. That’s less than a third of one percent of the population. Established novelists and jaded critics, take heart.”
  • Books published per country per year - "United States (2011) 292,037 (new titles and editions). United Kingdom (2011) 149,800 (new). TOTAL: approximately 2,200,000"
  • THE LAST WORD; How Many Books Are Too Many? - "Brace yourselves, novelists and would-be novelists. Figures released this spring show that a new book of fiction is published in the United States every 30 minutes. Even if you don't count the titles published through print-on-demand and other fee-charging, vanity-press-type outfits, the total still comes to 10,000 books a year -- or one book published every hour or so. And that's just the fiction." (Publish date July 18, 2004)

So, how does that, “few people actually do it” theory hold up now?

I know the tweet was meant to encourage writers out there to keep going, and that’s all well and good, but it’s not that end all be all of writing. Finish, yes, but then keep going.

We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. ~ Tyler Durden

Look, I don’t mean to poo-poo anyone’s dreams of being a successful author, but it’s just not something that’s for an elite few. I’m guessing that this user that posted the tweet is young and still thinks of themself with the same kind of preciousness that we all did. We all thought we’d be the next Poe, or Hemingway, or Woolf. At a time when the market wasn’t as flooded, maybe. But even twenty years ago when I graduated high school, the market was bombarded by sub-par books. Now with Harry Potter and Twilight, and even 50 Shades, there is an even bigger green light for people to write books. Lots of them.

I won’t get into the pros and cons of self-publishing, or the difference between a good or bad book. We just have a publishing world that wants same ol’ same ol’ novels, some outstanding novels that get thrown by the wayside in attempts at traditional publication, some great books published by small print presses, and a lot of self published novels. All together that makes up for a lot of writers. A whole lot.

Even when I finished my first book, I wasn’t that fussed. It’s a stepping stone, that’s all. You make better and better books. The fact that you wrote a book is fine, good, whatever, but you’re one of many, and if you don’t know that, you’re putting yourself into a lot of denial. There’s a huge amount of competition, and working on your craft is the best thing to focus on.

Again, this is not to say people should quit writing or quit trying. Plenty of people end up published and well received despite their publishing track. It’s good that writing is such an en vogue thing in a way because you have a broader audience now. You have the opportunity to get work seen by beta readers, editors, and agents that you wouldn’t have had before the internet.

But it’s not a special, extraordinary thing anymore. For example, Teen Mom Farrah Abraham has already become a best-selling author for her biography. Now, after her scandal, she is going to be an author of 50 Shades-type novels and Christian parenting books. Yes, she’s a writer. She’s written books.

Other people who have written books: Snooki, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Lauren Conrad, Kerry Katona, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Hillary Duff, Tyra Banks, Pam Anderson, Bethanny Frankel, Macaulay Culkin...the list goes on.

Are they special? Well, they’re famous and rich and someone paid them to write a book. Does this mean that about anyone can do it? Absolutely. (Write a book, not write a good book – that’s something different.)

So write your books, congratulate yourself, then get to the editing, rewriting, marketing, querying side of things. Then write another book.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Teaching and books are the stuff I’m made of

Tuesday morning, and I woke up early, as usual, but this time it was 5:30 instead of 5, and I got out of bed at 6. (I woke up once at 4:30 as well.)

I know it’s the lack of schedule that’s thrown me into this stupid cycle. I also know it’s the career confusion I’ve put myself in recently. I was so excited for my Teacher’s Assistant course before Christmas, then when January rolled around, I had second thoughts.

If you’ve not seen Tough Young Teachers, I suggest you don’t if you’re planning on going into teaching. It will ruin all hopes of doing well and will make your first day more frightening than usual. Of course, the public think the teachers are doing a bad job, and that the disruptive kids are just misunderstood.

“What was most upsetting was seeing the effects of the clash of the young re teacher with the disruptive pupil. The kid is so bright, articulate and emotionally intelligent and yet the strategies used by the teacher seemed from the editing to be so destructive for him.”

The main offending student this commenter on the Guardian article is talking about was expelled for three years after he punched a teacher at another school. No teacher or administration should coddle to him. The show even filmed the kid at home where his mother was totally blasé about the kid being spoken to by the teacher. When she discussed the boy hitting a teacher three years ago she just blew it off with, “But he’s just not like that.” She never, ever gave him any kind of discipline measures. The kid told the teacher he was boring, a bad teacher, wasn’t doing a good job, total, all and all disrespect, no disciplinary action at home, but it’s the teacher’s fault.

Kids act like this in school, yet Twitter was all about defending him during the airing of Episode 2. Not being in front of a classroom will make people have all sorts of brilliant insight, though, I tell you. He shouldn’t be allowed to go back to public school. In the US we have schools for kids like this, kids who are offenders who have adult-ed type institution. That’s the kind of school he should go to. They have this boy in GCSE courses when he doesn’t want to be and all students like this do is waste everyone’s time, theirs included. But, what do I know? I’ve only taught all age groups for year.

Steve even suggested the kid was acting up more for the camera, which probably is the biggest encourager.

Steve also told me he didn’t want me to teach again if the kids were really like that. Yeah, yeah they are.

This kid, of course wasn’t the only one acting like this. The Year 7 English teacher had all sorts of crap to deal with in her class – kids walking on tables, crawling under tables, throwing things, talking, and making the poor teacher have to be “flagged as cause for concern.” Her life’s ambition was to be a teacher and now after one term, it may all end? Very, very sad.

Anyway, after watching that show, I really started thinking that I should toss the education thing out the window totally. I toyed with the idea of going to get some kind of computer degree and work in the gaming industry like Steve does. (Gaming Librarian? I would love a job like that.) But, alas, I’m not a math genius and yet another degree would take time and money. I’m already in enough debt because I can’t find work with my degrees as is, I don’t want to waste time barking up an entirely wrong tree.

A new career is great but how do you possibly get experience? And who would hire me? I had administrators ask me, baffled, why I would want to be a librarian when I had trained as an English teacher. (If anyone asks that again, I’ll tell them to what the teacher show on the BBC.) We easily get pigeonholed into a career.

So, I was thinking about how awful the classroom had been in the past, and how I’m probably better off giving up and trying something else. Then yesterday I was filling out a form to register for an education webinar. It listed writing and reading webinars, and asked me what my interests were in education. That’s when I remembered; I like this stuff. It sucks and I haven’t done well at all. (Except the college in Florida – I still say I’d go back to that if we ever moved back. If I didn’t have to teach Foundation Skills here, I’d gladly try it again.) And after thinking about that I’d like to go back in the classroom, and I’d like to start from scratch and learn to be a good English teacher. (I really wish I could just take the PGCE teacher training courses here.)

And with that hope, I feel better. I’m going to still try to register for a TA course this term and go back to the Primary Schools for a while, if I can. I’ll still always want to be a school librarian, of course (literature, research, and technology – oh my!) but as long as I’m making some kind of steps toward getting there, I guess that’s all I need to keep me content.

With that said, I plan on going out today. It’s been so long since I’ve felt like venturing outside in the daytime. I picked up Anna Karenina last night, and felt happy again to be interested in that stuff that makes me me.

Anyway, it’s almost time for the day to begin and time for me to go out and enjoy the world again.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sleep and college admissions

I just don’t sleep anymore. I wake up at least four times a night and am wide awake at 7:00AM. Steve had to work overtime last week and we had a new, weird schedule that was just taking a toll on me.

I’m so not good with change.

I think a lot of it is the fact that Steve’s going to a new job soon and he’s having stuff at work that really ticking both of us off. (Crummy management, no organization, shady people, promises made and broken, money not paid, and generally all sorts of bad juju going around that place.) But this week he’ll be back to his normal schedule, then he’s done with that office. Hooray!

Of course, it’s Saturday and we went to bed at 2:30AM. I fell sound asleep, woke up a couple of times, and now am wide awake at 6:30AM. Very irritating.

I don’t understand it, since I thought one of my biggest hurdles was over: college.

Now, I’ve mentioned before that I worked at a local college for one day and it was so bad that I would categorize it as the worst job I’ve ever had. (Supply teaching is up there, but you have the option of Primary and some nice Secondary Schools.) Anyway, I want to take a Teaching Assistant course, just to give myself a U.K. based certification so I can have (hopefully) a better chance of snagging a job.

The supply teaching thing has only been last minute, or really bad situation jobs, which neither is appealing.

If I want to get the course done this term, in preparation for next school year, I’d like to take my course soon. The only nearby place was said college, so I applied. I was really nervous about going because I’ve seen what a miserable place it is. But, I went for an interview anyway. Of course, I couldn’t even get on campus because the tiny parking lot was full and you had to ask permission of a parking attendant who couldn’t understand my accent to give you a permit to park in another business’ parking lot. Not having my Garmin on me, or any clue how to get in and out of the place, I went home. (I can drive as long as I know exactly where and how to get in and out of my destination.)

I rescheduled the appointment for last week, hoping to take public transport. Happily, the local council called me last week as well, saying that they were opening up TA courses through their Adult Ed programs, so I figured if this college thing didn’t work out (again), I could register there. But I went to the college with the intent to give it a good look around again.

I arrived at reception (which I specifically asked about in my reschedule request) only to be told that since the course started that week (it was Thursday and the courses started next week) I had to go to the office for the Child Minding courses. Slightly bothersome, but not really that big of a problem. I walked across campus to a large building, intending to go to the fourth floor, but, surprise, I couldn’t get up there. In fact, I couldn’t go anywhere. There were at least twenty students waiting in line just to use the two, tiny elevators. I mingled around the corridors but found no staircase. I contemplated walking outside and trying to figure out where the outside stairs went to, but figured that I would not only have to climb four flights of stairs outside in the cold after I’d just hiked up  a hill from the Metro station, but there may not be any access from the outside. I mean, none of the students were using any stairs. They all went inside and waited in line for the lift.

Now, since the appointment was for 11:00 and they’d cancel it if I were five minutes late, even if I were waiting at the elevator for 20 minutes, I decided to leave. I could already see how much of a pain trying to take a course there would be. Not only is it really inconvenient to get to, it’s really inconvenient to get around once you do get there. I was given a list of times when the courses would be (all next week start dates) but an office clerk told me that the course would be only offered at night. I can imagine what “fun” that would be to fight rush hour on the Metro, just to fight kids to get on the elevator.

That was my main problem when I worked for that day at the school too. It was overcrowded and there was no place to sit, or get around.

Plus, and I can’t stress this enough, the place gives me the creeps. As you can see in the picture from the street, the place looks like it’s on the set of some zombie movie. I don’t understand that either because the other buildings near there are nice, but even some of the parking lots have graffiti on the walls and flimsy metal gates like it’s a car impound lot. The college buildings themselves look run down too. (Not all of them, some are quite nice inside but some have yellowing walls and miserable vibes.)

None of the students look happy to be there. The place is just depressing, and I am glad I went down there to finally decide that, no, I don’t want to attend classes there.

Even if I can’t get into the adult ed courses through the council, I’ll go to one of the other local colleges that offer the course in September.

Now that that’s all settled, I still want to know why I can’t sleep at night.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Things to do when you can't sleep

Try to get comfortable for at least an hour. Allow for numerous bathroom visits and drinks of water.

Get out of bed and accept defeat.

Wander around house.

Stare out of window.

Stare in mirror.

Hunt for snacks. Decide microwave is too noisy and will wake husband up. Eat cheese and Oreos.

Read Chinese take away menu.

Plot out tomorrow's snacks. (There are clearly not enough snacks now.)

Turn TV on and turn volume down quickly.

Semi-watch TV on mute. Nothing is on anyway.

Get into conversations with people on Twitter who live in different time zones.

Contemplate career and future job endeavours.

Search for books on the Kindle without actually reading them.

Sit in dark living room and let mind wander.

Try to explore new-found mind palace.

Remember some random things from your past and try to remind yourself to put it in your next book.

Write in your journal. (Blogging is too intense at this hour.)

Decide that all literature and art is done for the sake of the writer and the artist.

Make a grocery list. (Seriously, why don't we have more snacks?)

Refuse to use computer because night-time is for resting the back from desk chair torture.

Play with the cat.

Consider having children as a means of productive use of time. If every night is going to be sleepless, you may as well have some entertainment.

Stare out window for twelfth time. Decide Sun is coming up.

Go back to bed.

Read old book on Did Not Finish list.

Realize husband will get up in an hour.

Go to sleep.

Get up again when husband leaves work.

Have trouble falling back asleep.

Eat the risotto you’ve been thinking about all night for breakfast.

Fall asleep.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Does book type decide our publishing path?

I guess I've discussed reasons for self publishing, and while I only completed one Middle Grade book that is available in ebook, I plan on doing more. The traditional publish route is everyone's ultimate goal, yes, but there's one major reason why I think I shouldn't bother querying an agent – at least not for some of my work.

I already have illustrations for my MG books. In fact, the illustrations inspire some of the stories.

I asked on #mglitchat last night (an extremely nice group of people who didn’t mind that I crashed their discussion) if publishers ever take MG manuscripts with illustrations. I've heard over and over, mainly from Writer's Market, to not even consider submitting illustrations along a manuscript. They like to pick the illustrator.

Well, I have an illustrator already: my husband.

The advice I was given was that Steve should have an online portfolio to show his credentials. If a publisher asks for that, I think it's kind of silly. If we can potentially sell a breakout novel, why can't we have awesome illustrations of our choosing?

I understand the artist may not be up to par, but Steve is a professional graphic artist. He made the Pottermore logo. He's worked on video games and graphic art for years now. If I submit my book with his illustrations, they're obviously good. They would be able to see that before considering his credentials.

Anyway, this is why I just don't think I'll bother querying some of my MG work. I know how I want it to look. I write it with the illustrations in my head, so it seems a bit lame that I have to not only try to please a publisher with my writing, but also let them make the decisions about any cover art or illustrations used.

I like working as a team on some of my writing projects. I have YA work that wouldn't need illustrations, so I could query that. As far as the MG work I'm doing, I'll keep that for my own publishing house.

Also, I read a statistic that said 1% of any genre book has a chance of being sold in a brick and mortar bookshop. [How Many Novelists are at Work in America?]

Here are some links discussing not submitting illustrations with a manuscript:

“Editors always choose illustrators; writers seldom have any input in that decision.” –

“It’s great to see an author who has really thought about the marketing of their work, or potential illustrations, but that is the work a publisher will do after taking it on – so it’s not necessary at this stage.” –

“The publisher chooses the illustrator. In fact, you cut your chances of selling in half, if you try to team up with an illustrator and submit a package.” –

So, no. Submitting with illustrations is not what publishers and agents are looking for, so I won’t submit them.

In other news: expect an update later this year for the release of my new Middle Grade novel!