Friday, December 4, 2009
World Recorder Holder
I have a colleague now claiming he's the fastest 5-second Button Pusher in the world (at least in the greater Hartford area).
I say claiming only because I have not yet received verification from Guinness Book of World Records, but I have no doubt that his hold on the record is indeed true.
Apparently, if one visits the new science museum in Hartford, one may compete to top the button pushing record (currently a staggering 169 "presses" in 5 seconds). I witnessed my colleague's manual dexterity the other morning as he demonstrated his two-finger "pressing" speed by tapping the top of a student desk. His fingers moved in a blur.
Another colleague has nicknamed him The Hummingbird.
Bacon Academy is holding a book fair fundraiser at Barnes & Noble in Glastonbury from 9AM to 10PM tomorrow (December 5). Just mention Bacon Academy at the regoster and a portion of the purchase goes toward buying books for the school library.
Several staff and students will participate by doing readings, storytelling, etc., and it should prove to be a festive day in honor of promoting literacy.
My good friend, John Stanizzi, will read his poetry at 2PM. He has two published books, Ecstacy Among Ghosts and Sleepwalking (available through antrimhousebooks.com).
I'm slated to read from The Mist at 3PM, then take questions about the whole writing process, landing an agent, trying to get published, etc....
If you're in the area, swing by. Should be a fun time.
I've made it a habit of being rather forthcoming in sharing my experiences in my attempt to get The Mist published and in the hands of readers.
Last Monday, we (meaning my agent and me) received word from an editor from one of the "big" houses. The personal note was mostly positive, but with just enough negative that the editor decided to pass on the book. There are still 9 other houses to hear from, so we're still hopeful that we'll find a home.
In the meantime, I continue to work on the sequel. Hit the 160 page mark earlier this week, and I'm pleased with the progress over the past month. I just wish I could carve out more time to write.
Speaking of World Records
One of my students recently announced to the class that her parents were upset at the number of text messages she had sent from her phone last month.
"Well, how many did you send?" I asked.
"13,000," she responded, matter-of-factly.
"13,000? How is that humanly possibly?" I asked.
The room erupted with a chorus of affirmations and series of head nods. "Oh, it's possible, Mr. A," said one boy.
Lets break this down for a moment, shall we?
13,000 text messages in a month.
On average, that's 430 messages a day.
27 messages an hour for every waking day (assuming 8 hours of sleep).
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I'm sitting with a class of 28 sophomores debating the merits of cloning.
One student is confused and thought I meant clowning. For the past five minutes his group had been discussing the ethics of Barnum & Bailey and keeping animals in cages.
I suggest that we could clone clowns for the circus, but that might be comically redundant.
My words are met with a smattering of chuckles and guffaws.
We move on to the caste system.
It suddenly dawns on me that I still don't know all of their names. This is unusual. I have periods 1, 3, 4 & 7 down. Why not period 5? I make a mental note to pick up some memory medicine... Ginkgo? Is that what it's called? Sounds like a tropical fighting fish. In this corner, weighing in at half-an-ounce... Ghengis Ginkgo!
The bell's going to ring. Not for round one of the fish fight, but for the class.
I need something to say for closure.
I need a vacation.
But first, I need to finish grading the summer homework.
I will never again assign journal entries with the directions "minimum of three pages" because some students interpret this to mean: Write 30 pages.
The bell's going to ring.
Wait, didn't I already write that?
I need to get some of that memory medicine...what's it called again?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Is it too early to be done?
I asked a colleague this question yesterday.
He laughed, and replied with a knowing shake of his head, "No, I don't think it's too early to be done."
Everyone looks so tired. Kids, adults, small dogs I encounter driving down lonely back roads on my way in...everyone.
"Just have to get back into the routine," another colleague said.
I suppose. I did it to myself. I'm already behind in grading. The sophomores arrived with six-page papers, summer homework on two books they were asked to read over the summer. I have sixty-three left to do, not that I'm counting or anything. I made the mistake of writing three-page minimum in the directions, and that must have sent the subliminal message that writing more is much better than writing less, hence the one cherub who decided to write THIRTY pages (I kid you not).
That's like adding five more students to my teaching load, I thought as I pored over page seventeen. How depressing.
But the kids are great.
Once the bleariness erodes and the Monster Energy drinks kick in, they come alive, laughing and joking, just being kids. And there's a desire to learn, to know more, to grow as individuals. They may mask this at times, but at those moments when you're able to connect and break through that teenage haze, there's intellect and curiosity behind those faces. I love those Kodak moments when the room grows quiet and everything you say seems to hit every pulsing synapse in their heads. Some of them nod, some smile, and some even take notes.
I love those moments.
Hmm, maybe I'm not quite done after all.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Brain & Brawn Stump Grinding paid a visit and took care of our huge white pine stump...pulverizing it into a large pile of shavings and mulch. Tomorrow's task involves redistributing the mulch and then spreading a delivery of topsoil to enhance the house's curb appeal.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Upon arrival, we grabbed our chairs, books, towels and trusty beach umbrella and trekked down to the sand. The wind clipped past my ears at a good rate. The usual calm waters of the Sound were peaked with white caps.
One thing I've noticed whenever we go the beach is that we, as a family, generally follow the same routine. I set up the chairs and attempt to drill the umbrella into the sand (which is nearly impossible because the little plastic pointy thing at the end is long gone). Beth and Adam head for the edge of the beach to hunt for sea glass. Beth is really good at finding it. Sometimes I join her and trail along and I may find a few pieces here and there (mostly brown from discarded beer bottles) but she consistently hands me piece after piece to fill my pocket. Yes, it's safe to say that Beth is the Indiana Jones of sea glass hunters.
Sea glass hunting is very popular. There's even an organization with a code of ethics for sea glass hunters. Some glass is even considered valuable. Since littering is now discouraged, it's a bit more difficult to come by. Certain colors come from different sources, some dating back as early as the 1800's. Brown, kelly green, and white are the most common. Some rare ones include purple, gray, teal, black, yellow, red, and orange. Interesting, no?
So, off they went to treasure hunt and I plopped down to read some Douglas Adams.
That's when I noticed the twenty-something couple to my right.
The man stood ankle deep in the water scooping sand and pebbles with a plastic sifter. He then marched over to his female companion and she leaned in to pick through the contents.
I didn't think too much of it at the time. I returned to my book, following Zaphod Beeblebrox into the Total Perspective Vortex. Occasionally the couple would get excited and I would hear little gasps of "oh, that's a nice one" and "go scoop some more."
Beth and Adam continued their quest up and down the beach. On their return trip, they paused a few moments to speak to the sand-sifting couple. The man, checking left, then right, continued stuffing pieces of something into the pocket of his shorts.
As Beth briefly listened to the woman, I could see her face change. Something was wrong. She seemed a bit upset. Beth grabbed Adam's hand and walked crisply to my side.
"You know what they're doing?" she whispered.
"Sifting for beach glass! The woman said they found over fifty pieces! Look at that guy, he's stuffing his pockets like he's hording gold or something."
"Sifting?" I asked incredulously. "That's cheating. Like steroids in baseball. Or strip mining. Like reading Spark Notes for Gatsby. It's a syndicate. It's the assembly line mentality reaching down and stripping away the last bastion for honest sea glass hunters!"
"Huntresses," Beth corrected.
I held my wife close. The wind carrying my words of invective away from the couple.
"Should I say something to them. Do something about it. Break his sifter?"
"No, let's go."
We packed everything and left the beach, defeated, with our meager twelve pieces of sea glass.
But at least it was honest glass.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
As I bounded downstairs I immediately noticed that the dryer was still running from the night before.
How odd, I thought, as I opened the dryer door and reached for an armful of laundry.
A dryer without heat is like a car without wheels, a martini minus the vodka, or Kurt Vonnegut without a cigarette dangling from his weathered lips.
Not sure those similes work, but I was tired and our dryer is broken.
The last time the dryer broke I called the repairman and it cost me $79 for him to tell me I had a bad circuit breaker (one of the legs in the outlet was not getting power). I remember avoiding his gaze and choking on the knot of embarrassment rising in my throat. I wrote the check mumbling something like oh, yeah, I should've checked that I suppose. I swear I heard him laughing on his way out the door.
This time would be different. No patronizing repairman. No chance of embarrassment. I'll fix it all by myself. My wife will think I'm a hero. My ten-year-old son will see me as a fix-it god.
Where to start?
I drove to the local hardware store and purchased a device to test the outlet. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice... my thoughts were interrupted by the salesman eyeing me over his glasses, "You know how to use that thing, right? Make sure you plug one prong into ground, the other into positive. Don't cross 'em." The only thing missing was the pat on my head on the way out.
Don't cross the streams. I felt like Ray in the Ghostbusters.
I stood in front of the outlet, device in hand. Am I nervous? No, hell, I know what I'm doing. I'm not an idiot. I slowly inserted one end into ground, the other into positive. No little light. I tested the other. Still no light. But the dryer runs, just no heat. Then it dawned on me. The metal probes on the end of the device were too short to reach inside the outlet. I took off the cover and carefully pulled the outlet from the box. I tested it again. Power to both legs.
The problem was in the dryer.
I needed more confidence. I needed moral support. So, I did the only thing a guy can do when he needs an answer. I Googled, of course.
I Googled: Amana dryer no heat. Behold! The answers poured forth from the Internet gods. It was information overload.
I rummaged for half-an-hour to find the necessaey tools (also noting that I needed to add clean garage and carriage shed on my to-do list).
I plugged in the droplight and clicked it alive. The filament blazed and immediately popped. Dead.
I needed to find a bulb.
Fifteen minutes later, new bulb screwed into the droplight, I crouched low and began disassembling the shell of the dryer. I checked the vent. Clear.
I tested the thermostat and dryer element. Then I tested the Thermal Fuse. No continuity. Could this be the culprit?
Back to Google.
Yep, that's it. I felt so confident that I made my solution public to both my wife and son.
"Great, Dad!" his eyes beaming adoringly skyward.
"Honey, I'm so proud of you." Was that a wink?
I left for the appliance store head held high.
Within an hour, I thought, problem solved.
But within ten minutes, I stood back outside the store defeated.
This particular thermal fuse was out of stock.
The rest of this tale is apparently on back order...
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
It seems every model I wanted is out of stock at the moment. I was shooting for something with the new wireless-N, so the HP dv7t with the 17" screen fit the bill, but everywhere I went: Out of stock. It looks like I'll be heading to the "place with the view" lugging my ancient Dell Inspiron 1100. I'm trying to clean it up right now, running the antivirus and deleting old programs. Hopefully, it still has a little horsepower left.
Book Update: I posted the book trailer on YouTube June 20, and have 35 hits so far. Not bad, or is it? I have nothing to gauge it against.
My agent is looking over the manuscript and may have suggestions for some changes, then off to the printer for 40-50 copies of galley paperbacks to send for blurbs/out to publishing houses.
We're getting close. It's a bit unnerving because I feel like it's do or die with the submissions.
I've tried to pump up the pre-marketing platform by soliciting people to join the mailing list on the website, taking out an ad on Google's adwords, begging friends and students to join, etc.
Hey, I'm a starving artist using an antique laptop. I'm not above begging, right?
Thursday, June 4, 2009
The result: Amazing!
The music fits the visual perfectly.
But don't take my word for it, you decide:
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Maria is putting the final touches on the book trailer and I'll be posting it shortly to my web site and on YouTube.
I think I have everything done on the pre-marketing plan checklist. I hand everything off to my fabulous agent on Thursday night, and then the waiting game begins.
When I reflect on the last two years, from winning the PEN Award to now preparing to submit for publication, I can't help but hold mixed emotions. The manuscript has only been submitted to two houses thus far, and both were fairly large ones: Delacorte and Little, Brown & Co., so no shame in rejections there. But the work and waiting, not to mention the money laid out for a professional edit, seriously puts me in a hole. But, I guess it's not about the money and time, is it? We write to write. But somehow, even with that said, it seems like we fail if the book never sees the shelves. As a friend once said to me, "most people talk about one day writing a book, but you've actually gone and done it." He's right, I suppose.
I'm hoping the book will find a home somewhere, and if not, so be it.
My attention now turns to a new novel I'm working on, Cemetery Girl. I recently read the first chapter to a group of parents and students at the William J. Johnston Middle School Literacy Luau.
I felt a bit awkward reading it at a public venue because most of the guest authors read from published works, but in the end, I'm glad I did. It proved to be a good opportunity to let the students know that writers write, revise, and re-write, etc., so as a work in progress, I solicited comments and advice when I finished. The first chapter seemed well-received by the gathered kids and adults. Everyone seemed to laugh at the right places, and say, "Oh, didn't expect that," at the close of the chapter.
We'll see where the characters take me.
Monday, May 4, 2009
There's a mixture of excitement and anxiety with this next step in the process of trying to get published.
I'm excited that things are moving forward, but at the same time, a bit anxious about what the editor might say.
I really haven't touched the manuscript in months, and the thought of rushing it the operating room while Dr. House peers over my shoulder pointing out where to cut, remove, add, splice, etc., is a bit overwhelming.
But as I often tell my students, getting messy with your drafts is part of the business of making it better.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I blame myself.
In his toddler years his mother and I would purchase Velcro sneakers.
We did this for ease and speed.
We wanted to avoid the messy hassle of knots and the potential danger of tripping on wayward laces, at least that's how we rationalized our decision.
Sort of like fast food clothing.
As he got older, he'd get help tying his shoes once, often triple-knots, then he would simply keep them tied, and slip them on and off.
This method took its toll on the back of the sneaker, often shortening its life.
But the result of taking shortcuts all these years is that my son doesn't really know how to tie his shoes.
The other day I knelt down to show him.
The rabbit goes around the tree and into the hole, etc.
He mimicked what I had done, but with limited success.
We tried again, and this time something clicked inside him.
His third try, better than the second.
He wanted to continue to try, but we were running behind getting to baseball practice.
Seems we're always running behind.
But which came first?
The demands of our fast-paced culture, or buying those Velcro sneakers in order to keep up?
Friday, April 17, 2009
I suppose I should take solace in the fact that there were more than 600 manuscripts and mine lasted until near the end. I'd love to know why it didn't make the final cut, but they don't tell you.
Back to writing....
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Patrick and Wayne, two seniors in my English class, have been placing trinkets and baubles in a treasure chest located in my classroom.
At first I simply viewed their covert operation as a means to attract attention or strike up conversations with girls.
But I'm wrong. Dead wrong.
They're on a mission. But their exact purpose still eludes me.
The other day I took a peek inside the treasure chest. Items ranged from a cupcake hermetically sealed in Tupperware to a mummified clementine. There are old graded quizzes, scavenged scraps of student notes, a brown paper bag, and some sort of linear measuring device. There appears to be no pattern or theme to what has been collected.
I closed the chest, sealing the pungent citrus aroma inside.
I carefully placed the treasure chest back atop the bookshelf.
Days from now I'll probably arrive at Bacon and my room will be sealed in strips of tape labeled "Do not cross." Through the window, I will see a workman in a Haz-Mat suit gingerly approaching the treasure chest with large metal tongs. Another worker will clutch a large red plastic bag with the word Bio-Hazard emblazoned on the side.
Trucks from CNN will encircle the building, etc.
Patrick and Wayne assert that the treasure chest poses no health hazard. That in fact their endeavor is school-related and possesses purpose and plan.
For now, I'll take their word for it.
But part of me is afraid.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Ignore it and everything will be fine?
Not buying it, eh?
Face the fear...
Still no rejection letter in the mailbox.
There. I wrote it. Published it. Now my faithful two followers of this blog will see it (insert shout out to Jake and Hillary here).
Of course, just acknowledging the fact that I haven't received a rejection letter has put the double-whammy on me, so it's just now being delivered.
Wait for it, wait for it. Yep. That's it. The mail lady is driving away now.
The letter is sitting in the black metal box, the one missing the latch on top, as I type this now. It's probably wrinkled. Yes, a wrinkled SASE. Hopefully it has dirt smudged on it too. I like envelopes that have aged or show wear and tear from travel. It's a hell of a trip from New York to Brooklyn, CT.
Can't wait to drive home and pull in the driveway. Take that nonchalant walk to the 'ol mailbox. Squint my eyes and edge the box open.
Anyone wanna get the mail for me?
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The editors at Delacorte Publishing are weeding through 600 submitted manuscripts and rejection letters are filtering out to would-be published authors as I type. The contest ends in April, so I've got another month of angst and worry.
My attempt to find that groove in writing the sequel still eludes me. I'm considering meditation. I missed out on my chance to purchase a really cool sculpted Buddha at a shop in Mystic this past Tuesday. Yeah, couple that with some incense, prayer mat, maybe a lava lamp, too, I'd be back. I'm sure of it.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
We have two Standard Poodles, Rocko (Rocco... that's how I spell it, but the vet has it as Rocko) and Rudy. Rocco is a sixteen-month-old white Standard with traces of apricot here and there and Rudy is an eight-month-old black Standard whom we lovingly refer to as "developmentally delayed." I say that because when he came to us a month ago he had been returned to the breeder by a couple who had no doubt left him in a cage all day in some small apartment in Boston.
Rudy doesn't know how to run.
Sounds odd for a dog, but it's true.
He's like a young Forrest Gump trussed in leg braces.
Rocco, son of a Eukanuba champion, majestically trots and breaks into a blurred gallop around the house and bullets into the woods. Rudy, well, he leaps like a white-tailed deer spooked by a passing car. It's rather amusing and sad at the same time. Kind of like a car crash on the freeway. You want to avert your eyes, but you can't.
This past weekend I filmed them outside(one running, the other leaping and twirling). I intended to upload the piece to the blog, but the file is far too large. I felt the need to share it, to let the world see the "leaping Poodle" who's afraid of his own shadow, but has a good heart and an old soul, at least until he starts chewing every stray sock in his path.
We're hoping that Rocco can be the Alpha dog, the pack leader as the Dog Whisperer would say, and teach Rudy to run like we know he can.
These things take time.
These things take time.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
It's exciting though. So on this snowy day I'll be story boarding, adding widgets, learning to input html code... and oh yeah, almost forgot... maybe actually doing some writing. Novel idea, eh?