Blog Hop!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApparently a “blog hop” is a thing.  I’ve been invited to participate in this one by my friend Anita Lahey, whose fascinating blog Henrietta & Me is all about the books she’s reading and the people in them.  Anita is a poet, essayist and journalist; her poetry collection Out to Dry in Cape Breton was an indelible reading experience for me (I will never look at a clothesline the same way again), and her latest book, The Mystery Shopping Cart: Essays on Poetry and Culture, is on my to-read-as-soon-as-my-end-of-term-grading-is-done list.

I’ve chosen to answer these questions wearing my education-writer hat and not my fiction-writer hat, as education writing is what I do on this blog.

What am I working on?

My M.Ed. thesis: an investigation into tools teachers can use to encourage/nurture lifelong reading habits in college students.  As a first step, I’m working on a literature review addressing the question “Is reading for fun really all that important?” (The upshot so far: probably.) I hope to produce a thesis that is of interest to a general audience, or at least to teachers in general, and not just to post-secondary academics and researchers.

How does my work differ from other work in its genre?

In this blog, I reflect on my own teaching practice.  I do this because I believe that almost any experience will be of interest to someone else if it is examined with attention and expressed carefully.  (I guess this is one of the basic principles that drives people to write things.)  The title Classroom as Microcosm is a good indication of what I want the blog to be about: I’m writing about school, but school is a great metaphor for a lot of other stuff.  I hope my attempt to link the little world of school, and in particular MY little college-teaching world, with the greater scheme of things makes this blog unique.

Why do I write what I do?

I started writing Classroom as Microcosm because I was ready to quit my job.  My resentment of my college students and their bad behaviours, my uncertainty in my role as an authority figure, and my disillusionment with the teaching profession and the education system as a whole were making me miserable.  I was also floundering as a fiction writer.  One summer day in 2007, as I poured these troubles out to a friend over coffee, she said, “I think you need to start keeping a blog.  It will be a place to write without the isolation.  Maybe you should start blogging about teaching.”  So I did, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this blog saved my career.

I’m a less productive blogger these days in part because I have come to a much more solid and self-confident place as a teacher.  That said, there are other things I want to explore here now, so this summer, I hope to start posting more about reading, literature and the place of books – especially narratives – in our textually fragmented world.

How does my writing process work?

In my most productive years, I posted twice a week during the school semester: a new post on Monday and a reprise of a popular past post on Thursday.  These days, I post only when I’m powerfully inspired, but I’d like to return to that more diligent schedule.  I try to view writing of any kind as a professional obligation: churn it out, edit it meticulously to make it as good as you can, and then just get it out there without thinking it to death.  Blog writing is an excellent platform for this approach.  I’ve been working on a novel manuscript for thirteen years because I have become mired in self-doubt; this blog is an excellent reminder that the real goal of writing is to communicate with people.  You have to let your writing travel out into the world.  If a particular piece doesn’t speak to anyone, write the next thing.

Next week on the blog hop:

My friend and colleague Stacey DeWolfe, who, in addition to being an inspiring teacher, blogs on teaching, food, music, books, dogs, and lots of other important things.

My high school and college crony Rebecca Coleman, who knows everything there is to know about social media, but also keeps a terrific blog on things she likes to cook.

 Image by Michal Zacharzewski

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9 responses

  1. Mired in self-doubt about the novel. Yes, I was just speaking to an old high school friend about that very thing. I’m at the point with the YA fantasy I wrote where I gave up the last two times I had manuscripts ready to market to publishers. It is a very strange thing to be overcome with joy in creating a story, drive yourself crazy revising and editing and then chicken out when the product is as close to ready for public consumption as you can get it (and you’re about to drive your family crazy talking about it).
    My friend encouraged me to stay the course. I tell myself the same thing. I’m intentionally taking the traditional publishing path so that I have to sell myself to agents and editors.
    I too enjoy reading your blog (even though I did quit my own job in education to pursue this writing thing), and look forward to reading more as you return to more regular posts.

    • Sharon: I only wish I could be “overcome with joy in creating a story and drive myself crazy revising and editing” – part of my problem with fiction writing is that I’ve lost much of my mojo, and part of my self-doubt springs from that (after all, why do it if you don’t love it? On the other hand, what am I supposed to do with the 150 pages I’ve already got, some of which is pretty good – let it rot in a drawer?) It sounds like you’re doing what you need to do: plugging away and not letting rejection, the bane of all writers, discourage you. I have considered posting my novel in serial form on a blog, if nothing else to kick myself into finishing it. If the traditional publishing path doesn’t work out, is that something you’ve considered?

      • My husband wants me to self-publish if I can’t interest an agent or editor in my work. My fear is that the reason I can’t attract these professionals is because the story isn’t all that great. I would probably try Kindle Digital Publishing after I hired a professional editor to make sure it was perfect rather than posting it free on my blog. I have considered publishing side stories (minor character back stories, how it all began and the like) on my website between the publishing dates of the second and third book in the trilogy.
        If you think putting it out there would encourage or inspire you to finish, I think it’s worth a shot. You’re a fantastic writer and I’m sure you’re your own worst critic of your fiction writing.

  2. This is a fantasy I idea! I’ve never heard of a “blog hop” but then again I’m still my first year into this blogging and teaching thing. I started my blog as also a reflection and positive outlet for my profession and I stumbled. It just didn’t capture me or keep my own attention. Then a personal incident occurred that give me gumption to put it all on the line because really, what do I have to be sorry for? I think that detour into my personal life and publishing it has so reinvigorated my love of teaching. No can so relate to your entire reflection here. I was nodding and thinking, thank you for saying that. Love your blog!

    • BB: thanks for stopping by! Yes, I’ve also found that I’m spurred to post by things I need to work out. Then, once I’ve established a rhythm, it’s easier to keep the pace. Good luck with your own blog!

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