Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Finally, Live Talks put up the Marisha Pessl tickets for September 19th. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that Jaime Lee Curtis is going to be interviewing her; a bit random, perhaps, but I think she's a very articulate, enthusiastic woman so I'm sure it will be a good time.

2. Do you remember the Arthur children's book series? During lunch today I actively tried to engage my husband in a texting debate about how Arthur's supposedly an anteater but doesn't look like one, but he kept shutting me down.

[exhibit A]

3. Next time I'm invited to a baby shower (and actually go) I'm so getting the mom-to-be this book:

[Placenta burgers, anyone? Ha!]

4. I've had "All Night Long" by Lionel Ritchie stuck in my head all week. It got to the point where it was so bad Tuesday I downloaded it, thinking listening to the actual version might do the trick. Nope. In fact now my brain expects to hear Lionel as we pull away from the house in the morning. At least it's not "Hello."

5. I feel like I need to go to REI. I've built it up so much inside my head I'm expecting this massive mecca of all things sports and outdoors. I'm hoping I'll walk in and simply absorb all this wonderful knowledge, not limited to learning how to change the tires on my bike, how to filter water MacGyver style, and how to get my CamelPak dried out faster. 

6. This weekend is my favorite half marathon at my least favorite place- the Disneyland Half. I've run it twice and by far it's the most organized, entertaining of the ten or twelve different courses I've run (and the most expensive). It almost makes me miss running. Good luck to the few friends I have running it! 

7. I'm not much a gamer, but several years ago I got hooked on the Katamari Damacy game- basically you run around with a big ball rolling shit up. I saw someone wearing one of their shirts on something my husband was watching last night and now I'm completely compelled to start playing again.

8. We have tentative plans this weekend to drive out (finally) to The Last Bookstore in LA, which will ultimately mean more book-buying is in my future. I'm down to 47 unread, now, so I think I deserve a reward.

9. I read the Slate (I know, I know) article entitled "If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person" today and thought it was fascinating. Basically, the article says that by enrolling your child in a private school you are in fact propagating the demise of the public school system. People with resources and education should be involved in public schools, pushing them to improve. And, as the article points out, the kids will be fine, given that people who can afford to send their kids to private have the resources to give them a meaningful experiences and individualized attention at home. Personally, I don't think you're a bad person if you send your kid to a private- I can see the appeal for those that are religious, have a child with special circumstances, or are afraid of poor people. We won't send our future offspring to private simply because we will already be paying for their schooling- through our tax dollars.

10. Speaking of articles, I read about the lady who had sex every day for a year and immediately sent it to my husband. Not because I want to necessarily institute the same project in our household, but because she said that getting goosebumps makes her leg hair grow faster, which is something I've been saying for years and no one believes me about. I felt so vindicated. But, then again, I also believe that shaving your legs everyday is just as important as flossing. 

"Sponsored" Post- The Girl You Left Behind

I recently finished JoJo Moyes' The Girl You Left Behind and was unfortunately not terribly impressed. I read Me Before You several months ago and was pleasantly surprised by the genuine feeling and naturally simple writing style. Unfortunately, I didn't feel quite the same way about this novel.

The Girl You Left Behind starts off during WWI in France where a woman named Sophie is trying to run an inn/restaurant with her sister, despite the fact their husbands are gone to war and the Germans have invaded their small town. Eventually a German commander takes an interest in Sophie and the painting of herself that her husband had completed at the beginning of their relationship. Sophie promises him the painting, and herself (for a night, anyway), if he will help to free her husband. 

Fast forward ninety or so years to Liv, a grieving, broke widow who is completely lost. She ends up meeting, and falling for, a man named Paul, who works for a company who recovers stolen art work. Coincidentally, he realizes one day while at Liv's house that she owns the piece he is currently trying to recover, which of course means everything to Liv since her dead husband gave it to her. Drama ensues.

I will say that I enjoyed the first hundred or so pages, during Sophie's section of the novel. While the writing style isn't necessarily anything ground-breaking it was an interesting story and the characters had much more depth than later in the novel. Once Moyes zooms into the future things start falling apart. The characters are flat, the cliches are abundant, and the coincidences and timing border on ridiculous. 

I do think people looking for a quick, semi-entertaining read will be interested in this (what's the fall equivalent of beach read?). I think it lacks the appeal of Me Before You and may annoy those looking for substantial depth or high-quality writing, though. 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me Viking/Penguin for free, but, as always, opinions are always my own. 

Books on Your Back

I've recently gotten a little hooked to Society6, a site full of eclectic shirts, prints, and phone cases. This simple, but awesome, t-shirt was created Jessie Vittoria:

[$18.00 on]

Top Ten Tuesday- Secondary Characters

This week's Top Ten Tuesday from the Broke and the Bookish was excruciatingly hard for me, for some reason. It was hard to think of secondary characters, which actually makes me feel a tad guilty. A few of my off the top of my head favorites:

Ricky in The Selected Works of TS Spivet- A racist, but lovable (I know, I know), truck driver.

Professor Minerva McGonagall in Harry Potter- Tough on the outside, soft on the inside (as teachers should be).

Dorry in The Devil in Silver- Crazy octagenarian schizophrenic who know all the secrets of the mental ward.

Stanislas Cordova in Night Film- The mysterious filmmaker whose films are only shown underground.

Manuel Arias in Maya's Notebook- I'm such a sucker for gruff old men that are willing to lend a helpful hand.

Mike Schwartz in The Art of Fielding- Recruiter, mentor, and friend to the main character in the novel.

Owen Meany's Grandmother in A Prayer for Owen Meany- This woman completely reminds me of Violet on Downton- old, strict, and feisty as all hell. 

Veda in Mildred Pierce- It's ridiculously fun to hate Mildred's self-righteous, spoiled daughter. 

Dr. Anneck Swensen in State of Wonder- A tough gynecologist in the Amazon whose working on a project dealing with lengthening fertility.

Nonfiction Nagging- Italian Ways

A few years ago my sister and I went on what really was the trip of a lifetime- ten days in Italy. We flew into Rome, spent a few days there, then moved on to Florence, and then Venice, each leg traveled by train. The first train we took was the cheapest, and much to our chagrin the interior was old and there was even graffiti on the walls. When we went to Venice we forked over a few extra euros for the Eurostar, a high-speed train that is much more comfortable.

Traveling by train was definitely not something new for me. Growing up we had taken the train from Central California to Southern California, a trip that involved two trains and a bus, several times. While in college I used the same route many, many times to visit my family and also utilized the regular metro to see an old boyfriend an hour or so away. While I was never fond of the bus portion of the longer trips, I did, for the most part, enjoy the train (my only issue is that they're so slow). I can read, nap, look out the window and not have to worry about stopping somewhere clean and safe to use the restroom (considering my bladder and the amount of caffeine I used to drink this was a serious issue).

After finishing Tim Park's Italian Ways I'm eager to both visit Italy and travel by train again. The book is a travelogue of sorts, cataloging the different experiences he's had living in Italy and utilizing their complicated train system to travel around the country. He discusses topics ranging from the types of trains and their histories, as well as various passengers, mix-ups, stations, and differences between standard trains and high-speed ones. His narrative intermixes anecdotes, historical research, and general musings.

It took my quite a long time to read this book- it's a bit hard to read in huge chunks. Sections of the book are interesting, while the rest are just on the cusp of being so; Parks has a pleasant narrative voice that sometimes soothed me straight to sleep. The quality of the text and the style were consistent throughout, and the movement of the story in terms of geographical locations made sense. 

The experience of reading the books was much like a train ride; I often wanted it to be over, but there was also something romantic and nostalgic present that I couldn't shake. There's no wild twists and turns- it's a steady ride. 

Do I recommend this? It's definitely not for the average reader; if you have a particular interest in Italy or trains you will probably enjoy this, but be warned, you may be rolling through it for awhile (bada-da-da!)

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. As I look around at all my seniors and read their personal statements for college applications I've started really rethinking how things work. These seventeen and eighteen-year-olds are essentially deciding the rest of their lives. Many of them can't get to school on time or fill out a form on their own and we're asking them to make some really huge decisions that will impact their futures. On the other hand, thought, I am a fan of Darwin- survival of the fittest!

2. I want to go to Trois Mec restaurant in LA so much. I think it's awesome they have a fake front and the food is supposed to be amazing (a little pricy though, though, of course). Also on the restaurant note, I'm really excited that my girl-crush Giada is opening her first restaurant in Vegas next year. Like I told my husband, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

[false front; source]

3. I miss playing softball. I miss camaraderie and owning a glove.

4. Live Talks LA is seriously disappointing me- supposedly tickets to the Marisha Pessl reading were to go on sale yesterday, yet still nothing is up. 

5. The last three books I added to my wish list: What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell, The Berlin Wall: A World Divided by Frederick Taylor, and All the Buildings in New York That I've Drawn So Far by James Gulliver.

6. I've rekindled my love for pierogois. We used to eat them all the time growing up, for whatever reason, but then I forgot about them for years. I bought a box last week and can't wait to start using them more when the weather cools down a bit.


7. I'm going to the Hollywood Bowl for the first time to see Kristin Chenoweth with a friend, and some other people, this weekend. Apparently we somehow snagged some super cheap, super great tickets, which makes the night even more exciting.

8. I'm starting a current events assignment with my AP Language students on Edward Snowden and that whole debacle and it's really interesting to hear what they have to say on it. Most of them were completely unaware in the first place, but I've heard everything from "it's not a big deal" to "he should rot in prison." I plan to present articles from both sides culminating in a short essay, so it will be interesting to see if their opinions change.

9. My husband introduced my to society6 the other day, which has tons of awesome t-shirts, prints, phone cases, etc...  Talk about a time suck! There are so may great products though, and I love the fact that they support artists.

10. I've listened to two of Alton Brown's new podcasts and I see some potential. The one I finished on the drive home today was with Bobby Flay, who is huge in to horse racing, as it turns out. The podcasts are still a little rough around the edges, but I've only listened to two, so I'm sure they get some of the kinks worked out. 

From the Interwebs- Abadnoned Places, Religion, Apps, and Hot Women

A few great links from my Twitter feed today:

1. "17 Abandoned Places Around the World that Your Probably Didn't Know About" (Thought Catalog)- A list of places ranging in site from Taiwan to Brazil to Italy. Do you think I can get a good deal on one of the futuristic houses?

[Taiwan; Thought Catalog via Wikipedia]

2. "Religion Map of Congress Members" (Huffington Post)- I think article led me to more questions that anything. Are there any agnostic or athetists? Is this just a box they checked off, or are they really practicing? 


3. "The Ten Best Writing Apps on the iPad" (TNW)- I've got my hands on an iPad for awhile (well, for the school year at least) and ran across this list. I keep seeing Evernote pop up and am super intrigued my Blogsy, which would allow me to blog away from my computer.


4. "Giada de Laurentiis to Open Restaurant in Las Vegas Next Year" (LA Times)- I'm a huge fan of good (as in not Olive Garden) Italian food and de Laurentiis, so I couldn't be more happier that she plans on opening her first restaurant a few hours away from where I live. 


5. "Sexed Up and Smart: Women Debate Marisa Mayer's Vogue Shoot" (CNN)- Attractive professional women are damned if they do, damned if they don't. Mayer is beautiful and powerful- it's not like she did a spread for Playboy.



Top Ten Tuesday- What I Need

This week the Broke and the Bookish ask us to list ten things that make our lives easier as readers and bloggers. 

1. Peace and quiet- I'm able to ignore a lot of things (I am a high school teacher, after all), but I really prefer a quiet, lonely setting for reading. At home, my favorite spot it outside by the pool, as long as the neighbors aren't being obnoxious. Otherwise, give me a nice coffee shop, the reading room in UCLA's Powell Library (man I miss those days), or a quiet train or plane.

2. Readings (ALOUD, etc...)- Attending author events is motivating in terms of reading and writing (the blog and personal projects). I'm incredibly thankful to live an hour or so from LA, allowing me to utilize the programs put on by LA Public Library's ALOUD program, Live Talks Los Angeles, and the Writer's Bloc.

3. Photo apps- Over the past few months I've tried, on occasion, to get a little more creative (ie: not as lazy) with the photos I use, and since I'm not going to shell out the big bucks for Photoshop I use what I've got, app wise. I'm a big fan of Pic Stitch, Color Cap, Phonto, Instagram, and am starting to play around with Afterlight.

4. My exercise ball ottoman- I refuse to be the type of person who doesn't use their great room- that room costs us approximately $461 a month, so I'm not about to let it go to waste. My only problem: I can't find an ottoman I like and I have to have something to prop my feet up on when I read (I know, first world problems and all that jazz). For now my exercise ball is working well (I think a friend suggested this).

5. Twitter- Great to interact with others, promote posts, and find links to great articles with book recommendations.

6. Amazon- I'm a fairly unapologetic Amazon fan. I live in an area with approximately three independent bookstores (and that's probably generous), none of which are really that close to me. Plus, to be honest, I'm on a budget. Oh, and I can order naked in my pajamas, in bed.

7. Bloglovin'- I shunned the various reader sites for so long and I have no idea why- apparently saving them all as bookmarks and clicking on each one individually was my idea of a good time? I'm a total convert.

8. Purchasable Designs- The fifty bucks I forked out to Designer Blogs for my set up was worth every penny. My blog looks a million times better than it did before and it was incredibly easy. If I ever move over to self-hosting I know that they'll be there for support, if I choose. 

9. My credit card- I like to buy books. The end.

10. Time- In order to read, and blog, the amount I want it all comes down to time. The desire is absolutely there, but life tends to get in the way.

Afternoon Delight

It's my goal for the school year to try to leave as many Sunday afternoons and evenings as I can as free as possible. Today I spent the afternoon by the pool with a stack of reading material.

What I learned:

Glamour- I'm too old for this magazine (despite 44-year-old Jennifer Aniston being on the cover). I picked it up on a whim last week and have decided that I will probably never gain anything from this magazine. I've already nabbed a guy, I'm aware of how the professional world works in my industry, and I'm never going to mix my patterns, no matter how cool it is.

In Style- This is just the opposite- I may not be old enough for this magazine. Or maybe it's just not rich enough... I'm crossing my fingers that their prediction that cozy, comfy, slightly-dressy sweatshirts will be in this fall.

Student Personal Statements- I had my students write rough drafts of their personal statements for their college applications and have been grading them. Many of my kids have had really, really rough lives- my heart has been broken more times that I can count.

Macbeth- Starting Act 1 (again), I realized I prefer teaching Shakespeare to reading it; unfortunately they're quite connected.

Italian Ways- I'm still plugging along at this nonfiction text about the trains in Italy. It's slow but fascinating. It's taking me back to my trip there and making me want to return.

Catch-22- I'm reading this slowly since our English department is still trying to figure out when we're going to meet. Hilarious as always.

"On Compassion"- I read this short essay by Barabar Lazear Ascher that I assigned my AP students to read in order to start instructing on effective use of pathos in writing.

Four hours by the pool reading and eating Trader Joes Apple Straws? I'll take it.

Read anything great this weekend?

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I'm so tired that I fell asleep during a 5-minute savasana last night at yoga and then proceeded to repeatedly click my garage door opener in the parking lot... because I was trying to open something? I'm apparently not used to these 5:45 am wake up calls yet.


2. Thanks to work starting back up my reading has been a little sad this week. I was pretty sick Monday-Tuesday and then work started again Wednesday- this weekend I need to put "read for 4 hours" on my effing to-do list.

3. I have to confess, I really love Pottery Barn. I feel like such a moronic suburban yuppie as I excitedly pour through each new catalog and dog ear pages to show my husband later. Yes, they're over-priced, but I can't help that so many things would look so perfect in my house. Oh, and Restoration Hardware makes my heart go pitter-patter too.  By the way, does anyone else instantly think about apothecary tables when they walk into a Pottery Barn store?

4. I have to buy this book:

[the pre-order price is only $10, after all]
5. Speaking of cooking, wouldn't it be super fun to host cooking challenges at your house in lieu of traditional dinner parties? It also sounds like an excellent way to clean out your fridge and pantry.

6. Yesterday was the first day of school for students, and I have to confess that when I left the house I was both considering regularly playing the lottery and maybe finding a new career path. It's not a good sign when you're burnt out at the beginning of the year. Thankfully, once the kids came in (4 of my 5 periods are kids I've had, and loved, for at least one other year) I felt much happier and got into the groove quickly. Hopefully in my next life I'm both patient and a morning person.

7. I signed up to chaperone prom in April, mostly because I like buying new dresses. I guess it'll be fun to see my students dressed up and on their best behavior, too. Now I just have nine months to find a date...

8. I'm gearing up to start Macbeth with my IB seniors and am actually pretty excited. This is a pretty momentous occasion, me getting excited about Shakespeare.

9. Is $400 too much to spend on boots? Here's some potential rationalization: I haven't bought boots in six (!) years and these would probably last at least three or four, meaning that my total, on average expenditures for boots over ten years would be only $40 a year. Also, if I'm thinking I'll wear them maybe ten times a month for six months, for three years, that's only $2 a wear (versus an Anthropolgie dress that costs $200 that I'd wear maybe twenty times ever). And this is why tax return season should be in October- to pay for Christmas and to buy kick-ass boots.

[these boots were made for walking... with my feet in them]

10. I know it's not my place to decide, but I'm still trying to figure out if the situation in Egypt is a coup. A revolution, absolutely, but you can still have a revolution and coup going on at the same time (if you ask me anyway). I think, and I'm probably just saying this because I'm in a comfy middle-class home with my feet propped up, that it's actually kind of a good thing. People in Egypt give a shit- so much so that they're willing to do something about it. I don't support the bloodshed of innocent lives, don't misunderstand. But in terms of politics and the people, sometimes there are going to be clashes that play out in the streets instead of behind the screens of computers. 

New Years Eve: 2013-2014 School Year Resolutions

It's a teacher post... you've been warned...

Teachers have two New Year's Eves- the traditional December 31st and then the night before the first day of school. Call me corny, but I find making a few goals a nice way to transition back into the daily grind (today was day 3; it is most definitely a grind). I'm not one of those cheerleader-y teachers who are super pumped and think that "this is going to be the best year ever!" but I am someone who tries to do a decent job at whatever she does. Hence the goals- a way to refocus, reprioritize, and, realistically, probably set myself up for failure ('tis the sesason).

1. Continue to improve time management 
I do a decent job of not wasting time at work; I figure the more I do at school, the less I do at home (this is what I tell my students too). I adamantly refuse to work during lunch or see students during that time- that thirty-five minutes is my time to visit with friends and, of course, eat. I do notice that here and there, especially for the thirty or so minutes between me arriving at work and my prep starting during first period I tend to be pretty stagnant (probably because I'm not exactly a morning person). I want to make that thirty minutes a set grading block starting this year (so not eating breakfast, reading CNN, or texting). 

This also means time off; weekends and most evenings should not be about work. 

2. Bring in new routines and activties
So far I'm instituting POW! (poem of the week) for my seniors, a monthly current events project for my sophomores, and academic journal writing prompts for all of my students. I want to get these three new things down during the next six or so weeks before I start anything else.

3. Be better about facilitating my own professional development
Frankly, the professional developments put on by our site and district aren't always what will work best with me and my students (I know, I know- can't please them all!). This year I'd like to spend at least 30 minutes a week reading up on articles and websites that discuss new trends in education and advancements on teaching Common Core. 

4. Continue to maintain, and develop, positive relationships with students
I really do love my students- they're what keep me in the profession (although the summers aren't bad). I am a definite believer that students will work hard for you if they like you. I know it's not supposed to be that way, but it's true. I'm firm with them and have high expectations, but we also have a lot of fun and have great conversations.

[Raven Chic Studio]

5. Keep grades current
I'm horrible at grading in a timely fashion. Just think- 100 essays at 5 minutes a pop ends up being over eight hours to grade, per set. That's on top of their other work, plus planning and running the yearbook. That being said, I need to make sure I'm setting deadlines for myself and getting my students back the feedback they deserve while the message is still relevant. My hope is that I can get them back their standard assignments within a week and their larger essays back within two weeks. I also need to be strategic about when I schedule assignments.

6. Remember, work is work 
Honestly, sometimes work is really annoying (see: paperwork, colleagues, changes, missing comfy desk chair, bathrooms lacking TP, students, getting up early, classroom interruptions, etc...). But that's just it: it's work. Work is not my life- my family, friends, hobbies, dogs, and home are my life. I want to do a great job while I'm there, but I refuse to become a cranky bitch because work is sometimes a little irritating. All I can control is my classroom.

7. Train my new yearbook students quickly and efficiently 
I have a ton of newbies, many of which are actually my English students. I need to get them up and moving soon so that we can focus on producing a high-quality book that does a better job with both photography and captions this year.

8. Review and drill important skills
Some of my students are still struggling with MLA while others have a seriously hard time creating argumentative theses. My sophomores obviously get more leniency, but there's no excuse for my seniors to still struggle with some of these things. Time to shape 'em up. 

9. Advance Planning
Having first period prep has made me a more lax in how I plan; when I was an elementary teacher I had everything ready on Friday for the upcoming week. Now, not so much. My goal is to be planned and prepped for three days out at all times (long term I plan a book or writing genre at a time). 

10. Outside Sources
Work harder to vary my sources for outside material for students. My husband recently bought a digital subscription to the New Yorker and Wired, so I'm excited to bum some articles off of him. 

So, that's it. Realistically, I'm not going to excel at them all, but if I work to improve in each area I'll be sufficiently happy.

Top Ten Tuesday- New York, New York

This week The Broke and the Bookish ask us to list our top ten from a particular setting- I'm going with New York. I've only been once, a few years ago, but really loved it. I went during the late winter with my mother-in-law and we crammed an impressive amount of things to do in our three or four days there; I'd like to go back during the spring and take my time, going to some of the less-touristy places. Whether you love it or hate it, New York City really is a character in and of itself.

1. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

2. Underworld by Don DeLillo

3. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

6. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

7. Night Film by Marisha Pessl

8.  The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart

9.  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

10. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

I'm absolutely missing some great ones- suggestions? Where's your list set? 

Memoirs on My Mind

I'm typically a novel reader, but I seem to be adding memoirs and biographies to my wish list, both on Amazon and Audible lately (I just finished listening to Amanda Knox's). Here are a few that have caught my eye:

[Only problem? Over 1200 pages]
 Tune in: The Beatles- All These Years by Mark Lewisohn

[Learn more about the man behind the soup can]
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and back again) by Andy Warhol

[the CEO of Facebook; just downloaded this to Audible]
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

[a man works to eliminate his student loan debt in a year]
Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas

 [the women behind The Mercury Seven]
The Astronaut's Wives Club by Lily Koppel

[Working through Little House]
The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure 

Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War by Hal Vaughan 

Best Summer Vacation Ever-?!?!?

1. Last day of the 2012-2013 school year
2. So, so much pool time
3. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida with my sister
4. Western Caribbean cruise
5. I finally bought books! Embargo over! Also, 19 books read
6. My day at the Getty and Colum McCann reading
7. Spending the day on my brother's Navy ship
8. The Huntington Library and Gardens
9. 200 miles of bike riding (this seems like a lot- it's not), many with grandpa
10. Pageant of the Masters in Laguna with some favorite friends
11. Painting the base boards- now so mother-effing white
12. Discovering the Moscow Mule- life will never be the same
13. Matchbox 20 concert with my brother
14. Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z Legends of the Summer with a dear friend 
15. So much baking
16. 3-4 yoga classes; managed to get into a tripod headstand last week!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I secretly admire everyone who wears a fanny pack. 

2. My undying love for Downton Abbey is continuing to grow exponentially. Last night we finished season 2 and I was happy with the way it ended (although I'm mad at myself too, since Mary is a bit of an aristocratic bitch, but still, I kind of like her). And can we talk about how awesome Violet Crawley is? Total spitfire.

3. I finished painting the downstairs baseboard the other day- the bathroom, laundry room, great room, kitchen, dining room, and living room. I'll spare you the complaining and skip to how happy I am with the way they look. 

4. Today is my last day of the summer. Plan: bike ride, yoga, sit by pool reading with a drink or four.

5. I want this:

[Puzzle + wine + SATC reruns]

6. I think Johnson and Johnson's should do a commercial for their shampoo with Ozzy's "No More Tears" playing in the background. Couldn't you picture two little kids rocking out in the bathroom with shampoo fohawks? Brilliant.

7.  I started Catch-22 the other day and can't believe I waited this lost to read it. Frankly, it's embarrassing, but I try to remind myself that I can't read all the books (or can I????).

8. Songs recently downloaded and repeated excessively: 
"Take Back the Night"- Justin Timberlake
"Royals"- Lorde
"Pumpin' Blood"- NONONO
"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"- Michael Jackson
"Dreaming"- Smallpool
"Can't Hold Us"- Macklemore (cannot get enough of this one!)

9. I'm very, very proud of myself for still having no idea what Candy Crush is (besides that it's a game; I know that). 

10. I made this headband based on this post. I am not crafty (I repeat, I'm not crafty), but it was super easy. 


Macros and Micros

[flashback to NaNoWriMo]

The more I get back into writing the more I ponder what type of writer I actually am. According to Zadie Smith's essay "That Crafty Feeling," there are two types of writers: macro planners and micro managers. Smith says that the macro will configure his novel ahead of time, planning with "his Post-its... and Moleskins he insists on buying." She says that macros planners know the path their writing intends to take before they even begin, allowing them the flexibility to jump around and make changes that resemble "radical surgery," since they know how the pieces of their work will fit together. Micro managers start at the first sentence and finish at the last, knowing what happens only when they get there. She uses the analogy of house building; a macro planner will build the structure of the house and then move around furniture as needed, while a micro manager will only build and decorate one room at a time. 

Personally, I think my writing style perfectly fits my personality and is a combination of the macro and micro approach. Take the novel (I feel like such a douche saying that I'm writing a novel- it sounds so pretentious and pseudo-intellectual)  I'm currently working on. The structure is critical, therefore I've planned extensively what every section is going to be about. The character development is also key, therefore I know how the main character will change from the first page to the last page. This is all very macro-ish of me. On the micro side, I refuse to jump around when I write; I start on the first page and I will end on the last page (and will edit when I'm done). This need for planning and the demand to know what's going to happen is who I am at my core, for good or bad (or better of worse if you're my poor husband). Uncertainty is my arch-nemesis and not knowing where I'm headed drives me insane. My refusal to allow anyone read it (only a few know what it's even about), also mirrors my relatively private nature- my good friends know me well, but everyone else gets just the basics.


This idea of how we write it also interesting to me as a teacher. Most of my students come to me lacking skills; they can write an essay, but they generally struggle with voice, organization, ability to produce substantial content, mechanical skills, or all of the above. My inclination is to always tell them how I go about writing: jot down a list of ideas, fine tune these ideas into outlines, write a draft, edit, and then create the final pieces. It's a pretty traditional approach that allows me to plan extensively. This approach does not work for everyone, nor is it conducive to the procrastinating teenagers time frame. Most of my students admittedly fail to do any sort of planning whatsoever, a technique that really should only be left to more skilled writers. It's definitely an on-going challenge.

One of the best things about writing is that there are so many ways to approach it. When I go to readings someone will usually asks the writer on their practices and I've heard everything from Nick Hornby needing an office outside of his home where he fights the urge to surf the web all day, to Colum McCann's desk in a small closet where he listens to music early in the morning before his family is awake. Some authors plan and research, some just start and see where the wind takes them (like Zadie Smith). Some edit as they go, some wait until the end. Some ask spouses or friends to read their first forty pages before they keep going, while some finish an entire draft before they'll even talk about it. Writing is writing. If you love your subject matter (or at least have an iota of interest) it'll come in whatever way is natural for you. The only wrong way to do it is to not do it at all.

Tell the class about your writing style. 

Top Ten Tuesday- An Empty List

[Meesa what happens when sequels are allowed]
This week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish asks us to list ten books we wish had sequels. My list is pretty short- is has zero books on it. Just as I'm generally not a fan of series, I'm not a proponent of sequels. I considered playing along and just listing my top ten favorite books, but the reality is that I really truly don't want those books to have series. Instead, since I'm not going to completely cop-out, I'll give you a few reasons why they're not my favorite. And, like always, there are exceptions, so don't get your panties in a wad. 

1. While I don't need endings to be neat and tidy, I do need a sense of closure- a "now we're done" feeling. The idea of another book carrying on characters, plot lines, and relationships doesn't give me the sense of completeness that I desire. I like to be able to close a book and know that John is lost in the Canadian wilderness for life or that Mary is starting a new career as a bounty hunter. Knowing that I could pick up the sequel and discover when John is found by the Mounties or that Mary ends up getting shot by the cartel bothers me.

2. Piggy-backing on number one, I think that sequels take away the gift of being able to imagine possibilities from the reader. We're being robbed of creating a history for the characters.

3. Knowing that there is a sequel, or a series, means that I automatically feel obligated to keep reading, which can be a burden. Take The Millennium Series- I read the first one and didn't really care for it, but feel obligated to finish the rest. This happened as well for The Hunger Games.

4. I also feel like having sequels (and series) can be a bit of a marketing tool, especially for those with that "dun dun dun... to be continued" kind of endings. Of course people are going to pony up the fifteen bucks to find out what happens.

5. Leaving a huge gap of time between reading the first book and the next book can be a nuisance. Little details may be forgotten, character backgrounds a little fuzzy, etc...

6. While this may be the most controversial, I feel like sequels are a bit lazy on the author's part. No need to create a whole new set of characters or tone, as the writer is simply extending what they already came up with. 

Agree? Furiously contesting my opinions? Speak your mind!

Coming to Terms

I'll be honest- I'm not one of those teachers who spends time during the summer preparing new activities for their students or starts stocking up at the back-to-school sales for cheap notebooks and pens. Nor do I say things like "I'm actually starting to get excited about the new school year" or "I can't wait to start implementing common core." I love sleeping in, spending days by the pool, and just generally doing what ever the hell I feel like all day long. Nonetheless, this "summer for LIFE" attitude is starting to cause some serious psychological roadblocks, making the idea of returning to work downright unbearable. I finally said to myself the other day, "Self, you can either wallow in this end-of-the-summer funk or you can put your big girl panties on and deal." It's a tough road, guys, but together we can do it.

Mission: brainwash self into thinking it's okay summer is over

Lemonade out of lemons:

1. When the house isn't spotless I'll have a legitimate excuse. 

2. I may start remembering what day of the week it is again.

3. My students are actually cool kids and we spend a lot of time laughing in my class (now it they paid me to arrive at ten to just sit around shooting the shit until two we'd be in business).

4. Three words: free air conditioning. See also: less money on TP, water, and electricity at home.

5. I won't have to constantly arm myself with the "you should've been a teacher" retort when those not in the profession gripe about having time off.

6. I can once again arm myself with the "I have to grade" excuse to get out of whatever I want. It's for the children, after all.

7. I'll spend less money, since I won't be gallivanting around Southern California going to lunch and other fun places with friends. I'm so tired of having fun, anyway, it's such a shitty way to spend your time.

8. I won't have to worry about people thinking I'm a stay-at-home mom or homemaker when I'm at Target at ten in the morning on a Tuesday. 

9. We're that much closer to November, which means the start of time off, baked goods, warm drinks, and cooler weather. 

10. My bladder will be back in fighting shape, since I can't just walk five feet to the bathroom whenever I feel like it. 

11. I get to boss people around all day. Admit it- telling people what to do is fun. 

12. I'll get to catch up on The Nerdist podcasts while sitting on the freeway for thirty minutes after work each day. 

13. Saturdays and Sundays will once again regain significance. 

[staff t-shirt idea?]
Ten more months until summer vacation.

Stop. It's Survey Time.

I don't normally do survey questionnaire blog posts, but this one, passed along by Rory at Fourth Street Review, seemed like a nice time-suck, so here we go.

What are you reading right now? What are you reading next?
I just finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (fantastic) and am about to start Catch-22 for the first time ever (for shame!). Technically I'm still rereading The Odyssey, but we'll have that conversation later.

What five books have you always wanted to read but haven't gotten around to?
1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (soon to be rectified)
2. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
3. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
4. A biography on Howard Hughes
5. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

What magazine do you have right now?
I've curbed my magazine reading immensely lately, but at various places around the house I have In Style and an old New Yorker.

What's the worst book you've ever read?
The most poorly written books I've ever read goes back to my middle school and high school days when I read Mary Higgins Clark, Nicholas Sparks, and Danielle Steel. 

What book seemed really popular but you didn't like?
Probably The Hunger Games series. I also didn't love The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (I need to force myself to read the other two, since I bought them as a set). 

What's one book that you always recommend to everyone?
Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle; the compassion it brings to the issue of illegal immigration is something so many people would benefit from reading. 

Where do you usually get your books?
Amazon. Sorry, but there are few independent sellers where I live and I'm on a budget.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?  
I read whenever I could- at home, church, in the car, wherever. I also brought my books outside to recess sometimes; I was torn between trying to be social and finishing a good read. 

What's the last thing you stayed up half the night reading?
I don't remember the last time I stayed up extraordinarily late just to read. During the school year I'm up at 5:45- sleep comes first when you have to face over a hundred teenagers. 

Have you ever "faked" reading a book?
In college I tried to read The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet without really reading it. I remember studying for the final with my now husband, and he told me to make sure to remember something about it because it was sure to be on the test- it was and I totally forgot (that's what I get).

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?
I've never bought a book without knowing what it was about; an aesthetically pleasing cover might pique my interest, but I'm to wary to buy blindly.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Charlotte's Web by EB White was my absolute favorite, but I was also a huge fan of The Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley High, the Nancy Drew books and anything I thought might be too scandalous for my age. 

What book changed your life? 
I'm not sure if there is any one in particular; I think just being a reader has changed, and defined, me. 

What are your top five favorite authors?
Jeffrey Eugenides
John Irving
Isabel Allende
TC Boyle
Colum McCann

*I hate to admit that I haven't read (Eugenides being the exception) any of these authors' entire bodies of work. 

What book has no one heard about but should read?
Open Me by Sunshine O'Donnell (more for the sheer randomness of the topic: professional mourners)

What book are you an "evangelist" for?
A times I feel like I'm more into preventing people from reading certain book (50 Shades, for example). I definitely push people towards Tortilla Curtain, Let the Great World Spin, A Picture of Dorian Grey, House of the Spirits, The Selected Works of TS Spivet, and Cloud Atlas

What are your favorite books by first time novelists? 
I'm having a bit of a memory lapse here, but here are a few off the top of my head (many of these have since written books):

The Selected  Works of TS Spivet by Rief Larsen 
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
The Brief and Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz 

What is your favorite classic book?
Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoyevsky
A Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

I'm not going to tag anyone, but please, if you feel urge go for it!