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editing

Hello, friends!

It’s been too long, hasn’t it?

The operative mode of my life right now is busy. I want to let everyone know, however, that I’m getting my own classroom in the fall! It will be a tiny classroom, far from the ideal number of students for a Montessori elementary, but we expect it to grow in time, and personally, I’m so incredibly excited about it that I cannot describe how I feel. Euphoric, maybe? Grinning like a damn fool? Eager, pleased, jingling with joy? All of that.

The other day I gave a group lesson for the first time. — Explanatory note for the non-Montessorians among you: at the primary (3-6 years) level, children are given individual lessons, at the elementary (6-12 years) level children are given all their lessons in small groups instead — The students loved it, and they started working with the material immediately, and worked with it for days straight. It was great! Love those materials, love seeing the kids work with them. On Friday, a student actually asked me if she could please also have a spelling test, like the other student whom I give spelling tests to. Yes. She ASKED for a spelling test. Children (and people, really, but that’s another discussion) want to learn and want to be challenged. I see it every day. I love it.

The first of the six changes went off without a hitch (that was walking Sergei regularly, using the trigger of when I get home from work), but then I didn’t start in on my second change, because I didn’t know how to break it down into baby steps so easy I couldn’t fail. More on that when I figure out what to do next. Anyway, if I only end up with five changes this year instead of six, I will still feel quite accomplished. I’m still walking Sergei every school day but Thursday (because yoooooga makes walking him complicated), even when it’s miserably cold, or miserably raining, or miserably sunny. It has not actually been miserably sunny much, or at all.

The editing gig is working wonderfully. I’m gratified to see some of my and Dave’s story picks making it out into the world to be heard and commented on by listeners, because the lead time on story selection and production is a lot longer than I would have imagined before I started running the podcast, so even though we’ve been working since January to make sure the podcast comes out as it should, not much of what has come out thus far is stuff we picked out on our own (also there was Ann Leckie month in February, which was awesome. You need to check out Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz go to War Again by Garth Nix to see what I mean). I’m excited about what we have selected and in store, and excited that we’ve picked several stories where narrators, when asked, have responded gushingly with “I love that story!” Narrator, we love that story, too!

So that’s me in a nutshell. How about you?

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So 2009 was a turning point year for me, in a number of ways, and now I’m going to set down all the ways in which my life changed, both for posterity and to share.

Throughout 2008 I started to feel pretty worthless insofar as the writing endeavor was concerned. Although I know about the million words of crap and the persistence mantra, I was feeling really worn out with my lack of success. My lack of progress, really. I had worked as hard as I could since November 2004 and the only thing I had to show for it, besides several hundred thousand closeted words, was three sales – one to a dead market which no one would ever read. Even though I felt like I was mastering writing skills, even though I felt like I had improved considerably, even though I wanted to write and only write, I still felt like a failure. My clock had ticked down, the amount of time I had agreed to let myself try without judging, had ended. So I was judging. And found myself lacking.

I had hung a lot on my identity as a writer. Because I was failing at that, or failing to see external markers I could tell myself were progress, I had no work identity where I was succeeding. And it was terrible for my morale.

I am fully aware that I had an envious situation. I did not work at a regular job. All I did was write. And it will seem so whiny and height of privilege for me to say that this was a bad thing. But it was a bad thing. For me. For someone else it might have been great. For me, knowing how lucky I was combined with how little headway I was making was utterly paralyzing.

So by the end of 2008, I had decided that I needed the affirmation of regular work, and I needed to be free of the label writer. I might still write (or I might not. I was having a lot of trouble getting words down and I was willing to let myself off the hook) but I would also have other things to do, and other plans for the future. Not writing plans.

So in a nutshell, I gave up.

And even though I felt guilty about that, the guilt nowhere equaled the prior horror, so it was preferable.

I started to think about the other things I could do, and the other things I wanted to do.

First of all, I picked up a couple of once a week jobs, one proofreading and one helping someone check her email and deal with her computer. I continued to teach Spanish (also once a week). But the big job I picked up, around April (also unpaid), was slush reading for Escape Pod.

Reading slush was fantastic for me in a number of ways. One of the things it showed me was that all the “almost” rejections I was getting were probably not consolation rejections. I was now looking at the dregs of the slush, and I was mostly better than that. Even the roughly twenty five stories I have waiting to be edited before I can stand to send them out because of their enormous flaws were better than a lot of what I was reading, stuff people had felt confident enough to send out, to a primarily reprint market (which Escape Pod is). So I got a type of external marker right off the bat, something I would never have gotten had I continue to write and send out as before. I got verification that when the editor says “the writing is good” or “we seriously considered this”, they probably actually mean it. Revelation!

There’s something else I got from the slush, which is I started to gain an exact sense of when stories go off the rails. I can now point to the paragraph, sometimes even the line, where the story just goes wrong. And I learned something about myself in this process. While it’s extremely useful for me to have examples of excellence, examples of brokenness really serve as the best teaching tool. I need to see flaws to understand how things fit together and how they work. Examples of excellence are omnipresent in published work. Reading slush is free access to writing with flaws (sometimes quite clear and astonishing flaws), without the onus of a critique (as it might be in a writing group), and it’s something I’d never had before. I did very little writing this year. Learning about writing, however? I did a lot of that, especially as concerns story payoff and structure, both of which fall into areas I need serious improvement and help with.

In addition to picking up a few non-career jobs, I also decided to start retraining myself for an alternate career. I don’t particularly want to go back to working in a library right now. I want to change things up. There were two options that more or less landed in my lap, and both were options that I’d been considering for a long time. One was yoga teacher training. The other was Montessori elementary teacher training, through the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, which opened up a training course in Kansas City. Because I’m a crazy person, and both opportunities presented themselves in the same calendar year, I started both, even though it was fraught and I ended up being ludicrously busy.

Montessori training required me to leave my family for most of the summer. I drove back and forth between Kansas City and St. Louis practically every weekend. Often, on the weekends, I had yoga teacher training to attend, in addition to the mountains of laundry and the homework from Montessori training. It was rigorous, but I loved it. I missed my family like crazy. My wildly independent child turned clingy and kept telling me how much she missed me. My husband held things together at home, but with effort, and the strain showed. He endured, as he promised me he would. My mother came from Argentina, and changed her return tickets to cover the time I would be gone, which was a huge help. She kept everyone fed. I had worried about everything in advance, and it was difficult in ways I’m probably not accurately describing (though it spares you some angst, so that’s just as well), but we all managed, and here we are.

Yoga teacher training concludes at the end of January. I’ll have two hundred hours, which is the baseline level for teaching classes. I have no immediate plans to teach classes, because I have my hands pretty full as is.

I have two more summers of Montessori Elementary training, as well as observation hours and student teaching. I did my first observations in November, and I loved observing and loved the kids and feel very strongly that I’m on the right track. I am very excited for my own classroom, the sooner the better!

In short, I’m pretty busy, not only now, but into the foreseeable future. I’m not sure when I’ll be writing, though I feel good about continuing to do so, which is not how I felt before. I only wrote and finished one short story this year. I’m working on a second, which I hope to finish before the year gets out, but it’s coming out all in hunks and pieces, and I’m very shaky on this non-linear writing thing. I did, however, edit one story and send it out, and have almost finished editing a second. If I do nothing but edit stories in 2010, I can still stay in the sub (and rejection) game.

In September, I picked up an additional job, helping editor Rachel Swirsky at Podcastle with the organizational aspect of the podcast, which is vast. This is a paying gig, though it pays very little, of course. I’m not trying to be coy. It’s less than $50 a month. It’s also a gig that will change come January 1. I’ll speak more to that after the New Year.

Also in September, I started being courted by two local Montessori schools for their elementary classrooms. The trainer in Kansas City had assured us that there was a shortage of Montessori elementary teachers and that we would be sought after assiduously, but I took that with a huge grain of salt. It seemed like a line, you know? However, no lie, people were taking me out to breakfast and talking to me and asking me whether I’d consider their school and what would it take and so forth. This did wonders for my self-esteem, and created huge eagerness in me to finish my training and get my classroom (something I now realize might happen in reverse order). One of the schools lost their primary assistant, and they asked me if I would come in starting January and be the assistant in their primary classroom, getting to know the staff, the situation, and the kids which may one day be in my own elementary classroom. I accepted. On January 4, I will begin working at OakHaven Montessori School as a primary assistant. They are hoping to open their elementary classroom in September, and I believe they want me in it, as their teacher. I am so enthusiastic about this! I cannot wait. Think of me, and wish me well in beginning this new, great adventure. If you had told me at the beginning of 2009 that at the start of 2010 I’d be working at a Montessori school I would not have believed it. Life is full of twisty turns, many of them wonderful and fulfilling.

So this past two weeks I’ve been busy shedding all the part time jobs I’ve acquired. I’m done proofreading. I quit slushing for Escape Pod as of December 31. I no longer teach Spanish at my daughter’s school (which I’ll miss, because I love doing it). I am still on the hook for helping the antiques lady with her computer, though I’ve let her know it is no longer a weekly engagement. I’m going to keep trying to shuffle off that last job, and the easiest way will be to find my own replacement. So if anyone wants like three hours a week of work, one morning a week, (it can be more, depending on your ambition, there are potential projects) helping a woman read her email and keep her customer database updated, let me know. It requires more patience than computer knowledge, and the working environment is peaceful and slow-paced. Comment, or email me, if you are interested.

I’m also looking for a place to stay for about ten weeks this summer in Kansas City. I have a fallback option, but I’m trying not to wear out my welcome. So if you know someone who could benefit from a roommate or house-sitter this summer in Kansas City, please leave a comment.

So, to sum up, in January I will be doing sekrit, soon-to-be-announced, extra stuff for PodCastle and I will be working at OakHaven as an assistant in one of their primary classrooms. At the end of January, I will have finished my yoga teacher training and be able to teach, should I want to. I have two more summers of Montessori training left to go before I get a diploma. It’s been a roller coaster of a year, but as I come into the new decade, there seems to be a pretty well-defined path ahead. I’m comfortable with that.

Also this year, unrelated to job acquisition, training, or job loss, my family got into a local CSA which we’d been on the waiting list for. Being a member of the CSA has been awesome! We’ve tried a number of new recipes, incorporated far more vegetables into our diet, and begun to eat more in tune with the seasons. We’ve learned about all new fruits and vegetables, too, such as sunchokes and daikon. The stuff we get from them (fresh mushrooms! carrots that taste like carrots! figs!) continually amazes and delights me.

So see? There was stuff happening, and plenty of it. I just wasn’t reporting it. But now you’re all caught up. Wish me well in 2010, I will be immersed in Montessori (teaching + training) and PodCastle, with a small helping of writing on the side and a little bit of yoga thrown in to keep things interesting. Also, since my new blog is so, so pretty, maybe I’ll keep up with it better, and you’ll hear from me more often. To be fair, though, my internet access while it was at training last summer was basically nil, but that could change this summer, and there’s a lot of the year that isn’t the summer. No promises, but the odds of more blogging are high.

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