the Novelist’s Dilemma

November approaches.

It’s no surprise, dear reader, that I’m a busy man: not only am I plowing through my first year of teaching (and all the lesson-planning, classroom-managing, relationship-building chaos that comes with that) I’m also attempting to balance being a grad student and still having something of a personal life (filled with a new relationship and lots of Pokemon).

It’s more than I can say in one breath, that’s for sure.

So comes NaNoWriMo. That one month a year I’ve pledged to the author inside to make writing my number one priority. Except lately I can’t even write for my blog.

What am I to do?

In years past, this is when I set academics on the back burner and put my fingers to the keys, but (disclaimer: if you’re one of my students, skip this part) I’m already not doing about ninety percent of my graduate work, so clearly that isn’t gonna help me now.

And I’m not even sure what story I want to write / need to write.

I’ve been toying with a name and an image that have been with me for years. Solo Basura. A leather jacket and jet-black shades. Some sort of laser-powered sword. Open city streets, endless angst, and carnage. Lots of carnage.

And now I have a frame, in the form of one of my students, for some backstory. And a national trend for an antagonistic entity: clowns. Or election day. Or both.

But I’m a little thin on my murderous music, so that’d have to change.

And, yeah, I’m all out on the time front.

I also want to write a story my boys could read. A story they would want to read. They’re not all big readers yet, and some of them especially struggle to read in the first place. There’s a lot of deep emotions there waiting to be articulated. I’ll come back this.

All the while, November approaches. Will I be able to reach 50,000 this year?

Maybe I’ll ask the English teachers if they’ve heard of NaNoWriMo.

Maybe I’ll ask to lead an after-school Young Writers Program. Maybe.

9 thoughts on “the Novelist’s Dilemma

  1. So much to tackle, but all worthy of your time and energy. I waited until retirement (after 31 years in the classroom) to write. It made sense for me at the time, but now I wish I had figured out a way to do both. I hope you do write something for your boys. And I hope you are able to work with young writers. I sponsored a writing guild on two different elementary campuses and found it very rewarding for all involved. Good luck to you!

    • Thank you for your encouragement! Although I primarily teach 11th and 12th graders, my boys are all 9th graders, and some of them are reading at the elementary level. I’d love your feedback for how I can help them develop a love for reading, and maybe even a love for writing.

      • Try Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. It’s written on an elementary level, but older students usually like it because of the subject matter: a boy who hates writing, hates poetry, and suffers the loss of his beloved dog. I have won over some big, tough guys with that story. I have them “copycat” the poems in the book which is much easier than trying to come up with one’s own structure for a poem. For example, it’s not too difficult to write something similar to The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams. Once they do that successfully, it’s easier to get them to do the next one and the next one… They don’t even realize they are learning right along with the main character. By the end, they have a portfolio of poems and more confidence about writing. The bonus is that they have developed descriptive/figurative language they can use in other forms of writing. If Sharon Creech seems too much below their level, try Nikki Grimes’ Bronx Masquerade. The same strategy can work with that book. The themes are a little more grown up, and the poetry is more like beat/rap. You could even host open mic events like they do in the book. If you want a book that NEVER fails with boys of any age, try Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. I have used it with 5th graders in the “burbs” and 17 year olds in “juvie.” Even the most reluctant readers will read it. I have even seen it used as a book study for staff development. In the end, I think it’s all about finding the right books. The ones I listed above are a few I have seen work with some pretty tough customers. If you want some professional reading on this topic, try Boy Writers, Reclaiming Their Voices by Ralph Fletcher and Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys by Smith and Wilhelm. This is an issue close to my heart. I wish you much luck, inspiration, and stamina. Keep me posted. I’d love to see how your year progresses!

      • Thank you, thank you, thank you! These suggestions are wonderful, and I’m so grateful to meet someone who shares this passion. Happy New Year!

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