Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Salon: October 27, 2013

From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Doesn't that sound heavenly --- that in our hectic lives we carve out a chunk of time to devote to reading and all things literary?  While I plan to use this space for that purpose, I am also going to use this entry as a way to summarize the past seven days and preview the upcoming week.

Today's Weather:  Seasonal temperatures and sunny - although I must admit I loved the below-freezing mornings this week.  I am ready for the constant chill in the air!

What's on the menu:  Made a colorful and flavorful Chicken Monterey soup yesterday and will probably use the rest of the leftover chicken for a quick and easy stir fry.

Highlights of the week:  Lots of writing news this week, which I will share below.  Other highlights included:

  • Library adventure with Brynn - it has become a bi-monthly routine now, Brynn and I going to Cracker Barrel for a pancake breakfast, then a trip to the craft store to look at Christmas decorations (not sure what we will do come January...) and then to the library where I find appropriate books to check out while she plays in the children's area.  We meet Mama for lunch and then say farewell til next time.  We both have such fun - and I am blessed to have this opportunity to bond with my dear granddaughter.
  • Barnes and Noble rendez-vous - we used to do this quite often, but it has been months since my dear friend and I have met here to browse the books, chat in the cafe area, and write in our journals.  We spend the entire afternoon nursing our hot drinks, surrounded by all things literary. I found the most beautiful leather journal with a Venetian gondola scene that I immediately put at the top of my Christmas wish list.  

Teaching Overview:  We are working our way through the Prologue of Canterbury Tales in Brit Lit.  Last week I told the class that they would have to recite the first 18 lines in Middle English by October 31st, and you should have seen their shocked faces.  But after only one week of practice they are reciting like pros -- it is so fun to watch them overcome doubts!  Each year I teach the first three pilgrims of the prologue, analyzing the text to discover the morality, social status, and key lines for each individual, and then the students are responsible for teaching the rest of the pilgrims to the class.  We are about half way through the list and they are starting to understand Chaucer's use of irony.

I spent class time in ACT Prep trying to prepare them for the written portion of the test.  It has become quite obvious to me that I adore teaching writing!  What I intended for one day's worth of lessons turned into two (and could have spilled over into three).  I loathe grading the writing (trying to put an objective grade on something so subjective)... but I adore teaching it.

English Comp students were assigned certain grammar topics to teach the class.  I think that students learn concepts better if they are required to teach... and sometimes they introduce a concept that students can understand better than if I were to do it myself.  It takes a bit longer but in the end I do believe it is worth it.

Currently Reading:  Well, I have read quite a bit, but perhaps not exactly what you might expect.  In thinking of an audience for my NaNo narrative, I have discovered an interest in writing for the Middle Grade.  Unfortunately I have limited experience reading literature geared to this market.  So I checked out several books from the library that might help me find the appropriate voice for my story.  Most of the books I previewed were biography picture books (I was also doing research for another story idea... a series perhaps), but I also discovered, Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole, which I think will be a great resource.

Writing Progress:  As I mentioned above, it was a great writing week!  Not great in terms of word count, but in terms of clarity for my NaNo story and connection with other writers.

  • Attended HWKT meeting (Heartland Writers for Kids and Teens) - which was quite a big step out of my comfort zone.  Many of those in attendance are published authors with incredible talent. But they were warm and welcoming and I left knowing that this is a group that will challenge me and push me to improve my craft.  While they meet weekly, I will probably attend twice a month for now.  It will be a while before I have a manuscript to share, but I can learn so much just by listening to them workshop one another.
  • Discovered "my" audience - I think I have struggled with a conflict for my NaNo story because I had not defined my audience.  Some days I think I will write a dark, seedy conflict involving the sinister patrons and the pimped-out ballerinas; other days I think my authentic voice is less controversial.  Ultimately I discovered that a perfect match for my talents and desires is to write for the Middle Grade market (5th-8th grade).... and while this initially surprised me, I soon realized that I have extensive knowledge of this target group.  My first teaching experience was 6th grade and I taught 5th-8th grade English classes for several years before focusing solely on the upperclass courses.  These pre-adolescents are able to read and understand complex literary themes without demanding the graphic sex and violence scenes that appeal to the YA market.  I am more than excited!
  • Discovered "my" premise - Once the audience was identified I knew I needed to work on the premise of this story, that is, why do I want to tell the story - what do I want readers to glean from these characters?  I have fleshed out two key themes so far.  The working title is First Impressionism and I want to delve into the idea of quickly judging others before truly knowing them.  In addition, I hope to explore the need for self-expression in order to feel understood.  This requires acceptance of others and their need for expression as well.  
  • Developed another story idea - for a possible series.  It was as though once I accepted my Middle Grade audience, my mind awakened to new ideas. For many writers this is not an issue, as they have far more ideas than time to write them.  But for me... this is a huge breakthrough.  My creative brain has lain dormant for decades and I feared that this NaNo idea was the only one I would ever have.  But the brain is like any muscle, and now that I have started to exercise that right side, it is growing stronger day by day.  I did a bit of research and could not find a similar series, so perhaps I have discovered a niche that I am anxious to pursue (after November 30th, that is).
Artist's Date:  While not intentional, I could say that the Writers' group meeting was a date with my author-self.  I did not leave inspired with new story ideas, but I did leave with a stronger sense of self-confidence, which translates into a successful date to me.

Craftiness:  Alas, no crafts this week (again)... although I was rather creative in the kitchen making a variety of one-pot comfort foods, including a hearty steak soup.

Photography:  Not this week, although I anticipate taking many photos on Thursday as I document Brynn's Halloween celebration.

What's on the Horizon:  The schedule for the first part of the week is relaxed and low-key, which will allow me to continue with the narrative outline and character sketches for First Impressionism .... and then of course Friday is November 1st, the start of NaNoWriMo, at which time I plan to spend the day writing with the hopes of sprinting ahead early with my word count.

I wish you all a festive and safe Halloween ... and a happy start to November.


  1. Molly, your theme/ premise is spot on for your personality type (and one that I share). When you are writing about issues/values/belief that matter to you, the writing will flow. You will own the necessary passion to see your idea through to the end. Yay, you. I am excited about your NaNo project.

  2. So fun to read about your story is developing. I can't wait to see how this all works out for you during NaNoWriMo.

    Joy's Book Blog

  3. SOunds like you've been keeping busy Molly. I have not been in a bookstore since we went to New Hampshire in June. I avoid them because of all the unread books I own:)