With the summer behind me now, the remaining months of 2016 will be busy ones. The 2016–2017 school year, which is my fourteenth year in the classroom, began yesterday. I will be teaching four levels of creative writing magnet classes, one section of English 12, and one creative writing elective class again this year. And I’ve already been up to the school, cleaning up the School Garden since the grass and weeds have had couple weeks to undo our work to date. My students and I will continue some of our longstanding projects, like interviewing artists at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts and putting on a sketch comedy show, but we’re also going to do some new things too, most notably our new blog, newsprung: art, writing, gardening, education.
The summer was a good and fun and productive one. We managed to lounge around Lake Martin a good bit and to get out to Texas on vacation – to see The Alamo, to spend a day at the Schlitterbahn water park, and to have a drink or two with an old friend at The Esquire – but I did some work, too. I read The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch, The Great Divorce by CS Lewis, Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, and the first section of Clear and Simple as the Truth by Francis-Noel Thomas and Mark Turner, as well as a smattering of the essays in Joyce Carol Oates’ collection of The Best American Essays of the Century, in John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead, and in Daphne Merkins’ The Fame Lunches. More recently, I’ve begun reading Laura Secor’s book on Iran, Children of Paradise, and am about two hundred pages into it.
Though I had planned on finishing my book on the Whitehurst Case this month, the pace of the interviews just didn’t allow for that. There were some people who I couldn’t seem to pin down with a date and time, and of course, those elusive case files . . . but I’ll have the manuscript done by the fall. I know now what I’m working with, so that sense of finality in the research portion of the book will give me the ability to work only on the writing and revisions that will tell the story in the best possible way. My understanding is that a publication date will be in 2017, but of course, NewSouth Books can’t name a date until I finish the darn thing! As the old saying goes, the ball is in my court.
In addition to teaching at the high school and finishing my book, I will also return to two other duties that I volunteered for last school year: teaching Sunday school at St. Bede Catholic Church, and representing my daughter’s school at the Montgomery County Council of PTAs.
During the last week of October, I will be presenting at the Arts Schools Network conference in Dallas. The conventions these is Partnerships, which are the bread and butter of my teaching and writing work. My talk will center on how a teacher has to know the community, the place, and the people before taking his or her students to engage in a real-world scenario. An ill-prepared teacher trying to do community-centered work with students can cause a lot of damage; to be a guide for students, a teacher has to know the way. I don’t know yet which day I will be presenting, but I’m sure that the conference schedule will be posted soon.
Finally, I’m stoked about the upcoming elections, and though I’m trained as a poll watcher and have done that in the past, I haven’t been asked to work the polls for the November elections. We’ll see. I’ve typically worked summertime primaries, when I’m off from school, but it would be exciting to work the polls for a presidential election.
Now . . . it’s time to get back to work. My creative writing students are taking their summer reading tests tomorrow, so there are already papers to grade . . . three days in.