Submitted Nonfiction Today

img_3954I submitted a piece of nonfiction today; it felt very scary. No hiding behind poetic license. It was an essay about grief, something we all know about as we get older.

But even though submitting nonfiction was very scary to me, I was able to enter this essay title and information on the excel sheet I created after learning from another writer; I followed his suggestions for creating a submissions excel tracking sheet. I added color coding for Rejected, Accepted (that’s in green), Pending, Withdrawn, and Unknown. Too many unknowns, it seems!   I am learning to sort by these categories as well.

I am having fun working with this!

I don’t think I will become a nonfiction writer now, for I really need that poetic license and I do tend to look at the world through a poet’s eyes.

But I am still trying to grow as a writer.

Thanks for reading.

When Did the U.S. Stop Seeing Teachers as Professionals? (mini review from HBR)

 

professionals       The Harvard Business Review asks: “When Did the U.S. Stop Seeing Teachers as Professionals?” in an article written 6-20-18 by Robert Bruno and found here: When Did the U.S.  Stop Viewing Teachers as Professionals?

Bruno writes, and I concur, that: “Teachers are seeing their own experience be devalued by policymakers and other officials with little experience in the education field, and it’s not improving the education of their students. In other words, and as others have noted, teachers are balking at the erosion of their status as professionals.”

Bruno goes on to write that today, (and I agree) that “Creativity is squeezed out for conformity and teacher autonomy suppressed…”

As a results of external stressors, Bruno notes that studies are revealing that teachers report feeling highly stressed twice as much as the average American worker, but worse, that

…nearly a quarter of respondents said work was “always” stressful. (emphasis added)

This stress and these outside stressors will lead to “constant battles” and struggles, Bruno contends, with our very democracy at stake.

As he notes, “The outcome of that struggle will assuredly determine the quality of the nation’s schools and, subsequently, the strength of our country’s democracy.”

Because teachers care so much, Bruno writes, teachers will continue to protect their students even while knowing, “To them, nothing less than the education profession is at risk.”

#  #  #

What do I think about this article? If I were not still so burned out from the stress that comes with the deprofessionalization of teaching, with as Bruno calls it, a corporate-styled version of professionalism , I’d tell you.

Wait. I can tell you.

It’s like Bruno has been in the minds of many teachers I know.

It was never about the kids; Bruno does not mention even one time teachers’ concerns about students.  We love the kids.  We love to teach. We are teachers. We are well-educated and passionate professionals.

We deserve to have our well-informed voices heard.  We deserve to have time to use the bathroom during the work day. We deserve time to meet with our colleagues to plan, for we have great ideas and even greater ones when we can collaborate.  We deserve to plan our lessons with our specific students in mind.  We deserve to have fewer non teaching duties, including a duty-free lunch and planning period, less hall and bathroom and lunch room duties.  We deserve the pensions we have paid for diligently and not to be blamed for an entire state’s broken promises.  We deserve to have the public pay for the public part of education and teachers not to have to pay for toilet paper or basic student supplies.  We deserve to be treated like the licensed, educated professionals we are, and not to be evaluated or have our work evaluated by non-educators or those who have spent little time in the classroom.

We deserve to be treated as professionals; since we often are not, many are leaving, and many who remain are stressed, burned out, sad, angry, and profoundly disheartened.

Many veteran teachers are “retiring” early, such as myself.

And I wonder if this wasn’t part of the plan all along–to drive out the veteran teachers who would speak up, to drive out any creativity that might challenge the corporate non-educator reformers.

Could be.  Should I be that suspicious?

I believe so.

Teachers are fighting for the very life of their profession.

 

 

 

 

Part 3–Literacy can be the Bridge: in Praise of Public Libraries

cropped-be-creative-creative-creativity-256514      Getting to there from here? How does one change careers while still paying the bills?  This was a true dilemma for me, for there was no trust fund, no rainy day forgotten account, no family to turn to once I quit my job in business.

This is a nice problem to have, and I know that.  It reeks of privilege, and I know that.  Yet I was a healthy adult with so much energy, and I knew I wanted a different type of life than working in an office.  I did not turn to drink, but I turned to sadness.  I turned to tension. Those are not healthy.

Since I loved to read and write, I turned to the public library and was amazed to find the library had become a hub of activity.  The library was not a quiet place as I remembered it, but a place of reading groups, tutoring, computer training, and so much more–in addition to having quiet places for reading and studying.

I wonder if librarians know they have helped to improve the lives of many?  For that is what I saw daily as people looked for jobs, learned a new skill, found positive activities for themselves and their family.

I found the world of book discussion groups, and never looked back. Like-minded reading lovers–what a joy!

And more–the library was looking for literacy tutors and I wanted to become a teacher.  Would I dare to take that risk, even while I was so very sad in my everyday world?  It almost seemed too difficult to risk change and then have the change not work out.

Would I take the risk and make changes?

More to follow.

 

Part 2: Literacy Can Be the Bridge–The Power of Reading and Writing

cropped-be-creative-creative-creativity-256514           How do you get there from here?  I had no idea; I wanted to have a life that contained more reading, writing, poetry, nature.  I’d always wanted to be a teacher, but could not afford to take any more time with college.  I graduated with my teaching certificate, but there were only aide positions or sub positions, neither of which paid enough to pay the rent and neither of which carried insurance benefits.

Yet the rent wanted to be paid, the electric bill wanted to be paid and so on.  Not having a family to turn to for any help, I knew I was on my own.

I found what should have been a great job in business, but it was killing me.  I’d lay awake at night grinding my teeth, willing the hours not to pass.  I just didn’t want to do it anymore, and yet I had no idea how to get there from my present life.

# #  #  #

For a number of years, I commuted by train to the loop.  (That was my favorite part of the day, the commute!) I discovered I could read again, books I wanted to read.

One year, I decided to read only female writers or novels with strong female characters.  There was no method to this plan, just the knowledge that I spent most of college reading male writers or about male characters.

I found books at the library and read them voraciously. I discovered Willa Cather, and my life changed forever. Why hadn’t I heard about her or read her books in college?  Her characters’ longing for culture and education plus their longing for the beauty of nature resonated with me.  I discovered Edith Wharton and the plight of the urban female. I discovered Theodore Dreiser and the plight of the female as he expressed it.  I discovered Anne Tyler, Anne Frank, Jane Austen, The Bronte sisters, Virginia Woolf, Amy Tan.  I discovered the lovingly drawn character of Helen and her search for education in Bernard Malamud’s The Assistant.

I was unsophisticated in how I chose the books to read, often choosing by the cover, by what was available, by what was on sale, by what I had heard about.  This was before the internet, I had no literary types in my life at that point to help me make decisions.  I got lucky in that I read many great books and “met” many great characters.

In these books, the longing for a more meaningful life as expressed by strong characters spoke to me: I was not alone.

But what was next, I wondered, even as my home made after college education continued?

Part 1: Literacy Can be the Bridge–The Power of Reading and Writing

be-creative-creative-creativity-256514   One great thing about getting older (but that’s another story!) is that I can remember things that took a lot of time to accomplish; young people know this: one step at a time in the right direction can truly help lead you to where you want to be in life. Literacy was a very important bridge for me to go from a life I did not want to a life I wanted to live.

As I am older now, I am thinking about how to recreate and re-energize myself, and I turn to my old friends reading and writing.  For there are many reasons to believe reading and writing can help me now in my older years–but that is another story.

# #  #  #

Decades ago, as a young adult, I found myself working in a field that was unhealthy for me. But like most, I had bills to pay and didn’t know how I would ever be able to make a change from a business career to a life filled with teaching and writing.  What is the bridge?

Day after day I commuted to the office, feeling like I would literally scream outwardly what I was thinking all day: Get me out of here!  I remember writing, in pencil and very small: GMTHOOH on some of my files, perhaps hoping I would get caught, get fired, and be forced to make positive changes in my life.

But I was careful, and I was an excellent employee.  How can one be really good at something that kills the soul?

But I was, and I was not fired.  Nor was I laid off during those harsh 80s when so many good people got let go of jobs they needed.

But back to the topic–how did reading help?

Some people laugh when I say literacy saved me, but it did. Reading and writing have always been important to me, but when I was working in a field I hated, I pushed reading and writing away from me.  It just hurt too much to be around what I could not have as part of my daily life, so I pushed away that which would have helped nourish.

It would take a return to reading and then writing to see me out of a time and place and life I didn’t know how to leave without becoming poor–and I had been poor.

(But that’s another story.  So many stories!)

This story is about how literacy, reading and writing, can be a bridge to an improved life.  They sure were to me.

Part 2 to follow.

 

On sharing poetry and losing ownership of your poems

SMALL HEART BOOKS POETRY        I write mostly poetry, although this blog has gotten me to write more nonfiction.  That’s a good thing.  I do share many poems in their rough draft stages on my Facebook page, but I have a closed site and limit the views even there.  However, I don’t post my poetry here on my website/ blog just yet.

Why? I’ve submitted poetry many places, and editors/ publishers don’t want work that has been “published” elsewhere usually.  Mind you, only a few people are “reading” the poems there at all, but some will even claim a closed locked down Facebook site means
you’ve published your poem.

We poets are not writing Pulitzer Prize winning novels and posting them on Facebook!  It seems a bit silly and excessive to me to not be able to share and get my close friends’ critiques; however, with the poetry publication market as competitive as it is, I don’t want to ruin any chances I might have of publishing.

I admit to liking an audience for my writing.  Is that shallow? Probably.

Two good sites that are open to accepting poetry already posted on social media and personal blog posts and two I greatly respect are Rattle Magazine and Tuck Magazine.  (Links here: Rattle Magazine and Tuck Magazine.)

In fact, Tuck Magazine just published a poem I’d placed here; they simply asked me to take it down for three weeks and to link to them.  Sounds fair! Their goal is to INCREASE readership of writing about social issues.  I posted this poem here on the first day I created this blog, and now it is published here: Refuge Laura Lee Poem in Tuck Magazine.

Rattle Magazine is a top notch magazine of modern poetry, and its poems knock me out.  I can only dream of being published there.(I need to read and write more! Much more. I come away renewed with the power of poetry when I read their published poetry!)

Yet they don’t consider social media published for the sake of accepting work for competitions and possible publication.

Having said all that, I admit I am not a great poet.  I can write good poetry of a particular style, narrative poetry and dramatic monologues, the latter of which is out of style.  I have sometimes written good lyrical poetry.  I am not an academic but a caring reader and writer, so to me it’s okay I’m not making a living as a poet.

As if. DECADES ago I did research and found that only 9 people in American admit to making their living as a poet. NINE out of what–1/3 of a billion Americans?

So I continue to read and write. I should spend more time reading and writing, and now that I am a part-time worker, I will.

I’m fighting the impulse to return to full time work; I don’t want that heavy workload anymore.  Been there.  Done that! For DECADES.

So here’s to the talented poets and fiction writers and nonfiction writers–I admire you! I’m looking for more great writers to read, new or old writers, poet or fiction, for good literature really inspires me.

And I’ve only got so many poems in me–I don’t want to lose the right to publish them unless they are actually PUBLISHED elsewhere. I send out the ones I can stand to lose!  Since poetry doesn’t pay, I have many poems I just don’t want to lose.  I know. As if!

Keep reading and writing!

If you have any writers you would recommend or novels, I’d love to hear about them!

Laura Lee

Two Great American writers: Alcott and Cather

 

Yesterday I images once upon a timewrote about Willa  Cather, a  great American writer. Links to her most popular novel can be found here: Full Text My Antonia Willa Cather.

And more information about this novel’s 100 year anniversary can be found here: My Antonia 100 year anniversary.

I believe I should re-read My Antonia next in tribute! It’s a precious novel to me, with characters I understand, from the plucky Antonia to the depressed and ultimately suicidal father who laments the harshness of the prairie life, missing his urban life back in Europe.

But we also have to have a look at Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women.  Full text of the novel can be found here: Full text of Little Women.

Like Cather, Alcott felt her life was limited by being born female. Alcott saw her mother working day and night while her father was speaking to Emerson, Thoreau, and at times even Nathaniel Hawthorne; imagine those three greats as your neighbors.

I underestimated Alcott until I read more about her and saw PBS’s biopic, which may be found here: Alcott on American Masters PBS.

I regret I underestimated Alcott as a writer, being influenced by the rather young adult/ juvenile novels she wrote. She wrote so much more!  She supported her family of four sisters AND her parents (mom and all the sisters worked at whatever “respectable” women could do, while it seems the father was educated but not particularly inclined to work after his school failed)  with her writing of dark gothic stories and then these wildly popular “little women” type novels.  Of the latter, she disliked writing them but to quote Fantine from Les Miserables?  “It pays a bill.”

I would encourage watching this program and getting to know more about Alcott.

Of the three female writers I have written about so far, Anne Frank, Louisa May Alcott, and Willa Cather, both Alcott and Cather did feel constrained by being female.  Anne Frank did not live long enough to learn what the world would do with her, a female writer, after World War II.  I don’t want to limit them by saying they are “just” women writers–they were good writers, period. Their gender, for Alcott and Cather, did limit their careers they felt.

Worth looking into further, this idea of how gender can partially become destiny.  All three were good writers, however, and I cannot help but wonder what they could have written if they were born male.

I believe the Bronte sisters in England, (Bronte sisters) published using male names, and I believe they also supported an intellectual father who, if I remember correctly, didn’t bring in much money to support the family. I will look into this further.

I am not a literary scholar not an academic; I am a caring writer myself who is in awe of anyone talented in writing.  I like to spotlight and give tribute to the greats as I can in my own small way.  In a way, it’s good I’m not a scholar but just an interested reader and writer myself, since that way I can be wrong and admit it if I am.

***Another issue to consider later on is social class; Cather, Alcott, and even Anne Frank came from families that might be considered middle class today.  I wonder if that is whey they could even dream of being WRITERS.

Anyone else have a favorite female writer? I’d love to hear about her!

One Hundred Years of My Antonia

I love the novels, short stories, and poetry of American writer Willa Cather.  She may  be best known for her beloved novel of the prairie, My Antonia

One hundred years have passed since the publication of this lovingly and well-written novel.  The Willa Cather Foundation  is remembering the novel with memories of the real life woman who partly inspired Cather to write about Antonia.

Only a book nerd would love this, and I love this.  Cather’s fiction is not flashy or trashy or shocking; they are loving but realistic looks into the beauty and the desperation of life.

Highly recommended.

Educators: Diane Ravitch’s websites

Website            If you are an educator in America or follow education issues, you probably know about Dr. Ravitch’s websites. I highly recommend her websites, as Dr. Ravitch dares to challenge the status quo.

As she writes on her blog:

Diane Ravitch’s website

A bit about her background, from her website:

My website is dianeravitch.com.
I am a historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University.
I was born in Houston, Texas, attended the Houston public schools from kindergarten through high school, and graduated from Wellesley College in 1960. I received my Ph.D. in the history of American education in 1975.

Rattle, a great site for poets/ mini review

colorful art                If you are a poet writing in English, you might/ probably know Rattle.com and its amazing print journal.  Rattle is the online magazine, and information on how to subscribe to the fine quarterly print journal can be found here subscribe.

The magazine sponsors a weekly competition for poems written in response to current events.  See here: Poets Respond.

But for me, a poet who has always been inspired by other writers and artists, one  of the most fascinating aspects of this multi-faceted journal is Rattle sponsors an Ekphrastic Challenge each month, when poets respond to a work of visual art by writing poem inspired by this visual art.  Details may be found here: Rattle’s ekphrastic challenge.

The poetry is, in my opinion, amazing.  It is fresh and frightening, raw and refined.  It’s really good modern poetry.

But the site says it best:

Rattle’s mission is to promote the practice of poetry.

We feel that poetry lost its way in the 20th century, to the point that mainstream readers have forgotten how moving language alone can be…The pure love of language is one of the most important experiences in the history of human culture, and somehow most of us have forgotten about it.

If you are a poet, you can learn from the best modern poets by reading Rattle’s online magazine, their print magazine, and even their Facebook page.  If you say you don’t like poetry, I challenge you to read there for a few days and come back to me and tell me that again.

Rattle reminds us of the power of poetry.