Revisionland

Confession: I love revising. Love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love drafting too – the suspense of becoming acquainted with new characters and the surprise of figuring out what they’ll say and how they’ll react. ª

I get the whole Girl Scouts’ song “Make new friends…” but I’ve never had a problem with “but keep the old.”

Revisions *contented sigh* are like going home to my friends-since-elementary-school, sitting on a porch and drinking apple cider while we chat and chat.

It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. And it’s engaging. Uncovering new layers, ambitions, motivation. Tightening and interweaving. Discovering threads of nuance I’d already included that need to be enhanced.

Give me colored pens, a large bag of Revision Skittles, and a quiet place to work and I’ll stay happily sequestered until St. Matt or the puggles demand some attention or life intervenes. Emerging for bathroom breaks and refills of my mug and Revision Skittles, pausing for Inspiration Walks, Inspiration Workouts and Inspiration Bubble-baths, my mind is full of beloved characters and trouble spots in the manuscript.

And even when I’m away – 26 sixth graders demand a lot of my attention and energy for much of the week – there are scenes and scenarios bubbling away on the back burner of my brain.

So when I’m lacking on Twitter, slacking on my blog and being a delinquent about returning phone calls, don’t worry. I haven’t been kidnapped by pirates, gotten lost in the woods or come down with an incurable strain of porcine flu.

I’m just ensconced in my revision-cave, sugar-fortified, ink-stained fingers, scribbled-across pages and a smile.

Be back soon.

Fearless but not ENDless

Technically the summer’s been over for a few weeks now; I just haven’t wanted to admit it. I ignored Labor Day. I overlooked the crisp apples at the local farmer’s market. I pressed past the aisles full of Halloween candy.

But on Saturday it was only in the 60′s. It’s hard to pretend it’s still summer while curled under a blanket wearing a fleece.

But how can it be over? (I say this despite having completed my 9th day of school).

LUCKY MIA‘s over too… at least this stage of it. And that’s a hard truth to accept. I still wake up with words on my fingertips and itch to insert self-indulgent chapters to the MS. I hear songs and add them to Mia’s soundtrack. I miss the story. I miss the characters. I spent more time with them than anyone else this summer.

And how can it be over? (I say this despite the kitchen dance party that commenced when I read The End for the final time).

I’ll give up summer. I’ll even accept that MIA doesn’t need an epilogue. But I’m not giving up my FEARLESS. The challenges I created and accepted this summer changed me. The never-back-down, what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen?, scared-is-not-an-acceptable-excuse attitude I adopted still doesn’t sit comfortably over my inclination to flee and retreat. But I don’t care. I owe myself more than that.

On Saturday night, as I shivered in my fleece and sipped spiced cider, I took a deep breath and erased MIA from the whiteboard walls of the NTB.

Staring at the blank walls was scary. How to fill them? What to fill them with? Would I love the new project as much as MIA? Where to even begin?

I studied them all night, finally falling asleep beneath walls that mocked me with their emptiness.

And I woke with new, nervous words on my fingertips. My first marker strokes were tentative, made of shaky letters and timid bullet points.

But it’s a whiteboard, mistake and changes wipe away with the swipe of a dusting cloth.

By mid-afternoon the wall looked like this.

And that fear and doubt? Replaced by hope and inspiration.

Who’s up for FEARLESS FALL?

Fearless but not ENDless

Technically the summer’s been over for a few weeks now; I just haven’t wanted to admit it. I ignored Labor Day. I overlooked the crisp apples at the local farmer’s market. I pressed past the aisles full of Halloween candy.

But on Saturday it was only in the 60′s. It’s hard to pretend it’s still summer while curled under a blanket wearing a fleece.

But how can it be over? (I say this despite having completed my 9th day of school).

LUCKY MIA‘s over too… at least this stage of it. And that’s a hard truth to accept. I still wake up with words on my fingertips and itch to insert self-indulgent chapters to the MS. I hear songs and add them to Mia’s soundtrack. I miss the story. I miss the characters. I spent more time with them than anyone else this summer.

And how can it be over? (I say this despite the kitchen dance party that commenced when I read The End for the final time).

I’ll give up summer. I’ll even accept that MIA doesn’t need an epilogue. But I’m not giving up my FEARLESS. The challenges I created and accepted this summer changed me. The never-back-down, what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen?, scared-is-not-an-acceptable-excuse attitude I adopted still doesn’t sit comfortably over my inclination to flee and retreat. But I don’t care. I owe myself more than that.

On Saturday night, as I shivered in my fleece and sipped spiced cider, I took a deep breath and erased MIA from the whiteboard walls of the NTB.


Staring at the blank walls was scary. How to fill them? What to fill them with? Would I love the new project as much as MIA? Where to even begin?

I studied them all night, finally falling asleep beneath walls that mocked me with their emptiness.

And I woke with new, nervous words on my fingertips. My first marker strokes were tentative, made of shaky letters and timid bullet points.

But it’s a whiteboard, mistake and changes wipe away with the swipe of a dusting cloth.

By mid-afternoon the wall looked like this.

And that fear and doubt? Replaced by hope and inspiration.

Who’s up for FEARLESS FALL?

Why I Cried in my Classroom Today

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

I was talking to another teacher yesterday and he was telling me he’s ready to come back to school. “I hate the end of things – whether it’s the school year or the summer – I get impatient to start what’s next .”

I hate the end of things too, but for an entirely different reason. I hate endings.

  • I always hesitate before turning the last page of a truly great book – because I’m reluctant to say good-bye to the characters.
  • I’ve never seen the final episode for Full House, Wonder Years, Dawson’s Creek, or Gilmore Girls because if the screenwriters choose to NOT give the characters a happily ever after, I didn’t want to see it. I’d prefer the unknown to a resolution that would haunt me.
  • The end of the school year makes me cry – those kiddos will go on to great adventures, but I won’t be in their day-to-day lives to see their triumphs.
But there’s something particularly awful about the end of summer, because not only does it mark a new beginning, but it requires classroom set-up as well. I am not a visual-spatial person. The idea of setting up a single room so that it’s functional for 28 people is beyond my scope. So each year I stand in the chaos of desks and boxes, folders and textbooks and I cry. Every year.

But why? I’m not a crier and even though I never believe it in-that-moment, I know it will all get finished and organized – or at least shoved away somewhere.

So why tears?

It’s because of the NEW. I’m not crying for loose-leaf paper or post-it notes. Not even for that last desk that won’t fit anywhere or the spelling book that’s gone missing over the summer.

I’m crying because I’m worried about the NEW. My tears say: Hey New Kiddos I Don’t Know Yet, I want this classroom to be perfect for YOU and I hope you like it and I hope you like me.


I know by late September I’ll be able to tell any of these kiddos to find a spot for the index cards or a better way to store the extra copies of Time For Kids. They’ll be telling me where they want to sit and how to rearrange the desks.

… but that first day, when we don’t know each other yet, I want to offer them perfection.

I feel the same way about writing. I’ve been dreading and procrastinating about my next writing project. LUCKY MIA’S still on the walls of the NTB – even though I haven’t needed those notes in months. I just can’t bring myself to erase them yet.

What if I don’t love my next project as much as I love this book? What if the characters don’t resonate as loudly or keep me up at night with fierce wonderings? My outdated MIA-notes are a literary security blanket, they’re a reflection of my endings issues. I don’t want to let go.

But it’s FEARLESS Summer, so I will. I spent yesterday afternoon making notes on potential next projects. I’ve got five vying for my attention, clamoring to be noticed. I used my big teacher paper and markers – I’m not ready to commit one to the whiteboard walls yet – and gave each story the chance to say “Pick me!” And they ALL did.


So, baby steps. I’ve got them on paper… I’ve hung the paper on the wall in the NTB.

Someday soon I’ll be reaching for erasers – both in the classroom and the NTB – and in both instances I’ll learn, as I always do, that while new may be scary… it’s also so exhilarating too.

Virus Scan Wars

You know the moving walkways at airports? And how if you walk against the motor, you make no progress? Welcome to my day.

It started when I tried to open a file. I just wanted to peek at yesterday’s revision. The file wouldn’t open.

So I tried another file I’d work on last night: a friend’s MS that kept me up way-too-late. It wouldn’t open.

I tried everything I could think of, but neither file would cooperate. All my other Word files were fine. Not the end of the world, but it was a waste of a night’s work and a good *nudge* to update my virus software.

Updated. Easy-peasy. Started a scan.

While I was waiting, I figured I’d open the latest version of LUCKY MIA and re-do the chapter numbering since I had two chapter 31’s and no chapter 3.

Only, when I opened the file, it didn’t look like my story. It was a dense mess of text.

All the formatting was gone: Single spaced. No indents. No italics. Nothing centered. Hard returns deleted. Comments gone.

A chaotic block of words.

*PANIC*
But not horrible, I figured I’d just open the file from the day before – I resave my MS each day as a separate file.

Clicked on LUCKY MIA 8-11: A chaotic block of words.

*Super-sized PANIC*
And thus began my adventures with online virus scan support, because when I looked in the scan log, it showed the software issuing ‘violation reports’ and ‘denying’ parts of Word*. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found double-spacing so offensive that it should be banned. And while I may overuse italics, that’s hardly a reason to revoke my emphatic privileges.

Off to ‘tech chat’ I went. First I had Jordan, who based on his syntax and creative use of the English language, is probably not really named Jordan Carter.

Jordan was confident he could fix my problems. Until I followed his instructions and they didn’t.

Jordan: Please proceeds by restarting the computer.
Me: Will this fix the problem & restore my formats?
Jordan: I recommend that you restart the computer.
Me: But won’t that end our chat.
Jordan: The chat session will be terminated.
Me: But what if it’s not fixed?
Jordan: (who I imagine is now doing a gleeful dance that he will be rid of me). Please contact online support if you require any more assistance. Refer to chat #844671
Jordan: It was my pleasure to work with you. Have a nice day.

I restarted. It was a mistake. Upon attempting to log-in, Huey-the-laptop informed me that “Unauthorized Changes had been made to Windows.” He then told the changes would “Limit Windows Functionality” which was particularly scary since it had been less than functional before.

Forty minutes and an entire stress-eaten jar of macadamia nuts later, I was logged in. The problem was NOT fixed (darn you, Jordan!). I scurried off to online support again and was paired up with “James.”

“James” has even less understanding of the rules of English, and he also might have been cooking lunch or mowing his lawn or something, because he took for-ev-er to respond to my pleading requestions.

After reading the transcript of chat#844671, James told me to do the same thing Jordan suggested.
Me: I’ve already done that.
James: Re-read my directions. This is for the VirusScan Program not to scan the Microsoft program.
Me: I followed your directions. It takes different steps, but both you and Jordan instructed me to add Word.exe to my exceptions list. It’s there. I checked.
James: Is the problem fixed?
*I visualize a kid in an elevator here – you know the one that repeatedly presses the same button like that will make it travel faster*
Me: No.

James: I will send you instructions. You open up Wordpad or Notepad and copy them incase we get disconnected.
Me: Ready.
…. Long wait while James stirs his soup or clips his toe nails.
Me: All set! James?
James: *directions* including: Press the Firewalls and Security Options button on the left side of the screen.
Me: I don’t have that button.
James: Then do not press it.
Me: Um, done?
James: Please follow the directions to exit the program.
Me: Okay, I’ve exited the program.
James: I will send you direction to exit the program.
Me: It’s okay, I right clicked and exited. I don’t need directions.
James: *sends directions*
James: Let me know when you are ready to proceeds
Me: (wondering if he read my last messages and why James and Jordan both struggle with ‘proceed’ Are they really the same person? If I start a new chat, will I get John or Jacob or Joe?) All set. What next?
James: Does the problems still occur?
Me: *checks… chaotic block of text* YES.
James: The problem is not with our software. Contact Microsoft for assistance.

This is where I went into oh-no-no mode.

James: I recommend you uninstall the virus scan, system restore, reinstall.
Me: Will that fix the problem?
James: I will send you directions.

I uninstall.

Me: It says that I need to restart the system for the changes to take affect. Should I do this?
No answer.
Me: James? Also, last time I restarted, I had real problems logging back in. Will those be fixed?
Loooong pause. Perhaps James is walking his dogs. Maybe he could come walk the puggles, b/c they’re getting a little impatient with my crazed computer staring.
James: Proceeds to uninstall the virus scan.
Me: I did. It’s uninstalled. It says I need to restart.
James: Yes, restart.
Me: But what about the systems restore and reinstall?
James: Restart first. I will send you directions.
Me: So will this fix it?
James: Follow the directions.
Me: After I do the systems restore, it should be fixed, right? So then, when I reinstall, is it going to recreate the problem? Should I ‘exclude’ Word right away.
James: I do not recommend that.
Me: But last time, when I started a virus scan it messed up Word.
James: I recommend you try it first.
Me: And if it recreates the problem, I’d have to uninstall, restore the system, reinstall.
James: I recommend this.
Me: Is it worth the risk?
James: Yes.

Clearly, James is willing to play fast and loose with my files.

I save his directions. And restart…. you may have noticed that James never answered my question about whether or not I’d have problems logging-in. That was an artful dodge my tech-help friend. Crafty.

Log-in screen: “Unauthorized Changes have been Made to Windows”

Thus commenced a 45 minutes of a loop where I put in my password, it give me this message & restarted. Since I was out of macadamia nuts, I ate blueberries by the handful and paced. The puggles trailed me in my stress-induced game of follow the leader.

To switch things up, Huey began warning me that my version of Office may be counterfeit. No. It’s not. It’s the same version I had last night. The same version I’ve had for 2 years. Unless sneaky software bandits crept into my house between the hours of 3AM and 6AM, it’s authentic.

Finally! Success. And Word works too! Only, Huey tells me he has updates he needs to install and he wants me to restart…

40 more minutes of me pleading… really, it is authentic, I haven’t made unauthorized changes, I love you Huey, work with me… I’ll try not to abuse italics, I’ll use those special screen wipes you like… Sleep mode? You’ve got it!

Six and a half hours later, I’m back where I started: the same two files still don’t work. And my virus scan is now, not only out of date, but uninstalled.

I could reinstall it like James recommended… but then I’d have to restart.

*I do not want to identify the company for fear that they will send me ALL of their viruses, since surely they have plenty.

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