Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012>2011

2011 was a great year. Challenging, but great.

Here's to 2012! It's going to be great. I know it's going to be amazing. I know it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Alone at the Library

I'm working today. It's a ghost town. Aside from blogging and completing a few tasks that need to be taken care of before the students return next week, I'm shelving books and exploring the library.

Archived magazines.
Picture books.
The reference section on US History.
Biographies.
Global studies.
Cooking.

There are so many treasures to find. It's nice to be alone with time to search. I have a policy on days like this: Shelve a book, grab the one to the right and take a look. How else would I learn how they made the costumes for the original version of An American in Paris?


Just Finished: 101 Places Not to See Before You Die by Catherine Price
Currently Reading: Lyddie by Katherine Paterson
Up Next: Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Concussions

I have a great memory. Really solid. I'm not the Rain Man or anything, but I remember things many people don't. The strange part is, my memory used to be a lot better and, at another point in my life, a heck of a lot worse.

You may be confused. Let me go back.

Somewhere around 6th or 7th grade, I became very frustrated with school. I found most of my classes to be boring. I could remember the subject matter by listening in class and doing a little reading. I didn't like doing my homework. I could ace the tests without it. I was fine with this, but my parents and teachers weren't. My teachers tried to get me to realize that homework assignments were building up my study habits for the future. They were important. I still didn't really buy in. I had my memory to rely on.

As I got older and entered more challenging schools with much more demanding workloads, something else happened, too. Hockey was becoming much more physical, and I started playing football. I was taking serious hits. Many to the head. By my second year in college, I was finally able to admit that I was struggling mentally. My brain wasn't the same. Several concussions had clearly zapped my memory and made it harder for me to concentrate in class. It was difficult.

Fast forward a couple more years, through college and a stint in minor pro hockey. More contact. More head shots. A couple more concussions. That put me almost half-way to 30 with mush for brains. At least compared to what they were.

That was 2007, a very important year for three reasons. I stopped playing competitive hockey, I got engaged and married to my lovely wife, and I decided to write. I decided to really write. I decided to become a writer. With mush for brains.

Next, something amazing happened. My brain started working again. I was teaching, engaging with students on a daily basis. I was writing, trying my best to get my first novel-length story out of my system. And, I was resting my head. No more hits. It appeared that I got out of hockey at just the right time. Concussions are strange beasts. One attack too many, and it can be all over. I was lucky. The beast didn't claim me.

This fall, I started to feel really good about myself. Really strong. Some of my old, nagging sports injuries had died down, and I was getting the itch to play hockey again. I was communicating back and forth with a local single-A team, ready to fill in if they needed an extra guy due to injuries or suspensions. Then, another piece of luck struck me. The team folded. They went bankrupt right in the middle of the season. Done.

Why was that lucky for me you ask? Well, remember that beast named Concussion a couple paragraphs above? He's not a good guy. One more visit from him, and I could've been a vegetable. It sounds drastic, but it's true. You never know what the next concussion might bring. It's serious. I know for a fact that if I took another big hit that sent me back to feeling the way I did in the early to mid 2000's, I would never be able to write books. It just wouldn't happen. I wouldn't physically be able to do it.

Is it hard to swallow that I'm probably still good enough to play hockey at that level? Yes. It is hard. Part of me wants it. I feel good. I know I could play. But a much bigger part of me now knows what I could lose if I tried it: Everything. And that's just too much to risk.


For more info about concussions in hockey, please read this great article by Hall of Famer Ken Dryden: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7352942/waiting-science

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Break

I've finished another semester at VCFA. Hooray! What's amazing is that I'm learning things that I didn't even realize I didn't know. I'm able to look at a piece of writing (mine or otherwise), pinpoint what is and isn't working, and use that to inform future projects. I'm learning how to better articulate my ideas, and I'm learning to catch my mistakes before I even put them on the page. After all, a more skilled first draft leads to more focused learning and revision.

So, now I'm taking a little break. I'm still writing and reading, but I won't have any assignments due until February, when my thesis draft deadlines start to spring up. I'm very much looking forward to my next residency in mid January. I learn so much when I'm on campus, and I enjoy being with my great classmates. I miss them. It's hard to only converse through message boards and e-mail with people that you're sharing an experience with.

In more exciting news, I should be getting my next workshop packet to read this week. I can't wait. It's always so much fun to see what everyone else is writing. They are all so talented, and I'm lucky to be a part of such a wonderful community.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What's happening at the library?

I'm working at a high school library. Last week, we were going over some statistics that I thought would be interesting to share.

Top Titles This Year:

1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
3)Mockingjay by Susanne Collins
4)Crank by Ellen Hopkins
5)Graceling by Kristen Cashore
6)The Death Cure by James Dashner
7)Identical by Ellen Hopkins
8)The Maze Runner by James Dashner
9)The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
10)Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Many of the above authors' other books also get checked out, making them some of our students' favorite writers. Other favorite authors include: Michael Grant, Anthony Horowitz, Kody Keplinger, Stephen King, Christoher Paolini, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Rick Riordan, Veronica Roth, and Scott Westerfeld. And, thanks to my suggestions, M.T. Anderson, Ernest Cline, Alan Cumyn, and Neil Gaiman are climbing the charts.

Top Patrons This Year:
1)Junior Male
2)Freshman Female
3)Sophomore Female
4)Freshman Female
5)Senior Male
6)Freshman Female
7)Freshman Female
8)Sophomore Male
9)Sophomore Female
10)Freshman Female

The next five are all underclass females, but there are seven guys from #'s 16-25. I think it's a pretty good mix. It's interesting that there are no upperclass females in the top 40.

note: I only included fiction and nonfiction books when ranking top patrons. There are other students that check out textbooks, calculators, etc. that are using the library on a daily basis, but I wanted to focus on creative writing checkouts on this blog.

Monday, December 5, 2011

haiku for you

sticks and gloves and pucks

a frozen pond at twilight

blades slicing through ice