Annie’s Cottage

FeaturedAnnie’s Cottage

It isn’t every day that I drive past a house that literally leaps off the lot at me and demands that it be added to my current WIP (work in progress), but a few days ago, on my way home from a writing date with my dear friend and #PlotSister Jude, I simply had to drive back after I passed a little charcoal grey cottage on the west side of Far Hills Ave.

It’s an unassuming little cottage, with two front porches, a room with large windows separating them. My writer brain began to spin into action, “Annie would use the one room with an exterior door as her “office”…. perhaps she leaves that door unlocked, would her stalker boyfriend find her here in the woods?

Or, she turns on the electric kettle for her morning pour-over and walks across the sunlit wooden floors of the large front room to a comfy chair where she picks up the single wine glass on the table from the night before…

An excerpt:

“I have a good feeling about you, Annie Jacobs, I think you’re going to learn to love our small town of Danbree, Kentucky after all.” Sadie Campbell walked ahead of her up onto the porch of a small cabin.
Annie slowly nodded, so many thoughts swirled in her head, “I hope so, Mrs. Campbell, I really hope so,” She needed to make the new teaching job work; she needed this whole new life to work. She was leaving a trash heap scrap of a life back in Dayton, Ohio.
The older woman unlocked the door to the small house on Dowler Lane, the painted porch still smelled of fresh paint. A large window on the porch showed the simple furnishings inside, “Call me Sadie, dear, we aren’t so formal here in Danbree.”
Annie smiled and wiped her feet on the mat outside the front door, “this really is a charming place. I think we will all be quite at home here.” She set the cat carrier down near a chair in the front room, “I’ll let Abigail get a bit more used to the place before I let her out.”
Sadie walked her through the little house, talking about all the features, pointed to a sign with the Wi-Fi password, and said some other things that Annie did not make out; she was not here, not completely anyway, in body, yes, but her mind was really two hundred miles away in Dayton.

Back to the WIP, this book won’t write itself.

But in between the writing sessions, I will admit to indulging my imagination, fixing a cuppa something delish and sitting down to spill the tea with Annie about that old boyfriend…

An Octothorpe & an Ellipsis walked into a bar…

# and …

Seriously, that “hashtag” thing everyone (cooler than I am) is using to “tag” their Twitter and Instagram feeds is actually, seriously, called an Octothorpe. Here’s a link to my source on that (BTW,thanks, Oxford dictionary

True confession time: apparently, I overuse the octothorp in my texting, Facebooking, general writing. At least according to my kids, I do (you know I overheard you all talking at Grandmas house, and you are ALL in agreement, but no one wants to have “that weird conversation with Mom” #awkward, #dontmakemomcry, #whywontshestop)

And the ellipses . . .?

Again, thanks, Oxford Dictionary… but I’ll take it from here…. My own writing group The Plot Sisters has pointed out gently, patiently, calmly… that I overuse THAT particular bit of punctuation in my fiction-writing.

So, what am I? Some sort of punctuation slaphappy slob?

Bordering on illiteracy?

Do I throw punctuation rules out  the window like uncooked fish at the end of a long weekend? Am I insensitive to the nuances of the octothorp? Irreverent with its purposeful use in the world of coding, dismissive of its actual role in sorting all of the shit out there in Tw!tterland? And the ellipsis point? The set of ellipses… three of them, like my children, obediently marching in a line . . .  #wonderingwhowilltellmom, #rockpaperscissoranyone?

I’m at an impasse … #conundrum.

Until I stopped for a moment and gave pause to the cause. I, like millions (OK, maybe only thousands) of Octothorp-Offenders use the # for the simple fact that it makes you notice what we have said. It turns a phrase into a clever joke, #dontwant2misreadanything. #busyfeelingcool. #relevant. Ah yes. Relevant. 

The bane of growing older in our plentiful American society is “relevance.” I’m guilty, I’ve shifted a glance to the younger set, to see what is coming next? What’s new? What’s cool? I’ve set aside that which was perfectly fine, for what is perfectly new. Perhaps I should spend this next year re-thinking that strategy? Instead of hash-tagging something sassy and bold, I’ll just say it! Or write it! Least of all, tag it.

And, about that other problem of mine . . . my Emphatic Ellipses. I tend to use them to slow things down.

The pacing of a story. . .

I’m buying time . . .

I don’t know what to say . . .

Gah! There I’ve said it out loud. I use the . . . when I don’t know what the Hell to write next, and I’m stuck. So, I trail off and slip off of the page for a moment. Only problem is, I tend to put my reader to sleep. So, I need to cool it in my writing. 

It’s T minus 15, Folks, I’m finishing this blog post, and looking down the barrel of 2016. Time to put the punctuated foibles and faux pas of 2015 to bed and dare to do better in Sweet 16.

Be better.

Be Relevant on my own terms. No Octothorp needed.

Time to finish the damn book, too. Period.

I’ll catch you on the flip side, Folks.

Happy New Year!

Be your best you ever, on your own terms.

I’m a PhDropout…

Reading on the 11th day of ChristmasSo, somewhere during either one of my Qualitative Research classes, or before finishing a Seagram’s 7-7 at the local blues pub, I decided to drop out of my PhD cohort. Oh, I still wanted to publish,  all right. The word count wasn’t even a reason, I LOVE writing…just not a thesis…. with a review board and a dissertation chair…

I wanted to publish and be read at  the BIG bookstores….and the INDEPENDENT bookstores…. and at YOUR house, and MY neighbor’s house, and the LOCAL coffee shop….I wanted it all.

So, before the ice melted in that drink, I had decided to close off the part of my brain storing how to clinically observe, and I let the part that observes the story begin to write…

This blog is where I go when I need to stretch in a different direction. It may at some point contain a scrap I’m actually writing…but probably not much, since the current advice from agents and publishers is that they don’t want freebie versions of our work floating around on the Internet.

I get that. Thanks for reading.

It’s raining and I’m thinking of Socrates…..

Socrates-@ the Louvre, Paris France What would Socrates do if he were to time travel to our time coordinates on the Universal Continuum?

Especially if it were raining, and he were sitting here in my living room as I attempt to clarify my thoughts about   the man. Socrates, this grumpy toga-wrapped 70-year-old man, the curmudgeon, the gadfly, the “wisest man in all of Athens”…. what might he talk to me about??(assuming that time travel also allows for instantaneous linguistic skill and fluency….)

I would tell him I am on a quest of sorts to discover the qualities that make an excellent leader. I would clarify and say, that I’m specifically thinking of leadership in the realm of education, but that I do believe the qualities of a just and moral leader would prevail in any group or classification  of leadership. And I would ask him to talk to me, to tell me what drives his thinking, and what thoughts he is thinking even now? …the following is how I would imagine that conversation might go…

He would look at me, I’m sure, puzzled and ask about this institution known as “Education”?  He would most likely be suspicious of it. The Sophists of his day who  were paid for their services, and delivered a polished rhetorical  product, “a great mind” who was able to speak on the classic topics of the day, but who were not, according to Socrates,  creating a thinker or great mind as much as they were polishing a field stone into a smooth talker. The edges were rounder, but the depth would be  finite.

Socrates, as a leader among Thinkers, did not seem to believe that the result, the last thought, was ever really final. The depth of  that thought as well as the next, and the next was dynamic and fluid; a person (man in his day, but we’re going to forgive the sexism of the times-it is after all my blog) need only have the willingness to admit that s/he does not know it all, and the openness to dig deep within one’s own imaginings and THINK of possibilities, and the connections to be made. He did not fear the unknown, or the question of “why?” If those depending on a leader know that the status quo, the ipso facto, the because things have always been done this way, “…in the past…” are not statements which will be accepted, that the Socratic leader will truly want to know “why” they will have to come to the plate with more than the status quo in hand.

As a leader, in whatever field, Socrates would struggle with our American “time-management conundrum.” He  would not have a planner to write his appointments and commitments. Since he rarely thought in terms of the future in a specific, time-based sense.He might like to have an iPod, or a laptop upon which to journal or blog. I’m guessing he might also  enjoy an iPhone a lot, especially one with web-browsing capabilities. No sooner would he have picked up a Wi-Fi signal that he could begin the discussion, he could Skype with people all over the world. He could post his thoughts on his iGoogle, or whatever web page and would have 24/7 contact with people from all over the world who would want to talk, and question  him. I believe he would probably become fully saturated with questions and conversations. I contend that he was wired to handle a much longer and deeper level of communication than his contemporaries. He thought beyond the “what I need to know to get through the day”.

Socrates thought to live. Ironically, his thinking contributed to  his death.

This Socrates, this man who irritated his contemporaries, who challenged the presiding thoughts of the day, and who inspired others to write about him for future generations definitely typifies some of the characteristics of  a good leader.

A leader must:

  1. Think, think  actively, and think often.
  2. Question everything going on around you. Favorite question to ask is “why?”
  3. Do not accept an answer you do not believe to be whole and true.
  4. Do not lie, to do so would be to cut your own throat.

The Socratic Leader in education, would struggle with Federal grants, and state-mandated timetables. There is a practical side to education wherein we find that while we must not get too caught up in the details, we do still have to pay the light bill  and buy the supplies to run the school. A Socratic model is not the ideal model in Education, unless one is focusing upon the teacher as leader. In this capacity the teacher who actually converses with a student, who challenges their thought process and who gets them to bring their thoughts to fruition has done no small thing. This openness to other thoughts, as opposed to the delivery of information system of so many teachers, is how connections and trust form between the student and teacher. A student who feels trusted, or valued, in a word respected will reach to fill his or her potential. Because in Socrates’ eyes the potential is never fully experienced, and the child will always continue to reach.

I had a poster in my classroom once, that said

Reach for the moon, if you miss,  you’ll still land among the stars!

Socrates as a leader would encourage his charges to reach! Whether they were teachers on faculty, or the students in his room, I contend that he would encourage each to reach, to think, and to ponder the possibilities.

The Socratic Leader will need a strong administrative assistant to corral the details, the appointments, the lists, the schedules and specifics of the school day;  but s/he would certainly do much to expand the creativity of the young minds who remain dependent on the quality of the leadership at hand.