Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Resolutions for 2017

Tonight we put that terrible toddler of a year 2016 to bed.

Ugh, 2016... *shudder*

But I think 2017 is going to be awesome. Right? Right?!!!

I am a big believer in New Year's Resolutions. I don't complete all of them, but on average I'd say I accomplish about 80% of my goals. For example, last year I proposed that I would take more photographs -- which I did not do. (I failed that one for the second year in a row.) But I did fulfill an important one: draw more pictures. I did that, and then some.

So, here's my new list:

1) Take more photos (photographs at least twice a week)

2) Write / sell a new picture book

3) Generate idea for next big project (finish at least 25% of it)

4) Work on a creative project with my daughters (a YouTube channel and/or Podcast)

5) Show my appreciation more often / strengthen relationships and communication

6) Oh, and let's say for #6 I plan to lose six pounds... scratch that, I just weighed myself... make that ten pounds! After all, what's a New Year's Resolution list witout something about health?

What are your resolutions?

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Goodbye, Princess Leia

Carrie Fisher died yesterday morning. That news hit me hard, especially since it had been reported that she was in stable condition following her heart attack. I thought that she would pull through and survive 2016. Alas, this dreadful year has taken away yet another one of my favorite icons.

If I sound like a petulant child that has lost his toy, that's not too far off. I admit that my grief over Carrie Fisher is incredibly selfish. I'm really mourning the loss of Princess Leia, a main character in a movie series that is more than a movie series to me... It's my go-to happy place that has been evolving in my imagination since childhood.

I was so ecstatic to see the characters return in The Force Awakens. I can't wait to see wait happens in Episodes eight and nine. I don't know if the Princess, pardon me I mean, if the General has a role in the upcoming films, but I am angry that Mr. Death has thrown off the storyline. I am angry that the Grim Reaper has robbed our planet a great actress and a great woman who was still writing, performing, and creating.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"Christmas had come. Officially."

That's a line for the classic holiday comedy, "A Christmas Story."

It's the scene near the end of the movie when Ralphie and his brother are ripping through their presents. The narrator, the incomparable Jean Sheppard, describes it as, "We plunged into the cornucopia." Did you have that kind of Christmas when you were a kid? I'm lucky to say that I did. My parents didn't have a lot of money, but they made sure our stocking were full (even if those stocking stuffers included oranges, walnuts, and the occasional toothbrush). Presents aren't the best way to show love and affection, but they do make you feel special, don't they?

Even as a 45-year-old, I still love to tear into the gift wrapping. Even before that, I love just holding the present, feeling its weight, wondering what's inside... And perhaps wondering if this is one that Santa brought on his sleigh.

I hope your day was merry and bright, and that you got everything on your Christmas list. And if not, there's always next year! (But don't forget to check in the corner, behind the couch, maybe your Red Rider B-B Gun is waiting for you.)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Wonder of Capra's "Wonderful Life"

Hope the holidays are treating you well, dear reader.

This darn cold knocked me for a loop, and I spent at least a week feeling all clogged up and useless. Fortunately, I'm better now. But then, of course, since it's the end of the school year, I've got lots of papers to grade. Bleah!

But good stuff has been happening too. My family has been watching a lot of Christmas movies, including my personal favorite: It's a Wonderful Life.  So many awesome moments in that film. It might be the best screenplay of all time.

And how can you not love this guy's face???

Like a lot of people, I need this movie to remind me of how grateful I should be for everything and everyone in my life. Sometimes we feel stuck, just like George Bailey. We feel like we aren't supposed to be where we are, and that makes us angry. We want to blame everybody else for our problems. We want to rage and howl at the universe. Just like this guy:

If we roll around in that anger long enough, we start to hate other people, and (just as bad if not worse) we start to hate ourselves. That's when we might become this guy: 

And we don't want to end up like mean Mr. Potter, do we? Sure, in the alternate universe he does create Pottersville, a thriving artistic community with lots of dance halls and jazz musicians, but aside from that vibrant metropolis, what else does he have? Nothing. No one. He's nothing but a "scurvy little spider," and he knows it. So, it might be tempting to get mad and shake our dumb Uncle Billy like a rag doll... 

But it's not going to solve anything. So... What do we do?

We get humble and we get sad. But not just, oh I am going to throw a pity-party kind of sadness... I'm talking about end-of-your-rope, Let-go-let-God sadness. The kind of sadness that says, "Hey Universe, I apologize for all the raging and howling I did earlier. I now realize that I'm a little speck "in the whole vast configuration of things." And that's probably when we ask for help. I'm not religious in the traditional sense but I'm a spiritual, willfully foolish Romantic (with a capital R) in many ways, and sometimes I believe that when we get to our lowest point we open ourselves up to genuinely ask for help from the universe (or God or society or whatever you believe in). 

And you know what? Sometimes we are heard... By the universe...

Or perhaps by our guardian angel... 

But we don't always need divine intervention or a shift in the space-time continuum in order to be saved... Sometimes we are spiritually rescued by... our family... 

... and our friends...

...or by a good book... 

...or a loyal squirrel... 

It's a Wonderful Life has been revitalizing of our sense of humanity for over 70 years. Even the film itself is a reflection of George Bailey's struggles. When it was first released in 1946 it was a box office disappointment, and it wasn't until its annual television broadcast around Christmas time that we began to truly (and communally) cherish this American classic. And thank goodness, because every time I watch the story of George Bailey I take away a new lesson that sets the tone for the New Year. 

This year, my lesson goes against the old adage "Dance like no one is watching." Instead, I am going to take a cue from George Bailey and... 

I'm gonna dance everybody's watching me skip to the edge of a freakin' swimming pool!

Happy holidays, everybody!  Don't be afraid to jump in! 


Friday, December 2, 2016

"Twelve Angry Pigs" Goes to College

Here's a photo from a recent performance of "Twelve Angry Pigs" at South Western Oklahoma State College. It looks like they've done an excellent job of my little show (that's big on ham).

The staging looks awesome! This is a show that I have offered royalty-free for about eight years, and since that time it has been performed by schools and little theaters all over the globe.

Congrats to the students of SWOSC!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Well, Crap... I'm Sick...

Normally I don't get unwell enough to call in sick at work. However, when I woke up at 5am, started walking toward the shower, my body told it that I need to crawl back into bed.

So that's exactly what I've done. I've tried to stay somewhat productive, catching up on Tech Review before tomorrow's meeting. But for the most part, I have a feeling I'll be spending the day in a state of zombie-hood. (On the plus side, I am certain that my students were delighted to skip class.)

Stay hydrated, everybody!

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Very Buggy Book

Productive morning. I was showered and out of bed by 8am, and then put up the Christmas lights by 10am. (We won't know until it gets dark whether or not I did a good job.)

Cheri made more Chex Mix (the second batch of the season.)

My eldest daughter is hard at work on her Literature paper.

My youngest daughter is currently watching "A Nightmare Before Christmas" -- but she's also working on her painting for Art Class.

I just finished the revision of my bug-themed picture book. I don't know if it's good yet, but I do know that it's much better than the first draft.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving - 2016

I am wishing all of my friends and family the happiest of Thanksgiving. Now the holiday season is truly underway, isn't it?

I am working on a Thankfulness blog post, but I'm too sleepy to complete it this evening. Blame it on the tryptophan.

Before we drove to Orange County to feast with our friends, I did manage to do some creative work. My new goal is to do creative work every single day-- even if it's a work day. I'll use the blog to keep myself honest. Today's work involved a revision of my bug picture book. It's about halfway done.

We watched Moana. Disney might be a vast media empire, but they still know how to bring to life beautiful music, stories, and artistry.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Back in the Creative Saddle (Again)


Survived a couple weeks without any family catastrophes. Let's keep this low-conflict November going, shall we?

The scorched landscape of California has finally relented to Autumn. It must be a chilly 68 degrees outside! Yes, it's Sweater Weather for Los Angelinos. It even rained yesterday. I'm going to savor this coolness while it lasts. All too soon, Summer will be sweeping through the valley -- and that's when I'll fly off to Washington state.

For the most part, aside from dealing with the little struggles mentioned in "The Ugly List" blogpost, I have spent the last month working on back-to-back shows: Around the World in 80 Days at the Canyon Theatre Guild, and our troupe's debut with our original play, Change the Station. I didn't have much physical or creative energy to spare for either production, so I was very dependent upon others -- and I'm grateful for everyone who led the way on each project.

What else have I been doing? I have been grading tons and tons of essays. But the good news is I am done with that mountain of paperwork... But I finally finished them. Thank goodness I didn't wind up like this guy:

Now that I will have some spare time between now and Dec 15th (when final exams come rolling in), I really owe it to myself to get back in the saddle and get creative again.

I think I'll start by revising a picture book I developed over the summer. It needs a better second act and a bit more sympathy for the protagonist.  Wish me luck.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Change the Station - World Premiere

Three amazing weekends have come and gone. Our radio play, CHANGE THE STATION, debuted on Nov. 4th... And eight performances later, our production is over. It's in the can! Hard to believe.

Our producer, Randy Aronson, and our director (and co-author) Christopher Flowers worked their collective butts of, and they weren't the only ones. A lot of people came together to make this happen, and I am grateful for everyone of them. I'm also thankful that we had wonderful audiences. I wasn't sure if anyone besides relatives would bother showing up! If you are reading this and you were able to watch our show, thank you. Thank you so much for being there.

I posted some photos on my Tumblr page. I'll post some here too, but probably tomorrow. For now, I am tired. Tired but happy.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Ugly List

I keep saying it, but I'll say it again: Fall 2016 has been a real Mother-Trucker.

A lot of ugly, annoying, frustrating, and generally scaring things have been going on, and I don't just mean the election.

Let me try to condense it down into a concise list which will be known as The Ugly List:

1) Publishers rejected my graphic novel (mainly because of the artwork)

2) My wife woke up in the middle of the night feeling like she was in the middle of a heart attack

3) The medical emergency turned out to be gall bladder trouble (which would lead to two ER visits and eventually a surgical operation)

4) The martial arts studio -- an oasis for my daughters -- is going through a lot of turmoil. It's a family business, and now some family drama has led to the termination of one of their beloved instructors. His has caused a lot of heartbreak for my girls.

5) Worst of all: a family member's mental illness took a drastic turn. We tried to get help from many different places, and kept running into dead ends and wrong turns. Finally, we turned again to the emergency room to make sure this person was safe. (Seven days later, this person was released -- and is fortunately getting better each day.)

6) The fear that things won't get better.

7) Emily's birthday was in the middle of all this drama -- so, that must've sucked for her.

8) Mackenzie got bit by our dog while she tried to save a lizard. We rushed her to an urgent care facility, but they didn't have an Xray. (She thought her hand was broken.) So, it was yet another trip to the ER.

9) Oh, during one of those hospital visits, I got a parking ticket for $68 but that seems trivial.

10) We thought we would be welcoming a new niece and nephew into our family, but now it seems the birth mother has changed her mind and our dear friends may not be adopting twins after all. (keep your fingers crossed that there is still hope for them.)

Of course, things could be a lot worse. I am thankful that my loved ones are still alive and doing well. I am also thankful that I have a meaningful that provides good health insurance. Maybe next blog post I'll create a Gratitude List.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day Blues

Does anyone else have a headache from this election season?

I'm voting for Hillary. The idea of Trump being president makes me miserable. However, even if Clinton does win, I'm wondering if her opponents will drag her down into the mire because of various scandals (which may or may not be true and relevant).

I'm trying hard to live in the moment, the now, to not dread the unforeseen.

It's not easy to do.

Friday, November 4, 2016

We're Not Broken

 Here's a song that always makes me feel better. 



Thursday, November 3, 2016

Healing and Trasnformation

Has it been a week since my last blog post? It feels like a month.

During the last seven days I have experienced some of the most emotionally challenging decisions in my life as a parent.

Again, I'm not at liberty to reveal any details. Ultimately, it's not my story to tell. I am just a supporting character in a story about love, laughter, fear, freedom, inner conflict, confusion, mental health, and spiritual well-being. And the story isn't over. I don't know if it has a happy ending. Does anyone's story? I hope so.

But I do know, this chapter is over, and the last lines on the page are words of joy.

For me, and my family, today is a much better day than seven days ago. I hope yours is too. Hang in there, dear readers. May your world be turning in the right direction as well.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thank You, Friends

"What would you say if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me? Well, lend me your ear and I'll sing you a song, and I'll try to sing out of key."

Thanks to everyone who has been sending out positive thoughts. Your good vibes, positive energy, and delicious cupcakes are helpful and much appreciated. 

I know some of my recent blog posts (such as "Feeling Broken" and "Holding Patterns") have been vague and mysterious. Sometime soon, I'll probably go into more detail -- but for now I'll say that nothing tragic or earth shattering has happened. Sometimes the future is just a little scary -- but I think good things will be happening... gradually, at least.

So, thank you friends -- the ones in my life and the ones who quietly read this blog and send out good thoughts. I've always been incompetent at friendship, so any positivity that heads my way is a pleasant surprise, an undeserved gift, one that is graciously accepted.

"It's getting better all the time." -- The Beatles

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Holding Patterns

"This is Flight 045, piloted by Capt. Wade, reporting on the current situation: we are in a holding pattern. Repeat. A holding pattern."

This is how I've been feeling lately. We're waiting to see what happens. We're waiting for good news and bracing for bad news. We're crossing our fingers, saying a prayer to whoever might listen, holding onto a lucky charm, leaning forward into the crash position, just in case.

In the meantime, we're going about our business. Waiting in traffic.. Wading through essays. Revising. Rehearsing. Reviving my creative spirit... Or at least trying to avoid smashing into the proverbial writer's block.

Think happy thoughts people, and hope that we'll get through this turbulence together.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Coming Soon: Change the Station

The world premiere of our new play... 

Brought to you by The Big Sandwich Theatre Company!

If you live in Southern California, you don't want to miss this 
wonderful comedy about the golden age of Radio.

Opens November 4th, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Living in Grown-Up Land

I'm sitting in the middle of a meeting, nodding my head, feigning maturity. Do you ever feel like you are a ten year old who has been disguised as an adult for the last thirty five years?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Things Feel Broken


This hasn't been an easy Fall.

I'm good, but there's a lot of stuff going on with the people I love.

This really isn't the forum to expand on details and get uber-personal, but I'll just say that I hope everyone out there is doing their best and that we're all sharing love and compassion to help others get through the darkness.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Working Routine

This is the time of year when I get into a rut. And as I have said before, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Ruts are routines, and routines can be very comforting. Ruts feel a lot better than chaos, a lot better than the unknown, at least for those of us who prefer our comfort zone. (Hey, that rhymes!)

So, I have spent the last three weeks buried in essays. I just dug myself out -- though I still have some quizzes to grade. In addition to grading papers, I've also been juggling other work responsibilities. I was evaluated this semester, and I serve on a tenure committee, an evaluation committee, and of course the curriculum committee. Lots of work stuff going on -- and I feel proud to belong to a place like Moorpark College, it's truly a beautiful campus and a beautiful learning community.

My working routine, however, seems to have squeezed out my creative routine. Other than a few doodles here and there, I haven't been producing much. (I'm not keeping up with this blog, either!)

Part of it might be that I have been holding my breath, waiting for responses from Duck Town. (I believe I have received six rejections -- and there are still eight more places that have yet to decide.) I did send a new story to my agent, just to start thinking about what's next -- but I feel like my creative life is on hold until I carve out more free time (which seems very difficult right now) or until I become so super-inspired by a new project that I shove other stuff aside. (And then my working routine will be thrown out the window!)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Turning Reality Into Literary Magic

Just wanted to write a quick note about my English 1A students. They continue to amaze me. Usually the first essay I assign in class is a narrative essay about a person they respect (someone who embodies wisdom, compassion, or courage). I've read a lot of compelling essays based upon that assignment, but I noticed over the last few semesters that the students were becoming more focused on listening and recording the narratives of others, and not sharing their thoughts and opinions.

Years ago I use to assign autobiographical essays, but I stopped doing that because many students claimed they didn't have anything relevant to say. However, looking back I think it may have been that their teacher (yours truly) just didn't give them the right inspiration.

This semester I asked the students to write an essay inspired by this phrase:

"We can do this the hard way or the easy way." And I asked them, what life lesson did you learn the hard way.

Turns out, every student has a story about this. (At least they do in my classes.) And some of them have created something that's far beyond a typical homework assignment. I'm so grateful that so many of my students are already pushing themselves this semester. Hopefully, they'll take what they've learned about narratives and apply it to their argument essays.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

October Begins

Yesterday was October 1st, and I am happy to report that temperatures have gone down into the high 80s -- which means it's time for us southern Californians to put on a sweater.

I'd like to return to blogging (or at least journaling) on a more regular basis. This blog doesn't really gain many followers or readers -- but I do like using it to record the days. I do this in an old fashioned journal too -- and in there I'm much more personal -- but I rather like this forum because I know that there's a slight chance I'll connect with others.

So, what did we do with our Saturday?

We had a matinee performance of "Around the World in 80 Days." (About 70 people in the audience, small but appreciative.)

Some of the cast and crew went to the Food Court at the mall. I devoured a Pepperoni Cheese Steak sandwich.

Aside from that, the rest of my day consisted of grading papers. It's the price I pay for having an otherwise awesome career.

How is your October going?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

It's Quiet Here... Too Quiet...

So the Duck Town editor tally has remained the same for over a week:

The graphic novel was sent to 14 editors.

Four editors have passed on the project. Ten editors have yet to respond.

I am not sure what to make of the quiet. In the past, when my agent submitted my picture book manuscripts, most of the responses arrived within two to three weeks. Perhaps in this case the slow responses are due to the length of Duck Town? It might be as simple as that. Longer works have a longer response time.

There could also be a more negative reason: the editors do not respond well to the art and/or story, and so they don't even want to bother with a rejection letter.  Or, there could be a more positive reason: The graphic novel has won the editor's heart, and now she's showing it to her marketing team, and art directors, and publishers -- and they are trying to decide how many zeroes to put on my first advance.

I can dream, can't I?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Around the World in 80 Days - Opening Weekend

Our premier of Around the World in 80 Days was a success. It wasn't perfect (what community theater production is, right?) but it was an absolute pleasure to hear the audience respond positively to the hard work of the cast and crew.

Here's a promotional photo featuring our Philea Fogg (AKA Samual Novak). It definitely captures the spirit of our production:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Waddling through Rejection

As you can see -- the blog posts have slowed down to a crawl since the summer ended.

I've been back to work, teaching up a storm, not to mention attending meetings, and sifting through papers with my purple pen.

We are in the home stretch of rehearsals for AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. Our first show is this Saturday!

And rehearsals for the Radio Play (which is now called CHANGE THE STATION) are just in their infancy stages.

But the thing I've been most focused upon is MY GRAPHIC NOVEL... I have been (im)patiently waiting for responses from editors. My awesome agent sent Ducktown into the world on August 31st. It went out to 14 places. So far, we have received four rejections. They are all friendly rejections -- one in particular said a lot of very nice things about the plot of my graphic novel. However, the rejections share a common theme: They are not in love with the illustrations. It might turn out that my little drawings are too amateurish to make it past the gate-keepers.

My wife recently said, "You deal with rejection letters all the time. Why are these ones different?" And I guess the answer is, I'm really in love with these characters I have created... and I'm going to be sad if my fledgling skills as an illustrator prevent the story from being shared with others.

So, there's a very strong possibility that the 10 remaining editors will pass on this project, and Rainbow's story will go into the drawer with some of my other beloved novels that haven't found an audience yet. I've made peace with that possibility. There's a chance that, if this round of editors don't connect strongly enough with the story to overlook the visual flaws, maybe in the future, when my picture books become a big hit, I'll have stronger connections with publishers...

But perhaps I should be thinking more positively about Plan A instead of already emotionally resorting to Plan B. Ducktown still has a chance. Keep your feathers cross.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day Weekend in a Nut Shell

We built sets and props for "Around the World in 80 Days."

Cheri and I watched four episodes of "Game of Thrones" season two.

I graded a stack of in-class essays.

Mackenzie traveled with friends to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.

Emily is hard at work at algebra, and takes SNL breaks between problems.

"Duck Town" Update: Haven't heard anything from my agent. No news is good news, at this point. If an editor replied on Thursday or Friday, it probably would have been another rejection, similar to the one I received last week.

I am feeling positive and curious about what will happen next. "Duck Town" has twelve chances to connect with publishers. It might not pass the gatekeepers and waddle into bookstores, but right now, at this moment, the future is wonderfully unknown.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Duck Town" -- Preparing for Lift Off

It happened yesterday.

My agent (aka the coolest person in the publishing business) completed her submissions list and sent "Duck Town" out into the world.

As we speak, my little graphic novel is waiting to appear on someone's computer, laptop, or iPad -- and hopefully the tale of Rainbow and her family will win their heart.

Now only time will time whether "Duck Town" finds a home. I did my best, now the book needs to find its own nest.

 "Duck Town" has been submitted to 13 editors. And 13 has been my lucky number ever since my daughter was born on Friday the Thirteenth. We will probably know within two weeks... Maybe sooner -- which is kinda terrifying.

For example, Abi has already received her first response. It was a "NO." (A nice, friendly "no," but still a "no" is a "no.") The reason was simple: the art style. So, that could be a big stumbling block. I'm the first to admit my drawings don't compare with the true masters children's book illustration. Still, I have hope that someone will look beyond the simple drawings and find a story worth sharing.

Keep your feathers crossed.

A Busy Fall Semester

There's been a lot of stuff happening the past seven days, and time has gone by so fast I haven't been able to blog about it...

For the most part, I have been busy with school. The new semester is cruising along -- a lot of great students, good writers and critical thinkers.

My classes are a bit more crowded than I would prefer because I added all of the waitlist students.

It's also going to be a busy semester because of some administrative duties: curriculum, tech review, tenure committee, a hiring committee for a new English instructor, and in September I'm going to be evaluated by my colleagues, as well as the new dean.

Then, there's my girls... Emily is taking an art class and an algebra class in college. Mackenzie is taking a PolySci class and a literature class. Plus, they've git added duties at karate because they are training the younger students.

Then, there's theater stuff. Chris Flowers and I are still developing the script for our old time radio comedy. We will be having our first table read (with multiple cast members) this week.

Around the World in 80 Days is going well. The cast is very sharp, and this week we are starting to put some of the tables, chairs and set pieces into the mix.

That's been my life in a generalized nutshell. Trying to think... What else has been going on... ?

We watched "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" at the Canyon Theatre Guild. A full house. The audience gave them a well deserved standing ovation. That's about all of the leisure time I recall this week.. I've hardly been watching anything, just too busy I guess. I have been watching some of Louis CK's stand -up comedy. It seems when I watch him for an hour or so, I start at act and talk he does, at least in my own pathetic way. It's weird how the media can rub off on you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"A & P" by John Updike

Tomorrow, our class will be discussing the oft-anthologized short story: "A & P."

Lots of students find this story interesting and amusing. Some students hate it -- or just don't get the point.

To me, this story resonates because I freshly remember those days of working in retail, working with customers and idiotic co-workers, ringing people up, and listening to complaints. Some of those teenage jobs were more wonderful than horrible -- such as working at the movie theater or working at Disneyland. All of my jobs during my young adulthood were bearable -- with the exception of one.

There was one job in which my employer was verbally abusive. She called me "dead brain" from time to time. She claimed that her ten year old son had a higher level of maturity (and to be fair, perhaps she was correct -- but she didn't have to be so mean about it.)

After six months of working for her, she decided I wasn't competent enough to deserve 8 dollars an hour, so she was going to dock my pay down to $6.50. When she told me that, I took my lunch break and then I never returned.

Have you ever walked away from a job? (Or have you ever wanted to?) What's the worst you ever felt while at work?

Oh, and if you are interested, here is the link to John Updike's "A & P." 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

English 1B - Schedule (Fall 2016)

Spent most of my Saturday finalizing the Reading / Assignment schedule... Here it is!

English 1B – Course Schedule

Aug. 22nd (Mon): Discuss online stories:
             “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
            In Class Reading: "The Story of an Hour" (98-101)

Aug. 24th (Wed): Discuss: “A&P” STORIES (460-467)
            Hero Character Workshop (Bring in an example of a hero character.)

Aug. 29th (Mon):  Discuss: “A Rose for Emily” STORIES (133-143)
            Discuss: “I’m a Mad Dog Biting Myself for Sympathy” STORIES (126-133)
            Workshop: Psychological Criticism

Aug. 31st (Wed): Discuss: "The Yellow Wallpaper" (STORIES) (150-167)
            Discuss “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck (STORIES) (448-458)
            Workshop: Feminist Theory in Literature

Sept. 5th (Mon): NO SCHOOL (Labor Day)

Sept. 7th (Wed): Discuss: “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka (STORIES) (218-228)
            Discuss “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (STORIES) (143-150)
            Magic Realism Workshop

Sept. 12th (Mon): Fiction Mini-Exam
            Discuss: "Winky" (STORIES) (423-437)
            Peer Review: Bring Draft of Short Story Analysis
Sept. 14th (Wed): Antagonist Workshop
            Bring in discussions notes / example of a villain from literature or film.
            Discuss: “A Cask of Amontillado” (STORIES) (390 - 397)
            Discuss: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
                        (STORIES) (316-333)

Sept. 19th (Mon): Short Story Analysis Due
            In Class Reading: "Trifles" (PLAYS)

Sept. 21st (Wed): Mid Term Preparation    
            Discuss "Uncle Ben's Choice" (STORIES) (3-8)
            Discuss "The Swimmer" (STORIES)

Sept. 26th (Mon):  Mid Term – Short Answer Essays

Sept. 28th (Wed): Poetry Overview / Bring Poetry Textbooks
            In class Reading: Billy Collins poems (POEMS) (64-69)
Oct. 3rd (Mon): Classic American Poetry
            Discuss Robert Frost: (POEMS) (119-124)
            Discuss Emily Dickinson (POEMS) (80-84)
            Discuss Langston Hughes (POEMS) (170-173)

Oct. 5th (Wed): Poetry and Art
            Discuss William Blake Poems (POEMS) (31-34)
            Discuss Edgar Allen Poe (POEMS) (248-253)
Oct. 10th (Mon): Workshop: What Makes a Sonnet?
            William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18"(POEMS) (276)
            John Keats’ “When I Have Fears” (POEMS) (181)
            Thomas Hardy’s “Hap” (POEMS) (135)
            Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover” (POEMS) (161)

Oct. 12th (Wed): Poetry Mini-Exam
            Poetry Workshop -- Part One

Oct. 17th (Mon):  Poetry Workshop -- Part Two
            Bring an introduction / thesis statement of your Poetry Essay

Oct. 19th (Wed): Poet / Author Seminar #1

Oct. 24th (Mon): Poet / Author Seminar #2  

Oct. 26th (Wed): Peer Review - Bring Draft of your Poetry Essay

Oct. 31st (Mon): Discuss: "Young Goodman Brown" (STORIES) (167-180)
            Halloween -- Bring a creepy story / poem to share with the class.
            Creative Writing / Flash Fiction Workshop
Nov. 2nd (Wed): Poetry Essay Due
            Watch Film: The Importance of Being Earnest

Nov. 7th (Mon): Workshop -- Creative Writing Activity / Playwriting

Nov. 9th (Wed): Discuss Act One and Act Two of A Doll's House

Nov. 14th (Mon): Discuss Act Three of A Doll's House

Nov. 16th (Wed): Read the first 30 pages (or more) of one of the following plays:
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • Oedipus the King
  • Death of a Salesman
  • Fences
  • Wit
Nov. 21st (Mon): Finish reading one of the above plays of your own selection.
            Group discussions or plays
            Workshop: Combining Literary Criticism with Biographic Research
Nov. 23rd (Wed): Outlining / Essay Development Workshop

Nov. 28th (Mon): Final Prep: Discuss “Cathedral” (STORIES) (61-76)
            "Everyday Use" (STORIES) (469-478)

Nov. 30th (Wed): Final Prep Part Two: Discuss "Hills Like White Elephants"     (STORIES) (180-186)
            Discuss: "The Things They Carried" (STORIES) (333-351)

Dec. 5th (Mon) Peer Review - Bring Draft of your Drama Analysis Essay

Dec. 7th (Wed): Final Prep Part Three: Discuss "The Gift of the Magi"
            MLA Check -- Bring your latest draft of your essay.
            Discuss Handout: Short Answer Essay Questions for the Final

Dec. 12th (Mon): Final In-Class Essay
            Drama Analysis Essay Due

Today's Creative Projects: 

Do gardening and yard work count as creative? If so, I was creative for about an hour this morning. 

I'm also planning out some of the scenes from the tail end of Act One for "Around the World in 80 Days." 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Developing a New Schedule

Hey, English 1B students, if you need the links for the short stories, here they are:

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace"

Today was Day 2 of Fall semester, 2016 edition. I'm teaching only one class on Tuesday and Thursdays -- so when I don't have a meeting, it's going to be a rather light day.

Our English 1A textbook this semester is the Third Edition of The Seagull Reader: Essays.

You can order it new on Amazon for $31... Not bad. I'm sure it can be a bit cheaper if it's used... but remember, sometimes when you order the used books on Amazon, they send you to another merchant -- and sometimes they take weeks and weeks to ship their order. 

The book is still relatively new to me. This is my second semester since its publication, so I'm still testing out some of the new articles. I'll have a brand new reading schedule by the end of the weekend. 

Today's Creative Projects:

I figured out how to compress my PDF files so all of the chapters can be contained in a single file (only 78 MB). (Sent the new, sleek Duck Town files to my agent.)

Cheri and I had another good day at rehearsal. We are about fourteen pages from completing the blocking for Act I. 

Leisure Time: 

I watched Star Trek Beyond!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Reading Assignment - English 1B (Fall 2016 - Day 1)

Greetings class. This semester, I will be using this blog a(s well as out D2L page) to record supplemental course information. Occasionally I will post helpful links and articles. I also might share some of my thoughts on the literature, but I'll try to keep my ramblings to a minimum.

Normally, we will be reading stories, plays, and poems from The Seagull Reader:

It's a three-book collection containing the following volumes:

However, because many of you might still be scrambling to get these textbooks, the first reading assignment will be a pair of stories you can read online.

Here are the links to each story:

Story #1: "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

Story #2: "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant

As you read each work of fiction, ask yourself the following questions:

What is the conflict of the story? (Or -- Is there tension in the story? What is the source of the tension?)

What do I think is going to happen? (What are my expectations?)

Do I feel sympathy for these characters? (Why / why not?)

What happens at the end? (How do I feel about the ending?)

Feel free to use your journal to record your thoughts. We will discuss your responses to the story on Monday, August 22nd. There will probably be a quiz on one or both stories.

That's A Wrap! (Summer - Day 90)

Today wasn't exactly a summer vacation day, but it wasn't exactly the first day of school. Today was a flex day, which means that the staff and faculty attend meetings, tinker with their office, reconnect with colleagues, and brush up on their syllabi. It's not all boring stuff, though. They did feed us a BBQ lunch. And there were cookies!

It was a long drive from Moorpark, thanks to the 4 o'clock traffic. Fortunately, I will be leaving the campus earlier on most days.

I made it home just in time to go to our second day of rehearsals for Around the World in 80 Days. Two cast members couldn't attend but we still managed to block the first twenty pages. We're off to a good start... and a good ending, apparently, since summer is officially over. Back to work!

Prepping for Work (Summer - Day 89)

Well, it's just about time to say goodbye to summer vacation. It has been fulfilling, eventful, and fun. But now it's done.

Today (Monday Aug. 15th) I got the car washed and vacuumed. I organized some of my office and gathered up the necessary school supplies, school attire, school lunches. Basically, I did everything to get ready to go back to school -- which reminds me of a wonderful picture book about a teacher who isn't sure if she's ready to return to the classroom...

It's called "First Day Jitters" and it's one of those genius books that I wish I had created. A must read for new teachers.

In the evening, Cheri and I held our first rehearsal for "Around the World in 80 Days." Just a table read, but we got good vibes from the cast. I think it's going to be a fun show.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Laser Tag!!! (Summer - Day 88)

I like how I'm getting in a few stereotypical summer activities like beach days, hanging out with friends, and laser tag.

Today we journeyed to our friends in Orange County. It's one of our nephew's birthdays -- so we celebrated by eating lunch at The Olive Pit, and then blasted each other to bits in laser tag.

I was pathetic the first two rounds, but I adopted a better strategy on came in second place during round number three.

The place is called Laser Quest, and the maze inside is really cool -- dare I say, totally radical?

We drove home listening to Hamilton, and then took the dogs for a walk. They seemed rather lethargic after moping around all day by themselves. 

Our nephew up in Washington called us to practice his new job: selling knives. We didn't buy any, but hopefully we helped him by listening to his sales pitch. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Day at the Beach (Summer - Day 87)

Emily and I went to the beach with friends from karate. We went to Ventura's Marina Park. (I got lost a couple times on my way there -- went to the other beach about a mile away by the harbor.)

I finished reading Ready Player One. I'm not sure if it will make a great movie, but it was a fun, engaging read.

I've been writing in my journal, prepping for the upcoming semester. (Also trying to figure out better ways to market my writing.)

The big news of the day... my knees are totally sun burnt! (That's what I get for actually wearing shorts.)

The fun thing that happened at the beach: I brought my trusty shovel and started digging a hole in the sand. After ten minutes of work, all the kids came in and took over the whole operation. They made themselves a nice little pit. Fun was had by all.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Right Stuff (Summer - Day 86)

After we dropped off the girls at karate, Cheri and I had a date at the bookstore. (Barnes and Noble is one of our favorite places to hang out.) She found a pair of The Fault in Our Stars t-shirts on sale for 2 bucks each. (They are for the girls... Cheri and I won't be wearing them around town together, so don't worry.)

In the evening, Cheri, Mackenzie and I watched The Right Stuff.  (And I don't think it impressed them as much as I remember the film impressing me. Maybe it loses something with it's long running time and small tv screen?)

Still, I think it;s a great flick. I've seen it many times in my youth, and I love the way it keeps going back to Chuck Yeager -- one of the greatest pilots in history.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Anyone for Tennis? (Summer - Day 85)

Emily and I decided to use our local tennis court for the first time this summer. We are really bad, but it's so much fun. However, we decided the next time we would use the court would be during the evening. It's too hot!

Oh, yesterday, the girls watched "As Good As It Gets." They liked the movie but didn't like seeing Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt become romantically involved.

 Today, they have been watching 90s / early 00s TV -- Friends and Scrubs.

Cheri and I held our call backs at the Canyon Theatre Guild. We've got our cast! Six people with good chemistry and great acting chops. I think it's going to be very fun!

I've got a hundred pages left on Ready Player One. And Emily and I are now three episodes into Stranger Things, a show that becomes more engaging the more you watch it.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Relaxing Before the Big Return (Summer - Day 84)

So far, this has been a slow-paced relaxing week... which is just what I need before the semester begins. I've been reading, drawing (a cover for Duck Town), and going through the audition sheets. (We'll be having call-backs on Thursday).

And I watched the Americans amaze the world in the Olympics games -- mainly the women's beach volleyball.

Cheri and I met with a college guide to talk about her potential plans for the future. Very exciting stuff! She received lots of great advice and information. I don't want her to fly away from the nest, but at the same time I can't wait to watch her soar.

Emily and I watched the second episode of "Stranger Things" -- a show that totally reminds me of 80's film-making, such as Poltergeist and E.T. (I'm going to have to find out who these Duffer Brothers are, I guess I'm out of the loop.)

And, of course, we watched a couple more episodes of My Little Pony. (This does not make me a Brony. I am just watching it to support my daughter's interests.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Second Day of Auditions (Summer - Day 83)

This evening another group of wonderful people arrived at the theater to read from the script, Around the World in 80 Days. It's going to be such a fun show...

But the not-so-fun part is that there are only five to six people in the show, which means that most of the people who audition won't get cast. :(

Cheri and I streamlined our list, and we'll be meeting with some people again this Thursday for a call back, of sorts.

Emily is very excited because Season Six of My Little Pony has just been released on Netflix.

I am almost finished with the Author Questionnaire. Slow and steady. 

And speaking of slow, I'm still reading this book... 

I'm taking my time, but I should be done before the school semester begins... and then it's back to academic stuff! (You know, like Charles Dickens and Stephen King.) 

Oh, I almost forgot... We met with our friend Keri at Stonefire Grill. I had my usual: 

Keri will be working as our assistant director, possibly even our stage manager! We're lucky to have her on board. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

One Week Left (Summer - Day 82)

It's Monday, August 8th -- I have just one week left until it's back to the grindstone.

Today I continued to work on the Author Questionnaire. I'm embarrassed that I don't have any media contacts to list... although I'm going to reach out to Facebook. Perhaps I have some I'm not thinking of...

What else did we do... ?

  • watched bits of the Olympics (including water polo, volleyball, and twin diving)
  • met with a sales/repair guy & discussed getting a near air conditioning system from Costco 
  • decided we are getting the new system on Aug 19th (HWHL)
  • dropped the girls off at karate (Kenzie first day back at the studio)
  • attended a Board Meeting for the Canyon Theatre Guild
  • watched a new Netflix show called Stranger Things (intriguing first episode)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Around the World (Summer - Day 81)

Today I began to work on my author questionnaire for my upcoming picture book, Around the World in a Bathtub.

It might surprise you that I don't like writing about myself. At least not in an official business/marketing sort of way. So I only got about halfway through the question material before I just needed to stop and take a breather. Hopefully I'll finish it tomorrow.

While I've tinkered with that project I've also been watching the Olympics. I'm so thankful that NBC has offered live coverage on their website, because we don't have cable anymore. The downside is that if we want to watch the Olympics as a family we need to gather around the office computer... but it's better than nothing!

The big event of the day: Cheri and I held auditions for Around the World in 80 Days (lots of global titles, no?). Twelve people showed up... but because we have only five roles to fill, that's not a bad amount. Hopefully we'll have at least that many on Tuesday's audition. It should be a fun show. Very imaginative.

Speaking of which, we watched The Little Prince on Netflix.  It was an intriguing and ultimately engaging adaptation with an entirely new story built around it (and I was surprised that it worked so well).

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Back from Space! (Summer - Day 80)

Okay, maybe not back from outer space... but she's back from Space Camp!

We're so proud of her... and so happy that she has returned home. Mackenzie won the Right Stuff Award -- a very prestigious accomplishment considering how many amazing young people are also deserving of such an honor. (But it's no surprise to us -- we always knew she was awesome!)

What else did we do today? Well... most of our day was preoccupied with Kenzie's arrival. (She didn't get in until 10pm at night.) But we did pass the time by working on our yard -- which is very dead and very dry. I also worked on "Around the World," read a couple chapters of Ready Player One, and met with Randy and Chris to continue our work on the Radio Play.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Prepping for "Around the World in 80 Days" (Summer - Day 79)

August 5th... Today Cheri and I stopped by the Canyon Theatre Guild. In addition to picking up some stuff from our mailbox, we also walked around the stage and talked about potential ideas for our upcoming show, Around the World in 80 Days. It's a lively adaptation of Jules Verne's classic. Hopefully we will rise to the material.

I'm thinking of using some shadow and animation effects, but I've got very limited resources on this ol' computer. With a little luck, I'll be able to find an assortment of geniuses at the theater who will know how to bring to life what I'm thinking of...

Oh, yesterday Emily and I watched "Suicide Squad." Wacky -- and strangely paced -- plot holes aplenty -- but we had a great time watching it, regardless.

Emily did something very Californian. She hanged out with her friends at the mall. Cheri and I did something very suburban; we had a lunch date at Peiwei.

Mackenzie's last official day at Space Camp was today. (She'll stay the night and fly home tomorrow. We can't wait to see her!!!) They had a graduation ceremony and they selected her to receive the RIGHT STUFF AWARD for the Advanced Academy cadets. We're so proud. I'll post some more photos of her adventures very soon, but for now, here's what her team wrote on the final day of camp...

"We are team Copernicus! Starting as a team full of nerds from all over the country, we've become family over this long, 12 day journey. Forever in history, we will live down as one of Space Academy Advanced Elite's most epic team. Thanks to our crew trainers who helped us though this milestone of an adventure, and nurturing our passions to always reach for the stars above." 

In the evening, we treated ourselves to Dairy Queen. I had a Butterfinger blizzard, the ladies had buster bars. Then, we watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on our computer. 

I've been reading Ready Player One. It's the ultimate geek-dream-come-true. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Summer Vacation Highlights (Summer - Day 78)

All right, people -- time for a slide show. Here are some of my favorite moments from my trip to Washington state.

We arrived at the end of June and were greeted by this beautiful view. This is my mom's place on Camano Island, our home away from home.

Meeting the neighbors.

Tons of Bald Eagles in this area called Barnum Point. Here are a few of them disguised as my family. 

Lake Chelan combines scorching hot temperatures with freezing cold water.

Spencer the Therapy Dog may need therapy after this.

We ran in the warrior dash. I may not have had the fastest time, 
but I definitely had the cleanest T-Shirt

Mucking about in the pond at Sun Country Golf Course.

Visited our Canadian friends!

Played Canadian Frisbee (or they just stared at an invisible hummingbird, I can't recall which)

Emily's new hair color.

Mackenzie's new job.

Two Arch-Geeks and their family.

Aqua-Sox! Minor League Baseball at it's best! (And cousin Kayla is down there dancing to YMCA!)

Attended yet another sporting event (very unlike me). At this one, cousin Cameron was a referee for a Sounders soccer game! PS -- Soccer fans scare me.

Mackenzie got her senior photos taken... Chase the dog looks quite noble here, 
but don't let the image fool you. He's a dum-dum. 

And we met a new member of the family. Our new nephew-dog, Kato!

It's been one of the best summers ever. And still 13 more days of left for me -- man, do I feel blessed.I better make the most of it.  Carpe Diem!