Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - March 29th, 2017

Wow. I did not blog very much this week. Since my last WCW I've posted only twice. And I wish I could say that this lack of posts resulted in an enormous word count, but I don't think that's the case. Let's check the results, shall we?

What Have You Been Working On?
No work completed on the middle grade novel. I finished Chapter Two last week, and I'm not sure how to begin Chapter Three. I mainly focused on the play. I finished a second scene, but I'm not sure it's working. For this project, I am co-writing the script, so I think it's time to hand things over to my writing partner and get some feedback.

Word Count: 979 (I'll make sure to write at least 81 more words in order to reach my meager goal.)

How Do I Feel About the Process?
I have mixed feelings right now because looking back over the week, it seems I had more to time work on my writing, and I really didn't take advantage of it. Pretty soon, I'll have lots of papers to grade, and I won't have the spare time that I've had during these previous three weeks. What will happen to my word count then?

On the other hand, after listening to Ellen Hopkins speak during her Virtual Visit, she reminded me that we can always make time to write. Ellen is raising several grandchildren, an obligation she didn't expect to take on, and yet she still stays on track, meeting those deadlines and pushing herself as an artist.

I know I can do better. I just need to commit. I need to etch out time in the mornings, in the evenings, in between classes. Since I became a full-time teacher I've been saving most of my writing activities for the summer break... but I don't want to be a seasonal author.

I've got 50 days left until summer. (Yes, I am counting the days.) I want to complete fifty more pages of my novel before the break begins. That way, there's a very good chance that I can finish the first draft of my book before fall semester begins.

Update: Hey, guess what, I just spent an hour in my office fretting over Chapter Three and wrote a paltry 259 words... so that means:

New Word Count: 1238.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Seven Highlights from Creative Writing

There's been a lot of productivity from my Creative Writing students this semester. Here are seven entries that have recently caught my attention...

"The Impressionist" -- a glimpse into the ugliness as well as the beauty of the human condition. Leon is an artist who is destroying his body with drugs... the same kind of drugs that ended the life of his girlfriend. Can he immortalize her in his art before he suffers the same fate?
(Written by Abraham N.)

Ophelia Speaking: Chapter One. I love the writing style of this blogger. Even when she is just posting her updates for "Word Count Wednesday," she offers thoughtfulness and honesty. So it's no surprise that the novel she is working on has the same powerful, inquisitive voice.

"Experiment #7: Metamorphosis" -- Rachel S. was given the Master Plot called Metamorphosis, and she incorporates some magical elements into this otherwise modern tale. It's like the Heat Miser meets A Clockwork Orange.

"Mary, Teen of Scots" -- Okay, that's not the title of Sarah C's novel. However, it is about a teen girl at a unique academy who discovers that she is the reincarnation of Mary Queen of Scots... and everyone else at the school is also a royal reincarnation. Will history repeat itself?

"In Between" -- Our narrator wakes up dead, and a mysterious supernatural creature, a goth girl named Kat, has one job -- to lead our hero to the Other Side.

"100 Word Stories" -- Emily C. presents a half-dozen literary gems in the fast and furious genre of Flash Fiction.

"The Almost Biography of Another Troubled Teen" -- sometimes angsty, sometimes funny with a more than a hint of tragedy, Shoshana's first part of her epic teen novel has lots of potential and a distinct voice throughout.

Students, if you didn't make this list, fear not! I will be posting more highlights in the days and weeks to come. So keep on blogging!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Camp Omigosh Podcast

My Creative Writing students have been given a new literary experiment (if they choose to accept this challenge):

Create an audio recording. This could be a cool podcast, or an audio recording of a student's story, or a recitation of a poem, or a song performance, or a radio show -- you get the idea. Anything involving sound is welcome.

Once upon a time, when I was trying to come up with marketing ideas for my book/play Camp Omigosh, I decided to make some video / audio promos, inspired by the amazingly quirky podcast Welcome to Night Vale. 

Oh, by the way, if you'd like to read my middle grade adventure novel, Camp Omigosh, the Kindle version is now on sale for 99 cents! 

Back to my podcast experiment: I recorded audio tracks, organizing a variety of camp bulletins, delivered by a strangely pleasant Head Counselor named Mr. Warren. The goal was to get into the spirit of the book (which combines elements of humor, supernatural, sci-fi, and summer camp adventures). And since I was planning to post it on Youtube, I decided to add a variety of still images to help with the comedy. I'll let you decided whether or not it works.

Camp Omigosh: Day One

Camp Omigosh: Day Two

Camp Omigosh: Day Three

Camp Omigosh: Day Four

Camp Omigosh: Day Five

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - March 22nd, 2017

What Am I working On?
Still working on the same projects: the middle grade adventure & the full length play. I was productive during the second half of spring break.

Word Count: 5428 (That's pretty good, but I thought it was going to be more. The pages of a play trick you because there's so much blank space.)

How Do I Feel About the Process?
I feel good about the past week because its the most productive I've been since the start of the semester. There are two more months to go until summer. Hopefully I won't be too bogged down in papers. It would be wonderful if my weekly word count average could be at least 4000. Then, during the summer break, I ratchet things up a couple notches to get as close as I can to Stephen King's 10,000 words a day. (I won't do it, but it's fun to try.)

What Am I Reading?
I finally finished Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath.

It just dawned on me that I stopped listening to the audiobook of Little Dorrit. I might have to give that another try. It's a pretty slow boil and it hasn't hooked me yet. Maybe it never will.

And for the sake of nostalgia, I have been reading G.I. Joe comics from the 1980s.

What Am I Watching?
I binged watched the first six episodes of Into the Badlands... and I LOVE IT!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Break a Leg, Drake!

I just read that a high school student named Drake Spina will be attending a national speech tournament where he will perform a one-man show version of one of my short plays: "How To Kiss a Girl." Check out the article on Drake at this Ohio News Reporter.

This is a bold undertaking because the play has about ten characters, so I applaud this young man's bravery.

Here's the premise to give you an idea of the craziness Mr. Spina is about to experience in front of a live audience:

When young Ken Beardsley gets ready for his very first date, he decides to download audio advice from across the centuries in order to impress his high school crush, Steph. However, the date quickly spirals out of control as he tries to simultaneously follow dating tips from a communist-fearing nationalist from the '50s, a swashbuckling pirate, a sweet southern belle, and a puritanical pilgrim. Poor Ken realizes that if he really wants to win Steph's heart, he'll need to tune out his smartphone and tune in to his own instincts before it's too late.

(Available at 

I wish I could be there because I am very curious to see how he pulls off the kiss at the end of the play!

(PS... Unfortunately, despite the title of this play, there is no useful advice about kissing techniques.) 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Virtual Classroom Visit with Ellen Hopkins!

That's right! The intense, passionate, ground-breaking poet-novelist Ellen Hopkins will be chatting with our creative writing class via Skype.

It's happening on March 27th, so you've got a week to visit your local book store to get better acquainted with this amazing author.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Morning Cartoons: G.I. JOE

I was in our new Canyon Country bookstore yesterday... The Open Book...

Among the their many books, both new and used, I discovered boxes of old comics from the 1980s. That's when I was in my comic book heyday. Usually I bought comics because I loved them, but there were times I bought certain comic books because I thought of it as a financial investment. I figured by the time I was in my mid-40s I could sell my comic book collection and retire. 

When I bought comics the price was just transitioning from 75 cents to a dollar. Gues how much these mint condition 1980s comics were selling for? 

100 bucks? 50 bucks a piece? 

No, they were priced at a dollar per issue. So their value has remained the same since 1986. That's pathetically impressive in its own way. 

So, while thumbing through the old comics and lamenting the fact that I'll never retire in luxury, I happened upon some G.I. Joe comics. 

I collected these comics for a while because I loved the cartoon show... 

In the age of ISIS, I don't know that modern day television corporations would green-light a fun-filled show about fighting a terrorist organization, but I am thankful that so much of my childhood afternoons were spent with this silly yet action-packed distraction. 

One of the glorious fallacies about this show was that it was filled with battle sequences yet no one ever died. There were lots of explosions, but everyone always made it out alive. Even when G.I. Joe would blow up the Cobra Jets, you would still see a little terrorist floating away on a parachute. NO wonder the G.I. Joe / Cobra conflict was never-ending, they never had any casualties! 

This wasn't a Saturday morning cartoon, at least not for me. This was an after school show, and it seemed that after slogging through a long, torturous day of being a seventh-grader, this was the best way for me to unwind. 

If I ever lied to my mom and told her, "No, I don't have any homework," I fibbed just so I could watch this show. (Sorry, Mom!) 

Have you seen this show? Do you have a favorite character? Or a favorite ridiculous action sequence? Or better yet, perhaps you have a favorite "Knowing is Half the Battle" coda... 

Here's mine... it involves "Doc" who just happens to be hanging out by the window. 

Here's another one about "strange danger":

Hmm... Now that I'm watching these as an adult, I find them quite unsettling... 

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Modern American Author Stereotype

There are many writer stereotypes. I am embody more than a few of them. I have been a struggling artist in my youth. I moved far away from home to find myself. I became an English teacher.  But right now I am doing something that is woefully stereotypical, even for me. I am sitting at a Starbucks working on the Great American Novel. 

But hey, at least I am writing! 

I don't know if I creating something that other people would want to read, but I am making something that I would want to read... So there must be others out there like me, right? 

I am feeling good because I got an update from my agent regarding the dragon-themed picture book. The manuscript received another rejection -- a nice, friendly one, which is comforting because those are the kinds that tell you about the flaws before they tell you "no thanks." This is the third rejection... There are still ten more editors who have the picture book sitting in their offices, waiting to be discivered. 

I feel good right now, because I am confident that even if no one buys my little dragon book friend (because that's what my books are to me: friends), that I still have a lot of ideas left, still so many things to write, still so many ways to fail and chances to succeed. 

All right... 

Enough stalling, Wade. Back to the novel. 

By the way, Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody. . 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Word Count Wednesday: March 15th, 2017

Happy spring break, Moorpark students! Enjoy it while it lasts! Gather ye rosebuds while ye may!

What am I working on? 
I finished chapter three of the adventure Middle Grade novel. These chapters are turning out rather short, so I might rethink my organizational strategy. Not sure yet.

I am also still brainstorming characters and ideas for a play about an all-inclusive resort. Haven't written any dialogue yet, but I plan to start before the weekend is over.

Word Count: 3000

How Do I Feel about the Process?

There's still a little uncertainty about this book... I think because so far I have written about 5000 words and it's all basically been one continuous scene. That habit -- for better or worse -- comes from my playwright background.

I am enjoying spending time with these characters, and because I am modeling the setting after a real place from my childhood, the writing process is making me feel pleasantly nostalgic.

What am I Reading? 

Three more chapters to go with the Malcolm Gladwell book.

Also, I finally finished reading all four novellas in Stephen King's collection Different Seasons. (I hadn't gotten around to reading The Breathing Method until now.)

In Memory of Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Today's blog will be about the author I will never have the pleasure of meeting: Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

I was wandering around the picture books at my local Barnes and Noble. I like to check out what's new (and also see what's not on the shelves so that I can develop ideas to fill the gaps). The first book I noticed was Give Please a Chance written by Bill O'Reilly and James Patterson. This book makes me angry because I think Bill and James are just trying to make money, and to do so they've churned out (probably with the help of ghost authors) an overly simplistic text that talks down to children, lacks inventiveness, parodies a beloved John Lennon's song for its title, and gathers together a variety of talented artists to present an assortment of illustrations rather than a single vision (that would probably have resulted in the illustrator receiving a lot more of the royalties). I didn't mean to go off the deep-end about Patterson's books today, but I wanted to give context as to how I was feeling. I was feeling annoyed and bitter about Give Please a Chance. Trees should not have died for that book.

I figured that my bookstore vibe was ruined for the day, but then this cover caught my attention:

I was curious about the subtitle, "A story about believing." So, I stood there and read the book from beginning to end. (yes, I'm one of those bookstore people.) A salesperson (who probably thought it odd that a 45 year old man is reading a unicorn book) asked if I was interested in a sale on "Good Night, Goodnight, Construction Site." But I wanted to concentrate on Uni. 

I loved the premise of the story: a young unicorn is different from her unicorn friends because she believes in the existence of little girls. I hadn't paid attention to the author's name until I reached the end. Then, looking at the cover again, I thought: "Oh, Amy Krouse Rosenthal... She wrote Exclamation Point and Wish You More" and, I recalled, many other beautifully written manuscripts matched up with exquisite art. 

I left the bookstore with Amy's message on my mind, recalling memories of my own childhood when nothing was impossible. 

Then, two days later Amy passed away. News of her death spread through Facebook feeds. She died of ovarian cancer. Those that knew her (and those who read her heartbreaking New York Times column "You Might Want to Marry My Husband") knew that the end was near. I had no idea. I didn't follow her on social media (and now I wish I had, I bet she was pretty funny on Twitter). I admired her work but knew nothing about her personal life. 

My strongest memory of her work as a writer was the Barnes-and-Noble moment I just described, when she was still alive but, unbeknownst to me, very close to death. Unlike the Patterson / O'Reilly book, I wasn't jealous or bitter about the author's success. I was standing there thinking, I love this woman's work. I can't wait to see what the future brings. 

When I find out that someone has died, my reaction (probably a defensive one) is to calculate how long they have lived, how much they have experienced, and how sad their loved ones must feel. If someone dies at the age of 80, I think something like: "Well, they had a decent run." If they get above 85, I upgrade that to "a pretty good run." If they reach ninety or above then I think "They led a very full life." But when the numbers are lower, I say things like "Oh, he left us too soon." (That's for folks in their 60s and 70s). 

Amy Krouse Rosenthal left us when she was only 51. For a writer of her caliber, the phrase "gone too soon" doesn't do justice to the level of loss. It seems that in that half a century she lived well and loved well. As an artist, she accomplished a great deal in a relatively short amount of time. Yet, as she says in her column, she would have liked to have had "more." 

"More" was apparently her very first spoken word as a child. It was the word she decided to have tattooed on her skin. The desire for MORE time must have been so strong after she was diagnosed with cancer. 

I am grateful for the books she has created. And grateful even more for the ones that have yet to be released. (There is a sequel of Uni the Unicorn that will be galloping our way this September). 

I do wish for more, though. Very selfishly. I wish she could have lived much longer, not just for the sake of her family -- although of course that's the most important thing -- but as a profound lover of children's literature and picture books, I wish that Rosenthal could have lived long enough to become a grandmother. Here books are already so wise, and most of them were written when she was in her 30s and 40s. Can you imagine the tales Grandma Amy could have told generations of children? Or better yet, her writing as a great-grandmother? 

I love Amy's books, but by God I wish we had more. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spring Break!!!!!

That's right. SPRING BREAK!!!!!

One week off from work. So, what have I been doing? Not much, so far. But I've been trying to be creative. Yesterday I began working on a new picture book manuscript. This morning, I finished the first draft. I read it aloud to Emily (yes, my daughters are still my first readers) and then made a few changes.

I finished reading Stephen King's "The Breathing Method." That's from his novella collection Different Seasons.

I didn't work on the novel today, but I have been brainstorming character details for a play I want to write with Christopher Flowers.

I'm looking forward to the rest of this low-key week away from teaching. What are you doing with your free time?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"The Actor Games" in March

"The Actor Games" is one of my favorites among my one-act plays. I wrote it as a tribute to the various stages of Theater History as well as a parody of the Hunger Games. If memory serves, the play came out around the time the film adaptation of Catching Fire was released.

I assumed that once the two Mockingjay movies came out that the popularity of my little play would diminish. Fortunately, the one-act is still going strong.

This month "The Actor Games" is being performed at:

Connelly High School in Anaheim, California

Divine Savior Academy in Doral, Florida

Luptn Jr. High in Nauvoo, Alabama

Whyalla High School in Saskatchewan, Canada

Break a leg to all "Actor Games" cast and crew members!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Can You Guess Where We Dined Yesterday?

Based upon these grainy, poorly lit photographs, can you tell where we are?

(Hint: It was our last day as annual passholders... and I haven't had a mint julip in over 20 years!)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - March 8th

What Am I Working On? 

I am still in the middle of Chapter Two of my adventure novel. I am still toying with titles... I started with Kettle Black... but I also like one of our house names, Glowdark. I'll wait and see how the plot develops.

Word Count: 1050 this week. (About 4000 total... not much, but at least it's a start.)

How Do I Feel About the Process?

I don't know if the right story will develop... I am turning out to be more of a Pantzer than usual. Any plot which I have outlined in my mind has been tossed away by the time I sit down to write. The characters are leading me in a good direction so far. I believe if I complete the first five chapters, I will complete the book. (But there are plenty of false start novels in my drawer that reached a mere four chapters... Fingers crossed.)

I am also feeling very good about writing in general because last Friday I received word that a publishing house wants to buy Book #5.... Whoo-hoo! I'll blog more about this later, assuming that everything goes well and a contract is signed. I have learned not to get one's hopes up too high, but I am pleased things are going in a positive direction.

What Am I Reading? 

Nearly done with Malcolm Gladwell's book.

Oh, and I read some more library books about simple machines, including a really wonderful book about ancient architecture called Built to Last.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Wish for My Writer Friends

Something so wonderful and surprising happened on Friday. As you may already know, if you follow this blog and pay close attention to my neurotic behavior, I have an unhealthy greed for good news from my agent. I check my email far too often, every single days... even on weekends, despite the fact that I know full well that my agents doesn't work on weekends.

For nearly a month now, I have been waiting to hear responses from editors regarding my dragon-themed picture book. So far, I've only heard back from two editors. (Polite / encouraging rejections.) I have been interpreting the long silence as a negative... Well... on Friday my agent send me and email... And guess what?

It had nothing to do with the dragon book.

Instead, she had good news about a meta-fiction fairy tale spoof I had written about a year ago. A publishing house has made an offer! I couldn't believe it. That book had been submitted back in April 2016. It had been rejected by a dozen places... and I had assumed that any editor that never responded didn't care for the work enough to bother with a rejection letter.

It turns out I was wrong. Gloriously, ridiculously wrong.

I wish that wrongness upon all my writer friends, especially the ones currently taking my Moorpark class.

If you want to be an author, keep going down this path. It might be a long, confusing path sometimes, but the journey and the ultimate destination is worth the struggle.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Tortoise and the Hare

I took my students to the zoo today and we met a 93 year old Tortoise named Clarence.

I am thinking I need to introduce him to my hare... AKA my rabbit Mr. Knightley.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Resolution Check-In: March Edition

Since I bothered posting my New Year's Resolutions, I might as well provide updates as to my progress or lack thereof... So far, I have a few good things to report. Let's see how I'm doing:

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

 I am starting to be more in-tune with photographic moments. It's certainly easier maintaining this resolution (one I failed last year) now that I have a phone that takes pictures. (But I still miss you, flip phone!)

The quality of the camera and the photographs is very low... But this year the point is simply to take more pictures. I'll worry about improving my photographic abilities next year.

ACHIEVEMENT: 16% Complete

2) Write / sell a new picture book

 The picture book manuscript that I mentioned in February's update has been kindly turned down by two editors. We are still waiting to hear back from eleven others. Fingers are still crossed, but I should probably start developing a new idea to send out this spring.


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

Hey, I have actually made a little bit of progress in this direction!

I abandoned the "Tomorrow's Wish adaptation. I have decided that, at least for now, that story works best as a play and doesn't need to become a novel.

But I did return to a vague idea I had a long time ago... a middle grade adventure with a pair of sister protagonists. I haven't written much, just ten pages, but that's better than nothing! For this project, I will assume that the final work will be about 400 pages. So, the very facile goal of 25% should be attained, and hopefully surpassed, by the new year.


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

 Last month Mackenzie and I made a recording about board games. This month, while driving in the car, we recorded ourselves discussing the nature of comedy. These projects aren't polished enough to become something publishable, but it's good practice.


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

(Note: I made a list of 200 people, all of whom I hope to do something special for... or at least offer support and positivity.)

So far, I've checked 13 people off the list... Not much progress. This one is an easy resolution for me to forget about, probably because I'm a selfish bastard.

ACHIEVEMENT: 6.5% Complete

6) Lose ten pounds. 

 Lost the weight during the first month of 2017... and so far I have kept it off!


(And it will hopefully remain an achievement throughout the year... But if I go up to 165 pounds, then it's back on!)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - March 1st, 2017

What Am I Working On?

After a week of no creative productivity, I finally returned to my middle grade novel. I am just a couple pages into Chapter Two.

Word Count: 850 -- not quite at my goal, but I'll update this if I get more done this evening.

How Do I Feel About the Process?

I was frustrated for a little while because I started to plot out a few details. I am mostly a Pantzer, but I will often figure out how a novel will end. However, based upon some of the published novels I have stumbled upon online and in bookstores, I am starting to sense that some of my plot ideas (things I thought would be unique) have actually been done before... perhaps too often for me to pursue the current storyline.

But the good news is... I like spending time with these characters (I should since they are loosely based on my daughters)... so I plan to keep writing, at least for a while, and see what happens. This means I am in Full Seat of Your Pants Mode with no plot or expectation. I am just going to see what conflict develops and have fun.

What Am I Reading?

I'm still reading David and Goliath. And lots of literary essays and MidTerms.