Teacher of the Year is my first novel and is being released in June. When I recently began thinking of topics to blog about for this website, my 13 year-old daughter said something like— Shouldn’t you just write about writing your book? Oh, giant Chinese gong sound effect, where are you when I need you? So, that’s what these opening blogs will be all about. Maybe this is a good time to drop a Ben Folds/Nick Hornby quote from their collaboration on the song Things You Think which is what I’m listening to right now.
In 1450 there were about 100 new books published. Last year there more than a million. A new book comes out every 30 seconds. It would take me 15 years just to read the titles of every book ever printed. And you’re going to watch tv tonight? Fair enough, I suppose.
I think I may have even heard that there were more like two million manuscripts floating around last year. That is a lot of competition for the eyes and ears of the reading public, although a friend of mine keeps assuring me that there really isn’t much of a reading public anymore so I should stop stressing about it. “Designing video game stories, man. That is where the money and prestige is these days— not books,” he said.
Yep, he may be on to something. If anyone reading this blog goes on to someday read my novel, please let me know if you can think of a way to convert it into a video game that requires the same skills as a medium paced game of Pong. I am completely open to paddles and 3D glasses, too.
Although I had been writing short stories for years, I never intended on writing a novel, just as I run a few miles in Forest Park never intending to turn the jog into a marathon. I think it is safe to say that the ghost of Phidippides has nothing to fear from me joining the 26-mile club, or the Mile High Club, for that matter. I had been fairly content writing humorous, self-effacing creative nonfiction stories that I shared with a handful of friends and family. I had it in the back of my head that maybe, one day, I would write enough of my nonfiction pieces to put into a collection and submit it for publication. At the rate I was completing stories, I would probably be finishing up right around my 87th birthday. David Sedaris, you can stop looking over your shoulder now.
By 2005, I had been a sixth grade English teacher for fifteen years and co-directed a private writing program called the Gifted Writers Project for Middle & High School Students. There was a confluence of professional and personal events that happened which changed my writing trajectory. First, my school district began taking the No Child Left Behind Act much more to heart… or I just became much more conscious of it! Although NCLB loomed large over public education, I don’t think anyone I knew took it too seriously. It was such a ridiculous law with obviously unattainable goals (100% of all students will read with proficiency by 2014 anyone?), the educators with whom I was connected assumed the law would be overturned or radically changed fairly quickly. Obviously, after President Bush was reelected and Congress became even more divisive, it became clear NCLB would be around for quite some time. President Obama’s Race To The Top is simply an extension of the NCLB law as far as I can tell. In 05, a group of teachers representing all different grade levels were given the task of realigning our district’s communication arts curriculum to meet the state standards— which were directly in line with the Missouri state assessment. I couldn’t tell if it was the drums of an impending educational war I could hear in the distance, or if it was just one of my daughters playing my drum set.