Balancing Work and Play

As I gear up for the school year to begin again, I find myself juggling my new schedule in my head. I teach a lot. That means a lot of time in front of students, but it also means a lot more time spent grading papers.

And I wonder when I will find time for my writing.

It’s the age old debate: work vs play. The delicate balance of the things I have to do and the things I want to do–and don’t get me wrong here. I love what I do. I love teaching. I love explaining words to students and reading their words. But I also love the characters who live in my head, and I want to give them a chance to stretch their legs on paper and screen.

I know, I know. I had an entire summer to get writing done. And I did! I am nearly finished with the second book in Klauden’s Ring. I just have to tweak a few more things. But when my classes begin on Monday, I worry about getting sucked into the whirlpool that is the semester–when other people’s words become more important than my own.

I just need to manage my time a little better. Focus more. Wander less. Have a schedule. Say “No” to extra obligations. Make it a habit. Work in brief spurts. Even a few minutes counts!

I’ve heard all of those things. And I’ve tried them. And sometimes they work. And sometimes they don’t.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with the juggling act–work, play, homelife, family. I know that when I was in grad school I managed to teach and take classes and still had a brain leftover to spend time at home.

But I was younger then. And I didn’t have a child. And Netflix wasn’t around yet. And I didn’t have so many apps on my phone. (Back then, I was just excited to have a cell phone at all!)

Ah well. I’m happy to have such problems. And it will work itself out. It always does.

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Grammar Workshop

Grammar-Judge

So, I’m giving a grammar workshop at Wordier Than Thou on August 20th. If you’re in the area and curious about how the English language is supposed to be used, come check it out!

I know it may seem like English is filled with esoteric idiosyncrasies that can never be worked out–and that’s true some of the time–but there are actually some rules that you can use as a guide to tweak that sentence that just doesn’t seem quite right for some reason. The workshop will focus on mechanics as well, so if you wonder where to put a comma, you’re in the right place!

Here’s the link to the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/284458601925165/

I hope to see you there!

You above all others

I’ve been thinking about Tarzan lately. You know, the guy who can get you through the jungle alive? I saw the new movie, and Alexander Skarsgaard is still Eric-hot, but that’s not why it keeps running though my head.

It’s that whole keep-you-alive-slay-all-enemies-you-above-all-others mentality. The original Tarzan had that, and I’m glad to see that it stayed alive through this newest incarnation. Jane is everything. Absolutely everything.

He goes back to the jungle because she wants to. He chases her to the exclusion of everything else. He jumps off cliffs, dives into dangerous waters, and just physically propels himself in the direction he thinks she is in. Maybe those other things matter–you know, fighting gorillas, rescuing slaves, slaying evildoers, all that–but they all disappear into the background when Jane is in the picture.

That’s the kind of guy you want, right? The one who will get you through the jungle, fight to save you, literally run right off the edge of a cliff and jump off because he heard you scream from somewhere beyond the edge? That’s the kind of guy I write about. Sort of.

And that’s what I’ve really been thinking about. As I finish the second novel, I’m starting to see my menfolk a little differently. I thought Rory was Tarzan all along–saving Hannah from this and that (and more often from herself)–but it’s not her Hannah or nothing else in the world. Not really. What I’m realizing is that Klauden is turning out to be my Tarzan–and I never realized it until now. No spoilers here, but yeah. Klauden runs right off several cliffs in pursuit of his goal–and I never quite noticed it. I guess I’m more like Hannah than I realized!

The awkward middle novel in the trilogy

I’m finishing up the second novel in the Klauden’s Ring series, and I’m struggling with the cliffhanger not-so-happily-ever-after ending that this middle book seems to require.

My characters have overcome some major challenges in this one. Lives have been shattered, vows have been broken, loyalties have been strained. But they are still standing. Mostly.

And I, the reader who LOVES her happy endings, who will get so frustrated with a sad ending that I have been known to toss a paperback across the room in a fit of rage–I find myself heading inevitably in that direction. It’s not all going to work out perfectly in this one. Life is too messy, issues too unresolved, truths just barely beginning to show themselves.

I know it has to happen this way. I know that there has to be struggle before the happy ending can come and actually feel like it’s been earned–and Peter S. Beagle taught me that happy endings can never happen in the middle of a story. If they can happen at all–because nothing ever really ends.

No worries, though, dear followers of Hannah and Rory. They will return in book three, battered, a little bedraggled and beaten, but they shall return, and I promise that book three does have an ending (and spoiler: it will be  happy one…for most of them). But as someone heading directly towards the Empire Strikes Back ending, I apologize in advance. But sometimes, characters have to struggle, have to weather the storm, and then the next, before they can actually get to the end of the road, or as King puts it, the inevitable clearing at the end of the path.

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began, but for now, this is a dark part of the path, and if we are to truly appreciate the sunlight to be found on the other side, we need to follow them now through these tangled trees, even though this whole forest looks ready to reach out and strangle us.

Lazy Summer Days

Summer means a great deal to someone in my profession. I’m a teacher, and even though I teach adults instead of teenagers or little kids, I still find myself counting the days left in the spring semester. I usually teach a class or two during the early part of the summer as well, just to try out new things that I want to do in the fall semester–those summer sessions are always my guinea pigs. Does that assignment work if I do it this way instead? What happens if I swap this out for that? Those summer students are always more open to these little trials of mine, it seems. They are, after all, crash coursing through what normally takes a solid 16 weeks to cover in a mere 6 weeks, so they start off running, continue to sprint while I add hurdles and dexterity challenges, and at the end, they stumble bleary-eyed yet triumphant across that finish line.

But then there is the the down time. Time that is suddenly, gloriously free of all restrictions and expectations. Time to read a book on the couch All. Day. Long. To binge watch those tv shows late into the night and even the next morning because, seriously, it’s not like I have to get up for anything. My daughter is old enough now to play quietly if mommy decides to sleep late–as long as I roll out of bed long enough to supply breakfast and snack and lunch, she’s fine. Sometimes, she snuggles back into bed with me, tablet in hand. Yes, I let my kid play with her tablet while I sleep in. It happens. It happens more when it’s summertime and I decide to let it go for a few magical weeks. There are days when I don’t know what day of the week it actually is–and I don’t care. I have nowhere to be and nothing to do until August 10th, when my daughter goes back to school, and August 18th, when I go back to campus for meetings.

Until then, though…glorious, wonderful freedom.

And before I even start to feel guilty for all of this free time, I remind myself of those days during the semester, days when I teach five hours and then come home with a stack of papers and grade until midnight or 1am while my eyes cross and my pen bleeds everywhere. It works out in the long run because of this time right now.

And I know it will end. And that’s good. Because endless days and nights of nothing would be tiring.

And I have actually been doing things besides reading cheesy books and watching cheesy television. I’ve been writing. Look-I’m writing now!

I know when I’m in the dog days of November, grading that mountain of papers, I will remember this time and sigh, and use that memory to go on, to grade just one more before I finally go to sleep.

But until then, I will relish each moment. Summer is the best.