31 August 2008

Summer ends

It's Sunday, and on this last day of August it is quite beautiful in Santa Barbara. What a glorious summer we've had! Sorry, dear family and friends in England! Two years of wet summers just ain't fair, I know. So the school year has started and now I'm relearning the routine as a regular working person in the real world. I've had a pretty decent first week of teaching. I think it's going to be a good year. My students, 3rd graders, are sweet, responsive, with a healthy level of motivation.

Today, Sunday, I made blueberry muffins for breakfast, then went to the pool for a swim. I dropped by at the farmer's market and bought organic produce. I felt good about life this morning. At the pool, while swimming, my mind was filled with pleasant memories of the last months. I thought about Fabian wanting to go up the Leaning Tower in Pisa and Kimi picking tomatoes from our garden and popping them in her mouth and Keayen teaching us the South African word for a zipline - a foo-fee. So I was smiling in the pool.

I think my good mood stems from the way the Democratic National Convention went. Obama electrified the country with his speech. The other speakers were great too. There is no way the RNC can match this. Hurricane Gustav is taking the wind out of their sails already! And jeez, isn't their VP choice hysterical?

Last night we went to see a play - Moliere's "The Imaginary Invalid" at the Solvang Open Air theatre. Our friends, Premi and Sri, went along. We had a terrific picnic dinner on the lawn before the performance. The play was OK, but not the best acting we've seen from PCPA. But, it was fun though. The stage and costumes were great and I enjoyed sitting under the stars listening to Moliere's jabs at society.

And now I've got to be bold and double click on my manuscript!!!

25 August 2008

Back to School

Today was my first day back in the classroom after a year's leave of absence. The first day of a teaching year is always a bit weird. I'm always a bit nervous about hanging out with a bunch of strangers for the day. And I'm anxious to see what kind of class I have. I can pretty much tell from the way the kids behave on the first day what my year will be like. Well behaved kids make a huge difference. It can make the year an absolute dream.

Twenty one third graders walked into the room just before 8 o'clock and seemed bright eyed and eager to get the year rolling. By lunchtime I felt optimistic about the year. The kids all seemed motivated and worked pretty independently most of the time. The last time I taught 3rd grade was 8 years ago so I'd forgotten the importance of modeling instructions as much as possible. I remembered later in the day that I needed to show more examples, and it was then that I realized what a capable group of kids I had. Cool!I have a student from Taiwan who seems to be a math wiz. To my surprise he could read and write really well. But his oral language skills are definitely lacking. I think everyone else will be fine.

I'm not thrilled to be back in the classroom. For one thing I love summer. And the start of school signals the end of summer and the approach of fall. And for another, being a teacher is such a consuming job that I feel I'm only half living when I'm teaching. And then, there are two unfinished manuscripts that I'm anxious to polish up. I find it really difficult to switch from classroom mode to writing mode.

And on a completely different topic, what did you think of Michelle Obama's speech at the DNC? I thought it was fab. She sounded so damn sincere and boy, what a speaker she is!

17 August 2008

Year of Magic Ends ... Sob! Sob!

In Santa Barbara the school year is about to start and it's time for me to get my bohemian, undisciplined behind plugged back into 'the system'. Ah, such is the life I've chosen. But, boy, what a year it's been!
Last night me and my pal Premi attended an event at the Global Institute in Santa Barbara. A 21 year old student had just returned from a stint in India and gave a slide show presentation about it. She had spent some time on Vandana Shiva's farm in Rajasthan learning how to harvest rain and run a sustainable farm. She also talked about her travels through Tamil Nadu and Kerala so it was fun for me to hear her perspectives on places I'd been to. Later, when I chatted with other folks, I was surprised at my impressive knowledge of India. Before my trip there I hardly knew the names of Indian provinces and towns. And now I can talk about South India with incredible ease. I realized last night that the month I'd spent in India was truly a special time. Yes, there were many challenges that made every act a chore, but there was so much to feast your senses on too. I'm so glad I finally made it to the motherland. When I returned from India I read Michael Wood's book THE SMILE OF MURUGAN. This is a guy with a deep passion for Tamil Nadu and in his book he gushes about the temples - most of which I had visited. He gives tons of wellresearched information about each temple in an endearing style. I wished I'd had the book while visiting those temples. The book gave me a whole new appreciation for the Tamil culture.

We are having one heck of a terrific summer in Santa Barbara this year. It's been a long one too, since spring was warmer than usual. It's been fun hanging out at home most of the time. We actually got to eat most of our fruit. Each week something new is ready for picking. Right now, our yellow peaches, big and juicy, are ready. I seem to spend a lot of my days dealing with summer produce. I hate making jam. Who wants to be in the kitchen sterilizing jars in a big pot of water when it's sweltering outside? We've made tarts, pies, and sauces with our fruit and they are in the freezer awaiting the winter months!

I'm definitely not ready to enter the real world again. I've got manuscripts that need loads of work and I hate to have to put them aside. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy being a teacher. I am committed to stimulating young minds. If I didn't have to do idiot things dreamt up by bureaucrats, I'd love my job. Tbh I'm a little nervous about resuming my job. I fear that my year of travel and writing has turned me into a radical. We'll have to wait and see ..

08 August 2008

Triple 8 Date: 08/08/08

I feel like we need to celebrate today's date. I mean, just think, none of us on earth will be around the next time it happens. Well, maybe the start of the Olympics is a sort of acknowledgement ...
Everyone out there - do something special. Kiss a stranger, climb a tree, eat goji berries, whatever ... Just do something you've never done before and then you'll always remember today!

I guess it's a good time to reflect on what I'm enjoying this summer.

1. Number one on the list would have to be harvesting cool stuff like basil and heirloom tomatoes from our new raised vegetable beds.
2. The gloriously warm, sunny days and going to the pool just about every morning.
3. The beautiful evenings - sitting out in the garden and sipping icy beer.
4. Seeing a great production of RAGTIME at the Solvang Theatre last night. What a wonderful setting with the stars above and talented actors taking us into early 20th century America. Daryl's ex-graduate students, Kelly and Jason who now live in Buffalo, NY, are visiting us and they went along as well. We had a picnic dinner out on the lawn before the play.
5. Spending a few days in LA at a writer's conference and getting inspired to polish up works in progress. (I was shocked to see that the editors there were young, sexy, and glamorous.)
6. Entertaining sister, Pam, and family and showing them a little of California.
7. Cooking meals with summer produce.
8. Having time to write.

Speaking of which, I need to go!!

01 August 2008

LA Writer's Conference

This year I made the bold move to spend the dough (ouch!) on the big SCBWI LA conference. Everyone always raves about it so I thought it was time to give it a shot. Caroline Hatton, author of NIGHT OLYMPIC TEAM, among other books, has become a good buddy and has offered to have me stay at her place in Culver City. So that makes it a tad more affordable and more interesting too. Today is the first day of the conference and already I've met some very interesting people. I had dinner last night with an illustrator from Louisianna and this morning I had breakfast at a gourmet bakery at the Westfield Shopping Plaza with an Irish writer of middle grade fiction. It's great fun to be in a place where there's such a concentration of people in the same field as me. This morning Bruce Coville opened the conference with an inspiring talk on writing for the child. He has a great sense of humor and a true passion for the art of writing. A terrific speaker!
I'm about to attend a workshop on writing historical fiction.