Well, really I am just out of the writing cave for a bit. I’ll be back in it soon enough working on Blood Ties.
Today, I left the comforts and coolness of the cave to venture into the wilds of Florida to a little town with a spooky coffee job.
The Coffee Job of Horrors in Montverde hosted a coffee tasting along with book signings from local authors, John Catapano and Tyson Hanks. The authors were fabulous gents who were welcoming and the setting made it easy to talk with them. I picked up some great new books which Styx thinks should be his as well as some coffee, which was out of this world good.
Normally, I don’t go for favored coffees but these were phenomenal. So now I have coffee and new books to enjoy. Thank to my friend Squeaker and her husband for busting me out of the cafe and into the light.
So I am working on moving to a new format for the blog at the same time I am working on my next book. I have a lot of work to do. A lot of work. School is starting a week earlier than last year, so the time that I will have unlimited free time is getting short.
Rest assured that I’ve forgotten everyone here or the awesome support you have given me. It is just time to move on to something new and better.
In the meantime, I am going to continue personal blogs here when the fancy strikes, but will be holding new poetry and short stories for the new forum.
This is my Papa. I met my Papa when I was thirteen years old. I was already taller than him. And he still had some color in his hair. Since then we have both grown quite a crop of steely gray hair.
According to legend, he fell in love with Momma over homemade spaghetti. She didn’t cook it mind you. He did and he had forgotten to stock up on red pepper flakes. When he mentioned it, Momma pulled a large container of them out of her purse. .
I am not sure how a large container of pepper flakes made it into her purse. Maybe she was using them as a cheap version of pepper spray? Throwing the whole container at would be assailants and hoping that her aim was true to hit them in the eye or at least the shock of seeing a flying pepper flake container would slow them down.
A few weeks or months later, Momma came by to pick me up for an outing with Denny. After Denny came into her life I saw Momma more and more. If he did nothing else he brought my mother back into my life. (But, he did do more)
You see a year earlier, we lost our house. Momma went to stay with friends and I returned from my annual stay at my grandmothers house to live with my father. The separation would last nearly a year. It wasn’t by choice on either of our parts. In the meantime, life became a serious of events where I tried and failed to win the approval of my birth father and stepmother. Every decision I made questioned and denounced as immature and lacking thought. My interests were weird and I was disrespectful. I didn’t know how to please them and eventually just retreated to my books and imagination.
My father and mother had divorced when I was six. He told my mother that he didn’t love her anymore. And she told him to leave. I don’t know what it cost her to do it; to go against everything that she had been taught about life and marriage. She came from the work it out generation. Her parents were married for over fifty years. The only way out of marriage was death. And she let my father go alive. She could have killed him for cheating on him. She could have raged against him. She never did at least not in front of us kids. She told him to go. Told him that he had to go that they weren’t just going to go through a divorce sleeping in the same bed or living in the same roof . She told him to go and where the boundaries were. I love her for that and everything she did that followed to do right by us. We never made it easy.
Sadly in the months following the divorce I blamed my mother and tried to fight her. She rocked and held me close until I calmed down. She didn’t understand that my father had just told me he was going on a business trip not that he was leaving permanently.
My father is not a man known for his sense of humor or love of literature. Actually, I don’t know why people like my father. I do know that he hated my nose was always in a book and wanted me to get out and do things. I wanted to do things. The things in the books I was reading. The characters had horrible lives to be sure (I was a huge VC Andrews fan), but their lives were filled with excitement and love.
Love is something my father still has difficultly communicating to his nearly forty-year old daughter. He rarely says it and every time I hear it, I question whether he is sick or not. Dying being the event that would induce an out pouring of emotion from his tight lips.
Papa has never had trouble communicating his love, frustration or anger with me. It hasn’t always been smooth and he has been so angry at me that I am sure he was seeing cross eyed. I was never the rebellious teen. No, I did all my stupid, worry the parents stuff in my mid to late twenties after I came home to live with them. When I was a pain in the butt, he let me know. And while we will never agree on politics completely (so far we both hate Trump), we always agree on the fact that I am his daughter.
Maybe he didn’t provide half my genetic sequence, but he did provide all the love and support a child could wish for. He showed me what it was like to have two loving and strong parents in the home. He gave me what I missed as a child of divorce the feeling of a strong family unit.
Father’s day is hard on a lot of people. Some people like my Papa didn’t know their fathers or have fathers like mine who won’t accept them for who they are. Papa doesn’t always understand me, but he loves and accepts me. All of me. It is what a father does.
So after weeks of sending out resumes and expecting it to take weeks, I finally got a response from two principals in my district. Ten years at the same school. Ten years knowing the boundaries and pushing them. It is time to push new boundaries and serve new students. Two interviews, two chances. Two opportunities to venture down new pathways.
Or in my case, new characters.
Keep pushing for your dreams, Keep pushing for something that fits better and as always ….
My last post about my current work situation, which is still pretty messed up, but it wasn’t really focused on the ups and downs of being a writer and the need of a day job. There is a myth that if you only had enough time you would be able to get your next book done and that book will bring an end the day job.
It is a myth. Not sure a dream.
The idea of being a writer who is able to rely on their works as your only source of income is both a fantasy and a nightmare. A fantasy because many of us firmly believe that if we just had more time to write then we would be able to accomplish our goals. John Green, the author of Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, found that more time he had the less productive he was at first. Eventually, he found a community of people who helped provide him with the interactions he needed.
To make money as a writer, you have to write. Write, edit, publish repeat. It is easy and nearly impossible all at the same time. Yet, people do it. Just not as many as you may think do it without a day job.
Writers have to hustle to make a living. They don’t just spend their days on their next great novel. They are writing articles, critiquing movies and play and generally doing whatever they need to keep a roof over their heads. Most don’t write full time at least not in the way we like to think they do.
They bust their fingers day and night to make things happened for themselves and their families. They write for magazines, blogs and any outlet that they can. They do talks, pick up gigs here and there and I am sure more than a few can be found behind the wheel driving for Uber. They update their Patreon page and communicate with readers. (Engaged readers are more likely to become fans. Fans buy your books and tell their friends.) They create their stories late at night and in the moments in between whatever they have to do to put food on the table.
In the next couple of weeks or months depending on how it goes, I will be looking for a new day job. I can’t live without it. I need insurance and having rent money is a necessity as well. I will dream of not going back to work after the summer. Dream of spending my days at my writing desk and three hour workouts. Although, truthfully when I have a lot of time to myself I don’t get much writing done. I am, however, willing to try and see what happens provided I win the lottery or my book gets a mega movie deal.
In the meantime, I am going to work harder at making the time I do have count and use my day job as inspiration for my writing. There are numerous characters rambling around my school everyday begging to find their way on to the pages of my next book.
A day job doesn’t need to be a hindrance. Use it as a source for your next work. Write what you know. Take inspiration from all around you.
Last week I had some out-patient surgery. (No worries, I am fine and back at work.) The same day, it was announced that the BETA Center would be closing its doors in June. I have been a teacher there since 2009.
My day job for the last ten years as been as a teacher of exceptional students in Orlando. No, I don’t teach at the gifted program. My first assignment was at a mental health facility. I was there for ten years. And my students, all young woman, were there as a result of trauma. I loved them and they loved me. They learned and so did I, but it wasn’t until BETA that I really began to develop as a teacher and a writer.
BETA, my current assignment,is part of a private public partnership that provides for the needs of teen mothers. There is a day care on site run by the agency (BETA). They also provide counselors for the students and help with everything from diapers and food to career counseling. BETA also houses a residential program.
Combined with the school, we have one of the highest graduation rates in the county.
My students aren’t statistics. They are real human beings who are working for a better future for themselves and their children. They don’t need to “close their legs” as one commentor to the Orlando Sentinel article on the closing responded. They need compassion and the one and one attention that BETA gives them. They need to be seen a real whole people not “breeders”.
My first year there one of my students was a victim of abuse. She was nineteen. A mom working her way to graduation. When she was eighteen, she came home to find her apartment vacant. Her parents had left her and her baby. They moved without telling her. She didn’t let that stop her. She continued to come to school.
The next year she had moved in with her boyfriend trying to finish school when things turned violent. He didn’t care if the bruises showed or not. He didn’t care. She was his and he could do anything he wanted with her and to her. BETA helped her get out. She is alive today because of BETA. She wants more for her life because of BETA.
Her daughter is in the second grade because of BETA.
She wasn’t the first and she wasn’t the last teen mom to face emotional and physical abused. Every year students come into my classroom having faced horrors that no teen should ever have to face. It isn’t just bullying that these young woman face. Any parent can tell you how hard being a new parent is. No image being a teen mom without the ability to provide the basics for your child. Many of the students work and go to school at night. One young woman, I taught for two years was worked until two in the morning at cleaning service. She came to school and fought everyday to stay awake. She didn’t graduate with honors, but she did graduate.
BETA helped make that happen. My day job does this. Helps young woman find their voice and direction and beat the odds. It is more than just a job. More than a career. It is part of what makes me a good writer. My students aren’t one dimensional people. They are amazing. They inspire me. And they all have stories.
Yes, there are other places that can serve the needs of the community but none of them are like BETA. BETA is a place that saves lives and gives hope. I have had students who have survived domestic violence and homelessness. The BETA serves as an emergency shelter and is currently the only local shelter that can provide shelter to a minor with a child. My heart breaks for my students and their children. It is also breaking for the community as well.
There are efforts underway to try and keep the doors open. If you can, I encourage you to donate by following the link. Every bit helps. It really does.
P.S. BETA also helped make me the writer that I am today. It was working with my students that pushed me from just talking about writing to actually writing. My students overcome so much just to get to school some days to reach their goals, how could I complain that I didn’t have enough time to write? So I did and I keep doing it.