Rummaging in the cluttered up files in my head

I had fun last night in writing my guest post for Mysti Parker’s blog, Unwritten — it took me back to biology class (as well as doing the research to remind myself of format and tone), explaining an experiment in vampire and witch reproductive systems. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I put the link on my blog this morning.

I like writing on request or to meet someone’s requirements. I like the challenge of seeing the goal and going for it. I worry about the story not being good enough, sounding mundane or done-before, so it helped to take the fiction and apply it to a non-fiction format.

Today in my Writer’s Craft class, we looked at writing advice from Stephen King for a little while, and I asked my students to annotate the article I provided. Their job for homework was to think about the ways his suggestions for writers apply to themselves. One of my students was so pleased with the article, and found it so useful, he declared he was going to keep it handy for the rest of his life. That was a feel-good moment.

Efforts are ramping up with regard to the playwriting challenge. More students are showing interest, and I have to verify that they can receive volunteer hours for participating. A college student who fits the age bracket is also looking at signing up. I did a radio interview today about it. The main issues now are putting up posters around town, making sure we have rehearsal space, printing up tickets (actually, that’s easiest), and getting at least twelve students to join in. I can feel my stress levels rising . . .

I also need to start marking my students’ horror stories. I’ve been thinking about assigning them a reading period so they can get ahead on other projects for their regular English classes, or their maths, while I do my marking and pull them up for questions or to discuss how they did on my task. I like the idea of having that in-class time to do the feedback and evaluation, because then they can get results directly from me and have time to work on whatever else they need. It’s easier to do this with university-bound seniors, I find. Some college-bound seniors won’t waste class time, but there are always a few who will take advantage and spoil it for everyone.

I find myself hoping that the predicted 5-10 cm of snow will arrive early in the night and give me a little break tomorrow. I live in town, so if buses are cancelled for any reason, I still go into work like most, but with an empty classroom I have more time and opportunity and energy to attack the marking pile, plan ahead, and complete the myriad of bureaucratic tasks required by administration, board, and ministry levels. Sometimes I bring my work home with me because I’m packing it up while I still have energy and the motivation to get it done, but when I get in the door and the “mom” in me steps forward, more often than not, the work stays in the bag. If I’m looking at assignments that have been submitted online, it can be easier to work through them because I’m not messing about with pages and pens and highlighters and staplers, grumpily spreading file folders on the couch and continually adjusting from criss-crossed legs to sitting straight as my limbs and bum get numb. It’s just my computer and I when students give me work online. But then my attention depends on whether I’m given the space and quiet by the family. Those moments when I have to deal with three separate conversations at once . . . I can’t imagine how parents do it with big families. That’s when the so-called mindless tasks like washing dishes, folding laundry, cooking, etc., come in handy, but even then I can’t shut my brain down. The “mindless” tasks end up giving me writing ideas. They give me time to think about the other things I need to do or should be doing or haven’t done yet.

It’s going to be interesting, combining all of these things with the 24 Hour Playwriting Challenge. I’m going to be challenged myself to stay in the role of supervisor/coordinator, watching the participants forge ahead in their agenda instead of actively writing, editing, directing, and producing them myself. How will I occupy myself? It wouldn’t be appropriate to do my marking and planning, yet if I just sit there observing, I might be tempted to intervene, and the whole point of the challenge is to let them have the artistic and creative freedom to make their own theatre. I know I’ll be asked for advice, and feedback, and to order pizza. There will be a tidal wave of sudden requests and dire needs that I’ll be filling. So I’ll probably end up more busy than I realize now. (There’s that stress again.)

And then later in the semester, I’ll be having at it once more when the Writer’s Craft students are working on their novels, selecting excerpts to polish for the class anthology, and then compiling the book itself. The last time I did that, I learned a lot about the process of self-publishing and donating proceeds to charity. Sadly, that book sold precious few copies, but at least it’s out there, and we’re doing it again. And the students came away with a sense of accomplishment.

The difference that I think I’m finding, though, is that with the 24 Hour Playwriting Challenge, I’m not sure that there will be a tangible reminder of what the young people have accomplished. I have to do up certificates still, but I really wish I could figure out an affordable reward or prize of some sort. T-shirts, perhaps? Nope, no budget for those, unless I go really cheap and ask the participants to chip in, and even then, I don’t think I’ve given myself enough time to have them printed. Nor do I have a creative logo at the moment. That’s bugging me, too. A plaque or trophy? Again, no budget. We’re on less than shoe-string. Last year, I ran a Pokemon tournament and painted a plaque, but nobody seems thrilled with that idea for this.

Maybe I could have the scripts that are produced by the students compiled into a published book, and have it printed for the theatre? It would take a few weeks, but then the participants could purchase their own copies of their finished work. And perhaps we could offer the t-shirts, on order, for distribution later.

Hmm. I’ll definitely have to work on a logo.

I really wish I didn’t have to sleep.

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