Monday, January 28, 2013

Good classrooms

My UMaine office. 
In 1991, at Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English, my teacher the late James Britton spoke these words during class one summer day. The next fall because of Mr. Britton, Dixie Goswami, my grad school classmates, my writing, my reading, and these 8 words, I revised my high school English classroom and, in a real way, myself.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Zen & the Art of Snowbanks

Bailey's Swiss heritage as a farm dog leads him to look out over the pastures and sound the alarm if a stranger or predator intrudes and to provide companionship to his people. I love watching this Zen-like stance when he's in the yard. This past week we've had vicious temperatures with wind chills reaching –25 to –35 degrees F.  But whenever Bailey went out, he clicked into the I'm-protecting-the-back-forty stance. Good dog.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Stupid is as stupid does Part II

I'm a moron.

On the coldest night of the year, with the wind bending my four-story Blue Spruce trees, I left the door from my kitchen to the unheated mudroom ajar (insert "open").

Throughout the night, the wind-chilled -25 degrees refrigerated the mudroom. I can picture the arctic air seeping into the kitchen and weaving down the hallway to the only thermostat on the first floor. I could hear the furnace blasting away at my ignorance. Could I be any more careless? Oh yes.

I brought Bailey into the mudroom and let him out into the backyard. When I went to head back into the kitchen, I couldn't open the door. The night before, as always, I'd locked that door and somehow the locking mechanism held fast (insert "I pushed the locking button when I went out").

I'm no dummy. I sprung into action. I turned on the gas stove in the room to keep me from freezing to death in the next 2 minutes (uh?) and weighed my options.  I thought about having to run to my neighbors for help. I pictured myself skipping across the street to the Sullivan's house in my pointy-toed slippers from Kazakhstan, a gift from Jan's parents.

Flashback. 1957.

I'm 4 years old. It's winter--or at least in this version of the story it is. Somehow, I'm alone on the first floor of our house on Lincoln Avenue in Rumford. I probably came down to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I decide it would be a good idea to head out onto the porch. I close the door, look up and down the quiet street, and head back in ... again, the door is locked. I pound on the door, but everyone's sleeping on the two floors above.

Our home on Lincoln Avenue in 1957 is a duplex. Our neighbors, the Mayer's, are awake and hear me. I'm rescued. In my mind today, they treat me to a nice breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup and a big tumbler of OJ....    

My blue slippers...
My 2013 plans do not include showing off my slippers on Prospect Avenue. I could climb over the 60 bags of pellets in the front hallway and dig through the bags leaning against the kitchen door to find the door knob, and slip open that door, tearing away all of the insulation I have stuck in and around the door frame. Or! I could see if there was anyway I'd left the second-floor door unlocked from the sports room to house.... I had. I'm in.

Another lesson learned.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stupid is as stupid does....

When we make the mistake of leaving 3/4 of a box of dog bones where we thought they couldn't be reached...  we sleep on the first floor in front of the pellet stove just in case our dog lets loose from one end or the other, and we'll be closer to the back door. How could I be so stupid?

Poor Bailey.

Fame is fleeting

For no apparent reason, my book's website,, went wild with hits the other day. That made me feel pretty good, but it also made me curious. What caused this onslaught of interest?

I started searching the Internet to find places the website had been cited. I found one place, a coach's website, and I shot her an email just to say Hi. Come to find out she used my team notebook protocols with her college team. She wrote, "The concept of team notebooks has improved our program in ways I could not have imagined!" We went on to trade ideas, and I even invited her to add a quotation to an article I've been writing.

I never found out how the website went mini-viral, but I did meet an interesting and thoughtful coach from Nebraska.

Stats page of hits from Remember, click to enlarge.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Self Promotion

The other day I posted my Amazon Author's Page to my Facebook page to increase traffic and yes, to sell some books. It was an act of shameless self promotion--and not my first! That's part of what authors do. My friend Monica Wood has a stunning new memoir out, When We Were the Kennedys. She spends weeks and weeks on the road as witnessed by her travel schedule for last year and this one. Click here. But when do you get a chance to write? Like everything in life, writing successfully in the 21st century is a balancing act.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Double Dog Dare Factor of Rejection

No matter how long you've written or how much you've published––unless you're Steve King, Toni Morrison, or Richard Russo––rejection is as much a part of the writing process as revision.

If you've been keeping up with this blog over the past year, you'll know that I started interviewing 16-year-old ski racer Sam Morse back in March of 2012. Sam has been keeping ski racing journals for about 9 years, and the article I wrote about him, "Writing Toward Podium Gold: One Athlete's Journals," just got rejected by the editors of a sports research journal.

These days, not much gets my energy flowing like rejection; it's like a task challenge or what we used to call a double dog dare. The editors said the article "didn't quite fit." I knew that when I submitted it, but I like to push boundaries. Most of the articles in their journal are quantitative research pieces; mine's a story, or what we call qualitative research. Last year, I broke into a quantitative journal with a story... man, I loved that feeling.

I have two other journals in mind for the revised version of the article. One journal asks for articles of 10-15 double-spaced pages--right now, it's 25 pages long. The other journal, which is not accepting submissions for a year, is shorter still.
So now, I'll push aside the bills, books, and bits and pieces on my desk to begin trimming 10 to 12 pages from the manuscript... After 60+- hours of writing on the initial article, this pruning sounds plain ugly, doesn't it? But you know what?

I think the story will be better.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Celebrating Wendy

We've lost our Slovakian Golden, Wendy Cicala, age 12 1/2.  I first met Wendy in 2004 when her "brother" Michal came to America as an exchange student. Wendy lived her life in the company of a beautiful, active family... she had a wonderful life and gave her family many happy memories.  Here's to Wendy... a good dog, a great friend, sadly missed by family and friends.