September 20, 2016
Sometimes your writing is the focus of your life, and sometimes the rest of your life takes over.
As soon as I send in my sixth assignment, I remove the seventh’s 61 pages from my ICL binder and clip them together so they’re more portable. I read those pages three times and each time I consider how to attack the task. In this assignment, I’m supposed to choose between revising one of my older pieces or writing a new non-fiction article. I struggle with which article to revise, but make a decision after reading this:
“If you’re on the fence between fiction and nonfiction, keep in mind that nonfiction is generally easier to sell.” (p. 225, ICL Text)
I read Chapter 14 in ICL’s book From Inspiration to Publication called the "Critical Last Step: Revision." I really am in it to get published at this point so I’m going to focus on nonfiction––I’ve waffled about this to be sure. The idea of writing fiction stories appeals to me on so many levels, but if nonfiction sells, I want to head in that direction. Plus, I think if you are a smart writer, you can make nonfiction as appealing as fiction. In fact ICL’s Writing for Children podcast has an episode on that––Episode 014: Nonfiction Does Not mean Nonfun.
Having completed as much reading as I can around how to approach the assignment, I print out one of my previous articles that my instructor already edited. I line up everything to get going on this project with hopes that I’ll hand it in by the end of the week. I even plug my children into their iPads so I’ll have a full hour to get as much accomplished as possible.
Then, there’s a knock at my door, followed by the door swinging open.
My friend Michelle, whom I haven’t seen in months, walks into my kitchen.
“I have two things,” she says. “First, can you help me set up a blog for the class I’m in?”
“And second, the ninth grade English teacher at the high school where I teach resigned this morning, any chance you still want to teach English?”
If this were the old Batman days, those words would have shown up above my head. The first request is an easy one for me, we sit down and pull up Blogger on her computer. The second one is trickier. I have wanted to be a high school English teacher for as long as I can remember, but the year already started. I’ve met the kids and I really like them. Our family schedule has fallen into place nicely. My supervisor gets me and we work together really well. On the other hand, kids are resilient and an opportunity like this in a neighboring town, doesn’t come up that often. Plus, the pay is significantly higher. So, I tell Michelle I will apply.
Now I’m mired in filling out the application and essays, preparing for the interview, and going back and forth on whether or not this is that elusive right choice at the right time.
Life has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? My ICL writing sits spread out just as I had left it. Each time I want to return to the assignment, something else comes up. My 11-year-old son has his first cross country meet. A couple of girls tell my 9-year-old daughter she has a unibrow and should wax it. My husband starts his first real estate course. My writing sits unattended. In fact I even stack it all up and put it on a back counter in the kitchen.
Finally, I make an appointment with myself to get it back into my regular routine. On Saturday morning, I get up, make coffee, and pull it all out again. I write, revise, and promptly fall back in love with the work. Writing is there for me whenever I need it. It helps me sort through things in my life that feel out of control.
It helps me remember who I am and what I love.
Moving on to Assignment Seven, I realize that my initial quick research for Assignment Four isn’t going to be enough to make this article publishable. So I must go back into the Internet world to locate better data and facts (which I’ll then have to confirm later) that bring this article to life. It’s a story that’s been with me for a full year now. Back then, I researched animal adaptations and came upon a fascinating behavioral one. I won’t share it until it’s been accepted by a magazine––because I think it will be. My instructor explains on my first draft that I need to cite more of my research so first, reader believes it, and second, so a child can find out more about the topic later. The more I research, the more deeply I engage in the topic. I decide to set a timer because I worry that I’m spending too much time on research. The Internet does that to you.
Many editors and agents have told me that often when they cut the first one or two paragraphs out of a story, it gets better. Readers like to start where the action is. It gets them involved right away. My instructor likes my opening paragraph, but I cut it out anyway to see what happens. I do like it better. It gets to the point immediately instead of requiring an introduction and I don’t think an intro is necessary anyway. Next, I decide to look at each of the paragraphs independently. I cut and paste and move things around until they work the way I intend. I follow the directions for assignment seven closely because the ICL text is incredibly practical. There are paragraphs explaining how to resize a topic, shuffle information around, and get back to basics. Just as I’m getting to the bottom of my revision work, there’s a knock on the door.
It’s my neighbor’s son. He is crying and telling me that he fell off his bike and it’s still in the middle of the road. I sit him down on the porch rocker and run out to get the bike. When I return, I become Dr. Neighbor Mom, complete with band aids, soap and water, and Neosporin.
My kids watch as I operate. “She’s good at this,” they tell their friend. The friend nods. Life sometimes gets in the way, but it also gives us the stories we can write about later.
Kimberley Moran's site
Kimberley Moran is a gifted and talented teacher and freelance writer who lives in Hampden, Maine. She has two children and one very nice husband. Kimberley would like her bio to make her sound brilliant, witty, and kind because she knows that when you write and read you get to be anyone you want to be.