I am extremely late in announcing this, but the life of a teacher leaves little room for much except. . . well, teaching, of course! However, I am very pleased to announce that my short story Golden Delicious was published in Issue 6 of Graze Magazine. This food themed local magazine is gorgeously delicious and overflowing with brilliant writing. I am ecstatic that they chose my work to grace their pages. Check them out here.
So it is obviously not an unusual thing around here for me to go a long time between posts. I've been in grad school and it pretty much sucked up every free moment I've had for the last two years. But it's totally been worth it because I feel ready for the next adventure in my life. I am so excited about the prospect of starting my first teaching job in a few weeks. Wherever that happens to be. :)
So, just to let you know how I've been filling my time instead of sitting here blogging, I compiled a list of what I have done (so far) on my summer vacation.
10. Reading, reading, and more reading!
I've been checking out a lot of YA literature especially and hope to get some reviews up for you next week. But let me just say, you should go read Bird by Crystal Chan. Just go do it. Trust me!
9. Shopping for my future classroom.
In the hopes that I will find an upper elementary school or middle school language arts teaching position, I hit up Open Books for their annual 50% off sale and scored some good finds for my classroom library.
8. Keeping a dream journal.
This is something I started doing back in 2012 at the beginning of my grad school adventures when I was having some interesting stress dreams, but with my busy schedule, it didn't last long. I have always loved dreams though and often get some interesting story ideas from them, so I wanted to get back into the habit of writing down my dreams now while I have more time to do so.
7. Volunteering with the Chicago Force.
Most people aren't even aware that Chicago has a women's professional tackle football team. But we do and they are amazing. They are also the current national champions and we'll be hosting the championship here in Chicago this year. You can usually find me in the ticket booth during games and I am proud to support such an amazing organization which is doing its part to break down gender barriers in professional sports as well as inspiring young female athletes every day!
6. Rediscovering forgotten writing projects.
I think every writer has those forgotten files saved somewhere on a random flash drive or taking up space in their Dropbox account, and I recently started exploring all these files I haven't opened up in years. And some of the things I found were quite inspiring! Can't wait to blow the dust off of these unfinished stories and flesh out these untouched ideas.
5. Cleaning and Organizing
My office (and attached closet) is truly neat and tidy for the first time in months. I know where everything is and I have found oodles of great supplies that I can bring into my classroom this fall -- opening up more space in my office!
Vegan Shepard's Pie topped with polenta was a great success and now probably my favorite comfort food. But we've also made some great fish tacos and I have oodles more recipes I plan to try out in the coming weeks.
3. Meeting with my writing partner every week.
This has been such a great source of happiness for me to reconnect with my writing partner so we can support each other through our current projects. Because of her motivation, I am writing almost every day again!
Almost two weeks ago, me, along with my 20 amazing classmates, all gave our Master's Presentations and celebrated the fact that we are done, and we are teachers! It was a great day and I am so proud to be part of such a talented, smart, wonderful group of teachers. Yay, Cohort 10!
1. Finishing my novel!
And last, but certainly not least, last week I wrote the final sentence to my WIP. This will actually be the third novel I have finished in the last five years, but this is the one that I feel is ready. The one I know I can send out into the world and be proud of. Just as soon as I finish those pesky revisions. . .
And so, that is how I've been spending my summer vacation so far. What do you think? Spending my time wisely? How about you? Whatever you've been up to, I hope it involves some relaxation and fun!
Happy Easter for those of your who celebrate it. This is posted a little late in the day, I realize, but I thought this would be a good time to share one of my older stories that was published in March 2008 in Johnny America. It has always been a favorite of mine and today seems like the perfect day to share it again. Happy reading!
Diane D. Gillette
Word traveled fast at school on Monday. Emma Jakowski had actually captured him. He was being held in her dad’s tool shed. Anyone who wanted to see him had to be in the Jakowski’s backyard by 3:15 that afternoon, chocolate bunny ears in hand.
It was no secret that Emma loved chocolate bunny ears better than any other form of Easter candy. She immediately ate the ears off of her chocolate Easter Bunny every year and discarded the rest. It just didn’t taste the same without the ears. She also woke up early every Easter and ate the ears off of all five of her younger siblings’ bunnies. Her siblings had never even tasted chocolate Easter Bunny ears. They always complained to their mother, of course, but Mrs. Jakowski could do nothing to get their bunny ears back. She could only take away the rest of Emma’s candy and divide it between the siblings. This was really no great punishment since Emma didn’t have any interest in jelly beans or marshmallow chicks or even goo-filled chocolate eggs. It was bunny ears or nothing.
Somewhere around her eleventh birthday, Emma finally decided she could no longer live with having bunny ears only once a year. She wanted bunny ears every day. Of course that meant she was going to have to go to the source. She would take him by force, if necessary.
There was much speculation about how she actually intended to capture the Easter Bunny, but Emma refused to reveal her plan. When pressed, she pointed out that the Easter Bunny probably had spies everywhere and she didn’t want word getting back to him. She spent much time up in the Jakowski tree house building some sort of trap. The rest of the Jakowski clan was strictly forbidden to even so much as peek in the tree house and not one of them dared to cross Emma. They knew she would make good on her threat to cut them off of all Easter candy for the rest of their lives once she had the Easter Bunny as her prisoner. Only JoJo had been let into the tree house and given a very special job to do, so the rumors said. But he wasn’t talking.
One part of the plan was clear. Anyone who wanted to see the Easter Bunny had to pay with a set of solid chocolate bunny ears. Hollow ears would not be accepted. Only solid chocolate bunny ears were worth a glimpse of the Rabbit himself.
That Easter, all across the neighborhood, chocolate bunny ears were lopped off and stashed away in sandwich baggies or wrapped in tissue or aluminum foil. They were hidden away in backpacks so they wouldn’t be forgotten Monday morning. There were those who received hollow bunnies and burst into tears, much to their parents’ distress. There were others who really didn’t believe Emma could do it and so ate their bunny ears. Bunny ears were traded or stolen as needed. Having a ticket to see the Easter Bunny was worth making an enemy or three.
JoJo stood at the back gate and held a huge Easter basket while a line formed. Under Emma’s watchful eye, JoJo examined every set of bunny ears before they were accepted. Any ears that were deemed faulty, whether they were too small, hollow, or had markings suspiciously similar to bite marks, were tossed into a smaller basket and that unfortunate kid was asked to leave. Once all the worthy ears were deposited in the big basket and the chosen children were allowed in the yard, Emma signaled JoJo. He handed the smaller basket to the younger Jakowski siblings to dispose of as they saw fit and disappeared into the house with the large basket. He came back out into the yard and gave Emma the thumbs up sign. She cleared her throat and silence fell over the back yard.
“I won’t lie to you,” she began. “Capturing the Easter Bunny wasn’t easy. I appreciate your generous donations while we’re in the process of negotiating.”
She paused a moment and the crowd inched closer to the shed.
“I promise that as soon as the Easter Bunny and I come to terms, you will all be paid back with all the chocolate you can eat.”
A cheer arose from the crowd and Emma allowed the noise to continue for a moment before she held up her hands. As the crowded quieted down, she waved JoJo forward and asked him to open the shed door. He was painstakingly slow.
When the door was finally open, the children frantically searched the darkness for the Easter Bunny. Finally someone spotted movement in the far corner and as all eyes followed that person’s finger, a small brown bunny took a couple of hops towards the door.
“JoJo,” Emma hissed, “You were supposed to put him in the cage!”
JoJo looked wide-eyed at his sister and stuttered a little, unable to respond. All eyes were on the bunny. The air was thick with wonderment and the bunny seemed paralyzed with fear. Finally, with no warning, the bunny leapt to life and zigzagged through the crowd before anyone realized what happened.
“After him!” Emma shouted. Instantly the crowd of children took off through the neighborhood after the Easter Bunny. Emma and JoJo followed the crowd to the end of their driveway. They came to a slow stop and watched the crowd of children follow the bunny into the park down the street where they veered out of sight.
Emma turned towards JoJo. Both were grinning. She gave her brother a high five and turned back towards the shed where her youngest siblings stood waiting. They wore chocolate smeared smiles and already held the huge basket of bunny ears between them.
“I told you they were the best, didn’t I?” she asked as she helped herself to a pair of chocolate bunny ears.
This is a few days late, and that is indicative of my week, really. But still there was many joyful moments to be had despite some sorrowful news later in the week. Here are photo representations of seven of those many happy moments.
Happy (belated) Friday!
There is an interesting project that caught my eye last week. It challenges you to notice what makes you happy every day for 100 days in a row and document it in picture form each day. The biggest challenge it would seem would be actually taking the time to upload your picture with the appropriate hashtag every day. I like the idea of this project a lot. Being aware of what makes us happy can only lead to more happiness. However, I know my schedule and sometimes I barely have time to look at my email, let alone upload a picture every day, so I am not going to sign up for their project. But I thought I'd do my own version of the project by making sure I snap a picture every day and then creating a slide show to post here every Friday so I have a record of what made me happy over the past week. I feel I can commit to one happy blog post every week and taking my phone out to get a picture of something everyday seems doable. The biggest challenge I ran into was that sometimes the thing that made me happy wasn't really tangible enough to take a picture of, so I had to come up with something to represent my happy moment, but I am committed to having a visual representation each day. . . So here's seven things that made me happy from March 28-April 3, but certainly not everything that made me happy. :)
After one week of tracking things that made me happy, I observed a few changes.
1. I was generally pretty happy this week. Maybe I would have been anyway, but because I was looking for things to be happy about, I think it helped me focus on the positive things that were happening every day.
2. I began to anticipate what would make me happy the next day and the next, so I was always looking forward to something and making sure there was guaranteed to be a happy moment each day.
3. I really appreciated the little things all week that I think I sometimes tend to take for granted.
4. I had few instances of feeling down this week and was generally fairly productive compared to the previous few weeks. Again, maybe this would have happened anyway, but focusing on happy things definitely didn't hurt.
So what made you happy this week?
One of my very short pieces called Cherry Pit can be found in the latest issue of East Coast Literary Review. This is my first publication after a bit of a grad school induced dry spell and it looks lovely! I haven't even gotten my copy yet, but I can't wait to read all the poetry and stories they selected for this issues. If you'd also like to read it, it is available for Kindle or you can order a print copy here. Happy Reading!
So. . . wow. Yes, it has been such an extremely long time since I've updated my website. In some ways, that was a conscious choice. As I mentioned not long before I went all silent around here, in 2012, I made the decision to go back to school to become a teacher. I applied to, and made into, a very demanding but excellent graduate program that works to truly prepare its teacher candidates for the challenges teachers face in urban schools. Part of that preparation was looking at our own identities and what it means for me as an educated white woman with working class roots to be teaching in a Chicago classroom. I found that constantly analyzing my teacher identity meant that I had to push my writer identity to the side for a while. This was not easy to do. Writing is such an integral part of me that before starting my teacher training program (or "teacher school" as my third graders like to call it), when asked who I am, I would always immediately respond that I am a writer. It was the beginning, middle, and end of my identity in a lot of ways. But no one is just one thing and I needed to face the aspects of my identity and figure out what it means to be a woman or white or straight, etc, etc, etc, the privileges and challenges that come with each label, so that I can be real with my students, so that I can build trust with them and let them know who I really am and where I come from, so they in turn can let me know who they really are. Yes, being a writer is such an important part of who I am, but so is being a teacher. I have been comfortable in my writer identity my whole life, so it was an easy place to retreat to and that is why I needed to set it aside for a time, so I could get comfortable in other aspects of myself.
But lately, the writer has become restless. I've neglected that part of myself for too long and it has become time to merge the two and become not just a writer and not just a teacher but a Writer/Teacher. My identity reflections are far from over as figuring out who I am and what that means will be (and should be) a lifelong journey. But I am comfortable slipping my writer identity back on now because I see all the others I wear along with it and I see how those identities shape not just how I teach, but also how I write.
Last night, I attended a job fair put on by my school. We are just about three months away from finishing our program and we are turning our attention toward where we will be working as full-fledged teachers this fall. I spoke with several schools that I was interested in and had positions I could see myself potentially filling. But there was one school in particular who was not just interested in who I was as a teacher, but also as a writer. As I was talking about how my writer identity fit with my teacher identity, I felt something click. I was so excited about the prospect of teaching writing and literature to middle schoolers. I could hear that little voice inside saying, "Yessssssssssss. . . this is who I am." Without writing, I don't feel complete. It feels good to be back.
I clearly still haven't had much time for blogging, but I've been pretty active over at Goodreads lately (probably because it fills that blogging void) and have done some reviews. I thought I'd share them over here, just in case you're looking for something to read.
I've been quiet here for almost two months now, but those two months have been packed with change and new beginnings. I've wanted to post here, but part of me kept holding back. I think I needed to withdraw in order to take some time to figure out my new routine, my new goals, my new life, and how it all fits together, but from here on out, I hope to make weekly posts here again. After all, I don't want to lose sight of my writing goals.
My biggest announcement is that in August, I found out I'd been accepted into a graduate program at the University of Chicago. I am so incredibly excited about this. It is a really unique program that prepares its students for teaching in urban environments like Chicago. The program is two years long and at the end of it, I will have a Masters in the Art of Teaching and be certified to teach K-9. I started the program in September and it is just as wonderful and amazing as I had hoped. I plan to write much more about this later, but for now, know that this is what has been keeping me too busy for words.
During my hiatus from blogging, I also had two new stories published. You can find my story Thin White Line in Issue #2 of Adanna. And my shortest publication to date appeared in a recent issue of Safety Pin Review. Happy Reading!
Now I am off to do some homework, but I'll be back soon!
Today's stories came from Alice Adams' final collection of short stories The Last Lovely City. I picked this book up at a used bookstore because the title and the cover caught my attention and this particular bookstore had an enormous selection of Alice Adams' books. I've never read any of her novels or short stories before, but thought Short Story Month would be a great time to introduce myself to her work. I selected two stories pretty much at random from this collection. I read A Very Nice Dog and The Visit. Both were very simple stories and at first, I was a bit disappointed, even thinking that A Very Nice Dog lacked plot. But what I realized as the stories marinated and followed me around throughout my day, is that Adams was a master of the subtle story. A Very Nice Dog was not at all about the dog, but the narrator's own loneliness and longing to connect with an acquaintance. She denies any kind of romantic interest in this man, but the whole story is her plotting to find ways to spend time with this man, even going so far as to arrange for him to adopt the very nice dog of the title. This story does not follow a traditional story arc, but instead follows the narrator through her denial. It is the type of story I strive for in my flash fiction. Subtle and capturing a mere moment important for the main character.
As for my own writing, I continued work on my bagpipes story and my word count is up to 1125, putting my on track for meeting my monthly goal. Now I'm going to go watch some more Olympics. Check back in tomorrow for more short story g