Archive for teaching

A wonderful partnership

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2008 by Trina

Have you ever had a terrible day at work–one so bad that you wanted to walk away and never return? What makes that day different from any other? For a young math teacher who has difficulty dealing with unmanageable students, it is the pervasive influence of her own childhood in “The Mulberry Tree.”

I used my experiences in the classroom as the backdrop for “The Mulberry Tree,” which is in the summer 2008 issue of CHIRON REVIEW, a literary magazine published in Kansas. (For those of you who don’t live in Kansas, information to order a copy or subscription of CR is below).

And now I’ll finally get to the topic of this blog. The publication wouldn’t have happened without my husband, Harry Calhoun. When I first clicked on the CR Web site, I was less than impressed. But Harry assured me that CR is a well respected literary magazine, just not willing to spend $ on the site. Because I trust him, I submitted his favorite of my stories to CHIRON. Now that I’ve read the latest two issues I have to agree–the magazine and contributors are impressive.

Harry and I are both in the summer issue. He has two poems and two book reviews. One of his poems in CR, “My Wife as Wine,” is one of my favorites. And why not, it is about me. It is so fun to be published together. We also received our acceptance letter in the same envelope. See previous post. It has been exhilarating taking this ride together.

I got the idea for this blog when I sent out a note to a friend who wrote back and said, “Congratulations, Trina! That’s wonderful, and especially so because of the shared honor with Harry. What a wonderful partnership you two have.”

I realized that she is right. Harry and I have a wonderful partnership that goes beyond husband and wife or friendship. We have the common interest of writing and spend much of our time discussing the various projects we are working on and the intricacies of the written word. I value Harry’s opinion of my work–which occasionally leads to some heated discussions. But, Harry has never led me astray, so I listen to him. We use each other as a sounding board for ideas and for polishing our finished work. I read Harry’s monthly wine column before he posts it and he almost always incorporates my suggestions. I read the book reviews he sent to CR. I thought one of them was too harsh, so he revised it.

So the publication of “The Mulberry Tree” came about as a result of my partnership with Harry. We may never again get an acceptance in the same envelope or be published in the same issue of a literary magazine, but I will always remember this experience.

I would also like the thank the members of Raleigh Area Women Writers, who helped me improve the story from its original version.

You can subscribe to CHIRON REVIEW at:

522 E. South Ave.
St. John, KS 67576

$16/year for 4 issues.
Or you can purchase the summer issue for $7.00.
Ask for the “Triple S” discount for students, seniors and starving artists.

Taking up the gauntlet

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2007 by Trina

My young adult work in progress will be finished by December 31, 2007. Period.

From my post on December 22, 2006:
I wrote a sketchy draft of THE MAGIC QUILT when I was in graduate school and then didn’t look at it again during the 14 years that I taught middle school. I never even tried to write fiction when I was teaching. I wasn’t alone in that, Stephen King couldn’t write when he was teaching either. In his book ON WRITING, King said,

“…for the first time in my life, writing was hard. The problem was the teaching… by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I’d spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain.”

And so THE MAGIC QUILT waited. My mind was on lesson plans and worrying about whether I had put out all the materials that I would need for the next day’s lab activity. Did I copy the lab handout before I left school, or would I have to go in early and copy it? Then there were the calls to parents about students I was concerned about, and the calls to encourage those who were doing better. And that endless stack of papers to grade that took up all my free time in the evenings.

So it was that after resigning my position as a science teacher, I reread my original draft of THE MAGIC QUILT, rewrote a couple of chapters and brought them to my fiction writing group. With their help, I decided the novel could be good and starting researching the American Revolution, the setting for the book. After finishing the second draft of the book, I took a workshop on writing historical fiction books taught by Philip Gerard, an expert on Paul Revere, and found that I had some historical facts wrong. Fixing the history trickled down through the entire novel and I had to rewrite much of the book. Now, THE MAGIC QUILT is finally so close to being finished that my goal for my holiday vacation is to finish her.

Thank you, Harry, for your support.

Now it is nearly a year later, and my young adult novel in progress is still not finished. Harry reminded me that I’ve been working on the novel for the entire four years that we have been together and I’m still not finished with it. I got mad at him, but I am really angry with myself. I had to ask myself why I am not finished.

I have been making steady progress, but it comes in spurts. I’ll make a writing schedule and stick to it until something happens, or nothing happens. Life gets in the way. We go on vacation, family visits, we adopt a dog, it is too beautiful outside to write, or the day job gets more stressful. Then, I’ll work on shorter pieces trying to get up the energy to work on the novel. And the cycle repeats.

Harry threw down the gauntlet when he asked me how long it would actually take me to finish my WIP. I’m taking up the gauntlet he threw down. With Harry’s somewhat reluctant support, I’ve decided to work part time, cutting my day job to 92% of my current hours. This means that I’ll have two Fridays off per month. Two days that I can write for eight uninterrupted hours. And I am going to finish THE MAGIC QUILT by December 31st using those days off, as well as a early mornings and weekends. Even though the holidays will come and go, I’m still going to finish. I am too close not to.

I have just sent the last three chapters to my writing group for their critique. I am editing the other chapters in the novel for consistency. I am also reading it to make sure Katharine’s voice is right. Her character changes throughout the novel as her control over her magic and her confidence in herself grows. The narrator’s voice must change with her. And, I’m tightening and trying to give the reader credit by not telling them everything.

Wish me luck.

Hello world!

Posted in All posts with tags on September 16, 2006 by Trina

This post marks the beginning of this blog about my writing, and chronicles the ups and downs of life after the classroom. I learned that, like me, nearly one thousand teachers leave the field of teaching every school day. What happens to those thousands of teachers? Why do they walk out the classroom door, never to return? And why don’t we hear about or from them?

I had a successful career as a middle school science teacher. I was esteemed by parents, administrator and peers as an expert science teacher. I spent hours preparing hands-on activities and labs designed to spark interest in my students. I watched their love of science grow and overheard their conversations out of class where said that they had fun in my classes. I had fun teaching them.

And then a couple of years ago, while scrounging for materials in the science equipment room for an energy lab, I realized I was dreading the class. With that realization the dread became fear. In that equipment room, my heart pounded and perspiration beaded on my skin. I dropped the glass beaker that I held, my hand clammy with perspiration. When had teaching become drudgery, so filled with the administrative duties, parent-teacher conferences, grading papers and report cards that had always been just part of the job that I loved? My heart fluttered again as I asked myself, “When was the last time that you had fun in the classroom?”