Monday, October 15, 2012
Cloudy and mild
Here it is! The cover for the second Jain Lazarus Adventure, OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK! Once again, my cover artist is the wonderful PJ Friel, who did the art for HEX BREAKER and also for the anthology in which we both appear, DEATH SPARKLES. I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve also got my second round of edits to deal with this week!
“The First Three Pages: Dynamic Openings” workshop is on for next Saturday, October 20, where we spend the day making the opening of the novel or short story as strong as possible. More information here. “Dissecting Submission Guidelines” has been rescheduled for November 3.
The weekend was rough, on several levels. Good, too, but rough. Deadbeat client still hasn’t paid me — the check can’t be “in the mail” for this long. Typical of someone who runs around yapping about how much they “work with spirit” — total bullshit. Especially since I’d given this client a special rate, lower than my usual one. Not happening again.
Wrote one of the best kick-ass critical essays on a book in my life on Friday. I’d been working on it for two weeks, had voluminous notes, but sat down and pulled it all together on Friday. My editor loves it, is taking it to his bosses — but, it still needs to be cut by 2/3. That’s my first task this morning. He’s still going to use it to try to get me more prestigious assignments, and I’m going to use it as a sample, and possibly as a basis for an article on a quartet of semi-related novels this author has written (which I couldn’t address in this piece), It wasn’t wasted, even if this publication can’t use it in its entirety. That’s the reality of word counts and space requirements — something, I would say at least 80% of writing students don’t get on any given day. You have to be able to fit the available space, or you don’t get in. They can’t expand space for YOUR work and lose advertising or encroach on someone else’s space.
Wrote a paper for my Sustainability class on leveling the policy-making field by removing lobbyists (and how to do that). Kept looking for the feedback on the rough draft of my final project, which was supposed to be ready by Wednesday and . . . nothing. A little disheartening, as was not getting a timely response on my submission questions and finding out that I could only present one and not both of my projects. I realize there are a lot of us, but the lack of administrative response for things is not handled as well in this particular class as in both the others. And if the feedback is supposed to be available Wednesday, and the final project is due on Sunday — the feedback should DEFINITELY be available by Friday. I went out of my way to provide feedback on more than the required amount of projects during the first couple of days in the week because I know that, even though all 26,000 students didn’t submit projects, a lot did, and everyone who puts in the work deserves feedback.
Also took the time to comment on five of my fellow students’ papers in the World History Class, as was required. Lots of good writing, but only one out of the five went beyond regurgitating the information we got in class, which was disappointing. Of course, my paper went way out of the box, and I bet you dollars to doughnuts “my peers” grade me down for doing more than spitting class notes back up (but I have a list of really cool sources, and I’m going to use it as a basis for an article for the AFL-CIO magazine).
I woke up on Saturday, feeling lousy and cranky, and glad that I’d been smart enough to cancel the day’s workshop, because I could not have done justice to my students. I was worse than a bear with a sore head, and that’s not fair to them. For once, I listened to myself and knew I wasn’t well enough to teach, and cancelled early enough not to screw up anyone else’s schedule.
I was even more disheartened when I logged on to the workshop I’m teaching, and, out of the entire class, only two people bothered to turn in the assignment on time. Not acceptable, and entirely disrespectful. Every moment I spend on their work is time I’m not spending on my own, and I resent it when they can’t be bothered to keep their commitments. It’s disappointing, because the quality of the work is good, but the fact that they can’t keep a simple commitment — and this is an extraordinarily light course load for one of my classes — it’s not about writing when you feel like it or “get around to it”. It’s about getting it done when it’s due.
I’m taking three classes at coursera right now, EACH requiring 7-12 hours of work a week (which means I’ve added 21-36 hours of additional work onto my already long days) ON TOP of keeping up with current deadlines, the courses I’m teaching, and freelance work to pay the bills. If I can do that, and I’ve kept on top of ALL my course assignments because I’d be letting MYSELF down hugely by not meeting those commitments — someone with a 400 word piece due and more than week to get in done can get it in on time, no matter what else is going on.
The rest of the day was spent finishing up the work for the final Sustainability project, which means I had to revise the first chapter of the marine life mystery and write the next two chapters, and then massage them so they were polished enough to submit. It took me awhile to get back into the groove, but once I did, it went pretty well. I explained, in the Cover Sheet notes, that not every topic inspired by the Sustainability course was going to be fully explored in only the first three chapters, but again, I expect to be marked down by my “peers.” And again, that’s really fine, because I’m fulfilling the commitment to the class, and I’m also getting out a lot of material I can use far beyond class. I would, however, have liked to get that feedback before submitting the final, to see if I needed to tweak it one way or another to fit the class parameters. But I didn’t, so what the hell, and I polished, proofread, and uploaded it a day early. This week, I’ll read five other class projects (as required) and comment on them. I also watched the rest of the videos and took my two quizzes. The less I study for those quizzes, the better I do on them, for some reason.
I was so tired and cranky and felt so lousy that I read Nora Roberts to do something different. Now, I totally respect what she’s achieved in her career, and admire her work ethic enormously. However, her tendency to head-hop in her scenes always leaves me feeling slightly motion-sick, so it wasn’t quite the cure I was looking for!
Sunday was all about coursework, once I’d read the paper and played with the cats. I watched all the week’s videos for the World History Class and took all the quizzes (there’a quiz at the end of each video — I aced all of them). The professor is terrific, and it really shows how we’ve been making the same mistakes since the beginning, over and over, in cycles, financial crises and all (there have been similar ones as far back as 1720, all caused by greed on those making the most money — sound familiar?). We also got our “weekly letter” from the professor; out of 83,000 students, only 1800 submitted papers and he thinks that’s a terrific percentage! We certainly do math differently, or perhaps, he just has a more realistic picture of how people lack commitment. He keeps emphasizing how he hopes the class helps us make connections in the ways different elements in history affect each other, and he’s certainly opening up my perspectives enormously.
Then, it was on to the Greek and Roman Mythology course. This professor, and his Coursera administrative student assistants, do something called “Screenside Chat” which is just awesome — taking questions from the discussion groups and going into them in more depth, so we feel like there’s more connection and community. I watched all the week’s lectures (I’d already worked on the readings) and took the quiz — I got 88, not too bad. I also got the assignment for this week’s paper, which I’m REALLY looking forward to.
So, that was a pretty good day — I felt tired but accomplished by the end of it. And I finished early enough to have a relaxing evening.
This morning, the woodpecker was back — at the same spot we just fixed. I’m going to have to go hang an owl representation in that spot to keep him away.
Will plant the rest of the bulbs today, and clear out the rest of the vegetable patch (we harvested everything left to harvest before Saturday’s light frost).
I did some work on the non-fiction proposal, and will start organizing it today. I want to get it out the door in the next few days, strike while the iron is hot.