Monday, April 25, 2011

Technology in Schools

So last week my school district bought iPads for all of the special education teachers it employs. This was pretty exciting for me since my wife has a first generation iPad, and I have been watching her play with it in envy. We had a great training on all the features, as well as educational apps. Let's just say I was very impressed with the features that allow blind, or otherwise impaired individuals use it.

I began thinking of classroom applications for the iPad, and even used some of my special education funds to buy a pair of iPod touches to use with my students who have learning disabilities in reading. Audio books will be used next year with my eighth grade students who read on a 1st or 2nd grade level. With books like The Adventures of Tom Sayer, and The Diary of Anne Frank on their reading list those students would otherwise struggle to keep up. They would probably not learn much.

One of the other teachers in my school is responsible for the students with Aspergers Syndrome, a form of Autism. She has been using an iPad with her students all year with great success. They are able to dictate essays they would have otherwise been unable to write. They have been able to enjoy online educational content. They have even been able to address their sensory needs. Impressive.

Now I am not trying to say that audio books, or other technology will replace good old fashioned paper books anytime soon. What I will say is that I believe that this technology will make books more accessible to people who would have passed on reading in the past. For writers this is great news. News that I feel strongly enough to share on my writing blog. It is helpful to have a foot in the educational realm, especially when I spend a good portion of my time with my target audience for my YA stories. Hopefully you find this information helpful too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Recently I have read alot of blogs written by both writers, and future hopeful writers. The interesting thing I have found is that most writers have, at one time or another, thought their writing is absolute crap. I am hitting that point. Actually it is somewhat encouraging to see that I am going through stages that published writers have experienced.

Many budding writers at one time, or another read published works and think, "I can do that!" Then they sit down to write and find it is more difficult than we thought. Well laid plans fall flat, and we fall out of love with our own ideas. We become bored.

Following a period where we decide we should give up our writing habit and get a real job, (or part time job because we already have a job to support our writing dreams), parents, spouses, or friends encourage us and we start again.

We keep coming back to our urge to write, our desire to explore places and people who exist only in our imagination. Inside of us we have a story that must be told, a view of the world that we wish to share with others.

It is actually comforting to me to see that I am going through the cycle. It means I am doing the work. Many authors take years to break in only after putting in the time to learn their craft. Is it hard to realize your story won't keep your audience's interest? You bet. Frustrating. Is it difficult when you write something you feel is really good, share it with your critique group or alpha readers, only to find that you have made rookie mistakes in grammar and punctuation? Oh yeah. Embarrassing. We must understand that this is the price we must pay to earn our place as authors.

If you find yourself in this place as I have, pat yourself on the back. You are on the right track.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Break

This week is Spring Break for me, and I have the week off from teaching. I have been able to spend time with my family and writing in the last few days. It has been a welcome break as this time of year can become pretty stressful.

I am currently a couple chapters into a realistic fiction middle grade novel. It is a story about a 7th grade boy who learns about friendship while dealing with social pressures, bullies, and girls. I haven't had this much fun writing in a long time. I'm not using an outline, but the story just rolls onto the page. I guess all those years working with junior high students has given me a wealth of inspiration to draw from.

In other news I am finishing Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz book 4. Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens. It is a very quick read, and hilarious. My wife gives me concerned looks when I bust out laughing in the middle of a chapter. Then I read it back to her, and she laughs too.

Well, it's back to writing for me for now!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Writing Update

So I have been really good the last few weeks, and have started writing consistently on a couple different stories. The first is an Epic Fantasy about a royal child that his uncle takes and raises because he is slated to be sacrificed. I get up early in the morning and write for about an hour. So I am able to get about 500 words each day. The second story is a middle grade story that I write around 250 words during my lunch at school. It is a snarky tale of a young man who learns self-esteem through an experience into a fantasy realm.

Daylight savings messed me up a little, but so far I have the first chapter of each story done. I hope to have 5000 total words this month and a good chapter to submit to my writing group at Farland's Writer's Group Forums next month. Now on to my writing group critiques...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Baby!

Okay, so I have been out of commission on my blog here for a couple weeks on account of my wife giving birth to our new baby girl. This makes seven children total for us, but she is the first joint effort. Needless to say, I have been a bit busy helping out with domestic chores and running other children.

This time off has allowed me time to brainstorm and rethink some of my story ideas. I am fleshing out some characters and have followed some of David Farland's/Wolverton's advice from his daily writing kicks. Much of that information is invaluable to revisit when you are at various points in writing.

I am currently trying to make my ideas for character more interesting. One of my weaknesses as a new-ish writer is that I get into a story and find that I just don't have enough conflict or mystery to make it interesting. As a result my writing grows stale. It falls flat. The outcome is yet another unfinished story that I have become bored with. I reviewed Mr. Farland's essay's on outlining. I highly recommend it for anyone in my shoes.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Forming a habit

I was able to write a couple thousand words this week and feel that it was quite a good writing week. I find it funny that after I have read what I have written I start feeling like my prose is, well, stupid. However, as I read what other authors have written, I don't feel that my writing is sub-par. I wonder if other authors have a love-hate relationship with their writing as well. Something to think about.

Anyway, the most difficult thing I have found for a budding author such as myself to deal with is forming the habit to write daily. Working on several projects has definitely helped me to find the interest in going back to words that I have previously written.  It is also something that I just have to sit down and dedicate myself to do. With work, kids, house chores, and a baby on the way it is difficult to find time.

Brandon Mull gave me some great advice the last time he was at the local bookstore. I told him of my plight in finding time and asked how he did it. First he laughed and said that he took a year off. Then he told me something I have made a part of my day. He said, "When you don't have time to write, visualize the scene. Get the details down then when you have some spare time, write." Great advice, and it has worked. I find all sorts of ideas and scenes popping into my head--sometimes at the wrong time! But hey, at least I have no shortage of things to write about.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The long week...

I write this as I am sitting home from school sick. This week has been very busy with having my children over the weekend and preparing for a new baby in a couple weeks. I spent the weekend mostly playing with my boys and setting up baby stuff like the crib. I have done alot of reading and listening to Writing Excuses and I am learning alot.

A major thing I learned about myself is that I need to have several projects going at one time. I want to be one of those writers that blows through a novel and moves on to the next product, but it isn't to be. I find that what I actually do is write on something until it starts feeling stale to me. Then I have to take a break from it and write on something else that is pulling at me. This helps to keep my ideas feeling fresh. It is easier to keep up 500 words per day when I feel that way. It won't work for everyone this way, but as writers we need to learn about ourselves in order to be effective. I can't try to write like other established authors. I need to be me.

In other news I have been reading Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson and only have about 200 pages left. When I am finished I plan to do a review on my blog. I have also been reading parts of the Wheel of Time series to pick up some tricks, and yes, I have harkened back to the past and have read some parts of the Dragonlance books. I find that reading in the style I write helps me write better.

Cheers until next week!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


This week I have spent alot of time brainstorming and organizing the ideas in my head. I never seem to have a shortage of ideas, but I do have difficulty once I have my ideas organized in an outline staying excited about my current project. I have found out that I am great at outlining and the idea part, but becoming consistent in working on it after that is my downfall. This would be what I believe the Writing Excuses trio would call "World Builder's Disease".

I have done alot of thinking and studying on this problem, (mostly studying myself) and I think that I need to cut out all my extracurricular activities such as tv and videogames until I have reached my daily goal of 500 words. Goals and deadlines have always been helpful to me, so I will use that to help myself. I would suggest something similar for anyone struggling to write. It takes dedication, and self-discipline, both things I need to cultivate in myself.

I plan to use this blog as a journal of sorts to reflect on my progress, and work on self-discipline. If I am able to help others as I share my process that will be an added bonus. Cheers.