Writer’s Block

I’ve read many articles about writer’s block, its causes, and what to do about it.

An Odyssey of Illusions was my third attempt at writing a book. I’d previously drafted a historical fiction, and a social critique of events in a fictional small town.

I just quit when I was about a year short of the timeline in my draft of ‘Odyssey,’ I had an ending time for the story, but it wouldn’t end the story. I put the manuscript in the bottom drawer, so to say, and stopped thinking about it.

A relative sent me a box of family documents and letters which put another project in my mind, so I turned my attention to it. It took me a full summer to sort and compile the material into a work I called Family Bible – a chronological history of my paternal grandparents and their offspring. I’ve often thought about filling in more details from verifiable internet sources, but…

I finished ‘Odyssey,’ and had it published[1] in 2012. The printed and e-versions had considerable mechanical errors, so in retrospect, publication was probably ill timed. The only boasting however is that the book earned a 2013 Erick Hoffer Finalist award (http://www.hofferaward.com/Eric-Hoffer-Award-category-finalists.html#.WT7_xWjyuCo).

Several readers of An Odyssey of Illusions were confused by its ending and commented that a sequel or alternate finish should be written. I agreed and drafted a book-length follow up. After considerable thought, I decided to combine the two in a same manuscript as book one and book two. The format didn’t work too well for me. I dropped it into the bottom drawer. I’ve considered a rewrite of ‘Odyssey’ but I don’t want to lose the point of view and voice of the child who went through those years.

I’ve drafted and rewritten 63,000 + words of another story focused on the lives of persons who still feel the impacts of the Vietnam War from the time of the 1968 TET Offensive and after. I made several attempts to find voice and point of view that will get a reader into the story and seriously consider the impact on veterans and those around them. This work, like several others, is on the back burner, in the bottom drawer, …

Now I’m about one-third of the way through a current-time story in first person as a 25-year-old. I wrote the opening, then the ending before I started filling in the blanks between.[2] This seems to be working at this time in the process. However, I wonder if I’ll finish or eventually put it on hold like the others. I guess I’ll know soon enough because the ending time for the story in just after the shadow of the August 21, 2017, eclipse passes over Oregon.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve discovered my most serious writer’s block – finishing what I’ve started.

[1] I didn’t know at the time the publisher was vanity press.

[2] John Grisham said in an interview that he always writes his ending before the rest of a book. Perhaps, that will work for me.

Education 102

A number of years ago, the school district where I worked seemed to be concerned with a state regulation requiring teachers to defend their student evaluation by adhering to a written set of criteria. This was my response:

Proving that In response to your list of recommendations for enhancing the legal defensibility of performance assessments, I am submitting the following documentation of my personal assessment criteria that was planned for the academic assessment of each student enrolled in my classes.

Whereas in a maximum effort to follow professional standards in constructing tasks, setting performance standards, and evaluating student performance and disseminate information to relevant publics,

I did consider statutory requirements, including state legislation related to testing, and

I did obtain and follow the advice of a technical advisory committee composed of nationally recognized experts and psychometrics with experience in the assessment technique used, and

I did provide reasonable advance notice of change in assessment – including skills to be tested, question formats, and analysis procedures, and

I did provide extended notice to students with disabilities or limited English proficiency, and

I did avoid or minimize adverse impact on minority groups and individuals while developing procedures for valid and fair assessment of all groups and individuals, and

I did document students’ opportunity to learn assessed material and that material’s job-relatedness, and

I did use enough tasks to adequately sample the domain assessed while using enough raters to demonstrate equitable and impartial scoring, and

I did train raters to apply agreed-upon criteria consistently and accurately while developing a plan to resolve scoring discrepancies as

I did periodically recheck raters’ work, then

I did develop detailed rules and procedures to insure test security, and

I did ensure fairness to all examinees by administering comparable tasks under standardized conditions while randomly auditing procedures for uniformity, and

I did to the best of my professional ability avoid making unsubstantiated claims about the inferences that can be made from performance assessment scores, and

I did provide multiple opportunities for students to pass and remediation for those who, for some reason not yet identified in education research, fail.

Whereas I did these and other things to insure legal defensibility of identified performance assessments for the first student listed in my grade book, and

I did determine that if I did the same for each of the 120 students enrolled in my classes,

I would spend one day in the process of assessment for each student and therefore,

I would have sixty days for cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domain instruction,

That is if none of those days had to be spent in the process of teaching students and their relevant publics the philosophy and appropriateness of my having to spend so much non instructional time

I did indeed follow your recommendations for enhancing the legal defensibility of performance assessments.

Education 101

A newspaper article about some California schools losing funding because of changes in demographics just got my attention. OK! I’ll be more specific – ethnic demographics (or differences in claiming ethnicity which results in changes in support variables in the complex funding algorithms).

Let me preface my remarks with a little personal background. To those who might say So what, you have little choice – it’s my blog and I’m going to preface. You do, however, have the choice to discontinue reading anytime you want.

I have nearly 40-years of education experience; military electronic equipment maintenance and operation instructor, community college technical instructor, public and private school academic and vocational subject teacher, public and private school substitute administrator, industry instructional materials developer and presenter…

Federal, state, and local program compliance took time from my (our) real purpose for being involved in education – teaching. Sometimes mandated programs supported others, but often enough programs conflicted with others. During those years much of my on-site activity was compelled by one program or another. And, prep-time sometimes had to be focused on issues not related to academic or vocational topics to be taught.

I’ve not been active in the school setting for nearly four years now, but based on expressed concerns of involved people I know, nothing is new under the sun.

No politician introduces legislation with overt or covert intent to harm students or exclude any by circumstance of demographics. However, and this is an opinion, all too much well intended inclusion-legislation is not written so over-inclusion of some doesn’t cause marginalization of others.

Now more schools have to deal with unintended financial issues in educational necessities (qualified teachers) that are already woefully under or marginally funded.

Hearing Voices

No white coats are needed, but I’ve been hearing voices. Yes, voices. Well, allegedly I’m a writer, and I’ve been schooled that voice is an important part of any literary effort.

I believe I had a good voice (not singing of course) when I wrote An Odyssey of Illusions from a third person limited point of view. The story of Levi Reising started with him as a six-year-old and ended when he was ten. That wasn’t too difficult because I’d been both. In the sequel, yet to be submitted for editing, my voice starts pre-pubescent and ends at eighteen. Again, not too difficult. Voice also comes from having been in the locations where I put the main character as I move him through his odyssey. Complete control, say what!

I’ve experimented with voice and point of view in my latest work. I wanted to work in first person, but there are other characters with feelings and opinions vital to the story. A preliminary reader asked if I’d been there (Vietnam) saying, “I was captured by the story so much the first time that I thought it was a true account, even though the preface stated that it was fictional.” That reader had been there.

I’d read a number of first person accounts, know a number of people who had been in Vietnam and had personal military experience, so I became sure I could duplicate the voice of one with that experience.

I tried first person peripheral, but again, there are too many significant characters for my voice to be in that point of view. To make the story work, the teller had to be part of the story and know the thoughts and feelings of each of the major characters.

Thus, I became Hacker Lee Goor, a wounded Vietnam veteran, to present Echoes of Nam in third person omniscient point of view.

Now I have to pull myself back and let Hacker Lee Goor have his voice to tell the multiple Echoes of Nam.

Don’t roll over Mrs. Kellogg.

Cursive

So, cursive is back in schools. Well, some are going back to it according to an AP article by Karen Mathews.

“Hadn’t been for Grayson, I’d been in Tennessee” Whoops! Wrong song. Hadn’t been for cursive, I’d been higher up, you see.


A little backstory: I missed more school than I attended until I started fourth grade – why I missed is another story. My mother once told me I could read before I started school – don’t remember – it was a long time ago.

I was born left handed and am still left eye dominant. In my generation, in rural North Dakota, being left-handed was not socially acceptable. (There’s more to that, but it’s not the point of this post.)

My memory does not include how I got along in my first three partial years of school, but when I entered fourth grade, I couldn’t write cursive like most who had completed the Palmer Penmanship training in third grade. I’m making a big assumption here – I must have been printing left-handed at the time. Miss. Y smacked my hand with a ruler every time she saw me using my left hand. (I actually do remember her family name, but to protect the guilty or innocent as the case may be.)


Hadn’t been for science, I’d been doomed, you see. For those classes and lab reports, printing was acceptable and preferred. But printing an essay or a report for history was very much not acceptable. Legibility and spelling were as important as content – well, I lost so many points from my unnatural eligible cursive, there weren’t enough content points to get a passing grade. Yet, I knew the difference between a gerund and a connecting verb. I learned to type and turned in a spelling error free, grammatically correct paper to my history teacher. Rejected! “Do over, reports must be in your own hand writing.”

“O, woe is me. To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!” Yep! We read Shakespeare.

Guess I’m rambling again. However, I as much as firmly believe communicating in cursive is a reasonable skill, it should never be used as a measure of intelligence. Nor should the inability to write in cursive trump the quality and accuracy of school work content.

Imagine this: getting a paper back from your history teacher with the comment, “Your Morse is unacceptable, -.. — / — …- . .-. / ..-. — .-. / –… ….. # / -.-. .-. . -.. .. (do over for 75% credit).