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.


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).

Secret Agent Man

No, not the 1966 song by Johnny Rivers or the one season (2000) TV series. I’m more concerned about CIA agents. Can I Access an agent? Holy Cow!!! Until I started my search, I had no idea there was a literary agency, “Secret Agent Man.” But, I’m not compelled to change the title of this post.

There are other sources for lists, but I started with Writer’s Market’s 210 recently posted list of literary agents representing novels.

My first category for narrowing down the 210 for a closer look: Genre. But, I haven’t quite yet decided in which my work falls, but I do know where it doesn’t fit, so it was out with 34 of the classic publishing industry defined definitions. That narrowed the 210 to 64.

My current work does have religious, spiritual and suspense elements, but does it fall into those? The story also has strong elements of PTSD from Vietnam and circumstantial homelessness, so I believe it also fits contemporary.  So, with Vietnam being a past issue of its characters, war or military may be a fit also.

The experiment continued with my making the genre` very, very tight – Christian fiction. This narrowed the 64 to 12. However, there were 16 more agencies that appeared to be possible within the genre`. I eliminated Amish romance, cozy and historical mysteries – not my style. Now it’s 10!

Agencies common timelines appear to be six to eight weeks for their response, if any, so I decided to narrow it to Christian fiction with simultaneous submissions permitted or encouraged. Only one of the 10 said it did not accept simultaneous submissions. Six said no simultaneous submissions to agents within the agency, and three didn’t say either way.

So, I’ve spent about 12 hours on this endeavor, and I’ve not yet explored the other genres where my work might fit.

Am I frustrated? No. But, the exercise confirms that there is certainly more to writing a book than writing a book.

OBTW, the agency not accepting simultaneous submissions might be the best fit for my work when it’s ready for that step. It just might, just might be the future of what made up for the 12 non-writing hours. However, it probably depends on that agency’s definition of Christian fiction.

There may also be an element of irony in my title: “Secret Agent Man” agency represents Christian fiction.

I wonder how much time it will take just for exploring other avenues of marketing. Now back to getting my W ready for the most favorable looking agency.

Not the Answer

Last week I asked, “Who are You?”

The answer I got was very close to what I expected, but not what I had hoped for.

Only one non-family ‘You’ answered my request, “Use my Contact JMB link at the top of the page to answer, ‘Who are You’?” I also tweeted a link to this blog site. The result was even worse than as my click the link request – no response.

Now I know a little more. For obvious example, if I want to promote my writing on this blog, I have to find a way to increase its readership. To cliché’ up, it goes without saying, if I spend time promoting this limited (very limited) readership blog, I’m not putting in necessary time in other marketing efforts.

But what are those mediums, and how do I break into them. I’m going to make a cliché ‘wild guess’ – It’s not what you know, but who you know – even in this arena.

I’m currently reading a multiply published author, but it disturbed me when I read, … “the smell of Cordite …” in a story set in current times. Cordite hasn’t been used as a propellant since WWII. Now, if the description of the event included the shooter using a vintage weapon and vintage ammo, I’d accept that the author knew or researched about what he/she wrote. The however here is, the author is making money for a publisher, so accuracy, all-be-it surrounded by fiction, is apparently not too important.

OK! Please, please!

This is not, is not, a gripe session: I accept that I need to balance my W time with some quality M time. However, where do I start?

Well, I’m not going to quit this forum, but I think … well … er … ah …