Ready for Summer

I’m officially ready for summer. I’m officially weary of wet and cold. I know spring is coming. I can hear a difference in the morning song birds, the very air itself feels different, I can see weeds (and some grass) sprouting in my yard, I can feel romance stirring in my blood. I am ready for flip-flops and shorts, ready to feel the warmth of the sun. Much work comes with the spring when you own a house, but that is just part of the deal. There will be the annual repair of the air conditioner, I still have some screens for my carpenter friend to construct for my windows, I have landscaping, and I have other chores. The good thing about spring is that it leads me into summer. I need to do some research on how my favorite writers were affected by summer and how they viewed them.

Though I know summers are becoming increasingly shorter for teachers, I intend for this to be my most productive summer ever. Pelican will publish my children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House, sometime in May. When it comes out, I will pack my schedule and burn up the roads doing signings and readings and children’s programs, etc. I need to start working on my calendar now. Wish me luck.

Tomorrow, I’ll be in Winnsboro in Franklin Parish for my second presentation for Battlefield Louisiana: The Civil War in Louisiana. This week we’re evaluating the book about the Louisiana Native Guards and the black experience during the Civil War. Today, back to the salt mine of public education.

The Tudors

Coming soon to Showtime will be a series I’ve looked forward to for some time–The Tudors. As a high school English teacher, I find the subject matter absolutely fascinating. I’m sure it will drive me and my more diligent students into all kinds of research. I especially do hope that my college students will watch the show. The preview information on the Tudor site says this of the series:

Lover. Warrior. Rebel. King. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is Henry VIII as never seen before. THE TUDORS is the epic new Showtime Original Series that reveals the scandalous life of the stunning young monarch, who ruled his kingdom with ruthless abandon. With a lust for power and an appetite for love, Henry’s affair with Anne Boleyn

Evanescence: Amy Lee’s Moving and Haunting Voice

I’ve been on an Evanescence kick lately, listening to the mesmerizing voice of Amy Lee while driving in my Toyota truck.

My friend E.B. requested I post the words of “Bring Me to Life.” Here they are, retrieved from http://endor.org/evanescence/lyrics.asp?Submit=View+Lyrics&AlbumID=4&SongID=29 This is the unofficial Evanescence Web site, full of lyrics and good stuff about the band, Evanescence.

Bring Me to Life

how can you see into my eyes like open doors
leading you down into my core
where i’ve become so numb
without a soul my spirit sleeping somewhere cold
until you find it there and lead it back home
wake me up inside
wake me up inside
call my name and save me from the dark
bid my blood to run
before i come undone
save me from the nothing i’ve become

now that i know what i’m without
you can’t just leave me
breathe into me and make me real
bring me to life

wake me up inside
wake me up inside
call my name and save me from the dark
bid my blood to run
before i come undone
save me from the nothing i’ve become
bring me to life

frozen inside without your touch
without your love darling
only you are the life among the dead

all this time i can’t believe i couldn’t see
kept in the dark but you were there in front of me
i’ve been sleeping a thousand years it seems
got to open my eyes to everything
without a thought without a voice without a soul
don’t let me die here
there must be something more
bring me to life

Lazy Writers

I’ve decided to preach to my writing self a little bit. I realized that my strict religious upbringing gave me some good knowledge of life and people, as well as some nightmares. There’s even some Bible verses that are relevant to writers. This morning, I thought of a couple of verses thare are relevant to writers, both of them from Ecclesiastes. One is Ecclesiastes 10:18 that has the phrase, “through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” A writer cannot afford to be lazy. Our chosen avocation (perhaps vocation if we’re lucky) is a brutal one. I read every biography I can find of writers I admire. They are generally men and women of discipline, who have worked hard for their success, much harder than their admiring readers realize.

Another verse writers can use is Ecclesiastes 11:6. “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold ot thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” This advice is practical for writers, not only in the writing itself, but also in the areas of marketing and promoting their books.

I’m on my way now to the coffee shop, my favorite writing place. I could and do write at home, but I am usually too distracted seeing all the things there is to do around my house, and as a consequence, I do not write diligently. I’ve got an important editing project I must finish soon. I want to get it behind me so I can return to my own work.

I’m tired though. I went to Enoch’s last night with my Scottish friends. Never trust a Scotsman when he says he wants to go get “one” beer. I don’t think they can count. Anyway, I lost count. The evening makes me think of Willie Nelson’s song that says something like, “I’ve got to get drunk tonight and I sure do regret it.” We heard Jeffrey Phillips, a fun and very competent Irish singer. I returned home after 11 p.m. and after the long day fell asleep quickly and slept late. I’ve had my coffee though, so I’m ready to get to work. I don’t want the rafters of my writing house to fall in.

Northeast LA Technology Fair

Today, I attend the Northeast Louisiana Technology Fair at Franklin Parish High School, sponsored by Enhancing Education Through Technology, Region 8 LACUE. It made for a long day (starting at 8 a.m.) after a very busy week, but just hearing the keynote speakers made it worthwhile–even if it did eat up my Saturday. The event featured Elliot Soloway and Cathleen Norris as keynote speakers. Attendance was excellent–the place was packed actually.

I enjoyed the presentations, for I understand how important technology is as a tool of education, yet the day also slightly depressed me. Hearing all the benefits (many were common sense thoughts) of mobile computing for students was exciting, but it depressed me thinking of how I could even pitch such an idea to administrators in a parish that won’t even allow me to use a cell phone for gifted IEP business or any other school-related needs if students are present. All electronic items are verbotten at this time for students anyway. Perhaps our parish will someday rethink these issues and catch up with those schools in our nation who are making progress in such matters and study the ideas of educators like Soloway and Norris. These excellent speakers pointed out how technology can mobilize the curriculum and how with the emergence of low-cost, mobile technologies, it is not possible that each and every child will have his/her own personal computing device. Exciting! Overall, I thought today’s program very practical and thought provoking.

A tornado warning has been given for our area this afternoon. Evidently there is a very nasty storm headed our way. I wanted to get this post up before it reached us. At the first sound of thunder or sight of lightning, I’ll unplug my computers, as a lightning storm last year fried my iMac last year. I couldn’t bear for that to happen to my beloved iBook. My whole life and writing career’s in it. Okay, I know–it’s time for me to make sure I have sufficient backup.

African American Activity Day

Today, I was part of J.S. Clark’s (a magnet school in Monroe) African American Activity Day. The school had engaged a number of people to come in. I was a storyteller, sharing with third graders the story of Jim Limber Davis, the free black orphan that Jefferson Davis adopted during the Civil War. I wore my Confederate uniform and took on the persona and name of my Confederate ancestor, William Warren Keel. My ancestor actually worked with units assigned to the gunpowder industry in North Alabama, but today he was a guard at the Confederate White House in Richmond, Va. I made him an eye witness to the story of Jim Limber. The presentation worked and was received very well. I am always excited to share the story of this young orphan, especially since my book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House, will be in bookstores beginning in May. Pelican Publishers has it in their spring catalogue. You can find their catalogue on this page: http://www.pelicanpub.com/home.asp

After the story, I did little show and tell with flags, some Civil War relics, and some of my reenactor equipment. I did three, 30-minute presentations. The students were bright, interested, polite, and had tons of questions. The teachers were excited, well in control of their little charges, and grateful for my participation. I enjoyed the day very much. I received a little basket of goodies and a certificate of appreciation for my trouble. (Those certificates are always good for CLU’s). In addition to sharing the story of Jim Limber, I was able to teach a little geography and history generally.

I think it went well, as I’ve already been invited back for next year. I was delighted to be a part of their day, as it is so important to teach African American history, to honor the great black Americans, and perhaps to share with the kids (and teachers) something new. Oh. Funny for the day: A few of them thought I really was born in 1840 as I said I was. God, do I look that old?

First Night of Battleground Louisiana

Last night was the first night of the Battleground Louisiana: Civil War Events and Experiences program at the (Winnsboro) Franklin Parish Public Library sponsored by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. The librarian, Emily Arnold, told me it was a record crowd for the library with 41 in attendance. This is a pilot program, but dealt with a topic that had been requested by library patrons for years. We’re off to a good start.

I introduced the series and topic, went through the syllabus, and tested the waters of my audience. I found them receptive, polite, intelligent, and extremely interested in the topic. I knew a few people in the audience, and the discussion was lively and pro-South. My kind of people. Many of them had already read the five books for the series (these are mentioned in a previous post). I am learning so much as I read and work through the selected books, and though there is a good deal of work involved, I am so excited to be a part of this program. It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since the play I wrote for Franklin Parish, Just Scratchin’ the Surface, was performed at the Princess Theatre. I remember the many Saturdays I had spent in the library researching the play. The librarian said she certainly wanted to include me and my upcoming children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House, in their summer reading program for children.

After nights like this, I am happy and proud to be thought of as a Southern writer.

President’s Day

Well, though we had President’s Day off, Bastrop High School teachers and students had to return today. I think everyone south of us had Mardi-Gras time off, but alas, we did not. I think that neither the students nor the teachers were ready to return today. However, I gave it my best effort, and once again tried to defeat the powers of ignorance and darkness, but my enemies are mighty. There were also many students out today.

First period, we worked on Melville’s Billy Bud; in 2nd and 3rd, we worked on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown.” I really enjoy this story. Someday, I’m going to produce a movie of it. 4th period met with an Air Force recruiter, and in 5th and 7th periods we worked on preparing for the GEE, which is coming up in March.

I have a busy week ahead: Thursday, I begin the Civil War in Louisiana series at the Winnsboro Library, and Friday, I’m to make a Jim Limber Davis presenation at J.S. Clark Magnet school in Monroe. Saturday, I have a “technology” workshop to attend, and all kinds of editing and writing projects I need to get to. It’s enough to make a sane man lose his mind, not that I’m too sane. Yet, in spite of my busy schedule today, I was still able to write three poems. That made the whole day worthwhile.

Scots Dictionary

Yesterday, the Scottish Society of Northeast Louisiana held our monthly meeting. We now meet in the Monroe Jaycees building. I think it will be a fine meeting place for our 2007 year. For the program, we invited members to participate in a Scottish “Show and Tell.” One member brought a tartan that had belonged to her Scottish ancestor who had come from Scotland to Ireland to Charleston, SC. Though it was over 200 years old, the wool was still in reasonably good shape.

I showed the group my Collins Pocket Scots Dictionary, using a few Gaelic words for examples. Some of my recent favorites are deil (devil), wabbit (yes, sounds just like Elmer Fudd’s word) which means “to be tired, run down, out of energy” and hooley, which is the word for a wild party. The book is pocket-sized, and useful for anyone interested in Scottish Gaelic.

I’ve long been a collector of language dictionaries, as I believe they are a valuable tool for my writing. In one of these posts, I’ll share a list of the dictionaries I own, including several Native American dictionaries. I particularly want to write a post on my Comanche dictionaries.

Parent Teacher Day

Today, we had our parent teacher day at Bastrop High School in Morehouse Parish in Northeast Louisiana. The hours were from 10:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. I enjoyed it actually, for the late start allowed me to accomplish some chores in the morning, and sitting in our school’s cafeteria allowed me to get some writing done. I read a good bit, then wrote a chapter for my western novel (about 1200 words worth). The day actually seemed to fly by. I did meet with several parents of my students, discussing grades, but as usual, there aren’t enough parents concerned about their children. A few of these meetings were really upbeat, as the grades were good, others were less upbeat and we talked of how the student might improve or turn around their grades. Nevertheless, coming home so late, I feel wiped out. I’ve written some poems tonight, but am fast wearing out. I’ve got books to read! My schedule is in high gear this next week, and I’m feeling that pressure too. But as usual, when I have time like this to just sit and think, I did have some great ideas for stories. Wish me luck.