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A Hundred Years of War

Not too long ago, I wrote about my frustration with teaching World War I. I had finished my teaching of the unit, in which I spent two weeks talking about strategies, conditions, battles, causes, and consequences of the First World War. Some of the days--particularly when we talk about shell shock/PTSD and the Armenian genocide--are heavy, dark, and depressing. One of my primary purposes is to shock the students out of complacency that "World War I was bad, I guess, but it was nothing compared to World War II, which is so much better." That sense of comparison frustrates me, which means I take it as a personal challenge to help my students understand that it's not a matter of which was worse, but instead a recognition of the tragedy that both were. And since they know comparatively little about the First World War, I take it upon myself to drive home the point.
Word Choice As I've said before, I'm not a big swearing guy. I try to be really conscientious of that i…
Recent posts

Teaching Poetry

The school where I teach has a different way of approaching the Language Arts and history cores. We combine them into a single course. It's twice as long, but it covers both curricula and gives me a chance to dive a little deeper into our coursework as a result. There are immense advantages to this, but there are some downsides. One of them is that my Language Arts instruction is, strangely enough, subsumed most of the time.

When I was in college, I studied how to be an English teacher, gaining ideas for writing projects, how to read books, and discussing literature in great depth. Those are skills that I leverage now in my current courses, and I think they're some of the best tools I have. But I also designed content around some of the more nitty-gritty stuff, like grammar, different types of creative writing, and poetry. I don't have the opportunity to teach most of my sophomores about that type of "English" stuff nowadays.

Proof positive of this deficiency is …

Seeking A Gent

I've been sitting on completed manuscripts for too long now, and they're starting to burn in me a little. I feel like I need to step up my agent query list, but every time I send out and get rejected, I feel burned and disheartened. It's been a long while since I tried to query (months at the minimum) and I need to put my work out more fully. Every time I'm rejected, though, I figure that it's because I haven't put enough polish/work on my book.

That is true, though that may not be the reason I didn't hook an agent before. No, I think that there are a lot of factors that are connected to my failure to get anything accomplished on the publishing front and I can't control most of them. Those that I can, however, mostly involve the amount of work I can do in my revisions.

But I keep landing on my perennial problem: I don't like doing revisions. I don't like revisiting stories I've told, I'm tired of the characters, plot, and words. I wish it…

Dishes

Since I've moved to New Place, I've taken it upon me to wash the dishes and stack them in the dishwasher on an almost-nightly basis. There are two reasons for that, so far as I can see, and I think they're both worthwhile. One, it's a small but necessary chore that no one really likes doing. My wife does a lot of (read: a massive amount of) other things already, so this is a way for me to show my appreciation of her, relieving a persistent responsibility. Two, it gives me some positive private time.

Okay, so it isn't particularly private. I'm standing in the middle of the kitchen, often with the kids running around the island counter, chasing and laughing at each other. Our house is arranged in such a way that our kitchen is the most open room, the roof vaulting from the outside wall up above the second story (or, if you're British, storey) bedroom. It's about as far from "private" as can be.

However, since my older boys might get roped into c…

_Zealot_

I finished listening to Reza Aslan read his book Zealot. If you aren't aware of who Reza Aslan is, he is the host of Believerin which he explores some of the different religions of the world. (Because I don't have a cable package, I haven't seen any of the show. He is a bit of a polemicist, to put it mildly, so some of what he does stirs people up. So, be warned*.)

The book has long been on my radar. Reza Aslan is a Muslim who has dabbled in Christianity and eventually dedicated his life to studying different religions. He is a believer in God--a practicing Muslim as he is, that should come as no surprise--but his own personal experiences with Christianity came about as a youth. After some time, he lost faith in Jesus the Christ, but never stopped wanting to know more about Jesus of Nazareth. Zealot is a culmination of his study of the life of the latter.

Lots of people have spoken about Aslan's work, and since it's widely available, I don't want to turn this i…

Forgotten War

This article shocked me.
I know that is click bait on my part, but you should go back and look at it. Can you conceive of an American war* in which over 2 million soldiers' lives were lost? Can you then imagine them not being remembered? A memorial to commemorate the names of the fallen would be, were it to be modeled after the Vietnam War memorial, over eight and a half miles long. 
I finished my annual rereading of All Quiet on the Western Front. It's always a difficult read, and the last fifty pages are particularly grim, if only because of the hopelessness that permeates it. The pity of war is rendered so starkly there that I feel my teaching of the topic is in some ways superfluous. Nevertheless, I feel I have an obligation to teach about the First World War with as much sympathy and detail as I can muster, if only because it is so often misremembered by America--and almost forgotten by Germany.  Not A Drill I feel like most Americans feel that our involvement with World…

Voice of the Writer

Over the last six or seven years, I've been trying to refine what my voice sounds like as a writer. Of course, there's the discrepancy between the fact that written language and spoken language are rather different fundamentally. It's one of the weird things about writing: Whoever it was who did it first chose, for whatever reason, to name this phenomenon as "voice". It's not aural, but visual. It resides in its own part of the brain where characters live. I've often said that writers are strange folk because they scriven what the voices in their heads say, then demand that someone else pay money to go through that same imagination. Basically, we pay to hear the voices in another's head.

I think that's where the voice concept comes in. The cadences and tones are imagined, and the best readers are the ones who differentiate between those separate voices naturally. Writers who sell well, broadly speaking, are those who can communicate that unique vo…