#PimpMyBio : Pitch Wars Contestant Blog Hop

Hi Everyone!

I’m entering Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars competition for the first time– looking for a mentor to work with who will help make my MS shine. Bring on the critiques, really! I want it to sparkle.

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First, I hate talking about myself. It makes me oddly uncomfortable, but writing about myself is naturally easier. I am, as my blog is subtitled, a WRITER, TEACHER, MOM. Although, because my three kids are twenty-something, I’m doing much less mommying which gives me more time for my other two loves.

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I’ve been teaching for 25 years. First as an adult educator working with at-risk, inner-city youth and adults, I then taught as an adjunct at Southern CT. State University teaching English comp and comp & rhetoric. Most recently, I’ve been teaching high school English (Writer’s Workshop, British & American Lit, Speech, and Reading Lit/Reading Film) which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE (my students are the best!).

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Travel is essential to me (like writing and breathing!) I travel with my husband, my whole family (24 of us) and my students. Cape Cod and London are my happy places. If you’re interested in more on that, check out my travel blog Just Journey.

I read a lot (which every single writer should!) My interests are mostly women’s fiction, romance,  and/or historical. My favorite authors are too long to list, but here are a few: Tom Perrotta, Philippa Gregory, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Kingsolver & David Nicholls. Classic author faves include, but certainly not limited to, Emily Bronte, Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. I love memoir and poetry too. Connect with me on Goodreads.

Reading Currently:

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In the summer, you can find me boating, gardening, swimming in the pool or ocean, drinking coffee (cappuccino, lattes, frozen coffee anything) coconut martinis and mojitos, binge watching shows (Californication & Downton Abbey are among my faves) I didn’t have time for during the school year, reading a good book or on my laptop writing/revising/querying….  

I am also a quote collector. I have a highlighter nearby every time I read a book and if I can’t find one, I dog ear the pages. Fun fact: A whole wall in my office is dedicated to the quotes I love. Take a peak:

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Desperately Seeking Clarity, upmarket women’s fiction/romance, began four years ago as my first attempt (successful, which I’m very proud of) at NaNoWriMo. I took the writing challenge with my writing students. It began as a departure from what I’d previously written (2 other novels, a host of short stories, and much poetry). Claire, the main character, is everything I am not as a teacher (or perhaps she is what I might have been in another, much younger life). She is the amalgamation of what I’ve seen in twenty somethings who are just trying to figure out adult life. Teaching middle schoolers was certainly NOT her dream job. And feeling like such a failure at all things love, Claire encounters a bevy of disastrous attempts to find the man of her dreams only to discover she’s been looking in the wrong places. Essentially, it’s about Claire finding who she is and what’s important (and not) in her life. I love this book and I want an agent to love it too!

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Follow me on Twitter and I’ll follow back @PIXY727

Check out other Pitch Wars bios on Lana Pattinson’s blog by clicking here.

Best of luck with Pitch Wars!

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Donna Norman Carbone (WF/R)

2017 Summer Reading: This Summer’s Promise

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Ah! It’s summer. I can read. It’s sounds awful to say (and hear) but I don’t read much for pleasure during the school year. It’s difficult enough juggling reading for school, teaching, writing curriculum, planning, grading, writing for me, house stuff, family stuff– life. Every once in awhile, I’ll indulge myself but only when I know I have a span of time to finish a book. There’s nothing more disappointing than getting into a book and running out of time.

So each year, after the school-year begins, I begin a collection, a treasure trove of books to read over the next summer. There is nothing more satisfying than piling the books I’ve accumulated throughout the year up on the first day of summer to look at what I have in store for me. Faraway lands, worlds unknown to me, people I want to meet and those I never want to see again, a range of emotion, surprising connections, seeds of inspiration, new journeys, insights that cause me to look within and grow. The possibilities can’t even be encapsulated in a single thought and that’s what I love about my first day of summer: what awaits me.

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1984, George Orwell

I read this novel in high school. Now, mind you, it was 1983 and this book seemed completely irrelevant to me. I was “bored to death.” I’ve been teaching British Literature for sixteen years and never even gave it thought to add to my syllabus. Now, thirty-four years after I read it the first time, it skyrockets to the tops of charts. Bookstores are running out of it. I scarily begin to recall something of the details that had long ago been buried somewhere in my subconscious. Suddenly it’s relevance calls me to attention. This is a novel I want to teach. It’s I novel I must teach.

A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

This is also a read again for me. I know I loved it the first time. But I’ve recently had a reawakening of sorts to Hemingway’s work. After reading The Paris Wife, Paula McLain (one I recommend highly), a couple of summers ago, then reading A Moveable Feast upon a colleague’s recommendation, I feel a pull toward Hemingway. His writing is so beautiful and crisp, which I’m sure I hadn’t consciously realized the first time I read A Farewell to Arms. I want to read this from a new lense.

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The Circle, Dave Eggers

Well, because 1984. And because 2016. And because I lead a book group for students with a colleague each year. Because we both teach film, we choose a novel that is also being adapted. Once school begins we get together with our group to talk about the companion texts, comparing and contrasting the mediums. This novel also seems relevant with a very pop-culture twist.

Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

On a girls’ weekend at Cape Cod, my friend Diann pulls this book out and begins reading to Amy and I because she wants us to experience the humor of this novel, one her favorites. After all, this is what English teachers do during their crazy fun girl time. Later, Diann gave each of us a copy and inscribed “Enjoy my book– laugh out loud, a lot. Read it alone or to a friend.”

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste NG

This novel was recommended to me by two people in my writing group who thought I would love it based on hearing the summary of a book I’m writing. I have already begun it and can’t put it down. It’s about a dysfunctional family who suffers loss– something we all can relate to in one way or another. It’s real and beautifully written. Definitely a comp for my novel to aspire to.

Good Thinking, Eric Palmer

Always on the look for good articles about school and teaching, I came across Eric Palmer’s work on how to teach writing an argument. My students are so ingrained with being right that their “arguments” are cliche and virtually unarguable. I know this is something other teachers in my department struggle with too, so I passed the article on. Our department chair bought the book for everyone in our department to read over the summer. I do try to read something on theory or pedagogy to keep myself current. So, check.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling

For teaching British Literature, we assign summer reading and annotating, usually a common book with the teachers  whom I collaborate  (another Brit Lit teacher and the Euro history teacher). In the past, we’ve assigned David Copperfield, Mrs. Dalloway, portions of The Canterbury Tales and London by Edward Rutherfurd. This year we wanted to spice things up, make a change to keep the course current and fresh. We fixed on looking at polarities as a theme throughout the year, and since I’d already planned to teach 1984, we agreed on that paired with this play. Let me add, I have never read a Harry Potter book. The other two teachers have though neither has read this, yet. I’m curious to see how I read it differently than they do given my lack of HP background (I know, I”m definitely in the minority). Moreover, it’s slated to come to NYC/ Broadway in April 2019, so I thought a trip to see it would be a good way to cyclically end the year.

Hemingway in Love, E.A. Hotchner

This book takes me back to my obsession-light over Hadley and Ernest Hemingway since The Paris Wife/ A Moveable Feast quest. I love the way the two interplayed with each other. I’m hoping this will enhance that experience. Not to mention (well, I must) that I bought this at the Shakespeare Bookstore in Paris last year (yes, my book has the stamp to prove it). I had to buy something to make the bookstore/Hemingway connection a tangible part of the experience (p.s. I have a bookmark, too).

 

 

Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Yes, I do love the classics. Some of Shakespeare’s are among my favorites, but never Macbeth. I read it for the first time in high school. Well, the word “read” might be a stretch. I struggled through it understanding very little. The teacher I had, instead of teaching us HOW to read Shakespeare, assumed we knew, and she talked about it at length the next day so I learned that I didn’t have to learn to read Shakespeare. I only had to listen to her summarize it to get enough of the gist to get me by. It wasn’t until I became an English major that I had to take a Shakespeare course as a requirement, something I put off until almost the end of my college career. But the next teacher was very different. He assumed none of us knew how to read Shakespeare and that’s where my love of his works began. I took a course in the comedies at first, then continued with the tragedies. Now, I love teaching Shakespeare, but I have never taught this play probably because I felt scarred in some way. Given our decision to teach polarities in Brit Lit this year, there really is no reason not to teach this play. I’m going to re-read it. The plan is to make myself love it because if I don’t love what I teach neither will my students. As an aside, I do not believe Shakespeare is meant only to be read; I believe it’s meant to be performed, so that’s what we’ll be doing in class this coming year.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Fredrik Backman

As a writer who is currently querying my work, I’m always looking for comps for the novels I’ve written. The first novel I ever wrote, and long ago put aside, was loosely based upon my grandmother. If you’re a follower of my blog, which I hope you are or will be, you’ll realize I write about my grandmother a lot in many different forms. She is part of who I am. So my immediate attraction to this book is my deep connection to her, but I’m hoping in some ways Backman’s novel will be a comp of mine because I’m hoping to pick up again one day, retool and publish: the truest form of an homage to the woman whom I revere so deeply.

Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher

Duh! This novel and television series has gotten so much hype this year, that I had to bite the bullet. It’s actually been on my to-read list for a long time, now. A former ex-girlfriend of my son recommended it a while back and said I have to read it. I put off watching the show until after I do. So many of my students have read and watched that I think it will also serve as a good talking-point with them especially since the series is going into production of a new season. I like to read at least one YA a summer so I have a basis of dialog about summer reading with the high schoolers I teach. I always want reading to be part of our conversation.

Victoria, Daisy Goodwin

As an anglophile, I love period pieces. It began when I read The Other Boleyn Girl and intensified when I read nearly every other book by Philippa Gregory. And suddenly PBS began airing The Tudors which led to Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge and Queen Elizabeth II and, most recently, Victoria. I think Victoria might be my favorite monarch of all. After the season ended, I felt the same way I did when the series of Downton Abbey ended. I wanted more. So I went in search for the perfect read to hold me over until a second season of Victoria. I’m very excited about this one!

What’s Your Presentation Persona?  Scott Schwertly and Sunday Mancini

It started with a conversation with a teacher friend who also teaches Speech which I do as well. She told me about one of those internet quizzes she took to determine the kind of speaker she was, and as she was talking my mind started spinning. I love quizzes like this. Ones that connect dots for me that I hadn’t seen or realized. I started thinking how I could incorporate this into my speech class. And low and behold, there’s a book. I’m going into this one very open- minded as half-self and half-teacher. I’m looking to determine the kind of speaker I am and how to improve. Likewise, I’m looking to see what I can pull to enhance my course. Thus, the life of a teacher and a writer, looking to see what I could use and repurpose.

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There you have it: my Summer 2017 Reading Treasure. It’s easy: make a promise to yourself. What will you be reading this summer?

Do Not Disturb: I’m an Alligator

When one passion needs to make room for another, one of my mantras is “something’s got to give.” This has been a very busy school year. More importantly, I’ve been working on the BUSINESS of writing — not my strong suit, something I’ve written about before if you’ve been following. I’ve been writing for so many years, feebly making attempts to publish. Like a turtle, I put myself out there then withdraw when I get shut down. This year I’ve decided to be more like an alligator by developing a thick skin. I’m focused and determined to take my writing to the next level. THIS is what’s next for me.

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I’ll be back soon. It’s almost summer!

From Chaos to Calm

A rare gift for any family with “adulting” children, we spent two whole months together. Timing really is everything. My eldest, Ryan, living and working as a chef in Chicago, took two months between jobs to spend at home for the holidays. At the same time, my younger two (one a senior at college, the other a sophomore), Tyler and Alexa have also been home for their winter break.

At any given moment, my house is mayhem. Scraps on the floor, pillows strewn about the living room (often not where they are suppose to be– Ryan says I have a pillow problem), cups and candy wrappers left on coffee tables, shoes by the door, clothes (bathrobe, sweatshirt, coats and hats, currently) thrown over the railing that separates living room from kitchen, dishes from last night’s midnight food craving left in the sink, technology and chords on the kitchen table, classic music playing in one room, hip hop in the other, and somewhere in the middle one of them on the laptop binge watching Shameless or Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I stand back, taking it all in. Half of me is feeling really disheveled. The other half is telling the first half to enjoy it because I know full well when the chaos is gone, there will be silence.

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When my babies were little and I felt so overwhelmed that I needed a break, even just to steal away for an hour to browse in stores or grocery shop alone, I couldn’t wait to get back to them.

When my husband and I finally got away for a weekend, just the two of us, we spent most of it talking about how it would be different if the kids were here. When my eldest went off to college for that first time, I mourned as if he’d never be home again.

Two months is certainly a gift– albeit an extended one. It’s permitted me to enjoy the little things, to bask in them even. When my children were small, I found myself so caught up in the mayhem, that I didn’t realize happiness when it was right in front of me. I worried about what was next– the planning, the making sure everything wasn’t about to fall apart. Now, in my fifties (yes, my fifties, OMG!), finally, I recognize happiness in the precise moment it occurs.

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The annual Thanksgiving photo shoot that my children insist upon, out in the backyard at my dad’s while they goof around, attempting to pose, and I snap, snap, snap capturing them laughing and loving each other. When we sit around a bar table in SoHo, each of us sipping cocktails, for the first time together, losing ourselves in mundane conversation about the reservations we’re waiting for or the mild weather in December. At home in the kitchen, I share my grandmother’s manicotti recipe with Ryan and he shows me how to cautiously use a mandolin or how to emulsify a parsley garnish for chicken cacciatore over polenta. Laboring over plans with Alexa for a kitchen remodeling dream that we both share for different reasons. The pride I feel as they immerse themselves in conversation with elders of family at a Christmas party where they didn’t think they wanted to be. Waking up on Christmas morning without the wide-eyed excitement to see what Santa brings, but, instead, the relaxed contentment that we’re able to share our gift opening ritual together.The off-the-cuff comments Tyler makes, and the laughter that ensues, while playing Cards Against Humanity with three generations of family. At night, we sit around the Rangers on the television, cheering, eating popcorn, talking only during commercials. Watching Anthony referee an alumni high school hockey game where both of his sons are players, something they haven’t done together in eight years. The sounds of all of them downstairs competing at darts, and Alexa winning. Ryan calls Alexa a lady for the first time and she feels like they are finally equal. Tyler and Ryan resuming their talent of holding entire conversations with memorized lines from different movies leaving the rest of us bewildered.  Watching the pride on the faces of their grandparents as they look at them lovingly because I know they are enjoying this as much as I am (or maybe a little bit more). The kisses I bestow upon their foreheads at night because I haven’t in a long time and I can. Ryan looking up at me on the last night, saying, “You have me for one more night,” and I smile because I do.

I’m about being present enough to recognize these seemingly insignificant moments when they present themselves. I’m about living in them. I’m about collecting them like the cherished tokens that they are. So, when the chaos has passed and the calm is here– the silence– I can recollect, I can look forward, I can live in the moment not worrying that there aren’t more to come.

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2016, My Year in Review

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2016 has certainly had it’s highs and lows. For me and my family, we’ve had a pretty good year. In our little bubble, we’ve been fortunate and I count our blessings daily. Gratitude means a great deal, I’ve learned over the years. Gratitude and hope. On the periphery, 2016 wasn’t as kind to our nation as a whole. It seems more divided than ever before: half the country is left with dropped jaws and the others disgusted by the apparent hypocrisy of it all. In entertainment, we have been robbed of much talent; while I recognize all the people who passed brought smiles to our lives, there remains empty spaces in their loved ones’ hearts and homes, and that leaves me sad.

BUT, life is cyclical and the world keeps on spinning. I remain hopeful as we look ahead because there is no sense in wallowing in what could have been. Strong people move on; I believe, together, we are a strong people.

I am hopeful that my family will remain healthy and prosper in the upcoming year. I hope Ryan’s plans for work fall in place they way he would like for them to. I hope Tyler finds his niche or at least his upcoming internship @ WPLR w/ Chaz & AJ in the Morning points him in the right direction. I hope my daughter takes advantage of a study-in-Italy opportunity over the summer because I know it will shape her in ways she cannot yet conceive of; likewise, I hope she continues to excel at and LOVE her major at school.

I am thankful for so much this year. First and foremost, the health of both my immediate family and that of my extended family. Anthony and I have also been blessed with the opportunity of excessive travel this year. We have taken every kind of transportation you can imagine (the most exciting being driving a car through parts of Italy, including Rome (yes, I am raising the imaginary trophy we earned for getting there safe and sound). We’ve traveled throughout Italy (from Venice to Florence to Tuscany to Pisa to Rome to Sorrento to Capri to Amalfi/Positano) on a 10 day tour; then, we flew to Paris for 3 days, and finally took the Chunnel from Paris to London for another 3 days from June 24th- July 9th. I can’t imagine another trip will top this one. It’s something we have dreamed of for years. The planning took about two years to pull together. We planned every leg of the trip together. It was exciting to experience what we had put into motion, with very few kinks, and a lot of adventure. It was also a turning point in our relationship. I think it marked a transition into a new chapter, one in which we relearn to enjoy each other’s company without the distractions that come with raising a family. Earlier, we took a trip to visit our son Ryan who is a chef @ Dusek’s in Chicago; we also met his girlfriend, Sarah. Just hanging out with him in his element was both relaxing and eye opening. We got to see his world through his eyes. In August, Ryan and Sarah joined the four of us at Cape Cod, our collective happy place. We could only manage to get there for a long weekend, but we made the most quality of our time there. In October, Anthony and I got to Las Vegas for the first time for a long weekend. It was a first for both of us; while I didn’t expect to like it, really, just the opposite was true. I loved it and we both can’t wait to return. It’s akin to a Disney World for adults. So much to do and see, something for everyone, really, a true spectacle.

There is nothing I enjoy more than travel except spending time w/ my family. We had a lot of quality time with family this year. We are learning to approach this time differently than when our children were, in fact, children. It’s an adjustment, I would say Cape Cod was the first reality of that lesson, but we’re working on improving and we’re getting there. Ryan has been home since the week before Thanksgiving (it’s been 6 weeks, now) and it’s been so wonderful. After he’s been gone for technically three years (but really five), it’s sometimes difficult to navigate what’s changed and what’s remained the same. This time with him, home, as helped us all put some things into perspective. It’s been good. The five of us enjoyed a weekend in NYC. We went for the purpose of seeing a Ranger’s game. We stayed overnight, saw some Christmas decorations, we visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and ate @ Pellegrino’s in Little Italy and @ The Spotted Pig in SoHo,. Ryan has been cooking for us at home, such that I feel spoiled as if we have our own private chef. But better than anything are the quiet normal moments between/among us. Nothing makes me feel more whole than being together — just the five of us– whether we are doing something new and exciting or just hanging out watching a Ranger’s game.

At work, I have also seen a transition. We experienced a tough several years, and I feel we are on the cusp of something deservedly satisfying and gratifying. I used to say I felt like I found a job in Shangri-la, then there came a very dark period, and with some recent changes, I am hopeful for what’s to come. I feel a positive vibe. And, as always, the silver lining is working with the kids whom I truly enjoy. This year, I have the pleasure of working with one of my former students as she begins her career as a teacher; she’ll be student teaching for me in February which I’m really looking forward to.

Personally, I made the commitment to work on myself. Anthony and I dieted, which it’s true, but I prefer to think of it as making some life changes. I lost 25 lbs and he lost 35. We both feel great, but more so, I think we learned some things about eating and being healthy that was long overdue. I hope we continue this way of eating and living into the future.. Now, this year, I need to work on the exercise. I hope by this time next year, I’ll be reflecting on how glad I am to have put daily exercise into my life. Time will tell.

I don’t know what’s ahead. I hope it’s filled with good, but I’ve lived long enough to know we have to overcome the bad to enjoy the good. We will. I BELIEVE in us. I wish us all health and happiness and love. I wish our nation cohesiveness and tolerance (and more than tolerance, appreciation of one another and acceptance of our differences, all the things that make us individuals). My wish for our controversial leader-elect is to use his intelligence wisely, to practice patience, and to think (and seek counsel) before he reacts (in speaking, writing and, most importantly, in action). I wish all of us world peace.

Welcome, 2017!

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The best of 2016, my year in review:

Moments:

  • Our journey through Italy, Paris & London– too many moments to list/ I loved them all!
  • Spending time w/ friends (Smith/Drakes) in London
  • The triumphant climb to Montmartre
  • Venice gondola under the Bridge of Sighs
  • Driving w/ my husband (all around Tuscany down the coast to Rome, in Rome [thank you, God, for keeping us safe])
  • Amalfi/ Positano Tour w/ Vincenzo including the Green Grotto boat ride & lunch @ Marina Grande & even my surprise visit 😛
  • 9/11 Memorial Museum– such a somber, sobering experience that every American should experience once if not for any other reason than to pay homage to those who perished there– a day that changed us all for always
  • Hanging out @ the White Horse Tavern w/ my family when the reality hits me that I’m drinking with all of my adult children for the very first time. Where does time go? (Waiting for a table @ The Spotted Pig, which was delicious!)
  • Big Star, Wicker Park, Chicago w/ Ryan having drinks & nachos: Anthony and Ryan were sizing up the New York Rangers while I read Tyler Knott poetry
  • Tyler entertaining us on Christmas night by serenading us w/ an original (and the many other occasions of laughter he’s brought us this year and always)
  • Working w/ Alexa as she created a design for a renovation project of my kitchen/dining room (measurements, ideas, sketches, Pinterest… TBC)
  • Being asked to review former (now, adult) students’ film/scripts (2 of them)
  • Receiving a copy of an essay in which the writer credited me for inspiring her to become a teacher– the icing on the cake!
  • My Pixie tattoo (got it w/ my besties AB & DCM @ Lovecraft: my ode to Angelique)
  • Every trip to CC with Diann & Amy (the laughs…simply infinite [What the what!])
  • 1st tasting menu meal (12 courses) in Las Vegas w/ the Baliscianos– such an experience!
  • Losing 25 lbs & feeling great 🙂

Songs:

“Go Now,” Sing Street, Adam Levine

“When We Were Young,” Adele

“Always You,” Jax

“One Call Away,” Charlie Puth

“EXs & OHs” Elle King

Best Artist:

Adele

Jax

Sia

The Lumineers

TV Shows:

Breaking Bad

House of Cards

Downton Abbey (so sad it’s over… I’m missing my friends, but looking forward to a possible movie!)

The OA

Fixer Upper

Best Quotes:

“Happiness is only real when shared” Chris McCandless (a student had this quote tattooed on her after reading Into the Wild in my class)

“Imagination is its own form of courage” Francis Underwood, House of Cards

“Hold your sorrow gently” 9/11 Memorial

“This Google phone is awesome” Ryan Carbone, endorsement 360

And in honor of the late Princess Leia, “I heard someone say once that many of us only seem able to find heaven by backing away from hell. And while the place that I’ve arrived at in my life may not precisely be everyone’s idea of heavenly, I could swear sometimes — I hear angels sing.” ― Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

Movies:

(This was a sucky year for movies, Hollywood. I’m disappointed)

Suffragette

The Revenant

Me, Earl & the Dying Girl

You & Me

Sing Street

Mr. Church

Books:

Paris Bookshelf, Nina George

Everyday, David Levithan

Miss Bossypants, Tina Fey

Us, David Nicholls

The Wonder of All Things, Jason Mott

Best Food: (not in any particular order)

Gnocchi, Pellegrino’s, Little Italy, NYC

Gnudi w/ black Truffle, Papaveri e Papere, San Miniato, Italy

Squash flower pizza, Mattarello, Rome, Italy

Creme Brulee, Union League, New Haven, CT

Suffriete & burrata, Portofino’s, New Haven, CT

Clam Chowder, (always) The Black Cat, Hyannis, MA

Pumpkin Soup, The Spotted Pig, SoHo, NYC

Everything I ate @L’Atelier, Joel Robuchon, Las Vegas, Nevada

Best Restaurant:

Papaveri e Papere, San Miniato, Italy

L’Atelier, Joel Robuchon, Las Vegas, Nevada

Dusek’s, Chicago, Illinois (which earned their first Michelin star this year. Congrats, Dusek’s and to my son, Ryan, who took part in that distinction; I’m so, so proud of you!)

Best Play:

Chasing Rainbows

Best Social Media Link:

James Corden Carpool Karaoke

Jaw-dropping Moment(s):

Trump running for president.

Trump being endorsed by the GOP.

Trump being elected president of the United States (Wait, what?!)

My Bucket List Adds:

Lose 15 more pounds

Exercise 5 times a week

Go to Bryant Park

See Hamilton & A Bronx Tale

Return to Venice

Visit Sicily

Live in the UK for a summer (Cornwall, maybe…)

Eat @ Ryan’s restaurant

To see Tyler pursue a career where he synergizes his sense of humor, his intellect and his creativity

To implement Alexa’s design in my own home

Visit Amsterdam, Greece, France (beyond Paris), Bora Bora… (the list continues)

Get a family tattoo (symbol of something that represents our bond)

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Thank you, 2016. CHEERS to 2017!!

Election 2016, Confessions of Dispirited Voter:

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So I cast my vote in this election. To be honest, after 33 years of being an earnest voter, for this election, I wasn’t sure that I would. I believe in our Constitution; I believe we all have a voice; I believe our voices should be heard.

Normally, I’m not afraid to voice my opinions. But the divisiveness I have witnessed from this election, and even politics before this shitshow began, has made me withdraw. I’ve been a bystander for the past several months, reading and watching and listening, appalled by what I read and saw and heard.

Let me preface this by saying, I have always considered myself political, fascinated by the system, the issues and the players. I have been a democrat since I first registered to vote, proudly, when I became eighteen. I have crossed party lines. My two favorite presidents in my lifetime are Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. I have always been a supporter of Hillary Clinton who taught me what a strong woman should be and that it does “take a village” to parent in today’s society; in fact, it “takes a village” to accomplish a lot of things. I considered myself a staunch Hillary supporter when she ran against Obama. Yet, I cried when Obama was elected because I was so proud that our country could come together to elect a man of color, more importantly, to look past color. I thought this is the moment when we begin to prove that we’re putting racism behind us.

Obama’s two terms in office would tell a very different story. As a man, I respect Obama; however, his politics not so much. The two best things he did as president is overseeing the murder of Osama Bin Laden and the legalization of gay marriage. Otherwise, I think he’s been a mediocre, at best, president.

So, this is roughly my past as an American citizen and voter.

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Which brings me to this election. I am saddened that the best two nominees our country could put forward is a racist/misogynist and a criminal. I have become so disillusioned by what I see to be the corruption and criminal acts carried on by the government of our United States. The developments of Hillary’s ongoing email scandal, the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi… makes me cringe. The way Donald Trump talks about and to women and minorities makes my blood curdle. The fact that people can actually cast a vote for these people is beside me. I could not in good conscience do it. I voted today for a third party candidate because my hope is that third party candidates be recognized in future elections. They need a voice — in the debates, side by side with Republican and Democratic candidates. Our two party system is broken. Government (and media outlets too) is corrupt beyond my comprehension.

election-2017

I respect the political stance of every American citizen. I can see reasons for voting for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I believe we need a businessman in there who is not swayed by career-long political ties to shake up the system. We need to worry more about our national security than being “politically correct.” We need to strengthen our borders and make our country strong again. We are soft and the world knows it. We need to make healthcare and college affordable for all citizens. We need to put our people to work and stop offshoring to other countries. We need to raise minimum wages, so people can get out of poverty. We need to stop giving tax credits to the 1%. We need to respect every human being: women, blacks, muslims, the LGBT community. We need to invest in our education system, the future of tomorrow. We need to save our planet, so there is a tomorrow.

While I couldn’t wait for the election to be over, today. I’m fearful for our tomorrow. I pray for our country. I pray that we can heal, rebuild and prosper together as “one nation, under God.”

2016 Summer’s Promise

2016 Summer Promise.jpgEach summer, I make a promise to myself: to read the stack of books I’ve been accumulating throughout the year (the ones I didn’t get to because I’m reading or grading for teaching, or writing, or doing mom stuff). I taught two new classes this year and I had a student teacher, so school took up a lot of my spare time. I did, however, manage to get a few read-for-pleasures in.

I long for summer. I long for the moments when I can read without feeling pulled in another direction. So, these are the books I’ve collected.

Mitch Albom because I have read every single one of his books & his The Five People You Meet in Heaven is on my top 10 list.

Anita Diamant because she also wrote a book on my top 10: The Red Tent (a MUST read for any woman). There are just those authors we form an allegiance to and she is one of them for me.

Ransom Riggs. Well, this book came recommended to me. It doesn’t seem like it’s in my wheelhouse; however, it seems like a book my students could love & I like to recommend books to them. It’s also being adapted which is always interesting for me because I am as much a film buff as I am a reader.

Tina Fey simply because she is funny, I admire her as a woman, and I like lighthearted as a change sometimes.

Virginia Woolf is one of my favorite authors. I simply love her writing style. Plus, it’s a classic that I haven’t yet read. I do try to read at least one new classic a year because I think they make one literate.

Peter Ackroyd because this was a gift given to my last year & I just never got around to reading it. I teach British literature and love all things London. I have also read this writer before. I anticipate learning some things.

Nina George: new author, I think ,or new to me, anyway. I chose this because it’s on the bestseller list, I enjoyed the synopsis and I’ll be traveling to Paris, so I thought it would be a fun read whilst there.

David Levithan– also an author I’d never read, but this book was recommended to me and the I liked the voice immediately when I read the first two pages.

Margaret Powell is a non-fiction and when I googled Downton Abbey booklist, I came up w/ this. I loved Downton Abbey and I’m missing it already!

Jojo Moyes — I’ve heard a lot about this author lately. This is my summer book club choice. Over 50 students signed up for the club. Because I teach literature and film, I always try to choose a book that is being made into a movie, so we could do a comparison when our club meets. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Elizabeth Gilbert. This novel has been on my TO READ list for some time. And I am a believer that as much as we choose books, they choose us too. Since I’m taking this journey to Europe this summer (16 days: Italy, France & the UK), I thought this would be a good parallel read. From what I know about this novel, the timing is perfect.

I look forward to this post every year. More so, I look forward to diving in & being transformed, as I have been each summer.

Happy reading.

This Year’s Best of the Best

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2015- My Year In Review

Best Songs:

Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran

Lost Stars, Adam Levine

When We Were Young, Adele

Everglow, Coldplay

The Way I Am, Ingrid Michaelson

Diamond Road, Sheryl Crow

 

Best Reads:

Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain

The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass

 

Best Movies:

The Red Tent

Begin Again

Bandits

A Little Chaos

Stuck in Love

Love Rosie

The Spectacular Now

 

Best TV Shows:

Californication, Netflix binge watching

Downton Abbey, PBS

The Leftovers, season 2, HBO

Quantico, ABC

 

Best One-Liners:

Mom: You know what I think is amazing?

Me: What?

Mom: I don’t remember, but it will come to me

 

While in the car in South Carolina

Anthony: Tyler, look at the bungi

Tyler: I can’t see shit. I’m in the trunk

 

People- watching in South Carolina

Alexa: Man or woman? Which do you think?

Anthony: Yup

 

About a Bubba Gump souvenir glass

Michelle: Why does he have a top hat on instead of a baseball cap?

Me: You realize it’s a shrimp and not Forrest, right?

 

On the way to a TV taping where the minimum age is 17

Marianne (tour guide): Do you want to tell them how old they are?

Me: Guys, those of you who are still 16 are 17 today, okay?

 

Marianne: There is the Church of Scientology

Jennie (student): Is that where John Travolta lives?

 

Most Profound Quotes:

“I won’t take sides, it’s true, but I am anything but neutral,”

“I wish men worried about our feelings a quarter as much as we worry about theirs,”

“All this thinking is very overrated” Downton Abbey, season 5

 

“Tell me something I can hold onto forever and never let go”

“Let go” The Age of Adaline

 

“We would be together and have our books and at night be warm in bed together with the windows open and the stars bright.”

“I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

 

“Words have weight, something once said cannot be unsaid. Meaning is like a stone dropped into a pool; the ripples will spread and you cannot know what back they wash against.”

“War does not answer war, war does not finish war. The only ending is peace.”

“Knowing that you do not know is to ask humbly, instead of tell arrogantly. That is the beginning of wisdom.”

“The success of any marriage is mutual ignorance”

Philippa Gregory, The Constant Princess

 

“When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.”

“Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.”

“And therein lies the whole of man’s plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition.”

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

 

“Books could be an incredible adventure. I stayed under my blanket and barely moved, and no one would have guessed how my mind raced and my heart soared with stories.”

“No one you love is ever truly lost.”

“If I can write one sentence, simple and true every day, I’ll be satisfied.”

Paula McLain, The Paris Wife

 

Funniest Moment:

Retirement Speech for Diann (“Roast Light”)

& the reprise

Many funny moments w/ my family @ Myrtle Beach

 

Saddest Moments:

Saying goodbye to Bailey & Easter

The passing of too many students

 

Highlights:

Meeting up w/ CHS alumni in Hollywood & the whole Hollywood trip, really

South/North Carolina trip w/ family

Booking Italy/France/England 2016 & England/Scotland/Ireland 2017

Teaching 2 new courses @ CHS… keeping it fresh

 

Happiest Moments:

Ryan surprising us by coming home unexpectedly

One Tree Hill quest w/ Alexa in Wilmington, North Carolina

Myrtle Beach Spa day w/ my daughter

Finding Maggie Mae

Watching Tyler play ice hockey again & Alexa play college LAX

Reconnecting w/ a cousin whom I haven’t seen in over 25 years & his daughter

Reconnecting w/ one of my oldest (length of time vs. age) friends

 

Proudest Moments:

Alexa’s graduation & college acceptances

Ryan’s part in getting a Michelin Star as a sous chef @ Dusek’s Chicago

Tyler learned that a good work ethic reaps rewards

Finishing NaNoWriMo/ beginning my memoir

Students’ successes w/ NaNoWriMo

Receiving notes from former students

Anthony being appointed assistant coach for the CHS Ice Hockey Team

 

Scariest Moments:

Alexa’s car accident

A 2am phone call from the police department

 

Most Touching Moment:

Giving Alexa her HS diploma

Diann asking Amy & I to speak on her behalf @ her retirement dinner

People’s kind words after I wasn’t selected for the department chair job

 

Most Challenging Moments:

Holidays w/out family (especially w/out Ryan– I feel like part of my heart is somewhere else)

Deciding whether or not to apply for the department chair job, then not being selected & being okay

 

and so 2016 begins

NanoWrimo Revisited

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This is my fourth endeavor with NanoWrimo.

For the first, I took on the personal challenge and met the goal– hell, I exceeded the goal, and I turned out some pretty good material to work with. During April of that same year, I took on the task of editing for NanoCamp month while my first set of reluctantly, excited, creative writing students wrote and wrote and wrote. Of course, to my dismay, some of my group cheated which left me appallingly sad. They inserted essays they’d written or copied entries from their journals, or, I even had one boy copy and paste the same 500 words over and over to meet his goal. Needless to say, we had a long discussion about cheating and who really gets cheated when we do. There were a few gems in the bunch who walked away having felt a sense of accomplishment, unmatched by any other high school assignment, for actually writing original material and meeting their goals. I also received a few anonymous notes from students in this class sharing how worthwhile this task was and encouraging me not to give up. For my own personal camp experience, I worked on the book I had begun in my first nano challenge and became increasingly satisfied with the revision process (though grueling as it was at times– this is my least favorite part of writing). I learned a lot about my students, the process, and my own revision evolution.

The next stab at Nano came the following fall when I, yet again, tackled the fiction frenzy month with my class of writers. This time, I amended the guidelines for my students not only to make them more specific but also more doable. They embraced the challenge and I had not one cheater in the bunch. For me, I did not come away feeling as successful as I had the first and second time; in fact, I decided to abandon what I had written, altogether, as it was pretty much crap, but I did meet my word count goal. Moreover, the experience reaffirmed that crap happens; we have to write through the crap to get to the good stuff sometimes.

MOST of my students come away from Nano feeling quite accomplished, some even continue writing the novels they started working on. Not only do students learn about themselves as writers, more importantly they take lessons away that teach them about themselves.

For me, Nano writing month is a time to focus, get re-generated, start pumping the creative juices in a very scheduled and focused way.

While I write quite a bit in my spare time, I can go periods without feeling moved to write or completely blocked even though I try. Being in the habit of writing is a reminder of how important habitual, planned writing is.

This time, I’m writing a series of short, memoir pieces which, ultimately, I hope to organize into a book. I’ve been considering this for some time. In fact, so many people who know me well have suggested I do; I suppose I have a lot of interesting personal stories to tell. I just hope I can tell them well. What I’m most ambivalent about is writing true AND personal, entirely exposed. To me, the combination is frightening. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I’m guessing that’s one of the things I’m about to learn.

As for my writing group, I have high hopes. This year, I seem to have a lot of interested writers in my group who have come to this class as writers eager to learn about form. style and process.

1 week to go! Getting the creative juices flowing.

Following Sea

Long Island Sound 2015

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Time is a ghost

out here on the open water.

Thoughts ebb & flow

like crashing waves.

And, you and I,

our sea legs planted,

silently being.

Your fishing line taut

with promise of a catch.

Me, immersed in a novel–

all the hopeful possibilities.

Taking turns at the helm,

we guide one another

toward the horizon.

An empty nest sits atop

a rock in all its prominence,

reminding us of the following sea

at our backs,

a new sun above us

and, ahead, moments we cannot plot

time we cannot count on.

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