Every Monday morning Hot Flash Suzi posts humorous stories to lighten your week, but now I’ll be expanding my blog to Foxy Writer Chick Fridays, with its focus on the writer’s craft and inspiration, as well as Foxy Bibliophile Book Reviews pubbing every first Friday of the month.
And so, with the plethora of blogs about writing by writers out there, you may wonder,
- Who the hell is this Foxy Writer Chick?
- And what gives her the right to blog about writing?
Well, like a lot of us, I fell in love with writing by reading and hanging out in libraries. From there, plenty of practice and study of the craft.
And then, as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” So here’s a little story about what give me the right to say #Iamawriter.
Back when I was a young English teacher, an ambitious math teacher met our (married) principal at the Super 8 Motel one zipcode north of our school. (I spotted the two of them checking in while at happy hour across the street. Hey, I’m a born writer–I’m nosy as hell.)
As these things usually go, this woman was soon promoted to assistant principal (and in the years that followed, ascended to an extremely prestigious and powerful position, proving The Peter Principle true (which, by the way, is a real book and theory pubbed in 1969 that states people ascend through the organizational heirarchy to their own special level of incompetence, although I must concede it sounds rather dirty–like a seventies porno movie.) Hey, given her history, who am I to say?
So one day, I was told to stay late after school for a meeting with Ms. Super 8 and the parents of one, Norman Gorman. They could not make it to the PTA conference night the previous week, but wanted a meeting today at five o’clock, so it was my responsibility to find child care for my sons, and be at the conference.
The issue at hand: Norman Gorman had not completed a full-process writing assignment–despite my contacting his parents, extending deadlines, etc. His quarter grade kept him off honor roll.
And so, his parents were irate–not with Norman, but with me.
Ms. Super 8 conducted the meeting in her office, and it was clear early on, she was not there to support my efforts to teach and hold students accountable. She was there to appease the parents no matter the cost or principle. (Remember, she was only into principals–not principles, and one day wanted to be one–principal, that is.)
Norman’s father, a man with a larger belt buckle than intellect, demanded, “What gives you the right to teach my child writing?”
What indeed? “Well, I am his English teacher,” I answered, still mystified by the question.
“English,” the man sputtered. “Well, that’s just grammar and all that crap. That ain’t writing.”
“Well, sir…English is reading, writing, grammar and speaking.”
Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit.
Although the rest of the conference was no laughing matter for me. I left there feeling like a dog had chewed off a chunk of my ass.
Which brings me to my qualifications to write about writing. I am getting there…
I have long been a writer and a student of the craft. And for this Foxy Writer Chick, one of the best books on the craft is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
In Part I (C.V.), King discusses life events that shaped him as a writer. One particular event has stuck with me for all the years since its publication.
The passage of note is about a time when King was a younger man–a husband and young father. He and his wife were just scraping by–as many of us fully know the struggle is real–so King had taken a job teaching English, and thought the salary was handsome, until he fully grasped the amount of time and energy and unpaid overtime the job truly entailed.
So, looking back on my own C.V. (I’m not sure what wave of feminism I came of age under) I do know that when I graduated from college with a degree in communications, opportunities were limited for females.
Every potential employer asked me, “How fast do you type, Honey.” And yes, sexual harassment was alive and well at the time. And so I had to bullshit my way into secretarial jobs to support myself in Los Angeles–I couldn’t type to save my ass, but I learned. And I was also told my blue eyes got me a few of those jobs. (Refer to sexual harassment remark above for further clarification.)
And so, after becoming frustrated with typing letters for men who couldn’t write their way out of a shitter, I moved back east, and returned to college (post-Bachelor’s degree) to pick up the courses I needed to become a teacher.
Teaching appealed to me. It would allow me to use my creativity, I could get paid to share my passion for writing and reading, and I would have great hours and summers off to write…Ha! I always did have to learn the hard way.
And so, life marched on. I spent years teaching English and creative-writing. And when I had to earn a master’s degree to maintain my teaching certification, I went to grad school and earned my master’s in professional writing with my concentation on creative-writing. But that’s the stuff of C.V.’s and that brings me back to Stephen King and his book.
Of his teaching career, King goes on to say, “If I ever came close to despairing about my future as a writer, it was then. I could see myself thirty years on…I’d have a cigarette cough from too many packs of Pall Malls, thicker glasses, more dandruff, and in my desk drawer, six or seven unfinished manuscripts which I would take out and tinker with from time to time, usually when drunk. If asked what I did in my spare time, I’d tell people I was writing a book–what else does any self-respecting creative-writing teacher do with his or her spare time? And of course, I’d lie to myself, telling myself there was still time, it wasn’t too late, there were still novelists who didn’t get started until they were fifty, hell, even sixty. Probably plenty of them.” (King, 73)
When I read that passage, I knew that was me. I have manuscripts in a drawer. And yes, I wrote whenever I had a spare moment, but it was never enough. I was part of the sandwich generation–parenting ornery boys while caring for an aging parent in my home.
Like King, I came home from my classroom feeling like jumper cables had drained every bit of energy out of my body–teaching is like putting on an eight-hour, multi-media variety show five days a week. It’s working without the support of the school administration and, often, the home. It’s a damn grueling job.
As the years wore on me, I didn’t even feel up to reading for pleasure at home, much less writing–I had spent so much time grading papers and documenting data for my annual evaluation that my eyes felt like bleeding.
And then one day after a particularly rough group of low-functioning high school seniors left the room, I looked to the ceiling of my classroom, and said, “God, I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”
He was listening. A month later, breast cancer forced me to retire early. I had punched my time card one final time.
I now write full-time–fiction, nonfiction, poetry and this blog. And then after attending a writer’s conference last fall, I learned that in the year since the last conference I attended, I needed to develop a platform–whether I planned to go traditional publishing or indie. So here I am.
As writers, we are always learning. We are a community. And even though our craft is a solitary pursuit, technology brings us together in ways we couldn’t have imagined back when Norman Gorman wouldn’t write his essay and Kurt Cobain sang about Teen Spirit.
Every voice counts. As a woman and a writer, I’m in my second season, and I’m ready to take off.
Please join me for the ride every Friday,
S.J. Anderson aka Foxy Writer Chick