Monday, December 31, 2012

Five Good Luck Superstitions

Now that I've done all the wishes I know, here are 5 Good Luck Superstitions that I follow. The last one is particularly useful for New Years tonight.

NO! It's Bad Luck!
Find a Penny
When you pick up a penny, make sure it's on heads so you will have good luck. If it is on tails, you should flip it over without using your hands before picking it up or you'll have bad luck all day.

Lucky Items
Something that you wear or rub. I have a pair of lucky socks, a lucky bracelet, and a lucky coin. However, you must use the luck sparingly so I hardly touch these items until there is something I'm really needing, hoping for, or worrying about. The longer they sit, the more luck they charge up.

Bible in the Car
Keep a bible in your car and you won't get pulled over. It works for me. Never pulled over once yet. (Knock on wood (and it must be real wood))

Rainbows
These are gifts and if you go through one you will have a good day.

Kissing on the New Year
If you kiss your beau at the very instant of the New Year, you will likely have a successful relationship. If you miss it, you are more likely to fight, fall out of love, or break up.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Wishing Rules and Superstitions



Today, I was at Robinson Nature Center and I found a little Southwestern baggy filled with Guatemalan Worry Dolls. If I tell them my worry and put them under my pillow, they will take away my problems at night.

Awesome.

My sister and I both had to buy one. My family (parents included) has always been very superstitious so I figured I'd list all the ones we follow. But after my first draft, I realized we have too many for one post.

Therefore, this post is dedicated to Wishing Superstitions!

Disclaimer: Wishes are more likely to come true if they are realistic and/or benefiting others selflessly. However, you can still wish for whatever you want. It may come true anyway. Wishes also are not on a time schedule and like to come true in odd ways so you must be very specific. But, sometimes you are limited on wishing time (like 11:11) and it can cost you that wish.

11:11
It doesn't matter if it's AM or PM as long as you wish. You can wish as many wishes as you want but you have to be done wishing before it turns 11:12. If it does, your wish will not come true.

Friendship Bracelet
When a friend makes you one of these string bracelets, you may make one wish on it. The wish will come true after the bracelet falls off. However, if you take it off, cut it off, or find it after it was lost, then the wish is null and void.

Eye Lash
If you find an eye lash on your cheek, you may have one wish on it. However, you have to blow it off your finger with your eyes closed in one breath or it won't come true. If it doesn't leave your finger, you must change your wish and blow again. Repeat the process until, when you open your eyes after blowing, it is gone. You must not see where it goes. Note: You cannot pull out eye lashes. Those wishes will not come true.


Shooting Star
Pretty basic, but rare nowadays. You get one wish.

Wishbone
Make one wish, hold it in your mind, and the person who rips the bigger half gets their wish.

Birthday Candles
You must have the same amount of candles as your age. You must hold the one wish in your mind as you blow a single long breath and extinguish all the flames. If you cannot blow them all out at once, the wish won't come true. For this reason, we Hate trick candles.

Dandelions
When they have turned to seed, all cute and white, then you may pick it and make a wish. If you blow all the seeds off the stem, it will come true.

Chopsticks
You may make a single wish on your disposable chopsticks. If you can pull them apart with a clean break, your wish will come true. If you do not wish, a clean break is a sign of good luck or a good meal. If the break is not clean, your wish will not come true and the meal will likely be less satisfactory.

P.S. If you get Worry Dolls, make sure you don't show them to anyone.

Stick around for Five Good Luck Superstitions

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tips for Substitutes

I've done a decent amount of entries now on what teachers can do for substitutes to make it easier. I realize that we can make it easier on ourselves.

By trial and error, here's what I've learned.

1. Establish your rules, guidelines, or expectations in your introduction. For example, I always lay out what we're doing and (for the younger kids) how I expect them to respect me and their fellow students. 

For the high schoolers, I lay down the agreement of letting them listen to music with headphones in as long its appropriate, they act appropriately, and they get their work done.
Hello/Good Morning/Good Afternoon, my name is Miss Hannah and I am your substitute. This is what we're doing today. ____________. I know you guys are young so here's the deal. You can listen to music as long as you have headphones in and I don't hear it. If another teacher comes in, put it away. You also have to get your work done but I don't mind if you all work together as long as you aren't out of your seat or disruptive.
A lot of high school students, take this well. 

2. Give the students some information about you. Where did you graduate? How long ago? Why do you substitute?

Students are interested in you and what you are doing here. When I told a group of high schoolers that I get paid $90 a day just put on movies and make sure they don't kill each other, they were hyped. The same when I told them I got nearly $14,000/year in scholarships for being smart. They thought it was cool and wanted to know how they do those things. (Remember, you are helping them to be motivated to get an education.)

3. If you look as young as me, don't shirk the topic of age. It looks like you're scared. You don't have to tell them your age, but joke along or let them know that you know you look young. Giving them someone relatable is always a change and, as long as you hold yourself professional, they're more likely to respect you and follow what you say. Otherwise, high schoolers are going to give you a hard time.

4. Try to learn names of students by listening to them talk to each other or reading name tags on desks if they are in elementary. It always catches them off guard and gives them a heads up that you know your stuff.

Tips For Subs 2

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Everyone

Sugar Cookies always smell better than they taste
Eat a dozen
Stomach ache

Family Feud! Family Feud! - Not seen on TV

Confession: I bit off Santa's head, but it was a cookie.

We're out of eggs
and milk
and bread
and butter

Eggnog
Christmas Carols
My stomach hurts

No one bought gifts for the dog or the cat
Emergency shopping trip!

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Santa is on the cross, dying for our sins
Except the cross is a pine tree
And our sins are presents wrestled out of another shopper's hands on Black Friday

The cat knocked over the Christmas Tree
The best ornament is broken

Dad is screaming
Mom is smoking
Someone pretends to be homemaker, peacemaker, undertaker

Inevitably, the fire alarm will go off
and it's a mad dash--a horse race--to wrap the presents

Don't Look! Don't Look! You can't come in

She has more presents than me.

BECAUSE SANTA IS NOT REAL

Out of paper! Out of bags! Out of tape!
Newspaper! Paper bags! Origami!

No pictures. Get that camera away from me.
My hair, make up, nails are not done.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What to Leave the Substitute

Teachers,

We know you get paid next to nothing and, all you want to do, is take a day off. So why do you have to prepare so much?

Imagine how the substitute feels, coming into a new classroom everyday with new students and having to be oriented and pick up where you left off with even less pay.

For Elementary Students:
  1. Assign 1 or 2 students to be helpers so there is no mad dash when I don't know something. Let them know and me know, who that student is.
  2. Give me a note on the discipline/warning system. Is there a bell? Flick the lights? Claps? 123 Eyes on Me? (Each school has different ones)
  3. Establish a system of rewards with positive reinforcement. Promise them something if they are good and follow through. More recess? Movie day?
  4. Or leave me something they can work to beside just going up to Blue Star. Leave stickers, candy, no homework, read to them (if they really like that), treasure box, etc.
For All Grades:
  1. No more than 2-3 worksheets per class or section (math/language arts). Kids stop paying attention the more papers they get. They know the work won't be collected or properly graded or even need to be finished that day.
  2. Movies - Check the guideline and ability to play. Leave me a password or log-in instructions. The worst is when I can't get into the computer or figure out where the file is to play the video. Then, I have to call another teacher or student to help.
Evaluate your class. 

Can they work by themselves? Or do they need step-by-step guidance? Are they noisy when in groups? Are there any problems in the past? Who cannot be paired with whom and how will the sub know? Are they easily distracted and unfocused?

This will guide you into picking out activities: Group vs. IndependentCollected vs. Take Home, Test or No Test.

Note: If it's a good class, don't give a test. If the class is particularly challenging, don't give a test. I won't be able to keep them quiet. If the class is right in the middle, leave me a test to give them. It will keep them quiet and focused.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Zarconian Island



I am proud to present the cover of my debut novel Zarconian Island.

Since the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755, the Bermuda Triangle and nine similar vortexes have taken in everything from ships to camels. ZARCONIAN ISLAND, a 65,000-word YA/paranormal romance, exposes these legends and their mysterious creation through tart-tongued high school senior Attie Hotep when she becomes trapped in the Hawaiian vortex.

With powers that are feared and shunned, Attie is no virgin to attacks. Her ancestors, the mixed-blood descendants of Atlantis, were rumored to be the English fairies who kidnapped children, the Caribbean sirens that sunk ships, and dream-like apparitions who broke into psyches. By the 1850s, they were hunted nearly to extinction, turning into all but fairy tales. Now, they hide their powers and walk among us.

When a class trip turns deadly, Attie must use her powers in order to save her classmates. As she struggles to keep her heritage a secret, a boy confronts her and he knows everything. Enter Doug Hutchinson, star soccer player and best friend to her hated rival Bryan.


It will be released early next year so stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jaycee DeLorenzo



Jaycee DeLorenzo's book The Truths About Dating and Mating hit the market this week, and I have an exclusive interview with her. For those interested, Jaycee is also doing a rafflecopter giveawayBut first:

Summary

Spunky Italian coed Ivy Rossini likes to talk and push the boundaries. She gets to do both as she co-hosts Riordan College’s radio program, The Truths about Dating and Mating, alongside her lifelong best friend, Ian Hollister.

Being the only girl who cares to see beyond Ian’s bad boy reputation has its advantages, especially when he’s scaring off the jerks who just want to nail the campus sex-guru. It’s when he’s “protecting” her from the advances she welcomes that she wants to lob him over the head and tell him to butt out. But Ivy’s feels like she’s the one who’s taken a hit when Ian almost kisses her at a party. She knows she should feel relieved when he pulls away, so why is she disappointed instead?

With their friendship and her heart hanging in the balance, can Ivy follow the advice she and Ian give their listeners--to communicate, be honest, and trust in themselves--or will insecurity, stubbornness, and pride ruin any chance of their relationship getting off the ground?

Interview 

Aja: How did you come up with the idea for The Truths about Dating and Mating (TDM)?

Jaycee: I was listening to Loveline one night over ten years ago, and a question was answered in a way that I didn’t like. I blurted out my own answer, something a little sarcastic but truthful. And I was like, “I should write a story with Loveline for the college set, with a romance…ooh, with best friends.”

Aja: Are there any personal experiences from you or someone you know in this book?

Jaycee: Some of the mistakes Ivy makes–while not in the same situations–are ones I’ve made in the past, mainly due to insecurity, fear of what others think, and having a bit of a temper.

Aja: So I know it's unfair--like asking your favorite child--but who is your favorite character in TDM?

Jaycee: That’s actually easy. While I love–and sometimes wanted to strangle–my main characters, my absolute favorite is Casey because he’s a really sweet guy, a total gentleman, and very socially awkward, but also very observant. It’s always the ones that fall in the background who tend to know and see the most.

Aja: And what makes you want to write? What has become your favorite part of the writing process?

Jaycee: I write because my head feels like it’s always going "What if this? What if that?" I have stories that get into my head and I like to put them on paper. My favorite part of the writing process has to be writing the summary–total plotter, here!–and setting my end goals. I then love the drafting and trying to figure out how I’m going to get from the start to the end of a scene, knowing what has to happen to make that scene work.

Aja: Plotting can be very complicated! It's good you enjoy it. I read that you're a mother of two. How do you balance so much plotting, writing, and a family?

Jaycee: I don’t know that I really do it all that well, though I sure try. I don’t have a set schedule for writing. I try to write or edit every day, mainly when I get a few minutes here and there and at night. Most of my writing takes place on my sofa. It has a lounger so I can stretch out my legs. Most of the time, I’m also keeping one eye on my son and my daughter and making sure they’re not scaling the walls. My son is only one, so he’s a bit of a climber.

Aja: How would you describe your writing style?

Jaycee: My writing style has a lot to do with voice, and that voice depends on which MC I’m writing. Ivy is a big talker, so the voice for this book reflects that with longer sentences, rapid and heavy dialogue, and not a lot of attention to the world around her, because she’s very much lives in the moment and isn’t always the most observant. 

Aja: To wrap up, is there a message in TDM that you want readers to grasp?

Jaycee: That honesty and communication is vital to making a relationship work.

To connect with Jaycee DeLorenzo, visit her Twitter or Facebook.
To check out reviews for TDM, visit Goodreads.
The book is on sale at AmazonB&N, and Smashwords.

About The Author:
Jaycee DeLorenzo hails from Tucson, Arizona, on the outskirts of the Saguaro National Park – which she believes to be the most beautiful spread of desert in the world. By day, Jaycee is an English language teacher to elementary students. By night, she’s a wife, mother, writer, cover artist, website designer, and blogger. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking, singing (very poorly), catching up on her favorite shows, and researching. 

The Truths about Dating and Mating is Jaycee's debut novel, and the first in a series centering around students of the fictitious Riordan College.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Why I Write

I suppose I am procrastinating for NaNoWriMo, but I'm going to write some more about writing. 

This time I'll answer the question: Why do I write?

My reasons are very similar to Sarah Arrow's reasons for writing except I didn't keep a dictionary. I found it too boring. I was born in the 90s and encouraged to write fantastical stories. The grammar hammer didn't come down until middle school.

I love Neil Gaiman's answer: "Because I can lie beautiful true things into existence & let people escape from inside their own heads & see through other eyes."

I write because I'm a storyteller. Since I learned that being an author was a career, it's what I've done. During my time as a USGA gymnast, I would entertain my teammates with stories as we trained. I would do a tumbling pass across the floor and, as we waited for our next turn, tell them line by line of what happened next. The first stories I wrote down were The Adventures of Cherish and Tisia, stories for my younger sisters which we acted out.

I write because I am otherwise plagued by my mind. I will have the same dreams over and over. I will become different people and be consumed by their adventures, needs, and stories. I figure if I'm going to go crazy, I may as well write it down. 

I write because there are stories that need to be told. But Aja, you say, these people aren't real. These events aren't real. I suppose not. Or maybe in some alternate world they are. Multiverse.

I write because I want to know. I want to know how other people think, what they do while I'm not there, and who they value. I want to know everything and explore others' minds so I pester people with questions and "why's" and "what happened next" and listen carefully to their word choices and diction. I monitor and question their particular movements and habits. What makes them, them.

I write because I'm better at writing than speaking. I have many fears and, for a long time, my lips were held closed my an intense social anxiety.

I write because it plagues me, because I'm crazy. It's no secret that the best writers are also the craziest, depressed, alcoholic, and obsessed. Edgar Allen Poe, Tennessee Williams, JK Rowling, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, etc.

I write because I have to. Perhaps that is the best answer.

For quotes on writing or pictures of books, visit my Pinterest Quotables or Everything Books

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dream Weaving: Where My Stories Start


With NaNoWriMo going on, I'm motivated to write a post about my writing.

Currently, I'm actively writing three stories. (Not the traditional NaNoWriMo route, I know, but I will have 50,000 words done.) I have another two manuscripts completed and at least six waiting in the wings, either partially written or outlined. When I tell people this, they are flabbergasted.

"Where do your stories come from?"

It's not the first time I've been asked this question. My stories come from dreams. I've realized, after talking to many friends and family members, that I don't dream quite normally.


Most of my sleep is used for active dreaming. I suppose I do have dreams that others would call nightmares. I've been set on fire by ghosts in the afterworld and walloped by Frankenstein on a playground. I've woken up in pain and crying after running through my neighborhood at night when velociraptors or murders are chasing me. Still, I call these adventures rather than nightmares. 

When I dream a dream that I've had before, I can manipulate and change my actions so I can see new end results. I suppose it's similar to alternate endings in video games. However, I don't call it lucid dreaming because I'm not always aware that I'm dreaming. 

If I wake up slowly enough, I can remember dialogue and character's names. I can remember sequences of events and even link one dream to another as if it were episode one and episode two. When I take part in the dreams, I have extensive and vivid memories of a life that never was. I meet new people and sometimes take close friends or family members and insert them into my dreams. 


Honestly, I spend an abnormal amount of time dreaming or daydreaming even though I really don't sleep more than 8 hours. Almost every morning, I review the dream I've just had. As I get ready for the day, I hook my music into the bathroom speakers and listen as certain songs take me on mental trips about my characters or scenes I've yet to write.

No matter what I do during the day, I'm thinking about writing or I am writing down a scene at least once every hour. I do this in between classes as a substitute teacher, watching unrelated television shows, reading manga online, and even eating.

My most active writing happens in the stillness of night. Everything from the day comes together and my mind moves with dialogue and memories.

Following that I fall into dream world again.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tales of a Substitute Teacher

Students believe you can't hear anything they say even if they are less than two feet away.

When the high school students first look in the door and see me behind the desk, they sometimes go back into the hallway and shout to their friends:
"Who is that?"
"Do we have a sub?"
"Yes!"
Or my personal favorite, "Well, I'm not coming to class" as if I won't take attendance.

I want to say, "I can hear you."

The ones that return start whispering:
"This is a joke, right?"
"She looks so young."
"How old is she?"
I twirl my pencil and wait for the late bell to ring. Someone gets up the courage to ask my age.

"Older than you think," I reply.

Another tries to ask for my Twitter/Facebook name. I shut him down. "Teachers aren't allowed to give those out."

Then, I give my speech, addressing each of their whispered comments, in my booming voice: "Hello, everyone! Yes, I am your substitute today. Yes, I have graduated college. I am in my twenties. Now, let's get started."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Unpaid vs. Paid Internships

As I said in my last post, I have had both unpaid and paid internships of different levels. The infographic detailing the cons was very thorough. Now I'd like to share my experiences.

Show Me The Money
Of course everyone wants to be paid for the work that we do. If you are only running coffees as an exchange for college credit to see how the job is done, then you are already being compensated. However, if say you are editing actual documents for a customer at a technical writing internship, then you should be getting paid. I did.

Need Experience?
If you've never had an internship before and haven't held any titles in your chosen career field, you've got to start somewhere. Get your foot in the door.

Once You Pop
Once you begin to get paid for your choice of career (be at an internship or entry-level job), never go back. Not even to something that gives a stipend for travel. You're just lowering your standards and your worth.

Climb the Ladder
Is the unpaid internship competitive with an option for employment? Go for it.

Brand Name
In the instance of the Kane Show, Washington D.C.'s #1 morning show, they don't pay for their interns to answer phones or come in at 4AM. However, dedicated interns get their voice out on the airwaves while reading news, weighing in their opinion, or mixing audio; something usually privileged for talent, celebrities, and lucky callers.

In the End...
Understand, that everyone is fighting for anything they can get right now. Companies are looking on ways to cut back, on how they can get the most for their dollar. When it comes to internships, some companies offer only gas money as reimbursement for real work. While unpaid internships can be real experience, you have to weigh your priorities. Is this your only option? Can you afford it financially? Is the experience or name drop enough compensation? Do they offer any jobs to unpaid interns? Where are there other interns now?

You can always go for an interview and turn it down. Don't feel bad. If you don't take the position, someone else will.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Unpaid Internships: Worse Than You Think?

Recently, Allison Morrison of OnlineCollegeCourses.com brought to my attention this graphic on unpaid internships. As someone who has had both unpaid and paid internships, I find this graphic presents a crucial examination of the cons.

Internships Infographic

However, this is only one side. Stay tuned for my position on the pros of unpaid internships and my final conclusion. I'm afraid I will not have such a well-done infographic though.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why I Would Never Be A Public School Teacher

I'll never be a public school teacher. I commend them because I just couldn't do it.

Don't give a damn -- There are kids, teachers, parents, and administrators who just don't give a damn about a proper education, the students, or property. The staff is so resigned and the students are so rebellious--burnt out on a broken system-- that I'm not actually teaching anything that will stick. It's some Freedom Writers shit. At that rate, I'll become as resigned as any other tenured teacher.

Freezing Classrooms -- Winter and summer, it's always like 30 degrees. WTF?

Can't Touch This -- If a kid leaves the classroom, it's my problem or my fault. However, I can't touch these kids and pull them back in. If they enter a classroom late without a pass, I can't remove them. And they fucking know it. They'll say or do things just to antagonize teachers for fun like this kid from the movie Role Models. What the hell am I supposed to do?

I think, if a high schooler leaves, that's his prerogative. If he tries to come in without a pass, I can shut the door on his face. If I send him to the office and he doesn't go, I do not want to be accountable.

Homework -- If I wanted to do more work (for no pay), I would still be in school.


The DreadedRed Pen and Other Coddling -- I'm sorry, but I can't write in a certain color because it might hurt someone? I already know I can't touch them or face physical/sexual assault charges, but really? In some cases, I can't even take their phones even if it's interrupting a lesson because it's their property. 

If a student mouths off or interrupts my class, then I should be able to send him out of the room. To hell, if he goes to the office or somewhere else. Do you think a boss that fires you makes sure you get home okay? Do you think he cares if he writes his memo edits in red ink or blue ink?
Parents vs. Teachers: how it should be

Summers Off -- I like to be busy, believe it or not. I've had a summer off before and I nearly went crazy.

Parents -- Just no. Even if I was rated the best at dealing with parents and behavioral incidents during my time in the Rockies, it doesn't mean I liked it. "Why didn't my kid get an A?" Because your kid does NO work and mouths off and leaves the room a mess. And yes, I count keeping your space tidy as part of your grade. I'm not going to be a personal maid to 30 students as well as a teacher, counselor, babysitter, and anything else.


Parents vs. Teachers: how it is

Teach to Test -- It's no longer about what they want to know. It's about the grade, the score, the profit. Can I take time out of a lecture to digress on a topic the kids might be interested in? Not if it's not in the curriculum.

Easy A -- Everyone deserves an A now. A is for Average. A is an Attempt.

One Kid, Two Kid, Red Kid, Blue Kid -- I would have to teach kids from remedial to AP, which is not a problem of bending to skill level or patience. It's a problem of respect. I want to teach kids who want to learn, or at least value my attention to their future.


So yeah, public school is not my place. I want to teach kids that want to learn and don't have the opportunity rather than those that feel entitled and waste it. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Hard It Is To Quit


My mom smoked Marlboros for most her life. When she found out they were bad for you, she switched to Lights. I'd wait by the back door, smelling the sweet tobacco slip under the cracks, while I waited for her serve lunch.

When my sisters and I learned about cancer, we set out a crusade. We stole her cigarettes, chopped them up, and washed them down the sink. We banished her from smoking in the car and in the house and posted pictures of dying lungs on every exit.

It didn't even faze her.

My mom could quit everything, but cigarettes and my dad. That's not to say my mom was a quitter, or that she never tried quitting. She would quit cold turkey, use the patch or move out.  She'd chew gum, get a job or get pregnant.

Quitting had a hair trigger though. Six months, nine months, sometimes even a year. Money troubles. Her mother. Our father. And she was right back to it, to him.

I told her once she'd have more money if she stopped smoking a pack a day. She tried to prove me wrong and then told me to mind my business when she couldn't.

"You just don't understand how hard it is to quit."

No, I guess I don't.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Summer Loves

I love too hard.

I do.

His hair looked like it had been burned by the sun. Red hot.

When I want something, I want it. When I love something, I love it until it turns black and sour.

I am intensity.

Listening to a tape deck in an purple-carpeted car while the Plains--stretching into nothingness--whip past.

I am no quitter.

But I have to admit that things can't go on this way.

"I met somebody."

A pain so bright it steals the words from my throat.

No, things can't go on this way.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Characters In Real Life (2)

Real People I Met in Estes:

A young woman as beautiful as her name, Rose. With a beauty mark on her right cheek, she twirled about from group to group, working tirelessly with special needs children. Wisps of hair --falling loose from her sloppy bun--framed the smile which permanently adorned her face.

Known as "Mustache Matt" for his 70s style facial hair, he never went without a hat of some sort.  He was strikingly tall and held a bottled sort of energy with him, which would come out during song times. He would jump and scream and twist and move as if possessed by a rock concert god.

A genuine man of the wild known by campers and counselors alike as Beardsly. He wore a flat cap always and headed straight to Thursday Trivia at the local bar, stopping only to turn his work shirt inside-out. At the pool, his full beard, lean body, and habit of engaging in full water fights earned him the second nickname Poseidon. It never stuck as well as Beardsly. And if he'd had a pipe, he was sure to be called Popeye.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Two Unfinished Stories For Kids By Kids

Two of my campers, upon learning I was a writer, began stories in my notebook. I have posted them (with their original spellings) here so that you may finish them at your leisure.

Ghost Town
By Hanna (4th Grade)
I live in a old town everything is perfect. Except one thing the living room. One day the couch was in one spot and the next day it was in a different spot! So was the TV! then Aug. 5 2000 every thing changed. It wasn't perfect it was empty. I have 1 child it is a girl her name is Rose. She is 2 years old She is in bed. I am to[o] I heard a scream! I ran into roses bedroom all there was was blood and bloody clothes.
Ending TBD

Untitled
By Caden (4th grade)
Once upon a time there was a horse and the norse named Yoshi. Yoshi was a lot of fun but he like to get in trouble a lot.
Middle and Ending TBD

Honorable Mention: Another camper, Kyra, wrote a story about the horse Black Beauty in her own journal and it was very well done. From what I know, she is still working on it.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

10 Sense Sensations of Estes Park, RMNP and CO

Nymph Lake
Since my last post, I've returned to the east coast. I feel it would be absurd not to post at least one more entry of my time in Estes, Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park.


Lake Haiyaha
My mother visited and we went completed the Circle of Lakes: Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Haiyaha, and Alberta Falls. Our favorite by far was Lake Haiyaha with the greens and blues melded together in the water. Little rock islands perched in mid-lake, where they had been deposited thousands of years ago by glaciers. Finally, remnants of the glacier and snow gripped the sides of barren rock faces which towered up to the sky in a dizzying spectacle of light.



Mother and I also visited the town of Estes Park, where the library caters to its locals and guests. The shops themselves are overpriced in the summer, even the Safeway. But with the nearest commercial store like Walmart 45 minutes away in Loveland, there is little other choice. Besides, the town itself has a romantic air. At night, little lamps light your way down the main street. The smell of waffle cones and fresh taffy float out into the street and music from the local summer club Kelli's vibrates the night air.


Each building in Estes Park is different in shape and structure though there are at least five ice cream/fudge/cookie shops on each block of the main street. Of my whole stay, I will list my favorite sense experiences:
Red Rocks

  1. Indian Village, Longs Peak Coffee House, MacDonald's Book Shop - Tourist-y but there are fine American Indian pieces in the back of the Village, never a finer atmosphere or vinyl record player in Longs Peak, and a traditional, small-town bookstore where resident authors sign books.
  2. Bull Elk walking around, Hummingbirds everywhere, and Bears--which feed on hummingbird feeders so watch out.
  3. Tram Ride - For those that struggle to hike to peaks, this is a great and cheap way to see the whole of Estes Park and the beginnings of the great Rocky Mountain National Park.
  4. Chocolate Shoppe - Expensive but sometimes gives away free fudge. Also has chocolate bacon.
  5. Any Buffalo Burger - Really, I couldn't find any one restaurant that I liked more than another which served the Bison burgers so have at it when you find one.
  6. Kelli's - A diverse club upstairs of a pizzeria. Toursits, locals, and international students would dance away the weekends there.
  7. RMNP - Of course, the mountains and hiking in the park is astounding. Before the Lakes, I did Twin Sisters and the feeling of being on top of the world, of seeing as far as the world is flat, is something I'll never forget. I wished I could have hiked Longs before I left.
  8. Donut Shop - Not located on main street, its one of Estes Park's best kept secrets. Donuts, of all kinds, which rival Krispy Kreme in taste.
  9. Red Rocks - Not in Estes Park but if you are to hear any concert it must be in this fantastic part of CO. It's worth the drive to see these giant red stones rising out of the earth into a natural ampitheater. I saw the Avett Brothers from the third row; warm air grazing my skin, smelling of pot, cigarettes/cigars, and alcohol, smelling of a real concert. Lights danced on the rocks and music surrounds you on all sides, filling you with the sound of the stars above.
  10. Trail Ridge Road - Speaking of stars, the last I must say is the stars. Trail Ridge is astounding in the daytime, but drive up at night as well. After we turned off the car, darkness filled every inch of life except when I tilted my head up. Thousands of millions of stars filled the sky, overlapping and twinkling. Everyone says it: The stars in the West are so different, so many more, so much more lively than in the East cities. Nothing is truer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tips for Teachers 2

Dear Teacher,

I know I've given you some stuff to think about already, but more occurred advice to me since we last spoke.

1. Teachers To Know
Many will introduce themselves in the mornings. Still, I like it when I get the names of teachers (or aides) I should know that can help out the classroom. Please tell me where their room is located as well so that I may call on them more easily.

2. Curriculum
I understand that you are pushed to meet certain deadlines with teaching. However, I am not a certified teacher nor do I know your curriculum, intention, or students in the way that you do. So please, don't have me teach something new to them. A lot of times (even though it is review for me) the way to teach them is not. I end up explaining it poorly, they suffer and struggle, and we fall behind schedule.

3a. Classroom Management (Elementary)
Each teacher has different management styles and tolerances. Let me know what you use as well as where it is located in the classroom. A bell? 123 All Eyes On Me? Clap Pattern? Light Switching? Sometimes the kids will point it out. Other times they will continue to be distracted and take advantage, and then bawl when I change their name on from Green to Yellow.

3b. Classroom Management (High School)
It's always good advice to know where you draw the line as to sending a student to the office or calling up an administrator. Three warnings? Late bells? Or are there certain kids that if they act up to send them out immediately?

4. Dismissal (Elementary)
It is different at every school. Some have bells. Others an intercom. And still others do it on a time schedule without any audio warnings. When you're letting me know who rides the bus, add in how I should figure out when to dismiss them.

5. When will you be back?
Sometimes absences are personal, and I know many times you have told your students in advance. I can also estimate by how many days you took off my scheduling roster. Yet, students love to ask when you'll return or why you are gone. If you're comfortable sharing this information, please do so. It especially comforts the younger kids.

Your Faithful Substitute,
Aja

Monday, July 23, 2012

Celebration: Book Update

I just signed the contract for my debut novel, Zarconian Island, with Curiosity Quills publisher. It should be available online and in print at the end of this year or the beginning of the next year.

I will fill you all in as we get closer.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tips for Teachers

Dear Teacher,

It's always a pleasure to substitute for you. I wanted to share a few things that, as a sub, I found would be helpful in the future.

1. The Helpful Kids
Let me know who the good kids are by name and description*. I like to know who I can rely on to tell me whether they really did that assignment already or if they're trying to get out of it.

*Descriptions work best because I am not going to know the kids' names right away, let alone every child's name (even by the end of the day).

2. The Not So Helpful Kids
Same as above. It's good to have a head's up on who to watch out for, crack down on, and just immediately send to the office.

3. Keep It Short
While I love the detail on how your class runs, multiple single-spaced pages are confusing. I don't know what's important information and what is not. I only have a half-hour to review everything for the whole day (something you've planned for months). Really, I'd like to be able to spend part of my morning time getting familiar with your classroom.

4. Be Specific
I know I just said your schedule is sometimes too detailed, but I'd like to point out a few things you could add to make my job easier.

  • Is it Collected?
  • Is it Graded?
  • Bathroom Passes and Policies - where are they, how many at a time & when, and who cannot go to the bathroom together even if it's an emergency?
  • Extra Work or Reading - what do I do if they finish early?
If you want to give the kids free time that day or for a solid amount of time, please leave a movie for me to play so that they don't just run amok. 


5. Fire Drills
Give me a head's up that it will happen and let me know where the emergency binder or folder is.

6. Materials
Please leave all the materials in one place or be very specific about where each worksheet or book is. I'm not as familiar with your classroom and a lot of the time I only find one pile of materials in the beginning.

Your Faithful Substitute,
Aja

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Organize My Life, Please

Life is here. It's time to figure out the future some more. I'm a college graduate. I work a lot of small jobs: online copyeditor, blogging, camp counselor (summer), and substitute (school year). Still, I need to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Organizing means optimizing time and resources to finish essential tasks or products. It means finding the priority and following through until the desired result is reached. Without organization, the world becomes chaos.

Organizing means having a keen and detail-oriented eye. I've been organizing since I could write: creating schedules and timelines, to-do lists and wish lists with goal markers, pros and cons, etc. This organization has helped me be the first to graduate college in my family, to afford the basics in life, and to find purpose in my desired careers.

If only I could organize my life.

What do I want to do:

  • Write (preferably YA literature)
  • Travel

Cons:

  • No health/dental insurance
  • No stable income
  • No loan assistance

I have few options. I could live a poor, starving artist life OR stay with my parents forever. Both are right out. With college loans to pay off and other expenses (gas, food, utilities, etc.), I need something more stable.

Potential Careers:

  • Peace Corp
  • Librarian
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Military Service
  • Teacher
  • Teacher Abroad
I suppose I could detail the pros and cons of each one here, but that is personal and this blog is already long enough. We will see where I end up. Hopefully, I will look back on this entry and laugh.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Characters in Real Life, Estes Park

Real People I Met in Estes:

A romantic hike-master who falls head-over-heels for a beautiful and waif blonde that works behind the front desk and likes to read Guns, Germs, and Steel on her down time. Ultimately, she will leave for a teaching position in Burma.


A dark-haired, barefoot boy that works the empty museum on Thursdays and Sundays. He pronounces the state like Coal-or-add-o and wears plaid shirts, which are always untucked and pushed up to his elbows. He carries a rusted tin bucket over his hooked arm and futilely attempts to wash the yellow pollen off the wooden deck as hummingbirds dive-bomb his head.

A Jewish girl that hides her identity behind aviator glasses and a corporate pleasantries. She buys the same sunglasses every year from the same Shell gas station because she always loses the previous pair before she arrives in Estes Park.

Her unofficial nickname is "Bangs" for her mousy brown hair that reaches her lower back. She's subdued and introverted until the music comes on. It's always alternative--Avett Brothers and Regina Spektor are the closest to well-known--and she will sings like there's no tomorrow.

A 22-year-old lab tech, who gestures like a theatre major and plays guitar as if it were the most beautiful thing he'd ever held in his hands. He'd rather drift to Portland than finish his major.  You can hardly make out his mumbled words over the engine of his beat-down car. He's a chronic mumbler in a flat cap but budding renaissance man.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fresh From The Mountain: No Lie

There's something to be said about tap water that sits out overnight. In the morning, it's funky and tastes slightly of metal and things I'd rather not know. At least, that's how it was in MD.

In Colorado, everything is so fresh. I can drink my bottle of water in the morning without balking at the taste. It's no wonder they advertise mountain water on every water bottle. I've seen it up close and tasted the drops that float on the air after the crush of a waterfall.

 Even in July, the lakes are as cold as the glaciers they're melted from. The water bounces on the surface, and I understand the phrase clear as crystal.

Up into the sky, the droplets go, creating giant clouds that move over the Rockies, their shadows traceable on the mountainsides. Some float down to Earth and I remember we are at 8,000 feet, not as nearly down to earth as I know on the east coast.

Despite the fires and occasional scent of smoke, the air is crispest I've ever taken in. The airways of my nose hurts from the dry weather and I'm surprised I haven't gotten a bleed from it. Colorado is so dry that it smells of nothing, not dirt or trees or smog. Not, at least, until it rains. Then it's a thousand smells of nature that have been missing for weeks. The Ponderosa, the elk and coyote scat, the dirt and the sidewalk all come alive.


I leave my window open so that humidity fills my room. I plug up the door with rags and pillowcases so that I might hold in the sweet, overpowering liquidity for as long as I can.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fire and Ice: The Rockies

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. 

Robert Frost


The fires in CO are no longer local news. I can see the blazes, the white clouds of smoke, from over the mountain. Listening to satellite radio, I hear my local morning radio show talk about another fire in Colorado Springs. There are pictures in online forums of at least seven fires in the area, and my Red Cross Disaster Action Team sent out an email. 

Where I am, it reaches high 80s and 90s. I trek around camp laden with 14 or so children, forcing them to drink and sit in the shade from time-to-time. Trees are down everywhere, dead from pine beetles and overcrowding. There hasn't been a proper, natural wildfire to weed out the weak and the sick for years.

Then something starts only five miles away from my room. A tourist has burnt trash outside, or welded metal, or some other rumor. 

People are talking about hiking above the fires, above tree-line, to Longs where I've never been. I sit in the foyer because my room has no A/C and hear roads are shut down.

It feels like the whole world is on fire. A giant storm hits my hometown and they have no power. The next day temperatures soar to the 100s. The news is saying it may be up to a week before it can be fixed.

So I reach out and up, and I climb. I go past the falls and rivers and lakes. I climb higher with the sun beating down on my green tank-top, burning me pink and brown, until I see snow. It'll be gone soon, but it's here now. 

My friend falls into a snow-trap up to her waist and we rush to slide down the rest. There's a glacier in the distance but we don't have the proper tools to slide it yet so we head down below tree-line, where the wind can't reach us lest we be blown off the mountain or struck down by lightening because surely we'll fall into the blaze.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In the Heart of Colorado


Colorado is beautiful in a way that Maryland is not. It has no grass, only brush which scratches at your legs. In high winds, the dirt comes up off the ground, a dustbowl, and serves you straight in the mouth.


But the Aspens, with their small leaves, flutter in the wind and filter out the sunlight. The vanilla scent of Ponderosa Pine finds floats on the air on warm days. (We've told the children one chocolate manufactured one exists somewhere on the property. They constantly run to sniff each tree. Ha!)

Strange and beautiful flowers dot the paths. Mostly yellows, but there are blues and purples. I learn which ones I can eat, which are sweet, and which will kill if picked at the wrong season. Guides point out prickly, whimsy, and flimsy ferns and bushes so they can tell me that the American Indians used it for sickness or mixing colors or lining their beds. Even the pinecones look like flowers when turned on their sides.

Rocks, giant and black, and red and beautiful stick out of the side of mountains and thrust up in the streams. They've been carried over from the Ice Age, from glaciers, moving slowly for thousands of years before being deposited willy nilly into a carved out field somewhere.





I try to touch all of it and none of it. It's a National Park after all and I have to stay on the trails. But, Oh! The pictures do not to justice and I have to wander off a bit so that I can be surrounded by the whole thing at once.

Hopefully, I wander where no bear or big cat are.