Kevin's Blog

Creative Assignment

I've got several things I want to write about this week, and I'm going to begin with how I and my classes ended up the school year. Then a few notes on some entertainment media stuff, and an update on how the summer is going. 

I've been teaching English, among other things, for seventeen years now, at the high school level for the last eleven. For the last five or six years, I've had only junior and senior classes.  This year, for a couple of reasons, I ended up with sophomores for the first time in a long time, three sections of them. (And no, I wasn't being punished. At least, I don't think I was.)  So through the course of the year we did all the usual stuff. Lots of short story reading (meant to get around to poetry but never did), some expository writing, To Kill a Mockingbird, Julius Caesar  and Animal Farm. Along with this, of course, we had end of the year testing to get through.

With all of that, I ended up with about three weeks to go and looking for something to do in a halfway light-hearted manner. Facing down three roomfuls of fifteen-year olds more than anxious to end the school year, I suggested we spend the last three weeks writing fiction. It's odd that, in seventeen years and spending most of my free time on short stories and books, I've never assigned such work. I crossed my fingers, not really sure how they would react but expecting an entire panoply of responses. 

Here's how we proceeded. First, we went over classifying fiction by lengths: flash, short, novelette, novella and novel. Then I gave them the option of, over the next few weeks, writing two pieces of flash fiction or one short story. Over the next few days, we did a quick review of the elements of fiction and how best to use them (such as be very careful of writing a short story in second person), and we were off, a whole bunch of high school students, armed with laptops, allowed to create whatever they wanted to.

With me biting my knuckles the whole way. More about how it turned out last week.


Salem -- So I've been giving this a try, based on the recommendation of a co-worker. Didn't get into it when it first came on because it just didn't look that exceptional. (Plus, as I've heard several people point out, the basic premise of the show is that the Salem witch trials didn't lead to enough executions?) But a couple of weeks into its run, this co-worker began talking about it, and it just happened that the next weekend WGN was running a mini marathon of the first five or so episodes. So I plumped down to check it out.

Not horrible, actually kind of interesting. Takes a while to get into because, at first, I had a hard time figuring out who all the people were and their relationships to each other. But several episodes in that kind of sorted itself out. I've watched the last three weeks or so, and while for me it's not quite to the level of appointment viewing, if it's on I'll catch it. Basically just giving it some time to see where it ends up going. (I'm assuming at some point soon the actual trials will become front and center plotwise.) And really, it's kind of easy to give a cable show that kind of breathing room because their "seasons" tend to be around ten episodes.


24 --  One of my long-time favorites, I was bouncing off the walls at the idea of this show coming back, even if only for a limited run. Last week, I think we're up to about four p.m. at this point, had two interesting points, one positive and one not so much. Couple of minor spoilers ahead.

First, the positive. Finally, finally an explanation of both what Jack had been doing for the last several years and how he came to be involved in the newest crisis in the first place. I've been scratching my head for weeks now as to how he seemed so healthy, whole and well-financed after being "on the run" for four years. I was also confused as to how he just happened to come upon "intel" of the drone plot. How so and from where? All that was explained, quite logically, in just a few minutes last week. Now, the show's making a whole lot more sense.

Not quite so positive? Come on, guys. You (the writers and producers) have had four years to relax, recoup and refresh. And we're right back to the "mole within the agency" trope?  Did we really have to go back to that again?  (Insert standard mountain lion joke here.)


Finally, summer work progressing pretty well, but I really hate doing the final polishing, tweaking of a long manuscript. (On the good side, 80,000 words is now down to about 78,000.) At the rate I'm going, should have The Litter ready to start making the rounds the first of the month. Not bad till you consider that I originally planned to have it all done by the first of this year. 

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