The novel I wrote with a former student.

DSC_7684

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: some of the best humans on the planet walk through the door of my classroom and into my life. I’m blessed to know them all, but every so often you have students who become friends, and that’s a truly magical thing.

About a year ago, my friend Omar and his twin brother were about to graduate, and we’d been talking for a while about the things I’d written and about how the boys are interested in writing and directing screenplays. Omar said, “Hey, we should write a book!” To which I said (of course–because I never turn down a good writing project), “Yeah, we totally should!” And from there, the idea for a young adult time travel novel was born.

We started it on May 15, 2017 with just a few ideas about how the story would go. Omar graduated in June, and we’ve spent the past year collaborating in all the ways that modern technology allows. Last summer we spent countless hours working on the book via FaceTime from different time zones while I visited my ailing father in the U.K.; even more hours working on the story in a shared Google doc while I soaked up the sun on my back deck; and we’ve made many, many trips to our favorite Barnes & Noble over the past year to collaborate face-to-face as we created characters and hammered out scenes. In fact, we’ve been to that particular bookstore so many times to work on the story that not only do the café workers know us, but we have our own favorite table by the window.

This book has been a real labor of love for both of us, and it’s gone off in different directions than we’d originally planned. I never plot anything too intricately when I write, so that took some getting used to on Omar’s part. I like to just see where the story takes me, and he was kind enough to go along for the ride. Sometimes we agreed on details, sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes I understood the crazy loops we were making with time travel in our story, and sometimes he had to draw exasperating diagrams for me that left me more confused than when we’d started.

But in the end, we have a finished product. A book that started with him not knowing how to put in his two cents politely with his former teacher, and ended with us debating plot twists and being creative equals. We got to take a trip to the 80s with this book and incorporate some of the bands we both love (The Smiths, The Psychedelic Furs), and–most importantly–we got to be friends. Real friends.

Just like his twin brother and their two older sisters before them, Omar is one of my favorite people to ever walk through my classroom door. He’s smart and funny and kind, and he’s taught me way more than I ever taught him.

So even if we sell zero copies of this book, writing it is something I’ll always cherish. But hey–if we sell a million copies and become time travel gurus and world-famous authors, then that’s okay, too. We’d be honored if you’d check out our novel and support us, and if you felt like leaving us a good review, that would be even better! It’s available here on Amazon right now, and in the next couple of days it’ll be available in both print and through every other major bookseller as an ebook!

IfYouWereHere-f500 copy

 

 

Advertisements

“We make time for the things we want to make time for.”

Someone with a more extensive knowledge of quotes than I have probably knows the source of those words, but a wise friend once said it to me about writing, and it always comes back to me when I’m not moving as quickly as I’d like to with whatever I’m working on writing-wise.

This first month of school has been trying on absolutely every level. Completely by choice, I left behind a job I loved at a school I loved, kids I adored, and the comfort that comes with being in charge of my surroundings (at least as much as a teacher is ever in control of her surroundings.) In changing things up, I’ve struggled mightily with the level of preparation I need to do daily and weekly for a subject I’ve never taught, and also with not knowing the lay of the land at my new school. On top of that, I have about 125 new humans to get to know from top to bottom, and since my focus is “at-risk” kiddos, I have issues and personalities to deal with that vary so widely, and are sometimes so challenging, that I barely make it to 2:15 before I lock my door behind them and cry. I wish that was an exaggeration.

The first 17 days of school have felt like 712 days, and I’ve been so physically drained that I’ve had moments where I felt like I needed to drop to my knees on the spot or risk throwing up what little food I’d had time to eat that day. I’ve gone to bed around 8:30 every night (this is strange for me, as I’m a night owl who thinks any bedtime before 10:30 or 11 is ridiculous for a grown-up), and on many nights I’ve simply cried myself to sleep. This has felt more like being a first year teacher than a fourth year teacher. And then yesterday happened.

Maybe Day 17 of a new teaching job is akin to that first postpartum day when you finally stop teetering between physical pain and exhaustion, and heart-wrenching love for your newborn. That day when you actually move through the paces of your new, changed life without once lamenting the things you’ve left behind, and without once bawling over a song on the radio. Luckily for me, my wonderful husband has been teaching high school four times as long as I have, and he comes up with ideas just off-the-cuff that seem like nothing to him, but are like mini epiphanies for me. “How about we go to Toys R Us and buy a bunch of board games, and you make Friday ‘Strategy Game’ day?” No big deal for him, HUGE deal for me. I busted out the board games yesterday and watched in awe as kids who normally don’t speak to each other got together over intense games of Jenga and checkers. A group of boys who give me heartburn when I’m up in front of the room asked me to play Apples to Apples with them, and we sat down and had an awesome time together. My usual lunch time crowd is about two kids (at my old job I always had a full house during lunch), but then yesterday all of a sudden I had…13. Then two girls who’ve been really hard to get to know came to me at separate points during the day, in tears over totally different things, just wanting “someone who would listen, and you know, you’re pretty cool.” And just like that, I started to win.

This is the first weekend since well before school started that I feel even somewhat relaxed, even with needing to go in to school and plan a few things for the week ahead. I no longer feel like the new teacher in front of a roomful of strangers, and this has given my heart some peace so that I can unclench a little bit and behave like the old me. So, while I’ve wanted to make time for writing each and every day, I’ve had plenty of other things to keep me away from it. And really, after giving and giving all day long, what’s left to give? At least at this point I’m finally starting to draw some energy from them as opposed to just giving it, which in turn allows me to come home and carve out a small space in my day for my own passions. I wrote this week, and I’ll write more this weekend, and slowly–on hands and knees–I’ll drag myself to the place where I can make time (and find energy) for the things I want to make time for!