Highlights of 2007: Part 2

Click here to see Highlights of 2007: Part 1

August 7, 2007

Long, wonderful stretch at home

It’s been two months since I’ve updated this blog and it’s not because nothing has been happening as much as it’s been because I’ve actually been relaxed and just enjoying myself this summer and just haven’t felt like working on this site.

I’ve spent some time cleaning and going through piles and piles of papers that have accumulated over the past couple of years. (I found coupons that had expired at the end of 2005!) There’s still much to go but I’m finally finding a way to get through massive amounts of stuff a little bit a time. This is so unlike me and my tendency to barrel into tasks and projects whole hog. I like this a lot better. Way less stressful.

I’ve had a couple of people come and go in my life and as the saying goes, when a door closes, another really does open. I’ve connected with a number of people I hadn’t seen in a while and built connections with several new folks who add a great deal to my life.

I’ve been eating better and I’ve been walking every day, usually for about an hour, and often make it home well before the sun has cleared the mountains. As much as I’m not a morning person, I can’t begin to describe the peace and joy at being up in the foothills, watching the light change in the sky. (It is also way too hot for me— and Shadow, my mostly black dog, now 12 years old— to walk much later in the day.)

On the rare days that I sleep in, I find the day goes a little too fast, and my rhythm is off for the day. (And not having had much in the way of rhythm or routine for years, this is a very big deal.)

I’ve been playing around in my studiolately, exploring my latest passion, polymer clay. I’m still very much in the what-happens-when-you-do-this stage but I have had a few things turn out really nicely. It’s a very satisfying medium to work in. I’ve also done some knitting and beading and am feeling a little more motivated to get the Father Sky Studios section up on this site, though those pages are still in the very early design stage so stay tuned.

Work-Related Stuff

My schedule is really light for the coming semester. I only have one week out on the road for this month, which is usually one of the busiest months of the year for me. And October, which is usually booked from one end to the other as well, has not one job scheduled! I figure this must just be time I need to take care of a few things on the home front, or just be “still” long enough to get focused for things to come. (Odd that I’m not panicking, which I usually do, and think that this could well be the beginning of a shift in my schedule, lifestyle, and priorities, and I find that rather exciting, actually.)

This week has been devoted to reading over the page proofs for the book, The Win-Win Classroom. And to finally making a page to advertise this book. The proofs look pretty good— I’m suggesting a few specific format changes but fortunately the editorial stuff reads very smoothly. I’m pleased with what I’m reading and after this overlong and convoluted journey, I will be very happy to see this book finally come to print.

I just got the locations for the 27 days I’m working with the Bureau of Education and Research, and have updated my calendars accordingly. I’m excited about visiting a few places for the first time ever (Sioux Falls, SD; Columbia, SC; Baton Rouge, LA) and one place for the first time for BER (Dallas). I’m also excited to be working with Creed Seminars in Canada, and to be working with some old friends in Joliet, IL, La Plata, MD, and Encinitas, CA.

This summer has provided an incredible break for me, one I didn’t realize I needed as badly until a couple weeks in. Nonetheless, the calendar has flipped to August and that back-to-school energy is in the air, so I’m back to looking at details for upcoming jobs, and being generally more responsible than I’ve been for the past two (relatively) care-free months.

An iPhone after all…

I went out the day they went on sale. I played with one for about 10 minutes and was so impressed with the interface (and being able to instantly do at least 3 or 4 things that I had NEVER been able to do with any of my other phones) that I pulled out the old charge card and went home with one of my very own.

It took a couple of weeks to change a lot of my data over from my Palm software (no easy export for that, so I had to do it entry by entry, back and forth) and creating new iTunes playlists, but I am so enjoying the functionality, whether I take it along on my walks for the music, or need to check or send an email when I’m away from the office (or my laptop), or find the specific road I needed to take to a friend’s house in Santa Fe.

Truly Apple has done it again. It is a breathtaking piece of technology.

Upcoming Fun!

I signed up for the 8th MacMania Geek Cruise and plan to go WITH JERRY in November, 2008. While I’ve been to places in a few of the countries we’ll visit (Italy, Greece and Turkey), I have never been to the places we’ll visit on this trip. And I’m especially excited about going to Sicily, Cyprus and Egypt for the first time.

I’ve decided that one of my life goals needs to include visiting 100 or more countries in my lifetime. I’ve been to 41 according to one list and have created a Web page to keep track of my progress, if anyone is so moved.

In preparation, I’ve signed up for an Italian class, starting in September. I took one semester of Italian during my sophomore year of college, but I was thinking about being a language major at the time and was also taking an advanced French literature class (in waaaay over my head) and an advanced Spanish conversation and was, for many reasons, having a hard time keeping them all straight. What a fun excuse?

I’ve also signed up for another silver metal clay class and a rubber stamp card-making class later this semester. I guess there are quite a few good things about having a really light schedule right now.

September 14 , 2007

Back to school, back to work

I’ve been dragging my feet getting my head out of a summertime space. This was such a remarkable summer in so many ways, and I’ve gotten pretty used to a much slower and more balanced pace. Still… as the first hints of fall creep into the air, I find myself with all sorts of projects beckoning. My office is not as organized or sorted-out as I had hoped it would be by now, I’m not as fit as I had hoped I would be by now, and there are still things on my list that I was sure, back in June, that would be long-ago done.

Today was what I call a “desk day,” spent answering calls and emails, sending out handouts and contracts and paying bills. Probably the least exotic, but real important (in that if I ignore this stuff, things will be really messy down the road) part of my life.

The good thing about days like today is that I actually get a sense of accomplishment, have visual evidence, that I don’t often get. Just seeing a clear space somewhere there had been a pile, or a stack of outgoing mail sitting by the door, or my “done” list (I’ve started to keep track of the things I was crossing off my to-do list) getting longer, these are outcomes I don’t experience when I’m working on long-term or on-going tasks, like working on a book or this site, for example.

I’ll be back to the projects over the next few weeks. Here’s are a few of the things competing for my time these days.

Daily Riches

We got a large order for this book a couple of months ago and didn’t have enough stock, and when I called the publisher, I found out that they were out of inventory with no immediate plan to reprint. After a brief conversation, it was agreed that maybe the best plan would be for the publisher to revert rights back to me and my two co-authors.

(How smooth, easy, ethical, and respectful this process was! Within two weeks we had the paperwork that freed us to either self-publish or go elsewhere with this book. Compare that to the nightmare of dealing with School Specialty, who never did relinquish rights to 21st Century Discipline!)

Conversations with my co-authors have reflected support for my keeping this book in print (as the new publisher), and to going back to the original title we used when we proposed this book: Magic, Miracles and Synchronicity (which is the title of one of the chapters). We will also have a different cover, as no one was ever all that happy with the one that ended up on the Daily Riches book.

I met with my attorney last night— boy have I been keeping him busy this past year— to have him draw up a contract for us to work with. I still think I would like to find a publisher who really will believe in this book and put some marketing muscle behind it, but in the meantime, I don’t want to go for what could be a rather long stretch without any copies of this book available, as it does sell well at my speaking engagements and on this site.

The next decision will be whether or not to buy the publisher’s Quark files and try to import them into InDesign, the software I’ve been using for the past few years. Sometimes it’s just easier to start from scratch than trying to convert a ten-year-old file.

More on this as the project evolves.

A New Book for Corwin

As is typical, I had barely sent in the final corrections on the page proofs for The Win-Win Classroom, when I was having conversations with my editor about the next book. Since Being a Successful Teacher is out of print (I still have quite a few remaining copies), we’re looking at creating something that this book started out to be about 25 years ago, a resource and survival guide for beginning teachers.

I haven’t had any luck getting a response from School Specialty about reverting rights, but since they were so difficult and unpleasant (and ultimately refused to give me the rights back on the discipline book), I’m not holding my breath. I doubt I’ll be using a whole lot from the old book, but this sure would make life a little easier.

The peer reviews came back far more positive than I would have expected given the age of this book and the number of changes in education, technology, terminology, etc. I’ve been interviewing people, asking “what do beginning teachers need (or need to know)?” to start clarifying, in my mind, what will be going into this book.

I didn’t think I’d actually get started on this one until maybe after the first of the year, but I’ve already had an inquiry from Corwin about the proposal, which, seriously, I haven’t even started yet, so I’m feeling a bit of a crunch, which is fine.

One of the things I hope to do this weekend is to create pages on which site visitors can contribute their answers to this question: What do beginning teachers need (or need to know)?

I’d also like to ask people to start offering suggestions and techniques, ideas we can include in the book, which, I believe, will also give me a better sense of structure and content.

I still have a bunch of people to talk to about this issue, and as of this moment, I have a definite sense of a few things I want to include, but am still very fuzzy on what this new book (no title yet) will really look like.

Shopping Cart for this Site

I’ve been promising this for years but somewhere in the middle of setting this up, I did something really wrong and the cart wouldn’t work. The problem was in setting up shipping charges and I never could figure out how I could change what I had put in originally.

One solution came to me this summer: As an incentive to order online (either with the shopping cart or the print-out order form) was to simply not charge shipping on these orders! I bravely set out into the set-up pages and I think I’ve got the problem resolved. I also think I can cut and paste the code I used (successfully, I might add) on our High School’s Not Forever Web site, and adapt it to each of the products we have listed in our bookstore here.

This will take some time, however, but I think that once I get the first one working, I should be able to get the whole thing set up in a day or so. So although I’ve been promising a shopping cart for much longer than I care to admit, I’m actually feeling a lot closer to being able to announce its launch than ever before.

Other New Products

I’ve been going through papers and files in my office and keep coming accross projects I started, or had ideas for, but never had the time to complete. Probably the first will be converting my TeacherTapes to CD. This product, one of my personal favorites, has gotten harder and harder to sell, simply because the medium, audio cassettes, have gotten more and more scarce. Who knew?

I also have CDs for counselors, a set of booklets for parents, and a CD ROM with a bunch of existing products I’d like to put out. I recently set a friend copies of various proposals I had submitted to publishers, to give her an idea of a format she could use to construct a proposal for a book she wants to pitch, and realized that I had a couple of other ideas that never got on the table that might be worth revisiting. (And I’d also like to put my proposals on this site, as I often get requests for samples from authors who want to submit a proposal for their own projects and don’t quite know where to start!)

My Links section always seems to be lagging. People send me ideas, resources, books, materials, or other sites they like that look really good. It just takes me longer to review this stuff and set up the links, but I do get around to building these pages when I can.

Learning Italian

I mentioned that Jerry and I are going to Italy next November and will be doing another Geek Cruise. (The itinerary looks terrific and we’re both really excited about this trip. If you are interested, contact Neil Bauman and tell him you heard about it here!) In the meantime, my basic Italian class has started, my dining room table is covered with flash cards, and my neighbors are starting to look at me funny as I walk around the neighborhood listening to Italian tapes and shouting out phrases to my dog. I’m just having a blast with this— one more thing that demands a fair amount of time.

Thanks, by the way…

I regularly hear from people who report that they know this or that about what I’ve been up to from visiting these pages. I have to tell you how much that means to me. I never really expected much traffic here, as this site was primarily set up to provide information for visitors. As the site has grown, adding a blog seemed a natural step in its development. I’m totally delighted and grateful for those of you who have found your way here, and have, in so doing, become a part of my life in a very special way.

October 27, 2007

The Win-Win Classroom, so close…

What an exciting past few days! This book was scheduled for release on Nov. 13. That was before my creative and energetic partners at New Hope Charitable Foundation got busy trying to tie in the release with my appearance in southern California the week before. Ann Worthington at New Hope engaged Marilyn Phenow, friend and publicist phenomenale, to work on getting me some media and book signings when I’m in town and the next thing I know, I’m getting a call from my production editor at Corwin saying that “we can do this!” However, instead of the usual two or three weeks I’d have to go through the final page proofs, I had last Tuesday. Period!

There has been an amazing convergence of talent, spirit, and good old elbow grease to make it possible to have it in hand for appearances and events in southern California that I already had on my schedule for the previous week. I am just so touched by the degree of commitment and cooperation. After such a long, twisted road to get to this point, I feel like things are finally falling into place.

So stay tuned, as it’s just a matter of days now. I will post something on my home page, and here in my blog, as soon as the books physically exist.

Facilitator’s Guide

The Win-Win Classroom will soon have a facilitator’s guide to go with it. I say “soon” with some caution as the ink is barely dry on this contract, and I have only just begun to work on it. I have started thinking of activities and materials to help staff developers, college professors, study group leaders, and others to use this book in a more detailed way than I can ever attempt in a one-day seminar.

Thinking up activities and discussion questions to go with the material in the book has reminded me of what drew me to curriculum development back in my early days in education. It’s still in a very rough draft form, but I’m starting to get into a certain rhythm here and hope to have the first go-round ready to hand in by the time I visit Corwin when I’m in Thousand Oaks on the 5th of November.

And yet another book!

And if that weren’t enough on my plate— and mind you, I’m not actually complaining about this!— I was just informed that my proposal for my next book has been accepted by Corwin, and that another contract is on the way.

In the middle of putting all the finishing touches on The Win-Win Classroom, I started getting emails from my editor nudging me for a proposal for the next book. Now this is every author’s dream, believe me, and I am absolutely delighted to have this interest expressed. So I called and asked what they were looking for.

If you remember, or happened to be around when my work with Corwin started about two years ago, they initially expressed interest in getting new editions of 21st Century Discipline and Being a Successful Teacher. Both of these had been bought out by a rather creepy company who immediately dropped them from their catalogue but refused to revert the rights back on either title, which you know if you’ve been following the story of the evolution of The Win-Win Classroom over the past year or so.

What we decided was this: Rather than mess around trying to bring out a new edition of Being a Successful Teacher, to just let this book go quietly (I still have a number of copies and will continue to sell them until the stock is gone) and to come up with a different product altogether.

So I put together a proposal for a new book for beginning teachers which, ironically, was how Being a Successful Teacher started out. (This was my first book, originally written for 12 first-year teaching interns back in 1982. Its original title was The Beginning Teacher’s Resource Handbook.)

In a subsequent conversation with my editor, the title Becoming a Win-Win Teacher sort of slipped out, so it looks like we’re going to stay with this theme for a while, and develop new and different material for this new book so we won’t have to mess with rights (or that dreadful, no-win company) at all.

Father Sky Studios

For a while, I was pretty good about taking Fridays for for a few months, but noticed I was having more and more trouble getting into my studio. I actually scheduled a couple of intro classes, things I’d already done, partly as a refresher and partly as a structured play time I would definitely honor.

I took another PMC class (precious metal clay) and started spending a little time with some polymer clay. A few friends asked to see pictures, so I posted them online (specifically for those friends who still have dial-up accounts, despite my pleas to go broadband for their own sanity).

I have been wanting to get the entire studio section set up for years. (Clay is a relatively new medium for me. On my old site, I had pages for beads, fiber, glass, and paper!) Since that still seems like a long way off, for now, I have a few pages I’m ready to share with anyone who’s reading this blog (and who can appreciate how desperately I’ve struggled to maintain a bit of balance in my life, a goal much helped by these indulgences!).

The format is pretty basic, but for now, you can check out what I made in my last PMC class, as well as some polymer projects. (I actually took a class this morning in a technique called Mokume Gane. If it turns out OK, I’ll put a few shots up on the site when I finish it.

Nov. 19, 2007

The Win-Win Classroom arrives!

It’s exactly two weeks since I saw the book for the first time (click here for photos of my editor, publicist, and me at Borders in Thousand Oaks on Nov. 4). I’ve just gotten back from my last series of trips which included seminars in 6 states and started with that visit to my publisher.

Today, we received our shipment of 500 copies of the book, about a third of them already sold. We processed the first orders from our shopping cart, as well as the orders that have been stacking up since June. They will start shipping out tomorrow.

I do believe that this long, difficult story is finally at an end. The “other publisher” has served its purpose, guiding me in a different direction to create a new product, one that is, I believe, better than where I was headed, and one I may never have considered otherwise. I have no need to ever deal with that organization again. They did what I needed them to do, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. They are done.

My shopping cart is up and running

For several years now, I have wanted to have a way for visitors to my site to order my products online. While I had a simple cart set up on the High School’s Not Forever Web site, for just that book alone, I wanted to have all my products available online on this site as well.

I started with The Win-Win Classroom and this past weekend finished pasting and tweaking the code on the rest of my product pages. I am proud to announce that all of my resources are now available for purchase through a secure online ordering process. Simply click the product you want and there should be a link to add that item to your shopping cart. You can even request an autograph and all shipping is free, at least for now.

My Holiday “Break”

This is the third year I have blocked off the time from mid-November until the end of January. My first year, I spent the entire time working on what I thought was going to be a new version of 21st Century Discipline. Last year, we really got it right—a week in a resort on Maui and no writing projects for the entire stretch of time. It was wonderful and healing and restoring and I swore that I finally understood what a “break” was after that.

Obviously, the Universe has a great sense of humor, or maybe it’s just my editors, but I seem to have backed myself into another writing frenzy with not just one book but two (and a possible third on the horizon), plus a couple of articles thrown in for good measure.

I’m rationalizing that if I can get all this writing done this year, I will be able to really have some free time this summer and next winter! So once again, stay tuned…

Dec. 22, 2007

Solstice and Another Book

Late last night, I cracked open a new word processing file and started work on my next book, tentatively entitled, Becoming a Win-Win Teacher, a resource manual or guide (or something) for people just starting out in the profession.

The significance of Winter Solstice was mostly symbolic— wanting to get something down just as the wheel started turning back toward the light, as it were. Symbolic because I’m not convinced that what I’ve gotten down isn’t total rubbish. Or that it is remotely close to the tone I want for this book.

But it is a start, and even if I scrap two days’ work now (yeah, that’ll be a first!) I have that jumping-off point, a place from which the next project will eventually unfold.

I would normally be a lot more excited than I am, but for some reason, I’m having a hard time focusing, identifying what kind of rhythm this book needs. I think I’m in a bit of a panic over the deadline—now, thankfully the end of April (it had been the end of February). Even though I know that the nice people at Corwin will work with me, I don’t think that I’ve ever missed a publishing deadline my life and for some reason, the prospect of that possibility is making it hard to think.

It hit me tonight that from a purely logistical standpoint, I probably ought to devote this brief time I’ve got left at home to reading and researching and interviewing, so I can take my notes on the road and maybe, MAYBE write them up there. So I don’t know where this is going, but the topic is sure to receive a great deal of attention in the coming year.

Step Away from the Computer…

There comes a time when I realize that my efficiency, focus, and competence are a bit compromised. I’m making stupid mistakes, forgetting things, having a hard time doing simple tasks.

That’s been happening a lot lately.

The latest: I’m trying to make flight arrangements for our trip to Italy next year and although I’m calling almost a year in advance, can not get the dates or routing I want. I have spent anywhere from an hour and a half to, today, close to three hours on the phone trying this option or that, and the truth is, we finally nailed something down that is way more expensive than I’d planned and uses about twice as many miles for upgrades as I’d expected. But we did book something.

We had to change the departure date because there was nothing going out on the day I wanted to go and when I went to put it into my calendar, at the end of this excruciatingly long call today, I noticed that I am actually working in New York state on the day they had booked the outbound.

I don’t think the agent could get off the phone fast enough. And at this point, we have seats on a flight I can’t take, and I will need to call Delta yet again tomorrow to see if we can’t change the outbound. (It’s too early to book the return any time after Nov. 18 of next year.) Or cancel the ticket and start all over again a few weeks from now.

Ask me how much I’m looking forward to this call…

So I think I need a break, and I need to be enriching myself with some fun stuff (I have cleaned bits of my studio and even bought a bunch of new supplies, but haven’t done anything with new or existing projects in weeks), even catching up on a few professional journals and books, getting my body back to the gym (it’s been two weeks), and getting off sugar as my primary food source (it’s starting to make me a little crazy and everything I own feels tight).

I’ve been cleaning and organizing and sorting to try to get my environment in order. (I can work in clutter, but I see a real correlation between an orderly environment and a clear head, and when nothing seems to be working right, it’s time to clean!) I went through the guest bathroom, my bead table, and some stuff on my desk, so I have made a dent, but still have a way to go.

I’ve been having a hard time getting ahold of anyone this week. I think most people are mentally on vacation right now and any business I have to conduct will have to wait, in many cases until after the first of the year. So maybe it is time to step away from the computer and get my life in order, and create a space for things to start sorting themselves out, and start falling into place.

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