September 1, 2013
Within in a year of launching my first Web site, I had what I called a blog, a personal journal detailing where I was, what I was working on, what I was thinking about, and more often than not, what was responsible for my latest feelings of overwhelm or exhaustion.
When I started this version of the site and started learning WordPress lingo, the whole concept of “blog” started shifting for me, and what had once been my what-Jane-is-up-to journal entries suddenly became a list of the latest articles or responses to current events. After a year of posting these as blogs and blog topics, I’ve decided that there is something that is missing from this site— for me, at least. So I’ve decided to play catchup and bring my blog back to what it started out to be.
It’s odd for me to be making my first entry of the year on September 1st, but it’s taken me this long to realize that the posts about education and getting along, all things that are critically important to me and the very topics form the foundation on which this site was conceived and built, do not offer the personal dimension I want this site to include, even if nobody really ever finds his or her way to these posts.
These entries have also provided a great trail for me to follow when I need a sense of perspective or forget what I’ve experienced or accomplished, including the process that took me from Point A to Point B. Of course I still have things on my To-Do list from years ago, and other things that are no longer relevant or necessary to do, like offering products on CD now that mp3 downloads are available. But I often forget how I got where I am, wherever that is, and these journals help me remember the thoughts, intentions, and actions that have, to date, accounted for much of the past 15 years.
So I have decided to resurrect this part of my site, primarily for selfish reasons (I process better by talking, writing, or typing than by just thinking about stuff), though you are more than welcome to join me here. That said, here is what I’ve been up to for the past eight months or so.
Writing Projects Piling Up
I think it is every writer’s dream to be in demand, to be asked by publishers for new material, and I am thrilled beyond belief to have actually had to put a couple publishers on hold for at least a year or two while I work on current commitments. I still enjoy the process and apparently still have a bit more to say, but as an income stream, between this dip in the economy and changes in the publishing industry, I’ve had to come to terms that at this point, I’m very likely writing more out of a love for the content and the process than anything else. I’m not sure how much sense this makes, but here’s what’s currently lined up on my desk:
A perfectionism book
Back in May, I started a separate blog about my experience writing about perfectionism as I was just embarking on this journey. I have updated this blog a couple of times with some of the details about the process as well as what the topic was bringing up for me and my own patterns and tendencies. Scary stuff, actually.
As I mention in that post, this topic represents somewhat new territory for me—if not in my personal experience, then certainly in my professional work. While I have always included high-achieving, perfectionistic kids who equate performance and appearance with self-worth in my list of kids at risk, my work has almost always focused on the kids whose at-riskedness, as it were, more often manifested in the role of the trouble-maker, class clown, or even the invisible child. (A post from the old site, or at least from my handouts, that I clearly need to get up on this site.)
So I decided to dive in with my usual compulsive over-commitment to learn everything there is to know about perfectionism and have hundreds of pages of notes. The short version of where I am now with this, in terms of the actual work of researching and writing a new book, is that I’m about at the end of organizing the resources I have and sending them to my co-author so we can actually start writing.
The original contract had the manuscript due today, but once I got involved in the project, I realized the need to significantly expand the book beyond its original market. (This is a 3rd edition of a book that was originally written for gifted teens.)
And although the research may be organized, I’m a little concerned about getting much writing done as I’ll be on the road for the next six weeks or so, much of that time dealing with some recently-popped-up family issues where I’ll be in a place where I often have trouble completing a thought, much less a chapter of a book. We now have until the end of the year and all things being equal, I’m hoping to be able to slam this thing out in time to start 2014 with a bit of breathing room. In the meantime…
A new book(let) for ASCD
One of my Corwin editors is now working with the publishing end of ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). She called a few weeks ago to ask if I’d do a short-form book, about 10,000 words, something about classroom management.
I agreed, rationalizing that a) I know this stuff inside out and have been writing about it for years, b) won’t need to research or interview or sort data to pull this off, c) it’s really just a long article, which mentally makes it more manageable and d) I really like working with this individual. And topic.
Other than signing documents and putting together a folder with a tablet to jot down ideas as I think of them—and I think they will come better when I have a pen in my hand, strangely enough—that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Assuming that I will actually be back in town by the middle of October, I’m hoping to just set aside a few days, unplug the phone and turn off email and Facebook, and get this thing done. Still, this is a challenge to work into everything else, but of all the stuff I plan to write, this content is the most familiar to me.
Another book in the Win-Win franchise
Corwin is definitely interested in a leadership book, a book with the same win-win concepts I explored in The Win-Win Classroom and Becoming a Win-Win Teacher, only this one for administrators. Never having served in that capacity (and I type this with the greatest of gratitude as I’m really not built for the demands of those jobs), I have recruited the help of two friends who are experienced, both as administrators and as writers, to fill in the examples I need and dimensions I’m not likely to consider on my own.
They’re both raring to go, but I can’t even begin to think about this until the other two books are long in the rear-view. (I’ve promised myself a month off in my studio when the two above are done, but this is the next one on deck.)
Update: By the time we got the proposal submitted, nearly every person with whom I’d been working at Corwin had left. The company had shifted to other topics and packaged programs and no one there really knew who I was or what my work was about.
This is something I’ve experienced throughout my writing career as publishers have been bought and sold so often that some of my books have been with 8 or 9 different publishing houses during their lives. I originally signed with Corwin because they are set up to never be sold, which sounds great except for unanticipated fact of the people who had been so supportive of my work would end up leaving.
The proposal was sound, fit in with my other work, and with these co-authors, had well over 120 years’ combined expertise behind it. Yet the proposal was rejected. (Blown off is more like it.) Disappointing, for sure, but seeing the changes and declining support for my previous work has eroded my enthusiasm for pushing to do another book for this company.
Parent in a Pressure Cooker, or…
This book, from the mid-1980s was severely in need of an overhaul. My whole way of approaching this topic has shifted and I don’t even use the same language any more.
About two summers ago, I started a rough revision, but got stalled on the chapter about negative consequences and penalties, as I find those strategies dated and ineffective. (This may actually have been three years ago. Even more. My sense of relative time is a bit wonky lately.) At the time, the book was slated for self-publication in PDF, eBook, and print-on-demand.
The fact that I have been less than enthusiastic about working on this project may be an issue of interruptions and distractions or it may just be that that book’s time has come and gone, although even if we don’t change a word, there are a number of parents who could probably be helped by this version of my work, so it’s not exactly off the table.
I’ve gone through my files recently and found a series of six small booklets I had written several years ago. This set of materials was intended to fill a different market niche from the other parenting books I had (and have since) written and still has some viability, most likely as a self-published series, or as a book (with six different sections), possibly as a short-form book which I expect I will find out more about what that looks like as I work on the ASCD project.
I also found a number of outlines for books on self-help and personal growth topics. I don’t know. They are still needed but I don’t know if I’m the one to do them, mainly because I wonder about doing a book about self-care when I’m as burned out as I am already, even though I’m still at the beginning of this list.
Various Electronic Projects
I love doing podcasts and am developing a great, diverse lists of topics. The conversations are a blast. Where I end up getting stuck is on the paperwork, as each podcast requires things like a description (easy enough, but I need time to listen to the recording and write it up), contact information (also easy, except I have to pull these bits from other files), keywords and marketing info (meh… takes a few minutes), and related resources.
This last part is the handout I decided was absolutely necessary to go with each podcast, but have been rethinking this commitment because it is, for the most part, the one piece that seems to be standing in my way of finishing the two podcasts I recorded months ago and have sitting, edited, and ready to launch, on the hard drive of my desktop.
My sponsors have gotten off on various other tangents and I’m not feeling the love I felt at the beginning of this project, although I do believe they will continue to publish content I send them. Maybe. Maybe not. And I don’t want to let that stop me because I think these are some of the best bits of content on this site and the people who have discovered them have given me some great feedback.
I still have a dozen or two topics I haven’t tackled yet and at least that many friends who really need to be guests on this show, so I’m just gonna say that for now, I’m in a bit of a holding pattern, and if I can achieve even a tiny bit of balance in my life this fall, may get back into this groove. So no, we’re on hiatus, but this one isn’t done.
I got close to 5000 people signed up for the newsletter. I’ve gotten some lovely feedback on these things and I am told that the number of “opens” is quite reasonable as such numbers go. But I’ve been distracted with other stuff and twice this summer just never got around to sending out the newsletter. And the lack of consistency could be a problem, although frankly, sending out a newsletter every other month might be quite reasonable and a little more realistic.
This project takes up about 1-2 days a month preparing. Entering names, additional time. I don’t mind doing either. I just haven’t had much time to put together the letter I send out or setting up the necessary links each month, much less creating special pages for product bundles or sales.
I don’t have a sense of the value of this project. I certainly doubt I’ve ever gotten a job from it, and I can pretty much count on one hand, maybe two, the number of books we’ve sold as a result. I think we’re all getting so much email that even though I only send out a few of these a year, they take more time than most people have to check out.
Does it get people on my site? Maybe a few. I don’t know. At this point, its value seems to be in staying connected with people who know who I am, so I’ll give it another few months and see if a third year makes sense.
“Pads” on the Back Templates
What started as a fun project as grown to a free resource in more than 40 languages. I’m still seeking others and would love for this project to get some attention. In the meantime, I’m still quite attached to the intention of covering the world in positive messages and will continue to post these as they come along.
This Web site
…continues to grow, if you haven’t noticed. Writing a new home-page post ever week has just not been happening, and I’m quite happy to change out the content every month or so. I’m still in the process of converting pages from the old site and still have probably about 300 of those to do! Plus I have things I need to add that never made it onto the old site.
What is still lacking: the Links pages, the Affiliate pages, the stuff in French and Spanish, the rest of the posts that were in the “articles” or “handouts” sections of the old site, audio and video interviews, the Forum pages, and the Fun stuff (which I might just blow off, although some of those were the pages that got the most hits—go figure!).
In the meantime, I have created a good bit of new content, stuff that didn’t exist on the old site, and have posted material from guest bloggers, most of it from their sites or handouts. Supposedly this doesn’t help my ranking (unless they remember to link back to my site, which some do) but it does support my intention of bringing as much helpful information as I can find to anybody who stumbles on this site.
This past year has had me on the road a good bit, with another trip to Singapore in June, and a handful of jobs throughout the year. A fair amount of the travel has had to do with non-paid activities: family needs, my meeting with my co-author, and (so far) two road trips with Jerry (Sedona in March and Colorado in May). It was rare that I was out for less than a week, so cumulatively, I’ve been gone a significant percentage of this year.
This is still a part of my work that I love doing, and although the economy has hit me pretty hard in this area (freeing up time for all of the above, if you want to put the most positive spin possible on this situation), I’ve still managed to get my voice out there and interact with teacher and other professionals.
I get a shot in the arm—not to mention new material—and occasionally get to add another dot to my big wall map (most recently in a part of New Hampshire I’d never visited). And despite some compromises to accommodate the ridiculously tight budgets some schools and organizations still have for staff development, the income side has been… adequate.
The NH job requested that I speak on Common Core State Standards which brought up a few things for me. Although I’ve been railing against standardization since the shift from a factory economy (in 1956, thank you) first entered my writing and speaking, the attachment to uniformity in schools just doesn’t seem to want to go away. So it’s here, the latest flavor-of-the-week, and likely to be the hot topic for at least a few years.
I’ve talked to a few trusted, talented colleagues who have assured me that, in the right hands, this trend could actually be a good thing. OK, fine. And the hook for me was the number of people who know my work and assure me that in order for this initiative to be successful, we need to get below the content itself and address school climate and relationships, power dynamics, social interactions, learning differences, win-win, emotional safety, and all the other topics I’ve been talking about when I’ve been up in front of an audience of educators for the past 30 years.
At their urging, I developed a new presentation, and interestingly, my last two presentations (for Fall Mountain School District in Langdon, New Hampshire and the Westbrook Public Schools in Westbrook, Connecticut) went by the title, “The ‘Core’ of the Matter: Creating Community for Making Common Core State Standards Work.” And they went over big!
This topic has become something of a joke around here and I’m not completely unconvinced that every time I say the word another project drops on my desk. As you can see, I have plenty to keep me busy and the good news is that everything I’ve described here so far is something I love to do.
That said, I’ve started to notice that the trips I’ve taken this year seem to require much more recovery time than I ever remember needing in the past. Maybe it’s the difference between 62 and 52 (or even 60?) but I’m feeling it lately and my sleep, food, and fitness routines seem to be coming apart more and more each time I go out.
Granted, these have not been easy trips. The visit to Singapore took 4 flights (and close to 30 hours) each way. The work there involved back-to-back, full-day programs (and over there, full-day is 9-5 or even 8-5!) that were, because of the 10-hour time difference and my sensitivity to jet lag, done in what was for me the middle of the night.
The week in Virginia working on the book was relaxing—I did manage to squeeze in one Zumba class while I was there—but the three flights to California and delays on the way home after my presentation there more than made up for it.
Two speaking engagements roughly a week apart ended up being tied to cross-country trips to visit family members and help out with their health-related needs. And my last 8-day trip to New England covered four states—and for the first time involved a presentation in one state in the morning followed by a drive from southern CT through Massachusetts and Vermont to an evening presentation in New Hampshire on the same day!
Over the weekend there was a visit with a college roommate that included our usual tradition of sitting up talking until 4:30 in the morning, something neither of us are built for as we had been 40-some years ago. No regrets. I wouldn’t have missed that time to connect for all the world, especially with someone who has the kind of history we have.
To be honest, I suspect that these trips would have wasted me 20 years ago, so I’m not really sure if the exhaustion I’ve been feeling (pretty much since early this spring) is the result of age, thyroid problems, or just stupidly cramming way too much fun into the time I’m gone. I’m seeing my primary care person this week to rule out a few things (hopefully) but the fact is, I need to start pacing myself a whole lot better than I have been. And yeah, not taking on anywhere near as much as I’ve been in the habit of agreeing to do (for pretty much my whole life. Again, see the perfectionism post for details.)
In the meantime, I recently discovered a 2007 email from a friend who was offered “an enormous amount of money” for her house in the Bay Area and although she’ll “never have to work again,” is still speaking and consulting on occasion (or at least was back then) because she loves it. Hmm…
That really sounds nice, but I’m not there yet, and have often said that if I had every last nickel I knew I’d ever need, I’d have a hard time turning down an opportunity to work with teachers. I suspect that will change, and I’m certainly closer to that day than ever before, but for now, I’m enjoying the ride. I just need to come up for air for a bit, and am very much looking forward to having some time at home later this fall.
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