Back, back to school again

Everyone is asleep but me.

I don’t know how much time I have before Pringles nuzzles up to Viva, realizes she’s not me and raises the alarm of protest. I’ll work with what I have.

I finished On Writing by Stephen King. When I was nursing Pringles just now, I read his advice about some technical aspects (submissions, agents) that gave me heart palpitations. Am I too old to make money as a writer? Will I sell anything? Do I have what it takes? King recounts the story of his famous accident at the end of the book and the narrative is riveting. Sure, the most famous writer in the world hit by a van and nearly killed may be an inherently interesting tale, but I know people who are such terrible storytellers, there is no event they can recount without making me want to shake them by the shoulders screaming “STOP TALKING!”

I have told people I’m working on a book. The words “my novel” make me cringe. It sounds so pretentious. The only thing that would sound worse is “my screenplay,” given that I live in Los Angeles County where everyone’s “got a script.”

When Hilary Swank won her Best Actress Oscar, she gave interviews recounting a childhood of poverty wherein her mother believed in her career so much, they lived in a car while she went on auditions. Or maybe her mother just believed so little in working that there was nothing she wouldn’t do to help her daughter support them. How much is this “living in our car” story embellished? Her Wikipedia page says she dropped out of South Pasadena High School. Either her mom parked the car in a great neighborhood, or their financial situation wasn’t that dire. South Pasadena is literally one of the most expensive cities in an already absurdly expensive state. She could scarcely have chosen a nicer high school to drop out of.

The reason I bring up this swanky detail is because some people who become artists talk of childhoods where they got nothing but encouragement and I did not have one of those. Reading this, my parents would both likely protest vehemently, but it’s how I feel. They absolutely supported my writing in that they told me I was good. But they both made it clear they felt I would never be a writer. My father is too practical. There’s no money in it. Everyone in the world wants to be a writer. Find something that everyone doesn’t want to do. My mom wasn’t unsupportive, she was just busy. Busy remarrying, fighting with her stepdaughter, making remarks about my dad’s girlfriends, getting another divorce, dating, making remarks about my dad’s wife, getting sick. She’s supportive in her way. For example, when I complain about work, she’ll say “You should be a writer! You were always such a good writer!” Then she tells the story of how my fifth grade teacher made me write a book and she had it typed up, illustrated and placed in the school library.

The funny thing about my dad’s attitude is that he is a writer, and a very successful one. He’s always said the right things to me. It’s even possible that this “lack of support” is projection on my part. He’s very vocal about his pride in my career as a teacher. It’s a great career. Imagine that your children are grown and you’re chatting with someone at a party. “Oh, you have a grown daughter? What does she do?” “She’s a high school English teacher.” It sounds good, doesn’t it? What’s the other person going to say? “Oh, wow! A teacher! What a noble profession. Good for her.”

One of my readers commented on “Viva la Viva” that she loved and hated me. The love part is obvious, but the hate stems from the fact that she dreams of teaching and I don’t make it appealing. Let me go ahead and make it appealing, since I have to go back to it in a few days.

I love my job. It’s different every day. I don’t have to sit at a desk staring at a computer or sit in boring meetings. Some teachers think the meetings are boring, but at my workplace, we don’t have “meetings” very often. We have weekly collaboration time and I get energized by interacting with other teachers. And when there’s conflict and bitchiness, I enjoy that too because I love gossip. Some teachers don’t merely want to disagree with the policies or opinions of others. They want to stand up in front of 75 people, announce and flounce.

“Well I believe in our students right to their own personal head space, so I for one will not be complying with the policy,” hair flip, sit down, receive literal pat on back from coworker sitting nearby. I love peeking at this one guy during our meetings to see how long into the meeting he falls asleep. The chin hits the chest and out he goes. It’s hard to appreciate comments about my “professionalism” where the bar is set so low.

“You’re such a great teacher, Mrs. Odie. You’re never openly insubordinate and you stay conscious during staff meetings.”

I’m feeling guilty and indignant about my summer vacation. I didn’t accomplish anything I planned. I relaxed. I recharged. It was, well, a vacation.

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About Mrs Odie

Like you, only funnier.
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5 Responses to Back, back to school again

  1. KeAnne says:

    My mother was not supportive of any career plan that didn’t come with a stable, preferably generous income. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but it was the way she always replied, “Oh, there’s no many in acting/writing/artistic profession.”

    Nothing wrong with having a vacation all summer 🙂

  2. Fiona says:

    Welcome back to school, Mrs Odie, it sounds to me like you achieved exactly what a vacation is FOR – mission accomplished. A well rested and de-stressed teacher is a far better teacher, right? 😉

    I’m sorry your parents weren’t supportive of your career plans, You do write well – very well – and you keep me and your other readers wanting more – I definitely believe you can get your book written and published. Who knows, maybe your dad just wanted you to not have to struggle as hard as he might have as a writer – to have more security. Sometimes it sounds like parents are caught in the middle, one half of them wanting to urge you to follow your dreams, aim for the stars! and the other half always trying to bundle you up in a bubble wrap suit and steer you on the safest course possible.

    I do think adversity can give a writer more depth and more of their own life stories to draw on. And everyone loves an overcomer. I do agree that sometimes it sounds like everyone is trying to outdo everyone else with their battler stories thought! A thought about Hilary Swank who lived out of her mother’s car yet dropped out of a wealthy-area school – yes it is a bit ‘rich’ – but it could well be true. Everyone has to start somewhere. Many homeless people had a home once, had careers, had money and cars and ‘toys’ and whatever, and when they hit the hard times, some of that comes with them. Maybe in better times, Hilary’s family lived in that area, and maybe she started off in schools in that area and just continued on despite being homeless. There are many people out there who carry on huge deception to hide that they are homeless, there are even people who have good jobs, who go to public showers every morning, suit up, go to work, then sleep in the streets again that night. Of course, you need to have a ‘home’ when you are working or looking for work, or it does count against you. If Hilary’s mother was looking for acting work she probably had an elaborate background story in which a daughter in a wealthy school and a home in a wealthy area probably fitted a lot better than living in the car. Just a thought!

    Hope you have a wonderful term 🙂

  3. Anna says:

    You are too hard on yourself. I am glad you had a relaxed summer.
    My parents were not supportive of my music talent. They pushed me to be successful in academia and truthfully my niche is music. I compose, I play by ear…I live and breath music. Could have had a great music career…Now at 39 I am trying to home record my songs and see what I can do with them.
    In regards with your writing, you have to believe in yourself, in your dreams. I know it sounds cliche…but believe me you have to proudly announce you are writing a novel or else someone else will steal the thunder… The world is full of kellle hamptons who claim to be experts at what they do. People like us…have modesty, fear, shame and high standards.
    Just do it! Past is the past. We can blame our parents endlessly for the things they didn’t do but I strongly believe no parent wants to screw up their kids life. They might end up screwing up…but…

  4. Wendy says:

    Keep your head held high, square your shoulders and go for it! You write with style and just the right amount of humility. Parents mean well, but they also have their own set of faults and insecurities. I wanted to be a jockey when I was younger. I do believe I had the talent to achieve at least minimal success, but I listened to all the nay sayers who whispered in my ear, “You are too tall, do you know how hard it is for you to stay that thin, you are a female in a male sport, you don’t have connections” ,etc…and let them define my future. I love my life now. Wish I had at least given it a valiant attempt though. You don’t want to look back when you are in your rocking chair and changing Mr. Odie’s diapers (sorry couldn’t help but go there) and say I wish I had. You have talent, explore it.

  5. Summer says:

    I find myself wanting to rip off everything you write and make it my own! haha. 🙂

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