When I was little, my parents were very involved with making sure I had a love of reading. I even completed the Hooked on Phonics program (and yes, it worked for me.)
One morning Kevin and I went down a rabbit hole of our genealogy after he revealed he was related to Davy Crockett’s brother, and I revealed I was related to Pocahontas/Matoaka– not the Disney one, the real person. (Sidenote, this really shouldn’t be hard to believe. 17+ generations back, and with families having ten+ children, there are probably quite a number of people who are just as related to Pocahontas as I am.) As I dug through my file box for the stapled packet tracing my family back to Jamestown, Virginia, I found a file of my old reading incentives.
Reading incentives? Yes. With my sister and I reading ravenously, sometimes it was hard to remember who had read which book. We started keeping track with long lists of which books we had read. The incentive was pennies for each book, as noted by the “$3! Good job!” notes from my Mom at the bottom of the pages. These few dollars meant the world to my sister and I, and we’d often save up together to pool our money for trinkets, or carnival games at the Ocean City boardwalk.
I don’t know how after all of my moves and organizing and donating that these few pages from the late nineties made it to my file box, but I am glad they did. I like my use of milky pens, showing off my cursive, and of course, struggling to assign a genre to the Beanie Baby catalogue. (My mom wrote in non-fiction).
I did find my genealogy pages shortly afterwards. Kevin and I discovered that our families were in Virginia at the same time but in different counties, and that Davy Crockett spoke against Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act, which Kevin was very relieved about. But, in Crockett’s memoir he claims some violent acts against Natives. History is never straightforward, it seems. Even in our memoirs.
During my first year of grad school, I took a lot of notes. I realized that in many of my classes, professors had suggestions for things I (specifically) should be reading.
This felt different from the random person who is all like, “you haven’t read X, omg, you are a horrible uncultured person, but just kiddinggg but seriously, drop whatever you’re doing, call off work, and go read X.” Okay, I get it.
Here’s the thing. Have you been in a library lately? There are a ton of books. More than I could ever read in my lifetime. That is the reality, I cannot read everything. For most of my life I read things that interested me, following certain authors, or discovering interesting looking covers in the library (a spaceship on the cover?? I’d better find out what happens!) Now I am switching over to reading things that will help my writing, through content, craft, or inspiration.
We all secretly like to be judgmental, mainly because it’s more fun that way. So, I thought I’d share my summer reading list. I made this list solely for myself, based on suggestions from professors for the types of stories *I* want to be writing, as well as books I’ve been meaning to read because I think they will inspire my writing somehow. Below are a mix of novels and short story collections. Some are just authors I’ve been encouraged to check out and I haven’t decided what works of theirs to read yet. There are also a few fiction craft books in there (as in, ‘how to write fiction’ type books). If you have suggestions for magical realism, minimalist, strange, genre bending, dystopian, and/or feminist stories, I would love to hear about them!
“Red Moon” Ben Percy
“Refresh, Refresh” Ben Percy
“The lie that tells the truth” John Dufresne
“Is life like this? A guide to writing your first novel in 6 months” John Dufresne
“Bird by Bird” Anne Lamott
“Willful Creatures” Aimee Bender
“The Color Master: stories” Aimee Bender
The Complete Collection of Calvin and Hobbes
“Reservation Blues” Sherman Alexie
“Indian Killer” Sherman Alexie
“The Way to Rainy Mountain” N. Scott Momaday
“House Made of Dawn” N. Scott Momaday (re-reading)
“Suddenly, A knock on the door” Etgar Karet
“Reasons to live” Amy Hempel
“Jesus’ Son” Denis Johnson
“The Power and the Glory” Graham Greene
“The Road” Cormac Mccarthy
Oh, and a lovely middle school student I tutor suggested I check out the YA series “Divergent” even though we agreed it seemed like a rip off of the Hunger Games. Got to stay up to date on my youth culture though!
After finishing my first year of grad school at Boise State (two more to go!) I can say many things about going back to school. One of which is that your blog posts may vary incredibly. I disappeared a bit this Spring semester blog-wise, but I’m determined to keep going. I realized only in the last week or so of school that I had not done something social (as in, not related to my program) the whole semester, and I hadn’t called anyone for fun besides my sister. Talk about living under a rock… Now I am ready to share more about my first year here.
I taught two classes of English 102, which is research writing, and I didn’t die. Professors have an option to theme their 102 classes, so I picked “pop culture.” If you’re going to have to read all their papers, they might as well be interesting, right? A lot of them really surprised me with their creativity, and I felt much more myself even in my teacher-character. I battled with weird classroom arrangements, incorporating a textbook, and a wide variety of actual writing skills. Could someone please let the engineering majors know that they will have to write again? That English 101 and 102 are not the last papers they’ll have to write? How do they think they are going to get grant money for the giant robots they want to build?
I also made a big effort to teach my students film critique as a research skill, which resulted in a class period watching part of a documentary on Star Trek fans and having my students take apart the directorial choices, editing, narration, etc. The classes are normally full at twenty-five students, but I somehow ended up with nineteen and four (!!!). The four person class was a crazy experience, but they all jumped right in and held themselves to such a high accountability. Their presentations and papers were far better than my nineteen person class. This has given me a lot of thought on the research showing the best way to learn is one-on-one.
For my next two years in my grad program, I’ll be working at Boise State’s Writing Center doing just that– working individually with students from all majors and levels on their writing assignments, getting to the root of their writing problems (or fears), and making every minute count. I’m really excited to learn more about the theory behind individual learning, and coupled with my growing tutoring and college admissions consulting business, I can put the theories I learn into action very quickly!
I applied to two National Humanities Seminars and was waitlisted to both (but ultimately not selected). I attended my first official writers conference in Seattle and learned that I feel overwhelmed around thousands of people (duh). I applied and luckily was selected to participate in a week long course design program at Boise State and have started to plan out my first Intro to Fiction Writing class I’ll be teaching next year.
But now, I am officially on summer vacation, which, like most
Jackie-vacations means working multiple jobs, Netflix, and writing as much as I can. I even made myself a reading list, just like the high school days. My summer jobs are: Temp Test Administrator for Pearson testing company, tutoring English for local middle school students, and beginning my season of college application consulting.
I will barely make rent.
I will eat a lot of pizza.
I will keep writing.