Throwback Thursday: The Summer Read

Originally posted on August 15, 2017, The Summer Read recounts the reading odyssey I went on this summer.

Why would anyone read 20-some-odd books? Kind of like someone asking, “Who would steal 30 bagged lunches?”

Well, the big read was partially for enjoyment, but really for research. I needed to see where my book fit in in the market, if the subject matter was appropriate for YA literature, who exactly was my competition and what he/she was writing about.

And I came away from it with a greater respect for contemporary authors and the confidence that my book can sit next to theirs on the shelf.

Or maybe all the way at the end of the shelf. But still…

In May my wife wondered aloud why I didn’t take the summer off to focus on my writing. According to her,  teaching full time and carrying a full consulting schedule left me thin to do the work necessary to find an agent.

As is usually the case, she was right.

And, boy, did I have a lot of work to do.

As thorough as I am in my professional life, for whatever reason I had been quite negligent in properly researching the market for my book, its competition, and the specific agents to whom I intended to pitch my book. Unprepared for the task at hand, the same offense for which I fault my students, I myself was.

We call that irony, kids.

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Throwback Thursday: Reading is Cool

Originally posted on April 10, 2017, “Reading is Cool” stresses how critical reading proves. I have contended for some time that reading expands one’s vocabulary, initiates one’s critical-thinking skills, and diversifies one’s means to articulate.

And I stand by that contention.

I was at a wake this past Wednesday when my buddy’s sister’s fiancé – nicest guy – struck up a conversation with me about writing. Specifically, we discussed generating original ideas and weaving them into a narrative.

Then, he told me he writes on his free-time, which I love hearing because you can’t be a writer unless you actually write – a great lesson I learned about seven years ago. He was messing around with a screenplay at first and now has arrived at a Go Ask Alicelike journal.

But he had reservations: his vocabulary was too limited, in his opinion, nothing like mine, he said. That comment, besides flattering me, led us to discussing narrative voice and how an extensive diction can actually hamper a writer sometimes. It certainly did when I initially wrote Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up. Teenage narrators only know so many words. Humans, in general, only use so many words.

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Throwback Thursday: The New Old Thanksgiving

Originally posted on November 23, 2016, “The New Old Thanksgiving” examines the familial holiday traditions of the past and how they’ve changed since my grandparents passed away and my wife joined the family. 

My grandparents on their last holiday together

When I think of Thanksgiving – the old, old Thanksgiving, not the new old Thanksgiving – I think about my grandparents. Really, it’s like that with all holidays. Besides Christmas Day, I spent every holiday in their basement gorging myself with anything from eggplant parmigiana to baked lobster to a sausage stuffing I’d request on Death Row.

Then, obviously came the couch with my grandfather and my father in the armchair. We’d be snoring before desert. My grandmother always cut fruit. Shelled nuts sat on the table with the cracker. And there were pies, more so on Thanksgiving than any of the other holidays.

At the time, I never realized how easy it was, having my grandparents and the holidays and nothing else to worry about. They were healthy and their table always set. Then, they weren’t. First, my grandmother went. And it was my grandfather at our house for Thanksgiving that year. And it didn’t feel right, nothing about it felt right. Because it wasn’t where it was supposed to be. And everyone knew it. As for my grandfather, he didn’t make it to the next Thanksgiving. As he said he wouldn’t. And he didn’t.

That first Thanksgiving without both of them blurs in my mind now, probably because I don’t want to remember it. Still, I recall the silence – the sad, lonely silence acknowledging that we had buried the two of them in two years and didn’t really know what to say without my grandfather complaining about the dry white meat and my grandmother looking askance at my mother, her lips pursed into a little secret smile.

So here we were, with the same spread – grandma’s stuffing, candied yams, pearl onions in cream sauce, the bird – staring back at us daring us to eat it. Not in my grandparent’s basement anymore, but in my parents’ kitchen. The two waywardly wild dogs were there. And it seemed even they knew something was amiss.

Because it was. My grandparents were missing. And, for me at least, so was the feeling they brought with them – the feeling of security, of not having to worry about who’s cooking and who’s coming because it was always the same. Until it wasn’t.

Family endures, though, never forgetting those they lost, but eventually moving on because “dwelling on what was does not change what eventually will be.” And living in the past impedes you in the present. Worse, that type of thinking makes you forget all you have to be thankful for: those who still have their health, those who have accomplished feats and deserve plaudits, those who have had milestones in their lives – whether it be a 60th birthday or a 40th wedding anniversary or an engagement.

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In Preparation for Thanksgiving

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I want to set the tone with a clip from Addams Family Values. Besides football and turkey and stuffing, this film should be a staple of everyone’s Thanksgiving.

A happy and a healthy from my family to yours.

The Value of Companionship

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men remains one of my favorite texts to teach, for in less than 110 pages it offers hundreds of pages of depth. Whether it be examining the historical context – Great Depression/Dust Bowl – or the plight of people of color – see Crooks – or even the ranch as its own independent society, the text offers months of interesting discussions and learning opportunities – months unfortunately no one has.

Alas, there’s never enough time to discuss good literature.

‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck via

Through Chapter 3, now, we have arrived at the venerable Slim and his inability to understand Lennie and George’s relationship. In Chapter 2, meanwhile, we witnessed the callous Carlson’s pushing to shoot Candy’s dog.

What’s the connection?

Companionship – its importance and the inability of many of the ranch workers to understand it. So, it got me thinking about companionship in my own life…

My wife, obviously my ultimate companion and partner in crime – my everything, my always, my forever – has made an honest man out of me in our almost a decade together (that’s a scary thought, in itself).

With her I’ve overcome personal tragedies, written books, learned how to detach myself from work, and discovered that I do not always have to have a solution to a problem – I just have to listen (take notes, guys).

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ICYMI: The Excuse of All Excuses

ICYMI: The Excuse of All Excuses laments those parents who do not allow their kids to fail and learn from their mistakes.

I’ve been railing against this epidemic for a number of years, tempering my criticism under the auspices that I myself am not a parent.

However, I am a teacher and I am a human. I’ve been around long enough to understand that kids are extensions of their parents and families. What’s permitted or excused in the house permeates in the classroom in the way a child comports himself with peers and adults. Moreover, when parents do not hold their children to a high civic and academic standards, the kids become reliant; worse, they do not develop the means to confront and overcome adversity.

So parents, keep making those excuses for your kids and be prepared to wipe them from front to back and back to front for the rest of their lives.

Throwback Thursday: Just Do It

One of my buddies just asked me what’s going on KNOWING WHEN YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO GROW UP.

My response: “Haven’t been able to get anything out. Among the impediments/excuses – excessive drinking + weddings + bday, the busiest two months of work I’ve ever had, meetings every morning for the past month and a half, and just general malaise about the above-mentioned.”

Then, I thought, besides that I sounded like a pretty big douche, that I just needed to do it.

Just Do It,” originally posted on March 6, 2017, recalls the last time I became so bogged down with work that I couldn’t breathe. Then, I got on my horse, did a final full-book edit, and read 20+ books by my competition.

It will be done…

I always feel so inadequate when it comes to literature. Sure, I’m an avid reader, particularly of the canonical or classic texts, but I’ve never been drawn to a particular genre besides Young Adult. And I feel like the net that YA literature casts can bleed over into other genres.

Which is why I’ve struggled for so long with how to identify KNOWING WHEN YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO GROW UP. Is it Young Adult because the protagonist is a teenager struggling with social changes and growing up and coming of age? Or is it adult fiction because the subject matter is too explicit for young adults – drug abuse, sexual abuse, rape, suicide.

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ICYMI: Somebody’s Getting Married

This day, November 12, 2017 – the third leg of the A&A wedding tour – brings us to Roslyn, Long Island, for the wedding of my best friend.

Congratulations in advance.

ICYMI: Somebody’s Getting Married celebrates all of the weddings we’ve been to this year while also lamenting how we are heading right around the baby bend – our friends are starting to have kids or at least considering having kids.

And that scares me.

A lot.

This is the End

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from the Epilogue. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

I saw Becky yesterday in the hospital, went to visit her for lunch – really, was given permission to visit her. She was admitted shortly after me, I think.

“Hey, Beck, what do you think?” I asked, holding up my bandaged arms from my wheelchair. “I figure I’ve got a head start on Halloween with this homemade mummy costume.”

Zab, my personal slave/aide from Somalia, got a kick out of that one, standing right behind me – always nearby.

“You’re such a dope,” Becky squeaked out in what might’ve been amusement, lifting her head from her hospital bed, “but at least you can laugh about all this.”

“It’s either laugh or cry, you know, and I think we’ve all done enough crying. But I could’ve helped him. And I did the exact opposite. I fucked him.”

I felt her dry, spindly fingers on the top of my head. I was bowed in front of her like confession.

“Andrew,” she said, her whispering voice almost a secret, “look at me.”

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Somebody’s Getting Married

I feel as if my wife and I should walk around with an 80s-style, tower boombox blasting, “Somebody’s getting married!”

Makes sense since that’s pretty much been the theme of the past five years with the countless weddings we’ve attended. Many we couldn’t wait for; some we probably should’ve puff, puff, passed on; and, on a select few, obligation overruled reason. I’m almost at my Jim Carey Me Myself Irene point with obligation.

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