This spring I was voted in as president for the Maine chapter of the AATG (American Association of Teachers of German). It’s work I’m proud to do, but it’s not quite as glamorous an honor as it sounds, since ours is a small chapter, so there are few of us to do the work. Nevertheless, it puts me in touch with German teachers across the state and it’s a wonderful way to develop in my profession. Yesterday was an annual event we hold at the governor’s mansion (called the Blaine House) to honor the achievements of our German students. Our main speaker was Dr. Jay Ketner, the World Languages Specialist for the Maine Department of Education, but I gave a few remarks before his speech and seeing as this blog is all about a love of writing AND languages, I thought I would share it with my readers.
Here’s the thing: like most women I know, I work multiple jobs. I’m a mother, a full-time teacher, and a writer. There are probably folks who think I’m not truly serious as a writer since I have a “real job,” but since I’m not independently wealthy, and my husband isn’t a real estate mogul, I do have to pay the bills. Besides, I became a teacher because I love teaching, so even if I wake up tomorrow and become J.K. Rowling, I’m not likely to stop.
The downside is, while I love all three of my jobs, it can leave me a little scattered. Take Twitter, for example. I started my account while I was at a teaching conference and intended to use it for connecting with other language teachers. Then I found out about “Twitter Pitch” contests and met scads of amazing writers online and now I follow a combination of teachers and writers. That’s ok for me, but it’s not so great for establishing a consistent platform. So, I now concentrate my writing tweets (and the occasional life observation) under @FrauDrK and tweet about my German teaching at @YSDGerman (a new account I started for our district this fall).
The upside? Synergy. While I have to be careful not to bore my teacher friends with talk of my writing, and vice versa, the triad of teaching, writing and parenting provide me with a constant feedback loop of inspiration. Take my kids, for example. Both have social and behavioral challenges which can be frustrating. But having studied behavioral analysis in graduate school and working daily with kids who have IEPs in the classroom, I am much better equipped to deal with them. On the flip side, when I am dealing with those students in the classroom, I have much more empathy for their situation and how I can help them to be successful because I know what works with my own kids. And both of those experiences feed into my writing. I’m currently working on a picture book manuscript about a girl who refuses every invitation from her best friend– amusement parks, baseball games, sleepovers, you name it. She’s modeled on my younger son, whose first instinct to every new situation is “Not going.” I shared the story with one of my students at school — a girl who also struggles with anxiety– and she identified with my son’s struggle and gave me some insight I couldn’t get from a seven year old.
It’s been a long two weeks transitioning from the carefree summer, when I could spend much of my time focusing on writing, editing and feeding my creative soul with trips to the beach or the lake with my kids to the chaos of teaching high school full time. I have been frustrated that I haven’t had time to send many queries to agents and publishers, and haven’t written a new manuscript or even a poem in two weeks. If you’re a writer with a full-time job, you’ve probably been where I am. But the kernel of hope in the chaos is that the busier life gets, the more material you are ultimately building for future use. I’m pretty sure I am going to get a killer idea pretty soon and then I will have to just make the time to get it written.
Speaking of killer ideas, I’m going to have to start getting inspired soon, because there are two major picture book writing events coming up! #PBPitch (another twitter pitch fest) is coming on October 27 (pbpitch.com for more info!) Then of course, November is NaNoWriMo for the novel writers in the world, but PB author Tara Lazar hosts “PiBoIdMo” (Picture Book Idea Month) which I participated in last year and hope to do again this year. I’ll be coming up with a book idea every day for a month! Inspiration, do your stuff!
Even before I got married and had children, I was a big fan of the animated kids video series “Veggie Tales.” I can appreciate the values, and there’s some great music as well as some nerdy and quirky humor (If you are a Tolkein fan, you might just appreciate “Lord of the Beans.”) The creators have a photo of their children in the opening credits with the caption “Why we do what we do.” In the end, all three of my jobs are all about the kids.
How does your day job intersect with your hobbies and/or parenting? I’d love to hear in comments!