Education, Employment

If you don’t ask, the answer is “no.”

Creative writing class-fine arts center (40269...
Creative writing class-fine arts center (402690951) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two years ago, I took a full-time job working as a civil servant in an academic department at a state university. I’m a media manager, writing the occasional news story about my department, editing the department newsletter, liaising with textbook reps, and doing all sorts of tedious work (like putting together course evaluation packets) that have nothing to do with anything I went to college for. It’s not exactly my dream job, but it allows me the flexibility I need to be able to pursue my dream career, which is writing.

Prior to taking this job, I worked as an adjunct instructor at a state technical college. It’s a typical career path for many in my situation, but I soon learned that it was not conducive to writing. Sure, I only spent a couple of hours in the classroom each week and was able to work at home the rest of the time. But, I spent many of those long hours at home grading papers, reading basic essays written by students who really did not want to write them. There was a lot of drudge work involved for very little pay, and it left very little time for my own writing pursuits. Continue reading “If you don’t ask, the answer is “no.””


Can you pass this writing test?

linkedin jobs page
Just because you found it on LinkedIn, that doesn’t mean it’s legit!

I’ve been bugging my Facebook friends about this all day, and now it’s your turn. I ran across a job post on LinkedIn that advertised a position for an online writing teacher. It sounded like it might be something that I would be interested in, so I clicked through the link to apply on the company’s website. Instead of being led to the company website however, I was redirected to this online business writing test.

I found the test to be confusing within the first few questions. Several of the questions appeared to not have a correct answer. Others did not provide sufficient information for me determine which multiple choice answer might be correct. I muddled my way through the test anyway to see what would happen. After I hit the submit button, I received the following message: Continue reading “Can you pass this writing test?”

Book Reviews, Education, Uncategorized

An analysis of Coming of Age in Mississippi and Herculine Barbin

It is interesting to compare two very different texts.
It is interesting to compare two very different texts.

The following is my second course autobiography that I wrote for the course I am taking this semester. I would appreciate your feedback. I am having some difficulty incorporating the required “elements of pedagogy” without making it sound forced.

The Power of a Movement

Coming of Age in Mississippi and Herculine Barbin (Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth Century French Hermaphrodite) tell the stories of two individuals whose lives are greatly impacted by the bodies in which they were born. While Anne Moody’s life is influenced by the color of her skin, Herculine Barbin’s is shaped by the presence of “abnormal” genitalia that make it impossible to determine her “true sex” at birth. One of the elements I would ask students to analyze if I were teaching these two texts is the differences the two authors faced as one of them suffers her trials alone while the other’s story takes place within the context of a greater movement. Continue reading “An analysis of Coming of Age in Mississippi and Herculine Barbin”

Education, Reading

School is making me feel stupid

The life writing course I signed up for this semester isn’t what I expected. I was looking for a “book club” class where I could sit around and discuss books with my classmates. I didn’t realize the course would focus so heavily on pedagogy (a word I can’t even pronounce) or that my classmates – even the undergraduates – would be using so many big words that no one ever used in my graduate writing program. This course is really pointing out the gaps in my education.

You see, I got my undergraduate degree in business, not English. I took several writing courses as an undergrad, but I did not study literary criticism to the degree that so many of my classmates seem to have. OK, I admit it. I didn’t study literary criticism at all. And there are so many books – the “canon” – they all seem to have read that I haven’t.

Embed from Getty Images

I don’t know about you, but when I imagine a potential audience for my novels, this guy is not who I have in mind.  Continue reading “School is making me feel stupid”


When homework makes the whole family cry, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong.

one room schoolhouse
Here’s an OLD picture of my younger son and me visiting a one room schoolhouse located at Old World Wisconsin in Eagle, WI. Look how tiny we both were back then!

As my children have become entrenched in the American public school system over the years, I have become increasingly disillusioned with said system as a whole. I often wonder if American school children are being prepared to survive real life in the real world someday, or if they’re just guinea pigs for a failing experiment that some researcher has been paid too much grant money for to admit that it’s just not working out.

If my Facebook feed is any indication, I am not alone in wondering if my children might be better off if I were to pull them out of the public school system altogether.

Homework has always sucked, but I don’t remember it ever causing so much family strife when I was growing up as it does now. I don’t remember my parents ever crying because they couldn’t understand my homework well enough to be able to help me with it. I don’t remember my parents really helping me with my homework much at all.

Back then, my homework was MY homework. It wasn’t my parents’ homework. They were there for me if I had a question, but otherwise, I was expected to take responsibility for my own work. Even when I did ask the occasional question, my dad’s standard answer was, “I don’t know: let’s look it up.” He would then make me figure out which encyclopedia I needed (wow, am I old!), and then he would watch as I paged through the book looking for the topic I needed. How’s that for teaching me an important life skill that I would actually use someday? (Sans encyclopedia, of course!) Continue reading “When homework makes the whole family cry, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong.”

Composition I, Editing, Education, Random Rants

English Public Service Announcement: The “an” epidemic

According to, “and” is a conjunction (used to connect grammatically coordinate words, phrases, or clauses) along or together with; as well as; in addition to; besides; also.

“And” ends with the letter “d” and is NOT spelled “an.” That is a COMPLETELY different word.

English: Grammatically incorrect sign
No one will ever take you seriously when you write like this. | English: Grammatically incorrect sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I.e. “pens AND pencils,” NOT “pens AN pencils.”

This was your English PSA for the day.

Continue reading “English Public Service Announcement: The “an” epidemic”

Education, Television

T.V. Review: America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa

America by the Numbers may be viewed on PBS. Check your local listings for details.
America by the Numbers may be viewed on PBS. Check your local listings for details.

I can’t afford cable, so I watch a lot of public television. To be honest, at this point, I think cable would be wasted on me. I can’t imagine making a return to having all of those channels and still never being able to find anything to watch. Between my three different PBS stations, I can generally find something interesting and thought provoking to fill my time when I should be writing (but that’s a different blog post.) One of my current favorite shows is America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa.

I don’t typically review television shows on this blog, but I really like this one and hope that you will be inspired to go watch it and then join me in asking PBS to sign Hinojosa on for a second season so I can keep watching her show. This is a very important series that will make you think about what it really means to be an American.

Continue reading “T.V. Review: America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa”

Book Reviews, Education

The role of fiction in the understanding of history: Why everyone should read more historical novels

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James provides a graphic view of the life of a slave.

History has always fascinated me. I enjoy historical novels that allow me to immerse myself in other times and places and understand how people lived “back then.” However, history classes have always bored me. I have learned far more about history from historical novels than I ever learned in any history class.

Every history course I have ever taken has focused on dry facts – dates, names of battles, lists of names on important historical documents – that students were required to memorize and then regurgitate on that next test. Most of these details immediately flew out of my brain as soon as I turned in my final exam.

Ask me when the U.S. Constitution was signed. I can’t remember, but I can Google it for you if you like.

While these factual elements are important to setting a story in time and place, they never quite tell the entire story. Unfortunately, the “story” part of history seems to be missing from many American history classrooms. (Although, we do seem to get the “his” part right in most cases.) Continue reading “The role of fiction in the understanding of history: Why everyone should read more historical novels”

Education, Novel Writing, Writers on Writing

How long does it take to become a writing master?

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins
How many words do you think you need to write to become a writing master? | Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Facebook friend recently shared a link to an article titled, Here’s A Shocking Truth If You Think You’ve Wasted Your Life. According to this article, it takes a person about seven years to master a particular task. This prompted me to consider how long I have been writing and how close I should expect myself to be to mastering it.

After giving it some thought, it occurred to me that I am probably exactly where I should be in regards to my writing career. Although I have been writing in some capacity for most of my life, it is only in the past five years that I have put my full effort into it. Prior to that, I had taken a ten-year break while I was married because my ex didn’t want me to write at all. Continue reading “How long does it take to become a writing master?”

Education, Employment

Why you probably shouldn’t send your kids to college

Molly with Mike Rowe and UFC CEO, Dana White.
Mike Rowe is probably best known for his role on the Discovery Channel series, Dirty Job.Molly with Mike Rowe and UFC CEO, Dana White. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, a friend of mine shared an interesting article on why Mike Rowe thinks most people should not pursue a 4-year college degree. Click here to read the article.

Personally, I think Rowe is absolutely right. In fact, I have been saying this myself for a while. I’ve been teaching at a 2-year technical college for two years now, and for two years, I have watched my students graduate and find jobs right away. Not just any jobs, but good jobs that pay far more than mine does. I keep trying to tell people to stop pushing their kids to go to a 4-year college, and they just look at me like I am crazy.

I think this is part of why our economy is so screwed up. Hordes of Americans are flocking to 4-year colleges to earn degrees for jobs that no longer exist. They are graduating and getting jobs as waitresses and baristas instead of stepping into the high-powered office jobs they thought would be waiting for them once they crossed that legendary stage. Disgusted, many of them are going on to graduate school with the misconception that a Bachelor’s degree just isn’t enough anymore. The Master’s is the new Bachelor’s, right? Continue reading “Why you probably shouldn’t send your kids to college”