Okay folks, we're nearing 10,000 views on this blog. The questions is, who's going to be the magic one - the big 10,000th viewer. Check the number when you log on. If you're it, send an e-mail posthaste to me at realwriting@comcast.net. There will be a prize.

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In The Trenches 

Okay, it's been in the trenches for me lately: visiting classrooms and working with writers and thinkers. I've presented a Dr. Mudd PowerPoint I developed that encourages kids to THINK and act like historians in deciding the good doctor's innocent or guilt, done a chewing gum inquiry complete with history and art, and worked with some boy writers in creating letters about a visit to an historical place. All very interesting and invigorating.

Talked to the latter about the Diary Of A Wimp series that's been so much in the news. I checked out a book and read it, wondering what the big hubbub was all about. It seemed pretty streamlined and base to me (LCD) with some marginal illustrations, but the kids LOVE IT! I'm taking a closer look, though, and am going to listen more carefully to their feedback. Obviously I'm missing something. Or, am I?

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Another online traits class has begun and we have an interesting cast of characters. It's great to see the diversity of online students, and to hear their backgrounds as well as the aspirations they have for their students. I am slowly warming to the online experience - not sold, just warming. It takes the right kind of person to be successful in this medium, and it's my hope that the folks who sign up know themselves well enough to know whether that's them or not. I hate to see people wasting tuition money on courses they won't complete. They ain't cheap, these courses. But, don't get me started on that. We'll let it sit for another day.

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A.C. #1 
Yahoo! The first illustration is done for the A.C. Gilbert book, and does it look cool! It shows A.C. as a young kid standing on the roof ready to test out a homemade parachute. He inches closer and closer to the edge. Will he jump? Will the chute open? How hard is the ground below?
Gosh, you'll have to wait and see.

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Sunny San Diego 
What a great break from Oregon's darkness to fly south and attend a history conference in sunny San Diego. The conference was great and the weather was greater: mid to high 70s each day. I got to swim outside several times as well as take a replica 1850s schooner out onto the ocean. No, I did not captain the vessel, but we were all able to work as crew members if we chose. It was very cool raising sail on this old time revenue ship (made sure other ships paid duties for entering ports along California's coast).

Now back to the rain and occasional sun and back to work. I'm helping to plan out the A.C. Gilbert book and its illustrations along with doing some more writing on the gum book. Another online course starts today so I'll be busy with that as well.

"Idle hands are the devil's workshop."

Not really, but it's a good excuse!

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So, the results of overdoing, overtrying, overwhelming yourself can sometimes be sickness. It was for me this time: a goodolfashion cold, complete with no energy, stuffy head, and a waterfalls for a nose. It grabbed me, set me down, and made me rest after a brief but unsuccessful battle of wills. I even took a sick day from work and slept in til 10:00! Rare, indeed. So, I'm feeling better these days and was even back to swimming laps yesterday. Ready to get back to my projects, too, although maybe not as many at once! Time will tell...

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Finished work with the great educators of Lebanon, presented at the IRA Regional Conference in Portland, winding down my first online teaching experience, writing a proposal for a UO summer class, applying for two history institutes to research Lincoln's kids, hosting our Teaching American History grant, and
trying to breathe.
It ain't easy...

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Just found out that "soon" will not be until September. "Patience is waiting for something important you want, no matter how long it takes."

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Lots going on here:

My 6 Traits online course is up and going. Weíre nearing the end of the first week. Itís weird teaching a class and not being in the presence of the students. The jury is still out as to whether I like this, and if Iíll want to do it again.

Iím still waiting on permission for photos of the gum manufacturing process. Iíve contacted to biggies, and Iím hoping one of them will grant me the right to use images. If not, we can always use drawings, but I think photos would be better. In the meantime, I can continue with the writing.

The A.C. Gilbert bio project is still alive as well. Recently, I got much needed support from the Gilbert Museum so Iím more comfortable moving the project forward. All I need now is a few more hours in the day to work on it.

This week Iíll be working with the teachers of the Lebanon School District here is Oregon. Itís a bit like returning home for me, since there was a small town named Lebanon near my hometown in rural New Jersey, where I grew up. Weíll be exploring the world of nonfiction, as Iíll be doing with attendees of the Western Regional ORA Conference in a few weeks In Portland.

I know, I know, whereís the book? The Nonfiction Toolbox book that has been promised for x number of years. Well, Iím told that it will emerge from the melting Vermont snow this spring. Keep an eye on Barry Laneís website (www.discoverwriting.com). Thatís where it will be announced. Hopefully, SOON!

On the homefront, we continue the design of our house, on which we will begin construction in April. The plethora of details is challenging, bordering on overwhelming, but weíre proceeding. On a sad note, we have another sick dog here. Avaís dog, Heidi, has bladder cancer and is declining weekly. We are working hard to make her last days filled with love and comfort.

Give your dog (pet, partner, friend, self) an extra pat, walk, or treat today, and be grateful for its (his, her, your) health.

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A cautious hurrah! The most difficult part of writing a book about chewing gum is getting accurate information about the manufacturing process. Photographs that illustrate the process are even harder nuts to cracki. It is considered "proprietary" by the gum companies.

When I wrote The Chewing Gum Book in 1989, I was able to obtain some general information as well as some outdated, black-and-white photos. This time around, I'm going to do better.

While many gum companies are still reluctant to share, I am finding a few who are not. This could mean more detailed info about how gum is made and, more importantly, good quality pictures that will pique kids' interest.

I am hopeful...

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