History Series 

Recently learned about a series of books for kids in grades 3-7. Interest level runs that span; reading level is grades 3-4. The series is called You Choose (Capstone) and is composed of titles with history topics, such as The Alamo and The Boston Massacre. My understanding is that readers are engaged because they are given choices throughout. Sound a lot like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books that have been around forever. My source, a teacher in our history grant, tells me that her kids - especially boys - are gobbling up the books. I'll be checking these out and reporting back.

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A day in the life. Ava and I went to Cottage Grove this aft to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the museum a few of our history grant people have spruced up. It was a fun, small-town event, complete with “pulled” pork and local characters.

As we viewed the main museum, a man was speaking loudly in the corner. He was a tall man, gray-haired, and in his late sixties or early seventies. He was talking to a small, bespectacled lady, around the same age. The man’s voice boomed across the room like cannon fire; it soon became clear he was talking about another man in the room, and he wasn’t talkin’ friendly.

At first it sounded like “ole boy” talk, you know the way some old guys talk, giving each other a hard time, spittin’ insults like tabacca, then pounding each other on the back and laughing. This was not that.

The other man – shorter and rounder – moved toward the taller man until they were belly to belly and lobbing scatological references back and forth that covered years of slight. As their voices rose, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing: two “adult” men behaving like pimply boys or alcohol-soaked barflies. Who was going to throw the first punch? Would one of the little old ladies standing nearby get knocked over in the melee that followed?

Fortunately, no punches got thrown, only a shove from the shorter man that left his opponent standing in the doorway of the museum. Potty words continued until I, wanting to blonk their heads together in a Three Stooges move, instead excused myself and began to leave, which required the man in the doorway to step out onto the porch. Once out there, inertia took hold, and he just kept walking, down the stairs, then down the street to his car.

We stood on the porch, watching his exit and wondering “What the hell just happened?” It would be easy to make a generalization here, about small towns or people today or old men, but I’m afraid it would end up being a cliché. Instead, we’ll leave it as a tagline for a bad movie: Two raging men. One goofy encounter.

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In the Books 

Another online class in now in the books. It was a grand, eclectic group studying six traits and the work they did was quite good. I am still getting used to the online experience, but I'm liking it more and more. Although assignments are due weekly, it seems to provide folks with some flexibility in getting things done on their own.

I am told that the online course is the way of the future, but I'll have to wait and see about that. I am seeing its advantages, but I still like the classroom environment that is lively and engaging.

The challenge for me, of course, is how to make the online class more lively and engaging. Suggestions are always welcomed!

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I worked extra days so I am taking a week off from work. Perfect timing, for sure, since I have much to do. Work on the A.C. Gilbert book is progressing. Illustrations are being created as I write and it should be ready to go to press sometime this summer. Seems to far away to be excited, but I'll allow just a little.

Working as well on the revised gum book. I don;t have any publisher-takers as of now, but I have a slew of queries out there. It's a very tough time in publishing right now, so maybe that project will have to wait. In the meantime, I'll continue with it.

And I'll continue prepping for some writing classes I'll be teaching at the University of Oregon this summer. One, on writing traits, will be online. The other, on tools for writing success, will be a face-to-face class at the Downtown Center.

It looks like I will be returning to Argentina to work with an international school in Buenos Aires. Probably in September sometime. I'm looking forward to my third visit down there. Hope to visit Manchu Picchu on this journey. And, of course, see some futbol!

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We have a winnah amongst us! I will be sending a signed copy of one of my books to the fine person who e-mailed in as the 10,000th visitor. Congratulations!

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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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