It’s time for another What I’m Consuming. This is a two-part deal focusing on a recent film and TV show. I dedicate this series to Hillary Clinton.
For Part I, let’s talk about “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call”
This remake of the 1984 “Ghostbusters” is known for one thing: A ghoul-fighting cadre that is all female. When the movie came out over the summer, reviews sounded like the wheeze of a noisemaker at a lame party. “Ra ra, it’s got a female cast,” critics said. “I wish I liked it more.”
When I finally saw it this month, I was amazed. In two words: It’s wonderful. Perhaps a cult classic in the making.
The co-star Kristen Wiig plays scientist Erin Gilbert. At Columbia, she’s a physics professor up for tenure. In the world of movie tropes, she’s the cowed loser up for transformation. You can practically see the blinking red arrow over her head, declaring Keep your eye on this one! She’ll change by the closing credits! In an early scene, a male administrator at Columbia advises Dr. Gilbert on strengthening her tenure application. His condescending advice? Get a recommendation from a school more prestigious than Princeton. Continue reading
Ah, November. A blank page on which to write.
Today marks one week into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). This year, I’ve made a commitment to the scribbling craft. The pledge? To write every day.
The force rolling me along is four fellow writers (a.k.a. The Furious 5). Each day, we email the group to report on how much time we’ve written, and sometimes what we worked on. Despite the “novel” aspect of NaNoWriMo, our group sets no requirements for genre. Among our quintet, we’ve already covered fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Timing is also flexible. As one member put it, you can write for “5 minutes or 5 hours.”
If this November is even a fraction as productive as last year, I’ll consider it a success.
What writing commitment could you make for 30 days?
I see them every now and then – furious complaints or snappy comebacks about student behavior, posted or shared by college professors on social media. Sometimes they’re pretty funny. Overall, though, they bring me down.
Here’s a thought: What if we abstained from posting nastygrams about our students, just for this semester?
Students have thrown some curveballs my way, but many have left me open-mouthed in amazement. I’m talking about students who revealed they were the first person in their family to set foot on a college campus; a student who wrote a gorgeous short story out of the blue, because something in the assignment touched him; students reading ahead in the assigned book because they got so into it.
If I succumb to the seduction of a social media rant, I degrade those stories. I feel only the anger of the injustice and the momentary boost from Facebook cheerleaders.
If you’re not convinced that a rant moratorium has merit, consider this: Acting like a cad isn’t just for students.
In Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay presents a beautifully humble essay on her first year of teaching college students. She writes:
Sometimes, during class, I catch students staring at their cell phones beneath their desks like they’re in a cone of invisibility. It’s as funny as it is irritating.
…Sometimes, when students are doing group work, I sneak a look at my own phone like I am in a cone of invisibility. I am part of the problem.
Filed under Blog, Teaching
Here’s an example of the Week 3 assignment for ENG 360. This one is an analysis of tweets from two DC City Council reps during the 2016 election year.
To start off your own assignment, add an intro to the analysis you’re about to provide.
[^ I embedded this tweet. If you don’t know how to embed, you can screenshot and add a link to the original tweet ^]
In this tweet, Ward 4 city council rep Brandon Todd shares several images of himself with constituents in the first week of school. There are four images total, including one with a child and parent or guardian; two with just children; and one with what appears to be a teacher or school administrator.
I think Todd is keeping in mind the diversity of the ward he represents and, specifically, the audience that would be following him on Twitter. He selected a STEM-focused school, and made his layout balanced both visually and conceptually. [FURTHER ANALYSIS, USING THIS WEEK’S READING, WOULD GO HERE]
Here, rep Mary Cheh tweets in honor of National Dog Day. She shows one photo of a dog-owning constituent wearing a Mary Cheh T-shirt and other shot of just a pooch.
I think Che’s intended audience was the thousands of dog lovers and dog owners in DC. [INSERT MORE ANALYSIS HERE]
In a new article for the Jewish Daily Forward, I visit a family camp at the Pearlstone Center. Check it out:
Image by Diego Torres via Pixabay
Wondering what I’m doing this summer? Here’s the story behind one project.
It all started in April, when I took a crash course in pitching an agent. I had registered for Books Alive! 2016, presented by the Washington Independent Review of Books. It’s a local conference with workshops, speakers, a book fair, and book signings. It also features the coveted Agent Speed Pitches.
My goal was to brush off a journalism fellowship proposal about Judaism and food, make a book proposal out of it, and convince an agent to love it in five minutes or less. Soon, I’d be on my way to a book deal.
It’s not hard to do what I did. Just follow the simple steps below.
How Not to Pitch an Agent
- With about six days to go before your book proposal must be ready, discover that six days is a preposterously inadequate amount of time to write a book proposal.*
- Write a good query letter. While working, sing a little song about how the kindly agent will adore your query, swoop in, and help you write that pesky proposal.
- Do not use a single sentence from your query letter. Instead, craft a pitch from it and use that pitch.
- Practice the pitch on nonfiction writers, novelists, and your cat. At least one out of three will give constructive feedback. Treat the other two to a rendition of that song about your guardian agent.
- At 6:45 am on the day of the pitch sessions, as the Uber waits downstairs, decide to print your query letter after all. Clutch the letter close throughout the morning.
- Use the pitch on agents — the ones assigned to you for speed-pitch sessions as well as the one who magically asks you about your book while you sit around the lunch table. That last one will listen intently until you must both stop for the keynote by Bob Woodward.
- Note the questions the agents ask and suggestions they make about structure. Note also how said questions and suggestions are not at all consistent.
- Note also how, though the agents are all wonderful people, not one extended a cloud-like wing to envelope you.
- Rejoice that several agents asked to see either a sample chapter or full book proposal.
- Realize this is better than a guardian agent. Also understand that you must produce a book proposal.
- Attempt to write a book proposal. Take more than six days to do it.
- Start now.
So there you have it. The Book Proposal (incorrect capitalization for Emphasis) is one of my projects. I look forward to posting updates.
*Why inadequate? Thanks to author friends Michael Chorost and Fran Hawthorne (plus online searching), I learned that a book proposal comprises some 50 to 60 pages of details. It covers the content, author, and market. Sample chapters also go in there. As you can imagine, a normal human can’t do this overnight. If you’re interested in more information, here’s a great guide from Zimmerman Literary.