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Old 07-23-2010, 11:54 PM   #1
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First page of my potential book---want to read more?

If I go the fiction route, I'll probably go with an indie publisher, but I have some non-fiction stories which are close to my heart and which I just want to share and get out there---either because I learned something I think is worth sharing, or because it is something near and dear to my heart and I want to share it for that reason. For my first story, I am thinking of doing a memoir of my first three years as a teacher. There are some things which I think make my story unique, many of which I cover in my intro (which I will paste below). I guess I would just like some feedback on whether people think what I have so far is interesting and whether they would be interested in reading such a story if I finish it. I'll paste my first page and a bit below. I'd love some comments on a) if you like it and b) directions you think I should take (e.g. do you want to read about the year overseas at teacher's college too, or should that be a separate story and I should just focus on the 'life of a teacher' stuff?

Anyway...

INTRO

Four years ago, I returned to Canada after a year of teachers college overseas with $15,000 in student loans, a $2000 balance on my Mastercard (catastrophic hard drive crash at critical juncture in schooling plus massively expensive plane ticket home) and $450 on my Visa card (assorted fees to get my credentials evaluated and obtain a teaching license).

Fast forward nine months later. I had worked, variously, as a remedial English and math teacher at an adult learning centre, a teacher aide in a Jewish day school, a substitute French teacher at same, and a part-time telemarketing job that was commission-based and at which I made no money at all. That last one killed an entire summer for me. I persevered because I am not a quitter, but as the start of the new school year approached, I had $56 in my bank account and was absolutely desperate. I thought I was facing a career teaching middle school English. But four days before the start of the new school year, I applied for, and received, a job teaching elementary school French. I had no idea what I was doing. And to make matters all the more interesting, the principal contracted mono about two days after hiring me, and I did not see her again until November.

Fast forward again to the present day: the credit card is paid off, the loan will be by Christmas, and I have found my calling teaching French as a second language to very little children. Nobody is more surprised than I am! So, how did I do it? How did I turn my life around from not-very-good-freelance-journalist to local Goddess of All Things French? It's an interesting story, actually. And if you keep reading, you'll get to hear all about my amazing journey---and I'll throw in all my Cute Little Kid stories too.

CHAPTER 1: GOOD WRITER, BAD BUSINESSWOMAN

Parent: So, M said something interesting to me last night. She asked me 'do you think Joanna knows that M. Le Bec isn't real?'

So, I will explain about M. Le Bec right off the bat, because you'll be hearing about him a lot in this story. He is a small stuffed kiwi bird I brought into class one day on a whim, and who has become a beloved fixture. M. is an abbreviation of 'monsieur' and is the French word for 'mister.' So, his name is 'Mr. Beak' because he is a bird, and he has a giant yellow beak. (He is a Kiwi bird from New Zealand, actually, and I'll share more about New Zealand later).

There are dueling theories in the literature of doing drama with children, and one I learned in teacher's college suggests that if one is going to 'go into role' with the children, one should explain this to them so that they a) understand that we are doing Pretend and thereby enter into a contract with Teacher in which they agree to play along and b) understand that Teacher is not a crazy person. I do not subscribe to this theory. I think children are smart enough to figure such things out without one needing to spell it out, and I think that explicitly shattering the illusion in this way kind of spoils the game.

So I never actually explained to the children that M. le Bec isn't real. I just brought him in and started including him in my classes. When I want him to contribute, I hold him up to my ear and he whispers. I helpfully pass on these messages to the children. He sometimes whacks the children with his beak or performs some other action for comedic or illustrative purposes. It's great fun. But we never actually had a conversation about how he isn't really...well, real.

So some of the kids did not figure this out right away. Or, as I learned from this parent shortly after my first Christmas break, they do figure it out---but they are not completely sure that I have, so they play along because they love me and don't want to hurt my feelings. And that is just the sweetest thing, and it's what makes teaching little kids so much fun.

This is also what happens when you let the writer become a teacher. Joanna understands that he isn't real, of course. But she likes the whole...the whole story of it, you know? Because there isn't just M. le Bec. There is also M. le Ours, who is a bear (hence the name, Mr. Bear). And there is Maman Ours and Papa Ours, which you should be able to figure out without me translating. There is even a Grandpapa Ours, who I save for the week of Grandparents Day. They all have personalities and full life stories, too. M. le Bec has a bit of a rivalry going on with M. le Ours, and will compete with him for the children's attention. M. le Canard is a very, very bad duck who has a bec too, but does not know how to keep it to himself. There is a brother bird who also has a bec, and he likes to hang from the picture wire with it. This stuff is as fun for me as it is for the kids!

Here was the problem, though. I'm a good writer, but I was a terrible business woman. That same stubborn non-quitting streak that marooned me at that call centre job for a summer had me not only sticking out journalism school when I suspected six months in that it was a bad idea, but also had me persevering for almost two years as a very mediocre freelance journalist once I was done. Oh, I gave it a pretty good try, I think. High points from my freelance resume include:

- an internship as a very large, prestigious magazine for which the only feature I got paid for was a website-only filler article about furnace filters

- another internship (also unpaid) at a trade magazine targeted to people who work as financial planners

- four months as a medical writer at an advertising agency which really didn't have enough work for me and terminated me as soon as the probation period was up

- six months eking out the most meager of livings in a vaguely research-related market research job which involved phone and off-site surveys

I went into that last job one day to an assignment of calling people who had bought a certain pizza and interrogating them about factors which would make them more or less likely to buy this pizza again when I realized this wasn't going anywhere, and on the subway home that night, I saw a flyer for a work-and-study-abroad expo that would be occurring downtown. It was like a sign from the universe that I really ought to get going on the proper adult career path...

To be continued---maybe! What do you think?
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Old 07-25-2010, 11:03 PM   #2
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Huh. I guess there is my answer
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Old 07-27-2010, 02:51 AM   #3
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Ficbot, I thought your intro was very interesting. I will say, however, that it just isn't my cup of tea. Please don't let that discourage you, if you want to write a book, write a book. I would like to say the lack of comment isn't surprising. About a month ago I gave my e-book away for 24 hours to members of this forum with one request: Please review my book. Out of the hundreds of books "sold" I have had only one review posted. Surely by now more than one person has read it.
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Old 07-27-2010, 08:06 AM   #4
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Too many parenthetical comments.
Seriously, it throws what rhythm you have out of balance. The tone is light, maybe too light, too talky, too conversational.
It's an interesting predicament but I don't know what it's about/where we're going and I think I would need to know that before committing a couple hours to reading it.
Writing gives form to something that is inherently formless--life.

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Old 07-27-2010, 11:04 AM   #5
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Quote:
It's an interesting story, actually.
Word to the wise - never tell people a story is interesting, or in any way try to tell them what to think or feel about a story. You're just asking for the response: "Says who?"

Personally I'm not interested in reading anyone's memoir, and they sure don't sell to commercial publishers - but don't let that stop you writing it down if you need to get it out of your head. Just be aware that the only people who really care about your life are you and your nearest and dearest. Sad but true...
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Old 07-27-2010, 12:13 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by chkngreez View Post
Ficbot, I thought your intro was very interesting. I will say, however, that it just isn't my cup of tea. Please don't let that discourage you, if you want to write a book, write a book. I would like to say the lack of comment isn't surprising. About a month ago I gave my e-book away for 24 hours to members of this forum with one request: Please review my book. Out of the hundreds of books "sold" I have had only one review posted. Surely by now more than one person has read it.
If one person out of 100 that downloaded it actually read it, that would be a pretty good average for an unknown writer.
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Old 07-27-2010, 03:29 PM   #7
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It reads very much like an article. A good article, but not one I would personally continue reading for several hundred pages in book form. This comes from someone who happily reads dozens of news/policitcal articles on the internet every week but who only reads fantasy/science fiction when it comes to anything over 4 pages.

With all the magazines out there for educators, have you considered submitting some stories to one of them? You may have better success and a larger readership going that route rather than the self-published eBook format.
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Old 07-28-2010, 12:54 AM   #8
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Good point, Greenkeeper - I've found it much easier to get non-fiction published (at article length) than fiction. The money's not great (I got 60 quid - approx $100 - for a pair of articles on tabletpcreview.com) but then articles are much quicker to write!
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Old 07-28-2010, 07:05 AM   #9
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Thanks, everyone.
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