Chattin' with Chapin is a blog focused on writing and the writing process both from the perspective of an aspiring fiction writer and a teacher who teaches it every day to middle school students. The blog also includes updates on author Andrew Chapin's nonfiction book From Tragedy to Triumph and teasers to the coming-of-age fiction novel Knowing When You're Too Young to Grow Up.
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Originally posted on March 7, 2018, “We’re Getting Old” reveals my coming to terms with an unavoidable reality: I’m a lot of things – an educator, a professional, a husband, an adult – but a kid is not one of them. And I have no complaints about that. Gone are the weekday hangovers where you’re hiding […] The post Throwback Thursday: We’re Getting Old appeared first on Andrew...
Originally posted on March 7, 2018, “We’re Getting Old” reveals my coming to terms with an unavoidable reality:
I’m a lot of things – an educator, a professional, a husband, an adult – but a kid is not one of them.
And I have no complaints about that.
Gone are the weekday hangovers where you’re hiding behind a computer screen or pulling a Costanza and sleeping under the desk, just counting down the seconds till the acceptable time to jet out of work hits. Or in my case, standing before my students with sunglasses on getting pegged with questions of anonymous origin like dodgeballs in the dark.
Those were the days when I could shake off late nights and still have the energy and motivation to provide my students with the best English education one can offer. Not anymore. Now, I just wear sunglasses because my eyes have become overly sensitive to bright lights, which segues perfectly into the Fairfield Alumni event I attended last night. As I caught up with ’08, ’09, and ’10 grads, a theme of the night quickly revealed itself: WE’RE GETTING OLD.
I don’t know if it was that we were vigilantly monitoring our alcohol consumption despite today likely being a work-from-home day. Or maybe it was that we were talking about being or becoming homeowners, having kids, or even getting a dog. Maybe it was that we were there interacting as professionals, not because we wanted the open bar. And we actually discussed ways to improve the alumni’s connection with the University – I mean real discussion, not pithy, frivolous nonsense. People were thinking and engaging, not just throwing pleasantries at each other and uh-huhing the night away.
My, my how the times have changed.
In a good way.
That’s what a friend and I were discussing last week. Your priorities change. Your habits change. And your body’s ability to bounce back changes. When you don’t, when you keep chasing that sunlight on the regular, you end up looking like Rip Torn – sunken, glassy, spiritless eyes and sagging, dog-faced jowls and all – when you’re in your 30s. And I don’t want that. Or to feel like I’m in the washer machine for three days because the hangovers get longer and longer the older I get.
And I am getting older, I can’t avoid that reality. Just the other day my wife and I were talking about our calendars, and I mentioned that I was going to go to dinner for Chris’s birthday in May. Chris is the boy I mentored from 8th grade until his high school graduation – and whom I still informally advise (See “Your Deeds Are Your Monuments” for more on that). She asked me how old he was turning. I said 20. “Wow!” she cried, and at first I said, “What?” Then, I realized. He’s a man. Just like my former students who are 21. Just like my high school students who I was only five or six years older than when I first started teaching; they’re 25/26 now.
That’s where I am in life now. Looking for a new job and looking at my future as my wife and I prepare to move into a bigger place with a true second bedroom – deep breath – for what will eventually become a child’s room (G0d-willing). Either that or we’ll have that broke-ass Sinbad move in and film House Guest 2.
And I feel comfortable, maybe not comfortable to have a kid, but still comfortable. And we have time for the kids. This is usually the point where I’d chafe from too much adulting and have a flight reaction and need to go run wild for a weekend to feel young again. But I don’t really have that urge anymore. I guess it means I’m slowing down in my old age and finally maturing. Because we all grow up, even the ones of us who feel too young to grow up (see ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up‘).
“Summertime, and the livin’s easy.” Whether Ella Fitzgerald or Sublime is singing it, the words could not be truer this summer. Since my wife and I moved June 14th, the summer has been a nonstop go-fest. Except this time around it’s not the wedding gauntlet we’re running. It’s actually something for us – for once. […] The post Summertime appeared first on Andrew...
“Summertime, and the livin’s easy.” Whether Ella Fitzgerald or Sublime is singing it, the words could not be truer this summer.
Since my wife and I moved June 14th, the summer has been a nonstop go-fest. Except this time around it’s not the wedding gauntlet we’re running. It’s actually something for us – for once.
Buying new furniture.
Unpacking boxes and boxes of our lives.
Receiving deliveries (and dealing with the various hip and trendy stores that apparently cannot properly track or deliver their goods).
Testing the limits of Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping. Because who doesn’t need a new tv remote, a six pack of loofas, a 12-pack of potato chip clips, a sound bar – it goes on and on and on and on.
We even joined Costco to buy a yearly supply of beef jerky, trail mix, Boomchickapop, Spanakopita, chicken and cilantro wantons, and peanut butter – all of which will likely last us until the onset of Christ. Not listed in the membership benefits, but eminently present, is the opportunity to watch adults tussle over free samples of hotdogs and beans; I would’ve broken someone’s hip for that chicken salad with craisins sample, though.
We have started to acquaint ourselves with our new neighborhood, perusing vibrant street art around the block and sampling the eclectic cuisine and ultimately ending up at the same Greek place. We’re creatures of habit, what can I say?
And, just recently, the realization set in that my wife and I have not been staying in an Airbnb. Which I guess means we are finally home.
Thus, I have not had the time to maintain the blog or even work on some new and old fiction projects. And for the first time in a long time, I can breathe easy and say that’s okay. Because for so long I’ve felt this pressure to push on and do and do and do, which I’ve written about in the past (see “Self-Motivation: The Double-Edged Sword” and “Just Do It“).
However, I did just finish The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, which is a must-read for all genders and ages.
And I’ll get back to the work I do starting July 14th.
Originally posted on June 24, 2018, “A Past and Present Farewell” is my goodbye message to my current and former students and their families. While I look forward to this new opportunity, I will miss the students and their families – some with whom I’ve worked for eight years. How the time flies when you’re […] The post ICYMI: A Past and Present Farewell appeared first on Andrew...
Originally posted on June 24, 2018, “A Past and Present Farewell” is my goodbye message to my current and former students and their families.
While I look forward to this new opportunity, I will miss the students and their families – some with whom I’ve worked for eight years.
How the time flies when you’re having fun!
Originally posted on June 8, 2018, “Words for My Seniors” is the uncut advice I offered the Class of 2018. An abridged version was featured in the back of Thornton-Donovan School’s yearbook. While I originally took the request as an imposition, I realized I had to leave any issues I had with the school at […] The post ICYMI: Words for My Seniors appeared first on Andrew...
Originally posted on June 8, 2018, “Words for My Seniors” is the uncut advice I offered the Class of 2018. An abridged version was featured in the back of Thornton-Donovan School’s yearbook. While I originally took the request as an imposition, I realized I had to leave any issues I had with the school at the door.
Because none of that has anything to do with the kids.
And the kids always deserve better.
Originally posted on August 15, 2017, “The Summer Read” explains why I read so many damn books last summer – partially for enjoyment and partially to research the competition for ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up‘, a whole lot of good that did. Anyway, this summer is a different kind of Summer Read, […] The post Throwback Thursday: The Summer Read appeared first on Andrew...
Originally posted on August 15, 2017, “The Summer Read” explains why I read so many damn books last summer – partially for enjoyment and partially to research the competition for ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up‘, a whole lot of good that did.
Anyway, this summer is a different kind of Summer Read, the I’m preparing for a new job summer read of going through some of the summer reading books and the curriculum texts , in addition to modifying and designing new units for the coming school year.
And I cannot wait!
In May my wife wondered aloud why I didn’t take the summer off to focus on my writing. According to her, teaching full time and carrying a full consulting schedule left me thin to do the work necessary to find an agent.
As is usually the case, she was right.
And, boy, did I have a lot of work to do.
As thorough as I am in my professional life, for whatever reason I had been quite negligent in properly researching the market for my book, its competition, and the specific agents to whom I intended to pitch my book. Unprepared for the task at hand, the same offense for which I fault my students, I myself was.
We call that irony, kids.
I realized, in interacting with some authors on social media and in reading about different authors’ journeys to attaining representation, how pathetically unprepared I was to pitch my book. Hold up! I couldn’t just send out a form query letter and expect every agent to bite on that? I actually had to personalize my queries?
Oh, and that violent rape scene in Chapter 11. That might trigger flashbacks, so it might have to be softened (Thanks for the Kate Brauning). So, I have to read through ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up‘ AGAIN!?!? Uggh.
And what about contemporary competition? Wait, I can’t just say my novel’s a mix of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Rules of Attraction? I actually have to read newer novels? Crazy thought, especially since I’m not reading averse (See “Reading is Cool” for more on that).
This is really where my summer begins. As of 8/15, from mid-June, I’ve read the following books:
- The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides
- Eight Men (short stories) – Richard Wright
- A Country for One Man (unreleased MS) – Foday Samateh
- Paperweight – Meg Haston
- The Way I Used to Be – Amber Smith
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli
- Dear Life, You Suck – Scott Blagden
- The Beginning of Everything – Robyn Schneider
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
- Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
- The Bad Guys Won! – Jeff Pearlman
- Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
- Killing Reagan – Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard
- The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
- Killing the Rising Sun – Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard
No, not all of those are YA competition for my manuscript, in particular the nonfiction pieces, the historical fiction ones, and the thriller. However, in reading the YA selections in particular, I’ve come to see that I’ve come to see YA as much more adult than young adult. Which makes sense considering that “by some market estimates, nearly 70% of all YA titles are purchased by adults between the ages of 18 and 64. Of course, some of those are parents but, assuming that the majority of actual young adults are old enough to make and do make their own book purchases, a lot of ‘non-young adults’ are reading those teen books,” according to Valerie Peterson’s March 17, 2017 piece “Young Adult and New Adult Book Markets” in The Balance.
Besides gleaning useful information from texts like Thirteen Reasons Why and The Way I Used to Be on how to tone down the previously-mentioned rape scene, Paperweight offered me insight into how to write about eating disorders and Dear Life, You Suck gave me necessary perspective on suicide. These texts have strengthened my belief that my manuscript falls on the YA shelf, despite its at-times coarse language and adult subject matter.
The most preeminent development for me, though, was finally – FINALLY!!!! – swallowing my pride and allowing my wife to look over my pitches. It’s almost unbelievable how she was able to troubleshoot questions I’d been pondering for months – What’s the BIG idea of the novel? To whom am I writing the book? Why does this text differ/stand out from the competition? What’s my hook? – within minutes. Again, wife knows best, go figure.
Considering she sells advertising for a living (superbly), I wasn’t surprised by how efficiently she dealt with my issues. I’d even like to say I always wanted her to read my proposals. But I didn’t probably because I feared hearing those two necessary words everyone needs to hear sooner or later from someone who knows better: “This sucks.”
And I’m better for hearing it. Getting knocked down a couple pegs makes you work that much harder to get back up.
In my stubbornness, I know I’ve made some very foolish mistakes (see “Practicing What Constructive Criticism Preaches” for more on that). However, I think I needed to make those mistakes to allow me the opportunity to acquaint myself with my competition and compare my book to it and to pique the brains of already-published authors I never would have had the chance to interact with.
Maybe that’s just my positive spin on my previous ineptitude, but I feel at ease with the product I’m pitching. And – cliches be damned – I’m ready to do whatever is asked of me to make this dream of mine become a reality.
As I leave Thornton-Donovan School and start the next phase of my life, I just wanted to say thank you to Mr. Fleming, Annmarie, Steve Schlitten, and some members of the faculty for your guidance and support over the years. Most importantly, though, I want to thank my students and their families, past and present: […] The post A Past and Present Farewell appeared first on Andrew...
As I leave Thornton-Donovan School and start the next phase of my life, I just wanted to say thank you to Mr. Fleming, Annmarie, Steve Schlitten, and some members of the faculty for your guidance and support over the years. Most importantly, though, I want to thank my students and their families, past and present:
Thank you for being the quirky and talented individuals you are.
For questioning me and my practices.
For making me show you why it was important and why I was the best person to teach it to you.
Thank you for always challenging me to be the best teacher I could be.
Continue demanding – respectfully, of course – the best possible education for yourselves because you deserve it.
That, and your parents/guardians are paying for it.
Do not accept the advice of anyone who is not worth your trust. And do not simply think someone has your best interests in mind. It is up to you to take a stand and do what’s best for your futures.
Because they’re yours and no one else’s.
Do not be bystanders because bystanders have no say.
Lastly, I want you to know that I’m not leaving because of you. All you need to know and all that really matters is that I stayed because of you.
With a heavy heart, I say goodbye for now. However, always remember that I’m just an email away to say hi, to discuss literature or theory, to chat about life – not to have me do the work your English teacher should be doing.
All my gratitude, your teacher,
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