Michille: Back to School

School BusIt’s back-to-school time in Maryland. Neighborhoods got quieter, roads got busier, and kids are back to the grind. I am the right age to appreciate this blog post, Back to School: The 70s vs. Today, A Lot has Changed, because I lived that back-to-school life in the 70s. I think I had the outfit, bottom left, with the bell bottoms and sweater vest. As I recall, the turtle neck was actually a body suit that snapped together at the bottom. I’m living it on the other end now as I still have one in school – a 10th grader. I can relate to the search for the right lunch foods but for my son, a runner, the key is high protein foods that can survive in a hot locker. It’s not easy to get 100 grams of protein crammed into the diet of a 15-year-old. Supplies are easier than the blogger has it because at his school, it’s just spiral notebooks, pens/pencils, and his smart phone. The $100 graphing calculator is now a $5 app and the Spanish translation dictionary is a free one. My husband is also back to school in front of a pack of undergraduate and graduate education majors so back-to-school shopping consisted of refreshing his stock of shirts and ties.

It’s back to school for me, too. I’m taking two classes this fall. The first is Ancient World: Intellectual and Cultural Heritage Before 1500 which will likely extend my hero’s journey study because we will be reading The Iliad, The Tempest, The Inferno, and The Aeneid. While not all of these are exactly monomyths, each has at least one character who is on a journey of discovery. The other class is Cold War and Pop Culture. We don’t have a text for this but, like the blog post, I’m the right age for this, too, as I majored in political science in the 1980s thereby spending four years studying the cold war, the global nature of the arms race, learning Russian, and reading Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October (1984) and Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park (1981) among others.

So what does this have to do with my writing? Not much because I probably won’t have a lot of time for it. I’m hoping to make time to write some on my current WIP, plot with my daughter on the new adult rom-com, and plot my hero’s journey story that I plan to write for my final project in the spring. But back-to-school should do two things for my writing. One is to get my brain going again after being in summer-break mentality. The second is to tap my creativity by learning new and different things from the ancient and modern worlds than can transfer to my characters’ lives. Even if you don’t have to deal with back to school stuff, what can you do to refresh your writing? Or maybe it’s time to go back and pull out some old stuff.

9 thoughts on “Michille: Back to School

  1. I love this time of year, even though for me now it’s “back to second semester” in Japan.

    BTW, one of my favorite authors, Lois McMaster Bujold, went “back to school” and took a Spanish history class, I believe. She got three books and a whole mythology out of it, so you never know when inspiration can strike!

    • A class McDaniel offers is Women in American History. That would be an excellent class to take if you write historicals because you could gain a more accurate picture of women at important milestones in history.

  2. Two years ago I went back to school and got this group blog out of it! (And a tee-shirt!) 🙂 But I think the ancient worlds class could do a lot to help integrate the ideas of the hero’s journey into regular thinking about plotting. The more familiar the concept is, the more easily it will come back to you, right? Plus, school is good. You meet interesting people. You read books you wouldn’t otherwise. You stretch. All that makes you a better writer, whether it’s a linear path or not. And yet—I hope you find time for your WIP now and then!

    Do you have your fringe sewed onto your sweater vest yet? Gotta get ready for it!

    • Taking this class is definitely expanding my reading list. I’m pretty sure I would not choose to read ancient Greek epic poems on my own, but I’m sure I’ll get a lot out of it.

      Haven’t gotten to the fringe yet, but I did crochet myself a nice poncho.

  3. While not really school, going back and re-reading books I’ve enjoyed in the past is almost always inspirational, as is reading new books by favorite authors (I just finished “The Unknown Ajax” by Georgette Heyer — audiobook version — and loved it). I’m trying to do that more…my reading suffered when we were in the McD writing program and I’m trying to get back into the swing of it again.

    • I’m with you there, Justine. My reading suffered also during the McD program, except for the 8 books we read in the first one and the re-hashed over the next year. And I still have a box of books untouched from the last two RWA conferences. And now I’m reading about Achilles and Apollo and Diomedes.

  4. Hey Michille, about the app instead of the graphing calculator for your son- when they go to take the SAT and the ACT, they won’t be allowed to use their phones, but they will be allowed the calculator (check to make sure it is a College Board approved model before you buy). Not having a calculator will be a serious disadvantage. Also, using the calculator is a skill in and of itself that requires practice. They have to know the proper programming to use the features they need to solve the problems, it is not AT ALL intuitively obvious. The calculator will work a problem in 10 seconds that would otherwise take 5 minutes, IF the proper programming is entered. I bought a graphing calculator for my daughter a year ago so that she can be completely familiar with it before the big test time arrives.

    • Hey, Jennifer. Thanks for the info. We have a graphing calculator that we got for my daughter when she was in high school. Most of the high schools in this county have them available from the media center, but when a kid is at home and doesn’t have access to it, the app is a good alternative. The students can borrow one for the SAT or ACT but can’t take them home otherwise (they tend to walk).

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