Book 5 Teaser–I take comfort in my delusions!

An acquaintance once accused me of being “delusional” because of my religious convictions. They didn’t mesh with his beliefs, therefore I was wrong.

But as I thought about all that I believed, I realized it gave me immense comfort and hope. Without that, I’d crumble and die.

So here’s my philosophy: Perhaps what I believe is delusional (and when you get right down to it, all of us are delusional at some level and in some way, such as hoping everyone thinks that is your natural hair color). But so what? If my delusions don’t harm you in any way, then don’t worry about them.

My acquaintance insisted that my beliefs in an afterlife were spurious, and that when I died I’d “be surprised there wasn’t anything there.” (I won’t deal with that illogical logic right now.)

I countered with, “My belief of what lies ahead make me happy, today. If I gave that up, I’d be despondent for the rest of my life. I’d rather be delusional and happy, than be ‘right’ and miserable.

He rolled his eyes at me, but I grinned back. I never wanted to live as self-righteously as he did. The poor man’s confidence only in himself and his brilliance made him absolutely wretched.

 

High Polish Tatra mountains

Why aren’t mothers the main protagonists of books or movies?

Have you ever noticed mothers are not the main character . . . in anything?

Try this: name every Disney movie where the mother is absent and/or dead.

Are you done yet? There’s a lot, isn’t there?

And when a mother is present in a book/movie, what’s her role?

Supporting.

Try this: name a book or movie where a mom is the principle protagonist.

Yeah, none sprang to my mind, either.

Recently I ran into a series of articles about “Strong Female Characters,” and how they tend to collapse into a few categories:

  1. they’re heartless witches, manipulative and demeaning; or,
  2. they’re remarkably tough—like a female male—until the male shows up to aid/rescue/eclipse her; or,
  3. the females vanish from the story because they really didn’t play much of a role anyway, only to show up at the end as an afterthought.

When analyzing the stories I love, I realized to my dismay that most of the females fall into one of those three categories.

For example, “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” I liked that movie, until my husband pointed out that not only is the mom rather useless after we meet her, but Hiccup disobeys his father, gets him killed, then still gets to become the chief. Dave thought all of that was pretty unfair. Then again, he’s the father of five sons. Image result for valka how to train your dragon

But dang it, he was right, especially about Valka. She’s powerful, but useless, and never really mothered her son, aside from giving him some pat advice when he needed it.

At least she fares better than most female/mother figures in literature and movies. Consider “The Emperor’s New Groove,”  “Cinderella,” or any other Disney movie—

Except for “Mulan.” Mulan is brilliant, in every way. She not only has BOTH parents (rare in Disney), but even a grandmother, and Mulan does the rescuing, several times. (And, thankfully, Disney allowed Merida to “Brave”ly keep both of her parents, although the mother needs saving later.) 

Still, even in “Mulan” the mother is in the background, only as a supporting role.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the supporting role; it’s vital, in everything. Where would any of us be without those who support us?

By why not make mother The Hero?

That thought was part of my unconscious when I created Mahrree for my series “Forest at the Edge.” When we first meet her in The Forest at the Edge of the World, she’s a single woman, albeit motherly in that she teaches school and worries immensely for her students. Then we have the obligatory romance (because hey, I’ve got some Strong Male Characters, too) and then she becomes a mother.

Sometime around there, while drafting the series, I realized that I was writing a main character that I hadn’t encountered before: a mother actively trying to improve the world for her children. (Aside from sappy made-for-cable movies or disease-of-the-week tales.)

Everything she says and does is in effort to reform her government, allow her children options in their future, and make sure school isn’t ridiculously boring.

“Mom Wants to Make the World a Better Place for Her Children”. It’s a universal theme, so why isn’t it more prevalent in what we read and watch?

Why have young mothers, middle-aged women, and even grandmothers not been the movers and drivers of a plot? They are when they’re in a family, and everyone knows it. And I don’t mean in a snarky, antagonistic way; enough of evil step-mothers.

I have friends who see themselves as primarily mothers, but are also involved in politics, providing aid for abused women and children, volunteering to preserve the environment, fighting pornography, promoting families, helping their schools, and improving the health and finances of those in need.

Maybe writers and Hollywood don’t see that as exciting as clichéd “Save the World” themes, but these women really are saving the world, more than any fictional superhero will.

I’d love to see more thoughtful mothers, experienced grandmothers, and confident women playing bigger roles in the narratives of the world, because they do that everywhere else.

Terry Pratchett gets close at times, with his witches who aren’t evil but keep the balance in the world, and in their villages. Nanny Ogg, who has more than a dozen children and oodles of grandchildren, is occasionally a major player in the witches books, but even then, Granny Weatherwax, who was never a mother, prevails as the main protagonist.

Mahrree Peto Shin isn’t a character I created, as I erroneous stated earlier; she manifested herself to me through one shocking, powerful image that I won’t reveal entirely here, because it happens in book 8 which will come out in probably another 3-4 years. (Book 5 will be out before this summer.)

But that image—of a woman facing an enormous threat, alone—riveted me. I wondered for months how she came to that position, and she slowly revealed her story to me, until I had enough to begin writing it.

(As an aside, I’m not psychotic; lots of writers have had this experience of characters demanding that they write their story. I can see how the ancient Greeks believed they had muses speaking to them, and my daughter gave me a mug which reads, “Writer’s Block: when your imaginary friends refuse to talk to you.” It’s true, you know.)

The “Forest at the Edge” series isn’t wholly about Mahrree, but about her family. She plays a major role in that family, and all the trouble she causes is primarily because she’s a worried mother.

The mother-perspective is powerful, more so than the perspective of a president, or a general, or a king, or any other hero. Those characters may lead countries or armies, but I doubt they could ever genuinely love them as much as a mother loves her children. References comparing mothers to bears and their cubs aren’t accidental.

Imagine Harry Potter being told from the perspective of Molly Weasley, who had seven children in peril, along with Harry who she tried to mother.

Image result for molly weasley

Or Hunger Games, from the perspective of President Coin, who lost her child.

Or even “Brave,” from the perspective Queen Elinor, who tries to help her daughter find a husband, then has to be saved from her unintentionally turning her into a bear. 

How engrossing, heart-breaking, and hopeful would these perspectives be?

Maybe . . . maybe they’d be too much.

Too close to reality. Too gut-wrenching.

Maybe that’s why it’s rare to find a mother-perspective in literature, because all of us have mothers, most of us appreciate them, and deep down we’re worried about what they’re really thinking.

Maybe many of us are still suffering from Bambi’s Mother Syndrome, the idea of losing mother, or seeing things from her perspective, which may be too intense. (Although Disney loves to make children miserable with mother-loss. No adult movie franchise kills off mothers as much as Disney.)

As moms, I think we frequently have a hard time facing our greatest fears for our families and their future.

But I think it’s time we tried. I submit there isn’t a stronger force in nature or in humanity than that of a mother trying to protect and provide for her children.

What fantastic stories that premise could ignite! Let’s see them!

High Polish Tatra mountains

Book 5 Teaser–Mahrree’s big mouth

The Concludinator: can’t really fight him–A Really Bad Book

Here’s a riveting excerpt, from the baddest book you don’t want to miss:

His name was the Concludinator. He came from some distant place that really wasn’t a distant place but more like a distant time and reality, but really from there.

No one liked him, because he made dead people.

First they were alive. He didn’t do that part. He just made them dead. And no one was sure why, but it was some vengeful thing and he’d show up and say things in a creepy voice.

“You vill die today,” he said.

And then the person would just die. Sometimes with lots of blood and stuff. Sometimes they’d just fall down scared to death because this creepy man with lights for eyes and a big body that was weirdly shaped told them, “You vill die today,” he said.

Can’t really fight that.

You know you want a copy. Get it now, only $1.99. Leave a really bad review.

really bad book cover

Parenthood, summed up in one horrible bathroom incident

My four-year-old is my youngest of nine children. You’d think that after 25 years of being a mom, I’d be an expert, but you’re never an expert, I’ve decided.

Especially when it comes to potty-training.

With our first child, I took the excellent advice to “not rush it.” This was the early 90s when having your barely-know-how-to-walk one-year-old potty trained was the rage.

It was actually the mom who was trained, to rush her tiny charge to the bathroom every two hours and plop the toddler on the toilet with great hope. Never being that disciplined, I instead encouraged and suggested, and finally had a trained daughter when she was three.

I followed that same laissez faire approach with my other kids, too, but my sons took a bit longer.

Ohhh . . . my sons and potty training.

Boys are the worst, and I have five of them.

I won’t name names, but one son had a propensity for “forgetting,” and he was well into preschool age before accidents weren’t a weekly—or daily—affair.

Another son would, in a half-asleep stupor, mistake his closet for the bathroom every night. It took us weeks to figure out where the smell was coming from, and why. Once we did, we had to replace the carpet and pad in there, along with a few toys.

Another son simply refused to use the toilet, afraid of it. One of his first public potty encounters was with a toilet which automatically, and noisily, flushed itself. He was sure that all toilets were ready to swallow him whole.

Another child was perfectly easy to potty train, leaving me to believe I’d finally figured things out and was a fantastic mother.

Nope. He was just an easy kid.

And we’re not going to talk about the years of bed wetting. Which were years. (I wept with joy when Febreeze was invented.)

So when it came to potty training Boy #5, I didn’t have any illusions that I knew how to do it within 48 hours, or tear-free, or bribery-free. We just went for it.

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(We’ll allow #5 to retain his dignity and remain anonymous.)

(If you’re a bit squeamish, perhaps you don’t want to continue reading. But if you’re a parent, none of this will be new to you.)

Fortunately #5 had no problem with #1. Watching his older brothers (who were happy to show off their skills) encouraged him that he wanted to be as big as the teenagers he adored.

It’s #2 that’s been the horror.

He won’t do it on a toilet. We don’t know why. It’s not as if toddlers are good at articulating their reticence about certain activities.

We started trying waaaay back before his third birthday, and while he’s been an expert at shooting the water for over a year (we won’t discuss aim, which even my bigger boys seem to struggle with until they leave high school), the idea of sitting and plopping was a no-go.

Instead, he grabs a pull-up, puts it on himself, hides in the privacy of his bedroom, then comes out ten minutes later with a coy smile and says to me sweetly, “Mommy? Can you please change me? I love you.” Batting his lashes is the crowning touch.

“But I don’t love doing this,” I tell him each time he assumes the position and I pull out the baby wipes.

“Yes, you do. Because you love me. But don’t tell Daddy I do this.”

It always makes me feel dirty when he says that. But Daddy knows.

Daddy frowns at Pull-up Boy, and promises greater things, like setting off smoke bombs or exploding fireworks tanks, if #5 puts #2 in the potty.

We had success after Christmas, when we promised him a shiny new fire engine that makes noise if he went. (Go ahead, judge me for bribing my child. I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore.)

He did it once, and we immediately took him to Walmart, and he loved his fire engine . . . and he never went #2 again because he got his reward.

I hate it when the kids are cleverer than me.

But yesterday, something changed.

I was in the kitchen making dinner when suddenly my 4-year-old stood there, beaming. The fact that he wore only a t-shirt, and nothing below, gave me a hint as to what he was going to exclaim.

“Mom! Mom! I did it! I put stinkies in the potty!”

“Really?!” I don’t know who was happier.

“Come see!” and he took off running to the bathroom.

That’s when I realized that not all of the stinky got into the toilet. A lot of it was smeared down the back of his legs.

As a parent, there are times that you brace yourself for what you’re about to find, and you recite in your head, No matter what, I’ll be cheerful. No matter what, I’ll be cheerful . . .

When I arrived at the bathroom, the story was waiting for me.

First were his pants and underwear, tossed on my bedroom floor as if he were in a hurry.

Then, the pull-ups, left sadly next to the door, because there wasn’t enough time.

Then . . .

The bathroom.

I steeled myself, because sometimes, no matter how often you tackle a mess, it’s shocking when you first encounter it.

But #5 stood next to the toilet, beaming in joy. “Look! Some of it got in!”

It did, along with half a roll of toilet paper.

The rest was on the seat, the floor, and the bath mat.

Boys struggle with having two outlets, and sometimes they don’t have full control of either. My son stood in a yellow puddle, grinning madly.

There was only one option for me as his mother.

“I’m so proud of you!” I cheered and clapped.

Full of praise and happiness, I suggested we finish wiping him up, waist to toe, and I sent him to tell his siblings the good news so I could tidy up the bathroom.

That’s where my 15-year-old found me a few minutes later. “He actually went stinky in the toilet? Whoa . . .” and he backed up when he saw how I straddled one mess to wipe up another. “I was about to say, Bet you’re glad he didn’t give you a mess in a pull-up, but—”

“But say nothing to him,” I warned Big Brother. “This is a huge step for him—”

You’ll have to take a few huge steps just to get out of there—”

I pointed at him. “The mess isn’t important,” I said. “Nor is it important that I had to use five baby wipes on him, and that I’ll use about a dozen Clorox wipes in here. What’s important is that he finally did something hard for him. We cheer and praise, and clean up the mess quietly later, without making him feel anything but joy for his accomplishment, which has been years in the making.”

And that, I realized, summed up parenthood.

Along with this request to Big Brother, “And bring me another trash bag, please.”

Oh yes, being their mother was by far the most difficult work she’d ever undertaken. And it also was, by far, the most satisfying. At the end of the day she knew she’d accomplished an enormous amount of work, even if the house looked as messy as it had in the morning. But at this point of her life, messy meant success. Things happened.

~Book 2, Soldier at the Door

A Really Bad Book

Following the notion someone once expressed to me that since it takes only about three days to read a book, it should take about that long to write one, I did.

Here is the result.

really bad book cover A really bad book BACK cover

Full of action, intrigue, aliens, a desperate princess, a lonely shoe repairer, and the obligatory wizard, there’s something for everyone, provided “everyone” isn’t too particular. 

Family-friendly and short enough to read in one sitting, even in the bathroom, this book will be perfect for those last-minute book reports. (Tell your teacher this is a legitimate book. Because I said it was.)

From start to finish, I created all of this in a 72-hour period: plot development, character names, formatting, cover creation–everything.

A word of warning: a semi-decent book takes a LOT longer than three days to write.

However, I was morbidly proud of what I created–I caught myself smiling every now and then–so I decided to publish it. (Actually, I never had so much fun writing something.)

It’s awful. Truly. I fully expect terrible reviews, and I’ll promote it later for free just to generate those affronted comments. (I’ll advertise the free days, so that you can be part of the mud slinging. Or if you want to spend $1.99 for the digital version, be my guest. It’s also available in paperback for $3.95. Would be a great joke gift for that book lover in your life. Hint-hint.)

Bad reviews ruin every writer’s day (week/life), but this time, I’ll revel in them. There’s no false advertising here, and people will know exactly what they’re getting when they read the title. Plus, it’s short–much faster to read than three days, with mistakes and typos because hey, when you write a Really Bad Book, you don’t employ beta readers.

A couple years ago I wanted to host a competition of people writing Really Bad Books in 72 hours. I did a little bit of advertising for it, but then time got in the way. (No, that’s not irony; that’s a blessing.) Some year I still may attempt to do that again. I’d love to see the drivel others come up with.

But for now, enjoy (so to speak).

(And I chose the pen name Ethyl Alkaleen, because I always thought Ethyl was the most unfortunate label for a human being. Anyone remember Ethyl Mertz? Way too close to Ethyl Mercer.)

Hoarding your praise doesn’t make it more valuable

When I was asked to be a “responder” for a writers and artists fest our school district hosts each year at the university, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My daughter had participated when she was in middle school, spending five agonizing minutes reading her writing in front of two “responders,” several peers, and some of their parents.

Thirty people might as well be thirty thousand when you’re thirteen.

Knowing the fragile natures of both writers and middle schoolers—combining the two is Mentos and Diet Coke–I anxiously drove up to the campus this morning, praying that I’d say the right things to these young writers.

The purpose of the fest is to encourage budding artists and writers, to give them a forum to perform, and to receive feedback from professionals such as authors and teachers. Encouragement, not criticism, is the point, because heaven knows sixth, seventh, and eighth graders don’t need any hits to their very delicate egos.

Even love taps can shatter them.

The co-responder in my room had done this for a few years, and gave me excellent pointers as to what to say when the child was finished stammering nervously through their work. Karen Clegg pulled the most wonderful words out of the air, and bestowed them lovingly upon the trembling tweens.

I hoped I could do half so well.

I took notes as the kids read, told them what I liked, read back to them their triumphs (knowing how thrilling it is to hear someone else read your words out loud, in an appreciative way), and thanked them for their time.

After the first session, a mom came up to us during the break and said, “Are you watching the faces of those kids when you talk about their work?”

“No,” I confessed. “I try to avoid that.”

I’m not sure why or how, but quite often I get too much from someone, especially their eyes. While they tell me a few innocuous words, I perceive an onslaught of emotions, stories, experiences, and history. Hopes, fears, frustrations, and joy hit me in the face like a frozen snowball, often when someone’s only telling me something mundane. I’m one of those people who rarely look folks in the eyes, because I’m never sure when that deluge of data may suddenly hit me. It’s easier to just listen than look.

“Watch them,” this mother insisted. “Most of these kids don’t hear such words from adults they don’t know. They devour what you say. Watch them.” 

So when round two arrived, with a new batch of fresh, pimply faces, I tried to concentrate on their expressions, and for the most part it was painful.

Have you ever had the experience of reading your work in public?

Try taking your heart, placing it on a plate, then setting it in front of hungry wolves. The emotion is roughly the same.

One of the readers that round was a tiny boy who puberty has decided it’ll visit later, maybe when he’s 17. He was the scrawny kind of thing that others sit on and don’t even realize it. He could barely look over the podium to see us responders at the table in front of him. Shuffling his pages, he wore a hesitant grin of expectancy, and dove in.

Karen and I were taking turns responding, and Tiny Man was mine. He read with great feeling the beginning of a sci-fi book he was crafting at the tender age of twelve, and later my cohort told me she was relieved he wasn’t hers, because she didn’t know anything about sci-fi. But I’m a nerd.

When he finished in his five minutes, I said, “So I’m sensing themes of steampunk in your writing.” And I looked at him.

His eyes were so bright and enthusiastic that I was startled, and I realized that I was probably the first adult he’d met there who knew what steampunk was. He nodded enthusiastically.

“How much more of your story have you written?”

“I’ve got 80 more pages!” he announced proudly.

“Wow. Took me until I was 40 to get 80 pages. So where does the story go from here?”

I’m sure I went over time with him, as he happily told me the rest of the plot, forgetting about the audience in front of him and the other kids waiting their turn. The boy positively glowed with delight to tell a stranger about his book. 

I could barely look at him, he so hurt my eyes.

For my next turn, a girl stood up, the very picture of thirteen-year-old gangliness. She, too, had been neglected by the Puberty Fairy, and trembled behind the podium, her straight brown hair framing her freckled face, and she began to read. It was essentially two pages of an ode to a special young man who had rescued her from some difficulties in her life, and there I sat, knowing that in a few minutes I’d have to deliver an encouraging critique of her description of a modern-day Thor turned mortal.

When she concluded, and the audience finished applauding, she looked to me with terrified eyes.

I couldn’t look at her for long, but I did manage, “What you’ve written is essentially a thorough character analysis. Most teens wouldn’t be able to see as deeply as you have. Heck, most adults can’t either—” and that’s when I was shocked by her response.

She had teal-tinted braces. How do I know that? Because her face split into such a wide grin that I could see every last tooth.

I wasn’t expecting that reaction, especially considering how somberly she had read her piece.

Unable to watch her anymore, I looked down at my copy of her words and did as I had with the others: read the lines I liked the best, explained what was working well, and what traits as a writer I felt she was demonstrating. I glanced up a couple of times, and nearly choked up.

Have you ever seen a tween grin out of pure joy? It’ll break your heart.

The same thing happened, again and again, and while I tried to make an effort to look at the kids, as my partner did so well, I found it much easier to sift through their pages finding more examples to praise.

At the end of each session, we stood at the front and handed back our notes to their work as they filed out, the kids giving me shy smiles as I thanked them for sharing their writing.

I was nearly in tears at the end. The fact that one of the last writers wrote a poem about her mom who died last year didn’t help much. Nor did parents coming back in to thank us for our words, to tell us that a son never gets such praise from anyone outside the family, or that a daughter is terrified to speak in front of others, and would be happy for the rest of the week.

All I did was listen, intently.

All I did was give 60 seconds of approval.

All I did was make an effort—and occasionally, it really was an effort—to find something to compliment. But there was always something to appreciate.

All I did was pray, “Dear Lord, tell me what this child needs to hear,” then I said those words which came to my mind, and the child nearly exploded in glee and relief.

After, we went to the luncheon where hundreds of middle-schoolers were collecting their food and talking about their experiences, that cute kid over there, and the author Tyler Whitesides, of the Janitor series, who had addressed them.

As I made my way through the noise and gaggle, I knew instantly which kids in the crowd had been “mine.” They waved timidly, offered me careful and happy smiles, and I’d wink back or grin, as if we shared some secret. We were friends.

I admit I shed a couple of tears as I left.

I’d never before realized how just a few words could mean so much, and I worry that I’ve been too stingy with my compliments in the past, as if hoarding my praise somehow makes it more valuable.

I realized that I paid out mere pennies of compliments, but what was received were pounds of gold that those tender teens will carry with them, hopefully for the rest of their very costly teenage years. They’ll need every ounce of encouragement to make it through.

And I’ll try to keep giving them more so that they never run out. Encouragement doesn’t cost me a thing.

“Mrs. Shin’s the only teacher who actually teaches. She’s also the only one who listens.”

~Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti

Book 5 Teaser–the manly art of swearing

For seventeen years I taught writing to college freshmen and high school seniors. Watching who thought swearing was mature, or cool, or the way of the world, was always fascinating.

Without fail, those who swore were the most insecure and desperate to prove something.

One semester I was asked to teach the automotive repair students at a local community college. It was an experiment to see if the very low opinion of those students might not be elevated somehow if they knew how to write a complete sentence. For some reason, the administration thought I was up to that task.

Their profanity began the first day, the moment they saw that a “girl” was teaching them (I was a mother of six children at the time—that’s how “girly” I was). Maybe each of those “boys” secretly wanted to be in the navy, judging by their level of poor language.

But in time we forged a friendship, and they related to me how everyone “dissed” them and disrespected them.

“That’s because you talk like 7th grade wusses,” I told them, hoping “wusses” was a word they could relate to. “Real grownups don’t use language like you see in the movies. Listen to people. Really listen to them. You’ll notice you’re the only ones cussing so heavily. Also watch people. Really watch them. You’ll see them wincing every time you drop the F-bomb.”

“Like you wince?”

“Yep.”

To my surprise, they were apologetic. Turns out I was the only college instructor who ever listened to them, who actually talked with them.

I told them that was hard for me to do, because while I liked them and found them entertaining (some were very funny), I felt as if they didn’t respect me because of the words they threw at me. Literally every sentence had at least one swear word in it, if it fit or not.

High Polish Tatra mountains

To my further surprise, they became quiet, and one of them said, “But you’re the only teacher we do respect. You’re the only one who seems to care.”

So I issued a challenge. I told them that I cared so much that I wanted them to earn the respect they desperately wanted. To do so, they had to cut back on their swearing, to four words the entire class. I wrote their names on the board, and kept tally marks as if it were 6th grade. They were also allowed only one F-bomb, and if they exceeded their limits, their peers could mete out fitting punishment.

They elected that a punch to the shoulder—one per word over the limit—was a memorable deterrent.

By the end of the first day, several boys were severely bruised.

But by the end of the semester, six weeks later, these young men reported back that something was changing in the garages where they interned. They had been listening, and watching, and learning.

They noticed that their managers weren’t as profane as they were, and saved the juiciest words for only when they dropped a car hood on their hands. And their managers never, ever, swore in front of clients.

Taking those cues, my students curtailed their swearing in the shop.

The fact that I taught them some new “swear” words also helped.

I told them that when I’m frustrated or angry, I say something random, like “fire engines!” It’s the way you say something, not necessarily what you say. My swear word always make me feel better, primarily because it sounds ridiculous in whatever context I utter it. I also know a man who said “hammer!” each time he was angry, and I suggested to these young men that they find new “swear” words.

They did. While I don’t remember all of them now, I do recall that one guy loved to shout “cheese and potatoes!” in the shop. It always elicited chuckles, and he’d find himself smiling too, alleviating his anger and allowing him to fix a carburetor without beating it first with a wrench.

Eventually my students noticed that they had more patience with themselves and their work when they didn’t swear.

I know this, because for their final paper I asked them to reflect on our experiment.

They reported that they were thinking clearer, and acting kinder, and developing self control, something they didn’t think was possible.

As a result, they were respecting other people, and wanted to demonstrate that with their language.

And best of all, they were receiving respect, for the first time in their lives.

Not a single one of them improved the sentences they wrote, but looking back, that really wasn’t the goal of the class.