Writing about writing

Posts tagged ‘Murder Well Out’

A week’s worth of Reading Deprivation


I am currently reading Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY.  I have read other books by Julia Cameron and I really like the things she has to say.  She’s been there, done that as far as writing is concerned and I have come to trust her.  I find it difficult to do EVERYTHING she suggests in her books, but I do find that the things I have done that she recommends are very beneficial for my art–Writing.

I love to write–as I have shared in this blog already.  It is as much a part of me as breathing.  (As is reading, so you may be able to imagine how difficult this week already is and I’m only on the 2nd day of Reading Deprivation!)  I HAVE to write.  I love writing for myself (journaling).  I love writing my blogs–this one and my “Joy Regardless” blog (link to that one is available at the top of the screen) whether anyone reads them or not.  The fact that people are reading them excites me, but humbles me as well.  (Thank you.)  I love doing the writing I do for my job as an English instructor (assignments, emails, proposals, etc., etc., etc.).  I simply love to write.

The problem, though, is that while I have a dream of being a PUBLISHED writer, I find myself stuck in that regard.  I have written several books–mostly during NaNoWriMo (November), but I have never done anything with them.  I know that my serial-killing-teacher story is one that is worth revising and attempting to publish and I know that my Memoir is also one that NEEDS to be revised and shopped for a publisher.  But instead of doing anything about getting them published, they are languishing on my laptop, getting “dusty” from lack of use.

So in an attempt to jump-start my publishing career, I have turned to Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY to help me get motivated.  She is a great motivator.  But I am finding her “suggestion” of Reading Deprivation to be one that makes me want to punch out the lights of anyone who comes near me!  I started it last night and I yelled at my husband and son because I couldn’t find something my husband misplaced–even though I was sure I knew where he had put it!

But I want to give it a shot.  Julia Cameron talks about in week 4, how

“If you feel stuck in your life or in your art, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation. . . .Reading deprivation casts us into our inner silence, a space some of us begin to immediately fill [sic–split infinitive] with new words–long, gossipy conversations, television bingeing, the radio as a constant, chatty companion.  We often cannot hear our own inner voice, the voice of our artist’s inspiration, above the static.  In practicing reading deprivation, we need to cast a watchful eye on these other pollutants.  They poison the well.

If we monitor the inflow and keep it to a minimum, we will be rewarded for our reading deprivation with embarrassing speed.  Our reward will be a new outflow” (87).

In doing this Reading “Fast” or Reading deprivation, for 7 days, I will also have to give up a lot of my computer time because so much of the reading that I do is online–Facebook, emails, blogs, etc.  As an English Instructor, a week’s worth of Reading Deprivation is impossible completely because I will still need to check my school emails periodically throughout the week for important work emails–from my boss, other co-workers, and especially important emails from students.  I have created an automatic out-going message, though, for all my email accounts that state that I am doing this week of Reading Deprivation and have asked that if they need me either to come see me or call me instead of email me.

I have also sent out an announcement/email to all of my students letting them know that I am doing a week of Reading Deprivation, but that does not mean I am unavailable to them.  Again, I told them that if they need me, either come see me or call me.

Reading deprivation also means NO READING WHILE I AM IN THE BATHROOM.  I can’t even begin to explain to you how very difficult this one is going to be!  Even when I only need to be quick, I will read at least a paragraph when I go to the bathroom!  I have been reading on the toilet since I was old enough to hold a book–and knew how to read!  If I cheat on my reading “fast” this week, it will be during a bathroom visit, I’m sure!

Julia, I sure hope your suggestions in THE ARTIST’S WAY, including and especially this whole week of Reading Deprivation work and that I will begin to see and feel results in my creative life!!!!!  I know that I am meant to do more with my writing than just write for myself, so here goes nothing at finding a way to dream and dream big!!!!  🙂



And so it begins

“Bill!” Mrs. Walsky actually jumps up out of her chair and rushes over to me! And, unbelievably, she attempts to hug me even with her handcuffs on!
I stand immobile as she manages an awkward, yet effective hug.
“It’s so great to see you! I remember when you were in my class,” she gushes as she sits back down in her chair, scooting it as close to the table as she can get, then folding her handcuffed hands on the table in front of her.
As I sit in my chair across from her, even with the table between us, I notice that her feet don’t touch the floor. She’s propped them on the legs of the table.
“You sat on the front row with another police-buddy. You two would wear your uniforms to class and distract me from my teaching! I never could concentrate when you two were in the room, but it was especially awful for me when you came in your police uniforms!”
Her smile is actually genuine. I find myself smiling back at her. I can’t help it.
“And I was pregnant with my son Jared that semester. Do you remember?” Her smile is sweet and wistful.
“I do, Mrs. Walsky,” I can’t help smiling back as I respond to her. I find myself leaning towards her across the table. “And how is your son doing? He must be, what? Eleven? Twelve, by now?”
“Yes, he’s eleven. He’s in sixth grade and doing well. I’m so proud of him. He’s an avid reader, not as much as his Momma, of course, but at least he loves to read. He’s so smart. He is even thinking about attending the school’s early college high school program in a few years. He wants to be a counselor when he grows up.”
“I’ll bet he’ll be a great one,” I reply.
“What about you? If I remember correctly, you’re married with at least one young one, too?”
“Yes, ma’am. My wife and I are still going strong and doing quite well. We’ve added two more to our family, so now I have three. The oldest is in eighth grade; he plays football. My middle child is in fifth grade; she’s a reader, too. And my youngest is just in kindergarten this year; he is struggling. My wife thinks it’s because he’s worried about me. We let him watch one of those cop dramas on tv and a policeman died during the episode we watched. If I had known beforehand, I never would have let him watch it.”
“So now your son thinks that Daddy is going to die on the job. Oh, the poor, sweet boy. You must try to spend a lot of extra time with him to reassure him?”
“I do. But it only makes him more clingy to me rather than helping the situation. He grabs my leg each morning and won’t let go. My wife and I have to pry him off me so I can leave. Lately, we’ve gotten so I leave before the kids are even up in the morning just so we don’t have to deal with it.”
She reached her hand across the table to put it on top of both of mine. Her eyes spoke more than any words she could have said. We sat and looked at each other for a few moments, neither one of us saying anything.
I cleared my throat and leaned back in my chair, letting the legs come up off the floor. “Mrs. Walsky, it’s time to get down to business.” The sound of the chair hitting the floor resonates through the room, sounding louder than normal. “I’m going to turn on the recorder so that everything from here on will be recorded. OK?”
“Ok,” she smiles at me.
I click on the recorder while she gets a little more comfortable in her seat. She’s still smiling at me.
I wait.
She doesn’t say anything.
I turn off the recorder.
“Is everything ok, Mrs. Walsky?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”
Her smile continues to be genuine. She makes me wonder why we’re in an interrogation room. I have to close my eyes and think about the bodies we had been pulling out from the tunnel under her desk in her office. I have to think about the vast number already taken out and the fact that they are still there recovering only God knows how many bodies all total.
“Are you ready then?”
“I was ready before.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“You didn’t ask me anything.”
“Oh.” My response falls flat in the hollow room. I guess I should have known I’d need to start the ball rolling. I just didn’t know how to begin. How does one go about asking his favorite teacher why and how she killed an unknown number of former students? I take a deep breath and try again. “Ok. I’m going to start the recorder again and this time I’ll ask a question and you can begin from there. Does that work for you?”
“Whatever floats your boat,” she spreads her hands as far apart as they’ll go across the table and then rests them cupped together under her chin.
Her smile never wavers.
I am unnerved, but I hit the recorder and begin anyway.
“Will you state your name and occupation, please?”
“Mrs. Hannah Walsky, English Instructor, Mountaintop Community College in western North Carolina.”
“How long have you been teaching there?”
“Twelve years. I started the fall of 2000.”
“Have you been a full time instructor all twelve years?”
“No. I became a full time instructor October 2004.”
“When did you move in to the office you currently occupy?”
“I moved in to that office, I think, between the summer and fall semesters of 2005. I’m not exactly sure, though. It might have been 2006, but it was some time during those two years.”
“What exactly do you teach as an English instructor?”
“If it has as its abbreviation ENG, I can teach it. I prefer the literature classes and avoid the business-style writing classes as well as argument-based classes if at all possible. For the most part, I have taught mostly both freshman English classes and upper level British Literature.”
“Do you like your job?”
Amazingly, her smile became even larger.
“I love my job. Every day I not only get to teach, I get to teach my two favorite subjects: reading and writing! What’s not to love? I get to write, I get to read, and I get to talk about both!”
I can’t help smiling back at her.
“Have you always wanted to be an English teacher?”
“Always. Even before I started school. As a little girl I played school in the bathroom at home. The toilet was the teacher’s desk. The bathtub was the principal’s office. And the empty space in the room was where my students had their desks. I had names for all twenty-five students—or however many I happened to have at that time. And don’t forget that the toilet paper acted as the paper for their assignments! I’d pass out sheets of it, take it back up, and grade it! Before I’d use it for real, of course!”
I honestly can’t stop myself laughing along with her. Even as I find myself wondering what in the world I was doing laughing with her, I can’t help noticing that her laughter comes from deep within; it’s genuine.
“So what brought you to MTCC?”
“My husband and I moved to the mountains about fifteen years ago so he could teach at the local high school. I had tried teaching at the high school level and, while I liked it well enough, I felt that I was better suited to teach at the college level. So as soon as we were settled and he was off to work, I started putting in applications at all the local community colleges. We live in an area where I can be at the four different local community colleges within thirty minutes no matter which direction. I knew from the beginning I wanted to be at MTCC, though.”
“It had the best reputation, first of all. Secondly, it’s the only one even close to a large book store!”
Again, her infectious laugh comes from deep within.
Before I can ask her anything else, she throws a question at me. “What are you reading now, Bill?”
“I, uh, um, well, Mrs. Walsky, actually, I’m reading The Hunger Games.”
“Really? What made you decide to read that?”
“My oldest wanted to read it. A couple of the guys have been talking about it, so I wasn’t so sure I wanted him to be reading a book like that. But rather than tell him he couldn’t read it, I decided to read it with him.”
“That’s wonderful!” she gushed.
“We’re both enjoying it. More than enjoying the book, though, I think we’re both enjoying the reading time together.”
“So you are actually reading the book together,” she encouraged.
“Yeah. We sit on our front porch swing each night after supper and read. Sometimes we read aloud to each other, but mostly he reads his book, I read mine, and as we finish a chapter, we’ll talk about what we read.”
“What does your son think of the story?”
“He’s pretty shocked by what’s happening in the story, but he seems to like it.”
“And you?”
“To be perfectly honest, I can’t believe someone would even think up a story like this, let alone write it. But I am enjoying the time with my son and we have had some great conversations, so whether I like the book or not, we’re going to keep reading.”
“I’m so glad!”
Wow. Didn’t we call her “Pollyanna” behind her back at school? I wondered if that was still her nickname across campus.
I cleared my throat and made a sweeping gesture across the table, again. “Mrs. Walsky, we need to get back to why we’re here.”
“Oh, yes,” her smile faded slightly but not completely. “What would you like to know next?”
“I guess we’d better go back to the beginning.”
“When I started at MTCC, you mean?”
“Is that when the killings first began?”
At the word “killings,” she jerked back as if I’d slapped her and her smile finally faded and turned to a full scowl.
“Then by “beginning,” I mean we need to go back to the first victim. I need you to tell me how it all began. Can you do that?”
She took a deep breath, looked down, and slowly nodded her head.
I waited.

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