Hot for Teacher

I finally thought of one reason to try my hand at writing fiction again. It’ll be a chance to use another voice. I’m two thirds of the way through The Color Purple and I’m in love with Celie and her voice. The thing is, I’m not trained, trained for writing fiction. The people who are are so sure about what is good and what is bad; and yet it seems to me like they rarely agree with each other. I know it’s difficult, too. Crazy-making hard.

I’m not going to let any of that stop me from starting.

You hear about those people who teach themselves how to do things. I’m always impressed when someone is knitting socks – 4 needles (!) – and they say, “I taught myself from a book.” Lots of musicians taught themselves. I even read once about a woman who, while in hiding from the Hutus in Rwanda, taught herself to read English. Am I making that up? I don’t think so.

Sometimes there’s no difference between being taught something and making it up; like, Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing, for example. A google search will tell you that his two-hand tapping technique is “self-taught”, but I think a better description is that he invented it. He made that shit up. And it was good.

I started thinking up today’s lesson plan while Andy was getting ready to head out. As soon as I turned the dead bolt behind him, I rushed to refill my coffee, all thoughts of second breakfast gone. Can’t remember the last time I was so excited about starting a day of work.

Children, (that’s me), today (hopefully before 1pm, because other duties are calling) we’ll tackle the following:

  1. Morning Pages (Done. Did that at 5am.)
  2. Exercise: Take Saturday’s 500 word post and try to make it better. Say the same thing in 300 words or less. Don’t spend more than 1 hour.
  3. Read any story from the Steve Earle collection “Doghouse Roses”.
  4. Read any story from “The Best American Short Stories of the Century”.
  5. Continue reading The Color Purple.

The way I see it is, Steve Earle’s book is a mercy publishing. No wait; I’m wrong. It’s more an act of greed on the part of the publishers. If he wasn’t a songwriter with a following, no one would have published his stories. Granted I really know nothing about the publishing business. This isn’t to say I don’t love Steve’s art and the intention I imagine I see behind it. I do. But when the book jacket says, “ambitious” and talks about “heart”, nobody’s fooling anyone.

I’ve chosen Annie Proulx’s story from 1998, “The Half-Skinned Steer” from the best of collection.

This isn’t about learning to avoid whatever Steve has done or figuring out how to imitate Annie. It’s much more basic than that. It’s about learning what a story even is.

On with school. My companion? Miles Davis. Also self-taught.

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