A little Advice

Lately it seems like every time I go out to the store or to grab a bite, someone recognizes that I’m an author, a teacher, or both. I live in a small community and there are only so many times you can purchase colored pens and notebooks before people start asking questions! Recently, a student at the local college asked me what boils down to the same questions everyone else asks but phrased it so well that the questions inspired this post! (Way to go, random friend of a friend of a kid I used to babysitter, well played!)

Here are her questions, phrased as closely to her actual words as I can remember it:

Aren’t you Beth Tyree? That goes to church with….? They were telling me that you’re a writer. That’s pretty cool…I’ve never heard of your stuff but I’m thinking of looking it up. (Ok, that part doesn’t count toward the ‘phrased well’ portion!). I like to write too. In fact, I am taking a class this fall that includes a lot of writing. Do you have any advice on how to get it all done? 

Why yes, yes I do. Thank you for asking.

*WARNING – Longer Post than Usual in 3-2-1-ACTION:*

Advice for Students:

1) Whatever the reason for your writing is, always ALWAYS do your best. There absolutely no excuse for a strong writer to execute weak and horribly written essays just because you didn’t feel like writing to your class topic.

2) Likewise: DO YOUR READING!! Make sure that you are researching, reading, and working everything the teacher assigns, and possibly a little extra. I know the thought of all that work panics you (especially at 2 am Sunday when the project is due by 7 am Monday) but I promise, it is worth it! Take it from someone who flubbed off a lot in College…You NEED to pay attention!

3) Use your time wisely. Most professors include projects and their due dates IN THE SYLLABUS! That means that unless something drastic happens to change things, you have known about that insane presentation since the first day of class (or possibly earlier considering friends, online chats, etc connected to the school). I’m not saying to get hyper and do all the classwork week 1 (MOM!) but use that schedule book you bought with the school logo on it for something other than girl’s nights and dress up at the bar weekends. When you organize it all out and do the work in small segments, you tend to get it done earlier and with better grades. (You also impress teachers).

BONUS:  Realize that most teachers are not being ‘mean’ or ‘hard on you’ because they don’t like you or think you’re stupid. Most teachers are hard on you because they believe you can do better. I am speaking from experience here…I had a couple of professors who rode me hard about showing up, taking the time to work on my assignments, writing style, etc. At the time I thought they must hate me, but now I realize that they loved me. Students that show potential but don’t live up to it will get more guff from their teachers than students who work hard but just don’t get it.

Advice for Teachers:

1) Make your expectations very clear from the beginning. Unless something drastic happens, don’t change your rules or plans in the middle of the semester. That is unfair to the random student that might actually have started work on their projects…and creates more work for you in the long run (even if its just repeating your reasoning for the 543rd time)

2) Remind students of upcoming deadlines, projects, etc. Speak about it in class, often. Use the last five minutes of your time to ask if they have questions or comments. Make sure you maintain office hours and have an email account they have access to. Most students won’t utilize this availability, but the few who do will thank you later!

3) Show your students that you aren’t just being ‘mean’ or ‘hard on them’! Share some of your work in class. This may just mean that you discuss how a similar class helped you finish your degree, or a book/article/play/song/equation(ugh, math!) you are currently working on. Let them be your beta audience. Grammar class? Drop the normal (i.e. BORING) paragraphs about Sally’s cupcake stand and have them edit an intentionally messed up page from your most recent story. Some sort of Mathematics teacher? Assign a house plan or put your remodel blue prints on the board and work through the issues with them. Use real life experiences and show them tat you are also human and, as all teachers are, a perpetual student.

Advice for Authors:

1) Just write already! I know that as a student or a teacher, (or a full time CPA or a Mommy, or whatever it is that you do) your time is precious and limited. Whatever it is that you do, whatever it is that takes up your time, you will not be completely satisfied with yourself until you take the time to write that idea out! The question that usually riles me up the most is: I have this great idea I’ve been kicking around for years, want to hear it? NO! If you really like the idea that much, I’ll be more than happy to READ your drafts, but I don’t want to hear an idea you’ve had for that long and never written down. By this point it has probably disintegrated so much that I wouldn’t even be hearing the real idea that started you thinking anyway.

2) There will always be someone pushing you, nay-saying you, or ignoring you. That is life, no matter what you do. Writers are the brunt of a lot of this! Friends and family ask why you haven’t finished that new novel yet (you know, the one you started writing last week?) and in the same breath with ask how you plan on living as an author, ask what ‘real’ thing you’ve done lately, and tell you about 3 other people who are authors but just got published in a magazine or hired to write ads for some major television syndicate. DO NOT LET THIS STOP YOU! Get discouraged, be sad, be mad, but don’t be done. Take a break if you need to, clear your head, then get back to writing. Everyone has a different story and it is up to you alone to write yours!

3) Finally, allow yourself to take that break without guilt. Honestly, the breaks will help your writing grow and thrive. And, real talk here, your characters will go with you anywhere all the time. No matter what you do or where you go, they’re part of you. Taking a ‘break’ doesn’t mean that you walk away and completely put them out of your mind. It means your mind needs to focus on something else for a bit and that is perfectly acceptable and, I would say, encouraged. Have fun, meet your friends, get some fro-yo and ride in a carriage just because. Go to the lake or the zoo…but take a notebook and some pens along because you never know when the next idea or chapter will pop up and need to be written immediately even though you are on a ferry watching dolphins jump off the coast of the island you’re visiting.

Do you have any stories or questions? Let me know! I can’t wait to hear from you all!

Projects

I don’t know why we do this to ourselves. Pile up projects, due dates, and D.I.Y.s until we just turn in confused circles, trying to decide which way to go first or, possibly worse, which paint color matches the worksheet our boss assigned today that’s due yesterday. Maybe some of us, myself included, thrive on such craziness. Perhaps the organized and zen approach to life would make us insane, crazy with boredom and aching for stress within a week (probably sooner). I wouldn’t know, I’ve never gotten to point where I could find out! As soon as one thing is finished, three more jump up to take its place, waving like an elementary student who thinks they know the answer.

In fact, I am currently smack dab in the middle of at least 5 different projects:

Dragons in the Deep: Book 4 in the Stone Dragon Saga. A centuries old pirate ship is discovered and could hold the key to finding Aliphonsore’s parents. In fact, it could hold the key to ending the Fairy Queen’s insidious plans. With new friends, both human and otherwise, the return of Passiona and her pet sorcerer on the loose, and ancient obscure texts you never know what could be waiting around the corner!

Fifth Grade Dragons: A spin off of the main Stone Dragon Saga. This book finds Aliphonsore and King Ferdinand as professors at an academy in Realta, having made their way back home after the final battle with Passiona. Anna, who is now a writing teacher for a local fifth grade, is asked to help Aliphonsore and Ferdinand teach some students the basics of ‘human’ story telling/writing…to (hopefully) hilarious results.

Highland Park Presents: A short story compilation written by my fifth graders. They each worked hard on providing a short story that shows their abilities, their interests, and their weird senses of humor. Tyree Tomes is transcribing and editing the stories, turning them into one impressive book with a forward written by none other than the proud teacher…ME!

Plants and Ecology: A unit in science that teach students about things the food chain, energy consumption/output, and the ways communities are coming together and using Science to help save their local environments.

Organizing My Rooms: I have 4 rooms that ‘belong’ to me in this house. My bedroom, my sitting room, my closet, and the writer’s loft. We (meaning Dad) are building shelves for the back of my bedroom and will be getting those put in (hopefully!) soon. After that it is my sincere belief that I might be able to get my rooms organized and things up off of my floors! I KNOW that it HAS to be possible! I JUST KNOW IT!

Crocheting/DIY: I almost forgot…I promised a crocheted ear flappy hat to a friend a few months ago…he reminded me about that the other day so maybe I should hop on that! And don’t get me started on the DIY play house and cutesy painting I was hoping to get done this week cus…that ain’t gonna happen!

YOWZA! Putting them all in a row like that is a bit shocking to the system. Quick…somebody line out their to-do list for me! What are you getting done right now? Are you one of ‘us’, with the mile long constant list or are you one of those people who have it all lined out and finish one project before starting another one? If you’re the second type…HOW DOES THAT WORK???

I can’t wait to hear from you! Good luck with all your projects!

Ugly Beauty

A Giant Robber Fly Face (picture taken by scientists at under a scanning electron microscope at the University of Oklahoma) This is the bug my students captured and sent in to be judged. We did not win

Back in September my students and I scoured the school grounds in order to find the ugliest native Oklahoman bug we could possibly locate. (See my first blog about this HERE)This fellow won their votes (I believe he was named Harry). We wrote a paragraph describing our bug and sent him away for judging.

Four looong months later, they finally announced a winner…and it was not the H.P. Robber Fly. But isn’t his picture awesome??

To see more great ugly bugs, check out the winners, and learn more about this great science contest Go To: http://www.uglybug.org

Here is our essay about old Harry Boomer Bug…Remember, we wrote this within a few weeks of school starting and 80 students had a say in what went into this short draft. I am very proud of what they put into this! ENJOY:

Our Ugly Bug contestant is a Giant Robber Fly. Giant Robber Flies are known by the Latin name “Promachus”, which translated to ‘Promachos” in Greek means ‘Champion.” Also known as a Bee Killer or an Assassin Fly, the Giant Robber Fly is classified as follows:

Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Anthropoda
Subphylum – Hexapoda
Class – Insecta
Order – Diptera
No Taxon (Orthorrhapha)
Superfamily – Asiloidea
Family – Asilidae
Subfamily – Asilinae
Genus – Promachus

Robber flies live in dry, not cold, habitats that include short grass and sparse plant life.

A few interesting facts about these bugs are that they eat other (larger) insects, have three simple eyes between their two compound eyes, and that they are hatch in the winter and later will die in the winter. These insects also do not have a mouth. They use their proboscis as both an injector of poisoned saliva and as a straw to suck their liquified food through.

We found this Giant Robber Fly (named Harry) behind the playground equipment in a sparsely vegetated area at the edge of a wooded space. This area is full of multiple species of insects such as mustard bugs, grasshoppers, praying manti, and dragonflies.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this contest. We hope you enjoy Harry’s ugly whiskers!

Sincerely,

The 5th Grade Class of Highland Park Elementary