If I made you laugh, I was serious. If I offended you, I was just kidding!

Blogging is still a fairly new experience for me, and I’m learning a lot about it as I go.

When I started, I assumed I’d basically be writing humorous columns, like the ones that I teach my journalism kids to write. Ten years ago, I really couldn’t have done that, because I sucked at writing columns when I was in high school. News? I was your girl. Features? Not my favorite, but I was good at it. Sports? Oh, you’re funny. Columns? No way.

It’s not that I wasn’t funny. It’s just that I hadn’t grown into my writing voice yet. News was easy because it was more like a puzzle. You had to squeeze as much information into as few words as possible and keep it in order of importance. Compared to the New York Times crossword, that puzzle is a piece of cake.

Columns involved writing in first person and being able to make fun of myself, and I hadn’t quite gotten there yet. When I started teaching them and helping OTHER people write THEIRS, that’s when I grew into my writing voice. And while I do look forward to the day when I can stop teaching and write full time, I’m not sure I would have been able to write as well if I hadn’t had the experience of teaching other people to write.

Students learning to write columns in my class have several style elements that must be included in their work. I give them a long list of methods of development and they’re required to use at least ten of them in each column they write. The list includes things like hyperbole (extreme exaggeration), self-deprecation, made-up facts and statistics, personification (giving a non-human human characteristics), etc. The basic point being that a column is NOT supposed to be 100 percent true.

Which brings me to the main point of this particular column. Apparently a lot of my nearest and dearest who read my work think that every word of it is true.

To those of you who believe this: you’re idiots.

No offense.

Just stating a fact.

(A non-made-up fact.)

But the biggest thing that I’ve learned about blogging is that if I’m going to be funny, I’m going to piss someone I know off with every blog post. That means that three times a week, I get at least one angry phone call/email/text message/person coming up to me and telling me how mad they are. And the other four days of the week, I get angry people asking me why I’m not blogging that day.

I can’t win.

Here’s the thing to remember though, if everything that I said was true, wouldn’t I be in jail by now? I’m pretty sure I outlined a plan to launch what basically equates to a terrorist plot on the states of Delaware and Texas, confessed to breaking several laws (including telling people how to commit assault at a concert), and have threatened murder numerous times. If you believe that all of that was completely serious, then I’d also like to warn you that if you don’t give me a million dollars RIGHT NOW, the world is going to end.

Although the plans for Texas and Delaware WERE actually serious. I DO plan to get rid of both states when I take over the world. And I DO think my dog is an evil super genius. And my grandmother DOES suck with technology.

Okay, maybe there IS some truth in what I write. Let’s try this again.

If I say something that pisses you off and it’s NOT about Delaware or Texas, I was kidding.

But the complete truth isn’t usually as funny as the embellished truth. With the exception of the story about when the girl threw up in my class. That, unfortunately, was the God’s honest truth. Every word. It sucked. A lot.

And there are some totally true stories that I feel like I can’t tell because I KNOW the people involved will hate me. I was a bridesmaid in a wedding that had some hilarious (now that it’s over) aspects to it. But if I write it as it happened, the bride will come after me with a vengeance that would rival a biblical plague. Literally. I think she’d start bringing frogs and locusts and cattle disease on me. (And if she’s reading this, I LOVE YOU! Please don’t smite my first born!)

So if you’re offended, please remember that that wasn’t my goal. I’m just trying to entertain. And if you can’t handle that, there’s no one holding a gun to your head to read my blog. You can stop reading any time. (Although that WOULD be pretty cool if someone was holding a gun to people’s heads and making them read MY blog. I’d LOVE to have such dedicated fans!)

And if you’re so offended by my work that you feel the need to have someone else call me to tell me how mad you are at me (yeah, it happened), then fine, I’ll try to not mention you in my blog.

But when I eventually get to write full time and am living in a Unabomber-style shack in the woods to write without people harassing me all the time, all bets are off.

Consider yourself warned.

The word gullible isn’t in the dictionary. Don’t believe me? Look it up!

I think the best part of being a teacher is that I get to take kids who were never that into writing as an art form and show them how exciting language can be.

Yes, I’m a nerd.

But as a writer, it’s really cool when I get to show kids the power that their words can have. Unfortunately, running the school newspaper, more often than not, they see that their words are powerful when we get in trouble over something asinine that someone has complained to the administration about. And while I hate that part of my job with a passion that rivals my hatred for the Cowboys, it’s still an opportunity for the kids to learn about the importance of writing.

One of my favorite moments every year is when the students who are new to the newspaper staff get to see their first byline in print. I still remember my first byline (an article in the December 1995 issue of the Rockville High School Rampage about the school band taking a trip to Florida), and I truly enjoy getting to share that moment with my students when they first see their work in the newspaper.

This year, I’ve had new opportunities to share writing with my students through the publication of my novel (Beyond the Palace, if you’ve been living under a rock and therefore STILL haven’t checked it out yet). I’ve talked about my writing for years, but getting to actually show them a hard copy of the book has had a significantly more impressive effect. And I’ve actually had several students tell me they have started writing books because they were inspired by the fact that I did it.

The other new opportunity has been in the form of this blog, which, if I’m being completely honest, is really just written in the same format of the columns that I teach my journalism students how to write. Of course, they whine about writing six or seven a year. I’m doing at least three a WEEK. Amateurs. But one of my students started his own blog this year too. But he gets like a couple of blog hits a day, and I’m getting around a hundred a day.  So he asked me to give him a shout-out in my blog to get him some more hits. And here it is. Go check out his blog.

And while we’re on the subject of Taylor, I should admit that I lied. Instilling students with a love of writing is the SECOND best part of my job. The best part is actually messing with the kids’ heads.

Which I do on a daily basis.

Don’t judge. I need SOMETHING to keep me sane until summer vacation.

And sometimes it’s just SO easy to mess with their heads. Because they’re gullible enough to believe everything I tell them.

In fact, they’re even gullible about the WORD gullible. One of my favorite tricks is to tell a kid (with a completely straight face, of course), that gullible isn’t in the dictionary. If they don’t believe me, I tell them to look it up. Which they do. Because they’re that gullible. And the worst part is that after they’ve fallen for that, I can STILL get them by telling them that someone wrote gullible on the ceiling—they ALL look up. Every time.

 By then, they no longer believe me, which means I have to get them again. I tell them that gullible is spelled with three l’s. They argue that they’re not that stupid and they’re not falling for my tricks again. And then I explain to them that it actually IS spelled with three l’s.

I have other favorite tricks too. For example, whenever anyone asks me if we have a test that day, I ALWAYS say yes. Unless we DO have a test, in which case I say no. And when they freak out about the unexpected test, I act irritated and ask why they hadn’t spent all week studying for it. Anything they ask me for, the answer is always no. Which I usually say before they even finish asking the question, just to see how hard they’ll argue.

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

“No.”

“Do you have a bandaid?”

“No.”

“Can I get a drink of water?”

“No.”

“I accidentally cut my arm off, can I go to the nurse?”

“No.”

 “A lion is attacking me! Help!”

“No.”

And so on.

My favorite thing to do, however, has to be personalized on an individual basis, depending on what the individual kids will get riled up about. Which is where Taylor comes in.

I was working on the newspaper at lunch with my editors one day, when another student made a comment saying that golf shouldn’t be in the sports section because it wasn’t a real sport. Now I normally defend everything in the sports section fairly emphatically (because I don’t want cheerleaders or poms having a grudge against me, and if it’s athletic, I think it belongs in the sports section), but Taylor started arguing that golf was, in fact, a sport. And he got kind of heated about it.

Which meant that I had to disagree with him. Not because I have a strong stance on golf (which I don’t. As one of the least athletic people on the planet, I don’t have any room to judge), but just because it amused me to see him try to argue that golf is a sport.

So for the last month, every time ANYONE has mentioned golf OR sports with Taylor in the room, I’ve turned to him and told him that if my 85-year-old grandfather plays it, it’s a game, not a sport.

But even though I know I’m driving him nuts, and even though golf isn’t a sport, TAYLOR is a good sport. So check out his blog. It’s about football, and it’s actually very well written. But do me a favor when you DO look at it: leave him a comment about how football may be a sport, but golf isn’t. The look on his face when he sees comments about that will be a great way to pay me back for all the entertainment I’ve given you with my blog.

It shouldn’t be hard to do. It’s not like leaving a comment is a sport or anything. Just like golf.

And right now, Taylor is reading this and saying, “Oh my God, golf IS a sport! Why is she doing this to me?”

The answer? Because I’m easily amused and you react. But if you don’t believe me, I hear they put your picture in the dictionary. Right next to the word gullible. Go ahead. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

Sometimes I DO love my job.

I’m blogging as fast as I can! If you want more, stop complaining and read my book already

In the couple of weeks since I decided to slow my blog to three days a week from five days a week, I’ve gotten an inordinate amount of complaints. I could take that as a compliment, because it means that people are enjoying the blog. And I AM kind of flattered. For example, my mother said that a day without my blog is “like a day without sunshine.”

Aww.

Then there were the other complaints. I’m not going to name names, but there were the people who told me it’s my JOB to entertain them. And the people who told me that I will never be a serious writer if I don’t blog every day.

To those soul-sucking vultures who think it is my primary duty in life to provide lengthy and amusing posts for you on a daily basis, I would like to invite you, at your earliest possible convenience, to jump off a cliff.

I mean, I’m thrilled that you find me amusing.  But am I here to amuse you?
(NSFW)

However, for those of you who either politely inquired about the frequency of my posts or else have decided to suffer in silence because you know that true art cannot be rushed, I would like to explain why I cut it down to three days a week.

Stephen King, who is one of my all-time favorite authors (despite my firmly-held belief that all of his books have the same plot: someone or something goes crazy and kills people), described the problem perfectly in his book On Writing. King worked as an English teacher before he got a six-digit contract for Carrie. And he explained that the problem with teaching was that for the first time in his life, writing was hard. He said that while he loved his kids, by Friday afternoons, he felt like he “had jumper cables clamped to [his] brain.”

While there are a lot of really rewarding parts to teaching, it’s also the most mentally draining activity that I have ever experienced. I spend seven hours of my day with thirty pairs of eyes on me.

Now I AM narcissistic enough to enjoy being the center of attention, but being the center of attention for that long is exhausting. I know that I’ve said this before on this blog, but as my mother always says, as a teacher, you’re the subject of someone’s dinner table conversation every night of your life. And the problem is, they’re much more likely to discuss what you screwed up than what you did right. So if you get lipstick on your teeth, spill coffee on your shirt, or have a wedgie that needs picking, THAT is what your kids will be telling their parents over dinner that night.

But for those of you who still think I owe you five blog posts a week, let’s walk through my typical day. I get up at 5:30am every day for school. And still usually arrive just minutes before my first class starts. I teach from 7:25 until 8:12, then I get my two planning periods together. Which SOUNDS good, in theory. Unfortunately, that early in the morning, I’m not as good at focusing as I would like to be (due largely to my chronic insomnia). But I spend as much of that time as I can grading papers, inputing grades, Xeroxing, and planning for the rest of the week.

From 10:01 until 2:10, I’m in class straight through. Lunch is in there, but I ALWAYS have newspaper kids working with me and English kids coming in for help during those periods. There’s no break at all in there, and because I’m in four different classrooms for the last four periods of the day, I don’t even have time for a bathroom break between classes. If I have to go, I have to hold it or find someone to cover my class.

I know what you’re thinking: at 2:10, she gets to go home.

You’re funny. Really. Hilarious.

Most days, I don’t get out of there until after 3, and that’s an EARLY day for me. Often I’m there far later for meetings, group planning sessions, or to work on the newspaper. Then, when I finally DO get to go home, I have grading to do.

After all that, when I finally have time to sit down and start my blog for your amusement, my brain feels like jello that was made with pineapple chunks and therefore won’t gel.

But three nights a week, I still try to come up with something witty and funny to say. Which means I am left with no time to work on any other writing (like my next book, which fans of Beyond the Palace are already asking for). And if I don’t pay attention to Rosie somewhere in there before I collapse into bed (which almost never happens before midnight), she shows me how sympathetic she is to my busy schedule by leaving me little presents on the dining room rug.

So to sum up, I do love that people are enjoying the blog. And when I’m off for the summer, I’ll probably go back to five posts a week. But if you nag me about it during the school year, I’m going to use one of those nights off from blogging to retaliate in an immature show of annoyance (most likely by wrapping your house. I’ve been around high school kids for WAY too long).

But if you just can’t get enough of my writing and are DYING to read more, pick up my book. And if you’ve already read it, tell everyone you know to read it. Because if I get a real publishing contract and make enough money to write full time, you’ll get more blogs.

And if that STILL doesn’t make you feel better, I’m trying to use the extra nights off to polish up my next book to self-publish. So more writing IS coming your way, you just might have to wait a little while.