Breaking My Hiatus

I’m baaaaaack.

The semester is over. Revisions are done. And I’m officially on summer vacation.

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It might take me a little bit to unwind because, let’s face it. There’s so much truth to this picture:

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The end of the semester came with its usual flare-up–though it was a bit harsher than the last one–so I’ve been focusing on healing, resting, and getting better. It was bitter, coming on the heels of a great month and a half (Jan-Feb) where I thought for sure I was in remission. I suppose it’s always harder that way, isn’t it? When you’ve had a taste of “normal” only to then be whacked by the pain and exhaustion. But onward. The rest is helping and I’m feeling better, limping less, sleeping more. And writing more, which absolutely, positively helps me improve. Thank God for this blessing!

I’m looking forward to being back, to resuming my Motivational Monday series and bringing in some new projects here on the blog.

Happy writing, everyone!

 

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Blogging hiatus over

The semester has ended, grades were turned in, and I’m now officially, 100% off for the summer. For the first time since…well, since I began working! I mean, sure, I’ve had the last couple summers “off,” but I always taught extra online. I never had a clean break. This summer, I do.

And after the grading marathon (which I’m beginning to think will be a great prep for writing deadlines down the road…), I feel something like this:

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I’m still recovering.

But it’s good to be off. In the three days I’ve been off, I’ve worked on the UCLA class I’m taking, I’ve revised 1 chapter in WIP, met with my writing group to read said chapter, written a little and plotted the next few chapters, and spent the afternoons with my son, going to the park and enjoying the sun.

Have I mentioned that it’s good to be off?

More than anything, I’m looking forward to finally kicking this flare-up buh-bye. It’s been a challenging seven months, health-wise, and I want to put that behind me. I need a break.

Now off to write some more! Happy writing!

The Hunger Games in Class

Today marked the start of discussing The Hunger Games in one of my classes. It’s the first time I do so (but certainly not the last!) and I was as excited as most of my students. I think we’ve all been eagerly counting down until we could indulge in (academic) conversations about the book.

I started them off reading Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” which I think is appropriate on many levels for The Hunger Games. If you haven’t read “The Lottery,” you totally should. You can find it here. The mood, the piling into a square, the selection of names (lottery), the gruesome results. There’s even mention of coal mining and it’s a gorgeous day, the day the story takes place. Some of my students had already read it; others were completely surprised by the outcome.

Then we started talking about the first few chapters: the characters, the setting, the plot, and the themes that were starting to unravel. And we saw a couple short interviews with Suzanne Collins.

There’s a great line in chapter three when Gale goes to visit Katniss before she’s taken to the train. He’s giving her tips on how to survive; she’s a great hunter and it should be no different in the arena. Except instead of killing animals, she’ll be killing people, other kids like herself. She says she doesn’t know how to kill people, to which Gale replies, “How different can it be, really?” And then Katniss follows with this:  “The awful thing is that if I can forget they’re people, it will be no different at all.” Bam.

This is what allows all the atrocities in the world to happen. In real life. It’s people forgetting that those they’re hunting or hurting or persecuting are also people. It’s why genocide exists. Why slavery existed. Why all the horrors we learn about in history, many of which are still occurring, existed.

Throughout the term, we’ve used a thematic reader in my class: Remix: Reading + Composing Culture. It’s divided into seven themes: identity, community, competition, romance, entertainment, nature, and technology. In one of the essays for competition, the idea that fraternity hazings and other college tribes/rituals might not be so far off from other aspects like race, creed, religion, etc. They create an us versus them situation. The moment we have an us, and there’s a them, and we can forget that “them” are just as human as we are, then we’re in danger of violating the basic humanity of “them.” The Hunger Games, like the Harry Potter series, really tap into that idea.

I know the last few weeks of the term are going to be a mix of fun and seriousness. I’m excited about the final papers. They’re analyzing the book using one of the seven themes we’ve discussed throughout the term. These are some of the ideas I gave them:

  • How does Katniss’ identity change throughout the book? Is it molded by her experiences or is she born with certain traits that just flourish with the challenges? How do the assumptions we hold of identity play out in the book?
  • What role does community play in The Hunger Games? Does her community have her best interest in mind? Does it accept her just as she is, or does she have to change to fit in? How are the assumptions upheld or challenged? Is it any different from any current world-wide communities?
  • Are the Games reflective of our natural urge to compete? Is competition linked to a deep-rooted need to survive? Will the same be true for games that are not life-or-death?
  • How is Katniss and Peeta’s staged romance any different than real-world high-profile romances? Does their romance challenge or uphold any of the assumptions? Does love conquer all? Are they soul mates?
  • Think about the way the Games are televised. What role does entertainment play in The Hunger Games? How is such a cruel and vicious “game” used for the gratification of the select, privileged few? What, if any, criticism do you think Suzanne Collins is making of our current obsession with reality TV?
  • Nature in the Games is both beautiful and lethal. It’s also manipulated by the game-makers to ensure someone dies. What assumptions of nature are at play here? Are they challenged or upheld? Does Katniss’ understanding of the natural world aid her in surviving? How have those in power manipulated nature to create alternative, more destructive versions of animals (mutants) and how is that any different to the way we are fixated in fixing or altering what occurs naturally?
  • The world of Panem is limited in some technologies, but it is advanced in others. What role does technology play in helping the characters survive? What tools (think weapons) are used for this purpose?

Yep. I am definitely excited to see how the next couple weeks play out. I am looking forward to talking about the book and I’m enjoying seeing them get excited. I will also be looking forward to these essays. If I have to grade essays, I might as well make them interesting!