Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Montgomery County Public Schools, Eid, and Religious Expression

My grandmother told me how, growing up in Augusta, GA in the '30s and '40s, school was extended to Saturday mornings. She said that it was done to make the Jewish students truant. I don't know the accuracy of this, but it's not implausible motivation for a school system that started each day with a chorus of "Dixie" while saluting the Confederate flag.

Her story was about a system that was created in order to exclude a special population. This week, there's a story making the rounds about a request to change an existing system to accommodate a special population. Parents of Muslim children in Montgomery County Public Schools would like the school system to recognize the holy day of Eid in the same way that the most important Christian and Jewish holy days are recognized: by shutting the schools so that families can perform religious observances together. Read the story here:

The Montgomery Village Patch
WAMU coverage
ABC coverage

WAMU states that while standardized tests are not administered in Montgomery County schools while Muslim students are home observing Eid, other routine exams and quizzes are given.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Writing Exercise Generators

I'll be a world-famous novelist some day. Got a story kicking around. I'll get it down on paper eventually. It's a million-dollar story, and if it weren't for this writer's block it would be done by now. Going to be the next Harry Potter, I tell you. There just hasn't been enough time to get it written, is all. But one day!


Okay, I'm not holding my breath for a movie deal. But I'm knocking the rust off of the cogs in my brain and using the bits of time I do have free to write like a maniac. I spent five minutes staring at a blank page last week, got mad, and made up a list of topics. Then I used a random number generator to select which topics I'd write on. I find I get into the swing of it about forty-five seconds before running out of time.

Update: I've committed to NaNoWriMo and split the generator into two. The outline/plot generator is to help you tinker with your ideas and look at them from a new direction. The scene generator consists of unspecific prompts that can be interpreted in many different ways, to suit your novel. Keep mashing the button until you come up with relevant prompts, or make up your own list. If you leave a comment with a good suggestion, I'll update the list!

Here is the outline/plot generator list:

1. Outline of the story in 15 lines
2. Outline of the story in 7 lines
3. Summary of the story in 3 lines
4. Summary of the story in 10 words or fewer
5. A description of the most critical setting, and why it is critical
6. A description of the most significant physical object in the story
7. The (emotional, moral, spiritual, etc.) takeaway
8. The method you will use to communicate the (emotional, moral, spiritual, etc.) takeaway
9. How you are worried that the (emotional, moral, spiritual, etc.) takeaway might be missed or misinterpreted by the reader, or contradicted by your own writing
10. A description of the main character's biggest obstacle to overcome (or be overcome by), in 1 line
11. A description of the main character's biggest obstacle to overcome (or be overcome by), in 4 lines
12. A list of five events, characters, or themes that you had planned on putting into the story, but which don't fit seamlessly right now
13. Something you know, but which your main character doesn't know
14. The most unpleasant thing that happens in the story
15. The most pleasant thing that happens in the story
16. What the main character wants most at the beginning and at the end of the story
17. What someone else wants most for the main character
18. Describe the kind of reader who would like this story
19. Describe the tone of the story
20. How does it all end? Summarize the conclusion in 2 lines

Here is the scene generator list:

1. The opening paragraph (an alternate opening paragraph if you've already written one)
2. The closing paragraph (an alternate closing paragraph if you've already written one)
3. Introduction of a primary character
4. Introduction of a minor character
5. A character finds something funny
6. A scene that contains an animal
7. Something that happens late at night
8. A near miss
9. A conversation in which the truth is not being told
10. A character's desires are fulfilled
11. Something is not as expected
12. A character performs a new task
13. A character enters a new environment
14. A character settles into something comfortable
15. Something is given up on
16. There is a new plan
17. There is a lost temper
18. Something familiar is different
19. Something is broken
20. Something is found

The Way of Light Wreath

We just received our Way of Light Wreath. This is a spiral candle holder that holds 24 candles, one for each day of Advent. There is a figurine of Mary on a donkey that winds to the center of the wreath as each day is marked.

There are two extension pieces that transform the spiral into a holder for 40 candles. There is a figurine of Jesus to mark the journey from the beginning of Lent to the cross.

 The wreathes are handmade in Canada by a young man named Caleb Voskamp. His mother blogs here. And the wreath can be ordered here.
The wood is beautiful and aromatic. The piece is warm and organic, made with care by human hands.

This is Sophia's second Christmas, but the first one she'll be really aware of. We are looking forward to introducing our daughter for the first time to the cycle of the Church: Anticipation, longing, waiting, following Christ as he moves to the center of our lives.