Toot Toot

Today was my last day tutoring at Woodlawn High School for the semester. I really only got three sessions in because the program started only this month, I was going twice a week, and one week it was canceled due to testing. Next semester I hope to be able to commit to more days. I’m only barely starting to break the ice with these kids. But today I made some noticeable progress with them.

I have four students, a girl and three boys, all tenth graders. Even though I was told what to expect, it’s kind of shocking how poor their basic spelling and grammar skills are in general. Between the handwriting and the spelling, I can’t even read what they write a lot of the time, and I have to have them read it aloud to me (I’ve also caught them more than once “reading” something they hadn’t actually written down). But three of them seem to have a genuine interest in bettering their situations and improving their chances of one day going to college. The fourth one, one of the boys, is kind of a trouble maker and so far hasn’t written a single word. We’ll call this one Bradley. On the day of our second session, I found him hiding between stacks in the library trying to avoid me. Then he “accidentally” threw his pen in the trash along with a piece of paper (on which he had written nothing but his name), and he refused to go through the trash can and retrieve it.

Sigh.

I’m trying to get them to focus on a simple expository essay about how to do a task. One boy is writing about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another is writing about how to cook an egg. The girl is writing about cleaning her room. I’m trying to get them to add more details each week, to describe even the most obvious steps in the process, explain the importance of the task. Have an introduction and a conclusion.

Bradley spends each session either bothering the girl sitting next to him (I will not have them sitting next to each other next semester) and claiming he can’t think of anything he knows how to do.

Me: You don’t have to do any chores at home?

Bradley: No, I got people to do that.

Me: Do you know how to cook anything, make anything, fix anything?

Bradley: No.

Me: Is there a video game you are good at?

Bradley: I don’t play games.

Me: Do you dress yourself everyday?

Bradley: My mama does that for me.

Me: Now I know you’re just being goofy. Think of something.

I tried to get them to ask and answer questions like why you would make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (because your mom isn’t home, the ingredients are in the house, it’s easy to do, and you are hungry). And the steps involved are more than just (1) get the bread (2) get the peanut butter and jelly (3) eat the sandwich. You have to open the peanut butter, spread it on the bread with a knife, etc. I said to explain it as if you are explaining it to someone from outer space who has no idea why or how this is done.

It’s hard to get them to recognize these concepts, but today I outlined it all on a dry erase board. I really felt like a teacher for the first time, and they all copied down what I wrote, even Bradley.

Technically, I should go there again on Thursday, but the kids already told me not to bother. All their classes are having end of the semester parties. They will be there, but they won’t be there. So I said fine, I’ll see them all in January.

Despite the difficulties, this feels very much like the sort of thing I’m meant to be doing right now. I’ll get more involved in the program in 2011.

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On Sale!

Get it while it’s hot. I don’t know how long these sales will last, but I see this morning that my novel Zen, Mississippi is 28% off at Amazon and 10% off on Barnes & Noble’s website. In case you are wondering, these low prices do not affect my royalties. The discount comes from the bookseller’s cut. So if you haven’t bought your copy already and were planning to, there’s no better time than right now to do so.

If you prefer to buy the book from your local bookstore, they should be able to order it for you. It will help if they have the ISBN number, which is 0615343112.

Zen, Mississippi is Now on Amazon

My new novel finally showed up on Amazon this morning.

http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Mississippi-M-David-Hornbuckle/dp/0615343112/

This means it should be available for general distribution now, so you should be able to walk into any bookstore in the world and ask them to order it. Please do so.

Also, if you have already read the book, please please please post a review on Amazon. I would very much appreciate it and will buy you a drink next time I see you in return.

So it’s officially a book now. Woohoo!

Zen, Mississippi is Available for Pre-Sale on Lulu.com

You can buy Zen, Mississippi right now on lulu.com and have a copy in a week or so.

Buy it here: http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/zen-mississippi/8076267

I’m calling this a “pre-sale” because it will be another 6-8 weeks before it will be available for general distribution. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find it on the shelf in your local bookstore, though I’ll do what I can. What it DOES mean is that you will be able to go in your local bookstore and ask them to order it, and they should be able to easily get it for you. It will also be listed on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com and possibly other websites where books are sold.

Even then, I make a couple of dollars more if you buy it directly from lulu.com, but I’m not concerned about how much money I make. I’m concerned about the easiest way to get this book in peoples’ hands, and if ordering it from Amazon is what’s easiest for you, then that is just fine with me.

Save the Date: Book Release Party May 13 at Lolita Bar

I’m planning to have a book release party at Lolita Bar (266 Broome Street) on May 13 at 7pm.

I will read a little from the book, play a little music, and have some friends play a little music. Of course, copies of my book(s) will be available for sale and signing. But mostly I just want to have a party and hang out.

Lolita Bar has happy hour specials until 8, so get there early. I’ll post more information about this event as the date gets closer.

New Book Will Be Out Soon

My new book, a novel titled Zen, Mississippi, should be on sale on or around May 15. Mark your calendars, if you’re the sort of person who marks a calendar when a book comes out. You will be able to pre-order copies from lulu.com even sooner than that, probably within a week or two from now. I’ll keep you posted, of course.

This is my first full-length novel, one that I’ve been working on for, oh, about 20 years now, off and on. I hope that you will buy it, read it, and enjoy it.

Summary:

Patrick Alexander thinks he’s going crazy. At age 30, he’s frustrated with his life in the small Mississippi town where he grew up, stifled by his unhappy marriage and his soul-crushing pizza-delivery job. But when he drinks, his world becomes populated with the hallucinatory characters he invented as a child, including a Martian and a talking monkey. In the midst of an existential crisis, Patrick leaves his wife and the only home he’s ever known to embark on a spiritual quest where he will find new loves, face his long-missing father, and confront the demigods of his personal mythology.