02 September 2021

Summer Daze: Back to School Edition

Ahhhh the first week of September! Another Summer coming to a close, and Fall already in the air during the early mornings. School starting up again, and only four months left in a year that already seems to feel like it only started a few weeks back. The timeless march of the seasons.

And yet...of course this year is different.

Long-time readers of my turn in this blog rotation (BOTH of you!*rimshot*) will know that my day gig is

teaching middle school history. Specifically eighth grade. More specifically, Ancient and Medieval World History.

I'm an over-twenty-year-veteran of teaching, and approaching the end of the 2019-2020 school year, I was pretty sure that I had seen it all. Fashions changed, kids' names changed, but overall, the job remained the same.

And then....COVID.

We went remote in the middle of March of 2019, rallied and taught ourselves to use Microsoft Teams to conduct classes remotely, and then started the 2020-2021 school year remotely as well. With COVID numbers easing and vaccinations underway, we returned to the classroom (while maintaining a significant full-time online cohort) last April. Because of various delays necessitated by the unusual circumstances we found ourselves in, our school year didn't wrap up until nearly the final day of June.

And I gotta tell ya, I was just completely spent. Great kids, colleagues are the best team you could ask for. It just wore me out. Both teaching-wise and writing-wise.

Before I move forward on this front, I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention that so far during the pandemic I have had three books published (All by Down & Out Books): two thematically linked collections of crime fiction to which I contributed a story and which I collected and edited; and a collection of historical crime fiction novellas. You can find links to each of these books here, here, and here.

So it's not like I've been idle. But you know how it is. There are people out there more productive than I've been: especially with most everyone sitting at home during the last year-and-a-half.

With all that said, last school year took everything I had (aside from my wife and son. They always come first.). Balancing the day gig and a young and growing family has cost my writing before. There have been long droughts where I have written next to nothing.

I'm happy to say that this time around I managed the challenge. After the school year wrapped up, I took a week and didn't do anything but read, sleep, play with my son, and spend lots of time with him and my wife.

Oh, and on the first day I had projected for going back to writing, I started a summer writing class. 

I needed college credits to renew my teaching credential, so I took a college writing class. And it was a great experience.

Working in that class I worked up four different short pieces which I have gone on to flesh out into three new short stories and a long passage for my current work-in-progress novel. All in seven weeks.

That might not sound like much for many writers, but for me it's pretty great. (As we've established in previous rounds on this blog, I tend to write very slowly.). Plus this writing class I took (entry level, nothing fancy) really inspired me. Getting exposed to forms of writing I'd never encountered before was delightful (Hey, I'm an experienced reader and writer, but I'm no snob. There's stuff out there I haven't gotten to yet!), plus reading the work of the emerging writers I took the class with was just all kinds of fun.

My wife, who knows me and my writing better  than anyone, insists that I work best on a deadline. After this summer, I don't think there's any arguing that point at all any more.

The great news? I already had requests for stories from two different anthologies, and was able to get two of the stories I wrote to the editors who requested them. I'm optimistic that they'll soon be placed and sold.

So I've been hitting the writing goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year, with one big one left: finish my work-in-progress novel by the end of the year.

So I'd better get busy.

See you in two weeks!


  1. You did indeed do great, Brian! Woo-hoo!

    1. Thanks Eve! It feels great! Trying to muster the energy during the beginning of the school year to dive once again into the writing. Start of the school year is always so challenging!

  2. I, too, tend to associate Labor Day as being the end of summer, and the beginning of school. I grew up in Indianapolis, and, in my retirement, am living there again.

    Public schools, in Indianapolis, began classes on...

    August 2.

    1. Don, to my surprise, not everyone associates the other summer delimiter as the Indianapoolis 500. Hard to believe, I know.

    2. Thanks Don. Yes, I have a friend in Sacramento whose kids started back the same week as the kids in Indianapolis. Hopefully those schools have air conditioning! (Mine doesn't!).

  3. Brian, you're one hard-working dude in an increasingly tough job.

    Yesterday, I read of an Oregon anti-mask, anti-vax school board that, in a 4-to-1 decision, fired the superintendent for following the law and governor's mask/vaccine mandate. The superintendent was as despondent as the anti-maskers/vaxers were gleeful, and said in an interview he was exhausted.

    Brian, everything you've written sounds like you love your students and they love you. Hard to ask for more.

    1. Leigh- I saw that, and it's been much-discussed around my workplace. Red state Oregon can get pretty wacky. One of the reasons I would never, ever take a job there.

      And thanks for the kind words. The kids always have been, and continue to be, the best part of the day gig.


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