Sunday, January 29, 2017

Getting Ready for WAR

     The title of this entry may seem rather combative or aggressive. And maybe it is. The WAR I'm helping to wage is toward apathy. Apathy about writing and reading. The majority of today's youth find themselves far too busy to enjoy either activity. These two skills compete against football, swimming, basketball, hockey, dance, gymnastics, vocal lessons, music lessons to name a few. Then there are the after-school jobs and whew! Today's youth are busy indeed. Any downtime they may have is gobbled up by social media. So how can we engage today's youth in the archaic forms of entertainment, writing and reading? By waging WAR.
     Last year was our inaugural conference which saw about 120-130 teens in attendance. This year, with author Ellen Hopkins as our keynote speaker and intensified marketing efforts as well as opening the conference to the region, we hope to almost triple those initial numbers.
     In addition to Hopkins, kids will be able to choose from 11 breakout sessions that range from screenwriting (by someone in the business) to speed reading tips to fiction writing to journalism. These professionals are giving up valuable time to invest in the lives of teens.
     Does this conference make a difference? I recently sat down with the organizer of UND's Writers Conference, Crystal Alberts, who has been an invaluable help in planning our own conference which is always a day after hers. I mentioned to her our budget restraints which may make our 2nd annual our last annual. She told me we had to continue. The conference made a difference. Then she related a story about a freshman college student who saw a WAR for Lit flyer in Alberts' office. The freshman spied the poster and told Alberts she was going into English because of the WAR conference. Not a big deal? It is for someone who wasn't interested in college and had no direction.
     So I'm getting ready for WAR along with a team of other organizers who are working hard to make sure this year isn't our last year. WAR does matter. Ask that college freshman. For her, i
t made all the difference.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Challenge Yourself Pt 2

      Well, challenge accepted and challenge complete.
       Last night I forced myself to step  out of the Zyg Zone, my comfort area, and do something not comfortable at all--speak in front of a group of strangers. For some, like my husband, they thrive on such experiences. Me? Not so much.
      So how did it go? Meh, it went. I wasn't great, but I did it. I elicited a chuckle at least, even though it was through a gaffe on my part. But if you can't laugh at yourself...right?
      The only good thing I feel came out of it, besides me ticking off a major yuck on my list, is that I was able to convey a short and simple message about at-risk teens. I guess you'd say they're my passion. That's another thing I discovered about myself during this adventure. I do have a passion and it's at-risk kids. That's what I spoke about--not judging but rather trying to understand at-risk kids. However, I digress (If my students did this in their writing, I 'd tell them they were on a rabbit trail).
      The main thing is I did it. It wasn't what I wanted to do, but I faced the dread head on and suffered through it (as did the audience, I'm sure). My goal this year is to challenge myself to do something outside the Zyg Zone monthly. I'm glad I've gotten this one tucked away. Now on to the next.
     So how about you? What are you going to challenge yourself to do? Jump in, the water's fine. It could make all the difference.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Challenge Yourself

      It's a new year, a time for resolutions, re-commitments to prior goals or resignation of goals not made. I rarely make resolutions because I know I'm likely to fail. However, this year I'm challenging myself, not making e a resolution. I'm challenging myself to step out of the comfort zone or Zyg  Zone and foray into virgin or scary territory.
     Like most people, I lack confidence and really am not comfortable with public speaking. I stutter and stammer and look foolish trying to piece a coherent thought together. But this is an area of my life I really want to improve. Ergo, the challenge.
     My challenge is coming in a day. Someone recommended me to give a Tedtalk here in my city. It's only a two-minute pitch, but it's in front of people. I composed a quick, positive response and then looked at the email forever. Did I really want to put myself out there? Absolutely not. But it wasn't about me, it was about the challenge. When I came up with the idea to challenge myself, I didn't expect an opportunity to present itself so quickly. So I pressed "send" and off it sailed into cyberspace. I had two dates to choose from, this month or next. I chose this month, knowing I'd probably not go through with it if I waited.
      So tomorrow night I'll be at a TED X talk open mic, giving my two minute pitch. It doesn't sound like much, I know, but for me, it's a definite stretch. I'm grateful for the chance to wiggle out of the Zyg Zone, even if it is nerve-wracking.
     What about you? How can you challenge yourself this year? Give it a try. It can make all the difference.