Mary Anne Mohanraj

Journal

March 31 -- 7:40 PM

Today I was go, go, go. Got up at 5, graded papers, ran errands, played with Kavi and supervised her cleaning (spring break for her), graded more papers, ran more errands, came home, started dinner, got Anand, cooked dinner -- and then, I hit a wall. I have four more papers to grade today, if I don't want to have to get up early tomorrow to finish them. I don't want to get up early tomorrow to finish them. But I think I have to sit in this chair watching Star Trek for half an hour more before I have any hope of being able to face grading.

(This is the last big batch of papers 'til the end of the semester, and the great thing about end of semester papers is that you don't have to write comments on them, so they're much easier to grade. So really, this is the last hard thing for school this semester. Thank all the merciful gods and little fishes.)

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March 31 -- 6:38 AM

Today (March 31) is the deadline for our Older Writers' Grant. "The SLF Older Writers Grant is awarded annually to a writer who is fifty years of age or older at the time of grant application, and is intended to assist such writers who are just starting to work at a professional level. We are currently offering two $500 grants annually, to be used as each writer determines will best assist his or her work."

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March 30 -- 8:39 AM

So, the school sent home a list of words for the spelling bee. Words that Kavi could study. She's pretty good at spelling already, but she could study and be better. And I had a moment of utter panic. It passed, but I ended up explaining it all to Kavi.

See, when I was a kid, I was really good at spelling. And I won the school spelling bee. So I went on to the city spelling bee (I feel I must pause here to note that these were the Catholic school bees, so a different bracket entirely from the public schools, and the words weren't nearly as hard by the end), and I won that too. And then I won the state spelling bee.

This was when things got ugly. Because I then lost one beautiful summer to spelling. My mother insisted that I study, I think for about two hours a day (although it's a bit of a dark haze), and what I mostly remember is sitting with her at the dining room table drilling words while outside the window, I watched my little sisters frolicking in the green grass.

In the end, I went to nationals (Catholic), and I got third place, and I cried when I got knocked out, but my parents were supportive and I was reasonably proud of myself afterwards.

So I told Kavi all this, and I asked her if she wanted to study for the spelling bee. And she asked if all the studying was worth it. And I said well, maybe. And Kavi cheerfully said that we'd done flash cards once before, and they were really fun, and that she thought winning would be super-fun, so she definitely wanted to study.

I bowed my head and conceded defeat. If she wants to study, so be it. I'm seeing a lot of flash cards in my future.

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March 30 -- 8:13 AM

Cancer log 59: Well, they did warn me that people often gain weight with cancer these days instead of losing it (presumably in part because the anti-nausea meds for chemo are much better now). But I haven't even started chemo, and I've gained five pounds since my diagnosis two months ago. Since I normally hold pretty steady, I think I can attribute this weight gain pretty directly to a) stress, b) feeling sorry for myself, and c) hotel cheesecake.

It's fine -- I'm not going to be hard on myself for a totally understandable reaction to a life-changing medical diagnosis. But that said, this shouldn't go on -- if I continued at this rate, I would gain a dangerous amount of weight fairly quickly, and the doctors have been very clear that staying as active and fit as possible will help with the cancer treatment, especially the fatigue aspects.

So today, back to trying to hit my Fitbit walking goals, back to gardening (that one's easy, as the weather improves outside and my garden calls to me), back to paying attention to what I eat.

Cheesecake, my beloved, I will see you again on the other side of this cancer treatment. Creme brle, you too. Cheesecake won't mind. Cheesecake understands me.

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March 29 -- 7:28 PM

(Do not read the image in detail unless you want spoilers for my book!) I often have my students do a reverse outline, and now I'm doing it for my novel. The idea is that while sometimes it works to do an outline first and then write your piece, often, writers prefer to write more organically, without plotting out the piece first. Which is all well and good until you get partway through and realize that the piece could use a little more structure.

So then you stop and do a reverse outline, which is basically going through paragraph by paragraph (for a paper) or scene by scene (for a novel), and writing down what you've done. In that process, you can discover holes, places that could use more energy, etc. and so on. So you make notes on that, and then you go back and fix it -- maybe you end up deleting an entire section as extraneous, or adding in a few to clarify matters.

I find reverse outlines really useful, though it sure would be nice if it came out perfectly the first time!

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