Here’s me hanging in the AWS home office with Director of Operations, Aiden Cornell, or “A.C.” as he is called around the office. (“He’s always keeping it cool!”) What better way to commemorate the year than to start with the number 1 occurrence, the arrival of my son. I mean, major improvements in the workplace began shortly after his July birth: the corporate culture got a lot more caring; the break room was upgraded with a changing station; the whole office generally got upgrades—WiFi thermostats, additional baseboard heaters, a huge play area in the main room. Not to mention milk production facilities.
Can’t say enough, basically, about his joining the AWS team. But now let’s also check in on other 2022 happenings that can help you, dear reader, learn what AWS is all about.
It was a wild a wild year at the editorial desk. In 2020 and 2021, I went teaching-crazy, responding to the demand for Zoom creative writing classes in the pandemic. Thankfully, 2022 offered more diversity, and a chance to get back into working with classroom instruction in ELA, which is my core competency, we might say. Here’s a recap.
English Language Arts Instruction
In February, I began working with Six Red Marbles, a production vendor, on a digital learning platform, authoring informational passages on the Chicago Fire, Harriet Tubman, the pyramids, Central Park, and more. These texts were leveled appropriately for autistic learners, and featured lots of images to guide instruction. Oh, and the texts, while addressing historical and contemporary topics, actually taught literary vocabulary and concepts, such as “Theme’s Relationship to Character, Setting, and Plot.”
In May, I joined another team, also with SRM, creating content for a different educational publishing vendor. This time we launched into 6 solid months of continuous rounds of authoring, reviewing, and revision. These were instructional materials of a very unique and hard-hitting kind. Sixth-graders reading about the Holocaust; debates about mandatory nationwide public service for 7th graders; rooftop farming; Sandra Cisneros and Nikki Grimes (staples in this milieu); and moving up to 12th grade, the texts became more in-depth, including some speculative fiction, texts on neurodiversity, race as a social construct, women’s rights, and much more.
All in all, we did a few hundred selections. This was a project that I was proud to be a part of. Putting this kind of instruction into classrooms gives me hope for America’s cultural, and literal, literacy. I think the coolest piece was “The Dog of Titwal” by Saadat Hasan Manto, a fable-like short story translated from Urdu, which brilliantly captured the banality of war, through an incident at the Pakistan/India border.
Foreign Language Proficiency
I literally had to sign a non-disclosure agreement about this next client, because their contracts are federal agencies, including intelligence agencies. But they continued developing language proficiency exams for said agencies, and I continued to support production by seeking permission to republish text excerpts and audio excerpts. Google surely thinks I’m a dodgy fellow now, as I used Chrome to translate many websites in Ukrainian, Russian, Chechen, Romanian, Hungarian, Georgian, Belarusian, Punjabi, Maay-Maay, and Igbo!
Shout-outs to my one-on-one clients in 2022. Chris K. Jones had a banner year, launching his debut novel Headcase, and winning the Literary Titan Gold Book Award. Chris is as hard-working a writer as you’ll ever find—a self-made man, challenging himself after successful careers in athletics and business. His book follows Dr. Andrew Beck, a sports psychologist, from the poker table to the locker room, on a quest to fix everyone’s head but his own.
I’ve been working with Frank Castelluccio for about two years on his short stories, and big congratulations are in order for him, as in 2022, he got his story “Hollywood” accepted for publication in a literary journal. It is the first of many, I’m sure. I was a believer in Frank’s work from the start, even as he poo-pooed my ideas about publication. (A book will happen, Frank!)
I was also honored to work with Yuta M. of Michigan on his short fiction; Daniel K. of Singapore on short fiction; Mitchell B. of Manhattan, long fiction; Alejandro Escude, of California, on short fiction; and Erin B. of Milwaukee, on a children’s book. Last but not least, welcome to Sarah R. of Oregon, who became a new client in December.
This year was my 10th year teaching for Gotham Writers Workshop. What a ride it’s been! Maybe their scheduling system has a record of how many courses and students there have been. I’d ballpark the student count at nearly 500 now.
I taught mostly the same courses—Fiction Level I, Creative Writing 101, and Novel First Draft—but I never teach them exactly the same way, and remarkably, I do feel like I always learn some new facet to the concepts and techniques that go into writing great stories.
Here’s to 10 more with Gotham!
Oh, yes, and in spring I put out two titles of my own, both novels. Just see the top menu.
At the moment, all my creative energies are directed towards rewrites to Omnibus, a book-length mash-up of short fiction and memoir. It’s about truth and lies in the pandemic era, crossing the red/blue divide by living with my in-laws for several months, being a fiction teacher. A couple articles from the lesson library are incorporated into the manuscript, such as Cosmic Banking, and Small Shot. Visit omnibusbook.substack.com for a preview.
And as my wife’s pregnancy advanced and my son’s arrival neared, I began a work of fiction (a novella possibly?) about a reclusive man who shuts down his professional life and retreats to a hidden cave in the woods, only to be discovered by a boy who has run away from home. An unforeseen partnership develops. This is showing progress and promise, in snippets written during my 45 minutes of evening respite, after the Director’s bedtime bottle and before my tank hits empty. Recently I put a sample in titled, A Boy Appears.
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