Writing Update: 2020 Is Almost Over!!

This is has been quite a year and as we near its end, I can’t help but look back at all that has occurred over the past eleven months. Part of me feels like this year has been one or two very long months because I’ve spent the bulk of my time at home. One of the best things to come out of 2020 is that I’ve gotten back to counting my blessings. I wake up in the morning and think about all the good things in my life. At the core, I have all I need and there is no lack.

December is upon us, and I’m wrapping up the very last book of 2020! I’m very excited to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I spent the first seven months of the year distracted and a bit down about the way things seemed to be unfolding in the world, but in late July, I perked up and got moving. So glad I snapped out of the doldrums!

2021 And A Question…

2021 will bring the resolution of one ongoing mystery and more travels for Sylvia and Martin. I have four books in the Sylvia Wilcox series planned for 2021. You can expect a new mystery in February, May, August, and October. We will see Sylvia come to more realizations about herself and the world.

The third book of the Sylvia Wilcox series, Fracture, is NOT about a murder. This has led to some readers disliking the book because they want to read about a murder. Sylvia Wilcox is a private detective. While P.I.’s take on murder cases at times, they often work non-violent cases because private detectives are private citizens-not police officers. Sure, they will pick up cold case murders, but it is perfectly reasonable to think that a private detective will take on a missing person case.

So, here’s the question I’ve been pondering this week. Is murder a requirement of a mystery book for some readers? Is it okay to write about a missing person case, or financial crimes in a mystery? I think so, but I could be alone in that thought. I recently read an article, “Why The Serial Killer Novel Is The New Feminist Fiction,” and the author presented and interesting idea. She discusses how she enjoys watching the show Snapped, and asks what if a woman kills a man and she doesn’t feel bad about it? My response is that if any person kills another human and doesn’t feel bad about it, I’m not able to frame that as a victory just because the killer is a woman. I’m not on board with thinking that murder is a feminist act in and of itself. I tend to shy away from gruesome crime fiction because I don’t have the ability to completely disconnect from the extreme act of taking a life, even in a fictional context.

I’m not sure if most people think a murder must be included in a mystery, but Sylvia Wilcox will be investigating murders and other situations that may, or may not be crimes. Sylvia will have murders to solve, but there will be deeper, more complex mysteries to examine as well. The mysteries of the heart and human behavior are the things that keep us up at night. Surely, those things deserve investigating as well.

What do you think? Can a mystery series examine more than murder?

Road to Nowhere

Road to Nowhere will be off to the editor in early January. Newsletter subscribers will receive the prologue in January, and the ebook preorder is already available. If all goes well, there will be a preorder for paperback copies in mid-January. I plan to take a few days off after I finish my literary fiction novel, but I’ll be back at it soon after the New Year. Road to Nowhere will be released February 19, 2021 and a description of the book is included below. !

Road to Nowhere

A young man disappears during an impromptu cross-country road trip. Initially, it appears that Anson didn’t have a destination or a reason to drive from Michigan to California, but when Sylvia Wilcox starts to examine the mystery, she finds that Anson had a reason to be driving the backroads and interstates of America. 

Preorder Now!

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Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

Writing Update

(transcript)

Hi there. This is Braylee Parkinson, and I want to give you a quick update on how the writing is going. A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas is coming along swimmingly! I am very excited about this book and can’t wait to put it out. I literally can’t sleep at night because I just want to be in the story. I’m having an absolute blast writing it!

Currently, I’m editing the manuscript and have made it to chapter four. My goal is to be done with my edits by September 30th and send it off to the professional editor on October 5th. After that, I’ll be moving on to book number five.

Road to Nowhere, the fifth book in the Sylvia Wilcox series, is also in the works. Last year my husband and I took a cross country road trip, and we did a little exploring in Wyoming. I am intrigued by empty, desolate places, so I loved every minute of it. I remember thinking, “There’s a story here…” Well, the story has shown up. It’s supposed to be cooking on the backburner right now, but I already have a few chapters down.

The story will involve a ghost town in Wyoming. I hope to get an interview with a descendent of one of the founders of the town. My husband grew up with this gentleman, and he loves history, so I’m hoping he will be open to an interview. I would also like to get permission to tour the townsite next spring. So lots of exciting stuff going right now.

Speaking of ghost towns, my husband and I have been watching a Youtube channel about a town in California named Cerro Gordo. I love ghost towns, so I’m always looking for videos on Youtube about ghost town history and exploration. So, this guy named Brent, one of the town owners has been in Cerra Gordo since March of this year. The Youtube channel is chronicling his ups and downs, victories, and losses. It’s really great stuff, and I totally admire this guy. Watching him pursue his dream for this town is fascinating, and it gives me hope for the world. I’m including a link to his latest video below. Head over to his channel and subscribe if you like what you see. If you’re like, “who cares about a ghost town?”. Please note that cute goats and kittens are included in the video.

Stay safe and healthy!

Cheers!

 

 

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Let Memento Mori Be Your Guide

Memento Mori… a phrase the conveys a simple concept-remember, you must die. Sounds depression, right? But wait, let’s think about this for a moment. Is it true? Absolutely. So why not use that to motivate yourself to do the things you’ve been putting off? In August, I realized that the year had just about passed me by. What had I done for the first eight months of the year? When I reviewed the year, I concluded that the better question was, “What have I NOT done?” In reality, so much. 365 days in the year, 24 hours, 1440 minutes, and 86,400 seconds in a day. We all get that. What we do with it is entirely up to us.

To be clear, I’ve done some great things this year. For example, sitting on the couch with my husband every morning, slowly sipping coffee and talking without a care in the world. Our garden has been fantastic, and over the past month, we’ve begun to can and freeze fruits and vegetables. My parents, nephews, sisters, and I are all in an endless group text message, so I interact with them daily. I’ve stopped absorbing depressing, anxiety-producing news reports and social media, restricting my time in Facebook to writer groups and my author page. I’ve gotten back into a workout routine, lost six pounds, and I feel fantastic. I’ve taken on the attitude that if the world ends tomorrow, that’s fine. I’ll be writing or editing a draft of my next book, picking tomatoes in the garden, or sitting on the couch with my beloved husband, sipping coffee. Basically, whatever happens, I’ll be doing something I wanted to get done. 

In my mind, the year started on August 24, 2020, because that was the day that I reminded myself, “memento mori.” The holiday novel I’m writing on was inspired by this idea that we will all die. My favorite podcaster utters this phrase from time to time. In the beginning, I was very uncomfortable with her throwing the truth out there like that. Then I realized that one of the reasons I admire this woman is because she’s taken this phrase to heart. Doing today, or you might not get the chance.

A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas was sparked by this idea that there is only so much time in life. No one has an endless clock, but there are times when we forget how precious each moment is. Sylvia Wilcox is a workaholic, partially because she is a young widow, but also because there are times when she isn’t sure what else there is to do. In A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas, she takes a moment, a breath, and examines what can happen in a moment of much-needed downtime.

The first eight months of the year were not a loss. I learned a great deal about what I wanted in life and what I needed to leave behind.  Ten years ago,  I climbed aboard an Amtrak with a bunch of books, a few apples, trail mix, and the last sixty buck I had to my name, because I’d figured out that life was too short to stay in stagnation. It was better then, and now, to walk into the unknown. 2020 has made me realize that it was time to get back in the game. Throw caution to the wind and move forward, even if the road is scary and I don’t know where I’m going. I’m confident that the road will eventually meet my feet. 2020, with all its troubles, has ironically boosted my mood back up into the stratosphere. I’m excessively happy again. As an old friend of mine use to say, “She’s all sunshine and lollipops!”

As I continue to contemplate memento mori, and the beauty and mystery surrounding mortality, my level of gratitude increases. Death can be feared,  or  simply recognized as a part of the life cycle. Let it encourage action-not fear or stagnation. I’ve come to think of it as a motivation to live my dreams and keep moving forward without looking back.  This idea that we will all die reminds us that time is of the essence. Do it now, or possibly never accomplish your goals. The good news is that you have time, as do I, to move forward and complete the task at hand. Make yourself proud!

Cheers!

Braylee

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Fracture Is Out And Other Good News

Hello Readers, Fracture is available at various ebook retailers, and it will be popping up at more stores soon! Google Play was not admitting new authors for a while, but now that things have opened back up, all three books will be adding in the next few weeks. Also, hardcovers should be available before the end of the year. Physical books, both paperback and hardback books, are hard to come by these days, but the hope is that things will improve soon. The prologue for A Sylvia Wilcox Christmas will be shared soon! I’ve been having so much fun Displacement is still free. Pick it up! Sign up for my newsletter if you’d like to save 50% on Fracture. I recently opened a Payhip store, so I can now offer newsletter subscribers special discounts. You also will receive other perks, including an opportunity to sign up for my Advance Reader Team, sneak peeks of new books, and tons of free book offers from my fellow author friends. Don’t miss out! Sign up below!

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A Quiet Place in the World

Happy Friday! I hope everyone is doing well. This has been a great week for me and I wanted to share some of the going-ons in my world, and give an update Fracture, and a surprise announcement of another book that will be out in November. Yay! Productivity has returned! You may be wondering why my engine has suddenly been revved up and there are a few simply explanations to why I’ve been more productive in the past two weeks, than I’ve been the rest of the year. Exercise and living in the present moment.

2020 has been a year for re-evaluating everything from my career to my weight. As I hunkered down in my house earlier in the year, I will admit that I was frustrated and angry, but over time, I realized that there was so much opportunity in those moments. What was working? What wasn’t? How could things be different? Once I stopped following social media eliminated what I’ve heard termed, “doom scrolling” I just focused on my life. What could I do to become a better person? A few of the ideas I came up with were getting back into shape, writing several books a year, and getting to know the town where I live. When I first moved to Utah, I loved living in Salt Lake City. It was so clean and pleasant, and I had no choice but to learn the city, because I didn’t have a car. As the years passed, I moved into a teaching career and eventually relocated to a suburb in northern Utah. That was back in 2016 and I still don’t care for the area of the state I live in. Over the past few months, I’ve taken some time to analyze why this is the case.

One of the reasons I fell in love with Salt Lake City was because I didn’t have a car. I walked or used public transit to get everywhere, and I became a part of the city. At one point, I lived in the 9th and 9th neighborhood, which was 2.7 miles from my job. On nights when the bus was taking forever or stopped running, I’d walk home. I don’t recommend walking alone at night. Still, it was something I did in part because I felt like Salt Lake City couldn’t possibly have anything that Detroit had not thrown at me. While this is probably true, I realize now that I should have just asked for a ride from the scores of concerned coworkers who often volunteered to take me home. But, I was in a phase of my life where throwing caution to the wind was a daily occurrence. Right or wrong, those long walks home helped me become a Utahn.

Moving to northern Utah was a bit of a shock to my system. First of all, I’d never been to the area until I met my husband. Most of the people I knew spoke of all points near Ogden as “out there.” Well, they weren’t wrong. It takes close to an hour for me to get back to Salt Lake City, and if I-15 is shut down, I have to take a roundabout, long route that weaves through mountains and adds about half an hour onto the drive. Needless to say, I don’t drive down there often, and during 2020, I have only headed to SLC a handful of times. No matter how much I love Salt Lake, I don’t live there anymore. It’s time to move on and embrace the present.

Salt Lake City is a unique hub for transplants and misfits. There isn’t another place in the state that is as welcoming to newcomers. With that said, after moving to northern Utah, I fell into a habit of rarely leaving my house. Could that help explain why I don’t feel connected with the place where I currently live? I spend time in my garden, head out to the grocery store from time to time, and I do have one friend that lives in the neighborhood, but for the most part, I drive to Salt Lake City for all significant socialization outside of my hubby. This, of course, is not healthy, and it led to a twenty-four-pound weight gain. Yes, I’ve eaten all the loneliness, stress, and unfriendly encounters I’ve experienced over the last few years. Well, you know what? I’m done with it. I live where I live, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t love it. So this week, I’ve been embracing everything that exists right now.

Each day this week, my husband and I have taken walks on the Ogden River Parkway. It’s a cozy little blacktop trail that travels along the river’s edge throughout communities in the area. We park and walk to the Ogden Botanical Gardens where we browse through the rose garden and stroll along the short trails. There’s one spot, tucked away in the shade where we like to sit and chat while resting up for the walk back. It’s just a pleasant, quiet place in the world where we can relax and take in the beauty of the area. It’s also a way to feel connected to where we live. That little bench is “our seat.” We now have a set path and a general time that we take to the parkway for “our walk”. All of s sudden, this place feels more like home than it ever has before.

 

Beautiful rose and a busy bee.
Our little bench in a shady area of the botanical gardens.
The Ogden River creates a soothing soundtrack for the walk.
Our view from the bench in the woods.

Displacement: A Sylvia Wilcox Mystery-Coming Soon!

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As you can tell from the picture, I am ready for summer to be over. I love the chilly, crisp gray days that arrive in October and I hope that the image will bring those days closer. The rustle of fallen leaves blowing across the driveway, apple cider and donuts, bulky sweaters, cold rain showers-I can’t wait for autumn to get here!

When I am not trying to wish autumn arrival upon the world, I am writing. Most days I get in at least six hours of writing-related activity, and I love it! I’ve got a few Halloween and Christmas stories started, and the third novel is halfway done. When I am not writing, I am editing Displacement. The manuscript needs to be on its way to the editor next month, so I have to stop getting caught up in my holiday stories and get the darn thing edited. Not to mention, I also have to work. It’s part-time, and I do it from home, but that’s 25 hours out of my writing life each week. Even so, the next novel will be released in November (October for newsletter subscribers!). Yay!!

I recently finished Displacement, the second installment in the Sylvia Wilcox mystery series. The next phase is a content edit. After that, I will do a hand edit, and the final round of edits will be done by my editor. The story took some twists and turns I hadn’t expected, but I love where the characters took me.

Displacement is the second installment/prequel, and it will give more information about the questions readers posed to me after reading Who She Was. Some of those questions were ones I hadn’t considered, so I had to turn to my characters to get answers. Writers need to be ready to give up control and let the story take them where it may. I like to be in control of things, but Sylvia Wilcox was reaching for the reigns. I let her have them, and boy did she surprise me! I’m so glad I trusted her to bring this story home.

The cover reveal will take place in September. If you have subscribed to the newsletter, the code to access the prologue of Displacement is in your inbox! If you haven’t subscribed to the newsletter…What are you waiting for?! Sign up and get the code to access the prologue of Displacement: A Sylvia Wilcox Mystery (book 2). Also, if you haven’t read Who She Was, you can pick it up from your favorite bookseller for free. That’s right-FREE. Here’s the link: Who She Was.

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The Power of Positivity

Currently, I am working on updating a book I published in 2014. The title (which will be changed soon) was How Changing My Thoughts Changed My Life. Yes, it is a cumbersome title, and now that I have more insight, and my life has truly gone where I wanted it to go, I am ready to polish that book and re-release. Back in 2014, I was living in West Jordan, Utah, and life was good. I thought it was time to tell the story of how I used the power of positive thinking to change my life. I wasn’t ready to write that book. Why? Well, my life was about to take a turn, and the negative mindset was just around the corner.

In 2010 I bought a one-way train ticket, took my last $60 and headed to Salt Lake City, Utah. The plan was to spend a few weeks with my good friend that lived there and head to New Mexico and Colorado. I had taken a leave of absence from my job as a prep cook, and I had three weeks of vacation pay coming my way. At the time, I was sick of struggling in Michigan, and I wanted a new place to live. I also was planning on going through my literary fiction novel and publishing it. In 2010, the indie publishing world was starting to blossom, but I didn’t have useful information on the process, and it seemed daunting. So, I ended up putting my writing dreams on the back burner, settling down in Salt Lake City, and I looking for a “real” job.

I went to graduate school because the economy was not in good shape in Michigan when I graduated in 2001. The only job offer I received was in Massachusetts at a school that paid $20,000. It was a prestigious school, but living on $20,000 in Massachusetts was not logical, so I didn’t take the job. Instead, I stayed in Michigan for nine years without being offered a decent job. During that time, I went to graduate school, something I would not recommend for anyone who would like to become a writer, but I wasted time trying to find a way to live my dream, and have a “real” job.

Here’s what I’ve learned about graduate school and “real” jobs. You don’t need either. Graduate school is a place where writers are urged to write literary fiction or literary non-fiction. For the most part, no one is pulling out a character sketch, outline, or genre fiction roadmaps. Instead, students are taught to write in a way that the majority of the world does not care to read. What does this do for you? Not much. You may be published in some academic journals, and your literary fiction may be picked up by a traditional publisher, but this is not the most common path to becoming a successful writer. What is the most common path? Sitting down and writing until you finish a novel. After that, repeat the process and you are on your way to a writing career. I wasted years sitting in classrooms analyzing writers and their work, when I should have been living life and embracing the fact that most people are just looking for a good story. They aren’t looking for an obscure piece of writing that leaves them questioning the meaning of life. Most people want a good story, so focus on telling a story and not writing the next literary fiction smash hit, which will probably only sell about 1,000 copies.

I thought I had learned all of this and incorporated it into my life, until I wrote How Changing My Thoughts, Changed my Life. First of all, it’s barely 25,000 words. Secondly, I couldn’t quite get my point across because as happy as I was, I still wasn’t truly living what I was preaching. Writing has always been my passion and no matter what other paths I’ve pursued, my goal of being a full-time author was the huge elephant in the room.

In  2014 I had just taken on what I considered my dream job. I had been working at a wonderful treatment center as an assistant in the Education department. In April of 2014, I was offered a full-time teaching position. I was elated and thought, “I’ve made it!” But in the back of my mind, the dream of writing was still there. Even so, I told myself that this was the best-case scenario. I loved the place where I was working, and that job would turn out to be the best experience I had in the Education realm, but in reality, it was a barrier. I wanted to be a writer. Regardless of how happy I was to score a full-time teaching position finally, and even though I loved where I was working, the truth was undeniable. In my heart of heart, I wanted to be a writer.

When the Utah State Board of Education began telling me that I was not qualified to keep the job I loved, I thought there’d been a mistake. Unfortunately, they never relented, and four months after I accepted the job I loved, and two months after I published How Changing My Thoughts, Changed My Life, I ended up being forced out of my job by the state regulators. I ended up taking a $10,000 pay cut, and my workdays went from 7 hours to 12. This change in my life truly changed my thoughts.

Life began to deteriorate in several areas, and I found myself slipping back into a negative mindset. A negative mindset can be all-consuming, and since so many people live in negativity, it’s easy to get stuck in that way of thinking. It was not until I started to tend to my spiritual life things started to around. Once again, I was forming a positive frame of mind. As I moved back into a positive mindset, great things started to happen. For example, shortly after my fortieth birthday, I decided that marriage wasn’t everything, and it wasn’t on the agenda for my life. So, instead of looking for someone to date, I would try to meet men who wanted to be friends. I was just looking for men to hang out with, purely platonic friends, and I met one guy. We’ve now been married for just shy of two years.

There is also an example of how changing my thoughts changed my writing life. In December 2018, as I was mourning the loss of my daughter, I decided that life had to change. It could never be the same again after the loss of my Lillie. Everything would be different, and that something was quitting my teaching job and publishing the first book in my detective series. Instead of letting the tragedy destroy my world, I decided that I would allow it to push me toward my dream.

It seems that once I decided that I was going to write and be a successful author, things began to fall into place. All I had to do was let go of the negative and decide that whatever my goal was, it would be achieved. It is a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again, but now that I have applied it to the one constant passion I’ve previously ignored in my life, I think I’ve learned the lesson. Now, I can pull out that old manuscript and do it justice! Change your thoughts, and you will change your life!

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Visiting Lincoln’s Tomb

I hear a great deal about people visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., but I don’t hear a lot about visits to Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Illinois. During our trip to Peoria, we decided to make a pitstop in Springfield. Lincoln is a fascinating figure who helped define the country we live in today. In my life, he is a complicated figure. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which he may have done to bring the country back together, or perhaps he was moved by God. Whatever the case, the man did what he did, and that changed the lives of some of my ancestors. My relatives that ran the Watson plantation in Georgia would have been affected. The other side of the family would have been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. So, like America itself, my history is complicated, making Lincoln a proper figure to visit on my cross country trip.

History is something that we rewrite regularly. Our relatives are memorialized as heroes after death, regardless of how ordinary they may have been. Suddenly, imperfect men and women become gods and goddesses. I don’t view any of my relatives, or figures in history that way. Life is complicated, and we are born into a set time and place, and we can’t say what we would have done, or would not have done if born in a different time. I am very comfortable with the idea that we are flawed, fickle individuals that may be sure of what we believe one day, and completely uncertain the next. It is okay to be this way, for it is what we were born to be. Thinking, feeling people who change our minds when we gather more data. You don’t have to apologize for what your forefathers did or believed, but recognize the past for what it is. Don’t make excuses, or pretend that what occurred was righteous.

Springfield is a mid-size city about an hour away from Peoria. Lincoln’s tomb is in an unassuming, but grand cemetery in the middle of the town. We arrived at the tomb on a cool, cloudy day. The first stop was to make a wish and rub Honest Abe’s nose. The nose is worn from the decades of hands that have come through, whispered their wishes to Abe, and rubbed his nose. After that, we headed for the tomb itself.IMG_1901

Inside the tomb, people milled around, quiet and solemn. Bradley and I made our way through the hall, stopping by each statue and plaque to read the captions. It is interesting visiting the tomb with Bradley. At some point in history, our marriage would have been illegal and the faith my husband was born into, once thought that black people were less than human, and his marriage to me would have made him eligible for “blood atonement.” Brigham Young thought it was better to slit a person’s throat than to let them marry and procreate with someone with African heritage. So, being there with my husband, a man who is the closest I’ve ever found to a kindred was interesting. We stood in front of Lincoln’s tomb, silent and in awe that we were in front of the final resting places of Lincoln, his wife, and all but one of his children. A complicated man, yes, but aren’t we all complicated? Isn’t our country this wonderful and terrible place all at once? Aren’t we all beautiful and tragic, depending on which one of our breaths you catch.

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10 Reasons Why I Quit Teaching

Today is the second day of the school year for my old comrades at the charter school I worked at last year. My final day was in January of this year, and while it took me a few months to decompress and start to feel like an ex-teacher, I genuinely love the fact that I did not have to go back to school this year.

It was hard to quit because I LOVE to teach and my students (for the most part), were precious and amazing. Even so, I could no longer justify being a teacher. Why? Okay, let me try to put it in non-teacher terms. Imagine that you had a significant other, and that person was always doing the following:

demanding all of your time

not recognizing that good mental health requires some space

taking your money

accusing you of never being good enough

placing extremely high expectations on you while expecting you to have extremely low expectations for them.

If you were dating someone like that, it would be a good idea to dump that person. Well, that’s what teaching was like for me, and now that I am living in the post-teacher world, I realize that it was never worth it. I was silly to stick around for six years! What was wrong with me!

Here are my top ten reasons why I am so happy I ended my teaching career.

1. Fighting With The Utah State Board of Education

I had to fight with the Utah State Board of Education to get a teaching license. My master’s degree in English, ten years of experience as a tutor, and four years as a substitute teacher wasn’t good enough for the Utah State Board of Education. For years, I let my passion for teaching push me to fight for my license. Looking back, I wonder what the heck inspired me to fight tooth and nail to make less than $30,000?! What was I thinking! Never again!

Utah is not alone in their constant cry for teachers. Other states have the same conundrum-they want teachers, there are a number of programs for people to obtain teaching licenses, but they want to make sure you jump through as many hoops as possible before you get the license. Keep in mind that a license in teaching is not going provide a sustainable career for most. The states that pay teachers a decent wage are slim. So why jump through all those hoops?

2. Teaching Demanded Year Round Work For Part-Time Pay

Everyone believes that teachers have the summers off. Well, the schools I worked at did not get the memo. Last summer, I sat in a classroom during summer vacation, discussing curriculum. It was the usual story. We needed a new curriculum ASAP, but the administration wasn’t interested in buying materials. That meant we were required to create this new curriculum. We would talk, create all the lessons and a curriculum map, and submit it before August. I taught at charter schools, so this was something that happened every year. Every summer we threw the curriculum we created the previous year out the window and started from scratch. If you haven’t planned an entire school year of curriculum, trust me on the fact that it takes months. So, that is what I spent every summer doing-in-between working my other job. And that brings me to the next point.

3. A Second Job Was a Must

I had a second job during my teaching career, and not just in the summer. I had ONE teaching position that paid well, but it was at a treatment center and the Utah State Board of Education decided that my temporary license made me ineligible for the job, so I had to leave that position. That’s just a very bitter side note that could probably fit under any of these headings, but I’ll leave it at that.

After leaving the job I loved, I moved in public charter schools in Utah, which meant taking a $10,000 pay cut. This pay cut required me to downsize my life, which included moving into a slummy apartment that was infested with mice. As the price of rent rose throughout the Salt Lake Valley, the pay from my full-time teaching job was able to pay for rent and utilities, but the second job paid for groceries and all my other bills. And no, I did not have the spoils like cable, super-fast Internet, or a fancy car.

There was one year that I made $38,000, and it was great, but the school would later inform me that my pay had been a mistake. They meant to pay me $19,000, but accounting isn’t a strong point for charter schools. That’s a long story, but other than that year, and the job I loved but was only able to work for three months, I made less than $30,000. So, I always worked a second job during my teaching career. Not only did I not have summers off, but I also worked a second job throughout the year.

4. More Demands Each Year

The first day of the school year for teachers is the day when the new expectations are put on the table. You head back to work two weeks before the students arrive, and you listen to how everything that you did last year was wrong, and how everything is going to be different this year. Everything. You might have to run after-school clubs, work more lunch detail, teach extra classes that you won’t be paid for, etc., etc.

Increased demands arrive on the fly throughout the school year. You will need to be adjust your schedule accordingly. The school must come first and if that means you can’t make it to family functions, or maintain decent mental health-so be it. Teachers are expected to build their lives around the school calendar.

5. Negative Vibes

Teacher angst is legendary. While you’re rushing to eat your lunch, make copies, and use the bathroom during your 30 minutes lunch break, you’re privy to all the angry teachers in the faculty lounge. Teachers are stressed and upset, but they can’t be that way in the classroom, or they’ll get complaints. So, during those brief breaks, you either lock yourself in your classroom, or you head to the faculty lounge. If you do the latter, expect to be doused in negativity. The fury of the teacher faculty lounge will wilt your spirit.

6. Teaching Careers Are Short Lived

Low pay makes teaching a career that is easy to get into and easy to leave. You meet a few different types of people in the teacher world-young bright-eyed recent graduates who are going to change the world, and older, starry-eyed older, second career seekers, who are also all set to change the world. Expect your neighbors to change frequently. Each summer, the administration will be looking for new teachers to fill the holes.

Another reason teaching careers are easy to leave, is because you can easily find a job with less stress and slightly lower pay. For example, my last teaching position paid a little more than what the average Starbucks barista makes, but the barista doesn’t have to take home 4-5 hours of work.

7. Teaching Philosophies Change Frequently

This year we’re focusing on STEM! Last year it was reading! The year after that-physical education! Ra! Ra! Ra! This is the next shiny object that is going to rocket test scores to the moon! Let’s do it!

Every couple of years, the guiding philosophy behind education in the United States changes. There will be articles about miracles at schools that implemented the new ideas, and old ideas will be labeled something new. The shiny new object will be the answer to all the problems in your school, and things will only improve after you assimilate into the new teaching philosophy.

8. Your Family Will Suffer

If I ever want to strike pure fear in my husband’s heart, all I have to do is say that I’m considering a teaching position. His eyes get wide, and he becomes anxious. He volunteers to work overtime at his job, and he asks what he can do to make sure I never return to teaching. When I told him that I was considering signing up to be a substitute teacher, he was petrified. He was so upset because he had watched me stress about the job to the point where he was worried that I was going to get sick. I was constantly working at home, heading into work at 6:00 a.m. and not getting home until 5:00 p.m. We didn’t get to spend much time together, and there were plenty of nights our plans were interrupted because I had to plan lessons, grade papers, or stay late for parent-teacher conferences.

9. Anxiety and Depression Are Coming-Just You Wait!

Every Sunday night of the school year, I would find myself anxious and sad. Why? I had to go to work the next morning, and I was dreading the stress and pressure to be the perfect teacher. There were nights that I was up until 3:00 in the morning, tossing and turning, thinking about all I had to do the next day. First, I had to get to school early. Hopefully, everything was ready to go. If not, I would print off anything I needed (if my work computer cooperated), oh and I had to remember to take my personal computer, even though I wasn’t allowed to use it to print, but just in case my antiquated work computer wouldn’t turn on. What if the principal came by to observe my class and thought I wasn’t doing a good job? Which techniques was I suppose to implement? Oh yeah, there’s a “war on boys,” according to the administration, so I have to add in some of the activities that were strongly suggested at the beginning of the year, or else I could get written up. The list just goes on and on, and by October, you’re going to be anxious and possibly depressed. In time, if you stick around long enough, that will become your normal state of being.

10. Poor Health and Weight Gain

There is a reason teachers are always dropping off glazed donuts and candy in the teachers’ lounge. The job sucks, so sugary carbs are used to satiate the urge to sob daily. While you are nursing your depression with poor food choices, your body will begin to spread, and the number on the scale will increase. I gained 30 pounds during my teaching career-25 in the last two years. Now that I am no longer teaching, I have lost 25 pounds. Coincidence? I think not. I am back to eating kale, exercising, and enjoying life. No need for the sugary treats!

Last But Not Least

Teaching was a fall-back career-just in case the writing didn’t work out. Well, I never truly gave the writing career a shot because I was scared of judgment-what if people didn’t like my writing? What if I couldn’t sell any copies? I finally came to the realization that the judgment and chance of failure were less scary than remaining in the classroom. Now that I am giving writing a proper shot, it seems that this is a career I can have. All I have to do is keep writing and putting work out into the world. If I give 110%, like I did every year I was teaching, I will be a very successful writer!

Deciding to leave teaching behind has given me a new lease on life. This year, I am NOT going back to school and I love it!

Canva - Brown Scrabble Tiles on Yellow Paper