Still More Idle Musing on Recent Writing Work

Once again, I find myself thinking about the freelance work I do, reprising things from here and here as I have a little bit of idle time between projects. As I do, I recall not only the work I did in the classroom–more than a year ago, now, which is a strange thing to consider–but a large part of what led me to that work. I often tell people I was going to be a band director when I grew up; I went to undergrad with that intent, and it did not work out, for reasons I’m not going to get into here. When it didn’t, I switched majors, thinking I was going to teach high school English, instead; I was later persuaded to go to graduate school and try to become an English professor, which also didn’t work out, but it was of a piece with most of the rest of my life to that point.

Yeah, kind of like that.
Photo by Oziel Gu00f3mez on

It used to be the case–and it was so well into my graduate work–that I spent more hours reading than doing anything else other than breathing. I would walk between classes with my nose in a book; I would spend my free time poring over pages. It used to annoy my colleagues in Deuce-38, in fact; they would come into the bullpen office to find me leaning back in my chair, reading some novel or other, while they scrambled to get one thing or another done–or so I have been told by more than one of them, anyway. (I note, though, that I had arranged matters such that the novel-reading I was doing helped me with course papers that became conference papers, a publication that later became a blog post, and my master’s thesis.) I know it annoyed some of my high school and earlier teachers, who would see me with some paperback open on my desk and my schoolwork ready to lay down, completed, on theirs.

To be sure, I have not done as much reading of late as I should, and certainly not for leisure. It’s part of why I am glad to have the freelance work I have had (the money is nice, admittedly); drafting lesson plans and writing reviews help me to read when I would not otherwise be doing so. I have to read the books to do the work with them I’m paid to do, after all, and the fact that it is work and that it does draw pay means I can justify to myself the time spent doing it. (Yes, I know, it’s shitty in some ways to think in terms of “If it don’t pay, then there’s no way,” but my debts have not been cancelled, and I continue to have bills to pay.) And as I’ve been doing the work, I’ve felt my old skills, honed from long practice and the kind of focused attention that school still sometimes permits, reawaken; I’m seeing things in what I read that I would not otherwise see, that I do not think many readers see, and I find myself wanting to explore them deeply (in ways I cannot afford to take the time to do at the moment since I do have to work, both at the freelancing and at my day job).

More, the reading that the freelance work has been having me do has helped me to model better behavior for my daughter. As I write this, she is getting back into school as a first-grader, and she has reading homework that sometimes presents problems–not because she cannot do it, but because she does not want to do it, preferring to sit and watch videos on her tablet. Certainly, I have no problem with the tablet-watching in itself; I watch videos online, as I am sure that most of the people who read in this webspace do. And I understand, along with Twain’s Tom Sawyer, that “Work consists of what a body is obliged to do,” and the obligation itself makes a thing onerous that might well be enjoyed otherwise. But if I am reading, then she has more reason to do so, I think–or, at the very least, I am showing her what I want her to do, rather than simply telling her and expecting it to be done–or, worse, letting her figure it out on her own without any guidance.

It’s not like it’s a can opener, after all…

Care to help keep me in books in the coming year?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 158: Mad Ship, Chapter 20

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Piracy,” opens with Wintrow observing from the deck of the Vivacia as Kennit coordinates with Sorcor aboard the Marietta to seize another passing ship. Kennit exhorts the ship to the pursuit, and Wintrow considers the lead-up to it; the ship being pursued, the Crosspatch, had boasted of being able to evade Kennit and continue working as an elite slaver, and Kennit could not resist the open challenge.

Mr. Crosspatch | Mr. Men Wiki | Fandom
It’s an odd namesake…
Image taken from the Mr. Men Fandom,
used for commentary.

Action to seize the Crosspatch ensues, with most of the work done by the crew of the Marietta, Wintrow having warned of the peril of spilling more blood on the liveship’s decks. The former priest frets somewhat about the carnage he watches alongside Kennit, but the pirate captain replies with strangely philosophical musings that give Wintrow pause. The pirates take the slaver, and Kennit commands Wintrow to accompany him to survey the takings.

In Bingtown, Althea makes for the Paragon, considering the liveship in a new way after seeing the gifts Amber had provided. She takes in the alterations to and maintenance on the craft as she joins Brashen and Amber–and the freed slave, Clef–aboard. Once all are gathered and the parts others have played are noted, they confer with the ship about the possibility of undertaking the mission to recover the Vivacia. The ship is hesitant, but Amis Ludluck, the ostensible owner of the ship, accompanies them in the discussion, as does Restart. She affirms the sale of him to them, explaining herself bitterly. Restart receives his fee, and he and Amis withdraw. Clef moves to comfort the sullen ship.

Aboard the Crosspatch, Sorcor reports to Kennit as the latter boards and surveys the taken ship. Wintrow accompanies him on his slow tour of the seized vessel. Some of the slaves aboard aver a desire to be delivered to their intended purchaser, and Kennit opines on the evils of slavery. He and Wintrow also confer briefly about the latter’s future; Wintrow affirms his bond to the Vivacia.

That night, as the three ships sail off for Divvytown, Kennit rehearses the aftermath of the day’s actions. Etta prepares herself for Kennit and approaches Wintrow, where he sits with an injured crewman near the Vivacia‘s figurehead. They confer briefly, and Etta moves to Kennit, who confers with the ship about their plans. Shortly after, Kennit and Etta retire to his cabin for an intimate interlude.

Later, Wintrow reports to Kennit the death of the injured crewman. After dismissing the boy, Kennit confers with the charm on his wrist, which rebukes him for how he uses those around him. It is a bitter, unpleasant conversation, and it bodes ill for Wintrow.

The chapter does much to reaffirm Kennit’s manipulative nature, reminding the reader that Kennit is not a good person by any standard. It also does somewhat to highlight the problems with attempting to use intellectual argument to prevail upon a corrupt person; Wintrow searches for a flaw in Kennit’s arguments, only to have more piled upon him before he can adequately refute the points made–and it is not because Wintrow cannot make the argument, but because Kennit does not care about the flaws in his own reasoning. He is, rather, interested in having his will prevail–and in a way that leads Wintrow along, rather than occasioning overt resistance. It is the kind of thin veneer of intellectualism that is often prized among the disingenuous and discriminatory, a papering-over of vileness that more people would do far better to attend to than currently do.

Help me start this year off right?

A Note on the New Year

I find myself once again with a post in this webspace coming out as people wake, many hung over, for the first time in the year. Unlike last time, I will offer a bit of retrospection; the year now gone away was a strange one and hard for many people, and I do not think I am alone either in being glad to see it go or in hoping that the one now started will be better. I can hope there will be less upheaval, certainly, and that the year now gone will be an exceptional year–and that the normal that emerges will be better for more people than not.

I don’t do champagne, but I think the point is clear.
Photo by cottonbro on

It is a bit cliché, of course. Much as I deplore such things, I am not immune to them; I am a product of my backgrounds and situations, after all, although I am not wholly governed by them. None of us are, though all of us must contend with who and where and when we come from. What the past year will force us to contend with is not entirely clear, although some things stand out, as others have observed with far more incisive wit than I find myself able to muster as I write this–if ever I can do so. Not even the staircase seems to be helping my thoughts on the matter this time.

I do not mean to make many changes in this webspace, at least not in the near future. The Hobb Reread will still go forward, and I hope to add to the Fedwren Project a bit more this year than last. Since I’m still not teaching and still not looking to do so, I’ll not be returning to posting lesson plans or class reports, although I might have some other things come up. I don’t yet know. I don’t expect to, really; I’ve looked at the past for far more of my life than I’ve looked to the future.

Maybe I ought to see about changing some of that.

Am I an auld acquaintance now forgot? Or will you send a little something my way?