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My father, DailyKOS blogger leftyparent, turned me on to an article in Psychology Today about a woman named Kate Fridkis and her unschooling experience. After reading it and realizing how much her experience mirrored my own, I was compelled to comment, and encouraged (by my father) to blog about my experiences, here. I use the word 'abbreviated' because there's a lot I could expound upon, but I think this diary sums it up pretty nicely.

After graduating 8th grade at a 'progressive' charter school (with mixed results) my parents gave me the option to attend a traditional public high school, to home school, or to continue on the charter school route. I ended up at a traditional school (out of pure curiosity) and lasted through 9th grade, at which point I realized that I was very done with what traditional schooling had to offer.

While I only officially 'unschooled' from 10th grade and beyond, I did not go the traditional college route, either. Like Fridkis, I got to explore my interests without constriction or judgment, during those years of freedom after 9th grade. And, like her, I gravitated toward fantasy (and later, sci-fi) writing. I had grown up in a rich tradition of fantasy and science fiction literature, and when I thought about it, had been writing stories since I was a young girl... you know, when I could fit it in.

I ended up heavily involved in online roleplaying communities, wherein I could borrow their worlds and create my own characters; weave my own narratives with other people, young and old, all over the world (some of them I even got to meet, later on). This was my first chance to flex my writing muscles and two important things happened -- I got all that lousy writing out the way (that you just have to do when you get started -- practice makes perfect), and I learned not only that I wanted to write novels, but that I quite conceivably could.

I had a small college fund waiting in the wings, which I decided was too precious to touch until I was absolutely ready. So, in order to move out, I got a job at a mom and pop breakfast joint when I was 18 (as a server, initially), quickly working my way up to manager. Despite being 19 at that point (I held the job until I was 22), I perpetually had people ask me 'Are you the owner?'. I have to attribute my poise and overall competency to my unschooling years (when I got to be heavily involved in youth leadership in my Unitarian Universalist community). And I must say, I got a heady dose of perspective working a day job during my college years; truly coming to understand what my life could be if I did not become a writer and did not have a college degree to cushion the blow.

After four years, the job became a strain on my creativity. I've been working on a science fiction novel since I was 18 (that has slowly morphed into book one in a Young Adult Sci-Fi Trilogy) and have been periodically taking courses through UCLA's Writer Program, which despite being labeled as 'extension' and requiring nothing in the way of credits (only money), is considered a reputable program. For me, it's been sufficient college experience. Often, in the course of writing, I have to do a lot of research, and I end up learning a lot of new things. That's the beauty of the internet -- it brings the classroom to you. In fact, the majority of my UCLA courses have been online, with an instructor in Kentucky (whom I absolutely adore).

I'll be 23 in July. Just last September, I decided to quit the job that nursed me into adulthood and subsist off my fund to make some serious progress on my book. I completed a first draft in less than three months, continuing to study through UCLA, and am now knee deep in the 2nd draft (along with loose planning for books two and three). I'm confident that when I do start looking for part time work again, I'll have enough done that I can begin the process of querying agents, or at least, be very close. I'm very grateful that I was able to use my college fund in this way... I can't think of how it could've benefited my dreams and my budding career more.

That's my story in a nutshell. I'm still nervous about the next 6 months, as I watch the money that's been my safety net dwindle beneath me. But, being allowed to cultivate my own agency has engendered a confidence in myself that keeps me afloat, and I know that even when I look for work again, it'll only be temporary. In retrospect, it's easy to see that being able to explore my interests so freely is what set me on this path, and no matter how tough it's been, working my way to this point, I wouldn't do anything differently.

Originally posted to chicgeek on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:26 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight and Education Alternatives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Congrats on the book (10+ / 0-)

    I'm glad you're following your dream. Let me know when you're published and I'll order a copy, both for me and to throw on the book shelf to tantalized my home schooled kids ;). We're more an eclectic homeschool household, a bit of unschooling as well as some structured, but I give them choices where I can. My son's a bit different though, high functioning autistic and with some narrow interests he'd focus on to the exclusion of other things (like Algebra). This works well for us. It's good to hear of other methods though, ones that may work well for his sister once she's older.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:50:04 PM PDT

  •  Learning how to learn (12+ / 0-)

    is the most important thing any one  of us can learn.  

    Also, learning how to work hard at whatever one does is also invaluable.  

    I know  you will do  well no matter  what.

    •  Appreciate the sentiment (12+ / 0-)

      And I couldn't agree more. Managing a breakfast place (and a bakery, I forgot to mention) taught me a lot about working hard, and that tenacity can apply across the board. I think I'm a lot more serious about pursuing my dream, having had that experience, knowing just how much energy I could end up sinking into something else, and how unhappy that would make me, ultimately.

      While college is certainly the route for some, and I know plenty of motivated kids who are eager to go as soon as they can, I do often wonder if it would be best for kids to work a day job after highschool while they try to figure out college (for whatever length of time they wish), instead of just diving in, head first. Maybe they would take it more seriously, too, and they would consider the ramifications of the debt they might be saddling themselves with when they're all done. You know, if it's worth it.

      •  I think encoraging people to consider (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        suzq, radical simplicity

        that many paths are open is good, but some of us really did show up at collage knowing what we wanted to do, and ready to work toward it.

        That is certainly different from collage being an automatic default, but I think the framing of know why you want to go to collage before you go is a better one then a frame of when and after what.

        "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

        by Geek of all trades on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 10:08:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hey! I have been reading your dad for quite (8+ / 0-)

    awhile now. It's nice to read you!

    My kids (17 & 14) are unschooled as are my girlfriend's kids (19 & 23). Her oldest son started out in his early teens writing online. It's funny because she used to bribe him to write when they weren't unschooling. But anyway, what you wrote about your online writing years reminds me of how it was for him. He traveled to Australia last year with a number of writer friends he met online. He ended up at Cal State Long Beach where he is in the fiction program.

    I look forward to hearing more about your book.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 07:57:10 PM PDT

    •  Nice to hear about other unschoolers (5+ / 0-)

      My dad's blog is great. I'm really proud of him, and I'm always tickled to read the pieces that involve me personally, particularly reading the comments... it's entertaining to watch strangers debate the merits of the parenting choices he made when I was a child.

      As for your friend's son... I also went to Australia to meet my online friends! How crazy is that? I stayed with the closest friend I had made, for a whole month, and together we traveled to different parts of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney, Cairns) to meet several other people involved in the roleplaying game. A few of them even held a 'conference' in my honor. It was an incredible experience, and a great introduction to a foreign country, to boot.

      Thank you for the support!

  •  I hope you decide to write more on dkos (8+ / 0-)

    We need to hear as much as we can from adults who have been homeschooled, especially progressively unschooled, so that more people can learn about the successes and realize that unschooling is a valid solution for many teens. Thanks for writing this!

    •  You're welcome! (5+ / 0-)

      I'm happy to share my experiences. My dad's been prodding me to blog on DailyKOS for awhile, actually... my primary hesitation is that I'm dedicated to making progress with my book at the moment, and my creative energy is not bottomless. I have to be sparing with what I decide to devote it to, but I do feel this is a worthy cause. It's always nice to meet like-minded people who are interested in alternative education.

      Thanks for reading.

      •  Boy, do I get that! (2+ / 0-)

        Creative energy is not boundless. I have found that some of my better writing, however, gives back to me. When I publish something here and it sees a lot of eyes, it encourages me to write more.

        Congrats on getting picked up by Community Spotlight, btw. Building a name here might help you find an agent in the future!

        •  Thanks angelajean (0+ / 0-)

          Fair point -- when I write something well it's not necessarily draining. Sometimes it can be really encouraging. What's funny is that the comment that originated this piece did not take me very long and came to me very easily. I tweaked it a bit before submitting, but again, not much. I'm surprised by all the attention it's getting... now I feel like it's a tough act to follow chuckles.

          Not really, though... as a writer you come to understand the value of consistency. Cool idea, too... about building a name, finding an agent. I like the way you think!

    •  Seconded (0+ / 0-)

      If only for the sake of my teens who are unschooling. They especially enjoy reading the stories of others who have successfully unschooled, since it's such a rare phenomenon!

  •  Thanks so much for sharing! (5+ / 0-)

    I am the Mom of two unschoolers and it is very encouraging to read about your adventures.

    My children are taking very different paths -- one working, one in a charter school headed to college -- and we'll see where those choices lead. Like you, each one is doing what seems right to them. It's inspiring to see young people make such thoughtful decisions, not just following someone else's plan.

    Best of luck to you with your books. It sounds like you will be able to handle whatever that path brings you! :)

    •  Great to hear about your kids (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's encouraging to me to hear that your kids are unschooling, just like I did. It can be easy to forget that I'm not alone in this. Although, I do admit I get a kick out of the stupefied stares people give me when I tell them I 'dropped out of high school' (my parents opened their own 'school' so I wouldn't be a truant, but... no official degree or anything). I used to be embarrassed, but now I sort of own it, and like to be provocative.

    •  Mine were on very divergent paths (0+ / 0-)

      And in some ways they still are, but both have recently decided they want to go to college. One wants to major in robotics and the other wants to go to film school for animation and graphic design.

      It's been fascinating to watch them grow into the people they are becoming, all of their own volition. it's so hard to trust your own decision making when you first choose the unschooling path, but boy, when it all starts to come together, it's amazing!

  •  Very interesting read (5+ / 0-)

    A friends of ours is unschooling her kids in a way. They went through a progressive charter for a long while, but once they reached high school (after 9th grade like yourself) the charter offered them less than it used to. It became a little rougher as the cohort for her kids started leaving for other high schools. What her kids do is go up to the university every day and do projects in the library that she oversees. The charter was nice enough to allow them to take science classes (on the charter's dime) while they pursue this.

    On another front, I'm a teacher of creative writing at a university. I'm conflicted by your approach simply because the question of fantasy/sci-fi in the creative writing classroom has always been an interesting one for me to deal with. Some teachers don't allow it at all. I always do. But my advice, I fear, is of the sort that will surely keep you unpublished. My constant requests for character development and exposition leave students in the genre cold precisely because the genre eschews that kind of the thing. And I get it. Nonetheless, I find it difficult to challenge such students in the way I know best.

    I ask them: what do they think of Ursula Le Guin or Phillip K. Dick or Samuel Delany (writers who excel at character development) but they respond with Terry Pratchett.

    This is a long-winded way of saying that university literature classes (not only creative writing classes) will challenge you as a young writer to think about the theories behind what you're doing, to consider the relation of literary or fictional language to culture, and to ultimately grow as a writer who can challenge the very confines of the genre.

    I'm not sure that this sort of instruction or experience is worth the $$$ (for myself, it was) but I am pretty confident that all writers stand to gain from it.

    There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

    by upstate NY on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 06:03:14 AM PDT

    •  Just a quibble- to me, Pratchett is today's Swift- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hairylarry, radical simplicity

      his stories are parables revealing the foibles of great and small, with great wit. His characters are a mixed bag but many of them have real depth.

      Don't forget that Philip Dick's character development can all be summed up by the experiences of the character in "The Solar Shoe-Salesman" "by Chipdip K. Kill" ( a pastiche from 1973 by Sladek) in which life went from bad to worse, in a suburban middle-class environment. I think I can argue that his characters don't so much develop, as fester. But that's a quibble.

      •  Parables and allegories are great (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radical simplicity

        but, inasmuch as they rely on types, that's the bias against the genre among us literary types. Parables and allegories by definition require types.

        I do appreciate what you wrote. I have only sampled the much preferred Pratchett and Gaiman based on my students' predilections.

        There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

        by upstate NY on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 09:43:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You might try reading "Going Postal", my fave, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          upstate NY

          for one person's take on "the best of Pratchett".

          I disagree with hairylarry a little bit about Vance; I love reading Vance but don't think his characters have to confront choices as fraught as, say, Philip Dick's do. In a way their over-the-top adventure plots get the protagonist through a lot of hard choices by just saying "do this, or be sliced to pieces by barbarians" which is less of a choice than an imperative. But his books are SO much fun and Adam Reith, for instance, is a very down-to-earth character despite his near-superhero powers.

          •  Thanks, great advice (0+ / 0-)

            I'm trying to keep up with my students.

            This is all new to me because less than a decade ago, students were not into sci-fi and fantasy as much as they are now.

            A survey of my recent Lit. class of 40 students showed that less than 5 had read Hemingway or Toni Morrison or any of the well-known American writers of the 20th century. Pratchett was easily more popular.

            There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

            by upstate NY on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 09:22:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I wonder if they're totally alienated from those (0+ / 0-)

              authors, like my teenagers. Either because of race or generation or both, my kids just don't find anything in the current 'canon' of authors that relates to them. So 'young adult fantasy' is much more appealing, just because of the characters. And at least the current 'canon' is not all white male, as it was when I was their age.

              My older teen does appreciate Hemingway, of whom at least you can say he's terse, but it's a struggle to get my younger kid interested in anything that's not fantasy. And he's a voracious reader.

              •  As I said in my response to upstate NY (0+ / 0-)

                I'll admit that I haven't broached the majority of the literary 'classics' myself, and I am an aspiring author. A part of me feels heinous for not putting in the effort... I'm sure that had I gone to college I would've been forced to contend with a few of them.

                I remember attempting to read 'Moby Dick' and not getting very far at all... (it could've been the free addition I downloaded to my Kindle that wasn't laid out very well, but the prose was hard to absorb; a dense narrative full of what felt like inconsequential information right off the bat).

                Likewise, for a Novel Writing class I took my teacher had us reading 'The Great Gatsby', which I honestly couldn't even finish. The writing was beyond beautiful, but that was part of the problem -- it was so dense with metaphors that I kept losing track of what was going on. And when I was rooted enough in the story to have a sense of the plot, I realized that I didn't particularly care about any of these high-society people and their petty, over-privileged problems. On the whole, it was entirely underwhelming to me.

                I realize I'm just barely skimming the surface of a deep reservoir of fiction that is definitely important; reflecting bygone eras and the people who brought life to them. But I'll admit that I rarely read outside of genre fiction (I'm pretty lenient on what the genre is, but I'm very into larger than life fiction that lets me escape into worlds so far beyond our own that I could never, and would never have, experienced them myself). As I said in another comment, I do try to be well read in the genres that I intend to write in, and while I suppose 'literary' fiction is somewhat universal, it's still not what I intend to write. That's kind of how I rationalize the narrow lens through which I read. If I were to attempt to write something 'literary', I'd definitely read more of it.

      •  Pratchett is the 20th Century Shakespeare (0+ / 0-)

        Retelling all the same stories that Shakespeare retold.

        And the Tiffany Aching trilogy is all about character development.

        Much as I love Pratchett and LeGuin, Dick and Delaney, Jack Vance remains my favorite. He could really bring characters to life. As does all great fantasy and SF.


        Hairy Larry

        Please join the Protest Music Group where we sing truth to power.

        by hairylarry on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 05:45:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sci Fi genre and character development (0+ / 0-)
      My constant requests for character development and exposition leave students in the genre cold precisely because the genre eschews that kind of the thing.
      Off on a tangent here but I'm curious about you saying that the genre eschews character development.  I'm the diarist's mom and although I'm not necessarily wide read in it I love the genre...and I love character development.  Ursula Le Guin is one of my favorite authors.  In her book of essays "The Language of the Night" she writes about her choice to write in the genre to explore the human condition.

      Perhaps some authors and readers are not into character development but that is true of any genre isn't it?  I would think sci fi no more or less so.

      I think it ironic that creative writer teachers would disallow creative writing in their classes!  It is the essence of unschooling to follow one's interests.  Isn't it just as possible that students writing in any genre might not be interested in character development?  If a student is passionate about scifi but not necessarily into character development then have them write scifi and then let the teaching be about character other words, be authentic.

      •  Yes, I agree with all that you wrote (0+ / 0-)

        Character development has been the bane of innovative fiction writers for many centuries. Character is where it started, and because of that, we still have fiction that closely resembles what fiction did when the character was at the height of its popularity (Victorian England). The current era does not require character development in the same way, but yet people resort to it. It's a concept that needs to be contested. Sci-Fi in general is one genre where concepts, systems and processes take on greater importance than character.

        Nonetheless, as human writing in human language, it's pretty tough to get away from having our writing produce a form of human consciousness, and that inevitably leads to a reintroduction of character no matter how badly you try to get away from it. Alain Robbe-Grillet said no one has managed to knock character off its pedestal.

        I was citing Ursula LeGuin as someone who does develop character in her stories pretty well. The reason why genre writing becomes difficult in the workshop--however--is that frequently the emphasis in literary language is on avoiding stereotypes and ready-mades. So, if a student mentions a "mage" or a "Berserker" or a variety of other types that appear in fantasy, the writer is required to develop those ideas instead of borrowing from a toolbox of types. I'm afraid that advice--to move away from the stereotype--may present problems to a publisher of such fiction who knows his/her audience is well acquainted with the genre and does not read for the development of character.

        I could point you to reviews of fictions written by people such as Brian Evenson and Paul West in the genres where reader after reader batters them for taking an interest in character instead of emphasizing concepts or ideas.

        We have sci-fi workshops and literature classes as well. I'm only pointing out that, one, the sorts of concerns one associates with literary language do not cross over easily into the genres, and two, we need to contest all of these ideas, all the time. Whether literary stylists or genre writers. Thomas Pynchon, for one, is a writer considered literary, but his sensibility on character development is much closer to that in the genres--or, maybe I should say, cartoons.

        There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

        by upstate NY on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 11:47:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Even in SF&F (0+ / 0-)

          Stereotype and cliche are still to be avoided. 'Mage' is about as detailed and specified as 'artist'. The modern world and historical fiction are also full of toolboxes of types.

          Pratchett's works are very much about taking the stereotypes of stock fantasy, hitting them with a large hammer, and twisting them out of shape.

          The issue is 'instead' as an approach and not 'and'.

          "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

          by Geek of all trades on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 12:58:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I just gave a few examples (0+ / 0-)

            but there are many more. An entire book of berserkers and several other stocks with which many were unfamiliar.

            I'll give another example: William Gibson's Neuromancer. He is totally unwilling to move beyond stereotypes. There are a great many functions his characters fulfill that he takes for granted.

            There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

            by upstate NY on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 04:47:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  On the topic of character development... (4+ / 0-)

          It's so interesting that you bring it up. I know a bit about archetypes, both in character and in plot (I'll be the first to admit that I'm writing 'the Hero's Journey' with a MacGuffin thrown in there somewhere... chuckles). There's a Joseph Campbell quote I love (on top of the fact that he coined the phrase that sums up my life philosophy: follow your bliss), which I keep on my desktop and refer to often:

          The hero path… where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where he had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
          When I read that it kind of blew my mind, because that's certainly the essence of the story I'm writing (I know he's written a lot on the subject). I know about this idea that there are only a few stories that keep being retold. Likewise, the characters that inhabit them tend to reoccur, and often perpetuate stereotypes we're not even aware that we hold. In this way, stories can be unhelpful (or even, damaging) to our overall evolution... because storytelling is a big part of how we process what life means, what roles we all can play, and how we can be with each other in the world. Speculative fiction, at it's best, helps us reexamine the human condition, ideally in ways we haven't before.

          I agree with you that it's crucial to look at fiction, particularly genre fiction, through this lens. Exposure to quality fiction and the analysis of it (and really everything else) is a big part of what writing is... so I do my best to compensate for the experience I might have garnered in a college setting.

          'Character development' has actually always been my strong point. For all my weakness in other areas (worldbuilding, namely... that's tough), I've been observing and reflecting on the human condition my entire life. People fascinate me, and I'm sure that's due in part to my parents, who encouraged me as a child to talk about the people in my life, to break down their personalities and actions and understand the motivations behind what drove them. It went beyond that... we wouldn't simply talk about my friends, we'd talk about their parents and their family dynamics; we'd talk about my teachers and the students they taught and why there might be conflict between them. And to a lesser degree, we talked about the characters in the books that I read. Just to give a few examples.

          I spend a lot of time on my own, thinking about the people I know, even just tangentially, trying to piece them together like a puzzle. The more I learn about them (whether or not they know me well or even think much about me), the more invested I am in fully understanding who they are, even if only privately. I do it unconsciously, and as I learned in my online roleplaying days, this grew into an aptitude for creating characters who not only felt lifelike, but stood apart from the cardboard cutouts that many of the people playing with me were happy to inhabit (and that I always found so unbearably dull).

          Creating characters and watching them develop organically is the most exciting part of writing fiction for me. I love shattering stereotypes, because I like to think I've done it in my own life. And having read much of the YA that's out nowadays, I can safely say that I stand a good chance of making an impression -- I seem to understand people a lot better than many of these budding authors. Not merely what makes people tick, but what makes them compelling, because I've spent so much of my life being compelled by them.

          Not to toot my own horn too much, though. There's always so much more for me to learn! But I guess I wouldn't want you to worry about me personally. I can only speak for myself, but I do feel like I've had a fair amount of exposure and I understand the vital subtext of storytelling. It's my goal to utilize this to be thought provoking, and challenge the paradigms that people have been content with for so long. This also reflects my upbringing -- I was raised outside of traditional gender roles, traditional power dynamics, and traditional expectations about my responsibilities moving through society. I guess it's no surprise that I would have something to say, and storytelling is the perfect medium. I'm confident that my life's experience will be reflected in the things that I write, and that it's opened my eyes to many undercurrents of human coexistence that some people never reflect upon. I've always been a deep thinker; I guess a part of me hopes to help others break through the surface of their own preconceptions.

          •  Great explanations, thanks (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Very interesting

            There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

            by upstate NY on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 04:45:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Agreed... great explanation! Well said! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Your mom and I are wrestling with that "hero path" concept in the great sci-fi/fantasy TV show story arcs we have been watching on Netflix - Farscape, Buffy, Life on Mars, MI5, Dollhouse, Firefly, X-Files, Ashes to Ashes, etc.

            The invented contexts of these shows and the ability to tear characters apart and reassemble them in normally impossible ways adds a whole dimension to storytelling.  Kind of like what Picasso and abstraction did for painting and visual art.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles

            by leftyparent on Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 08:43:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  As a Genre reader of SF&F (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radical simplicity

      Character development is great, but at least in modern times, exposition is to be minimized when compared to a show don't tell philosophy that trusts a reader to be able to figure things out.

      This is very much a reaction to old SF where there was a lot of dry exposition that many people found unappealing.

      One of the things that Pratchett excels at is flow, keeping events active and moving, something that more introspective writers are less good at.

      As a compromise between the two, you may want to check out someone like Bujold as a stepping stone in the middle that they may learn something from (and a great example of doing bad things to your characters to give them a chance to grow).

      "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

      by Geek of all trades on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 10:33:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting tangent (0+ / 0-)

        Gotta go so will try to reply later...not sure if you're saying that character development happens through exposition and telling rather than showing?

        •  No, I was talking about (0+ / 0-)

          how exposition is something that is something to be avoided if you want to have a more immerse reading experience.

          The only thing I talked about on character development was the parenthetical about Bujold at the end.

          "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

          by Geek of all trades on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 11:14:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But here you are assuming that readers (0+ / 0-)

            can't get immersed in exposition, so you have in mind one kind of reader.

            For instance, there are books written by people like Thomas Mann that are full of exposition, and it is quite easy to suspend disbelief precisely because of the nature of the narrative voice giving the exposition.

            There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

            by upstate NY on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 11:49:53 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sure, and it can be well done (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              upstate NY

              but there is a push to avoid it because it often is not well done, and it affects the flow of the story.

              Much of the best exposition that I've seen has been in a strong character voice, so that it is both exposition, and an exploration of character at the same time.

              "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

              by Geek of all trades on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 01:00:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, wonderful. Thanks (0+ / 0-)

        I don't understand what "show don't tell" means so, I'm incapable of teaching it. I've thought about t long and hard but can't get there.

        There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

        by upstate NY on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 11:48:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There was a great essay a few years ago (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          upstate NY

          on the Tor web site that was about reading skills expected in SF that were not expected in literature.

          The example given was comparing an SF reader who reads Victorian Literature with a non-genre reader. If you have a scene with a ride in a phaeton down to a ball, the SF reader will figure out that it is some kind of carriage, likely pulled by horses, and possibly slowly piece together details in their head. Many other people seem to prefer the footnoted version, which adds an explanation for a reader unfamiliar with such a thing.

          If you were writing for a reader who always needed explanations, you would start to include the footnotes in line with the text.

          This is the "show, don't tell" of establishing setting.  

          "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

          by Geek of all trades on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 01:06:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with Geek of all trades here... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Geek of all trades, FloridaSNMOM

        I like to think of exposition as a 'necessary evil'. My writing teacher, Lynn Hightower, has an expression: 'Show Emotions, Tell Facts'. I think the first half is easy enough to figure out, given that people are unique, so to write something like: "He was angry" says little about the character -- the way someone gets angry, the way they look and act... that's vital in any story.

        But Lynn urges not to get tripped up on the 'show' don't 'tell' part. In her mind, it's perfectly acceptable to just straight up tell the reader (within the narrative) the facts they'll need to know to ground themselves in the story... so long as each 'scene' is balanced (she cautions against more than 30% of a scene/chapter devoted to backstory, and has another amusing expression: 'backstory rapture' wherein the author falls into a pit of lovely exposition and the reader has suddenly completely lost their purchase in the present action of the scene).

        I mentioned 'Silence of the Lambs' in one of my other comments because I think it handles exposition masterfully -- Harris never gives you more than you need, but he always gives you just enough. He doesn't lay it all out in the beginning, and he doesn't do periodic info dumps to get you up to speed. Like the plot itself, he carefully threads in backstory, doling it out in little bits to keep you grounded; answering your questions while make you ask new ones.

        This is particularly true of YA fiction right now, I feel -- it's all very fast-paced and immediate. The past only serves to highlight the present moment, and that's going by quickly, so I'm learning to be very lean with my exposition.

        •  You are making me want to read the eventual book! (0+ / 0-)

          If you need to do more backstory than that, then you need to tell them as separate stories, or frame your story about the backstory. Patrick Rothfess, the hot new voice in 'traditional' fantasy make his mark in a book that is 95% backstory but part of what made him notable was he took a lot of tropes and made them feel fresh and new.

          "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

          by Geek of all trades on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 02:29:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I honestly tell my students the opposite (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          You can never tell enough. You can always cut later, but the more you write, the more interesting it gets. I always end up backing myself into a corner and then have to punch my way out. But I've long believed writing is problem solving, so this method works for me.

          There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

          by upstate NY on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 04:29:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Good to hear about your teaching experience (2+ / 0-)

      I don't disagree with you, and a part of me does realize I'm missing out on something by not attending a university and pursuing a degree in creative writing/literature. When it comes to writing, you are what you read... the books you've read are truly reflected in your own stories, at least, from what I've seen.

      I'll be the first to admit that there are many literary classics I've not read (although I can quote Mark Twain: "The classics are the books everyone's heard of but no one's read"). But I do like to think that I'm relatively well read in the 'classics' of Science Fiction, and to a lesser degree, Fantasy.

      Even before I could read, my father was reading to me (and my brother). I still remember when he read my brother Dune (which I later read on my own time) and I was too terrified to go to sleep because I could see the sandworms so vividly in my head. In 5th grade, I was one of those fabled kids who got into Harry Potter, but by 6th grade I was reading the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings all on my own, along with other fantasy series, like Brian Jacque's Redwall (in school we were reading The Giver).

      In 7th grade my dad helped me get through Aasimov's Foundation Series. I also read John Varley's Gaea Trilogy that year at his urging (and he was always willing to discuss the more adult aspects of it, if they made me uncomfortable), along with his short stories. My 7th grade teacher read us 'Brave New World' aloud and had us study Dystopian literature (I remember an assignment where I had to turn the short story 'the Lottery' into a play).

      By 9th grade, (still in school) I was getting into Shakespeare and John Steinback and George Orwell. But I was also reading on my own -- Jane Eyre, Stranger in a Strange Land, Ender's Game, Stanislaw Lem's short stories, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon... and after I left school... 1984, American Gods, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials, and yes, plenty of Le Guin. I read 'the Dispossessed' first at 18, after my parents couldn't stop raving about it, then 'Lathe of Heaven' then 'The Earthsea Trilogy' (I'd say Left Hand of Darkness is next on my list) and I also read 'Language of the Night', her essays about fantasy and sci-fi. It was incredible to read her insights, she was so ahead of her time. They really did make me think about what I wanted to do with science fiction.

      In recent years I've read some interesting fantasy... Gene Wolfe's tetralogy 'Book of the New Sun', George R.R. Martin's 'A Song Of Ice And Fire', Brandon Sanderson's 'Mistborn Trilogy' (and my boyfriend keeps urging me to pick up R. Scott Backer's 'The Prince of Nothing' series). In the Sci-Fi department I finally got around to reading Aasimov's 'I Robot' along with Phillip K. Dick's 'Why Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' and some of his short stories. I just started poking my nose into Ray Bradbury's 'The Illustrated Man'. I've dabbled in graphic novels, too... namely 'Watchman' and the 'Fables' series, as well as an interesting graphic novel called 'Understanding Comics' that looks at how we use the comic book medium to perceive reality and tell universal truths. Unrelated, I recently read 'Silence of the Lambs' at the behest of my writing instructor and it blew my mind in terms of pacing and plot delivery.

      When it comes to Sci-Fi I feel like I've kind of gone backwards. I'm reading a ton of Young Adult science-fiction and fantasy that's come out in the wake of books like 'The Hunger Games' (which I loved) and 'Twilight' (which I couldn't stand). As this is the genre I currently wish to write in (specifically YA Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic) it's interesting to read books in this genre that are not only hot off the press, they're selling like hot cakes. Analyzing what I like and don't like and the patterns that emerge in these similar works has given me a good perspective on the genre as it stands and how I'd like to break the mold.

      I have more to say about character development, but I think I'll respond to another of your comments, because this is getting long. My point, I guess, is that there's a ton I haven't read that I'm sure I should (and that I want to), but this is my 'pedigree' as it stands, off the top of my head. And these stories I grew up reading are largely the reason I'm writing, now. It's true I've never been able to pick them apart or debate them in a classroom setting... but I do tend to surround myself with creative people and we often discuss the fiction we're into. I know it's not the same, but I do try my best to immerse myself in 'studying' the genres I've chosen to pursue.

      •  A few more... (0+ / 0-)

        When it comes to books about writing... Stephen King's 'On Writing', Natalie Goldberg's 'Writing Down the Bones', John Gardner's 'On Becoming a Novelist' and Dorothea Brande's 'Becoming A Writer' have all been very enlightening to me.

      •  Dystopian/Post Apocolyptic.. (3+ / 0-)

        If you haven't read "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter M. Miller Jr. yet you should add it to your list. I read it in 12th grade, for Sci Fi and Fantasy class, instead of rereading Sword of Shannara (because I was currently on the Druids of Shannara in the series and the teacher and I decided it would be too confusing to keep the various story-lines straight, especially when it came to test taking) as independent work.  It's an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic and very dystopian world.

        I also have to disagree with the amount of characterization in Sci-Fi. Asimov's work had a lot of characterization, even if some of those characters operated under the Laws of Robotics. Ditto with series like Ender's Game, all of McCafferty's, etc. A few of them I couldn't get through because they were all characterization and almost no plot (Red Mars comes to mind).

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 02:04:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, I have been a 'classroom setting' (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        via UCLA's extension. Except the courses are more hands on and geared toward the fiction you're working on... but I have read books/short stories for those courses that I wouldn't have, otherwise, that have definitely expanded my scope, and have met other writers and been able to dissect the work with them. So I like I said, I don't disagree on the topic of exposure.

  •  This is the first I've heard of "unschooled." (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radical simplicity

    I'm intrigued. You are very bright and articulate, and I am sure you will be successful in anything you decide to do.

  •  Some children excel without a lot of structure (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radical simplicity

    imposed on their daily activity or their educational curriculum.  My own 9 year old daughter may be a case in point.  She thrives and excels doing ad hoc, unstructured projects involving working with her hands.  She's gifted but not so much verbally as spatially-visually.

    I'm so glad to hear your story.  I wish you all the best in your journey.

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 09:58:28 AM PDT

    •  Thank you! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      reconnected, Satya1

      Glad to hear that you're letting your daughter explore her interests and her world without too much constraint, and that you've already taken note of the best ways that she's able to learn. One of my primary issues with school was that I was not the kind of person who learns by reading something in a book -- it made me a terrible test taker. I could remember the concept, understand the gist, but when it came to the facts on the paper, recalling them was never easy. It made me feel stupid, despite a lifetime of teachers insisting I was 'bright' (and kids giving me crap for it).

      I hear people worrying a lot over whether or not their children will have 'enough structure' if they're left to their own devices. But I like to think that if that's what a child needs they'll seek that out and come to it eventually. Structure, I mean. That, or they'll ask for help, because they'll know what's most important to them. I think that's more valuable than anything else.

  •  All the best to you and good luck! (2+ / 0-)

    I'm a big believer in working your way through college.  Even though my parents were able to pay my freight at the local, urban, state college, I worked part time and had my own business on the side.  It's good experience and, at some point, when you become successful, you'll know how to manage your money, time and creative franchise.

    It's interesting how most self-didacts are in creative fields.  I still wonder how this would work with the sciences and engineering.  I have a friend of mine whom I accuse of "collecting degrees."  I suspect he's self-didactic, but he prefers the structure of a classroom and respects the credentialing that accompanies it.

    When it comes to credentials, there are professions where the only way to get them is to go through the traditional educational system.  

    •  I agree that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      there are definitely fields wherein a college degree is the best available route, and when trying to find a job, you will be judged and often overlooked if you don't have one. My dad has a few interesting blog pieces about how that reflects our culture -- we've come to place a high emphasis on 'being an expert' and the pieces of paper that verify it. We've also come to 'consume' college like anything else, some would say over consume (at least, before we fully consider the consequences of the time and money we're putting into it).

      Not trying to dis college, though... I think it's lovely idea and it can be a transformative experience for many people. I won't lie when I say that I do wish I got to experience the social aspect of it, and the general broadening of knowledge that comes with studying your chosen subject (in my case, literature, but I'll admit I wouldn't have been too keen to suffer through 'general ed', I'm just not the kind of person who retains everything put in front of me, so to study anything that I wasn't interested in would've largely been a waste).

      But see, I know that about myself. I have no problem with anyone who seeks out college as the path to their career -- my only stipulation is that they get a little perspective before diving in. I know a lot of privileged kids (upper-middle class kids) whose parents put the money aside to pay their kids way. I watch them graduate high school and make ready to go to college immediately, dithering around about their major, or even worse, not taking it super seriously. College becomes route, and I don't know if they fully appreciate the investment their parents are making in their future.

      How can a kid whose never lived on their own, never worked to make a living wage, fully appreciate a college that costs anywhere from 6k-50k a year? (that's a broad estimate, I know). And for the kids whose ways are not paid in full, who are taking out student loans they may be saddled with for years to come, how can they truly value the money they're spending when they've never had to subsist solely off money they've earned completely on their own time? Maybe they wouldn't be so quick to pour so much money into a degree that may not be relevant to them.

      There are exceptions of course, and kids who work while they're in college... and I truly admire them. I know that the ideal is that they're able to get a job right after they graduate and start paying off those loans. This is the best case scenario, but in my experience it's often not what I see happening. The majority of the servers I worked with ay my breakfast job had college degrees they weren't doing anything with (and I was their boss).

      Again, not trying to put down going to college, either as a route to a career or just for the sake of the experience. Not at all. Just trying to advocate a kid having enough of a sense of their own interests and abilities to make that choice for themselves, and to be informed when they do.

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