Samuel J. Tanner 4 minute read

Writing books

I've been writing a book about being a high school teacher.

It's been slow. This is true for many reasons.

First, I've got other things on my plate. My academic book comes out with Routledge this spring. It's stories about white people, and teaching about whiteness. This is the kind of book that can lead to nasty media attention. Pray for me. Also, I'm writing and conducting all sorts of educational research. Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that educational research is some of the most terrible writing there is. Worse than Science Fiction. I don't know, Kurt. I stand behind my essays, even as I admit that the genre can be a little silly. I'm also teaching new courses, working with a group to create an improv company in State College, raising two toddlers, and trying to be a good husband. Whew. I'm a productive dude, I guess. But I don't have as much free time, and my memoir about teaching has suffered.

The writing isn't slow only because I'm busy, though. I find that writing about teaching is hard. I can't quite name it. There's so much material to draw from. I taught for nearly 15 years, and my memory is teeming with people, experiences, stories, emotions, and things that feel cosmically important. How I do condense the psychic byproduct of my years in school? Beats me. I have about 150,000 words right now. Too many words. I'm almost finished drafting chapter 11, and then it's a matter of cleaning up chapter 12, and working through the manuscript to eliminate excess baggage. Lots of baggage in this beast.

Also, I want this manuscript to speak to the other two memoirs in my trilogy. It does in my mind, but bringing that to the page is difficult work. Will I be successful? It's hard to say. But I'll try to do this project justice, to the best of my ability. I'm learning lots. That's good.

There's something beautiful about the production phase of this memoir. I'm not going through a big publishing house. I'm working with my friend Ben Ptacek again. Ben's a technical genius. We've built a DIY publishing house. The Daily Publishing: It's more than just E-Books. That should be our slogan. It is more than just E-books. I've got hard copies of my work for sale, baby. We'll even release an audiobook this time. My former student (and friend) Ben Stasny is now a professional actor in New York. He's agreed to record an audio version of this book. I couldn't be more excited. My former student Michael Swearingen has agreed to illustrate the book. He did this for the previous memoirs in my trilogy. Michael is a graphic designer, and currently works with Adult Swim. Wow. Finally, my former student Nicole Charland is helping me edit the book. She has a meticiulous eye for language. Nicole currently works for the UN, and is applying to medical school. Wow. It's beautiful to be working with former students who are also remarkable human beings. There's artistic integrity to this process. Symmetry too. What more could you want?

This blog isn't meant to stir up interest in my book. There's still a long road to go. Still, I see the end of the road from here, and am excited to see how this project comes out. A trilogy of memoirs. I'm so sick of writing about myself. But I've got to finish this beast. Closure. Peace. Those things are wrapped up in this project. And it's close.

First, chapter 11. I've got to finish that thing. The book will come after that.