Thursday, November 29, 2012

Racing Toward the Finish Line....

Well, I picked a very busy month to attempt to write 50,000 words before November 30th. Unfortunately, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) occurs every November, right in the middle of one of my busiest months of the year.

So what have I been doing this month?

I've been inundated with essays to grad for my co-op high school writing class at Heritage Christian School--two sets of essays from a class that's full past the class size limit. And the essays required a lot of commentary from me--corrections, encouragement, suggestions, praise.

In other words: time-consuming.

Then I also am completing my high school MLA research essay course at Brave Writer with twice the number of students I had last year. And this month they submitted outlines, first drafts, and final drafts of their research papers, all of which required detailed grading not only of content and usage but also of all of the nit-picky details of the MLA format.

In other words: crazy time-consuming.

Then, add to that the fact that I'm trying to finish editing the first draft of an e-book on grammar for work, and we have complete and utter chaos.

And then I decide to try to finish my novel and write 50,000 words during this insane month?

I really should be committed.

There are two days remaining of the NaNoWriMo challenge, and I have 13,000 words left to write.

Well, that's a vast improvement over last year's challenge in which I posted 14,000 words on the final day, making the midnight deadline with a mere eight minutes to spare.

And I have time to write tomorrow both before and after teaching my writing class, and Friday is fairly clear. I still have the grammar book to work on and a chapter of my novel to post online, plus three teen boys to homeschool, but I am finally seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the NaNoWriMo tunnel.

 Even if I am writing this post at 2:00 in the morning.

Okay, going to sleep now so I can teach and write tomorrow--uh, I mean, TODAY.


Writing furiously,

Monday, November 26, 2012

Winter Schedule at Brave Writer

This winter will be a rather busy one for me at Brave Writer. I love being busy with my classes, but I've never taught two classes simultaneously before--and I will be doing just that starting on January 7.

This week I'll be grading the final essays from the MLA Research Essay Class, a six-week class that began in early October and finished just before Thanksgiving. Fortunately, the final essays are arriving in beautiful shape which mostly comes from the craziness of going through each rough draft with the proverbial (and editorial) fine-toothed comb to clear up inconsistencies in formatting, lapses in citing sources, and any stylistic awkwardness. Plus, not only did I comb through every rough draft, but the students also offered each other detailed feedback. (Yes, I made it a requirement to offer feedback to at least two other students' work.)

I'm still working on a few outstanding projects for Brave Writer that I hope to complete in December, including preparing the grammar class for e-book status since the class is only offered once per year plus revising and revamping several older editions of The Arrow. And perhaps we'll get to work on an employee handbook of sorts as well.

But this is my current teaching schedule for the Winter Term at Brave Writer:

Groovy Grammar Workshop: January 7--February 1, 2013

Literary Analysis: The Importance of Being Earnest: January 7--February 1, 2013

Playing with Poetry Workshop: February 4--March 1, 2013 

So this Winter Schedule should keep me quite busy for a couple of months until the Spring Schedule is posted.

Registration for the Winter Classes begins on December 3, 2012, at Brave Writer. You may take a peek at the other classes available on the Winter Schedule HERE.

If you have any questions about the classes at Brave Writer, please contact me via the e-mail option in the sidebar or via a comment to this post.

Writing with you,

Monday, October 22, 2012

To NaNo or Not to NaNo...That Is the Question!

I've taken part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) several times in the past few years.  NaNoWriMo involves writing a 50,000-word novel during the month of November; the fun part is that NaNoWriMo is a global effort; participants do the challenge with over 300,000 other writers around the world. One can have Writing Buddies, and participants also receive encouraging e-mails from some fairly impressive authors; participants may update their progress daily. NaNoWriMo provides some fun bells & whistles that allow progress to be posted on blogs or websites.

With a bunch of my online friends, I joined up in 2008 and managed to write half of a highly-autobiographical novel called The Pilgrim Pathway that I doubt I'll go back to edit; it was a decent first attempt at writing fiction, but it isn't really interesting or publishable. In 2009 I completed the second half of  The Pilgrim Pathway. I took a break in 2010, participating in a poem-a-day challenge on the Writer's Market website, hosted by the editor of Poet's Market. I don't think writing a poem a day was much of a "break"; it was actually more taxing than writing the 1,667 words daily to complete NaNoWriMo.

In 2011 I returned to NaNoWriMo, challenging the students in my homeschool co-op expository writing class to join me for extra credit. Between teaching two co-op classes and an online course through Brave Writer, plus homeschooling the boys, it wasn't easy to find time to write 1,667 words per day...which I rounded to 2,000 words/day to keep it easier to track plus allowed me to take off Thanksgiving and a few other days (such as teaching days). But I still ended up posting 14,000 words on November 30, verifying the completion of 50,000 words with eight minutes to spare. Whew!

So, with only one co-op class to teach (but with more students than last year) and the same Brave Writer online class going, plus the three boys to teach, should I attempt NaNoWriMo this year or not?

Last year I completed one of the novels I have been publishing online in weekly installments, and I managed to get several chapters ahead on another novel I have also been publishing online. If I attempt NaNoWriMo 2012, I will be completing the second online novel and then either starting a new novel or completing several unfinished short stories. I would love to be that productive!!

However, the problem I ran into last year was that as I post a new chapter online each week, I have to go back and edit that chapter for publication. Yikes! That's a lot of extra writing!!

I am offering the same extra credit incentive to my co-op writing class as I did last year, so I will need to participate somewhat so that I can track their progress. Plus, at least one member of our small town's writing group is participating, and we meet once a week during NaNoWriMo to write together in the library.

In addition, a lot of writers in the online communities where I post my fiction are doing NaNoWriMo, and I've made two NaNoWriMo accounts, one under my real name for my students' benefit, and one under my pen name for chatting with my fellow fiction writers.

So, should I participate in NaNoWriMo or not? I'm hoping to, but I suppose we'll see if it's realistic to actually finish. So I suppose at this point that I will TRY, but know that I may not finish this year.

If anyone is doing NaNoWriMo and would like to become a Writing Buddy, you can find me under the user name of SusanneB--I love having writing buddies!! :)

Writing with you,

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2012-2013 Homeschooling Plans and Brave Writer Classes

I don't know where August went. I think it mostly was swallowed up in watching the Olympics and in finding my groove as I adjust to non-teaching work between classes at Brave Writer. And yes, some homeschooling plans....

On Tuesday we'll be starting Year #16 of home education. We've been with Heritage Christian School since we started Elizabeth in kindergarten. Heritage provides accountability with quarterly grades and progress reports due, plus they do the high school transcripts, keep the kids' cum files, deal with paperwork for the state, and provide annual academic testing for grades 4-11.

In addition, Heritage offers twice-monthly Class Days at several sites around the county. At East County II, we meet the second and fourth Thursdays at a large church facility for homeroom (elementary kids in one; junior high and high school in another). Then we have two 50-minute classes, a half-hour lunch break, then a final class that's an hour long, leaving us with an extra ten minutes to tidy our classrooms.

Class Days are set up like a co-op: one parent needs to be on a teaching team for two class periods, or they need to help set up, clean up, work at the lunch table, etc. This year I'll be teaching a combination class of Intermediate (college prep) and Advanced (honors) Writing, and my class is full at 15 students with a waiting list. Because I'm a one-woman team and need to spend so much time grading essays, I only have to teach one class to fulfill my co-op requirement.

The boys are looking forward to their classes which begin on September 13. Benjamin, now in 7th grade, will be taking PE (one semester volleyball, one semester basketball), Chess, and Boys' Adventure Class II which involves learning all kinds of boy-type activities. Jonathan, a high school sophomore, is taking double Biology Lab and my Intermediate Writing course. Timothy, a senior this year, has it easy at our Class Day, taking PE and Chess with Benjamin, and PE again. But Timothy will also be a drop-off student at East County I for a double-period Physics Lab class with his former Biology teacher.

The boys will also be meeting with our wonderful tutor who has known them all their lives: "Auntie Jo" who will be helping Timothy with ACT prep, Jonathan with Geometry, and Benjamin with Pre-Algebra. Jo, a ten-year veteran of teaching high school English at a private school, is a God-send; when I was too ill to teach the kids many years ago when I was first diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases, she drove up the mountain 2-3 days per week to homeschool the kids for me. Now she's my sounding board regarding curriculum choices, Timothy's writing struggles, etc. I couldn't educate the kids without her.

We always have Family Devotions, usually Morning Prayer or Family Prayers with Scripture readings from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer 2011 as part of our "Opening" each day, and have done Church History, Art History, Poetry, and other courses as part of Opening. This year, however, I think we'll study the Bible with Know Why You Believe: Connecting Faith and Reason by Little plus Family Devotions only.

Our plans for Benjamin (7th grade) are these:

Math: Saxon Algebra 1/2 with Auntie Jo
Reading: Bob Jones 7th grade reader
Grammar: Daily Grams for 7th Grade
Spelling: Tricks of the Trade and Any Child Can Spell
Writing: Various Brave Writer classes and freewrites
Science: ABeka 7th Grade Science
History: Sonlight 100 (American History over two years)
Typing/Keyboarding: Writing Skills: Keyboarding
PE: @Class Day & PV Park
Electives: Chess and Boys' Adventure @Class Day

Jonathan (10th grade) will be doing:
Math: Geometry--Saxon Algebra I and II with Auntie Jo
Literature: Bob Jones 10th grade reader & Brave Writer Shakespeare
Writing: My Intermediate Writing course @Class Day
Science: Apologia Biology and Biology Lab @Class Day
History: ABeka World History
PE: @Park with brothers
Electives: Free Teen Guitar Class in Alpine with Father Acker

Timothy (12th grade) will be finishing up with:
Math: Bob Jones Consumer Math with Auntie Jo
Literature: Sonlight British Literature & Brave Writer Shakespeare
Writing: Brave Writer MLA Research Essay; ACT Prep
Science: Apologia Physics and Physics Lab @Class Day (EC1)
History: ABeka Economics and American Government
PE: Double PE @Class Day & PV Park
Electives: Chess @Class Day; Art Class @Grossmont or Cuyamaca
In addition to teaching Intermediate/Advanced Writing at Class Day, I'll be teaching various classes at Brave Writer this school year as well. I taught a Fan Fiction class over the summer, and in September I'll be leading the Boomerang Book Club in a discussion of Jane Eyre, one of my favorite novels. In November and early December I'll be teaching the MLA Research Essay, plus in November I'll be leading the Boomerang Book Club's discussion of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Then in the winter term, I'll be teaching the Groovy Grammar Workshop and the Playing with Poetry Workshop, followed by a Literary Analysis Class on Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, my favorite play. In the spring, all thoughts will turn to Shakespeare as I teach my favorite Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing followed by the Shakespeare Family Workshop.

Whenever I'm not teaching, I'll be helping to edit and update older monthly subscriptions, expand some online classes into e-books, and other similar sorts of jobs for Brave Writer in my new position as Senior Teacher, Staff Writer, and Curriculum Developer.

And in between all of this, I'm still offering my essay grading service for homeschoolers through my website, I'll make corrections and offer encouragement and ideas for improvement for $5 per double-spaced page (or part page) in 12 point font. It's a good deal; after all, it's not every day that a former university instructor grades essays for homeschoolers.

Obviously, with all this going on, it's not easy for me to find time to write myself, whether it be journaling, blogging, composing poetry, publishing fan fiction chapters online, etc. But I do try to write something each week to keep me honest and active as a writer. My doctor insists that we all need creative outlets, after all, and writing is definitely mine.

Have a lovely school year, everyone!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Brave Writer Fan Fiction Class Starts TODAY!

Today marks the beginning of the four-week Brave Writer Fan Fiction Class, a first for Brave Writer. I have been writing fan fiction for over 18 months now, and I'm up to nearly 1.3 million "reads" (hits) on my two novels (one still in progress) and three short stories on two websites, and Fan

From my proposal for the Fan Fiction Class:

The writing of fan fiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the vast majority of the writers and readers in this genre of fiction are teenagers. So it seemed fitting that Brave Writer should offer a class in this growing genre of fiction writing.
Writing fan fiction involves the creation of stories and books around already existing characters from a previously published work of literature or other art form. Obviously, this type of story can not be published for profit as the characters belong to the original author; however, students can learn a great deal about the fiction writing process from writing fan fiction.
The most popular works of fan fiction involve the characters from the Harry Potter series, the Twilight books, and the Hunger Games trilogy. However, a great deal of fan fiction is also written from the works of Jane Austen as well as past and current television shows and movies. Really, almost any book, television program, or movie can be the basis of a fan fiction story.

In fact, fan fiction went mainstream in late 2011 with the publication of P. D. James' Austen fan fiction entitled Death Comes to Pemberley. In this recent novel by one of the most well-known mystery writers in Great Britain, the character of Wickham is accused of murder, forcing Elizabeth and Darcy into the awkward position of having to prove his innocence. Because Jane Austen's works are no longer under copyright, Ms. James was able to publish this work of fan fiction for publication and profit.
The advantage of writing fan fiction is that the characters are already familiar to both the writers and most likely to the readers; therefore, young writers can concentrate on manipulating the plot as they are already familiar with the characters and settings. Young writers can thus focus on plot development especially as they construct their stories.

In this class, Susanne Barrett, author of two fan fiction novels and several short-story length works on and, will lead students in the creation of a short work of fan fiction. Susanne's works of fan fiction have garnered nearly a million “reads” (hits) on these websites; in addition, her Master of Arts in English Literature and her ten years of experience at Brave Writer make her uniquely well-suited for teaching this new course.
By the end of this class, students will have created a story worthy of publication on one of the several websites devoted to fan fiction, if desired.

Tentative Class Schedule:
Week One: Discussion of definition of fan fiction and which authors have requested their works to not be the subject of this genre. Examination of fan fiction story examples. Free writing exercise to determine topic/work of fan fiction to be written.

Week Two: Character study exercise to aid in developing already established characters. Plot exercise/assignment to study the elements of plot in preparation for plotting the story. Discussion and writing of a plot outline for the story.

Week Three: Writing of first draft of fan fiction story.
Week Four: Peer evaluation of first drafts of fan fiction stories. Revision and editing of first drafts. Posting (and possible online publication, with parental permission) of final fan fiction stories. 

Note: More exercises may be added to the first two weeks of class as needed to aid students in creating the best quality fan fiction stories possible. 

So if you're interested in enrolling a student in the Fan Fiction course at Brave Writer, act now as today is the first day of the class and we have a few openings remaining!

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A New Job Position at Brave Writer!

I've been working at Brave Writer for ten of the twelve-plus years that the company, the brainchild of Julie Bogart, has existed. I started with teaching an online poetry class and with writing the monthly language arts subscriptions. This past school year I taught eight courses: Literary Analysis: Anne of Green Gables, MLA Research Essay, Groovy Grammar Workshop, Playing with Poetry Workshop, Literary Analysis: Little Women, Literary Analysis: Merchant of Venice, and Shakespeare Family Workshop. Whew!! The fall wasn't too bad, but I taught straight through from January 3-June 15. It was crazy but fun. 

I'm also teaching a summer course at Brave Writer in writing Fan Fiction (class #8 for the 2011-2012 school year) which starts next Monday, July 9 and runs for four weeks. It will be fun to explore writing stories based on already-existing characters, from Jane Austen to The Hunger Games. Fan Fiction writing is especially helpful in luring reluctant writers to the keyboard as they create new adventures for their favorite video game, movie, TV, or book characters while they absorb basic story structure which will assist them when they approach literary analysis as high school students. Plus...they're actually writing during summer break!! Yes, Virginia, miracles can happen!! ;)

Recently Julie offered me a new position that will be of greater assistance to her in the running and expansion of Brave Writer. I signed the contract and mailed it back on Friday, so we're ON!! My new title is Senior Teacher, Staff Writer, and Curriculum Developer. Pretty cool, eh?

I'll be working with the language arts subscriptions again; Julie now has three: The Wand (grades 1-3), The Arrow (grades 4-6), and The Boomerang (grades 7-9+). We used to have The Slingshot (grades 10-12), but there just wasn't that much call for subscriptions for high schoolers; they prefer the interactivity of discussions, so Julie has added a Boomerang Discussion Group, plus we'll be offering several literary analysis courses this year as well.

I'll also be helping with new staff hires (probably at a later date), with creating a "staff handbook" of sorts to keep all the online classes organized similarly, with creating and editing curricula, with some information for the website, etc. Teaching classes will still be a large portion of my work; I'll be teaching six courses (one in the fall, three in winter, two in spring), then possibly a seventh class in Fan Fiction again if this summer class starting next week does well. I'm to be working twenty hours a week with teaching always being the first priority.

So I'm really excited about this new position at Brave Writer--no more freelancing!!! And I'm also looking forward to teaching the following courses in the 2012-2013 school year:

MLA Research Essay
Groovy Grammar Workshop
Playing with Poetry Workshop
Literary Analysis: The Importance of Being Earnest
Literary Analysis: Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare Family Workshop
possibly...Fan Fiction in summer 2013

Please do feel free to check out all that's going on at Brave Writer by clicking the bolded, colored words or by typing in

Writing bravely with you,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shakespeare Family Workshop Now Underway!

Brave Writer's very popular Shakespeare Family Workshop at Brave Writer is now underway, but there's still time to join in the fun as a few spaces remain in this interactive workshop class. 

Shakespeare is one of my very favorite topics, and I am definitely a Shakespeare fan girl; above you'll see an image of my wristwatch. My loving husband gave it to me for this past Christmas, and I wear it every single day.

Anywhoo, the Shakespeare Family Workshop provides five weeks of educational fun. Here's the rough syllabus for the class:

Week One: Shakespeare's Life and Times and the Elizabethan Theatre Scene
Week Two: Shakespeare's Language and Poetry
Week Three: Shakespeare's Comedies
Week Four: Shakespeare's Histories
Week Five: Shakespeare's Tragedies
So come on and join the fun as we study Shakespeare in a fun and interactive way for the whole family! Recommended for families with students age 9-18.

I hope to "see" you online! You may register for the class here: Shakespeare Family Workshop.

With best wishes from Will's girl,

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Merchant of Venice Class Begins April 16!

Yes, spring at Brave Writer means SHAKESPEARE!!! In fact, I'll be teaching two Shakespeare classes this spring, starting with a high school course in one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays, The Merchant of Venice.

The Merchant of Venice class still has a couple of openings, so join us quickly, and we'll get you in. :)

We'll begin with activities on Shakespeare's life and times, study the Elizabethan theater scene, examine Shakespeare's use of language, and finish the first week with a peek at some background and sources for the play.

Then we'll read and discuss the play, act by act, for the next two weeks, and finish the last week with a viewing of one of the film versions (I'm leaning toward the Laurence Olivier version from 1973 right now) and the writing of an exploratory essay on one of several possible topics.

To get us in the mood for our study of Shakespeare, here's a fun version of The Hokey-Pokey in Shakespearean English:

So I hope to see some of you in my Merchant of Venice class, and if not now, then perhaps in the upcoming Shakespeare Family Workshop which begins May 14th.

With a flourish of my quill pen,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Schedule at Brave Writer

The spring schedule is now up at Brave Writer, and I’m going to be a very busy woman. This winter I’ve taught two family workshops, The Groovy Grammar Workshop and the ongoing Playing with Poetry Workshop which is at the end of Week Three of the four-week workshop.

This spring I’ll be teaching a Literary Analysis Class on Little Women starting March 12; we’ll be focusing on Louisa May Alcott’s classic which is quite autobiographical. I’ve read extensively on the Alcott family, studying Alcott’s journals and letters plus several biographies of the family as a whole. After reading through the novel together using the discussion questions (the “Think Piece” Questions) from The Boomerang, then writing an exploratory essay on one of several given topics.

Starting on April 16, I’ll be teaching a Literary Analysis Class on The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. We’ll be reading the play together, act by act and scene by scene using a set of discussion questions, then we’ll write an exploratory essay on one of several topics.

Then starting on May 14, I’ll be facilitating a Shakespeare Family Workshop. We’ll explore Shakespeare’s life and times, the theatre scene of his day, his sonnets and poetry, then his Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.

My classes will end on June 15, and after that I’ll be teaching a new class at Brave Writer over the summer that will be a surprise. :)

I also plan to move this site back to Blogger during Easter break as I’m very disappointed with the lack of functionality of WordPress vs. Blogger.

So, I hope to see you on Brave Writer soon…or if you’d like help with grading your students’ essays, e-mail me at

Writing bravely with you,

Moving My Domain

I'll be moving my content from Wordpress to this blog over the course of the next couple of soon as I figure out how to move my domain name to Blogger from Wordpress. :) Please stay tuned as this website begins to become the place I want it to be. Thanks for your patience.