writing Archives - The Jose Vilson



As most of you know, I’m currently in the editing phase of writing my book. I’ve sent it to a plethora of friends and family for solid readings, and that nudged my writing upwards. Now I have one person fully dedicated to looking at every word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter, pondering on how I take my manuscript from “good enough to get me published” to “if you miss reading this, you’ll never sit at the cool kids table.” Or something like that.

The worst and best part about the process is: it hurts like hell.

When you care about the craft of writing, putting words together so they don’t just make sense, they transport the reader into your shoes for a hot minute. Having someone even mess with the order of the words feels like they’re criticizing your person, as if your work of art and inner thoughts aren’t good enough. It’s especially true when someone says, “Oh, this is good!” but then leaves all these red marks all over the sheets.

That’s why I use grey ink instead of red. Actually, I prefer any other color besides red. Red scares me.

Yet, as with so many other writers, we all need editors. Hell, even the editors who write need editors. If we constantly have the need to correct others when they misread something we write, or want to “leave something they way it is” more often than letting someone suggest a clearer way of saying something, then we ought to consider why we write.

Writing is, above all else, the art of communicating with intent. To the degree to which we convey this message, integrating our respective and collective humanities into the works, is what makes our message powerful. It’s hard to tell how much power we have sometimes without a clear gauge for it. Commenters and fans work, but so does someone whose sole focus is that critical eye.

Thus, we as writers must learn to lose control, as awkward as that sounds. Sometimes, the right set of eyes can magnify your message, and that’s the task entrusted in my current editors. Any of them.

So here’s my message to those starting NaNoWriMo soon: if you know where the critique comes from, don’t take it personally. Exposing your work to others is often a blessing, and makes you the best you. Even if you’re not actually writing a novel per se, you’re working on your writing daily, trying to find your voice, and hoping you find a rhythm that may lead to a longform piece. Just know that someone’s out there reading it, and you disregard what a true editor has to say about the piece, your piece will land with a current reader, a future fan, or a hater.

Two out of three ain’t bad. I just hope you hit your mark.


p.s. – I got over the hurt of having my pieces edited a long time ago. Now, I love the dialogue around the pieces, smiling all along the way.

*** photo c/o http://janefriedman.com/ ***

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On Teachers Writing Books (Myself Included) [CTQ]

by Jose Vilson on October 15, 2013

in Mr. Vilson

Deborah Meier, Mission Hill

Deborah Meier, Mission Hill

First, let me thank you for my support of my first solo project This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Rice, Class, and Education. I’m already seeing the uptick in pre-orders, and for that, I’m already appreciative. You have a few ways to connect with the experience, so be on the lookout for more as we finish up our edits.

Secondly, let me speak more broadly on educators writing books, and not just books about practice:

The last thing I’d want is for a teacher to think their work might get them fired. I must be nuts.

I have this wild belief that, simmering underneath our longform pieces, our emotional posts, and our great diatribes about what happened in school. Thus, those of us with a gift need to put their words in even longer form: the book. Special shout-out to Dan Brown (the teacher), Deborah Meier, Bill Ayers, and Frank McCourt, but teacher writers need more cache when it comes to our stories, and the ways in which those stories inspire others to teach.

To read more, click here. Share and comment on who you’d like to see write a book. Thanks again!

Mr. Vilson

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Please, Keep Writing and Teaching [Kick More Ass]

by Jose Vilson on April 30, 2013

in Jose

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say you’re a blogger writing about education and a whole mess of other stuff that permeates the experiences you have as an educator looking inward and outward, trying to seek solutions to complex and amorphous situations.

Let’s say you decided to look at the landscape of writing about education through this lens. You see messages and e-mails asking you why you put your name out there, no pseudonym, in a land where central district offices want to block and fire teachers with dissenting opinions, follow and interrogate teachers who pose hard questions on Twitter, or only highlight the teachers who please corporate sponsors and / or proffer ed-tech solutions. While the rhetoric sounds supportive of the “best” teachers, the policies themselves call worsening working (and learning) conditions. Congress and the White House continue to bundle the social safety net of America and prepare it on a cutting board, directly affecting the works of educators for everyone except the most privileged.

Your last message asks you if the person should keep her blog around in an environment like this. Your answer is hell yes.

As writers in the education field, we have a right, a privilege, and for many of us, a responsibility to tell the truth about our professions. The “best” of us can do it through anecdote or diatribe, but these finely honed skills matter none if we don’t use them to affect and effect social change. Speaking up and out about our daily struggles, the way we approach our craft, and the passion with which we inspire may prompt the next educator to look at their classrooms a little differently the next morning.

As writers who sun-light as teachers, we have an extra responsibility to the students we serve, and to do so in a way that encourages others to see themselves as teachers, as not alone, as not naive for having stayed when the best rewards are called “small victories.” With kids stuck in little cubicles in front of computers getting programmed like The Matrix in pilot programs, high-stakes standardized assessments stripping time from children who need as much time as possible to learn, and “non-profit” lobbies pegging teachers, parents, and students against each other in the name of kids (who didn’t ask their help, mind you), teacher-writers have the insight necessary in a dialogue bereft of voices from the classroom.

Indeed, you might have grander inspirations. You might have a manuscript in need of someone to believe in its marketability. You might have a few unfinished lesson plans and web sites you signed up to finish. You might be traveling to a few places along the way, but hoping your family doesn’t resent you for finding your Personal Legend.

You have a job. You’re tired. The school year is almost over. You’re tired of the nonsense. Something’s gotta g ive. You don’t want to stop because you know someone’s reading semi-religiously. You have to stop because you’re going at a blinding speed. Your heart hurts. So does your back. Your teeth hurt not from smiling, but from gnawing and snickering.

You’ll never get your voice out like this. You take a step back, and stand there for a minute. Your kids matter. You need this step back so you can run forward. Don’t stop blogging. Just hope that the next time you do, it inspires someone to kick more ass.



Short Notes: The Realest Podcast You’ll Hear All Month (Thanks, Zac Chase)

March 3, 2013 Short Notes

  A few notes: Zac Chase interviews me on math, wrong answers, and MisEducation of the Negro. Gangsta. [Autodizactic] Umair Haque spit some serious critique about the TED talk genre. Yes, I’ve done a TED talk. This is worth a read, still. [Storify] Daniel Pink does a cool interview with Copyblogger on how he writes. […]

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On Writing As Revenge

January 28, 2013 Jose

What happens when your writing becomes revenge? Not the Twilight-Mean-Girls type of revenge, but the revenge that James Brown yells in “The Big Payback“? I get that hate is too big a burden to bear a-la MLK Jr, but this isn’t hate. This harkens back to a remembrance, a devaluing, a necessity to reprove one’s […]

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How To Get Your Blog Banned From Your School District [It Takes A Nation Of Millions]

December 20, 2012 Jose

To whom it may concern: Kick butt. Take names. Write them somewhere in your mind. Write to them when you’re writing. See their reactions. Smirk. Repeat. At first, you’ll just write because it feels good to get your thoughts out. You’ll participate in a few blog roundups, showcase your work, and talk to some of […]

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