Newsletter 045 – August 25, 2023
Disclaimer: This newsletter and the five that will follow it were written in advance. This was done to allow me to focus on tasks I have to complete before I can publish my next books (Flood and Fire and Jagged Man).
In the previous newsletter we stopped in 2002, at the end of my 23rd year teaching at Lanier Middle School in Houston. Just before the fall semester at Lanier was scheduled to start that year, I got a call from Cynthia Lanius at Rice University. For the previous few summers I had been teaching at her TeacherTech program there. In that program we taught area teachers how to use technology in their classes, but Cynthia had a new idea. Studies were showing that girls had a strong interest in STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in grade school, but they often lost interest by the time they approached middle school age. She wanted to create a summer program for girls that would get them interested in majoring in STEM disciplines in college, particularly in computer science. She had won funding from the National Science Foundation to implement a program along those lines, and she wanted to hire me to run it. I jumped at the chance, of course.
We hired high school teachers from the Houston Independent School District to teach in a summer camp setting at Rice. It was called CS-CAMP, and it was partly modeled after the TeacherTech program. For several years we taught middle school and high school girls programming, robotics, and a variety of other computer science-related subjects. It was a lot of fun for the girls, and several of them went on to major in computer science after high school.
I worked there at Rice for seven years, and it was a wonderful experience for me. I was able to serve on committees for a variety of tech conferences (like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, The Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, and the ACM/IEEE Supercomputing Conference). I traveled a lot as part of the job, and got to see areas of the country I might not have otherwise. I designed and maintained websites for a number of different educational groups (like the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education, the Empowering Leadership Alliance, and others) as well as listservs for several of those groups. It allowed me to gain a broader perspective on education, and I’m grateful to have had the experience of working there.
A few months after I started working at Rice, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, AKA NaNo) for the first time. I’ve written about NaNo elsewhere, so I won’t go into great detail; except to say that each year in November (the month NaNo is held), I would arrive before sunrise at Duncan Hall (the amazing building our center was housed in), and I would lock myself in my office with a large mug of coffee and write for a few hours until everyone else started arriving. Then, at home, I would write for a few more hours. A lot of first drafts were written that way, but being on that wonderful campus also informed a lot of what I wrote those first few years. Jagged Man’s protagonists, Sarah and John, worked at Rice, and Sarah had a job that patterned my own fairly closely. Two of the main characters in the If a Butterfly books, Robert and Dee, both graduated from Rice, and (in the novels) Robert still taught there. For those of you who might be Rice University fans, Robert and Dee both do a Baker 13 Run in Book One: Chrysalis. Also, quite a few scenes in Flood and Fire and Jagged Man and Butterfly take place on the Rice campus.
When I retired in 2009 I wanted to stay active, and I did have a lot of leftover NaNo material (in the form of unfinished drafts of novels) to keep me busy, so I decided I would spend large chunks of my time finishing and publishing novels.
The next few newsletters will be less chronological, and more about specific subjects (famous people, some of my early and/or unfinished writing, and about a side job I had for a few years).
See you then,
[“Educate a man and you educate an individual.
Educate a woman and you educate a family,”
possibly said by Arthur Shearly Cripps.]
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