Monday, September 3, 2012

Learning Outside the Classroom

Since Odelia Grey and I are of a similar age and both work as corporate paralegals in California, I have no doubt our educational backgrounds are similar, so I'm going to speak for both of us on the question of what career or knowledge would we like to go back to school to learn, if given the opportunity.

The answer is: None of the above.

I'm pretty sure Odelia, like myself, hated school. It's no fun being picked on for being fat, or poor, or from a broken home. We're both just old enough that divorce wasn't common in our youth. Drugs were beginning to make inroads into the high schools.  I remember a classmate jumping to her death from a building while on LSD.  If you read the third Odelia Grey mystery, Thugs and Kisses, you'll learn a lot about Odelia's high school years, which were not like my own, except for the poor, divorce, and fat parts. Although, neither of us did drugs or drank. We got good grades, worked after school jobs, and went on to college. I don't know about Odelia, but my guidance counselor told me to go to college to find a husband. (Huh, certainly didn't pass that class.) Outside of that, the only career advice I received was get into teaching, social work or nursing, so I had something to fall back on if I didn't find a husband. (Yeah, that's what they told the girls back in the dark ages.) 

The last thing you'll see either of us signing up for is a class that is longer than a couple of weeks. Our attention span and patience is just not that advanced, even now.  We are both required by California law to attend continuing legal education classes to keep our paralegal certifications, and as notaries, every few years are required to take an all day notary class and exam to maintain our commission. (BTW, that's what I'll be doing this coming Thursday.)

But all this doesn't mean we don't want to learn or don't support education. Both of us love to learn. I learn new things for my job all the time. I learn new things for my writing all the time.  I adore research. Since becoming a writer I have learned about autopsies, police investigations, vampire legends, lunch box collecting, adult web cams, corn mazes, drag queen bingo, storage auctions, Las Vegas history, the Molly Maguires, and the history of Catalina Island, just to name a few topics.

Ongoing education is part of being a writer. It's not uncommon for me to spend hours, days, even weeks doing research for a book only to use a smidgen of what I've learned. But the key is, I did learn it. As much as possible, I walk the path of my characters. I have to learn first, whether it be by personal experience or by reading, the stuff I'm going to have them learn and do in the books I write. I want my words to be as authenticate as possible.

With each book I write, I will continue to learn new and interesting things. I do not for a minute believe you can't teach an old dog new tricks. This old dog is learning all the time. But put me back in school, seated at a desk in a classroom, and I'll probably break into a sweat and develop hives. I believe Odelia feels the same.

With that kind of attitude, I shudder to think what kind of teacher I would have made. The educational system has enough problems without me.

September 1st was the release date for HIDE AND SNOOP, the 7th book in the Odelia Grey series. Odelia's job is on the line and she's been saddled with the care of a 3-year-old with a target on her little back. Check it out!

...enormously entertaining ... offers tight plotting, first-class humor,
and vivid descriptions  
Publishers Weekly

1 comment:

Alan Orloff said...

With all that research you've done, it sounds like maybe you should be teaching a class! In what, I'm not sure...