As a private English teacher, many of my students see passing their GCSE English as the be-all-and-end-all of our private tutoring.
As we commence our studies, it is as if they feel they are at the foot of an unclimbable mountain. The dizzying heights seem unreachable. The start is tinged with tension the conclusion lost in the mists of time.
I assure them that it’s only a matter of one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. The GCSE English curriculum is merely a path of hurdles. I tell them that I will guide them down the path and together we will stride over the hurdles.
The year progresses, the lessons are ticked off one by one and we arrive at examination time; and sure enough, the ascent has been successful, the peak reached and GCSE English passed. I receive a phone call/text/email/tweet from a very excited student and are asked about private tuition for the next level – ‘A’ level English.
Then a sense of deja vu as the first lesson commences. Nerves, stress, tension, talk of the unclimbable mountain ahead of them. I remind them of the mountain scaled in passing their GCSE and assure them, once again, that we are about to start on a path of hurdles. We will take the journey together one step at a time, one hurdle at a time.
So we start. It may be ‘Hamlet, then on to John Donne, then on to T.S.Eliot, then on to Samuel Beckett. Each one comes and each one goes. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Sometimes the ascent seems shrouded in mist and other times it’s simply that the gradient is too steep. Eventually, the peak is reached, the exam. completed and then the nervous wait for results.
The deja vu kicks in again. Contact by phone/text/email/tweet; ‘A’ level English passed and a place at university accepted.
I know that when the university mountain has been climbed and the peak reached three years later, the student will look back at on the GCSE and ‘A’ level and wonder what all the panic was about. Perhaps even wonder if a private English tutor was required at all!
Stand upon the highest ridge, and see, how small the other mountains seem.
Du Fu, Tang Dynasty (618-907)
I am looking for an editor of adult material in a novel.
The theme is cyber stalking resulting in an underage relationship. Although the relationship is non-sexual there are scenes containing erotic fantasies with graphic sexual details.
For the past 16 months I have been beavering single-mindedly, ferreting for snippets of facts and figures whilst squirreling away ‘useful’ information in order to publish the novel.
I started with a desire to write, a kernel of an idea and a vague plan in my head. 80,000 words later I found that I was a ‘pantster’ rather than a planner. Sitting there cogitating, contemplating and naval gazing, ideas poured forth like tea through a strainer – hopefully leaving the dregs behind in favour of savouring the flavour.
I am about to undertake a second edit, probably a 6-8 week task. Following the conclusion of the first edit four weeks ago, I have attempted to clear my head of the novel and research into editors, publishers and self-publishing. Oh how complicated!
Developmental/substantive/copy editing/proofreading/KDP/POD/LS/CS and on and on. Confused? I was – still am? Slowly but surely the penny seems to have (almost) dropped, the pieces (almost) fallen into place. I need someone to take my work by the scruff of the neck and shake it to within an inch of its life.
Although I have made one or two initial contacts, I am looking for an editor that will look at a small part of my manuscript for free. I hear there are editors out there who are willing to do this. I have come to realise just how important this next step is and I want to be able to have communication with three or four editors to see what they do with my work and how we ‘communicate’. The thought of letting go of my work is scary and I need to feel confident in my choice.
Second Bit of Help
Should I come through that process relatively unscathed, I would appreciate any experience you have had of dealing with Smashwords, Lightning Source and those companies that are willing to do certain tasks for you e.g. Troubadour, Bubblecow, Kazoo, Bookbaby, Silverwood and the list goes on and on and on. It really is difficult to see the wood for the trees or is the trees for the wood. . .
Any words of wisdom that you can cast my way would be most welcome. Thank you.
You get the picture?
Private English Tutor slumped in comfortable armchair, blazing fire, tumbler of ‘a bit o’gud’ in hand, butterfly-like mind flittering and skittering through his favourite book of quotations.
Man can climb to the highest summits, but he cannot dwell there long.
Candida – George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)
On a purely physical level he is correct, you can only be on the top of your physical game for so long. Thinking about some of the great sports people that have been adored by millions we could name Pele in football, Babe Ruth in Baseball, Carl Jenkins in athletics, Rod Laver in tennis – the list could go on and on. The common denominator amongst them is that they have all peered down from the summit at the masses below but eventually, they themselves, made their way down from the peak and watched others passing them on the way up.
Once I spread my thoughts, I wandered through the door marked ‘Literature’. Here things are a little more problematic. Shakespeare, Austen and Browning are people I would put at the summit. Problem – did they remain there or did they eventually take George Bernard’s slippery slope downwards?
The chronology of Shakespeare’s plays is problematic but it is commonly thought that his last three plays were:
* The Tempest 1610-1611
* Henry VIII 1613
* The Two Noble Kinsmen 1613
In terms of modern popularity The Tempest is the play that puts most bums on seats, so perhaps the latter two suggest that he was indeed on that slippery downward slope. All very theoretical and subjective though.
Jane Austen’s last two novels were:
* Mansfield Park 1814
* Northanger Abbey 1817
There are great literary mutterings and chunterings about Mansfield Park being her masterpiece. So was she on her way down the slippery slope with her later Northanger Abbey? Again, all very subjective.
As for Robert Browning’s Asolando (his last published work), largely overlooked today in favour of The Ring and the Book, published almost twenty years earlier. Again, all very subjective.
The silver screen is home to many of today’s modern day heroes. When we think of those on the summit, names such as Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Judi Dench come to mind. Arguably, all three continue perched on the peak and peer down through the clouds at us mere mortals. Will they be subject to a fall from great heights if their next film is not as good as their last or does their body of work ensure a permanent place at the summit?
Enough of the gods, what about me and you? Yes – You! Are you at the peak ready for the slippery slope or are you straining you neck ever upwards in search of the zenith?
As Malvolio says in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’:
Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.
This private English tutor wonders why he doesn’t readily slip into any of those three!
Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.
I am taking it that this refers to stress.
As one involved in the British education system, I am only too aware of both the stress of the job as an educator and that of students, attempting to jump over the hurdles to attain academic success.
Recently, I was greeted by the following lines, on the front page of a daily newspaper:
* ‘Children need help with pressures of modern life, says study’.
* ‘ More than half fear failure amid “continuous onslaught of stress”. ‘
Intrigued, I ventured inside for more detail and was greeted by:
‘Ms Russell attacked the Education Secretary Michael Gove for adding to the pressure on schoolchildren, accusing the Department for Education of being “not interested in well-being”. “it’s all about academic success,” she said.’
What’s all the hoohaa about? I could have told them that years ago! However, I wonder how much stress is self-inflicted. I found the following in a recent edition of the The Sunday Times:
‘I’m stressed. Are you stressed? You look stressed. I blame modern life. All those status updates, unwatched box sets and email attachments you forgot to attach. . . When I finally got home, I was up half the night checking Twitter. I don’t know how much longer we can go on like this.’
No – neither do I. But isn’t all that self-inflicted?
So, where does that leave us?
I always have a ‘To Do’ list. It never ends because as soon as I put a line through an accomplished task, I find myself adding a further two items to the bottom of the list. Just how stressful is that?
So that brings us around to Plato’s wise words. Is anything really worthy of ‘great anxiety’?
* Does it matter if your blog hasn’t attracted new followers recently?
* Does it matter if you don’t have time to post on your blog this week?
* Does it matter if three followers ‘Unfollowed’ because of your last contentious post?
* Then of course there are the emails that need answering, the phone you carry around which demands immediate attention and the Facebook comments that jostle and vie for your time.
Why do we put ourselves under such pressure?
‘Must run, got a lecture to deliver,’ smiles this Private English Tutor as he dashes out the house wearing odd coloured socks.
Where one can talk as easily of decades as they can of single years [as this private English tutor can :-)] then it is safe to assume they have been around the block once or twice.
Time brings everything.
I don’t doubt Plato’s wisdom but I wonder if he is totally accurate here and I do wonder what he means by ‘everything’.
This got me a-thinkin’ about what Time had brought me in this adventure that we call life – or perhaps it got me a’thinkin’ what time hadn’t provided me with. In a nutshell, it hasn’t brought me fame, fortune and beauty!
In the grand scheme of capitalistic acquisitions, I have obtained many things in my life which my ancestors wouldn’t even have dreamed of. Car, TV, telephone, computer, camera, etc. Wonderful devices that they are, I am not convinced they make my life any better than theirs. The devices lurk under the umbrella called ‘Progress’ but I don’t think they come under the purest meaning of the word.
Compared to many, time has brought me a privileged life style. Sometime long ago, I crossed the border from working to middle class by dint of my education. My blogging friends around the world, not being as moribund in a class system as we British are, may not quite appreciate this crossing of class boundaries but please bear with me.
That privilege has meant that I have not had to spend my life in a coal mine, steel foundry or breathing in the dust on a pot bank (wedgewood, Doulton, Spodes, etc.) – the three industries that proliferated the area during my youth. All I have had to put with, have been spotty-faced obnoxious teenagers that didn’t want to be in a classroom and had to carry out ridiculous directives sent down from above by so-called managers that didn’t know their ar*e from their elbow. They may have been good teachers before their promotion but many couldn’t manage a pi*s up in a brewery.
Taking the leap of faith from that formal education system to that of a nomadic private tutor was one of 90% perspiration 10% inspiration. Useless directives from above now sit my virtual In Tray, languishing under a pile of virtual dust and those disruptive teenagers blight the lives of colleagues that remain propping up the tottering British Education System. A system led by governmental donkeys while thoroughbreds till the barren soil.
As the decades have rolled relentlessly onwards I have gained and experienced much but as it says at the top of this blog, ‘You never know what’s around the next corner’.
Is Plato’s ‘everything’ still awaiting this private English tutor?
It seems an age since I passed on a blog award. That means that this is the first one I have received in an age.
Why is that? Probably because I haven’t acquired any/many new followers for the past six months or so.
Why is that? I haven’t really had time to ferret around WordPress and entice new bloggers into my lair.
Why is that? My time has been spent on my first novel. Never did I expect such a project to voraciously nibble + grab + gobble my Time. Be warned you ‘Novel Dreamers’ out there. Be prepared to give your soul if want to travel down the path to being an ‘author’.
However, all that changed a few days ago when The Emporium of Lost Thoughts handed me the Liebster Award baton. Being brought in from the cold and allowed to thaw out in the warmth of a peer-awarded honour is extremely gratifying. I would like to thank The Emporium of Lost Thoughts and highly recommend the blog to you. Go on, you’ve got a couple of minutes to spare, take a peep. Who knows, you may be tempted to click the ‘Follow’ button.
All honours come with responsibilities and these are as follows: [although I do always bend rules, so I may not quite walk the straight line specified - :-)]
- Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them.
- Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
- Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers.
- Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
- Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them
1. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? (Bonus follow-up question for the truly keen: where did you eat said meal?)
Way back in 1977 I made my first trip to the USA. I was taken to McDonald’s. I had never been to one before - not sure if we had them in England. I had the most humoungous burger filled with everything. I had never tasted anything quite like it. My friend, seeing my obvious enjoyment, brought me a second one. I was only a skinny, weedy fellow and not used to piggin’ out on food. The second one didn’t taste quite so good! This is not an advert or recommendation for that well-known fast-food chain but merely one example of things I got up to in my mis-spent youth.
2. If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go.
Having achieved my dream of going to Antarctica, I am tempted to say I would go there again but how can you better a dream? Going twice would be greedy – a bit like that second burger above! It would have to be the Galapagos Islands this time.
3. What’s the best gift you’ve ever given and/or received?
This has to be two I have given recently. I adopted both a tiger and a snow leopard with the World WildLife Fund and have given them as birthday presents.
4. What ability or skill do you wish you had (that you don’t have already?)
My novel will soon be put in the hands of a professional editor – being able to do that myself would save me lots of pennies.
5. What’s the biggest problem facing the world right now? (Bonus follow-up question for those so inclined: If you alone could solve it, how would you do it?)
This is tied-in with Q.3 above. How to save our wild creatures of the earth from extinction. To solve it is easy – get rid of the people; we’ve been given our chance and squandered it. . .
6. Aside from food, water and shelter, what one thing could you not go a day without.
I do use my computer a lot. . .
7. In everyday life, what is your number one pet peeve?
Being of a certain age I have become very grouchy, so the difficulty here is choosing just one from many that I grumble about daily.
How about other drivers? Speeding/not indicating/tail-gating/loud music – why should I want to listen to their choice when I have my own in-car sound system/lack of courtesy on the road – you get the idea?
8. What’s your happy song? (eg You can’t help smiling when you hear it)
‘Don’t Worry be Happy‘ by Bobby McFerrin. With over 22,000,000 hits on YouTube I’m obviously not on my own.
9. How do you want people to remember you when you’re gone?
To be remembered fondly by friends. I can picture them now at my funeral:
Friend 1: He owed me a fifty quid/bucks
Friend 2: And me
Friend 3: Me too
Friend 4: Bastard!
10. If you could spend a day with 1 person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
William Shakespeare on performance day at The Globe. I can’t think of anything more awesome than to witness one of his plays, at his theatre, in his time.
Why these nominations? I mentioned earlier that I haven’t had so many followers lately, so being the good egg that I am it seemed right and proper to thank my last five followers. I haven’t had much time to ‘get to know’ these fellow bloggers but what I have seen I highly recommend to you.
This is where I bend the rules again (note only 5 above instead of 10?). I have enjoyed answering my questions so I thought it only right to pass them on to you.
- What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? (Bonus follow-up question for the truly keen: where did you eat said meal?)
- If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- What’s the best gift you’ve ever given and/or received?
- What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?
- What’s the biggest problem facing the world right now? (Bonus follow-up question for those so inclined: If you alone could solve it, how would you do it?)
- Aside from food, water, and shelter, what one thing could you not go a day without?
- In everyday life, what is your number one pet peeve?
- What’s your happy song? (eg. You can’t help smiling when you hear it)
- How do you want people to remember you when you’re gone?
- If you could spend a day with 1 person, living, or dead, who would it be and why?