If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

June Interviews

6/02 Terrie Moran, Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond

6/09 Connie Berry, The Art of Betrayal

6/16 Kathleen Kalb, A Final Finale or A Fatal First Night

6/23 Jackie Layton, Bag of Bones: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery

6/30 Mary Keliikoa, Denied

Saturday WWK Bloggers

6/12 Jennifer J. Chow

6/26 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

6/05 Samantha Downing

6/19 Lynn Johanson


E. B. Davis's "The Pearl Necklace" will appear in the new SinC Guppy anthology The Fish That Got Away to be released in July by Wildside Press. The anthology was edited by Linda Rodriguez. It will be released on June 21st.

Paula Gail Benson's monologue "Beloved Husband," from the perspective of Norton Baskin the second husband of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings (who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek), appears in the Red Penguin Collection's An Empty Stage (released March 28, 2021).

Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!

Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.

Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!

Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Learning from my Students

By James M. Jackson

When I graduated college with a math degree and a secondary school teaching certificate, I planned to be a secondary school teacher. I’d bless the unwashed masses of hormone-laden teenagers with my love of algebra, and geometry, and trig, and calculus, and probability and statistics. Best of all, I would imbue them with a love of that sublime universal language of numbers called mathematics. Yeah, right.

Mr. Genius-at-Numbers sometimes loses the practical answer in pursuing the theoretically correct answer. For example, I convinced my parents it was less expensive for them to let me go to summer school (where I took two courses and played tennis all day) and I could graduate a semester early, saving them that tuition, room, and board. I neglected to consider that the only teaching jobs available in January are to fill vacancies caused by death or disability (of which, visibly showing pregnancy was the most common one back in the Pleistocene era of 1972). Long story short, I became an actuary, not a high school teacher.

Over the years of teaching various classes in actuarial science and contract bridge for intermediate players, I learned I love teaching people who want to learn. But if you don’t care; I don’t care. I would have made a lousy high school teacher. So, in the end graduating a semester early was a good thing.

When teaching high school math or actuarial sciences, I acted as the expert. There were right answers and wrong answers. If I learned anything from the students, it was to discover different ways to present material so people with different learning styles could “get it.”

Contract bridge has its factual aspects, but much of learning to play well involves sharpening judgment skills. I always learn new aspects of the material when I teach it. Often, if I haven’t taught a class in some time, I rediscover things I had forgotten. Student questions often require me to look at a situation from a different perspective, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of the game. I have the privilege of learning from my students—even if they don’t realize it.

After nearly fifteen years of writing novels, a friend asked me to develop a class on revision and self-editing for the Kiss of Death chapter of Romance Writers of America. I’ve continued to update and improve that month-long course and am currently teaching it for the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

There are rules, of course, in writing fiction—but not very many. For every purported “rule,” we can find a classic or bazillion-dollar best-seller that vaporized it. When it comes to writing processes, absolutes are meaningless. I provide guidance and share my experiences and learnings from others, but they are only intended as suggestions. The lessons I provide are certainly valuable, but the real learning for students occurs in doing the homework assignments and receiving feedback on their work.

Invariably, students complete homework in ways I had not expected. Occasionally, their technique is something I want to try myself. More often, their novel approach does not work, and I must help them see that. Knowing something doesn’t work is not the same as being able to understand why something doesn’t work. Preparing the explanation often leads me to deeper insights and understanding of the issue. When that happens, I feel like I should refund their tuition because I’ve received such a marvelous bonus.

I pay them off in thanks and look forward to the next opportunity to teach and learn.

* * *

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. Furthermore, a novella is the most recent addition to the series. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.


Annette said...

I love teaching writing workshops for those very reasons, Jim. Either my students teach me something, or during my class prep, I learn more about the topic than I ever could have otherwise.

KM Rockwood said...

As you note, Jim, there is a huge difference between conducting classes for people who are anxious to learn and coaxing reluctant high school students to success. Each takes a different skill set. Participating in a class with an enthusiastic instructor and engaged fellow students is an adventure.

Jim Jackson said...

Annette -- exactly right.

Kathleen -- and the adventure has begun. So far, so good!

Susan said...

After 44 years of teaching, I heartily agree with your ideas, Jim. My memoir about teaching is exactly that—what I learned from my students.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I enjoyed your self-editing class and still highlight my WIP with different highlighter colors.

E. B. Davis said...

I'm glad of your attitude on teaching. I've found some instructors are weary of students who ask too many questions, who seem demanding. One instructor limits how much she teaches because students are too time consuming. It does take time to respond to students, but it is so important to answer questions. It is through that give and take that everyone benefits.

Kait said...

I’ve taken your classes, Jim, and I can vouch for your talents as a teacher. Whenever I’ve taught, I’ve gained more than I might have given. Involved students are wonderful instructors.

Grace Topping said...

I've always learned something from your posts, Jim, and really appreciate the fact that you've done the research and presented complex things about marketing, etc. so that I can sometimes understand it.

Molly MacRae said...

The teachers who earn gold stars, in my book, are the ones who know their stuff, can communicate their stuff, and enjoy the fact there's more to learn about their stuff. Three gold stars for you, Jim!

Jennifer J. Chow said...

Great insights, Jim. You sound like an excellent teacher!

Jim Jackson said...

Margaret -- This Friday the class gets to learn about the color-coding their scenes! Buy stock in magic markers now!

Elaine -- that's not to say that in group classes one doesn't come across a student who thinks it's a private month-long seminar - that said, too many students are afraid to ask questions because they'll look stupid - if they only knew!

I can only hope the current crop of students will agree that I taught them a good course!

{Some may have noticed I am using a two-month supply of exclamation marks and zero periods -- because the period key is stuck and doesn't work -- off to the store for compressed air!}