James Van Pelt

Writing Words Fantastical and Otherwise

Month: March 2020

“Finding Orson” at Curious Fictions

My latest piece is up at Curious Fictions, “Finding Orson,” which appeared originally in STRANGERS AND BEGGARS.

It’s one of my teaching stories–I easily have an entire collection’s worth of stories about high school from both the teachers’ and students’ point of view.

This one takes place in a world that looks exactly like our own except that everyone has a super power of some kind that kicks in during adolescence. You can imagine what it would be like to teach a classroom where some students have already received their “gift,” while others are waiting for it to kick in.

Well, you don’t have to imagine it–you can read about it in this story.

The other item of note here is that I wrote “Finding Orson” in 2001 while attending The Colorado Writing Project at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, which was a very cool program. Connie Willis was a guest speaker. I introduced her to the group of teachers in the program. That gave me an opportunity to absolutely gush about her achievements.

What I notice most about this story now is how far grading practices have changed in less than twenty years. When I wrote it, teachers still kept physical gradebooks where they wrote down students’ progress. When I had to determine grades each quarter, I would sit with my hand-written gradebook and calculator, entering the numbers and figuring averages. Now, grades go straight into the computer where parents and students can see a constantly updated, running record of their progress. When the grading period ends, I press a button, and all the figuring is done for me, saving a couple hours of manually entering everything.

I don’t think anything else has changed in the classroom other than that in the last twenty (or sixty) years.

Read the story.

An Occasional News Post

I have been spending much of my online time in two venues. The first is Curious Fictions where I try to post a story a week, generally on Wednesdays. The site contains a ton of free fiction. Readers can also subscribe to writers they like or give them tips.

Of course, I like tips. You can also follow writers who you want so when they post new stuff, you are notified. There’s a place to “like” stories or to comment on them. My latest contribution is “The Small Astral Object Genius,” which appeared the first time in Asimov’s.

I also have been posting short fiction reviews at Black Gate. Those also appear every two or three weeks and are free to read. The column is called “Stories that Work.” My mission is to comment on stories that I think are successful and what recommends them. I’m not searching for a “best of” necessarily, nor am I reviewing the stories I don’t think work. Here’s my latest for Black Gate.

Of course, I also hang out at Face Book regularly.

Keep safe! Social distance responsibly.

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