Keeping up with the Smiths

We borrow film critic Mick LaSalle’s six qualities that make a great movie to analyze the dynamic husband and wife team of Willard “Will” Smith and Jada Koren Pinkett-Smith. The couple has two movies playing in theaters as we write.

Theory: Jada Pinkett-Smith accepted the movie (Bad Moms*) offer knowing how minimal and how inconsequential her role would be and knowing that it will do nothing for her career. The movie belittled her amazing talent, or she took it just to get out of the house because she needed a break from directing and producing.

Theory: Will Smith took this movie (Suicide Squad) knowing how much glorified his role would be. The movie exalted his amazing talents, and he dominates (more like shares the limelight with Viola Davis, who was so BAD that the bad guys called her cruel!).

Will’s movie and its cataclysmic topic gave Jada’s movie a serious disadvantage. Pitting terrorism against incompetent mothers lopsided the scale. Will Smith’s heavy-hitting plot trumps Jada’s light and so humorous one. Suicide Squad grabs the audience from screen opening to the last scene.

Attributes of a Great Movie



Topical Unrecognized and unappreciated struggles of overworked mothers √√ Random terrorist attacks must be nipped ASAP. √√√
Timeless human values √√√ Sadly, terror has become the way of the world. √√√
Great performance  (Not her fault, just the script’s fault) √ √√√
Overarching consciousness Mila Kunis and her friends gave it overarching consciousness. Deadshot/Will Smith gave an overarching consciousness. As bad as his character was, he seemed to bring the self-serving characters into humanity. √√√
One memorable scene The party scene was it, but Jada was not in that scene. Several memorable scenes, but most memorable is (Will Smith) Deadshot helping his daughter with complex math problems. √√√
Ends on a note of complexity, not just ambiguity √√

Wicked PTSA president turns good and invites her opponents for a ride in the jet.


(The meeting between Viola Davis and Ben Affleck clinched it.)

Key: √ = Stars

*Jada is too talented for Bad Moms and for the pitiful role she was given. However, the role of a good actress is to do the best with the hand she is dealt even when she is dealt a hand with nothing.

Taking Stock of Half the Year: January to June 2016

This has been an incredible year so far.




Breakfast with 2015 Grant Sponsors in January 2016: I walked into the Katy ISD building to find a life-size picture of myself. That stopped me in my track. It was a humbling and profound moment.







NCTE (Texas): I was one of two teachers lucky to attend an all-expense-paid National Council of Teachers of English conference in Austin with Katy district-level coordinators. (Second from the right, bottom row.)



WHATCE: A few weeks after that, I attended the local conference of the West Houston Area Council of Teachers of English workshop.

(Dispay of Grant-funded resources and student work samples at an event)





Celebration reception for 2016 Grant Recipients: I walked into the Katy ISD Imagination Grant reception in May to find another life-size picture of me. I have come to accept these chance meetings of me sprouting in unexpected places and times. (Life-size picture of me stands on the floor of the reception hall. Picture on the right is displayed on the screen of me–with yellow feather–receiving the Grant check in May 2016.)




Houston Chronicle: I was interviewed in late June for the Community section of the Houston Chronicle newspaper. (Fourth row from the front, second from the left)

–Picture was taken with other Imagination Grant recipients for 2016/2017.



Thank you, Janet Theis!! Thanks to Dr. Steele, Lydia Dennis, Amanda Palmer, William H. Rhodes, and everyone who has helped me to get to this phase in my career with Katy ISD.

I am excited for what will unfold for the rest of the year!

Bill Gates on Mandela and Africa

This is a repost of what Bill Gates posted on LinkedIn about his thoughts on meeting Nelson Mandela and on his hope for Africa.

“My Message To The Next Generation Of Africans”

I was 9 years old when Nelson Mandela was sent to prison on Robben Island. As a boy, I learned about him in school, and I remember seeing reports about the anti-Apartheid movement on the evening news. Decades later, I got to meet him and work with him. In person he was even more inspiring than I had imagined. His humility and courage left an impression that I will never forget.

So it was a special honor to be invited to give the Nelson Mandela Lecture in Pretoria, South Africa. I eagerly accepted the invitation and quickly began working on my remarks.

I decided to share my optimism about Africa’s future—to explain why I think the continent has the potential to change faster in the next generation than any continent ever has.

It’s because Africa is the world’s youngest continent, and youth can go hand in hand with a special dynamism. I was 20 years old when Paul Allen and I started Microsoft. The entrepreneurs driving startup booms in Johannesburg, Lagos, and Nairobi are just as young, and the thousands of businesses they’re creating are already changing lives across the continent. The potential will only grow as the digital revolution brings more advances in artificial intelligence and robotics.

But positive change across Africa won’t happen automatically. The real returns will come only if Africans can unleash this talent for innovation in all of the continent’s growing population. That depends on whether all of its young people are given the opportunity to thrive.

It is still an open question, and it is the crux of my speech, which I gave today at the University of Pretoria. It was an honor to give this lecture, and I’m grateful to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the university for inviting me.

The first time I spoke with Nelson Mandela was in 1994, when he called to ask me to help fund South Africa’s first multi-racial election. It’s not every day that Nelson Mandela calls, so I remember it well. I was running Microsoft at the time and thinking about software most of my waking hours. But I admired Nelson Mandela, I knew the election was historic, and I did what I could to help.

I had been to Africa for the first time just the year before, when my wife, Melinda, and I travelled in East Africa on vacation. Obviously, we knew parts of Africa were very poor, but being on the continent turned what had been an abstraction into an injustice we could not ignore.

Faced with such glaring inequity, we started thinking about how we could use our resources to make a difference. Within a few years, we established our foundation. It was when I started coming to Africa regularly for the foundation that I came to know Nelson Mandela personally. He was both an advisor and an inspiration.

One topic that Nelson Mandela came back to over and over again in his lifetime was the power of youth. I agree with Mandela about young people, and that is one reason I’m optimistic about the future of Africa. Demographically, Africa is the world’s youngest continent, and its youth can be the source of a special dynamism.

Economists talk about the demographic dividend and the potential for Africa’s burgeoning youth population to accelerate economic growth. But for me, the most important thing about young people is the way their minds work. Young people are better than old people at driving innovation, because they are not locked in by the limits of the past. I was 19 when I founded Microsoft. Steve Jobs was 21 when he started Apple. Mark Zuckerberg was 19 when he created Facebook.

So I’m inspired by the young African entrepreneurs driving startup booms in the Silicon Savannahs from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Lagos and Nairobi.

The real returns, though, will come if we can multiply this talent for innovation by the whole of Africa’s growing youth population. To make that a reality, all of Africa’s young people must have the opportunity to thrive.

If we invest in the right things—if we make sure the basic needs of Africa’s young people are taken care of—then they can change the future and life on this continent will improve faster than it ever has.

In my view, there are four things that will determine Africa’s future: health and nutrition, education, economic opportunity, and good governance.

When people aren’t healthy, they can’t turn their attention to things like education, working and raising a family. Conversely, when health improves, life improves by every measure.

I’m especially concerned about HIV. Africa’s youngest generation are entering the age when they are most at risk of HIV. We need to get more out of the HIV prevention methods we have now –while developing better solutions like an effective vaccine and easier-to-use medicines that people are more likely to use consistently.

Nutrition is another critical area of focus for Africa. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies rob millions of the continent’s children of their physical and cognitive potential. Fortunately, there are cost-effective solutions like making sure mothers breastfeed their infants, enriching cooking oil, sugar, and flour with important vitamins and minerals, and breeding staple crops to maximize their nutritional content. We need to make sure the people most at risk know about and have access to these solutions.

Second, we need new thinking and new tools to make sure a high-quality education is available to every child. Educational technology using mobile phones has the potential to help students build foundational skills while giving teachers better feedback and support at the touch of a button. Governments also need to invest in high-quality public universities for the largest number of qualified students to launch the next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs, educators, and government leaders.

Third, we need to create economic opportunities to channel the energy and ideas of Africa’s youth. Through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, countries have a framework for transforming agriculture from a struggle for survival into a thriving business opportunity. But the investment needs to follow, so that young Africans have the means to create the thriving agriculture they envision.

Africa also needs more electrical power to increase productivity. In East Africa especially, governments should invest in hydro and geothermal sources of energy, which are both reliable and renewable, as soon as possible. The immediate priority is for governments to get tougher about managing their electrical grids so they’re producing as much power as possible.

Fourth, countries can benefit from enhancing fiscal governance. Advances in digital technology is one way that governments can deliver services more efficiently.

It’s clear to everyone how big and complicated the challenges are. But Africa has proven its resilience and ingenuity time and again, and there are millions of people, especially young people, who are eager to get to work.

The future depends on the people of Africa working together to lay a foundation so that Africa’s young people have the opportunities they deserve. This is the future that Nelson Mandela dreamed of and it’s the future that the youth of Africa deserve.

You can read Mr. Gates’ full speech on  his blog:

Quoting Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Video of Nelson Mandela as assembled by Bill Gates.

Literary Analysis: Ray Bradbury’s “The Sound of Summer Running”

Some words find their way into the larger culture and are used recklessly. One such platitude is the literary world’s overlabored incidents of “Poetry in motion.” Those instances are unworthy of that most profound coinage. Ray Bradbury’s “The Sound of Summer Running,” truly exemplifies and embodies that lucid phrase, a phrase that invigorates every part of the story from its beginning to the very end.

Bradbury1Douglas Spaulding, the protagonist, seeks to acquire a new pair of sneakers, and not just any pair. He seeks to possess that brand named “The Royal Crown Cream Sponge Para Litefoot Tennis Shoes.” The name of the footwear makes one wonder, and Douglas mentions it, whether the sneakers should be eaten, drunk, chased, doused, used to wash dishes, captured literally, or worn since they are filled with marshmallows, contain bleached grasses, are fired in the wilderness, have the thin hard sinews of the buck deer hidden in them, and contain the brand name of a beverage.

He must have these sneakers, a symbol of many qualities of youth, but his father will not Royal Litefoot2
buy them for him. Because their ownership comes with expiration, Douglas devices a way to obtain them before summer runs out. In a convincing show of the gift of salesmanship, he persuades an old man to touch and feel the breeze of his long-forgotten youth and relive it by trying on the sneakers he sells but never wears. He and Mr. Sanderson agree on a trade in order to allow Douglas to own the shoes before obtaining them vanishes with the end of summer.

Arguably, the plot of this young adult realistic fiction sounds simplistic, which happens frequently when stories are summarized. Summary oversimplifies plot and the intricacies woven in a literary piece. However, it is the author’s eloquence that deepens content and mystifies readers into devouring literature despite its contrived simplicity. Such is the case here as Ray Bradbury, one of America’s, (albeit, the world’s) greatest creative geniuses, combines words to make ordinary footwear sound and taste like food and represent glorified acquisition, freedom, animals, energy, motivation, summer, and magically motionless movement. These are just some of the things Douglas Spaulding equates the new pair with upon spying them through Sanderson Shoe Emporium’s window, a pair whose significance he tries to articulate to his father but fails.

It is true that writers insert a piece of themselves into a supposed fictitious work. What is most amusing–and curious at the same time–is that this is purported to be a fiction, but Ray Bradbury actually, and wittingly, writes his autobiography. The protagonist’s name is Douglas, which, coincidentally, is Bradbury’s middle name, after the famous Douglas Fairbanks. Also, the main character’s last name is Spaulding, which, coincidentally again, happens to be Bradbury’s father’s middle name. Some critics have dubbed this genre an autobiographical fiction, a new genre of literature, I wonder.

Another convenient effort, which leads one to conclude rightfully that the character is patterned after Bradbury himself, is that both author and protagonist have the same characteristics at twelve years of age. Additionally, the supposed fabricated setting of the story is not so fictitious. It, too, is a convenient and liberal replication of the town where Bradbury grew up. He changed his hometown, Waukegan, Illinois, to its moniker, Green Town.

Dealing with this story in its confined self as a short story, (and not examining the larger novel of 267 pages published in 1957), the conflict, it appears, is person versus self: Douglas’s own internal wants and needs, his fixated desire to own the shoes for which he devises a crafty means of doing. Bradbury depicts the main character as a very articulate young man at once and not so articulate at other times, which makes Douglas identifiable to young adults. The young man finds himself unable to explain to his father the reason he needs another pair and unable to describe the symbolism of last year’s shoes to his father, but he deftly convinces Mr. Sanderson to try the sneakers he sells. Douglas is so valiant and so versed that “Mr. Sanderson stood amazed with the rush of words. When the words got going, the flow carried him…”

By virtue of his dealing with Mr. Sanderson, Douglas transforms the older gentleman from a staid and static character into a dynamic one, a character who would give young readers hope in their ability to practice persuasive skills on the older generation, an act they might have been unwilling to attempt had it not been for Douglas’ bravery and its resultant effect. Mr. Sanderson allows himself to float on Douglas’ words and, being thus carried, his show of conviction is to offer the young boy a job in his store when he gets old enough that the law will allow him to work and use his gift of gab on potential customers.

Simultaneously, it appears that Douglas’ conversation with Mr. Sanderson not only imbues young adults’ self-confidence, but it reveals several possible and positive themes for the story, “Words can move mountains,” or “Believe in your own ability,” or even better, as Mr. Sanderson puts it eloquently, as a stamp of approval and of unwavering faith, “Anything you want to be, [son] you’ll be. No one will ever stop you.”

Told from the third-person omniscient point of view, the narrative allows the reader to trace all the characters’ thoughts. Douglas’ innermost ones wage internal war with his one-track desire to own those shoes that goad him each time he walks by them, an obsession his father and the seller of that fixation notice. The conflict remains unresolved and builds into a gigantic height as only conflicts build into exaggerations in the minds of the young. Everyone sleeps except Douglas, who is taunted by the footgear. When he does sleep, his dreams focus on shoes and on rabbits running nightly and invariably.

Bradbury manipulates flashback and foreshadowing as teasers, snippets of each, without going into detail. He contrives the most effective way of employing these two literary weapons, extracting them to benefit the audience and to cause the audience to yield to the intrigue of more discoveries. The reader guzzles the piece fastidiously in order to discern what Bradbury expertly and tacitly hints at earlier. Even Mr. Sanderson’s reminiscence about his youth is almost nonexistent, but the reader gets the full effect of his reticence as he stammers, trying to recall exactly how long ago he wore sneakers in response to the protagonist’s question. Mr. Sanderson’s transportation into his past is so brief that the reader is spared the burden of attempting a prolonged trip into nostalgia. It is as short as, “From a long time ago, when he dreamed as a boy, he remembered the sound:” short and sweet.

The tone veers from one of optimism, obsequiousness, fancifulness, joviality, to the lyrical. Douglas’ desire borders on the whimsical since only he seems to see the sneakers in ways that no one else imagines them. At such times, his thoughts turn lyrical, poetic, and are piled sky high with imagery. Even when his father is denying him the right to own the footgear, the tone does not chastise or turn negative. Children at large can relate to the obsequious tone since they adopt it when they seek something from their parents or from other adults. The reader is not yanked around too much emotionally for the sake of literary exploration. Douglas’ distress sends the reader into near dysphoria, but the mood becomes one of euphoria by the story’s resolution.

Foreshadowing is equally brief. Douglas hints to the reader that reliance on obtaining those sneakers will be up to him entirely. The use of dialogue accomplishes many roles. It encapsulates dialect. As Douglas attempts to convince Mr. Sanderson to try on the footwear, his feverish appeal drives him into resorting to dialect and colloquialism. Dialogue also illuminates the characterization of both Mr. Spaulding and Mr. Sanderson, and it helps the reader form a more positive opinion of the latter who allows himself to be carried by the wave of Douglas’ passionate plea to try on the very ware he hocks but has never worn.

As a previous reviewer of one of Bradbury’s works put it, “Ray Bradbury is a painter who uses words rather than brushes–for he created lasting visual images that, once observed, are impossible to forget.” This description does not do Bradbury much justice. The author confessed that after he completed a piece, he found “tears streaming down my face,” not due to the actual content of his endeavor, but due to the intricacies of the darning, stitching, and quilting of beauty, color, texture, style, shape, and size so deftly and uniquely that they heaved at his (a man’s) heartstrings. Eloquence is an understatement for what palpitates visibly on the pages.

Bradbury fastens the events in “The Sound of Summer Running” effortlessly with figurative expressions laced so imaginatively that the heart skips constantly at the infusion of style embedded so unconventionally that the uniqueness of the manner of his verbal skills grips one’s self will. When Mr. Sanderson tries on the sneakers he sells but never wears, Bradbury personifies the footwear with, “The tennis shoes silently hushed themselves deep in the carpet, sank as in a jungle grass, in loam and resilient clay.” Articulacy could not have found a better voice to communicate its meaning and message, which Bradbury does repeatedly throughout the tale. At the time of the reading of this story, and due to its brevity in wetting my voracious craving, I wanted it to morph into a longer piece, a novel. Even then, I might not have had enough; I might have wanted a trilogy of the shoes’ story and Bradbury’s craftsmanship in weaving tales so magically. Fortunately for me, this story is a chapter in a longer piece, a novel titled Dandelion Wine. Now, I can satiate my hunger for more of the master’s morsels.

Bradbury exhibits deftness in phonological figures of speech. Alliteratively, Bradbury sprinkles the plot with “were wild with,” “…seized, suspended; the earth spun, the shop awning slammed,” “better than barefoot,” “with a whisper and went off,” and “magic might…” For assonance and consonance, “bright sunlight,” and “even Stephen,” capture the “i” sound while “feet deep in…wheat” captures the long “e” sound and is purely assonance. Of the last of the quartet of phonological figurative expressions, onomatopoeia, only two incidents of it could be located. The first is the “tinkling” of coins when Douglas shakes his coin bank. The second is  “bang” when he imagines himself dropping packages with the force the shoes allow him to acquire. He foreshadows his fortuitous ownership of them, the limitless energy and zeal they will infuse into him, and his ability to perform mundane chores with the magical power the shoes would inject in him.

Chunks of imagery cluster throughout the piece. Bradbury exhibits his wizardry once again with language and tantalizes the reader with unprecedented artistry. “Mr. Sanderson stood in the sun-blazed door, listening. From a long time ago, when he dreamed as a boy, he remembered the sound. Beautiful creatures leaping under the sky, gone through brush, under trees, away, and only the soft echo their running left behind.” In continued deference to Bradbury’s tapestry of thoughts, he drenches us with more imagery: “He bent to pick up the boy’s abandoned winter shoes, heavy with forgotten rains and long-melted snows. Moving out of the blazing sun, walking softly, lightly, slowly, he headed back toward civilization.”

As short as the piece is, “The Sound of Summer Running” drizzles with quite a number of examples of lexical figurative expressions. Allegory drips from beginning to end. Old sneakers symbolize the past, the end of summer, death, winter, forgotten rains, long-melted snows, constriction, and an end to fun and to adventure. On the contrary, new sneakers are allegorical to endless possibilities, freedom, magic, the beginning of fun, the starting of a fresh year, and gazelles and antelopes effortlessly scaling over trees, rivers, and houses. To Sanderson, the shoe store is analogous to a pet shop with kennels of pets, cats and dogs he touches with concern as he moves about in it.

Other instances of lexical figures of speech include personification, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, irony, sarcasm, idiom, repetition, anaphora, synecdoche, and paradox. Overflowing with figurative language, just about everything is displayed on this short story’s platter. Personified skillfully, “The tennis shoes silently hushed themselves deep in the carpet;” the cemented sidewalk is dead; magic might die; shoes jump over trees, rivers, and houses; his feet want to go; last year’s pair is dead inside, and June is full of power.

On the same token, Bradbury intersperses metaphors and similes just about everywhere. Metaphorically, leather shoes are indicated as iron, winter is a chunk, heels are yeasty dough, the interior of the shoes is a marshmallow, and the footwear itself is a river, an animal, summer, and winter. The soles of the footwear are thin hard sinews of the buck deer. The streets of Green Town are called the jungle, and the sun’s radiance is referred to as “jungle heat.” Conversely, the emporium signifies “civilization.” For simile, the sneakers are like menthol, like packed snow, the hills around town peel like calendar, the shoes are going like mad, are as quiet as a summer rain falling, and the wind is like a river going downstream.

Bradbury exaggerates liberally when Douglas, in a hyperbolic statement, informs Mr. Sanderson that he will see twelve of him in one day. Other emblematic instances include calling the store “a wall of ten thousand boxes,” stating that the wearer could run faster than foxes and squirrels, and that the footwear cannot be pulled up out of the cemented sidewalk because they are heavy iron (leather). It appears ironic that Mr. Sanderson has never tried on or worn the very commodity he sells. It is even more ironic that a potential customer convinces him to wear that ware when it should have been the other way around.

A sibling of irony, sarcasm is not left out. A worthwhile exchange between Mr. Sanderson and Douglas highlights this inverse expression that does not mean what it says. The gentleman informs the boy that after fulfilling certain duties for him in exchange for the one dollar owed, that Douglas is fired. In a vibrant show of gratitude pronounced with an exclamation mark, the boy thanks Sanderson for firing him!

Every student of poetry and prose knows that an idiom can have numerous figures of speech embedded in it. This idiomatic phrase has simile in it: “…Going like mad.” Another idiom is “cutting corners.” These are the only two instances of idiomatic expressions in the story.

Repetition abounds in its simple self and in the complexity of anaphora. Simplistically, Douglas realizes that he do can “anything, anything at all,” and “he heard a rabbit running running running” in his dreams. As is true of anaphora, it is a form of repetition, a successive repetition of phrases, clauses, or at the beginning of sentences or lines of poetry such as “Feel those shoes, feel how fast…, feel all the.., feel how they kind of…, and feel how quick…” Another example is: “How you going to sell…? How you going to rave…?” as Douglas bombards Sanderson with questions about selling goods he never tries.

One final but noteworthy lexical figure of speech the author exploits frequently is synecdoche when he keeps referring to footgear walking or operating by themselves or a part of Douglas’ body, namely, his feet engaging in acts. “And shoes like these could jump you over trees and rivers and houses,” “his feet wanting to go with it,” and “thunder had stopped where his shoes stopped,” as if the sneakers and feet run by themselves without the body.

Parallelism and antithesis share the commonality of being examples of syntactic figures of speech. These rhetorical devices are ideas arranged and balanced to create a sense of steady rhythm. Douglas formulates parallelism when he states, “I deliver your packages, pick up packages, bring your coffee, burn your trash, run to the post office…,” a staccato of actions he intends to undertake, actions which the sneakers will hasten and magically have him flying between one chore and subsequent others.

Another incident of parallelism is Bradbury choosing “-ing” in the series. “Putting cows to riot, playing barometer to…, taking sun, peeling like calendars…” Both parallelism and antithesis are the steady stream of expressions in a similar arrangement. The difference is that the latter sets off two ideas in balanced opposition to each other to create a powerful effect like a paradox. Antithesis is employed effectively in the following: “Find friends, ditch enemies,” “Out in the sun or deep into shadow,” and “I give you money, you give me shoes.”

I love happy endings, and Bradbury does not disappoint. He allows Douglas to own that pair, which ultimately restores my belief in him as an author and in the story itself. Douglas worked hard and saved stacks of nickels, dimes, and quarters and carefully placed them on the counter at the Sanderson Shoe Emporium “like someone playing chess and worried if the next move carried him out into sun or deep into shadow.”

Bradbury did not write a story here. He wrote literature, a distinction I preach to students. His is a literary masterpiece, a literary student’s playground littered with toys in the images of figurative expressions, a cornucopia of Thanksgiving’s numerous orchestrated dishes prepared meticulously with fresh ingredients and laid out prominently as only a master chef could: Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, Joel Robuchon, and other counterparts.

The story delivers numerous holistic messages to young adults, life lessons that only will empower them for numerous reasons: to save money if they want something badly enough, to recognize the power of persuasion and use it judiciously, to hone in on personal identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the natural world and to humanitarian values such as the compassion Mr. Sanderson shows Douglas in allowing him to own the article even though Douglas will still owe a dollar, and to learn the skill of compromise.

Overall, “The Sound of Summer Running” is very engaging, causes the heart to palpitate at the complicated way Bradbury enslaves figurative expressions and meshes them effortlessly into others. It is not only one of Bradbury’s best stories, it is one of the best stories I have ever read. Believe me, I am a ravenous reader, a gifted student myself, one who read over 180 novels, mostly classics, in one year. Even Farenheit 451, purported to be one of Bradbury’s best work, did not grab me with the total absorption that “The Sound of Summer Running” did. I hope anyone who reads this story gets the lift and enlightenment I derived from it, like a deep breath of cleansing and unpolluted mountain air.

“The Sound of Summer Running” should be a recommended literary piece in sixth grade classrooms the whole wide world over. It is that pivotal a literary text and can be modified to each student’s ability. Bradbury’s craft is that much worth dissecting, and once so scrutinized, should equip any student of literature with the ability and the confidence to undertake the task of literary analysis (or response to literature) with conviction. Bradbury has penned more than 100 short stories, one long poem, and about 26 published books to his name. These grand exhibitions of brilliance are sufficient platforms for inter-literary and intra-literary comparative analyses.

Another critic puts Ray Bradbury into a more fitting perspective. “More than a half century into his remarkable career, Ray Bradbury continues to delight and astound with grand visions, lyrical prose, and provocative thought. Rich in poetry, wonder, imagination, and truth, here is proof positive that the words and stories of the inimitable Bradbury will live on . . . Now and Forever.”

Science studies the human body. The scholars of literature ought to examine Bradbury’s style, works, and insights very much, especially the intricacies he wove in “The Sound of Summer Running,” and its larger version, Dandelion Wine. I believe that the three published biographies, eight biographical movies, and tens of published interviews are insufficient outputs and true representations of the world’s recognition and appreciation of a genius’ iridescent mind. What I would not like to witness is the world’s realization of Bradbury’s incandescence and indispensability after he has left our world. With age advancing on him, Bradbury seems to have slowed the rate of writing and publication compared to the frenzy with which he wrote during his earlier explorations, and understandably so, which is my contention. It appears that our world thrives on heaping accolades post mortem rather than while the star shines brilliantly on earth.

If I have raised “The Sound of Summer Running” to an Olympic torch’s significance, I do so with the hope that it will edify literary students’ formal and deep understanding of various types of figurative expressions: one piece of work infused with so many memorable, pleasing, rich, cutting-edge, and surprising literary devices, a one-stop-shopping venue if you will. This story contains a plethora of figurative language and literary elements more than I have identified within longer literary pieces. Some longer pieces lack the wealth of figurative expressions and stick with the basic and the mundane: metaphors, similes, idioms, and personification.

Conversely, Bradbury’s small-in-stature piece will suffuse students with figurations of all forms and inflame in them sustaining passion for literature. We would hope that the literary world will be served more judiciously were we to equip our youth much better than we do at that lower middle school level in the academic hierarchy. We would want them to learn mostly from gifted masters and mistresses of literature so that they can, if such a thing is possible, not only emulate, but surpass those exemplary luminaries. We owe that to our youth.

My Christian Father

This month we honor all fathers. Ironically, in my male-controlled Nigeria, Father’s Day is not hyped up or accorded the same level of celebration as Mother’s Day, or I must not have remembered hearing secular men celebrated on any given special day.

In America, we honor fathers on the third Sunday in June, which falls on the 19th, to be exact. I borrow this American concept to share my Nigerian father, Chief Martin K. Ohanenye. To etch his absence into me and to make Father’s Day’s importance even more relevant, our father passed away during that week in 1996 in Nigeria, on the 22nd of June.

My father was a very religious man, a Christian father, a cosmopolitan human being, an exemplary philanthropist, and the most brilliant and renowned business man. I want to thank my father posthumously and share my appreciation for his prominence in our lives. I want to share my most profound love for my father. While he lived, he was the epitome of the Christian father. I will borrow Mark Merrill’s “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad” criteria to examine my father’s qualities.

  1. Love Your Children’s Mother: That he did and showed it in his care of her and atten-

    My parents

    tion to her needs. My mother had a free reign of our homes and her businesses. My father showered her with love and much more. Nothing is more gratifying to a woman than to know that she is loved, that all her needs are important, and that she could have the audacity to ask for and to get whatever she needed or wanted for herself and for her children. In return, my mother showered our father with the most unparalleled devotion, attention to his needs, and with boundless love.

  2. Spend Time With Your Children: Even though there were nine of us, and as busy as he was, our father

    At my brother’s university convocation

    made each one of us his priority. We could reach our father any time, knew where he was at any given time, and knew that he would be available to each of us. I felt especially close to him as the middle child and as the last girl. In a place where mothers were solely responsible for raising the children, it comforts me that my father featured in a huge part in raising us. He knew what we were up to and where.

  3. Earn The Right to Be Heard: There was no question that my father was heard. The right belonged to him without any doubt. He hardly spoke, but when he did, people listened more attentively than they did to F. Horton. My father’s words have been my atlas and compass.
  4. Discipline with a Gentle Spirit: I was disciplined with “The Look.” Once that look was directed at me, I checked myself and corrected; we did not need words. Our father molded and corrected without much exertion, and we learned just how much he loved us through that method of discipline.
  5. Be a Role Model: My father was my first, best, and last role model. I compared men who courted me to him, and they fell short drastically. My father had to ask me to stop comparing my suitors to him; different times, different people, he said. “You keep doing that, you will never get married.”
  6. Teach the Lessons of Life: I learned so much from my father, lessons of Christian life and love, lessons of endurance and ambition, lessons of the heart and mind, of charity and tolerance, exemplary conduct, humility, walking in the faith, and many other lessons. These instructions have helped me make good choices and helped me to avoid the very terrible and costly ones. He never did anyone any wrong, never spoke harshly, and was the quintessence of Christianity.
  7. Eat Together As a Family: Regardless of the extent of the intrusion of business matters, my father always came home for lunch. My favorite part was preparing our lunches, especially his. He ate all three meals at home except when we all traveled to the village. Even at that, he ate all his meals at that home. My father always made us fruit cocktails/salads with the abundant fruits from trees that populated our home in the village. As unheard of as it was for a man of his status to do anything culinary, his humility knew no bounds. He always made us popcorn and later bought us a huge popcorn machine.
  8. Read to Your Children: My parents always read, read aloud within earshot of anyone who would listen, and were grateful to anyone who would share in their love of reading. When business slackened in her grocery store, my mother would pick up a book and would read it aloud. Growing up, I never realized that our parents did not attend high school. They both were so much wiser and more knowledgeable than university graduates. I never realized their academic level. I devoured books so much that my father built me my own library and gave me the key.
  9. Show Affection: My father showed love in many ways and quite often, not effusively. As closed to open display of affection as Nigeria was back then, my parents touched quite frequently and caused brows to go up. My father and my mother would banter, and I would dream of marrying a man who knew what it meant to be playful with such rare looks and other non-verbal and verbal ways. I knew I was loved. I would say that both parents loved me equally, even as it was evident that I was a daddy’s girl.
  10. Realize a Father’s Job Is Never Done: It was unheard of for a father to allow his unmarried daughter to dash out of Nigeria to “wild” America alone and hustle and bustle after a university degree. Despite advice to the contrary, my father allowed me to speed off to these United States, a most self-sacrificing gesture for which I have been eternally grateful to him. He gave us the wings to direct our own lives trusting that he and our mother raised us well. My father’s “encouragement and discernment” left us with a fulfilling legacy. He knew his job was not finished. We lost him too soon.

On this Father’s Day and every day since 1996, my heart breaks anew. I am consoled that he lived to see me obtain my Master’s in Journalism, lived to give my daughter her Ibo name, and to speak to her on the phone several times.

On this Father’s Day, I went to Mass at 7:30 A.M. in honor of my father, cooked up a medley of dishes for brunch, and sat down with my daughter, brother, and son-in-law to honor our fathers and all fathers everywhere.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in heaven and on earth. Thanks be to God for all of them.



Works Cited

Merrill, Mark. “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.” Family First. 12 June 2001. Web. June 19, 2016.

Tuttle, Brad. “5 Awesome Old-School TV Ads for Financial Service Companies.” Time.  20 March 2015. Web. June 19, 2016.

What to Know Before Assembling the Marketing Plan

Prior to this year, I had not produced an entire marketing plan. I had created parts here and bits there. After going through the entire process, I believe anyone so determined can complete that daunting task.

By way of introduction to establish my credibility, I am an English composition instructor at a college and also teach English literature to high school seniors. In effect, by teaching at the college level as well, I am catching students at critical points in their secondary and post-secondary journeys. Prior to that, I taught public speaking at Kennesaw State University and University of West Georgia. Also, I taught grammar and an assortment of courses to gifted middle school students.

Additionally, I am an authorpreneur, the convergence of my creative side (writing) and the business aspect of my creative side. Evidence of my creative side is that I have written extensively and have been published in several media outlets. As part of that business aspect of my creative side, I own a publishing company.

[Incidentally, the term, “authorpreneur,” was coined by and made famous by Australian author, Hazel Edwards, as recently as 2011 (Morris, n.p.).]

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the marketing plan. Everyone who is considering publication needs to become familiar with this process and engage in it. Of course, it takes trial and error to become confident and competent in it. In its entirety, the book proposal is the marketing plan that entices a publisher and/or an agent. It puts a book (figuratively) in the palms of the agent or the traditional publisher.

Drs. Gregory Fraser and Chad Davidson of University of West Georgia call the marketing plan “a close analysis of cultural signs and a set of informed recommendations” (Frasier & Davidson 11). They urge all students to undergo the process of creating the documents that make up the marketing plan: “Outside the academic environment, however, students will need to take part in this activity no matter what goals they hope to achieve” (Fraser and Davidson 11).

The advice is not to be taken lightly. Every agent and traditional publisher demand it, and it is as the professors indicate: a cultural sign agreed upon by all in the book business and a set of informed recommendations expected for submission by all in the book publishing business. The advice is not only for students but also for anyone who hopes to submit a book (fiction or non) for agent representation or for publication (if choosing to bypass the agent, which traditional publishers will not tolerate).

As I indicated earlier, completing this process is a trial-and-error exercise. I have, at one time or another, written many query letters, pitched my novels and children’s books, written aspects of a book proposal, composed synopses of my novels for jackets and possible plugs in the right places should I be fortunate to be required, written my author resume (a.k.a, author profile) and the accompanying cover letters, crafted book descriptions, and provided a chapter-by-chapter explanation of one of my books.

I must not have followed the protocol: I queried and solicited traditional publishers directly, a cardinal sin. Rejections abound daily, and they can break a budding author, but resilience is key. Referring to the rejection of his first novel by 31 publishers, James Patterson indicated in Chapter 2 of his Masterclass Online Course, “I have the scars. The scars don’t go away.”

He called the rejections “31 wrong opinions.” That rejected first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, won the Edgar Award for the ‘Best First Novel by an American Author’! Again, resilience is key. Alternatively, independent publishers have become quite lucrative as Plan A (where authors ignore the highly recommended but frustrating road of traditional publishing) or Plan B (where authors fall back on independent publishers after rejections by traditional publishers).

I have listed the components of a marketing plan. Of course, marketing plans vary. Before a writer submits the items listed below, he/she is urged to research publishers to ensure they publish his/her genre and whether or not they accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Marketing Plan Parts and Pieces:

  1. Pitch: a one-sentence explanation of the book’s content or theme. Condense the 100,000+-word novel/book into one sentence.
  2. Query letter: a semi-business letter that introduces the project and writer to an agent and/or publisher. It should be single-spaced.
  3. Book proposal: the plan for the book and should contain
    • A longer synopsis of the book (500–1,000 words)
    • Table of contents
    • Marketing plan
    • Author biography/resume (with professional credentials)
    • Sample chapters, and (if requested)
    • A chapter-by-chapter synopsis of all the chapters

A writer must start the journey over every day. The writer must be passionate and must be willing to learn and to grow daily. At the urgings of Doctors Fraser and Davidson, every student/aspiring author needs a marketing plan and must create one or several.


Works Cited

“Book Proposal Boot Camp” Southern New Hampshire University. 19 November 2015. Web. December 2, 2015.

Fraser, Gregory and Davidson, Chad. Analyze Anything: A Guide to Critical Reading and Writing. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2012. Print.

Morris, Linda. “Becoming ‘Authorpreneurial’ Online.” 22 November 2011. Web. November 28, 2015.

Patterson, James. “Passion + Habit.” Masterclass. 2015. Web. December 28, 2015.