Beth Fine

Educational Fiction Author – Serious Thinker – Child at Heart

Do the issues from my junior & senior high school days differ from those of today?

Although the tag junior high school has morphed into a grade-rearranging-designation called middle school, the scary issues of those years may have gone unchanged, unresolved, and even intensified. Perhaps the lingo and reactions appear different, but early adolescent emotions still run high, especially in 8th grade, the year when kids seem to go bad. Although many believe that officials added the 12th grade to lengthen secondary education, they actually inserted the 8th grade in the 1930s. Yet the curriculum of that grade has always seemed weak, even made up.

For me, junior high demanded the hard work of balancing my persona with my integrity and dignity. No easy task there, right! Looking back on that period, I believe that stage of schooling resembled “realistic life” more than the “hurrah” of high school. It seemed intentionally designed to present lots of challenges but offered few programs to “help” us kids negotiate the maturing process. Perhaps adults employed the swim or sink philosophy!

Powers have unwittingly sexualized the delicate period of early teenhood. For us, the mention of “sex” came from a film in PE class or caused tittering from a nasty joke told in the bathroom. But of course such anecdotes seem old hat because being “kuhl” trumps all other matters. Sadly, “sex”has become not only the focus of discussion in classes from English to social studies but also experimented with in the bathrooms.

However, I remember more innocent times that offered positive growth. At 12, I saw my  insufficient reading comprehension skill kept me from good grades in social studies. That shock made me change how I studied. My first intellectual spurt began at 13 when I got a typewriter for Christmas. While learning the keyboard, I outlined the history of WWI and the Depression for my American History class taught by Miss Goodnight. I did not realize that my history outline had impressed her. I thought she didn’t like me because sometimes I dared to disagree with her. Five years later, she invited me to her Garden Club’s luncheon and handed me a $250 scholarship which in those days bought a trunk load of college textbooks. One never knows who is championing your development.


In 9th grade a shot of integrity hit me. I vowed never again to let anyone copy my homework or look over my shoulder during tests. I got kicked out of World History class for twice mentioning how God imprinted history. What a shock I got for standing up for my beliefs. That helped me beyond measure. I realized I might lock horns with unjust authority but would need to temper my times of resistance.

During that time, I stopped lumping kids into groups. Some popular kids were quite decent; others were simply weak get-along-at all-cost types. Strangely, I came to see popularity as envy, not as an evil altar upon which to sacrifice myself. Wanting popularity created an adolescent, altered-state-of-consciousness, a stage that I figured I would outgrow once I found out the value of the “real” me.

Simultaneously good things began to happen. A teacher cast me as the lead in my first play. I learned to like dancing with a boy…instead of pinning his shoulders to the ground to show my wrestling prowess. I began to pitch softball for two different teams and got accolades. When our student council bought a jukebox for the lunchroom, I got to monitor what records to play. Ah sweet tyranny! Good grades made for unusual rewards.

I recall great fun when our Spanish classes had a talent show. A friend and I did a parody of Homer and Jethro’s “Doing the Mambo.” Thank heavens, we preceded Virginia Flores and her authentic group that did the Mexican Hat Dance. No one dared to make a prejudiced comment when humbled by their expertise. Besides 40% of 9th grade class was Latino.

Junior high seem good training for the next stage of educaton. Upon entering high school at 15, I joined the debate team to argue that year’s resolution about Federal Aid to Education…an early drive to create student and school dependency on government. That same year I read The Communist Manifesto, a treatise that made me see the insidious nature of an obtuse, political philosophy.  Although our coach was extremely liberal, she let us devise our own cases which ended up being quite conservative. Being the only girl on the team, I had to participate in boys’ debate. My first debate was against the son of our city’s mayor. He called me a harbor-rat because I came from the poorer side of town. Although losing that debate, something inside said his personal attack was meant to throw me of balance. However, I saw that tangent did not address the debate issue nor advance his argument.

Many years later he ran for mayor himself. Attending a campaign event, I teased him for his rash assessment of me. We had a good laugh. Unfortunately, he was seriously maligned while in office to the point where he had to resign. Again, one never knows what negative events in your life or people sent to discourage you, actually bring wisdom. Lately, I have been quite surprised to hear Glenn Beck, a man often maligned, summarize similar tenets of “being strong” in the face of criticism.

To this day I believe some of my conclusions learned in debate came from my faith, a strong family, hours of studying at the  university libraries, and reading weekly news magazines. Also I was privileged to have mostly tough teachers who let me speak my mind without threatening to lower my grade average. Ah sweet freedom of speech!

Tenets learned at age 15 can last forever:

1. Pacifism lifts its head in difficult times, but human nature makes it an unworkable idea
2. Leaders like Woodrow Wilson loved the idea of a League of Nations but had his own agenda
3. Some American leaders are as impure as those we fear abroad. Citizens need to use discernment
4. Versailles Treaty cut Germany’s defenses, sending it into the arms of Hitler, a false messiah

5. In hard times, governments can’t resist expanding their power with or without voters’  permission.
6. When people feel oppressed, they let government make decisions that end up oppressing them more.
7. Governments are usually run by those no smarter than ordinary citizens.

Although my teenage-hood taught me to survive, I had a dreadful awakening that took years to accept:some kids didn’t want to learn, liked being bad, and got in trouble on purpose.

That unwelcome epiphany guided me to form the theme that underpins The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple: “You don’t have to be perfect to find effective answers to problems. So, trust your instincts in choosing companions or prepare to pay the price of fighting lots of alligators in the swamps of life.”

Will Changing Remedial Classes Bring Victory?

My graduate advisor warned me that teaching developmental English would affect my own writing and spelling. Later on I understood his point when I constantly had to look up words I had known forever. It grew harder and harder to read the daily fare of inane sentences: “The worst/best thing happin to myself was bacuz I have a abortion.” “My baby be the worst/best thing in my live.” “Me and my friends went to the mall to hang out.” “I saw sum cool close their in the stor winders.” “Last weekend, me and my friends partied but while their having fun, I know I should of studied, but its my weekend time to party.” My brain screamed with the conjugation of “I party, you party, he/she/it parties, we party, they party.”

Wondering how these remedial classes could ever solve the educational problems of these students, no matter how hard they or their teachers tried, I visited with the college’s president who had written the English developmental series we used. When I related how often I graded papers into the wee morning hours, trying to figure out a paper’s unusual syntax or to show ways a student might express his idea more clearly, he smiled and commiserated. I joked about making less than minimum wage by probably spending more time on each essay than the original writer had.

Seeking answers how to improve my classes, I returned to read several articles written by my writing guru Mina Shaughnessy. She believed that teachers needed to change, not students. Her philosophy haunted me and drove me to rework my assignments so the lesson sub-sections (Objective, Task Explanation, Grammar Skills, Practical Exercises, and Writing Assignments) would appear in the same format but would relate to different rhetorical styles. Only a few grasped this as a guide to follow as we approached each new assignment.

With many African American students in class, I read passages from Richard Wright’s Black Boy. to show how an expert writer used poor grammar and lower case letters as a vehicle to double the impact of his personal struggle. We discussed reasons why this helped Wright’s effectiveness but would not prove a successful way to communicate in business. The consistent misuse of “we be; he be” in papers led me to read passages from Shakespeare to build students’ self-esteem and understanding of why this verbiage might still persist. We discussed how slaves in the early 1600s were forbidden to talk outside their homes. Since they only heard their masters speak with fading British accents and subjunctive conjugations, slaves had little chance to practice the evolving American English. With that explanation, I still saw little obvious understanding in the affected students.

Because I had taught nonformal drama classes in community centers, and public housing filled with African-Americans and Latinos who learned quickly, I knew ethnicity had not caused the shape of the current pool of students. My young adult and nontraditional students had high interest in going to college but carried deep academic deficiencies. With critical thinking skills, study habits, and readiness seriously waning, they needed major intellectual reawakening to gain success in a classroom, much less transferable knowledge for a job.

The call for success, for which these students so longed and society had so whetted their appetites, had neglected to stress personal preparation and involvement required to win such success: persistence, discipline, hard work, daily attendance, and repair time. These omissions almost unwittingly created an illusion that education dropped from the sky and could answer all of life’s questions. I recognized that courses of study not attacked with determination or taken only to satisfy personal curiosity do not necessarily lead to future employment which was the bottom line for most of my students.

As far back as 1970 and in my own state in the 1990s, state governments began to legislate that everyone deserved a chance to go to college. However, equality of opportunity did not bring equal motivation, interest, energy, or output. Institutions geared up to handle the influx and to help prepare unaware young adults and nontraditional applicants for the rigors of higher education. These applicants often had no personal reasons to pursue this route but felt somehow obligated to apply. We sadly tagged this group, the 3Cs: folks with Checkbooks, Children, but no Clue to why they had come.

Despite our holistic evaluation process, ample curricular materials written or computerized, a well-trained teaching staff, and an enviable learning resource center with a director at the forefront of adult education, the task loomed large. If these students were not placed in basic skills training, we were charged with bringing them up to the 9th grade in a term of lower developmental English and then to the 12th grade level in the next term.

However, we had to get realistic about our own goals. The skills to do basic research and nuanced rhetoric needed to write papers for subjects outside one’s major (e.g. history, psychology, education, nursing) took these remedial students several semesters to acquire and master. Those who did not drop out often took two years to pass developmental courses. When we got reports that some had filled out employment forms and checked the box for two years of college (though they had only repeated remedial classes that long), it was obvious critical thinking had not yet germinated in students, even in our excellent program.

From sheer observation, we learned that students had to find inner reasons to buy an alarm clock, show up for class, think about their futures, master assignments, stay out of jail, forego funerals of distant relatives, and restudy subjects they often felt too elementary for their now maturer position in life. A sidebar: While in graduate school and doing research for an article on our state’s mandate for open college admission, I found students at a regional community college calling developmental courses, “Dummy English.” This mocking of the course I planned to teach, came primarily from white students and spread like wildfire in the area, discouraging students and teachers alike.

On the other hand, instead of showing disdain or resentment, some young Black adults in our community experienced strong cultural cynicism toward continuing their education. Typical case in point: A young mother wanted to register at our college and mentioned her plan to a neighbor who instantly shamed her for wanting to leave her baby just to take classes. Since her child served as the main motivation to better herself, the student went to register anyway. While waiting, she saw the same neighbor ahead in the line. That young mother landed in my class and by midterm wrote an insightful paper analyzing the transaction with her neighbor, concluding, “She didn’t want me to get ahead. That’s how we keep each other down.” Her unabashed candor showed her growth in wisdom and skill in using a rhetorical rule: Write through to the truth! Though she got a D for technical proficiency, she earned an A for content. A rare success for us both!

Another prime example of cultural bias came in a college sponsored women’s workshop. A newspaper editor told of a girl who resisted a boy’s flirtation by saying: “Don’t blow in my ear. I want to go to college.” Smart girl!

What’s Going On?

With the best of secondary programs, many states annually report high rates of graduating seniors still needing at least one developmental/remedial class before matriculating credit courses. Depending on the source, statistics vary from 20% at university to 60% at community colleges with 46% to 28% of those respectively finishing a degree or certificate. We have heard excuses, blame, and analysis; but something still seems dreadfully wrong. Although I agree with Proverbs 15:1a, “ A soft answer turneth away wrath,” some hard facts on how remediation of students has not worked on many levels, need almost ruthless scrutiny and challenge. I recently reread another old article by Mina Shaughnessy and decided a soft answer differs from a soft heart that keeps apologizing for our system’s failure. Who doesn’t feel dreadful about the seeming, insidious disease that has infected education?

Yet, constant tweaking it has not cured it. Lowering standards, framing greater remedial programs, and finding teachers trained to handle this malady, have all been proposed and tried. To prevent the negative graduation fallout, secondary education experts have returned to the drawing boards ad nauseum but continue to generate less than promising results. Each summer, supervisors and department heads far removed from the classroom devise clever acronyms for failed concepts or recommend comprehensive changes that will take years to implement.

Each fall, teachers jump through hoops to satisfy curriculum designers. Experts tout the answer of more test-prep which has yet to deliver the goods. A school year comes and goes. Children absorb the professional frustration of their teachers and waste months in test-prep instead of learning precepts needed for their futures, especially equipping them for higher education.

That leaves Adult Education to pick up the pieces, the field to deal with the wrung-out products of worn-out teachers. With all the money spent on education, schools dare not congratulate themselves over so many secondary students in dropout mode and college freshmen in remediation? These low performers have grim prospects except for menial jobs because employers have grown tired of hiring employees who cannot proficiently read manuals or adequately write end-of-shift reports. If we cannot agree on a view of such issues, how do we dream of a solution or of how to train future applicants for evermore complex jobs?

This conundrum has led the idealist to theorize endlessly or the procrastinator to freeze, waiting for the perfect idea with perfect content and perfect process. Thus, many who write procedures loyally plod on in a pet direction that only repeats blind failure, a result as hopeless in bringing concrete success as does constant, unnerving change.

Some tough issues to air on a practical level

It seems the more education ponders itself, the more it over-thinks the present goals and undervalues past avenues to success. I graduated in my class with 40% Latinos. By the end of the 1960s, I had African American friends, cohorts, teachers, and bosses. After such strides of minorities integrating into the mainstream, something began to deteriorate their hard-won success. Getting political or spiritual here might only anger readers. Suffice it to say, having lived through this demise, I am clear on why it happened and often hold my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop before common sense returns to schools.

These unheeded, urgent facts trumpet why America falls behind. Clinging to teach-to-test policies, allowing social promotion, and skewing grades to boost self-esteem have all backfired. Must education stick with research claims that remain a variation on the theme that Ben Yagoda used in a different context but fits here: “keeping useless things and discarding useful ones”?

Lowering standards may improve the ostensible statistics but not our nation’s educational product. While acknowledging that adult education departments often field fragile populations that have suffered various levels of unfairness, perhaps it’s time for us all to forget our sad stories (unless the world wants a list of mine to put us all on an even playing field). Instead of insisting that students of elementary, secondary, and post secondary institutions first understand our language, geography, history, politics, or economics, they are given a curricula laced with sociology that rehashes society ills, abuses, and victims.

If I had been given a steady diet of reading about the tragedies surrounding me before I had my bearings and equipment to handle them, even vicariously, I could have never pushed through to success or happiness. We could apply the wise principle that pruning branches promotes stronger plants, to curbing the early and constant study of societal ills. It defies logic to expect ill equipped people to solve the mammoth problems in society. Doing just that now for decades has overwhelmed the same population needing to be equipped. It has sent them into apathy, overwhelm, desperation, or the arms of social saviors and revolution fomenters.

In my opinion, to send students out into the broader world without even basic skills is a far worse travesty than back-stepping through injustices that we know are slow to cure, reiterate the obvious, and often inflame societal discontent. In grad school I felt shocked that one third of the students pursued master’s in counseling programs. I remember commenting, “Are we gearing up for a sick society?” Well, we’re there now: our society is having a nervous breakdown.

This may sound harsh! No one seems to say hard truths anymore or wants to call balls, strikes and fouls accurately. Much current social learning indoctrinates the less sophisticated and squanders their valuable readiness time. Once students have sufficient proficiency in reading and gleaning from a breadth of sources, they are free and ready to move the focus from their own goals onto critical matters. Or if they so choose, they can go from 0-100 mph in their own field of interest. My music teacher often said, “Your talent takes you as far as your interest, and vice versa.” I would reword the phrase to say to remedial students, “Your ability can take you as far as your persistence, and vice versa.”

Adding to all these suppositions, I believe state governments (and now the federal one too) have courted too many unprepared and uninformed people to seek higher education, making it appear as a panacea. From my own experience, I think many of these college hopefuls need directing toward the trades and jobs that can satisfy both personally and economically. Despite having two master’s degrees, I supplemented my teaching income by practicing a trade. If the truth be known, most office workers never earn the personal satisfaction and economic remuneration that tradesmen, journeymen, and craftsmen do.

Reviving the Teacher

Something is dreadfully wrong. Teachers have better training, higher salaries, oft-researched methods, and prescribed curricula but still cannot reverse persistently poor outcomes. Current results may defeat teachers’ valiant efforts but, in my opinion, should indict public and university education departments for their continued pedagogical experiments on each new generation, experiments which never seems to work corporately.

With restored autonomy, teachers might function better without constant advice and re-education. Teachers don’t need more ideas; they have little time to employ the ones they already have. When choosing to teach, they telegraphed their love of young people and their enthusiasm to learn how to teach them. But constant changes of curricula and techniques can smother that fragile enthusiasm.

If left alone, I believe primary/secondary/college teachers can transmit useful knowledge to form successful human beings even if the classroom lacks the latest technology or color-coordinated materials.

Being in a peculiar position to know which students to prod, encourage, or leave alone, real teachers practice an artful alchemy that awakens students to a lifelong love of learning. But if required to follow the latest research, teachers swallow their own instructional wisdom which damages their relational matrix with students. Demoted, the room’s captain has no proven map of uncharted waters and watches the ship founder on shoals of reality.

Frankly put, not all teachers chose teaching to be automatons or do social work, especially as standards, expectations, and discipline decrease. Some just quit for a more decent way to spend their lives. One teacher said she would retire from teaching when the crack babies hit her school or if forced to go to a low-performing school. She contended that someone had to groom the top kids as well. A long-time, tenured teacher friend of mine had a student come at her with brass knuckles. When the lenient vice-principal sided with the student, she left the classroom that day and became a truant officer, a reality-check job.

I recall a similar aggressive attempt on me by a rough female student. The next term, she registered for my upper developmental class. I said, “But you hate me,” to which she replied, “Yeh, but I learn lots from you.” Encouraged, I hung on for a few more years. When I had seniors just about to be certified as teachers, they said I was too hard. I responded, “Don’t you want an instructor for nursing students to be hard and insist they practice giving shots in an orange until they can do it perfectly?” They had no comeback except to complain to my dean. My heart hurt for them and their future students.

No wonder teachers elect to leave the classroom to climb a career ladder, out of the mire and onto the prestige of doing research, or so-called. The system of education now facilitates that. Instead of wanting people with a “calling” to teach, educational departments and districts have switched to enticing candidates into teaching by offering a “career ladder.” Candidates who bite must prove their worth by studying a “gnat’s hair” issue, perpetuating the myth of real research, and publishing their nonsense in order to get a better grade, a better teaching job, or a better promotion. Shallow research to get out of the classroom cannot satisfy as lifelong commitment to the classroom can.

 Research of Minor Topics

I have read or listened to research by graduate students who climbed the first rung of the career ladder by seeking advanced degrees based on a thesis or study of a dozen people. Too often such narrow papers blithely conclude that more study is needed, as if time and money had no limit. In the meantime, those being studied and hoping for applied results, continue lives on a fault line. This type of so-called advanced research, I find embarrassing. As a former writing teacher, I find such reports prove painful and almost unreadable in style. They use long noun phrases to announce their topics and must use interruptive documentation that defeats the flow of the logic.

My undergraduate thesis took extended involvement with 6 blocks in a totally Black neighborhood scheduled for relocation by an urban renewal project. To satisfy the thesis requirements, my cohort and I had to do continual primary research with the residents to calculate the residents’ financial and human cost. The study took a year of research methods: planning, polishing a questionnaire, mailing100+ copies of these inquiries to residents, correlating answers in the 50+ returned responses, interviewing those families before-and-after their moves, and dealing with the fallout of mostly older people dispersed randomly to available houses around the city. Sadly, no convenient place existed to regroup that many families, so the residents were located far away from the lifelong support of their next door neighbors. That was an undergraduate study.

For years, university education departments have researched every nuance of pre-school to post-graduate levels. Yet our national statistics still show dismal overall results. It is like the adage, “Motion does not equal action.” It seems universities are content to have a steady flow of tuition-paying, undergraduate students who plan to teach. Unfortunately, many leave the toughness of the classroom and return for graduate degrees to be supervisors, counselors, curriculum designers, or regulation writers. Once gaining those positions, few want to give up the prestige or pay. Educational departments or school district offices now bloat with a distant, elite stratum that goes to meetings to devise constant change that only burdens the average teacher trying to inspire unmotivated, unprepared, undisciplined, or even unruly students to learn enough to pass to the next grade.

A Glaring Truth

Some bold people strike out on independent paths rather than fight the albatross choking education. Others amazingly work within the tight fishnet to prevent students and teachers from slipping through. A brave principal in a Houston elementary did consult ample research but did what his gut told him. He began simply, first by introducing uniforms and standing at the door to greet students as they filed in every morning. Such courtesy formed within the school a new level of respect for others. Student self-discipline and eagerness to learn vibrated in the building. Student grades went up. Pride in the school glowed. Success and self-esteem came as byproducts.

My forever contention remains, boundaries help! Some old ways of discipline can work powerfully. I have long had this personal belief: “Giving a budding artist the canvas edges in which to express his idea can extrude far greater creativity than giving him a wall to draw on before he’s acquired the skill to do a mural.”



IMASODE VI: Danger Starts in Detroit – 2nd Excerpt

Hope grows for Brady Bee who, although wrongfully committed to prison for eight years, is released through Ima Purple’s reworking his case during IMASODE V: Anti-Belle of Antebellum Atlanta.  Finally,  he begins his new life in Detroit where his talent gets him an audition at MoTown, but his soft heart toward a young gangster gets him and Ima into deep, deep trouble. Ima notices whenever Brady fails to trust  his new found freedom, his fragile confidence and long isolation with inmates seem to cause his dialect to thicken.

Growing in Greenfield Village

After filling out employment forms at Greenfield Village, Rich and Brady took a short class in dealing with emergencies and irate customers. Then the friends separated to go to their own assignments. The personnel office sent Rich to the Carriage Barn and told Brady to sit down and wait. He sat quietly, fully expecting to be rejected due to his color. But when he learned what would happen next, it was far worse than someone simply making an excuse not to hire him.

Although Brady had the perfect body size and personality for security work, guards went through a rigorous selection process. After all, Greenfield Village visitors brought their children and expected safety as well as fun. The management insisted all security applicants take a polygraph test. Brady’s heart sank. Who would believe an ex-con? How could that prove that he was worth his salt.

Deciding to be totally honest about his stint in prison, he reminded the examiner that the police had cleared him of all charges. Still, as the man wrapped a blood pressure band around the applicant’s arm and placed electrodes on his skin, Brady admitted the process gave him the heebie-jeebies. He knew this apparatus would not electrocute him, but it reminded him of such things. He broke out in a sweat. His heart pounded. Even so, confessing to all his mischief proved a good strategy. The test results said he had not lied.

Soon outfitted with a uniform, radio, and Billy club for a weapon, Brady proudly began his orientation. The main office assigned another officer named Oliver to show him the ropes. Oliver attended a nearby college and worked every season at the Village. First off, he drove Brady to the Ford Museum a short distance away. They entered a huge warehouse type building with a high ceiling.

“I don’t know where you’ll be assigned; but one thing I do know. You’ll be standing around all day and will have to answer dozens of crazy questions. Guests think if you work for Ford, you know everything about everything. So let’s start with Henry Ford. He was an uneducated genius but a very practical man. His assembly line idea transformed American industry for more than just making cars. Food companies adapted his ideas to their production lines of filling and sealing cans.”

“I know about dat bacuz Mr. Beau took me to see the Coca Cola assembly line in Atlanta,” Brady related.

“Absolutely, so you already understand. Now, Ford used his philosophy to display our history here at his Museum and at the Village. He clustered all of our nation’s major inventions under one roof. That way Americans need only come to one place. His own crown jewel invention was the Model T known as the Tin Lizzy, the first car from a plant using assembly line methods. His process lowered the cost enough so even workers could buy it.”

“I ‘member dat too from school.”

“On your day off, go see the assembly plant over at Willow Run. It’ll knock your socks off… or as the hippies today say, ‘It’ll blow your mind,’” Oliver winked.

“I’m gonna do dat. It sounds far out. You know, I’m gonna like working yere.”

Brady felt excited that an incredible job had dropped from the sky, that is with Mr. DuPlantis’ help. Inside he knew not every white man was a bigot; but still no one else except Mr. Beau had ever stepped up like that to help him. Now he knew two decent white men besides his grandpa Brody.

“After I graduate college, I want a job in Ford’s design department. I tell you, Brady, working for this company can give you more of a career than just being a security guard half the year. But even that’s helped me pay for my schooling.”

“You know a lot about dese old classic cars?”

“Yes, and you soon will too because we have these same cars at the Village. Now take the Model A. It came along in the late 1920s but so did the Great Depression. Then folks couldn’t afford the Model T or A.”

“I heard all about dat depressin’ at my school too.”

Before leaving the Museum, Oliver showed Brady the Spirit of St. Louis in which Charles Lindberg flew solo across the Atlantic in 1927, and the bus on which Rosa Parks rode bravely back in 1955.

“Both of them had guts: Lindberg for striking out in a single engine plane and Parks for refusing to move further back or give up her seat for a white man.”

“Yeah, I knows all about that little lady. So what yore tellin’ me is… Henry Ford built a car eber’one oughta be able afford. And Rosa Parks rode a bus that eber’one oughta be able to take any seat.”

“Hey, that’s a very accurate summary of what happened.”

The two guards left the Museum and returned to the Village. Brady noticed an enormous difference at once. Instead of single inventions like a car displayed for visitors to view, there were entire buildings surrounded by acres of land.

“Each building here represents the early beginnings of an industry,” Oliver started to explain the Village to Brady. “Some structures like the Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop got moved here from Dayton, Ohio. Others like the Philadelphia’s Independence Hall may look original but only replicate famous buildings.”

Thomas Edison’s lab from Menlo Park proved the most amazing sight for Brady. He wondered how this lab building, made mostly of glass, got dismantled and moved from New Jersey to this permanent site in Dearborn, Michigan, without breaking into a million pieces. He stood inside and felt almost reverent as if in a church, realizing that maybe right in this place, Edison had invented the light bulb.

Brady found out that Edison hailed from Port Huron, Michigan and had a long friendship with Ford. They had similar approaches to solving practical problems. “Oliver, do ya s’pose Michigan water contains liquid genius?”

The two young security guards passed by a blacksmith’s stall and then a glass blower’s studio. “I bet he gets plenty of bid’ness if a wind busts out windows at Edison’s lab.”
Oliver shrugged his shoulders. “Brady, you’re a strange cat… with the most curious thoughts and questions I’ve ever heard. Where did you get such ideas? They sound so innocent as if coming from someone just born last week.”

“Ina ways, dat’s possible. After eight years living with a pack of dogs, I feel brand new.”

When Oliver nodded like he understood, Brady figured the supervisor had clued Oliver in on his partner’s past.

They moved on down the road and poked their noses into a building with separated sections that told the story of cloth making. Brady saw his first carding mill where workers prepared wool and cotton to be spun into thread and then woven into material on a loom. In the early days of America, fingers never stopped working by the fire at night. He listened to the guides explain how the early carding and spinning machines replaced the laborious hours the colonists spent hand-carding and hand-spinning carded wool into thread at a wheel. Over in the weaving shop, more ladies worked quickly to pass the shuttle back and forth across the giant hand looms. Brady mused that with all that work, no one had yet made a shirt or a dress.

On Main Street, old-fashioned businesses encircled the Village Green. This resembled an imaginary town where the sights never change except for seasonal flowers. Brady wondered how different it would be to shop here in the olden days instead of a mall where mannequins had their clothes changed constantly.

The two young security guards strolled into an old apothecary store where large decanters, filled with mysterious ingredients, sat on high shelves. A soda fountain counter with stools facing a beveled mirrored wall lined one wall. A soda jerk waited on customers. Were this a real drugstore, Brady asked himself if he would be allowed to sit at the counter to eat a banana split? Or would a clerk ask him to leave like had happened to him before going off to prison? Maybe not, he thought. Things had begun to change. Maybe he had missed the hardest part of the Civil Rights Movement.

Out in front of an old-fashioned barbershop stood a group of men, singing “Down by the Old Millstream” in quartet style. Oliver described how the Village employed regular acts as well as guest performers, especially during the holiday seasons. Brady made a note to check out this place after his break.

At the end of Main Street lay the Suwannee Lagoon. Oliver took Brady on board the Steamboat. Hearing the banjo music and watching the paddle circulate made Brady home sick for a historical South of which he had heard but never experienced himself. To him the scenery seemed more like white folks’ nostalgia than Black folks’ reality. Off the main drag on short lanes sat more remote displays to view. A cluster of historic houses in the Porches & Parlors district made Brady feel right at home, as if he had gone back to Atlanta on a visit. This lane led to The Black History Trail. That interested Brady enough to make him promise himself to return and study it later. Brady decided Greenfield Village was not just a giant step back into history but a complete trip, better than a book or a movie. Around every bend, something different appeared.

Visitors could feel the heat coming off a wood-fired kiln where dishes were made or could hear the hissing from the steam engine at Smith’s Creek Depot. They could see the laughing faces of kids’ riding in a Model T. And best of all, they could smell the horses as they passed drawing carriages and wagons full of Village guests.

With the tour complete by late afternoon , the young men had to get back to the real work at hand. The Village had divided up areas into regular beats for the security guards to monitor. Brady’s start-up route included Main Street, Porches & Parlors, the Suwannee Lagoon, and the Classic Car Districts. Oliver told Brady to keep his eyes open for anything extraordinary; but as partners, they could radio each other for help if needed.

Oliver said goodbye to Brady at the break room where young employees sat visiting and eating snacks. Buying a vending machine sandwich that tasted like cardboard, Brady promised himself to bring his own food from then on.

After the break, Brady had a few minutes to kill before being back on duty. He wanted to inquire about the barbershop singers he had seen. Although their music sounded corny and old-fashioned, he didn’t care. Singing was singing and always better than silence. Since prison had stomped out all the music in his heart, he’d give anything just to sing, even barbershop, if need be. He found the quartet eating sandwiches under a tree.

“Hi fellas. I’m Brady Bee. Ya mind tellin’ me how ya get to sing yere?”

“I’m Ralph, those ugly fellows are Roscoe, Remmy, and Riley. We fill-in for the regular fellows on their day off.”

“How I’s get to join?” Brady asked boldly.

“Now, hold yore horses. Why ya such an anxious fellow?” asked Ralph, a tall, smiling, older Black man who seemed in charge.

“I’ve lost time and got to catch up,” admitted Brady.

“What’s your range?” asked Roscoe, another Black man about thirty.


“How high or low do place yore voice?”

“Last I recall in church, they said I sang Irish falsetto,” Brady swelled his chest.

The group burst into laughter which broke the ice. Their caution and unfriendliness slipped away. Obviously amused, they began to cajole Brady.

“So you’re an Irish falsetto. Can’t say I’ve heard of that,” said Ralph.

“Ralph. Don’t tease the boy. He means tenor,” said Remmy in an accepting tone.

Brady immediately liked Remmy all except he called him “boy.”

“I-r-r-rish Tenor-r-r, you say? I beg your pardon,” said Riley rolling his r’s a bit.

“Well, are you an Irishman or a Black man,” asked Roscoe, a bit chippie.

“Yeah man, tell us. Are you a tenor or falsetto?” asked Riley.

“Hey, Riley, you may have some competition if this kid is any good,” Ralph said, teasing. “Give us a sample of how you sound until time to drone out more barbershop quartette refrains.”

“You mean sing along… right now?” asked Brady.

“Naw, by yoreself, show us what you got,” said Ralph. ”What songs do you know that we might sing back up on?”

“Only one I can think of is ‘Swing Low.’ But it’s a church song. Okay?”

“Okay by me,” said Ralph seeming to warm up to Brady’s eagerness.

The barbershop quartet set their harmony notes on third intervals in the key of G and hummed a chord for accompaniment. “Hummmmmmmm.”

All of a sudden, Brady’s shyness evaporated. Confidently he opened his mouth, not sure of what might come out. From years in prison and stuffing songs back into his gut, he surprised himself by hitting the first note squarely. He sang a few lines, and a few people stopped to listen. He began to sweat, and his heart pounded. Yet, this time his body reacted not because he might tell a lie but for fear he might explode with excitement, seeing smiles shining back at him.

Civil Rights Notes from IMASODE VI

Excerpted from supplementary information in the Appendices / Lookup Suggestions of IMASODE VI: Danger Starts in Detroit.

Righteous Reasons for the Civil Rights Movement:
In the 1960s some unknown champions heralded the most important and positive change of the times: the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, this critical social phenomenon occurred almost concurrently to the hippie/peace movement which muddied the waters. One appeared as a group of spoilers; and the other, as people with legitimate issues and righteous complaints.

Reasonable people, with true eyes on their society, wanted to participate effectively in the freedom battle. But, since many hippies blended into, even usurped, the fight for civil rights, those flawed messengers polluted the atmosphere and almost single-handed stopped the conversation between interested parties. The middle class  whites saw the need and justice of promoting freedom for Blacks and even admired Dr. Martin Luther King’s non-violent approach.

However, they felt unprepared, even repulsed by the quick acceptance of other, almost instant, radical changes of the times. Sexual promiscuity and the drug culture had attached like “tares among the wheat” (Matt 13:25) to the more righteous movement of civil rights. Propaganda machines on both sides multiplied false ideas, blurring and even canceling the chance for a positive outcome.

Twisted Understanding of the Civil Rights Movement:
Admittedly, some blue-collar workers feared losing their jobs. A strong example of that was when radical agitators urged Black autoworkers to form their own union. Promoters implied that the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) and League of Revolutionary Black Workers(LRBW) could make better deals with car manufacturers than the United Auto Workers (UAW), the traditional union could. IMASODE VI explores this idea and mixes in gangster strong-arming to demonstrate how corruption might have played a part on both sides of this project.

With their homes being a major investment, many whites resisted their neighborhoods becoming racially mixed. Integration of schools moved along a bumpy but determined road; and through the busing of children to formally restricted neighborhoods brought about a co-mingling of races, hitherto not experienced. These children led the way in accepting each other once they became schoolmates in class and competitors in sports. Black teachers filled out school faculties and earned the respect of their white counterparts. Parents began to have black work cohorts in the office. Although the process was imperfect and sometimes forced, a lot of anger had to dissipate so that jobs got done properly.

Except for reactionary, hate groups, average people  usually more moderate in their views, saw such changes as progress but still wanted a cooling off period, a time to marinate reality in the new laws. They still wrestled with Dr. King’s warning against gradualism, a policy he knew would cause a loss of momentum in the Civil Rights Movement.

However, the collective guilt given to those wanting a slower transition was not properly assigned to southern Democrat politicians who more feared the next election than finally facing this dilemma. Instead, it was laid on the workaday population. Blaming middle class people only immobilized them and shunted off any honest contribution they could have made to the cause.

Yes, history had announced the time for average men to take a backseat. Yes, they would be kept in the dark, reminded that they supposedly had been responsible for keeping Blacks in the dark. Though neither landowners nor slaveholders in the 1800s, they had somehow, by their very existence, unwittingly perpetuated racism. Their own success was proof of their guilt, so blame became the watchword!

Given only criticism and no instruction on how to move through the abrupt changes in society, the majority floundered and became silent. The national media and
university kibitzers would not grant it a place at the opinion table. Ridiculed, isolated to the outside, and without real influence, the middle class conversation became splintered into dissent and arguments, which tainted rational men and inflamed the fearful ones.

Not without resources, this majority grew more silent; or it raised its defenses with  belligerence-cum-violence. The two standard political parties sat by impotently. So southern citizens, either feeling blamed or driven by fear, lined up behind an overt reactionary, George Wallace; and peace protesters rallied around a radical pacifist, George McGovern. These two strong versions came from the extreme ends of the 1960s spectrum.

Personal Observation:

Sadly, after having personally worked and socialized with Blacks for decades, I see the Great Divide of Ideologies re-erupting, flavoring the discussion, and fomenting racial discord again today. As a useful citizen, it is imperative to stay informed and to perceive statements properly. However, naive, uninformed citizens are the most vulnerable to slanted dogma, no matter from where it comes. They can be easily motivated to violence. I, therefore, implore the uninformed to read more, broaden its horizons, and become better informed. If not, please use good common sense to discern/ignore/resist such corrupted ploys designed by those with an agenda to block racial harmony .

I especially recommend  The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple to non-traditional learners and those wanting advanced literacy before applying to college. As a mystery series, this Picaresque helps develop critical thinking skill, subtly builds a PSAT+ vocabulary, and increases common knowledge. Within realistic stories, it explores a broad range of 1960s topics from a historical-fiction perspective, topics still remaining raw and relevant in the 2000s.

What Readers of Ímagine Purple Are Saying:

“This story is far beyond what I thought. It kept me on pins and needles. These new bios help readers understand the characters, especially why Vanna is a high-class thief. I felt sorry for Brady in prison. While Cal should wear a different cologne, Shelton needs to get rid of his jealousy and take a nice long nap.”
Avery consumed first 9 books and said “they were like movies.”
— Avery (Virginia, helped from age 11 until graduation)

“I worried about Lionel when taken hostage by the Pollibos. My favorite character was Brady Bee. I loved when he chased Cal on foot and actually caught him in the truck. My favorite part was when Ima talked to Detective Bailey about the weaponry and the types of bullets used in different guns in the crime.” This boy reader read 9 episodes and created the term Imasodes.”
— Collin (Maine, helped from age 10 until graduation)

“I read the first book of The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple and have come to like Vanna the most. We are very similar because I like to be in control and get all fixed up. I was aware that the story became a mystery when Ima found Vanna’s purse in the restroom.”
— Ashley (Tennessee, age12)

“You may ask what picaresque means? As a not-so-young reader, I asked the same question. It is defined in the book as ‘adventure where the hero travels all over and meets many rascals.’ So now you know.”
— Julie (Tennessee, too old to tell)

“I can’t wait to start reading Imasode II: The Scary Ferry to Nova Scotia.”
— Ryleigh (Texas, 10)

“I write books too, and yours are really neat.”
— Reece (Tennessee, 9)

“After finishing the first Imasode, I grew excited about the potential of the series. Students like getting involved with characters who reappear in different stories. The exciting and fast-paced adventures surely will hold the attention of readers in middle school grades and beyond.”
— Tahnya Sherwood (Georgia, elementary library media specialist)

“I’ve started reading the books and LOVE them! I feel like I have a better vocabulary but am entertained with the history mystery aspect.”
— Kaylee (Atlanta area middle schooler)

“I’m already reading the first book! Ímagine is such a neat character. I’m so lucky to have the books autographed.”
— Bonny (Florida, age 11)

Early on, such comments as the above let me know that an audience definitely exists for a mystery series in the form of an old fashioned picaresque. These wholesome, realistic, kid-safe books also bring nostalgic entertainment to adults, especially non-traditional students brushing up on their vocabulary and general knowledge before applying to college.

IMASODE  I:   Last Passenger Train Across Newfoundland
IMASODE II:  The Scary Ferry to Nova Scotia
IMASODE III: Mary Jane of Canton, Maine
IMASODE  IV: Mayhem in Manhattan
IMASODE V:    Anti-Belle of Antebellum Atlanta

You can buy IMASODES I-IV through Tate Publishing, Amazon, and B&N. IMASODE V can be bought through Tate until its public release in May. You might also ask your local library if it has the series yet.


Shingles and roof deck haphazardly torn off,
Rafters, studs, joist: a big pile of splinters;
Yet solid oak planking held out like a treasure –
Lifted carefully one-by-one so as to recycle;
Old stoves, plumbing tossed aside for a yard sale:
They’re cream-puffs, I swear, and need no repair
Then Jack Hammer hits on the last of my structure,
Bashed basement, left dirt holes for my foundation.
No valuable artifact stayed ’round for archeological digs.
From sidelines, shears came from the Gardener’s shack,
Not held by a pruner but a butchering fool.
To the quick he cut quickly; sap ran and then oozed:
Stunned stalks stood fearful as bloomless buds fell.
Then tackled he Rhyme
And made measures change Time;
In sync, waltzing Rhythm edged far from its bar
Till conductors nearly shunned its passionate Beat.
And stole laurels from the fire, meant to scent poets’ labors,

Broke songs into shards, scattered words with nonsequiturs!
Now voiceless, almost gagged, this poet’s throat
Crossed a narrow bridge o’er the old Bards’ Moat.

He chopped off my toes all the way to the knees,
Sawed fingers and elbows to make shoulder nubs:
Once nimble limbs morphed to thalidomide stubs
He cursed the slow kill, for the torso had issues
What organs sustained life; essential, what tissues?
Both kidneys and liver he listed, not brain,
His sword wryly mocked all that shyly remained.
My eyes and navel, dismissed on the floor,
Designed quaint reprisals and attacks by metaphor.
My shape once charmed hearts of voices unheard.
My motherly tones hummed in sleepy babes’ ears.
My images stirred breasts; yet none dared to  share back.
My letters formed words that gave perfect slant,
I now hope cutting-floor edits ‘ll regroup old truths

Teen Literature and Culture

Lately, I’ve grown concerned over the alphabetical canon of fiction being read by teens: aliens, demons, dragons, fairytale, fantasy, monsters, occult, vampires, witches, wizards, and zombies.

Although we all get stuck in a “fun” genre from time to time, I wonder if the above list may somehow separate future adults from the reality, discernment, and critical thinking required to function maturely as productive citizens.

At the same time, many other books written for teens seem to collide by design. While unreality clogs the fictional choices, non-fiction has its own circle of pet reality topics.

  1. Heart-rending exposés of victims being bullied or trapped in a minority
  2. Innocent sounding occult texts in tantalizing robes
  3. How-to guides on looking sexy/glamorous, repeating familiar formulas.

These conflicting visions offer random advice to the vulnerable teenager who longs to become an adult but whose brain and neurology has not fully developed. Parents totally buffaloed by their sullen, non-serious, and rebellious youth fear for their brood’s success in college and life. From the mid-20th century on, a plethora of professional advice books began to arrive on the scene to meet that need.

Yet, sociological and psychological authors often contradicted each other, contradictions that sometimes caused greater recriminations and feelings of failure in parents. Now researchers have more finely tuned tools to study the physiological side of teenage behavior. For that reason, I just ordered two books which I hope will inform me further on the nature of teenage brains:

 You Have a Brain: A Teen’s Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G (Dr. Ben Carson, brain surgeon)

The Teenage Brain (Dr. Frances Jensen, head of neurology at the Univ. of Pennsylvania)

Even so, without accurate measuring tools or statistical data in the past, ancient opinions on youth reflected uniform ideas throughout the centuries, leading me to think they held both some truth and logic. From early Greece to 1700 England and 1900 America, adults have repeated the common complaint over youth’s laziness, wild behavior, and disrespectful attitudes.  In America, the…

  • 1910s saw young boys going off to war almost automatically.
  • 1920s had an abundance and affluence that caused youth to step out of tradition, especially women who rebelled by cutting morals and hair length by half.
  • 1930s, with futures destroyed by a depressed economy, youth found pennies to buy a movie ticket, to escape for two hours the hunger and despair all around them.
  • 1940s needed teens again to go off to war. This time upon return, they received a college education as a reward for doing so.
  • 1950s brought back widespread prosperity. Still teens felt fear when they lined up for atomic bomb school drills.
  • 1960s changed teen and young adult life way beyond previous eras. Rebellious groups, disenchanted with middle-class rules and values, beckoned naïve youth by false promises of sexual and lifestyle freedom. However, their protests lacked the purity of the concurrent civil rights movement.
  • 1970s built a stronghold of drugs and disorder for teens and young adults. School curricula tried to undo centuries of racial unfairness but in so doing, skewed history itself. Government programs popped up to treat drug addition, generational poverty, teenage pregnancy, and cultural deprivation. Social agencies geared up for a very sick society.
  • 1980s, gave a momentary reprieve with an artificial joy seen in prosperity and disco, sending rebellion/negative elements underground.
  • 1990s saw the Cold War end, yet American integrity began to shatter. Drugs, disease, and discouragement seemed to dominate youth culture even more than in the past.
  • 21st century has dealt an uncertainty of a long recession and an radical enemy of jihad.

Having now lived many decades as an empirical not scientific observer, I believe something unique did hit our land in the 1960s, a time when I was personally right in the midst of it all and felt something disproportionate affecting our nation, a bitter flavor that still remains in our palate. For that reason, I purposely chose that tumultuous era to set The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple mystery series,

In conclusion, I believe contemporary teens lead no better or worst lives than generations before them. Each person must prepare for the circumstances facing his contemporaries. So lessons in life need as much study as academic ones. If truth be told, most of us wanted to grow up fast and get on with life until we realized that adulthood brought duties, responsibilities, and privileges for which we still needed parents, teachers, and mentors to groom us.

So what delays the natural progression to adulthood? Perhaps discouraging world news signals teens and college students to reject growing up… to hide from the inevitable. Perhaps they have yet to grasp that real adults do not want to stunt the maturing process because nothing is more uncomfortable than a 35 year-old suckling. Still, I see signs of reluctance in youth to embrace the future.

No matter how many articles I read that agree or disagree with my ideas, youth does seem less able to cope without multiple-crutches (i.e. escape movies, ear numbing music, casual drug use, binge drinking, risky hook-ups, idle texting, unsafe media posting). The constant bombardment on their nervous system may have a deleterious effect, eventually. (I’ll report later on what I glean from the books above mentioned).

Call me old-fashioned; but I do wonder if parents and teachers will at some point grow strong enough to seize their authority and declare to their charges, “Enough already! Go read a classic.” At the same time I know how much our young people need encouragement; so I believe we must also say: “We believe in you and your ability to follow the highest thoughts and to reject  the nasty, debased, and empty words of our current parlance. Phrases such as “OMG, uh-uh, like… you know, I mean uh, awesome, so cool” and the typical 300 words spoken daily, will never meet the analytical requirements for a college report.  Therefore, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers (Ephesians 6:29 KJV).

The Thrill of the Classroom

DSC_0130_ppHaving just returned from a 7-week road trip out west to market my mystery series The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple to schools, bookstores, and libraries, I serendipitously got to view performances of my play, “The Last U.S. Mail Stage Robbery.” Although now settled back home, I admit feeling a thick layer of contentment icing over my obviously tired body.

While in Elko, Nevada, the Real Ima,* portrayed by my daughter, went with me to public and private schools to present “How to Turn Your Own Adventures into Stories.” I shared some of my own experiences that had informed my series. Our program received enthusiastic approval and participation.  After giving back-to-back presentations, a few times I lost my voice mid-sentence. Fortunately, Ima took over  and completed my point. Her rescue of me delighted the kids and commanded their strong attention. Of course her being dressed in full Ima Purple regalia (purple dress, purple shoes, and carrot-colored wig) helped as well.

The lesson plan I left with the teachers held enough material on “How a Detective’s Mind Works” and “How an Author’s Mind Works” for them to continue exploring the adventure idea with their classes. Since my series is in the educational fiction genre, I gave a brief explanation on how Sherlock Holmes used “deduction”and on how Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot used “induction.” Then I explained Ima’s investigative method of “reduction.” I also included a grammar thrust which asked students to explore using more “activity” verbs than “being” verbs. We discussed what too many “being” verbs can signal to a reader or a teacher:

  • a sleepy writer
  • a passive writer
  • a procrastinating writer

Students got a copy of two famous quotes showing how Charles Dickens opened The Tale of Two Cities with multiple uses of “was” and “were” (being verbs) and how William Shakespeare let Hamlet give his “To be or not to be” soliloquy (also in being verbs). Even though these passages show the eloquent, rhetorical style penned by the hand of masters, few modern writers can match such artistry.

The freedom that students crave to develop their own writing style, may come most naturally once they grasp that most things in life do not remain in a “state of being” but fluctuate within a wide range of physical/sensual/mental/emotional activity. Therefore, choosing verbs that describe actions/senses/thoughts/emotions can lead to the creation of more accurate sentences. Refined word choices and strong verbs often better express what students mean to say or how they want to describe an event or idea.

After mingling with the students and teachers, I watched the Flag View Intermediate librarian follow up our presentation by reading Ima Purple’s biography in the Appendices of Imasode I: The Last Passenger Train Across Newfoundland. She then let the students write the background of a person they had met or a character they could imagine.*

Another great delight came by watching the faces of kids at the Elko Boys and Girls Club as I read an excerpt from Imasdoe III: Mary Jane of Canton, Maine.

I hope to get more invitations to present my series to other audiences.

(To view more pictures of the Real Ima, check out Beth Fine’s Amazon Author’s Page.)

Encouraging Teachers About Student Writing

Future Guided Lessons
As teachers know full well, writing requires major multitasking. The brain must cooperate, coordinate, and synthesize previous years of training? That takes a lot of focus. Since writing calls on a storehouse of cognitive abilities that must contribute simultaneously, it is often an elusive, difficult skill for students to master?

Though some of us might point to public speaking as our number one fear, many young people would promote writing to that position. It seems not only a fear but also their main nemesis to succeeding in academics. Place a blank sheet of paper in front of them, and a blank stare crosses their faces. I’ve seen students totally buffaloed by writing anything whether fictional or fact-based until they understood the process broken into chewable bites.
• observe details
• absorb facts
• organize points
• find examples for each point
• choose the right rhetorical style to fit the proposed idea
• summarize the main thrust
• use logic to present a purposeful conclusion

Once they digested the parts of the process, they not only conquered their fears but began to love the expanded communication that writing gave them. They found that mastering the ability to arrange words formally produced a new personal freedom, satisfaction, and power like few other achievements.

Their success spurred me on to begin developing a way to hone that skill, (admittedly an unfinished idea at present). One day I hope to combine it with my history/mystery series The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple. The educational fiction genre can prove a sneaky way to teach.

Now forget that. Teachers already have enough pedagogy on their plates. Most have more ideas than time to execute them. School systems may design curricula but cannot dictate or  design dedication. So, my purpose in today’s entry is to encourage teachers with the simple vision of Aesop, a paraclete who came alongside his pupils.

Aesop’s method of providing incidental learning differed from the Socratic method of asking direct questions to explore and heighten a topic. Instead, he used fables, stories that had attached morals and that echoed inconvertible truths. These tales provided efficient, critical thinking exercises to lead his followers down strong, joyful, lifetime paths of truth seeking, rather than test-taking.

If Aesop’s master had made him separate his tales from their truths, he would have soon grown exhausted and weary of such an implausible task. Given unsuitable “How to’s” and “Must do’s” might have forced him to implore his master to resell him on the slave block. Selah.

To me, teachers flow in and out of roles from paraclete to instructional guide to quasi-expert to silent helicopters hovering over their classroom charges. When released to do their chosen work, they show moxie and talent on how to mix goals and tasks, knowing when to…
• walk alongside their students
• give periodic review, clear explanation, and real encouragement
• resist the temptation to over-explain
• set students free to figure out and follow instructions
• insist on their completing assignments
• expect high-achievement
• grade the effort of students as intimate feedback to assess their own progress

If only Aesop and I give you the refreshment and accolades you deserve today, just know this. When your teaching motive seems squelched by too many “How to’s” and “Must do’s,” your attitude will again soar. From your attention and efforts, your students will unexpectedly succeed; and you will find more “Don’t need to’s.”

How to Analyze IMASODE Characters

Discovering what makes characters tick in The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple mystery series can enhance the reader’s enjoyment and may even provide a deeper understanding of why real-life people act as they do. The IMASODES listed below have many characters to analyze. Also below are questions to help pull out what you really feel about certain ones you loved, hated, mistrusted, or even enjoyed. Some questions you may find easy; others may take serious thought.

Each Imasode has a List of Characters with a one-line description. If you want to know more about a particular character, look to see if  an asterisk (*) stands above his or her name. If so, that character has a biography in the Appendices, a section found in the back of the book.

Biographies are “short stories about long lives.” If you have a curious mind, try reading the biography of a certain character before tackling the whole story. You may dig beforehand to have some cryptic clues and  unknown character flaws revealed early. Even though not everything about the mystery arrives quickly in the main text, you will eventually discover who the culprit is and how he gets caught.You may choose to read to learn clues in advance or just to enjoy the story. So,  your reading style is your choice. Remember our motto:

Have Fun. Get Smarter.™


IMASODE I: Last Passenger Train Across Newfoundland
IMASODE II: The Scary Ferry to Nova Scotia
IMASODE III: Mary Jane of Canton, Maine
IMASODE IV: Mayhem in Manhattan


1. Who was your favorite character at first? Did that change? If so, why?
2. Which one did you hate and why?
3. Which one did you cheer for and why?
4. Which one worried you the most and why?
5. Which one deceived you the most and how?
6. Which one muddied the waters from time to time?
7. Which one seemed the scariest to you and why?
8. Which one seemed the most corrupt and/or despicable?
9. Which one seemed capable of improvement, even redemption?
10. Which one made the greatest change in the story and why?
11. What type of changes did you see that above mentioned character?
a. from unknown to good
b. from bad to good
c. from seeming good to bad
12. Which character’s viewpoint from the text gave you a clue? How?
13. Which character’s viewpoint from the biography gave you a clue? How?
14. Which characters’ names fit them and why?
15. Which characters’ description fit them and how?
16. Which characters had the strongest motives to cause trouble?
17. Which character stirred the stew or left false clues to try to change the outcome?


IMASODE V; Anti-Belle of Antebellum Atlanta (in book cover process)

Hope you enjoy reading mysteries that take place in different locations from your everyday world.