Small wins, rescued mice, and a thank you to all school teachers

Crazy week. I’m way off my game. Thought I’d have a post ready to go last Monday, actually the start of a blog post series, which I can’t wait to introduce. But March has this knack for throwing me all over the place, and it ain’t a pretty sight.

First up, I had a somewhat disappointing meeting with an editor who had been considering a short story of mine. Seems like every time I feel really confident about something I wrote, I get slammed upside the head. I’m sure I’m being overdramatic and it probably isn’t as bad as how I feel. But the bottom line is that I suffered yet another rejection.

Writers struggle with writing.
image courtesy of

I hadn’t realized until he turned me down that I really needed this small win. It’d been way too long since my last notable win, and I’m feeling the pull down the rabbit hole. I just want to disappear. Too much time between wins is like river rocks that are spaced too far apart to jump from one to the next. You get stuck, right there, on a rock in the middle of a raging river. No, let’s make it lava. Hot lava from a volcano—rushing—and the incinerating ooze is rising ever and ever higher …

Letting some time pass to mull over what I’m calling a loss. Part of me tries to keep it all in perspective, that the story had been considered, actually held in the hands by an editor, and that he had to think about it, which also included a conference call with me. That’s pretty important, right? I mean, that’s a lot better than the slush pile. It’s like the slush pile but with style. The style pile. Yeah.

Two cats snuggling together

Then a few nights ago, my two sweet, innocent-looking cats (100% indoor felines) caught 5 mice in my house, one right after the other. I don’t know if the mice were moving in, luggage and all, and the cats swooped in, but it was the craziest hour of my whole week! For those of you who know me, you won’t be totally shocked to hear that I rescued ALL the mice. Grabbing the cats, prying open their jaws, scooping up the frightened critters in a Tupperware container, then sending them outside on their merry way.

One mouse, however, got super banged up and I had to rehab it first before releasing it. I had an old fish aquarium, and he bunked there for a couple of nights before I ended up taking him to a real wildlife rehab center. They took care of him and now he’s free and wild again!

I’m running some after-school creative writing programs again, which I love doing. Most of the kids who sign up are avid readers and writers—they really want to learn. But there are just that select few who feel it is their God-given right to be disruptive, the class clown, the troublemaker. They are such rabble rousers that by the end of the class, I’m frazzled.

How do schoolteachers manage a whole day of that crap? How are they able to actually teach the kids who want to learn when there is all the noise from entitled brats coming at them from fifty-eight directions?

I want to say THANK YOU to ALL school teachers—teachers are way too underappreciated and underpaid. Schools are overcrowded and underfunded. This is one of the most important places where the world’s kids are shaped and guided, and we can’t turn out model citizens/leaders/community members if the teachers aren’t given better support, tools, equipment, or resources.

Just saying.

How has your March been, all lion-y or more lamblike? Have you ever rescued a mouse? If you’re a teacher, I salute you, and want to hear HOW DO YOU DO IT???

Have a writerly day!!

31 thoughts on “Small wins, rescued mice, and a thank you to all school teachers”

  1. No curling up and disappearing, though I know the feeling all too well. You and that little mouse have a bit in common at the moment; a little battered and in need of some TLC. Be kind to yourself. Then give yourself the same pep talk you’d give any of us in a similar situation. 🙂

    • This is the perfect time of year to curl up and disappear–which I usually do, and what might make the rejection that much more difficult to bear. March is not my favorite month. But ’tis the first day of spring and I’m going to enjoy it!

  2. Kate, you consistently amaze me and restore my faith in humanity as a worthwhile species. <3 If more people had your compassion and your thoughtfulness for life, we would be a much healthier, happier society.

    Firstly, that editor might have passed on that particular story, but it's still a small win. How? You put yourself out there, and that takes guts. It's evidence of a dedication and bravery that so many of us just don't have. Be proud of that. And, you're right: a thoughtful rejection is worth more than a form-letter reply. The fact that you got a call, where you heard a person’s voice and got real-time feedback, says a lot about the impression you must have made. In this age, it’s much easier to send an email to (or flat-out ignore) a request for consideration.

    Moving on, I adore that you saved those mice from your cats…even though your kitties probably resented your stepping in. Hopefully, those mice found a little burrow far away from your house in which to stay, and they hadn’t told their buddies about your place. 😉

    If you teach at a more or less formal institution (college, university, high school, after-school program), they should have guidelines for dealing with disruptive students. Office of the Dean, for example, or Office of Student Affairs. NEA has some good general advice that our student teachers use ( Your fellow teachers/professors likely can offer guidance, as well. The difficulty is that not all techniques will work in all situations. For instance, the parent-teacher discussion can sometimes really work and sometimes really backfire. If the maladjusted social behavior is an attempt to gain attention – whether from you or peers – usually removing the offending student from the situation is the most straightforward approach. But, again, consult with your principal’s office/dean’s office/administration for their best practices. Good luck!

    • Thanks, Mayumi, my friend. I will save most critters–but I have been known to kill mosquitoes *hangs head in shame*.

      In time, I will see the loss as a small win, or at least a step forward. Putting myself and my work out there is extremely difficult and rejection only makes me wonder why the hell I’m doing this to myself. Retail would be so much easier, but mind-numbing, so yeah, here I am.

      Thanks for the tips! Because my class is part of an after-school enrichment program, the school staff is uninvolved. But I bet I can find some creative strategies through the link you sent! The other problem with this situation is that the disruptive kids were signed up “against their will” by their parents. I’m sure the parents saw a chance for their child to get in some more writing. For someone who loves to write, that is an awesome opportunity. But for a child who hates to write? Why would he want to spend time outside of school doing it? Strange to think that there’s anyone who doesn’t like to write, I know …

  3. Hi Kate,

    That is a long list of animals you’ve saved!

    Im allergic to cats and dogs but before I found that out I was taking care of my roommates’ cat. She brought home mice and birds all the time.

    Only once were they actually still alive!

    • I feel sorry for anyone who is allergic to animals. I feel the same for people who are allergic to peanuts. Y’all are missing out! 🙂

      I had to laugh at your last line … would make for a great story!!

  4. I know that feeling of wanting to curl up and disappear. It’s definitely a win whenever any editor bothers to comment on something you’ve written though so don’t go disappearing! The mice and all the other animals need you. That’s so great that you saved them!

    • March has a way of taking me out by the knees to begin with, so it was just really nasty timing. I know! What would these creatures do without me? I must do it for the mice. 🙂

  5. Taking the positives from a rejection is important isn’t it, and there are definitely positives from yours. I’m currently touting a cookery book. I submitted the proposal to one publisher, and she came back really quickly to reject it, like the next day, saying it wasn’t the right type of cookery book that they publish, but she recommended another publisher, and said that I could specifically name her and say that she had recommended I tried them. So whilst I was initially obviously disappointed, when I thought about it more I decided that if she hadn’t liked my proposal then she wouldn’t have told me I could use her name when contacting another publisher, right? (Right?!). Also I was grateful that if it was going to be a rejection, it came back quickly rather than my waiting for weeks or months to then learn that it’s a no.

    I sent it to the one she recommended, and that one also came back quickly with a rejection, and explained why it didn’t quite fit with the cookery books they publish – and I could see what she meant, and I could also see why the first one thought it might; it was along the right lines of that second one, but not quite! (Sorry I’m being cryptic, but I don’t want to say publicly what it’s about yet!). And then I realised that my book doesn’t quite fit nicely into a certain type of cookery book category. And as we all know from fiction, that can be an issue. But it led me instead to start looking for cookbook publishers who seem to go for something a bit quirky or different. And I sent it to one of those. Haven’t heard anything yet.

    Sorry for the essay!

    Glad you’re enjoying the teaching despite the challenges!

    I’m going to do a post about mice soon too! I wouldn’t mind as much if cats did a quick kill, but they seem to enjoy tormenting and torturing them to death, it’s awful! 🙂

    • So, yeah, now you’ve got me all INTRIGUED over your cookery book. And knowing you, I can only imagine what makes it so unique. Have you tried to shop it in the United States??

      Can’t wait to read your post on mice. I agree with you about how the cats go about murdering the poor things. I read somewhere that cats don’t go after mice for food but for play, at least this refers to domesticated cats (feral cats obviously go after mice for munching). That is why they seem to torture mice, when in fact, they’re only “playing.” Hmm. I don’t know. Sounds a little sadistic to me. Actually, my cats attack the fake mice with just as much vigor as they do the real deal, so there might be something to the theory.

  6. Very sorry about the rejection. I know the sting of it as I’ve been there many times myself. Best of luck to you the next time around.

    As for the mice, you are a better woman than me. I would have freaked to see one mouse in my house, let alone five. Not sure I would have shared your compassion!

    • You and my husband both. He has been known to jump up on furniture when someone spots a mouse. The stories I could tell!

      The mice appeared on a night that became brutally cold all of a sudden, the temperature dropping thirty degrees or something crazy in the span of just a couple of hours. I’m guessing the mice made a beeline for my house at that point, and the cats were on patrol, and, yeah, the rest is history.

  7. Don’t curl up and disappear, Kate – whenever I get rejected I think I’m lucky because I’ve got a finished story I can send somewhere else at short notice 😉 Five mice? wow! Your cats are awesome (and you are an angel for saving them) xxxx

    • Yes, I need to get in that frame of mind regarding the rejection. It’ll take me some time to regroup, but I’ll get there. Pizza will help. 🙂

      My cats were so proud of themselves! Trotting around with mice between their jaws. They sure were surprised when I stole their toys!!

  8. My March has been lion-like. Nothing docile about it. I agree with everyone else above that you mustn’t get bogged down in thinking about what went wrong with your writing project, instead focus on what went right with it. After all it’s March, so non-successes don’t really count for much in anything other than basketball.

    • Yes, Ally, I need to re-focus and think about what went right with it. Another project finished, even if it still needs work (or not, who knows), I should be proud of that.

      Hmm, I like your point about March Madness. Too bad I’m not much of a basketball fan. Maybe I ought to take it up as a distraction? 😉

  9. It sounds like a chaotic month Kate, typical, I find, of the time before the equinox as the world comes into balance! I can understand the disappointment between successes, but on the plus side, you did save 5 little lives 🙂

    • Oh, I love how you bring the equinox into this, because I hadn’t thought of that! I’m usually a basketcase in March, but you’re right–if the world/universe is imbalanced it is bound to affect us. 🙂 5 little lives that might be wondering why they’re suddenly back out in the freezing cold–they’d worked so hard to get inside where it’s warm! 😉

    • He is the editor of a literary magazine and part of his job is to go through the submissions that got a thumbs up from the interns. I think this is the case with many small publications where certain members of the staff have to perform multiple roles. And he didn’t go out of his way to deflate me-that was all me. I own my self-pity. He was very kind and gave me some good tips that I’m sure I can use to my advantage down the road, when I’m ready.

  10. Thank you for your kind words about teachers. I retired with 30 years of service in one of Northeast Ohio’s big urbans. More than 70% of our enrollment qualified for free or reduced lunch. Over 2000 teenagers walked our halls every day, changing classrooms in our three-story building every 50 minutes. I wrote my Creative Writing curriculum (I and II) as an upper-level, studio-style class, but had to take anyone who signed up. I also created and advised the school’s literary magazine with my class as its major contributors.

    Many enrolees were immediately discouraged (and subsequently dropped) when they found out that every single piece of their writing was going to be read aloud, first by me, eventually by them, to the class. And that every single one of them was going to be critiquing the writing aloud, using commentary guidelines I initially provided. But–we also applauded for every piece of writing as well. They wrote every day, and they were given time to have peer review plus some silent writing time; they also signed up for individual conference time with me (and a certain number of conferences with me were required, dependent upon the difficulty/length of the assignment). As the course(s) went on, the students loved the freedom within the structure: it fostered mutual trust and respect; it helped them develop style and voice; it allowed them individual time with me.

    My students went on to win prizes, publish in national literary magazines (including The Sun), publish books, and one is teaching poetry and literature in university. Another is currently editing a college literary magazine.

    An afterschool program is tough. In many ways, it is like a babysitting service, a Stay Out Of Trouble Waystation. You need to be tough, too. Tough and Fair, always. One of my students, a massive football player, once told me, “Ms. D., you crack me up. You’re little, but you’re always the biggest person in this room.” At 5′ 4″, I had to be. I needed to walk into that room full of teenagers every single day and command it. You can do it, too. Know your stuff, be prepared, be fair, and don’t let bad guys win. And never let them see you lose it.

    • Sounds like you ran a tight ship, Nance! 🙂 Luckily, most of my students want to be there, writing and learning how to tell a story, so they make the struggle worthwhile. I have a fairly sarcastic manner, and that tends to give me an edge over the more disruptive kids. The other advantage I have is that I let the kids choose their writing subject, and I allow them to write about stuff they normally can’t in school (war, guns, blood and gore). Most of them think that’s really cool and that helps build their interest. You’re absolutely right–I have to show them who’s boss right from the get-go. And being fair works like magic. So true.

      Thanks for swinging by and commenting!

  11. Wow, you’re even awesomer than I thought! And I hope you’re not that upset about the rejection anymore, you did just run a very successful writing competition for the wolves 😉 Yay you!
    I’ve rescued a mouse (or it may have been a rat) before. My mom and I were coming out with our groceries and I narrowly missed running over one that was lying all pink and dehydrated right next to our car on the parking lot. We couldn’t leave him there and so we took him with and tried to rehabilitate him at home (because at the time we used to live out in the middle of nowhere in MN and there were no wildlife rehabs that would take mice). Prior to that I hadn’t know how baby like they could act, hugging fingers and stretching and yawning and suckling on baby rodent formula from the tip of a brush. Unfortunately, he died a few days later and my sister and I couldn’t stop crying for hours. Call me sensitive but I love animals as much as I love people so…

    • I love hearing that story! I don’t think enough people go out of their way to save wild animals–especially wild animals that are otherwise considered pests. No one likes having mice, rats, squirrels, etc. in their houses because they can be destructive, but that’s no reason to be heartless and inhumane either. I’m sorry your little patient died, but take heart in knowing you tried, and he/she at least was given some comfort. 🙂

      • Yes, it takes courage and compassion to do extra for animals and get out of that comfort zone but after a couple of times, it becomes normal. Just recently we found a slug in twigs of mint we bought and released it into a garden outside.
        And thank you for your kind words!

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