Things I am asked every day

My Professor for my master’s degree in writing.

Brian Koppelman

1)Should I outline?

You have to understand something: without knowing you, I have no way to know whether or not you are the kind of person who would be helped or hindered by outlining. But here’s a way to think about it. Outlines are roadmaps, they represent a way you CAN go to get to your destination. My writing partner, David Levien, and I, usually work from some kind of outline. But to us, it’s never a limiting document. It just a series of cards or pages that set out the story as we have it figured at the moment.
For us, the outlining process is really where we get the bones of the story down, or the initial idea of how we are telling the story. We may spend longer outlining than we do writing the rough first draft; once we have that draft down, then everything is open…

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I’m addicted to office supplies. I love pens, pads, stationery, paper and cards. Did I say I love pens? I buy plenty of cards to send to people.  I don’t send them. I’ve gotten extremely lazy in my handwriting as well.  I went to Catholic school.  I’ll never forget the outrage I felt when Sister Joseph Leonor gave Andy Keys (who I had a crush on) permission to write in pen before I.  Andy sat next to me and his cursive was chicken scratch.  Come on, 1. He’s a boy.  Everyone knows that boys write sloppily in fourth grade and up. 2.  I’m a girl.  Everyone knows girls write less sloppily than boys in fourth grade and up.  Little girls print larger, rounder and neater than boys.  It was drawing in my young mind, art. I’m raising two boys now.  I don’t need to argue my position, they prove me right daily.

Today, I admit I just don’t care how my handwriting looks anymore.  I even leave out vowels to shorten notes to myself. When did this happen?  When did I lose pride in my swirls and stars as periods and dots?  I’ll tell you, when I got married.  I went from the name Jones to Gulivindala… yes that’s right, GULIVINDALA.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to hand write that name out neatly or completely.  Would you?  Go ahead, hand write it now five times.  Didn’t even want to start did you?

Once I started dashing down those letters, it was a downward spiral from there.  I can’t remember the last time I wrote a letter.  Wait!  I do like to journal… handwritten.  I obviously haven’t been doing it lately or it wouldn’t be an afterthought.  I’ve journaled since I was a young girl and kept most of them. Once in a while I take a trip down memory lane and read some.  I haven’t changed much.  I really am addicted to sugar!  I’ll buy a nice copy book at Barnes and Noble, begin my introspective ritual of emotional writing and never finish the book.  I have many half-finished copy books.  I also have many beautiful blank copy books waiting to be written in.  Like I mentioned, I like office supplies.

I’ve succumbed to the online card service Birthday Alarm. When I send a card out for no reason just to send to a friend, I feel happy. When I send one for a birthday or holiday, I feel like a slacker. Birthday Alarm has made it extremely easy to not handwrite a card. They tell you when a holiday or friends birthday is coming up, so you don’t have to remember and they have an app which I have on my phone.

Am I really so busy I can’t sit pen in hand, writing on paper and address an envelope with a quick message or send a hard copy card?  My insurance company keeps me supplied in address labels, it’s a Christmas gift, so I don’t have to write that out.  Oh, and the stamps! That’s always a great excuse until last week when I found out my local CVS store sells them. I’m there about three times a week. I have many excuses but none that are truly valid.

I’m going to work on this. Here, I’m typing about it.


I am a dance teacher.  I teach dance for a program called Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership. This organization brings the arts IE. dance, music, art, and theater etc., to the inner city public school system in Philly, through teachers like myself known as artists in residence.

I teach middle school, fifth through eighth grade.  The school I teach at is in an African American neighborhood. It is located in a section of Philly called Germantown, which is known as an underemployed, impoverished, run down, dangerous, drug populated, crime ridden section in the city. Unfortunately there are many.

My job is to expose the students to the different genres of dance. Ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, tap, African, Latin and whatever else I have up my tutu. NONE OF THESE KIDS HAVE EVER TAKEN A DANCE CLASS. There is no studio, mirror’s or ballet barre’s. They can’t afford water bottles. We do have a stage in the auditorium with a one speaker audio system. They have stage lighting, however, they can’t afford lightbulbs.

To say that my job is challenging is an understatement. These kids are craving attention. They can’t listen, are rowdy, disruptive, over stimulated and to top it off, throw in some tween hormones!

And I love them.

I knew starting the first day of class I would have to win them over so I started with hip-hop. Ms. G. has it like that. I brought a slamming playlist that had them thinking… who is this old white lady? I’m 48, current, hip and relevant. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t be able to teach in this environment that’s for sure.

I gave them homework and told them to write down three songs they liked and I would listen to them and use them if they met my approval. WELL NO WAY JOSE. The song choices they brought will never play in my class and I told them in those exact words. I don’t think some of them understand the content (sex, drugs, hustling, gang banging) but they might. I know they like the beat.

We are three months into the program. I have taught them a complete medium level warm-up (that they can’t do correctly) but they have it memorized and they try. No baby steppin here. I knew at the end of the year we would have to put on a performance so of course, day one, I started teaching them choreography for our number. I had no idea if and when they would be able to do it. They had it down in six weeks, to the best of their ability, MEMORIZED.

These kids have a lot of obstacles in their lives like walking home in the dark. If they don’t have someone to walk home with, no dance class, they have to walk home before sunset. Finding transportation, not coming to school, weather, having to take care of a younger sibling or for whatever reason they are not consistent. They can’t be, they are kids that depend on adults.

Now we are doing ballet. A traditional ballet barre warmup with classical music (I even killed it in that area by finding cool disney piano tunes) and using the auditorium chairs as a barre. Let me tell you… I TRIED. It just wasn’t happening. There was no joy, for any of us. If there is no joy I won’t teach. I changed tactics. I decided to combine the jazz warmup they know and like and added ballet and modern exercises. We demi plie and tendu to Drake, the rapper. They are dancing ballet!

I’m always updating my music to keep it fresh and they are always beating me down to listen too… “Please Ms. G. use youtube.” “No, you’re not the DJ, I am.” end of conversation. Thursday’s are our end of the week. Last week they finally had me, I surrendered and caved, but only after making sure the lyrics were clean and I watched the video.

This readers is what our kids are into: DJ Lil Man and here’s why. The songs video’s are rapping dances, like back in the old day’s when we did the Electric Slide or, taking it further back, the Bunny Hop. They are urban line dances.

They all knew the steps to multiple songs / dances. I decided to let them teach me. I can assure you this is no Bunny Hop. The dances are long, a bit complex if your over 15 years of age and the cardio workout I got is better than any Zumba class this city has to offer. They couldn’t get enough and neither could I. We were laughing and free styling and filled with JOY. They wanted to bring me into their world. Remember that attention mention, I fulfill it.

Monday it’s back to Ms. G.’s class as usual, a few new songs, with a class of unfocused, over excited, two minutes at a time attention span kids, who are learning to dance. But is that what I’m teaching them? yes and no.

The dance element is a small part of the equation here. I am teaching these kids self-esteem, boundaries, that they matter, they have potential, self-discipline, a new skill sets, progress not perfection, to show up and do your best, to laugh with people not at people and most importantly that they are seen for who they are, the stars that light up the block.

Here is the video of DJ Lil Man we danced for 20 minutes!

@DJLILMAN973 SUPA M THEME Team Lilman Anthem 2 OFFICIAL VIDEO: ft Team Lil Man Princess