Saturday, February 22, 2020

Week 6 Famous Last Words: Book Contract WHOO-HOO!!!

I should still do some Week 7 work this weekend, but I'm done with Week 6 stuff (I'll use some of these Ravana tales for my Portfolio too!), so I am writing Famous Last Words, and this is the first time I've announced it to the world: I signed a book contract with Johns Hopkins University Press yesterday (after a loooooooong) review process; it's a book about teaching online! Tentative title: How to Teach Online, A Practical and Provocative Guide.

It's going to be part of a "how-to" series called "Higher Ed Leadership Essentials," which focuses on very specific, short books (just around 60,000 words). I am really glad about that! This book will be a kind of oddball in the series because it is about teaching rather than administration, and I'm excited about that: teaching is at the heart of what universities do, and there should be good books for a general higher ed audience, including administrators, about teaching. I'm especially excited to write about teaching online because I pitched the book as a kind of "alternatives to the LMS" approach, so if I can convince both instructors and administrators about the value of looking beyond the LMS for ways to design and deliver online classes, then I will be really happy!

Because the review process took a long time before the contract got finalized, I already made summer plans, so I'll be writing the book during the 2020-21 school year; my goal is to finish on May 1, 2021. That means I get to do lots of reading and thinking before I actually start writing, and that is good too. I always figure that some of the most important work any author does is to read a ton of stuff, and that is part of the "service" we provide in writing the actual book, integrating all the work of all those other authors into what we write.

I didn't think I would ever do another book for a commercial publisher given all the great opportunities for self-publishing these days, but the publisher from JHU who invited me to submit the proposal is such a great guy, and he was the editor on two really excellent books by online friends of mine, so I think this is going to be a positive and productive experience. 

Writing that 50K novel for NaNoWriMo last year really encouraged me also. I am glad that this book is supposed to be short to fit in this series (60K is not all that much more than 50K). So, yes, somehow I will manage to do this, and I really want to do a good job too. Having it be short will also help with that: that will allow me to prune down to what is the very best stuff, and I am sure I can come up with 60K of good stuff to say about teaching online.

Yay books! The ungrading book (in which I have a chapter) is coming out in December 2020, and maybe this book will even come out in December 2021. Not likely, but a possibility... anyway, by December 2022 at the latest I'm sure. So that will make for two very Merry Christmases for me. :-)

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Week 6 Story: Tales of Ravana and Hanuman

Here are some more tiny Ramayana stories, just 100 words each, focusing on the epic backstory as narrated in the Uttara Kanda of the Ramayana; the stories included here are about Ravana (and his son Indrajit), and also about Hanuman. Here is a link to all my Uttara Kanda stories so far.

Meghanada Becomes Indrajit

Ravana's baby son had a voice like thunder, so they named him Meghanada (Cloud-Roar).
He became a great warrior, and in the war against the gods, he used a spell of darkness to make himself invisible. That is how he ambushed Indra and captured him.
"Your new name is Indrajit, Indra-Conqueror," Brahma told him. "And if you set Indra free, I will grant you a boon."
"Make me immortal!" said Indrajit.
"I cannot," said Brahma.
"Then make me even more powerful in battle and I will win my own immortality!"
And so Indrajit became an even greater warrior than before.

Notes. In the next chapter, Brahma tells the story of Ahalya, explaining to Indra that his crimes at that time led to his defeat in battle.

Ravana and the King of the Haihayas

Ravana was sacrificing to Shiva on a riverbank, singing and dancing in Shiva's honor.
Meanwhile, Kartavirya, Thousand-Armed King of the Haihayas, was relaxing in the river with his wives. As Kartavirya splashed, the waters rose and the flood carried away Ravana's offerings.
Enraged, Ravana fought with Kartavirya in a ferocious battle. Finally, Kartavirya knocked Ravana to the ground, and the gods watching from heaven rejoiced.
Ravana's grandfather Pulastya pleaded with Kartavirya to let Ravana go. Out of respect for the great sage, who was a mind-born son of Brahma, Kartavirya agreed.
Ravana was strong, but there is always someone stronger.

Notes. This episode covers several chapters, with the fight between Ravana and his ministers versus King Arjuna and his ministers told in elaborate detail. You can read more about Kartavirya Arjuna at Wikipedia.

Ravana and Vali

Ravana went looking for Vali, the monkey-king, wanting to fight him. He found Vali on the ocean's shore, engaged in worship.
He planned to sneak up on Vali from behind, but Vali grabbed Ravana and shouted, "Got you!" He then tucked Ravana under his arm and soared up into the clouds. Down below, the rakshasas saw their king struggling to get free. They chased Vali but could not catch him.
After flying around the world, Vali landed and let Ravana go.
"I want to be your friend, great monkey!" said Ravana.
Vali laughed and agreed; thus Vali became Ravana's ally.

Notes. Vali's wife Tara plays a role in the full version of the story because Ravana first goes to Kishkinda; Vali is not there, but Tara speaks with him and warns him that Vali is sure to defeat him.

The Birth of Hanuman

Kesari was king of the monkeys, and his wife was Anjana. Vayu the Wind-God gave her a child, but she wandered off and left the baby alone.
The little baby grew hungry, and when he saw the sun overhead he thought it was a mango, so he flew up into the sky, wanting to eat the mango.
The gods were amazed at the power of Vayu's son! Indra the Storm-God grew angry and struck the baby with a thunderbolt. The baby then fell down to the ground and broke his jaw; that is how he got the name Hanuman, Big-Jaw.

Notes. The complete story involves the eclipse-demon Rahu who is angry that Hanuman might get to eat the sun, but I did not have room to include Rahu here.

Hanuman and the Gods

Vayu picked up Hanuman and rocked the baby in his lap. Indra's attack on Hanuman made Vayu angry, so he stopped the air from moving. No one in the three worlds was able to breathe!
Brahma went to Vayu, and he healed Hanuman. Vayu then let the air move again so that everyone could breathe.
Next, all of the gods bestowed blessings on Hanuman. Indra gave him protection against thunderbolts, the Sun gave him radiance, Yama freed him from all sickness, and Vishvakarma made him invulnerable to weapons.
Satisfied, Vayu then carried Hanuman back to his parents, Kesari and Anjana.

Notes. In the next part of this chapter, there is a story about how Hanuman was cursed to lose all knowledge of these blessings; I'll start off with that story next time.


Meghanada Becomes Indrajit is from Uttara Kanda: Sarga 29.
Ravana and the King of the Haihayas is from Uttara Kanda: Sarga 31-33.
Ravana and Vali is from Uttara Kanda: Sarga 34.
The Birth of Hanuman and Hanuman and the Gods are from Uttara Kanda: Sarga 35.

The links here are to the Uttara Kanda translated by M. N. Dutt, which is available online, although I am using Arshia Sattar's translation as my main source.