Note to Self

by Mary Anne Duggan

If I were to write a letter to myself as a beginning teacher some 36 years ago, what would I say? How could I light a path forward for the old me? How could I keep the letter from being 50-plus pages long? I have a lot of questions about this week’s Write 6X6 prompt. But one thing I have learned over the years is to just jump in – knowing all the answers is not required (and most often not even possible!)

Dear Mary Anne,
     I see you over there. You are at a high school football game in September where you are watching your new fiancé’s brother play football. But you’re not watching the game; you’re grading a stack of papers. On a Friday night. And, oh yeah, you teach fourth grade
. . .

Flash forward to you leaving your classroom at the end of another long day in January, towing a luggage cart carrying five or six textbooks and a blank lesson plan for Wednesday. It’s Tuesday. A veteran teacher passes by and quips, “Ah, working more and enjoying it less, right?”

Now it’s the last day of the school year in May, and you are furiously assembling books the students created to take home for the summer. You’re using the new-fangled book binding machine the school just purchased. It’s your lunch hour, and you are sweating like a — well — a teacher who waited until the last minute to provide a special experience for her students in a room with a swamp cooler.

Dear, dear Mary Anne, the school year is not a nine-month slog with respite only allowed in June. You can’t hurl yourself against the wall year after year trying to attain teaching perfection. No such thing exists, and your health will suffer in the process.

You have ambitious plans for providing a wonderful school experience for your students. You have all these grand ideas of what makes a “good” teacher. But a “good enough” teacher who lives a healthy and balanced life will surely be enough by anyone else’s standards. Let go, at least a bit, and you’ll see that the world keeps spinning and your students keep on learning. And you will have many years in this profession you love.

The older me,
Mary Anne

As I look back on this letter, I am left with further questions: Would I have listened to this advice way back when? Is it desirable to have all pitfalls flagged ahead of time? Or are some missteps just part of the process of growth as a teacher and, perhaps more importantly, as a person?


You Belong Every Place

While age and enrollment status are key, the other demographics here also speak loudly: over half of our students are female and first generation with no or limited prior college experience, our occupational awards are equal to our transfer degrees, and, as an HSI, Hispanics make up more of our student population than any other ethnicity. Furthermore, we know our classrooms are also serving neurodivergent populations and those impacted by the current and severe mental health crisis. This is our community, and as a community college, our purpose is to serve the community in making all decisions with the following foresight: “How does this support our students?” A sense of belonging on campus is a paramount part of the puzzle, and as faculty, staff, and administration, we play the most essential role in fostering it. It starts with us. According to Sparks (2021), “A Review of Educational Research analysis of 46 studies found that strong teacher-student relationships were associated . . . with improvements on practically every measure schools care about: higher student academic engagement, attendance, grades, fewer disruptive behaviors. . . .” Furthermore, Maslow (1943) asserts belonging is one of the five basic needs associated with human motivation. We know our students are more likely to feel motivated and will be more likely to succeed and fulfill self-efficacy when they feel belongingness. A very wise special needs parent advocate once told me, “The child will always determine the place.” Meaning, if the student feels belongingness, then they will only thrive in the right place. Angelou believed in belonging to herself: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…” (Goodreads, 2023). So, what does it mean to belong, and more importantly, how do we foster it on our campus?

To me, belonging means fitting in through: feeling a part of something greater, being respected and valued for my contributions, being recognized for my strengths and allowed weaknesses, and trusting my identity is also recognized and accepted. It isn’t new, and it is more than a buzzword. Thus, belonging is something I actively think about and plan for in my work as faculty at GCC. I’m not great with small talk, and I’d much prefer to simply get to work, but I try to make an effort to talk to my students when they come to class, know their preferred names and pronunciations, meet them where they are, offer referrals to other campus resources, welcome each one when they enter, offer them snacks, craft assignments which connect them to the content and their communities, constantly post campus events and happenings in Canvas Announcements, craft warmer-toned emails, use messaging in Canvas if they have fallen off of the radar, offer diverse readings, demonstrate gratitude and empathy when they share their circumstance with me, use music and humor, offer flexibility, maintain high standards and clear expectations, recruit for ENH112: Chicano Literature in hopes that it makes again (pero sin éxito), be real and do my best to be vulnerable and human if I make a mistake (post-COVID brain fog is real) or share a learning from my own experience. I have also been using Pear Deck to do emotional temperature “Check-ins.”

I’m not alone in these things. They are happening all over campus every day, all day. I know my colleagues and their commitment to the shared responsibility. I’m thinking to foster belonging on campus even more, possibly bolstering the concept of students belonging every place, it would take a team-approach where all of the current efforts are centralized, and we really seek a shared understanding and visibly address the invisible barriers for our students we may not be aware of.

Goodreads. (2023). A quote from conversations with Maya Angelou (literary conversations. Goodreads. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50 (4), 370-96.

Sparks, S. D. (2021, September 17). Why teacher-student relationships matter. Education Week. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from,fewer%20disruptive%20behaviors%20and%20suspensions%2C


Be Kind, Rewind

Dawn Gibbs hit me with that saying today while I was in the 05 English Office this afternoon. I was reading a sign on Dr. Jennifer Lane’s door that said something about being kind. We laughed about how old we are to remember that saying from the Blockbuster VHS tapes we used to rent. She actually had to remind me of the saying even though I’m older than her, but it got me thinking about my students and how young they are. It’s easy to forget they generally have no idea what the heck we are talking about when we make references to things. I can’t even remember what I was talking about, but one student spoke up after I made a comment about something and said, “Does anyone in this room look old enough to be alive in the 80s?” I did the math in my head and looked around the room. I guess he had a point. They were all traditional college students: 18-23, born between 2000-2005.

We had a good laugh at my expense, but it was all good. It gave us an opportunity to chit-chat a bit before we started the lesson. I’ve been teaching so long, that I don’t really think about how I build community in my classes anymore. I’m a competitive person by nature and I love to challenge students, but I usually make them do it in groups. Our classrooms are set up in 4 computer station pods, so technically I already have groups before we do anything. I’ll point at a pod (group) and say if all four people in this group can give me an answer, you can be top dog this week. No one even knows what top dog means, but they’re into it. “Name four NFL teams on the western side of the US.” “Name animals that walk on two legs.” I just make up stuff on the fly which is usually silly, and we debate the prompts before we settle on a good. It’s classic wasting class time. But is it really?

Of course not. We’re building community and building a sense of belonging in the class. I build in 15 minutes for questions and chit-chat at the beginning of each class where I ask them questions and practice their names. And at the end of the class in their digital exit ticket, I ask them three things. List one thing you learned today, one question you still have, and any random fact about anything. I’m always amused by what they write on these exit tickets. They like to joke and give me a hard time about asking dumb questions or how I still can’t pronoun their name, but thanks for trying. I try to keep it light, so students feel comfortable asking for help if they need it. It’s not really anything that’s planned (aside from the time). It’s just my natural way of teaching.

ChatGPT vs. The Creative Hunt

As I was pondering the topic of ChatGPT for this post, I thought back to when I took ENG101 in the early nineties; most of us were still still submitting handwritten essays on paper. (In ENG102 the following semester, I upgraded to typing my essays at the computer lab and printing them out for submission. I just had to be careful not to lose the floppy disk!)

For nostalgic purposes, I began to write out the first draft of this post on line-ruled paper. When I got to the fourth full page, I was reminded of how time consuming it is to write by hand how my wrist and fingers quickly get sore. So I took a break…

Early hand-written drafts of this post

It was during this writing “downtime” that thoughts about my post continued to swirl in my head, and then I came to realize what makes the often tedious writing process worth it: the hunt. The hunt for stimulating words, the hunt for vivid imagery, the hunt for creative ways of expression – all in the deep jungle of ideas and concepts.

Then I thought: Imagine if hunters were given the option of bypassing all the tedious work of getting a hunting license, getting hunting gear, improving their aim with target shooting, then going out to the wilderness and sitting, waiting, pursuing and eventually killing (for lack of a better word) their game… How many of them would want to instead feed some info into a supercomputer and have their prize deer, ducks, and elk tagged and bagged, ready for their selfie?

I would imagine not many. I’m not a hunter of animals, but I do consider myself a hunter of creative ideas. And just like hunting, sometimes you’ve just got to stay quiet and still, and the game will come to you, often when you least expect it.

Self-portrait of me hunting for creative ideas (drawn on good old-fashioned notebook paper)

So I think it’s important to convey to students that most worthwhile writing  doesn’t start when we put pen to paper, or start tapping the keyboard, or feed data into ChatGPT – it starts waaay before, along the one-point perspective line of our lives and to that vanishing point in our past – you know, that time we’re nostalgic for.

One-point perspective (roughly) at GCC

Why Online?

by Mary Anne Duggan

According to Maricopa Fast Facts, in fall 2022 69% of GCC students attended school part-time. In addition, ever since the onset of COVID, students are opting for online courses in greater numbers. The masks may be down and freedom to roam the school halls restored, but the online, part-time student population only seems to be growing in droves.

We are a community college because we serve the community. But, we also build community in our classrooms, student organizations, sports teams, and special events. Community building becomes decidedly more difficult when our students only have one toe dipped into school life.

I have been thinking a lot about why my online courses fill up much faster than my in-person courses. As part of an anonymous mid-term survey I gave to my statistics students this semester, I asked students to “Briefly explain why you decided to take PSY 230/231 fully online as opposed to in-person.”

Two major qualitative themes emerged to the question of why online: 1) scheduling/logistical and 2) preference for online learning. Scheduling/logistical reasons dominated (71% of all responses) and had the following sub-themes:

  • Convenience
  • Flexibility
  • Work demands
  • Avoid commute
  • Scheduling needs
  • Participation in sports
  • Parenting/homelife responsibilities

Preference for online learning had the following sub-themes:

  • Do well in online classes
  • Like online better
  • Anxiety/avoidance of being in-person
  • Ability to go at own pace
  • Perceive in-person courses as harder

What was interesting (but not at all surprising) is that, when broken down by age (18-21 vs. 22+ or “traditional” vs. “non-traditional” ages), scheduling/logistical was mentioned by the 22+ set more often (81% of their responses) than in the 18–21-year-olds (62% of their responses). Of course, this survey of my classroom students is not generalizable to all college students or even students at GCC. But, it helps me to know a little more about what motivated my students to choose an online class, especially a class that is typically perceived as highly rigorous.

The reasons my students gave for selecting online courses over those taught in-person indicate the strong pull of this learning platform that isn’t going away any time soon (or ever). The continuing challenge for educators is to find new ways to foster a sense of belonging for part-time and online students.

And yet, there is another “community” to which our students belong – their immediate and extended families. Yes, my student who is a father in his 30’s might not attend a basketball game on campus, but he shares his online work with his 10-year-old son who wants to know about “all those funny numbers on the screen.” Or there’s the mom of a two-year-old who laughs as her child climbs all over her while we video conference. There’s the dad who I just know is sitting off camera as his son participates in a Zoom class, poised to offer tutoring after sign-off. College simply looks different for some of our students, but the motivating factor of community can be present in many forms.


ChatGPT? Good Grief!

by Mary Anne Duggan

It’s hard to put into words how I feel about the sudden explosion of AI (and ChatGPT in particular). My son happens to work in AI, and our conversations usually leave me with a blank look on my face. I nod politely as not to let on how little I understand about this thing that will supposedly upend how we all live and work.

Sometimes I feel like technological roadkill. The advancements are rushing by at 100mph, and I’m left stunned by the side of the road. As I think about it more, the feeling I have might be one of grief.

So, I asked my new, best worst friend ChatGPT to tell me a little more about grief so I can figure out if this feeling fits. In less than 30 seconds, this is what my “friend” delivered:

“The stages of grief, as identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, are:

  • Denial: This stage involves disbelief or denial of the reality of the loss.
  • Anger: This stage involves feelings of anger, resentment, or frustration about the loss.
  • Bargaining: This stage involves a desire to make a deal or bargain with a higher power or with fate to change the outcome.
  • Depression: This stage involves feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair about the loss.
  • Acceptance: This stage involves accepting the reality of the loss and moving forward with life.

It is important to note that not everyone experiences all of these stages, and they may not necessarily occur in a linear or predictable order. Grief is a highly individualized and personal experience, and people may experience a range of emotions and reactions that are unique to their situation.”

Hmm, this might be what I’m going through. But my new friend left out all the nuances of Kübler-Ross’s research on grief (which was actually conducted with critically-ill patients and not the grieving public in general). No mention is made of the problems of stage theories in general or the liberal application of Kübler-Ross’s stages to any kind of loss one might have. In short, ChatGPT is not ready to replace me as a professor just yet.

But, if my career is on life-support from the attack of AI, perhaps the stages of grief apply to me as the not-quite-dead-yet patient:

Denial – I teach statistics. Surely ChatGPT can’t solve the multi-step hypothesis testing items I assign to my students.

Anger – ChatGPT can solve the multi-step hypothesis testing items I assign to my students! Gaaahhh! It also can correctly answer multiple choice items pated from Canvas. *sound of punching pillows*

Bargaining – If I just demand that my online students come to the testing center four times a semester it will all be okay. If I just show my students why learning statistics is important it will be okay . . .  If I just . . . If I just . . . If I just . . .

Depression – Instead of finding solutions, I’ll rewatch season 2 of Ted Lasso for the third time (and “Believe!”)

Acceptance – ChatGPT isn’t going anywhere. Since I am not going anywhere either, acceptance is the only option.

Acceptance, however, doesn’t mean resignation. I can accept this new way of finding information and turn it to my, and my students’, advantage. Not quite sure how I’ll do that yet, maybe I’ll ask my new friend.


Can AI Grade My Essays For Me?

I made a joke with Beth a few days ago about how I wished AI would grade my essays for me. And then I really thought about that, and now I can’t stop. I mean seriously if AI can write the students’ papers for them, what about us? Why can’t it grade papers too? Well, guess what. It can. I tried it. Shhh. Now don’t tell on me. I used both ChatGPT and Microsoft’s tool built into Bing. GPT is much better.

First off, it was a lot of work, probably equal to if I’d just graded them myself, but the benefit was far better for the student. It spat out paragraph long feedback on what was wrong, how the paper did or didn’t meet each rubric standard, and how to improve the work. I was simply amazed. If I were to leave that kind of feedback on a paper, it would take me days to grade instead of hours. As it is, I’ve already moved to grading by recording my feedback, so I can say more and make it easier for students to understand what I’m saying, but this was amazing.

But like a said. It wasn’t easy or quick. I first began by asking the AI to find a rubric for a news article using a summary lead and following the inverted pyramid style. It quickly pulled up a rubric that was adequate, but it was only on a 10-point scale. I used it anyway to see how it would work. Then my next prompt asked Maud, remember, I named her Maud in my last post. I asked her to grade this news article using that rubric, and pasted in a student’s news article. Surprisingly, it worked. She put the two prompts together and graded the article. It was okay, but there wasn’t much detail and it didn’t really meet the standards I was looking for. I decided instead to ask Maud to build me a rubric and added the essential things and the total points I needed. She created this.

Okay, that was interesting, but could she grade a news article using that rubric? I wondered. Yep! She gave the article a 47/60, provided the tally from the rubric AND added this feedback:


  • The article follows the inverted pyramid structure.
  • The information provided is relevant to the target audience.
  • The article includes quotes from reliable sources.


  • The lead is weak and could benefit from being more focused.
  • The article could use more clarity in its presentation of information.
  • The article could be more concise.
  • The article could be more explicit in identifying biases or opinions.

Suggestions for Improvement:

  • The lead should be more specific and focused on the key point of the article.
  • The article should be more clear and concise, with shorter paragraphs and simpler language.
  • The author should explicitly identify any biases or opinions and explain how they might influence the article’s content.
  • The author should consider additional sources to provide a more complete understanding of the issue.

Crazy, right? I probably would have scored it a bit higher, but I noticed Maud didn’t say anything about grammar and punctuation in her feedback and I found a couple of specific errors, so I asked her about them. I typed in, “What about grammar and punctuation?” She replied:

As an AI language model, I don’t have the capability to fully analyze grammar and punctuation, but I can tell you that there are a few errors in the article. For example, in the sentence “This issue goes for not only students but members of the community who live downtown,” the phrase “goes for” should be replaced with “applies to.” Additionally, there are a few instances where punctuation could be improved for clarity and readability. Overall, however, the article is well-written and understandable.

She was right. In another instance, Maud pointed out two run-on sentences in the article and offered a suggestion for how to fix it. Amazing.

Yep, I’m obsessed, but that took a lot of work. In fact, I paused playing so I could quickly grade those news articles and get them back to students. This was going to take all day. First, Maud would forget my rubric after a few follow-up questions about the article she graded, so I’d have to start all over. Then sometimes she would ignore my rubric and just give a paragraph analysis of the article or she would leave out key elements. Basically, she was not consistent and I had to keep retraining her. She gave good feedback, but not the same feedback for each student.

Why do students choose to use AI?

One of the first things I hear about AI and systems like ChatGPT is that students are using this to cheat. Cheating is a large concern for most teachers but it begs the question, why is cheating a hot button topic for the teacher?

Personally, cheating makes me frustrated since I work hard to create courses, assignments, assessments, etc. that are fair and can be easily completed if the students are following the structure of my course and completing the tasks along the way. I build my course and content with the intent for my students to pass my course which is why it is frustrating to find a student cheating in my course.

When I see this I start to ask more questions of the student, like:
— How are you managing the time commitment of this course with the rest of your responsibilities?
— Do you feel overwhelmed with the content in this course?
— Are there any areas that I can help support you and your success in this course?

Finding out the answers to even one of these questions, helps me to identify more of what the students need and how to help them be successful without the need or desperation to cheat.

If we can get past the cheating part of the AI systems, I have confidence that educators can find a positive use for the tool, such as:
— Helping to brainstorm solutions to a student conduct issue
— Creating more application problems relevant to students
— Building content that ties to future careers

The possibility of AI has yet to be discovered and I am interested in exploring the space with my colleagues and students.


Literature: The Technological GOAT

I don’t know what I think about AI in education. To be honest, I haven’t given it much thought. I know I should. Last night, I was grading an essay and “Ugh, what if this was written by AI? More importantly, what if I don’t know?” scrolled across my brain. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have the mental capacity to grapple with all the complications about this right now. It takes me time to process things. I did spend a little time with this article about using it to save time, though. 

So, what if I wrote, for this post, about another type of technology? In his Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature, Dr. Angus Fletcher asserts one of the most powerful of technologies is literature. Yes! It’s true! With a background in neuroscience, Fletcher writes about different inventions in the technology of literature which function to offer different salves for the brain.

For example, he discusses the invention of the Sorrow Resolver through the plot of Hamlet. I reflected the following:

Hamlet was written after Hamnet’s passing? After all the years of studying Shakespeare, why have I not heard this before? It makes perfect sense. And as far as Nero goes, what exactly is a mechanical bedroom or killer yacht? If Shakespeare’s guide to grief was Cardano’s Comfort and the advice was to feel it like a man, it is interesting how he rebuffs it through Macduff in the Scottish play. I remember this part; although I didn’t think of it as a preface to therapy, only as support for Macduff exemplifying “a good man” and foiling Macbeth. If therapy surrounding grief has two parts of “acknowledging the hurt of the bereavement” and “dwelling on the happy memories,” then I understand Fletcher’s point regarding Macduff (130).  The analysis and rationale of the juicy revenge plot as a distraction from grief is also sound. However, it makes me contemplate how grieving women were treated, either in deflecting the grief or descending into madness.  When I read Hamlet, I was more enveloped in Ophelia and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern than I was Hamlet’s insufferable woe-is-me wandering. Hamlet had all the makings of a revenge plot which was never fulfilled because he fails with both revenge and the remembrance play (Fletcher 135).  Despite this, it has captivated audiences, though, because it is a demonstration of a character acknowledging grief, wallowing in grief, and moving through the actions of feeling guilty for not memorializing the dead “enough.” Grief is complicated and complex. No one demonstrates grief in the same way. It is not until the final act when grief is acknowledged as a public emotion and via Laertes, “Hamlet acknowledges that someone can feel like him” when he finds the guilt lift (Fletcher 136-37).  According to Fletcher, the “Sorrow Resolver” includes the “Grief Releaser” and the “Guilt Lifter” which work to lift the burden of feeling alone in grief which makes room for the dopamine and “happy memories” (138). 

This chapter has impeccable timing for me. My grandmother recently passed. Though she was 101 and suffering from dementia, I felt her loss acutely. She was my last grandparent and the one I was closest to. In watching my mom deal with the loss, I saw her not pausing until after the funeral, mass, and celebration of life because she wanted to be sure she created a memorial that lived up to what my grandmother would have wanted. As a grandchild, I was able to focus more on my own grief to stop and feel it, until I returned to work. It felt lonely because no one in my immediate household seemed to understand how I felt. When I was able to connect with my cousins, the burden was lifted a bit. In other ways, I have also felt grief, not through the physical loss of someone, but through the loss of life taking a different direction than what was intended or imagined. In both of those circumstances, at the time, I think I just kept moving the plot because I had to and probably was not ready to feel the accompanying intense emotions. Of course, it doesn’t mean the emotions go away, and certainly, if I talk to someone who has had a similar experience, it makes me feel like a part of something greater. There is comfort in that. 

Fletcher also explains an invention of the Tale Told from Our Future to excite curiosity. My reflection:

An example of a book I enjoyed that began with a story told from the future is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The book begins, “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. . . .] That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out” (Hosseini 1). From the first page, the book is a page turner. Of course, it was used effectively to excite my curiosity the first time I encountered it because I love the line about the past clawing its way out. It’s perfect. It sets the stage for the entire novel because Amir spends his life attempting to atone for his decision that day. His choices and actions, at times throughout the novel, are despicable. Though, the reader has to grapple with the truth that he was an immature, spoiled child when he chose to leave Hassan. We are left questioning whether he can ever redeem himself into adulthood, even when he is beaten almost to death by Assef and rescues Sohrab from taking his own life; therein is the curiosity.  My subconscious must be attracted to this concept of “exciting the curiosity within” because many of the works listed in the chapter I have read, and I definitely enjoyed from riddle to thrill:  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Macbeth, Gone Girl, Twilight, The Lovely Bones, and The Bourne Identity

Furthermore, Fletcher discusses the invention of the Stress Transformer to energize your life to which I reflected:

I found similarity in Fletcher’s description of “horror different” with what Stephen King asserts in his essay “Why We Crave Horror Movies.” Essentially, he says we watch the most aggressive of them because it keeps “the gators fed.” Horror movies are the raw meat we feed to the gators, our dark, nasty thoughts swimming around behind our “civilized forebrain” (King). I also liked the description about the concept that stress is not always harmful, and there can be good stress (that won’t kill you!). The concept reminded me about how when students are learning a new concept,  there may be struggle or resistance, and through the struggle, learning will emerge. I think the motto is, “Embrace the struggle.”

Every October, my fiancé and I use the month to watch a different horror movie every night. He chooses one night; I choose the next night. My choices are always lame and tame or hilarious dark comedies like Sean of the Dead or What We Do in the Shadows. His are always the scariest:  Friday the 13th, Halloween, Salem’s Lot, or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (THE most terrifying movie I’ve ever seen). The last horror film that energized me was probably Get Out or Open Water.  For a book, it will always be The Stand. Though, I recently read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and that one stuck with me for a while. Anything dealing with real life horror typically resonates heavier with me. As far as a film that took me beyond dangerous and made me laugh, it was either Midsommar or the end of the original Friday the 13th. The last scene in Midsommer was just…I have no words. As a child, I  used to love Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and reading about ghosts like the Amityville Horror, too. When I think about the difference between the horror that energized me, there was real fear ingrained in me through the experience, and the plots, characters made me think. The horror that made me laugh was because I didn’t have another reaction as I was beyond shock.

Additionally, he explains the invention of the Fairy-Tale Twist to rid pessimism. My thoughts:

I am a Disney kid. Growing up, I loved all the movies: Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Lady and the Tramp, and The Fox and the Hound are some I remember specifically from childhood. From books, I recall my fascination with Aesop’s fables, “Rumpelstiltskin”(oh to be able to weave gold!),  “Hansel and Gretel” (if I was ever lost in the forest with my little sister, I would know what to do), “ The Golden Touch of King Midas” (the golden touch would become somewhat cumbersome after awhile), “Jack and the Beanstalk”(where can I buy magic beans?), “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (how did he not know he was naked?), “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (Goldilocks is a brat, but I admired her confidence),  “Rapunzel” (oh to have hair like Rapunzel!), “The Princess and the Pea” (I felt I could relate when walking with a rock in my shoe),  “Thumbelina” (I wanted to put her in my pocket),  “The Ugly Duckling” (as a redhead in a family of brunettes, I felt the odd one out),  “The Three Little Pigs” (the best house to have is one of bricks…duh),  “The Hare and the Tortoise” (slow and steady),  “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” (he got what he deserved), and “Little Red Riding Hood” (I was caught up with how a little girl was allowed to prance through the woods). Later, I was exposed to Brothers Grimm and was engrossed with their dark and grotesque approach like Cinderella’s step-sisters cutting their feet to fit in their shoes. I’m surprised Fletcher did not mention these as they certainly would undo Perrault’s thorn. Also, as an aside, I found a similarity between the “catastrophizing” like-begets-like logic and self-judgment with the effects of social media. 

When Fletcher writes about the modern twists and Superman, I annotated in the column, “Annie!” prior to reaching the mention of it on page 123. Annie was probably my favorite. I loved all things Annie, likely because she looked like me, and of course, how amazing would it be to find a beautiful dog and be plucked by a Daddy Warbucks and thrust into wealth beyond wealth with everything a heart desires? My aunt even bought me an Annie wig for my sixth birthday.  Ok, as a kid, this seemed really cool. As an adult, I see it’s a bit problematic. I do see how the lucky twist included as a plot device can offer hope and work to fend off pessimism. 

Overall, Fletcher proposes 25 of these literary “inventions.” My favorite was the one regarding the Choose Your Own Accomplice through the work of Maya Angelou. I have a presentation on that one, so it doesn’t work for this purpose. Also, none of this post was written using AI.  

Thanks for reading!