Category Archives: Teaching

Readers’ Favorite 5-star Review for Alice in Monologue Land

Readers’ Favorite 5-star Review for Alice in Monologue Land

Below, find the amazing and wonderful review for Alice in Monologue Land that Readers’ Favorite said via email last summer that they had found no one to do. Guess this lovely lady did do a review in September, after all, and the email about it to me got lost in political spam. Well, I didn’t go hunting for Alice’s page on Readers’ Favorite until today, when I thought I’d bite the bullet and pay for a review. But to my surprise, here it is! A freebie! 5 Whole Stars!


“Fun, fun, fun! That’s definitely how I would describe Alice in Monologue Land by author Amy Gettinger. following the story of Alice Chalmers, adjunct English professor, single mom, and basically all around stressed out woman. And when she’s ‘encouraged’ or, more aptly, ‘required’ to read a part in her campus’ upcoming “Venus Monologues,” things in her carefully orchestrated life start to fall apart. A coveted job opens up, but Alice is certain that the conservative selection committee would not appreciate her participation in the Venus Monologues. Her Dean pretty much forces her to continue with her participation though, and, resigned, she does so. It’s at practice for the monologues, that she meets the “Venus Warriors,” an interesting group of fearless college women who aren’t afraid to discuss or do just about anything. Throw in some special attention from not one, but three men interested in her and the fact that some of her female students have gone missing, and you’ve got yourself one heck of wild ride of a book.

I so enjoyed Alice in Monologue Land. This was an exceptional read and I read it from cover to cover in just a few days. Author Amy Gettinger has done a fantastic job in creating characters that are funny, intriguing and exciting, sometimes all at once. The story is truly laugh out loud funny at times, and in one scene I actually laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Alice in Monologue Land is a book that would be enjoyed by any reader who enjoys a book with a fun female lead, a book with a little mystery, a little suspense and a little romance all wrapped in one, or just a plain good book. I certainly hope that Amy Gettinger is working on her next novel in this same vein, because I, for one, will be eagerly waiting to read it!”

~ Tracy Slowiak for Readers’ Favorite

I am overjoyed! Thanks, Tracy, for reading and reviewing!!! Alice was meant for just your type of audience!


Reader’s Theater for Seniors



In September of 2013, I was bored. I’d spent the past nine months killing at Words With Friends, but never writing a word.

A friend said, “Why don’t you do a reader’s theater class? It’s big in the elementary schools.”

“People are busy,” I said. “Kids do reader’s theater at school. Would such a simple thing attract anyone with a gajillion TV channels, the Internet, and cell phones to play with?”

She said, “Try seniors. They need some fun besides BINGO.”

So I dusted off my trusty laptop and adapted “A Christmas Carol” to a play format and peddled it to the local assisted living as a program to produce a forty-five-minute play every two months. To my surprise, the activities director accepted my offer. A retired teacher friend offered to help me wrangle the seniors. In her words: “Working with seniors is like working with kids. Or herding cats.”

Unsure about it all, I was amazed when eight octogenarians and nonagenarians showed up at the first class meeting. As we practiced, two ladies seemed pretty Alzheimer’sy. I gave them shorter parts.

My trusty helper sat by them and poked them when it was time to read. “You read only the yellow words, Mathilda.”

Mathilda would then read, “Tiny Tim: God Bless us, every one!” Bless her heart.

Jane would dither, “Where are we? Am I on the right page?” (She never was.)

But no matter. We enjoyed including them, and they sang well.

Once my earnest seniors started reading in their gravelly or high, thin voices, the play was like a glacier, barreling slowly, but with deceptive strength, towards its denouement.

I could barely squeeze in a note—“Speak louder? Clearer? Repeat that, please?”—between their inexorable lines.

Sitting all spiffily dressed with their walkers lined up to one side, their hands fiercely clutching the pages of the script, their glasses firmly in place, these beaky bulldozers pressed forward with determination and occasional giggles. If they messed up words or delivery or song tempo, they’d soldier on.

Can’t reach ninety without perseverance.


We started with scripts printed on both sides, stapled in the corner. This caused some confusion and arthritic flapping of pages until we went to booklet format. I always tailor the scripts to the vocabulary easiest for them to read aloud. At first, for every reprinting, I laboriously highlighted every part for every character in the 32-page scripts by hand. Now, my two-sided color printer and highlighting macro for Word do the job super fast.

Readers have come and gone (sometimes to heaven), but reader’s theater is still fun for everyone. I’ve stocked up on costume hats and feather boas for performances. We have a blast putting on the plays. And the need for 4500-5000 words of funny script (including songs and sound effects) every two months has gotten me back to daily writing. I’ve adapted six plays, written five original plays and published two old manuscripts since 2013.

Win, win. Thanks, seniors. It’s been fun.

RT White Christmas 2014

Alice in Monologue Land Excerpt


Alice cover 1

Alice shoved the scripts at Maya like she was sending a salad with a caterpillar back to the chef. She owed Maya something in return for the lunch, but reading one of these scripts? Aloud? On stage? No. Her whole body constricted at the thought.

Maya shuffled through them. “No, not ‘Venus Interrupted.’ It’s about the killing of innocent women all over the world. You know, like those awful honor killings and dowry deaths in Asia, the maquiladora killings in northern Mexico, and female infanticide in places like China.”

A chill went up Alice’s spine, and she heard Kali giggle from her shelf.

“Too depressing for you,” Maya said. “Ah, here. Try ‘Venus Nipples.’ Start here.” She shoved the whole script pile back at Alice, pointing to the top one with her long, slim index finger, so tan and refined next to the graffitied cast below it. “Aloud.”

Alice obeyed out of old habit. “I am Venus’s rosy, erect n-n-nipple, open and tamarind sweet, full and ripe and waiting, pulsing to nourish the world. My dark au-au-aureole, its rich coffee halo roots taste of warm bergamot, yearns and blooms, aches a saxophone echo of my plummy, t-tart Venus l-l-labia, q-q-quivers the sweet, tender—”

“Going to lunch with us, Maya?” came a tenor voice from the doorway.

“Ahh!” Alice lurched upright, clutching the scripts to her chest.

A shaggy male head in a worn-out baseball cap appeared at the office doorway. “Oh. You have company.” She saw worn brown corduroy pants on a medium, stocky build. His Birkenstocks stepped inside the doorway.

Alice saw a chance to bolt.

Maya said, “Hi, Joe. Lunchtime already? Alice, this is Joe Dancy from art history. He and I eat with a group of colleagues on Fridays.”

Alice stood and took a step, but her long, flowered skirt caught on her chair leg. Rip. Pulled off balance, she grabbed Maya’s desk, and the bundle of scripts fell through her grasp like pornographic confetti.


Private female words danced around the office floor like a bunch of naughty four-year-olds. Alice dove at the scripts, ripping her skirt farther.

But Joe, Boy Scout-quick, was already kneeling and chuckling at the top script. “Nipples? Lick me, suck, me, and drag me howling to your famished depths? Whoa, momma!”

Maya grabbed the script. “Joe, Alice here teaches ESL part time.”

In her mad scramble after pages, Alice mumbled hello.

Maya said, “Alice, what was your last name again? I’m sorry. My memory plays more tricks than Kali and Shiva together.”

“Hey, don’t call in your demons, Maya,” Joe grumbled. “I’ve got enough trouble this week, thank you.”

Alice finally looked up to see a wild sandy beard and sandy eyebrows to rival Groucho’s. Joe’s gray eyes lit up as he glanced at another script. “A climactic, pulsing, reverberating sunrise of glossy, moist, pink vibrations?”

Alice wrenched the whole paper mess from his hand. “Hi. I’m Alice.”

“Alice …?” he said expectantly.

“Chalmers.” Three … two … one. Alice evened the stack of papers and checked that her cell phone was on in case one of her kids barfed at school or her house caught fire. The best thing about her ESL students and city folks in general was that they didn’t blink at her famous name brand.

Joe nabbed three more scripts from the floor. “Oh, Nora Rohmer mentioned you.” Nora Rohmer was ESL department head. “She and I just served on the technology committee together. She likes your enthusiasm for the new classroom computers. They were her idea, you know.”

What a relief not to have to discuss her name further. “Always glad to be in good with the full-timers.” Alice performed her I-love-this-job-so-much-couldn’t-I-just-have-an-office-and-tenure-with-a-side-of-benefits? smile.

A wiry young woman with low-slung cargo pants, tiny tank top, four-inch platform clogs and Coke-bottle glasses slouched in. She reeked of cigarette smoke and fresh nail polish. “Lunch time, Maya. Get a move on! I f-messed up my toenail. Gotta get to a nail place. Now.”

“Go ahead, Lila,” Maya said. “I’ll lock up if we’re long.” She frowned. “Wait. Alice Chalmers. Isn’t that a famous actress?”

Joe fingered his beard. “No, I’m thinking a porn star.”

“Joe,” Maya laughed. “No sexual harassment. Please!”

Lila clomped back to her desk, shaking her head.

Then the corner of Joe’s mouth went up. “Oh. Allis Chalmers.” His eyes twinkled like a sandy Surfer Santa on a Laguna Beach Christmas card. “Listen, I’ve got car trouble. Do you rent out for towing? Or even better, for spring planting? My garden really needs work.”

“It’s not easy being green,” Alice sang. “Eight cylinders. Always towing a wide load, sowing seeds of knowledge, spreading around loads of sh—manure.”

Maya said. “Seeds? Manure? Are you a gardener, Alice? But a green toe? Isn’t it a green thumb?”

Joe cocked an eyebrow. “Alice will tell us over lunch. Won’t you?”

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The Alarmist Stalker Student


I had a bad dream last night about my old college becoming violent with gang activity and losing teachers and them hiring me back to teach sewing instead of English in this atmosphere. Ulk.


Teaching has nearly always been a joy for me. Sometimes it’s been a frustration, like when a whole class of beginning ESL students, median age forty, bombed a basic simple present tense test after we’d studied it for three weeks. It was often a challenge, like when my overachieving Saudi student said he couldn’t do a speech based on his favorite song because his religion, which he shared with the entire class, and which no one else had cited as an issue, kept him from listening to any but religious music. But never did it feel off, weird, or dangerous. Except maybe one time.


One day back in the spring of 2009, we had a fire drill during the second half of my low-level ESL class. But it wasn’t quite a fire drill. Two or three giant pumpers showed up in front of the Le-Jao Center, which was part of Coastline College, that morning, and idled at the curb as the crew ran in and checked out the nice, new two-story building which housed all the classes. My class had been herded across the street for the whole thing, and we saw the trucks come, stay, and finally leave half an hour later, wrecking my lesson plan for that day. No fire, no smoke, no emergency. But my quiz had to be put off and a few students wandered off, as well.


After class, I got called in to see the program director, Kate, who introduced me to the campus security guy–actually security guy for all the little campuses the college had spread out around the city. Security Guy showed me security footage of the hallway leading to where the fire alarm was, and it showed only one person going in there and coming out at the time when the fire alarm got pulled: one of my students. I can’t remember the student’s real name, so I’ll call him Hiep. Quiet, shy Vietnamese guy—twenty-five to thirty-five. Like a quarter of my class. Not very memorable except that he seldom spoke in class and did “B” work on written tests. He was good at writing English and crappy at speaking it. What else was new? Yes, I told Security Guy, Hiep had left class early. Yes, now that I remembered it, he’d left before the alarm went off. This was college. These were adults. Students could come late, leave early, or go use the restroom any time.


Security Guy, who we’ll call Jim, told me this was not the first time this had happened. Apparently, Hiep, had done this in a night class the week before, bringing the fire trucks to the college and costing the college all kinds of money for false alarms. They had identified him then as the perp then and had sent him a letter telling him not to return to the college. They had called his house and told him not to come. Which he obviously had done anyway. But funnily enough, they had not warned me, or his other teachers, that he had been suspended or told us what to do if he showed up again. I’d had no idea I was harboring a suspended college criminal that day in my class, and had welcomed him into class as usual.


Well, Jim said he doubted this guy would show up in class again, but if he did, I should be calm, act normal, go outside class and call campus security to come and get Hiep, then return to class and just wait for Jim to show up. Of course, Jim’s office was miles away on another campus, so it would take a while, but I should wait for him and do nothing to rile the guy. I said sure, thinking that we’d surely seen the last of Hiep.


But a week later, there was Hiep in my class at Le-Jao Center again. I sucked in air as the guy sat down in the front row, backpack in hand, with his wide, gray, slightly timid, or was it scared? eyes and took out his notebook. I tried to be casual as I slid out the door against the flow of student traffic coming in and ran, heart pounding, downstairs to tell the girl in the office to call campus security and get Jim over there as soon as possible. Our fire alarmist was back. Then I went upstairs and started my lesson.


I don’t remember what the lesson was. Probably present continuous tense. “Class, please get into groups of two and practice the discussions on page 57 using present continuous tense for future meaning.” What are you doing tonight? I’m going to the movies tonight. Where is Bob going on his trip next week? He’s going to Hawaii on his trip next week. Or maybe it was reading class, and we were studying the vocabulary in a short reading about gold bars or coffee beans or grizzly bears. What I do remember was keeping a sharp eye on Hiep like he was a bomber instead of a fire alarm puller, and how quiet he seemed. How normal, yet not. Not since I knew he’d been banned from the school, but he was here anyway with his wide, timid eyes. That fact right there made me really wary. Who would show up twice after being banned? Who would show up at all after pulling the fire alarm twice? God. It was taking so long for Jim to get to my classroom, and I was feeling a growing sense of Mamma Bear protecting her unknowing cubs. I was in charge of this class, the safety of the students, who had no idea Hiep was a wild card. What if he had a gun in that backpack? What if he was going off the deep end very slowly and would graduate to violence in his next act of weirdness? My pay at this college was the best I’d ever had, but it didn’t really seem adequate to cover this kind of insecurity and weirdness.


It had been twenty-five minutes since my run to the office, and Jim still wasn’t there, but Hiep was, looking at me with his odd eyes. My stomach was in knots. I finally said to Hiep, “I’m sorry, but you’re not supposed to be here. I need you to leave.” He got up and started toward the door, and when he was almost there, I said, “And DON’T pull the fire alarm.” I, as Mamma Bear, followed him out and watched him leave the building, watched him pass the fire alarm area without going in. Then I returned to class.


When Jim finally arrived, I told him I wasn’t getting paid enough for this type of stuff. I had told Hiep to leave because I didn’t feel safe with him in the classroom. Jim didn’t really think Hiep was dangerous, but I held my ground. It was my classroom, and I’d done what I thought was necessary. They could grab Hiep and chat with him off campus, not in my classroom. I saw Kate later, and she said Hiep must really like me because he hadn’t attended anyone else’s class since he’d left mine and pulled the alarm. I felt so special.


That spring, there was a lot of flu going around, so I was getting quite a few sub jobs for ill teachers. One evening, I arrived at another campus site, a tiny room the college used in the Vietnamese Community Center in Westminster. The class wandered in for the first few minutes, late due to traffic. And who slipped in and sat down last? Hiep! The guy who had been banned from the college for pulling fire alarms! I set the students a task and excused myself to go outside.


I stood on the balcony and wondered who to call. There was no one in the office here. It was after 5:00. Hell, there would be no one at the main college switchboard, either. If I had had that number, which I didn’t outside here. I had an old flip phone—not that smart. No contact numbers for college security in it. My list of college numbers was in my bag at home, not in my purse, which was all I brought to a sub job. But I had used the number of my director at the Le-Jao Center recently, so I sort of remembered it, and I knew she sometimes stayed late at the office. But would she pick up the phone? She often let her calls go to voicemail. I tried the number I remembered. It didn’t work. I transposed a couple of numbers and tried again. And amazingly, she picked up. I whispered, “Kate, he’s here in this night class at the Community Center. Our fire alarm guy. Please send security.”


And then I went back to class. I managed to start teaching the sub plan lesson, avoiding Hiep’s odd gray eyes for most of it. Somehow, I got involved in teaching present perfect tense. George has worked here for fifteen years. Freda hasn’t worked here very long. How long has Frank lived here? We practiced using the /t/ sound on the end of worked and typed and the /d/ sound on the end of breathed and lived. They had to write sentences. In a stroke of luck, Mamma Bear didn’t rear her head this time, and Hiep just sat there like a scared bunny in the corner, hoping I hadn’t noticed him. It was evening, it was dark, and it was not my normal place of work or my normal group of students, but somehow, I was braver this time, more patient. Maybe because I hadn’t seen the fire alarm in this building, and figured there might not even be one for Hiep to pull. And maybe because these students seemed to accept him as a comrade. But mostly, I just wondered how lonely Hiep must be to keep showing up to classes after all that had happened.


Finally, Jim showed up and took Hiep by the arm and led him out of the classroom. Hiep gave me one last scared, gray, wide-eyed look as he left, but I realized it wasn’t that crazy. It seemed more surprised that I, his favorite teacher, would mess up his only social gig. Mean, mean me.


Two days later, the dean and Kate were outside at break time, and they laughed at my seeming magnetism for this odd student. Yes, I told them it was me being wonderful and caring. They said they hoped he was done showing up in my classes. He was. I never saw him again. I just wonder what college he’s alarming now.