Monday, September 06, 2010

The honeymoon is over as are my delusions of becoming the Rainbow Brite of creative writing teachers. Remember Rainbow Brite, the most colorful girl in the world? If not, you are too young and should stop reading this post and wait for the next. If you do, then you may find the humor in one my student’s…shall we call it an excuse?…for missing class on the day we had our first short story due: he was tired and over slept (our class meets at 10:00 am). Whaa?

As we head into week two I am already forced into the position of rule enforcer. I’m accepting the advice of the MFA program director, who ensures me it is easier to be tough earlier on than halfway through the semester. True slackers will drop the course because they weren’t serious in the first place and you’re better off without them. Invested students will work hard to overcome the deficit and you can choose to reward them at the end of the semester when they’ve earned it.

I know I drew on a parent metaphor in my last post, but I’m going there again because I can’t help but compare the get-tough-early-theory to my philosophy on threatening kids with punishment: it only takes carrying through on the threat once to make the threat a weapon. Fail to carry through and they’ll not only ignore you, but laugh like diabolical little villains while doing it. I’ll have to practice my stern “mom” face before I head into the next class.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Here’s the deal: I’m teaching a university-level creative writing class this semester and one of the assignment’s I’ve given my students is to write a weekly blog post. They can write on the assigned readings or the writing process or both, but it’s got to be every week. The point is to write as much as possible as often as possible because if there is one rule of writing that I have found to be true it is the more you write, the closer you get to discovering what you have to say.

I’m taking my own advice and reviving this dead blog to write about teaching the reading and writing of fiction (and later in the semester poetry). For my part, I hope to discover what insight teaching can bring to my own writing process. The workshop process has been vital in allowing me to gain perspective on my own writing and I believe that teaching can do the same. Objectivity is much easier to achieve when we are observing the work of others, like wondering why the parents of the obnoxiously loud kid at a restaurant don’t take him outside when your own child is under the table rolling around in bits of fallen food.

The first few weeks of class we will be discussing various short stories, trying to pin down what Peter Elbow calls the “center of gravity” for each and identifying the techniques each writer uses to communicate that center to the reader. They have a short short story due this Friday (300-600 words) and I want them to revisit their first drafts before handing them in, see if they can figure out the main point of their lovely prose—if they can’t find it, what chance has the reader got?

I’m looking forward to reading what they come up with.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I’m the worst kind of blogger. The kind who constantly scans her favorite blogs, irritated that they’re not updated, while my own goes dormant for a month or two at a time. The shame is…actually, it’s not that bad. I’m pretty comfortable with my double standard. So all you slackers out there, Diane, Leaf, Heidi, the rest of you. Get back to work! I’m bored!

I have to thank Angie for bringing the long leisurely summer I’m enjoying to a screeching halt by reminding me it’s almost over. I’m usually all for the start of a semester, and I’m especially excited to start my grad classes, but for once I am sad to say goodbye to my freedom. Of course, I’m writing this while Greta naps and Alex is upstairs playing nicely in his room.

Spent last weekend at the beach by myself writing and got rolling with a story that there’s no hope of finishing in the next two and a half weeks. So what if it is the sequel to a novel that still needs revised (and retyped before that)? I love this beginning part. It’s even more fun than reading and anyone who knows me understands this is about as good as it gets.

I’m not even reading anymore. I can hear you gasping, but it’s true. I haven’t picked up a book since Heather suckered me into reading the stupid, addictive Twilight series. Okay, I have, but only one and I read it very, very fast. I give Heather a hard time for erasing a couple of weeks of my summer, but I should thank her. The books were a reminder of all the great addictive books I’ve read, a reminder that I started writing to tell my own addictive story. I think I spent so much time critically studying books that I almost forgot this little detail. Not a bad lesson to relearn as I head into the semester.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Summertime, and the livin’ is…well, not easy, but I am getting some reading done. I’ve decided to keep a list this summer. Usually I plow through as many pages as possible and come up for air sometime in mid August wondering if I met somebody named Briony over the summer or read about her. Thus far (two and a half weeks, including Costa Rica) I have read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult and The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. I liked them all, but would only highly recommend the Diaz with out knowing for whom I’m recommending the book. Also some short stories, but I’m not counting them.

Now, I'm beginning Postcolonial Theory, A Critical Introduction—one of the many books I’ve checked out to further my research on a paper, for which I’ve already received my grade (an A, natch.) I didn’t have enough time to write the paper I wanted, though, and there are some contests I can enter. Why not write it right? Right?

Even though I’m done with school, and Greta’s done, Alex still has two weeks left. I can’t wait until we’re all off and I don’t have to worry about the stupid 7:20 am bus stop. That’s right, 7:20, people—and I am over it. I’m putting this in print for a reason, because I am sure that in a few months, I will be willing to put either kid on any bus at any time of day just to have a moment to myself.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Taking a break from cleaning. Cleaning so I can leave the house sparkly for the in-laws. The in-laws are coming tomorrow to watch the kids so Jeremy and I can take a break in Costa Rica. Relaxing in Costa Rica to celebrate finally being done with the undergrad degree that felt like a life-long project, but really only took four years just like everyone else.

Funny, I don’t feel educated.

Good thing I start again in the fall, working on a Graduate degree. Sooner or later I’ll have to get a job, I know. But for now I’m glad to keep studying and I‘m very excited to focus on my writing.

I felt compelled to post here before I leave Sunday. I’m not sure what to do with myself over the summer. It’s been two years since I had a break from classes (and my last “break” was to have a baby.) Perhaps the blog will get dusted off…then again, perhaps it won’t.

I’m experimenting on myself in Costa Rica, curious what subtle or significant effects travel has on the writer. How are expression, habit, and craft effected by a change of scenery? We shall see…

Friday, February 20, 2009

How to Waste an Hour*

  1. Get the computer.
  2. Take the computer to a spot by a heater vent.
  3. Check e-mail.
  4. No new e-mails? Check the Yahoo home page for interesting articles.
  5. No interesting articles? Log on to New York Times website. After all, there is a seriously failing economy out there. A war going on. Endless important topics to read about.
  6. Go to the Book Review page.
  7. Pick a book you wish you’d written and read the review.
  8. Follow the link for another author mentioned in the review because you like his name and want to see what else he’s written.
  9. Remember you were in the middle of a review and make your way back to said review.
  10. Follow the link to the university where the writer used to teach as it’s on the list of graduate programs to which you’ve applied.
  11. Repeat step nine.
  12. When you finish the review, look at the clock: voila! One hour spent not exercising (or writing, or cleaning house, etc.)
(Bonus 15 minutes: write a blog entry about how to waste an hour.)

*Results may vary. It may take practice to reach a full hour. Keep trying, you’ll get there!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

As promised (threatened,) POETRY! It comes with the disclaimer that the most important thing I learned in poetry class this semester is that I'm not a poet. However, I also learned that writing poetry is fun and, well, fun. There are no rules, people! you don't have to use punctuation capitalization prahper spelling you get to make it all up, and it doesn't have to be good to make you feel better.

Incline Terrace

We’re lying
on the side of a hill
in the middle of a city.
One swatch of fresh mown
grass, one small park without a public.
Our inclined oasis. A playground on a fault line.
One rainy afternoon we hid here,
in the open, where no one
would look.
How fearless
we were on the swings,
aiming for those fat raindrops.
Across the street, we learned to play house.
And we claimed this park for dreams
and for watching the sun set.
But now, rather than march home against
the pull of gravity, we will leave behind this mountain of support
and venture into the vast blue together
despite the storm barreling this way.
Did we both see the grey on the horizon, or was it just me?
Either way, I’m glad I’m not alone.
Ahead, the open western sky,
More than the eye can hold without
Breaking the gaze.

A Mother’s Tale


We stood in a long line for that picture.
The kids smiled, unlike some of the others—
they screamed. We were lucky.

When we unpack the decorations
the pictures with Santa will smile up
from the bottom of the box.

Not the tantrum on the way out.
The threats that caused us all to shout
then pout and waste an afternoon.


There are moments,
warm and bright as early summer sunshine,
when it all feels natural as bare feet.

There are entire days,
bracketed by darkness on each end,
when I would give up anything,

even the buttery summer sun,
for the long drawn out peace of my own mind
at rest on the contour of a shadow.


Instincts fierce as any animal and
about as little reason.

Never enough patience, but a never-ending
supply of occasions to try again.

Complete disregard for personal appearance, which
helps when singing in public.

Guaranteed regrets, knowing too late that you had it
good…hard, but good.