Saturday, March 31, 2007

Long & Busy (not to be confused with productive) week

I had to go to work on a Friday to hear a job talk. This going to campus on a Friday has happened before but not usually for the whole day. Or the four hours of the day.

For some reason, this semester has been so much less productive writing-wise than last semester even though last semester I taught 4 days a week and had just moved here. I was in a bit of a panic then, and less so now, but I really should have been able to devote Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to writing work. Perhaps April will reveal a new energy and dedication to that vein of the work since after talking to Dean and Chair, the scholarly element of the job is where they would like us to shine.

I suppose I'm less in a writing panic because of the grant but also because I finally found an agent who loves my book. Flat out loves it. So rare. No weird side critiques. No but's or if onlies. She's an angel even if she doesn't sell it. I always write more when I've been rejected, which is sick and means I need to focus on the my failures.

Speaking of which, I sent out my book of poems again. I checked out the book to see if this one poem that I hate is still in there. I think of taking it out all the time but for some reason, don't. I went to check it out. It's title is the problem. "The Intersection of French and German" is so pretentious. But the poem itself isn't bad. It's about belly-buttons. How bad could that be. So I sent the book off with one more period that it had before but otherwise the same as always. The rejection should be in the mail already.

So now my self-doubt has been relegated to teaching. One of my students, late on a Monday night in the parking lot on campus, suggested that I teach poetry via grammar. I thought he had an interesting point. I tried not to be defensive and to hear why he thought that was a successful method--he'd done a lot of reading about workshops and was interesting in teaching soon and in the near future. Still, I thought it a bit of an odd suggestion though possibly workable idea. It did make me think about different possibilities to teach workshop. As I've mentioned before, I've had some good workshop teachers and some mediocre ones but I don't think a perfect model has been demonstrated to me.

I'm trying to shake things up at the end of the semester just to experiment about how to make the students more responsive and responsible to each other. Although I don't know if talking about prepositions is the way to develop a methodology, as my one student suggested, but it may be a manner that would make the workshop less formulaic. So I divided my class in half and will have them workshop more fewer pieces more slowly. After the writer has been thoroughly critiqued, she'll come tell me what her workshoppers thought, what she found helpful, what she still needed help thinking through and how it might affect her revision. This second part might be the trickiest part--taking the student out of the workshop for a small conference and asking her to recapitulate what she heard but I think the students will pay attention differently, which, if nothing else, will be a small sign of success.
The hardest part for me about teaching is logistics--some of my ideas seem great until I put them into play and realize that whoops I forgot to account for the 17 contingencies and the desire for students to know exactly what's going to happen every day for the whole semester. I suppose I will take the risk to shake things up at the expense of the students feeling comfortable. Perhaps it will even work.

Friday, March 23, 2007

All's well

She's A OK. Now I can make inappropriate jokes about how huge her head is. Poor kid. Her head is almost as big as mine. But that is, according to all news MRI, just fine.

Now I have to go lie down. All the stress that has been keeping me upright this week is starting to seep out.

Thank you everyone who waited in worry with us.

Mwah. (that's a kiss from Z).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

No news yet but you know what they say about news

Hi you all who commented and sent your good wishes for the Zoster.
Of course, we know nothing yet but if it was emergent she would have had to stay at the hospital last night. And, we didn't hear anything today--so if it's probably not immediately horrible. A few more days and we'll know more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Spring break came and went way too fast. But now my week is over again and the work I'll do now is less public, if not more intense. I'm teaching two three-hour workshops this semester and it's the best and worst of all worlds. On the one hand, three hours gives us plenty of time to get in the mode of workshopping, to relate our reading to the workshop pieces and to develop a sort of workshop aesthetic. On the other hand, by the end of the 2nd hour, the class starts to lag. I lag. The students get cheeky. Sometimes frustrated with each other. There has to be a way to shake up workshop so it's not all praise and suggestion--although my students are really good at the praise and critique and we're working hard toward making truly creative and helpful suggestions--but this takes so many mental gymnastics--to not only read and comprehend a piece, but to find its signature strengths and its integral flaws and then to imagine how to reinforce those strengths and explore, explode and fix the flaws is more like running 3 miles than running 3 miles is. I am so impressed with my students and their stamina. I'm less impressed with my own until I remind myself that every comment one of them makes I need to: hear and comprehend, find its signature strength and integral flaw and then reinforce its good point and find a way to incorporate its flaw into something constructive. Workshopping the workshop is like hauling up a net of fish, flieting them, cooking them up just right and serving them with an unbroken hollandaise.

On another note: I'm so sad. Z needs an MRI for her ever-large head. I didn't want to blog about it because I don't want anyone to look at her and see how big her head is but what if there is something wrong? Encephalitis? Hydro-encephalitis? What if she needs brain surgery? What if she needs to wear a helmet that re-shapes her head? How do I know how to worry with the right weight? My mom says it never ends, the worry. But an MRI on a 20 month old? Hard to find in my own head about where to hang the balance.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Back from Atlanta

This blog is officially turning into "the complain about weather blog." If you wanted me to say interesting things about other topics, you'll have to email or call me. It's 16 degrees today. Gray. A flake about every five minutes but each flake threatens more. While we were gone, it snowed 18 inches or so. My father-in-law had to shovel every day. His back hurts but he got to go home.
The whole thing just depresses me. I'm not used to being depressed by weather but this is getting a bit suffocating. It adds to the feeling of isolation now that the in-laws have gone home and we've left our friends to go back to their regular homes. Even our friends here are out of town and promising more leave. It's a bit like a hard stone in my chest all the time.

AWP itself was OK. It was different than usual because a) I didn't have to sit at the bookfair table all day every day and b) I had a presentation on Saturday. On the one hand, it was nice to have only one real obligation. On the other, I missed having a place to go and meet strangers and Saturday loomed the whole time. Somewhat like the clouds right now (see how this is weather blogging still?).
I saw many great blog people--Dr W and Lisa B and Strange Polkas and Terrible Mother(although not enough of the last one. Maybe next year). I saw great friends who now live in Texas and do good work making us feel better that we live at least in a city with several nice restaurants. They are much jealous of our tapas here. Tapas eaten in the cold but tapas nonetheless. I saw my great friend Steve whose book came out and who got a tiny sliver of the moon of attention he deserves (See Dr. Write on Steve's book).
(Flake a minute now).
I saw Margot and Felicia and Steve T--friends that are closer now than they ever were in Salt City. I met a couple of people for a few hours that I would like to remember next year--Brian, Liz, Dave, John, Christine (the last two from Texas friends' U).
I saw U of U profs Jackie and Donald and Kate and Paisley and Karen. Got to have a drink with Karen. Got to want more from Donald and Jackie as usual.
And, for the real namedropping, I got to hang out with David Shields and Nick Flynn and Michael Martone and Rebecca Woolf and David Hamilton and Kim Barnes and the guy from Poets and Writers.
And of course folks from Grand U including students who were good and bad alternately but in the end quite fun (although they thought I ditched them for a party. I didn't. I would have but I didn't).
(The snow is falling harder now. A flake a second.)
Thoughts: As usual, I hate the schmoozing and the fakery and the hopelessness of AWP right at first but then by Saturday, I'm steeled against hope and fakes and just kind of like the people and the people watching. Really a generally good group. All 5,000. I like to make summary judgements. Large ones. But still, by the end, itis mostly true. The panel went well--a number of people have emailed me or Margot to tell us it was their favorite panel. That was much niceness. And, considering it was of the last panels, it was still pretty well attended. Yeah! Maybe I'll do it again one day.
OK. Snow falling for real now. Must go hunker down and buck up and batten down the hatches. Or find my gloves. To wear. Indoors. So I can type more.