Sunday, May 24, 2009

the future: writing and teaching

Sunday, May 24, 2009
an MFA-bound friend shared these two links with me:

Life After the MFA: Four Years Later, Taking Stock
Writers Index 2008-2009

sobering, to say the least. reading these struck me especially hard given my lack of productivity over the past several weeks--but i figure sometimes it's more important to live than to write. (heresy?!) and sometimes you're just too mired in confusion to be noble about admitting it on paper... i think that's where i've been.

luckily, on the same day that my friend sent me these links, i received my teaching assignment for fall 2009. i'll be teaching creative writing to a bunch of undergrads (as many as 24 of them, actually), and i am completely stoked. already i've begun mulling over lesson plans. what is the crux of what i need to convey to these impressionable young would-be writers? (ok, let's set aside for the moment the possibility that at least one of my students will be as old as i am.) i know what matters to me in a piece of writing, and i know what, when omitted, leaves a work lifeless and forgettable for me. i also know that this thing is not exactly the same as it is for other writers or devoted readers. maybe i am less forgiving of writing (and many things in life) than a lot of writers and teachers. still, i think it's hard to disagree that the heart of (in) a work of fiction or nonfiction is what makes it come to life and mean something long after the pages have disappeared from view. i think this is the idea i'll push the hardest: that to write well, you have to dig into the dark, deep, painful place inside you where nothing is articulated and nothing is comprehensible. and then you have to stay there. honestly, i think this is what makes not only a good writer, but a good human being.

i look forward to seeing how this little experiment turns out.

meanwhile, i just finished robert boswell's The Half-Known World, a book of essays on craft. i picked it up initially because boswell is the director of the NMSU creative writing MFA program, where i was admitted, and i'd heard wonderful things about him as a workshop leader and professor. after reading this book, i can see how this would be the case, and i'm a little sorry that i will probably not have the chance to have him as a teacher, but i guess reading his work is the next best thing. (not that i in any way regret choosing Minnesota--boswell is retiring from NMSU next year, anyway. and i am beyond thrilled to have julie schumacher leading my fall workshop--i've spent maybe an hour with her and i already love her.)

i can never get enough of reading craft books--they seem more reliable in inspiring me to write than do works of fiction or creative nonfiction. i guess lately i've just felt too emotionally vulnerable to be able to afford opening up a book and having an author get it wrong. does anyone know what i'm talking about? sometimes i am so embarrassed about being both poorly read and a total snob about what i do read.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

sometimes it is necessary to shop

Sunday, May 3, 2009
ah, sunday. it had been far too long since i'd spent 90% of a weekend in bed with no plans or obligations. i even finished julie's The Body is Water yesterday--finally. go me! (it was good. so good. i cried at the end!)

also this morning read the first story, called "The Brown Coast," in wellsie's collection. i was not floored, and so have not gotten around to picking it up again. i felt rather the same about the title story when i first read it: it was weird and kooky and had depth, but i didn't love it. i haven't yet decided what i'm going to pick up next from my stack of pitifully overdue library books.

so in lieu of reading today, i took advantage of my hard-earned laziness by spending literally about seven hours obsessively researching the sundry items i'll have to buy for my minneapolis apartment. certain fruits of my labor might be of interest to my future classmates:

need a car? while i'm coming to minneapolis with a car in the fall, i know i won't use it much, and it will be gone by the following september, so i've been looking at alternatives to car ownership. the obvious answer: car sharing. zipcar has a deal worked out with UMN to offer students membership for $35/year, with rates at $8/hr and 180 miles included per day. unfortunately, they only have two car locations in minneapolis: one on the west bank campus and one on the east bank. this sucks if, like me, you're planning to live in uptown, or really anywhere other than dinkytown or on the river. luckily, hourcar is apparently the real car share operation in MSP, and it has a handful of locations convenient to uptown. yay! their rates are slightly higher than zipcar's: a $5/month membership fee gets you $8/hr car rentals plus $.25/mile. if you pay $15/month for a higher membership status, you get your rentals at $6/hr. sadly, neither zipcar nor hourcar offer trucks; hourcar has only priuses and yarises, and the closest zipcar gets is the honda element. looks like i'll be going to u-haul to assist with my furniture-acquiring needs, but a prius should be satisfactory for handling my grocery runs in 2010.

bedding? target seems to offer their standard jersey sheets at a regular price of $19.99 for all sizes. and seriously, who the hell doesn't love jersey sheets?! ikea has the corner on quilts and comforters, though; you can get a really cozy one with down fill or down alternative for $40 or $50 (depending on how cozy you want to be).
EDIT: a friend just informed me that she doesn't like jersey sheets o_0 if this is the case for you, i recommend for your sheet-buying adventures.

appliances: you can get a decent toaster oven from either craigslist or wal-mart for $30 or less. w00t. microwaves are probably best acquired via craigslist; apartment-appropriate models are constantly being sold for between $10 and $25 as people upgrade their living units and their relationships. lucky us!

guests: i've been sort of agonizing over this commitment i made to myself, my friends, and future fellow MFAers who will eventually wind up at my apartment too drunk to get home, to host guests in my new place once i get settled in. of course, this means that i need extra sleeping quarters. unfortunately, 99.5% of sofa beds to be had on craigslist are unacceptably hideous (not to mention huge), and new ones go for more than i want to pay for my mattress. by chance, though, i happened to sleep over at a friend's apartment a couple weeks ago and she brought out a queen-sized air mattress with an electric pump that could plug into the wall. it was actually pretty awesome to sleep on -- definitely way more comfortable than a ratty old sofabed any day. the best part is that it folds down into a relatively tiny piece of plastic that can be shoved in a closet when not in use. i have to ask her how much she paid for hers, but i've found promising models on that run between $60 and $90.

entertainment: i feel like i'm breaking some tacit rule of MFA students, and of writers in general, by even considering getting a decent-sized TV in my apartment. but i've already committed to throwing regularly scheduled DDR parties next year :-| so, you see, i have no choice. still, it's not something i'm willing to spend much money on, and ideally i would like to be able to hide it completely when i'm supposed to be reading, writing, or grading upsettingly bad student papers. (you can read that sentence two ways and that's fine with me.) my options at the moment are: getting a 22-24" LCD TV for somewhere between $125 and $175 from (if they're sold cheaper anywhere else, i don't know about it), which would be great for conserving space and make it easy to hide behind a large painting or mirror when not in use; or buying a used 26-32" CRT TV off craigslist for around $40-50. i'll probably take the latter route if i end up in a larger apartment, but there is something so pleasingly unassuming about an LCD TV... sigh.

ok. as you may have guessed, the only reason i wrote this post was to make myself feel for a moment like maybe i hadn't actually wasted my whole day thinking about this stuff. so if any of this info has been useful to you, maybe i can justify my ridiculous procrastination once again--just until tomorrow, of course...
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