It’s been a bit tough for me to keep up the blog this month. The last month of teaching Expository Writing at Framingham State has been a busy one. Because I was asked to teach just before the semester started, I had to grab another instructor’s syllabus and run with it. The syllabus has been an excellent road map for the course, but I’m realizing now that the bulk of the student’s graded papers are scheduled in the last month. I don’t grade lightly; I give significant thought to each student’s paper and grade. So the course has been time consuming lately.
I won’t be teaching “Expos” this spring. I wasn’t on the initial schedule because they hired a lot of new instructors for a large freshman class in the fall, and they needed fewer sections in the spring. The department chair recently let me know that a section had become available and asked if I’d like to teach it, but by then I’d already made plans for the first few months of next year. I had to decline, which is a little sad after teaching for just one semester. I’ve committed to some new freelance work, however, and to attending the AWP conference in Chicago at the end of February and re-focusing on my essay collection. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned this fall, it’s that I can’t do it all, at least not without feeling significantly stressed.
I “finished” two essays over the past few months (I put that word in quotation marks because I’m not sure if a personal essay is ever really finished, even after it’s published), but I haven’t been able to spend nearly as much time on my creative work since I started teaching, and this is a major concern for me. I have to write, revise, and/or polish a number of essays before I will have enough good work to consider a collection, and I want to maintain some momentum in that direction. Although the individual essays are more my focus than a book at this point, the book is still out there, waiting to happen.
Some other news: I have been asked to moderate a panel at Pine Manor College on January 2. The panel will be part of the winter residency for the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing, will focus on publishing, and will feature faculty members Venise Berry, Mark Turcotte, David Yoo, Anne-Marie Oomen, and Randall Kenan. That’s a panel loaded with talent, and I feel honored that the directors of the program asked me to moderate.
Melissa Varnavas, a fellow graduate of the program, recently posted something on Facebook that was both exciting and amusing. Melissa decided to google her own name (let’s face it, most of us do that now and then), and in doing so she discovered something unexpected: she was a finalist for the Arts & Letters/Rumi Prize for Poetry and never even knew it. Melissa is a very talented poet; I love her work. Congratulations!
My teacher and friend Joy Castro, meanwhile, announced on her blog that German publisher DTV, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, has acquired the rights to her debut novel, HELL OR HIGH WATER. The book hasn’t even arrived on U.S. bookstore shelves yet, and already overseas publishers are acquiring the rights. I can tell you that I’ll be purchasing HELL OR HIGH WATER as soon as it’s available. If you haven’t read Joy’s work yet…really, do. Her memoir “The Truth Book” is stunning, haunting, and a master class for any writer.
I guess that will do for now. It’s hard to believe that December is already underway, and 2011 will soon be coming to a close. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were all anticipating the new millenium? I remember standing on the pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colorado on New Year’s Eve 2000, watching the clock above city hall. When the clock struck midnight, champagne corks popped and couples, clad in warm ski jackets, hats, and gloves, hugged and kissed. I was on my own that night and I stood in the crowd, absorbing the celebration and trying to grasp the change. I can’t believe that was nearly twelve years ago.