January 20, 2014

In the New Year

I closed out 2013 by tromping the dunes of White Sands, New Mexico. I kicked off 2014 with the University of Tampa's low-res MFA program. The truth is, I only got a day's glimpse of the warmth that sends snow-birds to Florida in January. What motivates me are the students--they are adults, choosing a destination for their time and money--and I approach this relationship not as teaching, but as mentoring. That means no handholding, no interest in grading assignments for bureacuracy's sake. I think we're going to have a good time, even though my workload is merciless. Five students in three different genres, each with an individualized reading list; that's 50 books for me to read or re-read. Argh. But the fellow faculty is amazing, with standout lectures by Alan Michael Parker ("A Book is a Thing") and Stefan Kiesbye ("Dirty Wedding: The Marriage Between Lies and the Truth in Prose"). And the dance party, DJ'ed by poet Erica "Awesome" Dawson, would keep me returning in & of itself.

These next few weeks will be no less hectic. I'm closing on a nonfiction article. I'm heading to Georgia for the first of two stints with the Georgia Poetry Circuit. I'm trying on wedding dresses; trying to figure out how to store an office's worth of books in a closet. I'm leaning hard on figuring out a balance of work and life for the coming year. 

This post on "Girl w/ Pen"drew my attention to Lost in Living, a documentary that follows four women over the course of seven years. The filmmaker, Mary Trunk, set out with the goal of capturing the struggles and rewards of working as an artist while becoming a mother. But what interests me is the finer details of how women relate to each other. It's very, very difficult--I'd venture to say impossible, unless one chooses cultural self-segregation--for a woman to have her decision to have or to not have children be anything other than a defining identity element in her 30s and 40s, an element that fundamentally frames how she relates to other women. The public conversation tends to be dominated by those who joyfully do or joyfully don't have kids. What about those in between? Those mothers who regret their kids? Or those who opt to be child-free, accepting that also comes with regret? That's a conversation I'd like to listen in on, which I suspect women writers and artists are especially capable of having. Might be too much to ask of this movie, but I'd like to see it happen. 

If you teach creative nonfiction or journalism in the college classroom, I recommend you share this sequence of pieces with your students:

I have sympathy for Hannan--hard to know what to do when a seemingly innocuous profile leads you down the rabbit hole. But despite the piece's stylistic strengths, there are valid ethical issues on the table in terms of how the story was presented. Taken with Kahrl's critique, and Simmons's ultimate apology, it all adds up to a meaningful discussion of the pressures and responsibilities of the contemporary freelancer. 

Before I forget: New year, new opportunities. If you're eligible, apply to this…

The Cave Canem Residency at The Rose O’Neill Literary House includes a public reading as part of the annual Summer Poetry Salon Series. The Fellow is awarded the use of a private, single-family residence for the month of June, along with a $1000 honorarium. The Fellow has the option of a manuscript consultation with the Director of the Literary House, poet Jehanne Dubrow. Applicants should send a statement of purpose, a CV, and a 10-page poetry sample to:

The Rose O’Neill Literary House
Washington College
300 Washington Avenue
Chestertown, MD 21620

For the 2014 Cave Canem Residency at The Rose O’Neill Literary House, applications will be accepted if postmarked by March 15, 2014. 

I read with Kevin Vaughn for the 2012 salon--he was wonderful company, a rising talent, and I really enjoyed visiting Chestertown. Apply, apply. 

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