Monday, April 19, 2010

belated awp wrap-up

A big thank you to all who attended my panel at AWP10. I was thrilled with the other essays presented (by Nicole Walker, Shannon Lakanen, and Desirae Matherly) and by the insightful questions and comments from the audience.

Ephemera from the conference:

In "Traces of Places: Finding Our Literary Identities Through Landscapes" (Michael Downs, Debra Marquart, Michael Steinberg, Barbara Hurd, Joe Mackall), Barbara Hurd talked about having two kinds of relationships with place: a storying one and a sensory one. I'm fairly sure she said "sensory" now, but at first I heard "censoring." Ever since, I've been caught in that misheard idea, what a censoring relationship with place would be--where we impose silence on landscape, where it imposes silence on us. The rest of her essay, which I'm almost sure I heard correctly, was also stimulating; I look forward to reading her work.

"Mock-Docs, Fakes, and Hoaxes" (David Lazar, Jeff Porter, Catherine Taylor, Mary Cappello, Patrick Madden) was the most intellectually rigorous and complex of the panels I attended. All of the presenters said something fresh and unique about this topic, giving fakery historical and cultural context. I was positively gleeful. I only wish they could repeat this panel on Oprah.

The key to any successful conference, though, is to have great roommates: a grateful shout-out to Jen Schomburg Kanke, Becca J.R. Lachman, and Carling Futvoye.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

awp and opp

You can see me at the panel I am heading at AWP in Denver. If you go to the Thursday conference schedule, search for "R201. Goodbye to All That: Coming of Age in the Personal Essay." The panel is April 8, 3-4:15pm, Room 201, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level.

The opp in the title of this post refers, of course, to other people's publications. I'm happy to (re)announce that Ali Stine, one of our presenters on the panel, will have a second book of poetry published with University of Wisconsin Press next year. The book won the The Brittingham Prize. Congratulations, Ali!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

not another blog post about snow

It doesn't seem fair to say I commute to work. I drive twenty minutes into town, but there is no traffic to speak of, save for getting behind a car driving 50 mph on the highway. It's a beautiful drive through hills and farmland, even if the two-lane highway does cut largely into it.

But I'll say it anyway: On my commute to work on Monday, visibility was low, probably three quarters of a mile. I love fog and snow around the hills; they lend an air of mystery to them, as if I weren't familiar with every bend in the road between my house and town. Stranger still, I didn't have my wipers on despite the heavy snow conditions. The snow fell rapidly, but in fine pellets that blew around the car. I traveled in a clear bubble through the blurry weather.

Swimming laps today, I felt that bubble again. The water pressing on me muffled the stresses of the day, the week, even a year. My head cleared. I thought about how much I love my husband.

Happy belated Valentine’s, Jamey.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

stitching around a post

In a semi-recent post, I mentioned that I learned to crochet a number of years ago. I hadn’t actually crocheted a stitch since my daughter was born (over two years ago), but decided to haul it out when they offered wine at a recent craft-night get together among my mom friends. Something took hold of me that night (and it was not the 1.5 glasses I had); I’ve been re-obsessed ever since. One of the reasons I haven’t posted since November is that I decided to crochet all my Christmas presents this year. Yes, I was that person, the one that gave my two-year-old mittens on a coat string.

I’ve been pondering why I've gone so crochetzy, as my friend and crochavatar Dewi would say. Part of it is the satisfaction of seeing something grow to completion. I used to crochet a row or two between grading papers, because at least I knew the stitches were adding up to something. Not just something, but something tactile, something useful. Now that I’ve branched out into more complicated patterns (pattern hunting has become my new Internet time-waster), I feel I could crochet anything if I wanted to. If the factories go belly up tomorrow, I can make myself socks. Can it be such a stretch to crochet abstract concepts like love, postmodernism?

Aside from that, I feel similar to when I swapped out my first hard drive as a computer technician (many lifetimes ago now). I felt the exhilaration of being initiated into a boys’ club (I was the second female employee at the company of 20 or so), capable of exceeding my own perceived limitations. (Of course, I subsequently took my bicycle apart to see how it worked and ended up mangling the gears. I got a lecture from the [male] bike repairman on the merits of specialization.) I now have additional ways I can provide for my family (ill-fitting mittens!). I’ve been further inducted into mom-hood, in which I have learned so many previously impossible things: teaching undergraduates on three hours of sleep, entertaining a toddler for nearly a three-hour plane trip with finger puppets, becoming an expert on my child’s development. Give me a G-hook, and I’ll crochet this blog.

If you’re a crochet aficionado and interested, here are some of the other things I made the past month or so:
I’m currently making this hat with some swanky yarn that Dewi gave me as a present for graduating with the PhD. I loved the yarn, but I had no idea at the time how appropriate the gift was.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

in which i am podcasted

Hear me read my essay "In Which I Move Again," published in the October 2009 issue of The Collagist, in a podcast on their blog.

Can podcast be used as a verb?

Monday, November 9, 2009

lightning on a clear day

This lightning bolt still has form, energy that winds its way through a living tree. Matter is impaled and grows more beautiful from it.

It is as if the tree visibly wears its central meridian.

Move your hand in the crevice and feel its heat.

Monday, November 2, 2009


On my recent trip to my folks' house, I took this photo of the flower arrangement in the guest bathroom. I made it when I was in about the second grade, probably in Pioneer Girls, which is like Girl Scouts, but with God. I learned to embroider and to make a makeshift stove out of a coffee can.

The flowers have probably shifted in all the moving my parents have done. Still, I look at the white and the purple and try to get back into my 8-year-old mind, thoughtfully choosing where each should go. A perfectionist even then, I inflicted order wherever I could. I liked most to arrange and rearrange the knickknacks on my dresser--shells from the vacations, rocks carefully chosen for texture or striation.

Messiness has since taken over the order, over my life. I've learned to relinquish many of my perfectionist tendencies. I often read to my two-year-old rather than do the dishes. Of course, I've also contained most of my perfectionism to writing; perhaps I'm just seeking order in (children's) literature since I know it will never happen in my kitchen.

I'm ambivalent now about my time at Pioneer Girls. I'm bemused that they thought embroidering was a useful skill to teach a girl in the early 80s. On the other hand, I have mostly good memories from the time I spent with the other girls and teachers, and I'm bashful that I don't know more traditionally womanly arts. It took a real woman to teach me crochet in my late twenties. (Thanks, Dewi!) But more on that another time.