Scandal!

I’ve been reading a lot about the AWP scandal. Actually it is not one scandal, it is many. But here is one that has actually hit the press. Kate Gale, publisher of Red Hen Press (The Management: the real person behind Indy Clause was once in a Red Hen Press anthology; Indy Clause: that’s a disclosure brag if I’ve ever heard one), wrote a now-taken-down post on HuffPo about the ridiculousness of the claims that AWP is racist or exclusionary. She imagines one of the guys at the AWP headquarters shooting Indians. He is not that racist! she claims.

She received criticism and she mocked it. Let’s begin with the idea of shooting Indians on a horse. The imagery is offensive and outdated, and for a thorough take on that, I turn your attention to Debbie Reese. Let’s talk about the belittling language she uses. Let’s talk about her staggering unacknowledged privilege.

Let’s talk about the nature of racism. Very little racism or exclusion in any way is as specific as “I want to kill [fill in group].” Usually it is more insidious, like mocking real questions and then accusing the other person of not having a sense of humor. Oppression in a patriarchal society (shout out to Allan Johnson, from whom I learned much of this) can happen by taking what he calls the path of least resistance.

In the 60s, the slogan was if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If you do not actively work against oppression, either your own internal racism (which we all have somewhere) or other people’s racism or do not seek out experiences other than the dominant narrative, then we are participating thoughtlessly in a patriarchal, sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist society.

Yes, we all take the path of least resistance sometimes, or even a lot of the time. Some of us are not fighters every second of the day, which it seems to me you have to be to defeat the heaviness of our racist, sexist status quo. The locavore movement had a push a while back to spend just $10 a week buying local food. I don’t know what that means to you in terms of fighting against the path of least resistance. But take a moment to think how that could translate into your own life.

What’s your take?

Syllabus Plot Treatment

Last year I threw myself into the adventure of being an Adjunct Clause. I freaked out about what to wear, what articles to assign, how I was going to talk in front a bunch of college students, and other various and sundry things. I survived that experience. I was awkward in front of the class, but rigorous in my messages to the students. I was reasonably consistent. Every day I was impressed that I didn’t trip and fall in front of my class and that I could string words together mostly.

This year I’m going to do better. Now that I know I can survive a semester talking in front of a class twice a week, I’m going to talk better, be more in control of discussion, and have fewer PowerPoints. Halfway through the semester I realized that the kids wrote down what they thought they needed from each slide and then zoned out.

I knew the slides were mostly for me, to keep me on task and organized. So I began writing out index cards instead and gave the lecture from cards. Students paid better attention because they weren’t sure what they needed to write down.

The other thing that worked really well last year was writing exercises and discussions. Learn by doing, folks! I’ve been thinking a lot about how my knowledge of writing underlies my editing, tutoring, and teaching work. So in preparation for being more prepared this semester, I have written a syllabus plot treatment.

Every day has a theme/subject/part of the writing process I wish to impart to bored young minds. Then I write down some points to make or exercises to do. They’re going to write until their little hands fall off. And I’ve discovered some ordering issues in my setup of the days along the lines of having “here’s how you install windows” before “here’s how you frame a wall.”

What are your minor successes this week?

On Ambition

Earlier this summer I took a survey where I was asked whether I was a professional writer. The survey’s definition of professional was whether I made my living as a writer. I sat and thought about it for a few minutes. I do not write for a living. I do not earn money from my writing. I succeed at my jobs (teacher, editor, tutor) because of what I know from writing. Although I have not published a book, I believe I am a professional-level writer. My work has been published in journals and anthologies. I have had residencies, readings, and panels (although not AWP, thanks for nothing).

Doubt strikes me at strange times. After almost 20 years (god I’m old) of writing seriously, by which I mean writing with the idea of seeking a broader audience than my notebook, I no longer doubt my ability to write. I don’t always write well, but I know I can eventually get something somewhere that is at a professional level. There was a call recently for panels for a local literature festival. And I drew a blank.

“C’mon, submit!” said DP.

“What would I submit?” I asked. He listed three things that I know quite a bit about.

“I don’t know,” I said and I let it pass.

Maybe it was self-doubt, maybe it was the hassle of coming up with something coherent. I knew I could figure out a way to tackle any of those three things DP mentioned, but I didn’t.

In my vacation from The Fucker, I’ve started to read and write poetry again. Hi poetry! I have missed you! You can be so much more impersonal than a memoir. You have music. Reading Heterotopia I’m struck once again at the intelligence it takes to steer the reader into new territory and yet have them learn what you want them to learn.

I think I’m writing a new poetry book, because the old one never got published. I think I’m going back to the twenty-three-year-old in the coffeeshop by the railroad tracks eating a chocolate chip muffin, trying to write poems. I’m going to take everything I learned slaving over the Fucker and by god I’m going to get a book to send out to contests. Again.

Fail better.

What are your ambitions?

Secretary

Ever since I was a wee melodramatic Clause writing poetry in my upstairs bedroom, I have wanted a secretary. I don’t mean an efficiently organized human being who would make my travel plans for me (although that would be nice), but rather a desk with shelves, drawers, and hidden panels.

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a few kitchen items at my local thrift store and behold! Furniture was half off. I had forgotten my tween and teen dreams. Lord knows this overstuffed house does not need any furniture. But DP looked, because DP does, and he came up to me as I was looking at the books.

“There’s a barrister bookshelf with a secretary half off.”

“We don’t need any more—what? There is?”

And there was a walnut stackable glass-front bookshelf with a built-in secretary. Due to its stackable nature, it could be carried upstairs and it fit in my hatchback. And I type from it now. Touchstone books are at the top shelf, my manuscript I’m critiquing is next to the three books I’m using to write my damn syllabus at the back of the desk portion. Two tiny beloved pocket bears are perched in a cubby (my mother once climbed into a ravine to rescue them for me after I dropped them from a bridge at age 6 or so).

I’m living out my Emily Dickinson dreams. There is fog in the graveyard I can see from my window. I have not found the hidden panels yet, but there is time.

What are your melodramatic dreams?

Telling a story

There are red spidery flowers that used to bloom in the ivy next to our walkway when I was growing up. My mother called them British soldiers, and said that when they came up in late August, my father knew it was time for him to work on his syllabus.

Now that I’m an adjunct clause, I am looking everywhere for British soldiers (the flowers), never mind that I grew up many growing zones south of my current address. And of course because I’m an adjunct clause rather than a tenured clause, I won’t know whether I even have a second class until Thursday.

I have my syllabus from last year, but I’ve changed the order of the papers, and have them starting out with a more creative paper. Yay, CNF! But now I have to build that syllabus so that when I read the headings, it sounds like a class on research writing. I have to feel in my bones that the progression and the order makes sense.

And that they don’t have two papers due in as many weeks or class on Thanksgiving day. Thus are the pitfalls of scheduling.

*

It’s blackberry season at Fangs and Clause central. My hausfrau DP spent yesterday shirtless and canning jam. Every few hours I put down my editorial work and picked more blackberries for my personal chef. Our blackberries ripen from the bottom, for some reason.

What are you going to do with all that blackberry jam, you may ask. The first time we went to New Orleans, we found a place that served toasted french bread with butter, jam, and brie. This is exactly what we are going to do with all that blackberry jam.

*

We have a row of bushes along the property line. The rhododendron blooms first, then the lilac. After that, the rose and the spirea, possibly in that order. The butterfly bush and the bush that I call New England hibiscus are the next to last bushes to bloom. The Fake Daisies (TM) bloom in September and are the last flowers of the season. [Management: Indy has only just realized how hard it is to spell flower names.]

My bush calendar says that summer is coming to an end, and I am weeping into my laptop.

*

How do you mark your seasons, your stories?

What I’ve Done Since I Stopped Working on the Fucker

  1. Dishes
  2. Submitted my chapbook to a contest.
  3. Turned 40.
  4. Yardwork.
  5. Planned a syllabus.
  6. Pestered my friends via text and even (gasp) in person.
  7. Freaked out about turning my MS in to my victim beta reader.
  8. Talked to my spouse.
  9. Put a house on the market.
  10. More yardwork.
  11. Drank the best whisky cocktails on the planet.
  12. Avoided blogging.
  13. Made Vietnamese pork salad.
  14. Did I mention yardwork?

What have you all been up to?

The Last Day

My blissful, happy writing life has been interrupted by the real world. This weekend DP and I did some serious labor to clear out two separate yards, and which only confirmed that although I am a weedy copyeditor with weedy copyeditor hands, I am a tough weed.

School is looming on the horizon. No more long unbroken days smelling the sweet northern summers through open windows. Usually I am ready for the change, but this summer I am tired. Or maybe that’s the three truckloads of yard waste talking.

Other changes are coming even faster than the semester. When I was a wee lass of twenty-something, I would spend the day before my birthday reflecting on the year that came before. Now that I’m old and jaded and about to be cough*forty*cough, I have ceased that tradition.

But I’m still starting the new decade year with a clean plate. This summer I swore I would finish the Fucker. I can’t say that I did, but I feel strongly that I have hit late stages. And right now, that is good enough for me. Not fifteen minutes ago, I shipped the Fucker off to a beta reader. She’s a nonfiction writer and she is fresh meat new to the manuscript, and I’m looking forward to her feedback.

Until then, my friends, it’s back to physical labor, some scientific editing, and some of the best whiskey cocktails on the planet.

How do you celebrate your milestones?