Friday, April 19, 2013

Driving through, in the midst of chaos

At the Eastfield Literary Festival with
Meg Tuite and JP Reese

I returned yesterday, late. To the right is a post-reading pic from the Eastfield College Literary Festival. It was an amazing time and, more, I had amazing company.

JP Reese (left) is a poet and prose writer; she read Wednesday night and again on Thursday with me and Meg. I had the pleasure of being there for both readings. This woman is dynamite. Read her. I learned a lot from watching her work the mic, introducing each poem with a charmingly-told, emotionally-rich story that offered the audience a private glimpse into her writing process and life, and this is such a gift.

Meg Tuite (right) came just before the reading, and though I didn't have much time with her, I was starstruck. Tuite is a flash master, and her reading was dynamic in that she had everything. Everything! Her stories covered topics and perspectives as wide ranging as the graphic nature of the dairy industry to a pondering of life and illness and strength to a humorous portrayal of a Wonder Woman admirer, delightfully awkward and endearing. Hilarious.

It was a pleasure reading with these ladies, and hanging out with them, however fleetingly. I'm always too busy. With class, work, writing, and home, I never seem to stay at the good stuff long enough. This is something I need to work on. Claiming my time. Because times like these last two days are invaluable. I'm realizing that more and more as I age: the good must be soaked in.

But as I made the long trek back from the reading, I passed the site of the explosions in West, Texas. As I drove home, I heard more news about the terrorism in Massachusetts. As I drove home, I became overwhelmed.

This week, the news has appeared an episode of Homeland. The sensationalism of the reportage has been over the top, as has the actual news and speculation. Unbelievable chaos and sadness. Who knows how to act? What to say?

The Watertown and Boston area make a strong community; I got that from the news, the people, and after unreal shoot-outs, after the Watertown community was on lock-down for a day, after his standoff on a boat with no one able to see what the remaining terrorist had on him, things are beginning to come back together. They've determined that the remaining suspect is in custody, so the town can begin to heal. But healing must be allowed to occur, and I'm not sure over-reportage is allowing that to happen.

Converse to the sensationalism of the Boston terrorism is another tragedy, the story buried here in the SW. What a horrible time for the good people of West, Texas near Waco. The explosions were were the result of a fertilizer plant malfunction that made the plant blow up, along with nearby homes and people. This accident killed and injured so many people in this small town, stealing from them their homes and possessions.

On my way driving back from the reading yesterday, I looked for the site and didn't see it. I got stuck in traffic and distracted, began wishing an STD on the driver of the SUV that had just cut me off, then I started thinking about how amazing my life is, and how lucky I was. I slowed down, took back my mean and rather demented wish. He could have the lane.

As I drove, the radio switched from song to the host asking for residents from nearby towns (I was near Waco) to come out and donate anything they had. A caller asked if they needed clothes and the announcer replied (paraphrasing a little): Anything! They'll even need tampons, so throw some of those in, too, girl.

And though it was this one comment, so simple and a little off-center, it was this moment that really struck me. Imagine: to be suddenly be in need of such simple items.

It is now time to heal. But to heal, to support those healing, we have to empathize by asking the tough questions. Can you imagine having so little, so suddenly? Can you imagine being on lock-down in your own home, fearing your life? Can you imagine losing it all in an instant?

I can. I really can. All the more reason to soak in the truly good times.

*Donations for West are coming in from the Red Cross and local charities.
*Donations for the victims and those whose lives have been and are impacted by this terrorism can be given at and many other places.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

$2 lotto ticket

I promised some lit news, so here's that:

New piece in Monkeybicycle: "Don't Tease the Elephants" Thanks, Steven Seighman, for printing my work. I'm honored. This story is particularly special to me because it stars a character I've been using a lot since I was in Vermont. His name is Rattle, and he'll be a regular in a few of my forthcoming fiction publications.

I had an audio piece accepted to Bound Off, which I'm really excited about. Though I'll be reading it myself, and I still have a hint of bad kid from the Short North in my voice--but hey, take it or leave it.

I finally queried an agent. Well see... I'm expecting crickets, but that's one query. One is a start.

I have a piece in Obit, entitled Unlike Loss. Thanks, Matt Potter at Pure Slush! I've worked with Matt a few times, and he is a forward-thinking editor. Glad to be a part of a new collection of his.

My reading at Eastfield College with Joani Reese and Meg Tuite is this Thursday! If you're in the area.... Literary & Fine Arts Festival

And my reflection/confession/whatever for the week:

This week has been interesting. I'm so busy that I have no time to write this blog. I'm so busy that I have no time to write anything else or do a thorough job of any of my work. And yet, I've written and I've blogged, and I think I've done a pretty thorough job of most of what I need to work-wise.

I'm currently taking a break from grading my creative writing students' stories. They're good, which encourages me, and more, they're diverse. This is invaluable feedback to me, as a teacher, because it means that they're finding their own voices. That's one of the most important things, and one of the toughest to balance as a teacher of creative things. After all, how do you teach creativity? I think the secret is, you encourage and offer both suggestions and space.

One of my best students is going through an incredibly tough time and not complaining one bit; he is giving this class his all, and it shows. This student has inspired me already. Meanwhile, I have a few students that are MIA most of the time. I will never understand this, perhaps because I had to work so hard to get to and stay in college. The ones that don't work hard might not realize how valuable this time is. Perhaps they'll come around. I have noticed this a little more in spring than fall courses. I wonder if there's something to that.

My frustration got me thinking about when I was working through college. Personally, I loved school, but along with rent it broke the bank. I remember being in need of more dental work than I could afford along with my books one summer; I was short even on the payment plan my dentist offered. I walked out of the office after scheduling the follow-up appointment that I needed, but I was sure I'd have to cancel. At a convenience store, something compelled me to buy an Ohio State Lottery scratch-off ticket. And no measly $1 deal either; I bought a $2 ticket. I scratched it off and won about $300, which was enough to cover my first payment. I remember thinking how lucky I was. I still think that. Not everyone is. 

In other news, my dog is doing well on his medication still, and the vet said that he's responding as well as possible. He could be with us (with good quality of life) for quite a few months. She also warned that things could get suddenly worse. But for now, we're enjoying life. Between the vet appointments, tests, and medications, we've spent a lot of budgeted money this month. We're broke (not broke in the same way I was in college, but another kind of broke). But, much like my lotto ticket timing, I got unexpected good news. A promotion at work! Assistant Editor to Associate Editor. Right on time and quite unexpected (I had expected a small cost of living increase). Such give and take seems serendipitous, like the current version of my lotto days. Anyway, right now I'm not forgetting; the gratitude is there.

Have an amazing week! And read that Rattle story if you have time. I'm pretty proud of it. And there will be more to come...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Lessons (re)learned this week

Massive amounts of water can cure a headache
When the pectoral muscles grow tight, it's felt in the shoulders
Some stories sound better than others when read aloud, and this doesn't necessarily make them better
A martini with well liquor is a horrible thing
I am not good at photographing food
A bad mood can last a week straight if properly nurtured with negative energy
People will move, and move, and move, and this is difficult when one is still
Meditation takes dedication
There is nothing more rewarding than prompting a person to learn s/he loves to read
The corporate model does not work in academia
Emotion is there for a reason
Patience is an art
Writing is a privilege
Honesty is not always pleasant
Sushi is addictive
I do have a favorite literary magazine, by far
Nothing is ever perfect, no matter what
Reply All can be both embarrassing and enlightening
The outer membrane of a jellyfish is called an umbrella 
Light weights, when lifted regularly, can create  quite a bit of solidity and strength

Lessons learned (some for the third or fourth or twenty-third time).

I'll post about writing next week. In the meantime have a beautiful week!

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