I've been meaning to post about the Tucson Festival of Books, which was really just awesome all around. I keep putting it off, because there's so much to write about, and I'm lazy and tired and should be doing other things. I have S. here visiting me this weekend, she's asleep in the other room, so I thought I'd squeeze in at least part of what I mean to say about the festival.
I started out at the poetry reading by Alison Hawthorne Deming and Luci Tapahonso (see the original post for more links.)
The wonderful Prof. Deming was my creative nonfiction undergraduate thesis advisor---she encouraged me to throw in a few poems, too. I learned so much from my time working with her, and she's really such a generous teacher and person, not to mention an immensely talented writer. I so enjoyed seeing her read and having the chance to chat for a bit.
She read from her new collection of poems (her fourth), called Rope. It's coming out through Penguin in September 2009. You can download the catalog entry for the book on her website. Here is the description offered there:
Alison Hawthorne Deming's fourth collection of poems follows the paths of imagination into meditations on salt, love, Hurricane Katrina, greek myth, and the search for extraterrestrial life, all linked by the poet’s faith in art as an instrument for creating meaning, beauty, and continuity—virtues diminished by the velocity and violence of our historical moment. The final long poem “The Flight,” inspired by the works of A. r. Ammons, is a twenty-first century epic poised on the verge of our discovering life beyond earth.
Later that afternoon I went to the "Writing Life" panel given by Jason Brown, Manuel Muñoz, Ander Monson and Kevin Canty. At first it looked like it was going to be just me and Prof. Deming (who happened to show up) and one other person in the audience---Canty took a picture of the sad little spectacle. The panel didn't make the general schedule, otherwise I'm sure there would have been plenty of people. Thankfully, a cadre of current UA MFA students and a few others showed up just in time.
Jason Brown mentioned that Aimee Bender once told him she "finds it painful to write," and that she sometimes actually ties her leg to her writing chair for two hours a day, to make sure she can't roam the house finding ways to avoid the writing. I love that.
I was going to just buy one book, I told myself I wouldn't spend more than that (I make $7.50/hr, so one new book = two hours of steaming milk, wiping tables and serving bacon) and I decided on Jason Brown's Why The Devil Chose New England for His Work, since I didn't have one of his books yet, and he's UA fiction faculty and I'm leaving. Long story short, I ended up buying a few.
Okay, I'm running out of time here. I want to jump in the shower before S. wakes up.
I have lots more to write about, but I want to add that Kevin Canty suggested a book for me called Art and Fear (because I asked the panel about writing and fear, and then turned a hot-lobsterish shade of red for the rest of the day---more about this later) and left me a very nice note when he signed my copy of his most recent book of stories, Honeymoon.
Ander Monson (new nonfiction faculty at UA, Wikipedia somehow describes him as "an American novelist, poet, nonfiction writer, and charming douche," no joke) left some encouraging words when he signed his Other Electricities for me, and he added a delightfully cryptic footnote.
Brown thinks Muñoz might "make it big time" (if he hasn't already), and Muñoz talked about how he often composes in his head, a habit he picked up during his no-time-to-write time in a publishing house. I do that too, probably most of us do, don't we? He said the fear never goes away.
Brown told it like it is, in a too-comical-to-be-depressing-really way. "Some people just don't have the stomach for the fear," he said, amongst other things. Gulp?
A kind little birdie told me that Cornell has no official waitlist, just a few people on a "shortlist," and they don't tell those people that they're on it unless they ask. I emailed the department on Thursday, asking if they can inform me of my application status, but haven't heard back yet. Maybe they're on spring break? If I don't hear back, I'm calling on Monday for sure.
I guess (according to the birdie) that the program's reasoning for not telling is that they don't want to get people's hopes up...since there are only four spots and it's not the kind of program that people tend to turn down in droves.
Honestly, I don't quite understand that reasoning. Not in the age of internet information overload. I know it's quite possible that my rejection got lost in the mail, but if I am on some kind of shortlist, I sorta think I deserve to know about it. Instead, I'm sitting here in this awful limbo, wondering what's going on. I mean, as it is, if I was on this secret shortlist and never called, I'd end up getting the same standard rejection letter that everyone else got, as soon as the four people accepted their spots. I just would have had to wait for it longer. I'd never know how close I came.
I would treasure even just a little email saying Hey, you almost got in, you probably won't, but you might. It would feel really good to know I got that far. I'm looking at 5 outright rejections and expecting more to come, so a waitlist would feel like a surprise party.
So, an update.
Rejected by UMass Boston, via website. Rejected by Syracuse, finally, via mail.
Unsure about what's going on with Rutgers-Newark, I know some have been accepted, but other people are saying they haven't made all their selections yet?
Expecting a rejection from U Florida, I think.
Frantically waiting for a rejection from Cornell. People started getting rejections a while ago, now. Every day I go to the mailbox thinking, It has to be in there today. And then it isn't. I know I should just call them so I can stop thinking about it.
In any case, this brings my count to 1 acceptance (thankyouthankyouthankyou), 5 rejections, 3 waiting (1 probable rejection, 1 totally unsure, 1 possible waitlist?)
So, She's Gotta Have It just came on as the local Saturday night movie. Usually it's weird horror films from the 50s/60s/70s, so this is a surprise.
Apparently this was Lee's first feature-length film, and he plays a part in it (Mars Blackmon.) It came out in 1986. I've never seen it before, and actually I haven't seen most of Lee's films. As it happens, Clockers and Do the Right Thing are on my DVD mail-rental queue right now.
I remember going to see He Got Game in the theater, with my sister. It came out in 1998, so I must have been 15, my sister 13 1/2. We were visiting our grandparents in Florida for the summer. They dropped us off at the theater, and came to pick us up when the movie was over. I remember it clearly, because this couple in the row across the aisle from us actually had sex during the movie. Nothing like that had ever happened to me (well, near me) before. My grandparents never would have dropped us off if they'd known it was the kind of theater where that could go on without anyone complaining about it---I mean, it's not like the couple was even trying to be discreet---and of course we didn't tell them. I remember feeling kind of scandalized and kind of scared and kind of exhilarated.
Wow, She's Gotta Have It just went into color and then back to black and white.
Update 11 pm: Awwww. Wow again. I loved it.
(The TV dubbing-over of the profanity was hilarious, though.)
Here's a little article about Lee and his work.
So, tomorrow morning marks the start of the very first Tucson Festival of Books!
Here is a link to maps and schedules, and here is the festival blog.
The UA Poetry Center has a list of their events.
The Pima County Public Library has a page about the festival.
There's an entry about it on the NewPages blog.
The Arizona Public Media page features video.
They even have a Facebook page.
And here's a clip about the festival on Youtube.
Poetry readings by Alison Hawthorne Deming and Luci Tapahonso will be the first of the day. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will be giving a reading to close the day out.
I'm also really interested in a talk called "Fiction out of Friction: Evolution, Arabs and Other Controversial Topics," with Robin Brande and Laila Halaby. Unfortunately, it's at the same time as Prof. Deming's reading! I will happily choose to go see my former teacher, but I hope I'll have a chance to hear about the Halaby/Brande talk.
Also at the same time is a talk on "Public Speaking for Shy Writers" with Michael Charton. Too bad!
My next pick: Fenton Johnson, Beth Alvarado and Naomi Benaron will give a talk on "Shaping Truth in Memoir and Fiction."
It's at the same time as two other talks that sound interesting: "Life Worth Living, Inside Out: The Sufi and the Sage," with Albert Clayton Gaulden and Mansur Johnson..."Oral History and Community Story: The Foundation and Inspiration of Fiction Writing," with Patricia Preciado Martin.
Later on, I plan to attend this very nifty panel discussion, which is one of the events at the UA BookStore:
Jason Brown, Kevin Canty, Ander Monson & Manuel Munoz
"The Writing Life: Surviving & Publishing in Today's Market"
And then this one:
Aurelie Sheehan and Laura Fitzgerald
"Art or Craft? What Makes Fiction Work and Why?"
That means I'll miss a talk on "The Art of Eavesdropping," with Stephen Kuusisto. (We just did an exercise on dialogue and eavesdropping in the community college workshop I'm taking.) And a talk called "In the Driver's Seat: The Character-Driven Plot," with Elizabeth McKenzie, Alfredo Vea and Ann Cummins. And one called "We Cannot Look Away: Exploring a Social Conscience Through Writing," with Stella Pope Duarte...tempting.
Of course, this is a pretty ambitious schedule. And I'm giving up my precious "sleeping in" days, so hopefully all the literary excitement will keep my energy levels high. But seriously, what an incredible opportunity, right here in Tucson. Hooray!
On Sunday, I plan to go see the
"KALACHAKRA" SAND MANDALA
Viewing & Dissolution Ceremony for the Wheel of Time, Sand Mandala with respected Buddhist scholar and former attendant to the Dalai Lama, Losang Samten.
I bumped into Prof. Manuel Muñoz today after work (I'd stopped by campus to deposit my check and chat with a couple of friends.) The four of us got to talking about his second collection of stories, The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue. We talked about the heartbreakingness of his story "When You Come Into Your Kingdom."
Then I mentioned that "Tell Him About Brother John" was one of my favorite stories in the collection, and he told us that that story has been selected for an O. Henry Prize and will be published in the 2009 collection! This is wonderful news---I couldn't have been happier to hear it. It's kind of funny, because we read the 2008 collection in the advanced fiction workshop that I took with him this past Fall semester.
Recently, he won the 2008 Whiting Writers' Award. He got his MFA at Cornell and is now teaching fiction at the University of Arizona.
Here is a mediabistro.com interview with him about teaching and the "writing vote."
Here is a great little chat with him from miapogeo.com.
Here's an article from the UA website that came out when he won the Whiting Award.
I feel so lucky and grateful to have had the chance to take a class with him. He's an amazing writer and an equally amazing teacher. It's just so clear that he's truly invested in helping his students to improve as writers.
Congratulations Prof. M!
PS---I know, I know, I wasn't supposed to blog first today. But it's a special circumstance! And so far, I've kept my promise to stay away from the blogs. But I'm jonesing bad, man, jonesing bad. Into the tub with me!
Update 8:30 pm: Still haven't looked. I think I'll make it this first day. That has to be the hardest part, right? The only problem is that I've smoked more today than I have in a long time (like 5 cigarettes, instead of one or two.) My health vs. my peace of mind...well, I wasn't very healthy, anway.
The forums/blogs/post-subscriptions are driving me into the ground. My obsession with wringing every drop of information from the internet every day is truly starting to affect my quality of life.
I was finished with work today by noon. I ate lunch, walked to the library to return a book, talked to my sister on the phone, and was home by 2 pm. A nice way to start the free portion of my Wednesday.
When I got home, as usual, I went straight to the computer (after saying hi to my furry roommates, Treble the dog and Boots the cat.) I checked the blogs, checked the forums, read through all the posts that I missed while I was at work.
I talked to S. on the phone, I made a call to the Dept. of Education (stupid financial aid/student loan mix-up I'm trying to get fixed.)
Talking to S. was good---and she sent me the most wonderful postcard, a 1953 portrait of Jack Kerouac taken by Allen Ginsberg. She wanted to make sure my mailbox didn't stay empty! I got it today. If it wasn't for her, there would have been nothing in there but my next Six Feet Under DVD.
Then I checked the blogs, checked the forums, read through all the new posts coming in. Checked the blogs, checked the forums, read through...
Suddenly it was 7 pm.
I meant to take a long bath and read, I meant to work on the story I'm writing for workshop, I meant to finally do some Arabic, I meant to get through some administrative-type chores I have to do, I meant to call my grandparents. Instead, I sacrificed my brain and my time to the false idol of internet chatter, again. I mean, I hardly ever get around to reading the news, since all of this started.
This is no way to live. This little addiction of mine is out of control, and it's become progressively worse lately.
So, I'm totally grounded. I hereby solemnly swear that as of now I will NOT look at P & W, I will NOT open the email account where I have all my post-subscriptions delivered, I will NOT visit the MFA Blog or TSE or the GradCafe. If I can get through this and be good, maybe I'll allow myself to check back (during a limited window of time) a week from now. Or, maybe I'll be past the sweats and shakes by then, and won't want to go back.
Either way, I'm reclaiming my life outside of the computer. First, right now, I'm closing all the bad tabs open in my browser, signing out of gmail, and I'm eating a popsicle. Tomorrow I'm going to come home from work, eat lunch and write.
And not in this blog. Really write.
The Tucson Festival of Books is this weekend, 3/14-3/15, and I'm going. I'm really excited. The UA Poetry Center has a list of their events. I want to go to Alison Hawthorne Deming's reading for sure, and I'm also really interested in a talk called "Fiction out of Friction: Evolution, Arabs and Other Controversial Topics," with Robin Brande and Laila Halaby. And a lot more, too much to go into now. I'm falling asleep at the keyboard.
It's almost my bedtime. Goodnight, world.
PS--On a related note, Denis Johnson is reading at the Poetry Center on April 9th.
PPS---Why was there no new Lost tonight?
PPPS--Someone recalled the library copy of Burning Down the House I was reading. That's the book I had to return. I've been wanting to buy it, so now I will. It'll be better to be able to mark it all up, anyway.
I've developed the most ridiculous fear that some of the programs I've applied to are finding my blog and actually reading it. This would be a terrible, terrible thing.
"But you're anonymous," you might say. Well, not so much, if you've read my SOP.
How would they find me? I have no idea. (The forums? Google? The tin foil hat I'm wearing?)
Aren't I blowing my relative importance in the MFA world completely out of proportion by worrying that actual faculty are taking the time to scour the internet looking for little old me? Well, yes, I am. That's the only thing that's keeping me from totally losing it about this.
This incredibly self-involved hypothesis is based on stupid, stupid StatCounter. I wish I never installed it. Besides telling me how many people stop by the blog, I just discovered that I can see where they're checking it from. In the past week or two, I've had hits from both Syracuse and U Minnesota.
Of course, I also had hits from Indiana U and Boston U and U Arizona and U Alabama and U Tennessee, and I didn't apply to any of those. The most likely explanation is that these hits are just fellow/future applicants/students looking for MFA info. If so, hi!
But today, on the day when U Florida started notifying for fiction, I see a hit from Gainesville. What?! What?!
So, on the off chance that my paranoid delusions are in fact not delusions (humor me?), I just want to say that some of what I say on this blog is silly, and all of it is off the record, and most of all---please don't judge me based on my babble? Also, hi.
Actually, I'll extend that message to everyone out there in TV-land, not just the imaginary MFA faculty. This process (and waking up at 4 am for my job) is kind of wearing away at my sanity these days. Maybe an open diary was just a bad idea, during decision season.
Too late to turn back now---I believe I believe I believe I'm falling in love? What song is that again? Where am I?
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog, where I'll try to tune the crazy down. Thanks!
They will find your blog, no matter how anonymous you think you are, and they will read it. And, undoubtedly, they will snicker behind their hands at how silly you are. And even if they don't, you'll always be sure that they did. Just a little warning, there.
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota: Wish You Were Here
Intro blurb voiced by Garrison Keillor
City of Minneapolis Official site
Minneapolis Craigslist Apartments, roommates
Minneapolis Wikipedia Because Wikipedia knows everything?
Pros and Cons of Minneapolis
City Pages News, culture, art, music, nightlife
Seems cool, like Boston's Weekly Dig, which I loved and still check out occasionally. (When I pick up a Tucson Weekly, on the other hand, I really only read the syndicated columns/comics at the back. I'm afraid the rest of it usually bores me.)
Secrets of the City, Minneapolis/St.Paul: Includes local art/culture/food/politics links and articles, and a forum.
Thrifty Hipster: Special deals, happy hours, music venues, restaurants in Minneapolis.
City-Data Forum: Minneapolis-St.Paul...lots of really helpful threads about neighborhoods, renting, commuting etc. Sounds like Uptown, Marcy-Holmes, the Wedge, Whittier and maybe Near Northeast are good areas for grad students to consider (affordable, lots to do, close and with quick bus routes to the U of M, youngish atmosphere but w/out the supposed mayhem of the areas right next to campus.) Here's a thread about "safe, quiet neighborhoods not too far from the U."
LiveJournal Twin Cities Misc. threads
Minneapolis Public Transit Getting to the U of M by bus and/or lightrail
WalkScore.com Walkability rankings by address. As an example, here's the walkscore of the campus area around the U Minn English Dept.
Bike/Walk Twin Cities...Minneapolis seems really walkable!
Bike Commuting in Minneapolis
Open Book: The Loft Literary Center, Milkweed Editions, Minnesota for Book Arts.
1011 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis
The Loft Literary Center
Weisman Museum: 333 East River Road, Minneapolis
Minneapolis Institute of the Arts: 2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis
Walker Art Center: 1750 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
Guthrie Theater: 818 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis
Poets & Writers Speakeasy: Minneapolis
Poets & Writers Speakeasy: U Minnesota
Grad Cafe: Minneapolis City Guide
Grad Cafe: U Minnesota
Long-distance move, I don't drive, eek! Here's the cheapest option I've found~
ABF U-Pack 5 feet min. in a 28 ft trailer, or a private 6x7x8 "ReloCube." Door to door or terminal to terminal service available. I pack, they drive, sounds good.
MovingScam.com reviews of U-Pack
Epinions reviews of U-Pack
The mailbox insisted on remaining empty today.
I'm expecting letters (rejections) from Syracuse and Cornell. But I should say that even when I'm not waiting for anything in particular to come, I'm still crazy about the mail. I feel sad when it's nothing but junk, and part of me wants to do a frantic little angsty dance when there's nothing in it at all.
Maybe it's the little kid in me---every day is another chance for something exciting to arrive, who-knows-what from who-knows-where. A letter from my grandmother, a postcard, an invitation. Anything that isn't trying to sell me something (or to remind me of my debts) feels like a little miracle.
I crave communication that I can put my hands on.
My friend S. is on an incredible roll, and I couldn't be more proud of her.
Our talks help me feel sane (but not too sane) in this crazy time. Here's to dreams come true.
PS---What a great movie, right?
Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction, by Charles Baxter
I started reading it a while ago---completely fascinating, it's blowing my mind in several ways.
But now, every time I randomly hear the Talking Heads song he named the book after, I start to think it's a sign pointing me to Minnesota. And by "every time," I mean the two times that that's happened recently.
1) I'm watching the third season of Six Feet Under (don't tell me anything!) on DVD, and in the episode where it's Ruth's birthday, that song plays while they're all dancing.
2) I have my iPod on shuffle, and it comes up halfway through my bus ride home from work.
Here's your ticket pack your bag: time for jumpin' overboard
The transportation is here
Anyway, I mean to talk about the book (and several others) at some point. Right now, my brain is a warm gelatinous substance, and I'm going to drown my anxieties/exhaustion in tonight's new episode of Lost.
Everything's stuck together
I don't know what you expect staring into the TV set
Books I'm reading right now (I'm doing that bad thing where I move back and forth every few days):
Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction, by Charles Baxter
Little, by David Treuer
Books I'm almost finished with:
Believers, by Charles Baxter---I'm reading the title novella at the end
An Explanation for Chaos, by Julie Schumacher---I'm reading the last, title story
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, by George Saunders---I'm reading the novella at the end: "Bounty"
Hmm...I think I've discovered a pattern. The problem is with me, not with the books. I zipped through all the stories up until the last of each, and then I started trading back and forth. Maybe it's really a subconscious effort to prolong the experience?
Book(s) I plan to start very soon, here:
Concertina, by M.J. Fitzgerald
(Post in progress...Lost started!)
It seems like Michigan could teach some schools a few things. (Cough---UMass---Cough.)
Good luck, anyone stumbling through. Tomorrow's another day!
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: like many others going through this process, I started out feeling like my chances of getting in anywhere at all were slim to none. I stand in awe of the mysterious combination of circumstances (what they were, I have no idea) and the huge amount of luck that led to an acceptance for me.
The only thing keeping me from going ahead and accepting my Minnesota offer right now is the fact that it's in, well, Minnesota.
I'm a little bit scared of the Midwest. The only experience I have with the region is this: When I was almost eleven years old, my family set out in a rinky-dink little used RV, leaving forever my grandparents' house in Watertown, Mass. and heading for the vague and distant "West." On our way, we passed through Kansas. All I remember about Kansas is flatness, a lack of grocery stores (we couldn't seem to find bread) and a strange profusion of car washes. I'm sure there's more to Kansas than that, but that's what I remember. Also, I'm aware that Minnesota does not = Kansas, and that they are in fact quite far apart.
What is Minnesota Nice? Is it real? Just a stereotype? It sounds kind of scary. Wikipedia says:
Minnesota nice is the stereotypical behavior of long-time Minnesota residents to provide hospitality and courtesy to others. The term is also sometimes used in a derogatory way, to connote a sort of smiling stubbornness, forced politeness, false humility or passive aggressive hostility.
Stereotypes of Minnesotans often overlap with qualities of other people from the Upper Midwest, including the perception that many are quiet and do not wish to offend others or cause a disruption, even if it's for their own benefit. Writer Garrison Keillor played with this image in a piece written for the radio program A Prairie Home Companion called "Wobegonics," the supposed language of Minnesotans which includes "no confrontational verbs or statements of strong personal preference, you know." [...] The generosity of state citizens has gained respect—the heavily-reported influenza vaccine shortage of fall 2004 did not strike the state as hard as elsewhere since many people willingly gave up injections for others.
Here's another link about the supposed phenomenon in relation to the Twin Cities.
The cold I can probably handle. I know it's the cold equivalent of the heat here in Tucson (eyeballs-frying-hot), but I much prefer being cold to being hot. You can always bundle up, but there's only so much you can do about burning flesh. I dealt with Boston blizzards, even kind of enjoyed them---felt like an adventure. I know MN is going to be much worse, but I think I'll be less miserable than some might be.
In other ways, Minneapolis sounds great, like the "Boston" of the Midwest. If you haven't noticed, I'm in love with Boston. I spent the younger days of my childhood moving around between suburbs of Boston (Watertown, Concord, Belmont, Lexington---and a strange interlude in the boondocks of Clinton.) I have many happy memories of dancing around outside the Au Bon Pan in Harvard Square, listening to the street performers and watching the crazy old men play chess.
Apparently Minneapolis is a big literary and publishing center, has lots of museums, bookstores and all that. People say you can get by without a car, which is VERY important to me, since I don't drive. Some pointed out that it sucks having to get groceries by bus when it's snowing and a billion degrees below zero, but I dealt with some of that in Boston and did fine with just the T.
My overactive imagination/raging sense of curiosity is another part of my hesitation. I feel like I should wait until I've heard from everyone. That's the standard process, isn't it? I'm bad with decisions and I feel like I need to have all the information first. When I got the call, my first instinct was to say Yes, yes, I'll be there! I can come tomorrow! But I had to bite down on that urge and try to be sensible about it.
I hate to keep them waiting, though. They've been so good to me. I guess they expect it, right? They know we've all applied to multiple schools and that we're waiting to hear back from the rest. Maybe I should send them chocolates.
The funny thing is, when one of my letter writers asked me (around the time I was sending out my first applications) which school I was really pulling for, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was: Minnesota. I wasn't even sure why, but that was my natural reaction. I said, "Actually, I'm really excited about the program in Minnesota." He seemed a little bit surprised. He wanted Cornell (yeah, right) or Rutgers-Newark for me (because of their diversity focus, which I also find attractive.)
I explained how I really like that Minnesota encourages genre-blending/cross-genre experimentation. This is from their website:
The program encourages experimentation across genres, fostering the discovery of new and varied forms for a developing voice.
I also love that they have social writing programs that focus on young writers (SASE Wings) and women of color (Voices from the Gaps.) I'm so interested in programs like these, and I would love to have the chance to get involved during my MFA.
And the faculty, of course, is amazing. I've been reading their books, and I'm just so excited.
Maybe it's fate. Maybe Minnesota and I are just meant to be together. It must mean something that I felt strangely drawn to the program, and they must see something that they connect with in my writing. That's an incredibly good feeling, knowing that. What more could I possibly ask for?
I'm going to the prospectives' weekend, March 26-28. I'm in touch with a couple of other admits who are going, as well, and I can't wait to meet everyone, see the city, explore the program on the ground. Minneapolis, here I come!
I'm spending way too much time on this blog. I have homework (writing!) to do, and I go back to work tomorrow. Did I say that my shifts start at 6 am? I need to calm it down, here. But I probably won't.