Category Archives: Writing

Losing Time

While that title may sound like a “bad” thing, losing time can be sublime. Yesterday, I continued my great quest for articles by and about Bharati Mukherjee (For those who don’t know: I’m teaching a class on Mukherjee this year to a group of savvy seniors, and Mukherjee will visit the school in January. I am very excited about this — as it has been a rewarding experience thus far; it’s like being a student again — reading texts with fresh perspective and little outside influence. And the students have such voracious responses. This is a teacher’s dream!) by going up to Northampton to the Smith College library. After my work was done and I visited several friends, I drove back to West Hartford (sniff, sniff) and listened to This American Life. This specific episode dealt with amateurs. In the final segment of the show, David Rakoff told of his experiences making crafts in his spare time. I may forget the wording, but he said something along the lines of that he forgets his life while he is working on crafts — he loses all sense of time. This was precisely the feeling I had at Smith yesterday, and many times previously.

Going the the Neilson Library, Smith’s main library, has always felt very at home for me. I spent many hours in that library during my years as a grad student and then as a teacher. During school breaks when I was in grad school — I seemed to get absorbed in one subject or another. The summer I got into Dorothy parker, I spent hours and hours in that library with old New Yorkers in my hands. I was so impressed that the college had every issue of The New Yorker since its inception. I read all of these old, original articles and tidbits by Parker. I also got into Shirley Jackson, and I looked up some of the letters to the editor after her story “The Lottery” was published in The New Yorker. Sometimes I get lost like this on Wikipedia — but actually being in a library, holding books and magazines, using the microfiche — it just does not get any better. I think the Smith library also has (for the size of the library) a decent size collection of literary texts — lots of literary criticism. I love that feeling of losing myself in the library.

When I was an undergrad at Bennington, I spent so many hours looking up random info and references in our library. I recall Friday nights hanging out with some post-baccalaureate students in the library: geek fun!

One of Rakoff’s points in his TAL piece was that when you do something for money, when it becomes a job (with deadlines, I presume), it takes that magic away. I can see how this is true most of the time. But for someone like Sujal, he still gets lost in coding. I get lost in reading and lesson planning, though I can’t say I necessarily get lost in grading. I guess we all fall somewhere on that scale.

Sural In Pisco

My sister-in-law, Sural, is in Peru doing a fellowship for ten months. She was in Lima when the recent earthquake shook Pisco and surrounding areas. We were quite worried about her, but she is fine. She felt the quake, and we later talked to her via Skype, and she described the situation in Lima. Shortly after, she and some fellow students went down to Pisco to help out. She normally has a blog on her travels, but the recent posts about being in Pisco are particularly powerful. Check out the rest of her blog, too. It is called Sirens and Lights. Not only does she provide a detailed description, but she uses vivid writing to do so. The opening of “Earth, Wind, Water, Fire” provides a visceral description of the dust, giving us not only sensual description of the place, but also a literal and figurative atmospheric description. Just read it and see for yourself.

Farewall to Vonnegut

Here’s the New York Times obituary for Vonnegut. I’m not sure why, but I was very surprised to hear the news. I heard it early Thursday morning as I was getting ready for work. I asked my sleeping husband if he had known about it, as Vonnegut died the day before, and Sujal seems to know news as it happens. He said that it sounded familiar — how long ago did he die?

I told Sujal he just died the day before, to which Sujal acknowledged he thought maybe he’d died several years ago — much like deja vu for me when Ford died. I’d forgotten he was alive. Nonetheless, in his sleepy state, Sujal tried to make a pun, and English teacher joke, if you will. He said, “I guess he Caught 23.

With that, I fell into laughter and replied, “That’s Joseph Heller.”

“What number book did Vonnegut write?

“Slaughterhouse 5.”

“Oh, but that’s not so funny,” said my sleepy husband. Some people just cannot pull off English teacher jokes, not the way English teachers can. And man, do we think we are funny!

I’ll be rereading some Vonnegut soon. I remember reading Bluebeard, and even though he was poking fun at the abstract expressionists, that novel sparked my love of Mark Rothko. I read it right after I finished Sirens of Titan, which I loved. I recall that Vonnegut was a topic of conversation between my very first boyfriend and me. He was Jim Wylie, and we dated in 8th grade. We didn’t talk Vonnegut then, but we both read him in eleventh grade. Eleventh graders still love him!!

Pure Interest, Dreams, Masks, and Reality

Anyone who knows me well, knows I think excessively. It is nearly impossibly for me to turn my brain off. Try meditation, thanks, sure, I will. So as I’ve been blogging in the past, I’ve been intrigued by Beth Bye, Vice Chair of the WH School Board and candidate for state representative. And as I’ve mentioned before, I am the second entry on a “Beth Bye” Google search. So I contacted her and asked her if I could interview her for me blog, and she accepted. This was last Sunday. I know I should have written it up by now, but I had a mini-crisis in between interviewing her and finishing writing the interview up. See, it has long been a dream of mine to be an NPR correspondent. While I asked Bye if I could interview her mainly because I was very curious to know more about her, I also wanted to support her and help give her some more exposure, because frankly, I believe in her. She strikes me as a clear, compassionate, well-spoken, thoughtful, and engaged citizen: the makings for a great representative.

But once I got that “yes”, (and this is where this post turns to be solely about me and my own narcissistic ways) I began to fret about it. What do I ask her? I’ve never done an interview before, at least not one since high school. I began to think about journalistic approaches, because now I was going to be part of the news media. And I think that’s about when I began to connect the dots to being an NPR correspondent. “Well, if this interview goes well, NPR will certainly start recruiting me.” I planned carefully, and I drew up questions. I did my homework and tried to read what there was already printed about her on the web.

When I went to do the interview, I fully disclosed the fact that I am a teacher, not a journalist, and that I had not done an interview since high school. At one point, she referred to me as a reporter. And frankly, I behaved like a reporter. The interview did go very well, and I was very glad to have had the opportunity to get to know her better and to get a better understanding on where she stands on issues. Like I said, I was initially driven by curiosity to know more about her.

As I left, I began to feel young, like a child, like someone pretending to be someone she is not. I went to my office at school and took out my notes and began writing a formal news article/interview. I continued my research. i wanted to be able to link to all of the references she named. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the equation that determines how much money the state contributes towards a town’s education budget. Boy, had I bitten off more than I could chew. I sat there writing, thinking to myself, why am I trying to write in this manner? This isn’t me.

Truth be told, I never really wanted to be a real NPR correspondent. I just wanted to be Bob Edwards, well, Bob Edwards when he hosted Morning Edition. Then I was feeling compelled to report the bulk of my notes, because “the people have a right to know.” What monster had I turned into? So I stopped writing and started grading.

Now with a week under my belt, I think I have a much better idea of the directions I’d like to take. I say directionS, because I plan to do multiple posts. And, since I am not a reporter, this won’t be straight reporting, since I’ve always hated trying to write objectively, because I do not believe for a moment there is such a thing as objective writing, period. So stay tuned for a few posts.

While I may not be a journalist or even a hardcore blogger, I do enjoy writing, and I’ll do just that.

Tin House Workshop Update

The conference continues to go well. I mentioned before meeting all sorts of interesting writers who are fellow participants, but the presenters/teachers have been great. I have enjoyed working with Matthea Harvey, my workshop facilitator. She has been leading us to view each others’ work from a variety of perspectives, which has been great and refreshing.

There also have been nightly readings by some talented authors, and I love that I’m getting to hear people read that i might not have encountered easily in my daily life of teaching kids the “classics”. Some of the hihglights have been: Aimee Bender who writes fiction, Nick Flynn who writes memoir and poetry, Dorothy Allison, Chris Offutt, Francine Prose, Kevin Canty and so many more.

I recommend checking these authors out. I began reading Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and I recommend it.

Tin House Workshop Update

The conference continues to go well. I mentioned before meeting all sorts of interesting writers who are fellow participants, but the presenters/teachers have been great. I have enjoyed working with Matthea Harvey, my workshop facilitator. She has been leading us to view each others’ work from a variety of perspectives, which has been great and refreshing.

There also have been nightly readings by some talented authors, and I love that I’m getting to hear people read that i might not have encountered easily in my daily life of teaching kids the “classics”. Some of the hihglights have been: Aimee Bender who writes fiction, Nick Flynn who writes memoir and poetry, Dorothy Allison, Chris Offutt, Francine Prose, Kevin Canty and so many more.

I recommend checking these authors out. I began reading Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and I recommend it.