Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Kim Addonizio was on campus this week. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet her in the afternoon with a small group of MFA students and faculty. She talked about writing poetry, memoir and fiction. Given that her fiction and poetry are so edgy, I found it intriguing that she's anxious about the reactions of certain people to her in-progress memoir. It was refreshing to hear. There's always something so vulnerable about sharing our art. In the evening she gave a reading, including some new, unpublished poems. A lot of sex and death. Great stuff.
You can now enter the free Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Complementary Colors (and many other books).
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Chelle Cordero, Final Sin
Victoria Howard, Three Weeks Last Spring
Collin Kelley, Conquering Venus
Vila SpiderHawk, Forest Song: Little Mother
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Living downtown is so fun. When I'm out walking my turkey, I mean dogs, I feel like that girl.
I've updated my other blog and now have information about both novels, as well as free previews. Thanks, everyone, for all your love and your support of books and small presses.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Saw Mary Roach tonight on campus. She's hilarious, brilliant. Was thrilled to get to hang out with her at a reception afterward, to drink wine and talk about writing, sex and cadavers. No, not sex with cadavers, although one of her books does touch on the subject. If you've never read her, you must.
In an amazing event of serendipity, in my film class we just happened to be watching Milk this week. I hadn't planned it to coincide with National Coming Out Week, but it did. Not only did Obama pledge (ve shall see) to end DOMA and DADT over the weekend, but on the very day we watched the last part of Milk, our Governator signed a bill to create Harvey Milk Day. My classroom was electrified.
What else? At my I'm-Living-A-New-Life Open House, we drank 30 bottles of wine, untold amounts of beer and vodka, and danced on the furniture until the wee hours. I'm so blessed by all the people in my life. I looked around that night and realized it's because of these people I'm alive. And thriving.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Perhaps it's because I look out into the classroom and remind my tender, raw self that each person there has a whole world. A world of love, connection, pain, loss. I'm being re-reminded that teaching, for me, is about connecting with people, really listening to one another, and providing students opportunities to express themselves, to cultivate curiosity, and to explore words and worlds.
In my Queer Film class, we are watching Milk this week. As students watch it, I ask them to jot down questions. The last few minutes of class, we discuss their questions, and I ask them to look them up and bring what they find to class. They are looking up everything from "Who's Cleve Jones?" to "Where is gay marriage legal in the world?"
I'm also teaching a section of English 1B (second semester Frosh Comp). Students are reading memoirs in groups and developing questions out of them that will lead to research questions. For instance, one group is reading Colby Buzzell's My War, and one research question coming out of that book is: How does post-traumatic stress affect veterans? Another group is reading Jennifer Finney Boylan's She's Not There, and a research question coming out of that book is: When do most transgendered people begin to feel they are in the "wrong body"--and what are the possible options for what to do about it?
One young woman who is reading Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is developing a fascinating question related to whether or not religion is, as she put it, the opiate of the African-American community. Another group who is reading Andrew Pham's Catfish and Mandala--the story of a young Vietnamese-American guy who rides his bike across Vietnam--is developing questions related to bicycling infrastructure.
I'm trying to teach them that asking questions as they read helps them understand how books connect to the world.
Also this semester I'm teaching a Fiction Writing workshop. It's fun to read several student stories a week, to see what their minds have created. And I'm teaching Introduction to Creative Writing. We just finished our memoir unit, and now we're moving on to fiction, with a focus on flash fiction.
On Tuesday the 13th, Mary Roach is coming to speak on campus, then later this month we have Kim Addonizio and next month, Denis Johnson. In spite of furloughs, a 10 percent pay cut (yep, we all got them) and all the weirdness that is our horrible state budget (and is my divorce), I'm trying to remind myself that I'm lucky to get to work in a world where books, words and people matter.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
A poetry writing workshop is one of the settings in Complementary Colors. A character says, “I felt there was something elemental, crucial, tangible about the making of a painting or a poem that seemed—what?—sacred?” Does the poet have a vatic role that is above or beyond gender?
That’s kind of cool to think so, but I really don’t know. I do think words are magic. So maybe poets are sorcerers. That line from my novel is spoken by the narrator, Gwen, when she is just opening up to the world in a new way. It’s a transformative time—and poetry plays a big part in her transformation. But it’s not like someone waves a magic wand or one poem does the trick. She’s ready, she’s open to seeing the world in new ways, which is why it’s suddenly possible for her to write poetry and to fall in love with a woman for the first time. So perhaps that’s what’s beyond gender: when you are in a transformative state where supposedly common-sense boundaries begin to morph. Certainly poetry does have the potential to help us see something in a completely new way. That sounds akin to a spiritual experience.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The Al Gore of your soul is alarmed. Line
of your heart: you thought hate had disintegrated,
ecofriendly. Hulking polar bears, uninitiated,
can't get a foothold. A few fringe lovers
declare conspiracy. A miles-wide tangle
of synthetics in the sea appropriates
the mounting waters. You create
greenhouse gasses, neglect to separate
your recyclables. You haphazardly debate
the cavities, the virtues, of belief and disbelief.
Your car gets horrible mileage. In the park you retrieve
a plastic bottle from the garbage like the homeless.
Where are the landfills? What feels more formless
than an inconvenient truth? Which is the best bitter pill
they make? Of the chemicals interred in your soil,
which will nourish, which poison? We forget what is most
biodegradable is the body, eyeballs to bones.
Embalming chemicals are meant to sustain
a façade of self. Steel coffin, we try to retain
the unsalvageable. Dropped deep in dirt, it’s dark.
We pretend all will keep, even worm and hook
in that cool murky world of enough, and time.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Here's what one famous writer has to say about the novel:
Unflinching and mysterious, Conquering Venus is that rare combination of poetic and page-turner. Collin Kelley who refreshingly faces taboos head-on has packed his cinematic debut novel with compelling characters, meaty plot twists and satisfying surprises. This novel is freshly contemporary as well as, in its own fashion, a love letter to Paris.
Oops, that's not a famous writer, that's moi. But still, you can trust me, it's a great read! Oh, and some other writers who aren't his close, personal friends have said great things about the book, including Charles McNair and Gary Zebrun.
You can order it from any bookstore if it's not stocked there, you can buy it on Amazon, and you can order it directly from VHP.
I'm headed to L.A. this weekend. I'll be staying with an old high school friend and his beautiful family. Always great food and swimming pool time there. They are taking me to something called the Avocado Festival. I expect it to be a bacchanalia as it always is with them.
I reconnected with this old friend not long ago after not talking to him since high school. He's such an upstanding citizen now that have so much fun teasing him about the things he did in high school. One time he snuck out of history class through an open window and the teacher didn't notice--not until he did it the third or fourth time. Everyone played dumb about how he escaped. I "passed" Chemistry class only because this dear friend changed my grades in the grade book for me when that teacher had left the room, probably for a drink from his flask. This friend also taught me how to drive a stick shift at the fairgrounds, so if not for him I never could have driven cool sports cars.
On Sunday I'll be at the West Hollywood Book Fair. if you're in the area, come by, see our books and say hi. The three lovely authors present will be happy to sign your books or body parts.