Week 2: In better writing news...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Week 2 of the semester proved to be far better than week 1--even though I got almost no comp reading done.  I finished Millennium Hall on Tuesday and have yet to pick up another comp book--mainly because I was far too busy reading something more interesting and inspirational.  Which brings me to my list for the week:

1)  Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games series.  Is it strange to be thankful for another writer's books?  I don't think so.  Not if they're brilliant and remind you of why you wanted to be a writer in the first place.  We all need that kind of kick every once in awhile, the kind of read that makes you go, "This.  This is what I want to be doing.  Creating this."  Not that I want to write a book exactly like The Hunger Games, but I want people to feel something when they finish reading.  I want them to take that feeling with them, to reflect on it, to feel changed forever.  I finished Mockingjay, the third book, on Friday, and I'm still feeling its effects.  After I finished, I cried.  I actually cried twice, once while reading and once when finishing, and I honestly cannot say if I've ever cried when reading before.  I think I might have cried when Fred Weasley died, which would make sense, because reading this book was very much like reading Harry Potter 7 to me.  I finished both books in just one day (just as I finished both of the earlier Hunger Games books), but I had to take breathing breaks throughout because I was so stressed out.  The ending, to me, was perfect, and it left me breathless, and empty, and exhausted, and, as Chantel put it, heartsick.  My heart is still aching, even two days later.  After being immersed in that world for two solid days (I read Catching Fire on Thursday), it has been difficult pulling myself back out of it.  That's the kind of impact a great story can have.

2)  Overcoming writer's block.  Thanks to Mockingjay, I've been able to work through a few of the issues that have been nagging me in The Novel.  I actually opened the file yesterday for the first time since school began and read it straight through.  And you know what, I didn't hate it this time.  And I even figured out what to do.  So I made a few revisions, changed a few lines, and I'm back in the game.  And it feels SO GOOD to be working on it again.

3)  Publication!  Last week I blogged that I'd received four rejections.  This week I had no rejections and one acceptance, so that's a pretty successful week in my book.  On Thursday I received notice that my story "Skin Deep" will be published in the October issue of Blue Crow Magazine, an Australian journal that publishes fiction from around the world.

4)  Finishing my justification.  In one draft.  My dissertation director attributes this to my creative writing, and she's probably right.   The comprehensive exams justification is something my department makes PhD candidates write to "justify" their reading lists--why they've chosen these lists, these texts, these time periods, etc.  Basically you just make stuff up about how these texts will help with the dissertation, teaching, job placement, future course planning, etc.  I wrote mine Monday night and she approved it Tuesday, changing just one word.  I can definitely live with that.

5)  Living in a college town.  This is probably the first time I've ever admitted to liking living in a college town. I'm forever complaining that the town is too small, that there isn't enough to do.  BUT what we lack in recreation and entertainment, we more than make up for in our choice of international restaurants.  Seriously, it's amazing that a town this size has so much to choose from.  This weekend I've been to an Irish pub, a Greek restaurant, a Cuban restaurant, and had Chinese take-out.  I may never eat American food again.  (Oh, wait, I take that back, because on Friday Kellye and I had lunch at Nathan's Hot Dogs.  That's right--we have a Nathan's in the student center now.  Nathan's less than 500 feet from my office=awesomeness.)

6)  And finally, rain.  It's been raining off and on all weekend, and it's raining outside my study window even as I write this.  I love the rain--the way it smells, the way the air feels after a storm.  And how it makes me feel like curling up with a good book--or with my computer and doing a little writing of my own.


Week 1 Review

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's been one of those weeks.  I started back to school this week, and as if that wasn't a big enough transition, I contracted shingles just days before classes began and got four rejection letters this week--one form, one personal, and two asking to see more work.  So all week I've felt lousy and tired, and my meds make me feel nauseous, and the rejections aren't doing a lot for my writing confidence right now, which is already pretty low considering the struggles I was having the week before with The Novel.

It's really easy to concentrate on the negative when you're tired and stressed and wondering how every semester seems to get harder than the previous one.  So instead of focusing solely on the negative, I decided this week to start trying to find one positive thing, or one thing I was thankful for, each and every day.  And it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

So here are a few things I'm thankful for this week:

1)  I'm teaching four good classes this semester.  We've only had two real discussion days, but so far they've been very responsive and willing to discuss, and there are some extremely bright students in there.  So even though I'm teaching four World Lit I classes, I think my students, if nothing else, will make this a fun and satisfying semester.

2)  The French reading proficiency class I'm taking this semester (a requirement for my PhD) is going to be so ridiculously easy--no real outside work the whole semester.  So one less thing to have to stress over as I study for comps.

3)  Gmail lets you know when you forget to add an attachment.  I might be the only person in the world who didn't know this, but after dealing with TigerMail for so long and having students send me email after email without the necessary attachments (which of course I've done before myself), this Gmail feature just made me giddy.  If you write in your email something along the lines of "please see attached" but don't actually attach anything, before you send the email Gmail will ask you if you wanted to attach something.

4)  Duotrope's Digest is a writer's best friend.  As is submishmash.  Sure I got four rejections this week.  But thanks to these websites/programs, just minutes or hours after receiving a rejection I was able to resubmit those stories.  No worrying about SASEs and postal fees.  I didn't have to visit thirty journal websites to find the one I thought would be the best fit.  (Okay, maybe I did that, but only because playing with Duotrope is so addictive.)  And I can check on almost all my submissions simultaneously.

So those are the things I'm thankful for this week.  Next week I'll be back with a new list and hopefully better writing news.

One of my all-time favorite images.


A Room of My Own

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It’s that time of year again—back-to-school week, when fun writing gets pushed aside to make room for course planning, syllabi writing, article revisions, and—alas!—that book review I’ve been putting off all summer.  The week before school is also when I do some Serious Cleaning.  Mopping, scrubbing, vacuuming, dusting—no surface goes untouched because cleaning is something I rarely have time for once the semester begins.

Yesterday I tackled my office, which of course is my favorite room in the house (maybe in the world!—I always find myself longing for it when I’m away).  Virginia Woolf was right—a woman (or man, for that matter) does need a room of her own in order to write, although all women define this space differently.  For some it might be a particular table at a particular coffee shop, or sitting in a certain chair, or being in a certain position (e.g. cross-legged on the ground, lying on the couch, sitting at the kitchen table).  What’s important is that when you find that special place, that space becomes sacred.  It isn’t that you can’t write anywhere else—for me, it’s that writing in that space feels more natural, and I associate that space with writing.  This association makes it easier to slide into the writing process and means that I’m less likely to get distracted.  (Emphasis on less.)

So here is a tour of my freshly cleaned office, my sacred writing space.  It isn’t much, but it’s mine, and I love it.

The room where I do almost all my writing, reading, studying, and researching (a.k.a. the place I spend 80% of my time).

My office bookshelves--which are mostly for work, not fun--now reorganized to hold comp books.  Notice Alice in Wonderland collection at top (including the awesome leaning chest of drawers I got in Costa Rica), and Andy, Pam, and Dwight bobbleheads.  Okay, so maybe there is some fun involved.  Oh, and that big gap on the top shelf--it's just waiting for me to make a library run for more comp books. :-/
Close-up of awesome drawers and Alice stuff, with Hopper's Nighthawks in the background.

A few fun books, photo albums, my writing journals, and boxes I keep writing research in.

A comfy place for reading, early morning writing...and the occasional nap.

The craft/supply closet.

And finally...

my favorite spot...

Where the magic happens (sometimes).  And occasionally Facebooking; blogging; and watching the neighbors, rain, lightning storm, or snow (twice!).    The bulletin board above is full of encouraging notes from my dissertation director, postcards of places I'm writing about, and...John Krasinski's autograph. :-)


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