Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recipes for Great Writing

Tonight I finished my project of making a file of all the writer's club activities I could find.
One of the sad things is that, when I was working on these activities, it didn't occur to me that anyone would care about them after we did them, so I didn't purposeless keep notes. I had some things that I had forgotten to clean out of various nooks and crannies, like old notebooks with ideas in them, old handouts that had gotten jammed into those notebooks and a file on my computer with ideas I had compiled before I had even gotten started. So I used what I had, and even interviewed an old member for some ideas.
I decided to write it like you would for recipes. I list materials and steps and some helpful tips/additional ideas to make it easier.
I included an annotated bibliography of sources and an appendix with materials for one of the activities. This makes it sound like a large file, but it's under fifteen pages. I often repeated activities that went over well. One of them in particular I used at least five times, maybe more like eight.
Next, I need to subject one of my friends to editing through this for me and making sure it makes sense. I'm thinking I'll ask the writer who was once a member.
After that, I'm sending it off to my once apprentices, Erin and Mark. Hopefully, it'll be helpful and make the adjustment to doing my old job a little easier.
Oh. I just realized there was an activity I forgot. I'm going to have to make a note of it so I don't forget.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


As promised, I am now able to post some links to my poetry.  The Red Cedar Review is now up for all to see on Project Muse.  If you're able to access Project Muse, you can read my poem that was published with them in May, "Allograft." 

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Catwalk for the Birds

New Scientist has some great photos of birds in flight.  I particularly like the white background of these photos.  It's jarring because they're suppose to be nature photos, but they lack all the other aspects of a nature shot (focusing instead on the subject at hand.) 
Like many English people, I am really interested in the gaze, and I found the gaze of the Secretary Bird startling.  Animals are, to most people, beneath us, in some ways just like women.  This bird gazing at the audience is shocking, because we're not use to looking at them as an audience. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rebel Girl

There are few songs out there that I actually wish were written about me, mostly because I find men's need for a muse creepy and potentially misogynist. Which is why I'm always surprised when I find myself wishing I was the subject of a song. Enter one of Bikini Kill's greatest songs: "Rebel Girl."

Of course, what I like about this song is that the rebel girl in question is being admired not because she is beautiful but because "when she talks, I hear the revolutions." She is written off as a "dyke" by her community, even though her sexuality is not important; what's important is that she is fighting for change.
I know I would be okay with someone saying that about me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What to Read When You're a Freshmen

Slate has posted an article on what books incoming freshmen should read.  As someone who has recently ended her undergraduate career, I feel like I have a sense of what these incoming freshmen look like, as I spent the last three years watching the freshmen coming in, and then previous to that, was one of those members of a strange breed. 
So here I present a little list of things I think incoming freshmen should read:
Sandra Cisneros's Woman Hollering Creek.  A lot of schools would probably be tempted to assign Cisneros's better known novel, The House on Mango Street.  There's nothing wrong with this novel, in fact, it's perfect and the sort of book a poet would like.  But Woman Hollering Creek, a collection of short stories, looks at a larger group of mostly women, each struggling for a life that is there own and no one else's.  Perfect for college kids looking to cut those strings and hopefully, a chance to talk about race, gender and immigration. 
Jane Vincent Taylor's What Can Be Saved.  I've never heard of a college assigning a book of poetry.  (It turns students off, because poetry is apparently hard.)  But Taylor's poetry here is one continuous story narrated through two of the character, Mother and Lovey.  Mother is really an older woman caring for Lovey, a young woman with an unnamed condition.  It's easy to forget that there are people out there who aren't so privileged and aren't lucky enough to get a college education, and here these characters are lovingly rendered. 
Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound.  A play about knowledge and who does and doesn't deserve it.  Perfect for a discussion of the same problem. 
Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker's The Roaring Girl.  Another play, one from the time of the Shakespeare that isn't actually from Shakespeare.  Everyone reads that man, but forgets that there were other playwrights working at the same time, and some of them also had interesting thoughts on issues like gender, as with this play, which deals with a crossdresser based on a real woman. 
Christopher Tyerman's God's War: A New History of the Crusades.  The bad news: We're fighting a war in the Middle East, one that is sadly tied with religion.  The good news: The West tried this before.  Even worse news: The West lost the first time.  The best news: We don't have to repeat their mistakes.  Tyerman's book is an excellently written and exciting account of the Crusades (all of them.  All.) and a great way to begin a discussion on the current War on Terror from a more historical and cultural perspective. 
Toni Morrison's Sula.  This novel is perfect for college kids because it's about a friendship between two girls, Sula and Nel.  One goes to college, one doesn't, and when the one who did returns, their relationship falls apart, but they still love each other.  A cautionary tale for all those who left someone behind. 
Willy Russell's Educating RitaAnother great story about college, but, again, from someone less privileged.  Rita, a woman in her late twenties, tries to educate herself through England's Open University Program, and ends up also educating her well-off tutor.   
Michael Frayn's Copenhagen.  Like a lot of the books on this list, this one is of a play, not a novel or nonfiction work.  It explores the issues of truth, responsibility and science: all important issues that affect college students, no matter where they go or what they study. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Selling Books

There's this interesting blog post I stumbled upon today about how many books Ann Coulter is or isn't selling.  One of the things that is mentioned early on but isn't really fleshed out is the issue of how much visibility Coulter gets.  Politics aside, usually the best way to sell a book these days is to be controversial somehow, or at least controversial to some.  I don't think I've actually seen Coulter on tv in years, and I've been watching the news more often in recent years, not less.  Back when I would flip through channels, it seems like I would find her giving an interview every week.  So maybe the real problem with how she isn't selling as many books as she used to (though any poet would be desperately happy if they sold even half of what she sells now) is that she lacks visibility in the media. 
The other thing I might mention is that Coulter's books all appear, at least in their descriptions and cover design, to be similar.  (I haven't read them.)  They might not actually be about the same thing, but the appear to be about the same thing.  Some potential readers may assume, perhaps erroneously, that her books are all about the same thing, and thus don't buy them.  A large portion of book selling is based on the idea of making books that are close enough to other popular things as to be familiar and safe but being different enough that people want to see what's new.  A large portion of her sales may be more about marketing than her.