Everything all at once.

I haven’t blogged in forever because life happened so hard that I became unable to keep up with documenting it. Too busy living it. I still haven’t fully processed this magical, tumultuous year. Tl;dr: what happens when you get everything you ever believed you wanted, all at once?

I went to Breadloaf. I’ve wanted to go to Breadloaf since I first learned of it back during my M.A. program at NAU. My mentor went there, and it opened all kinds of doors for her (granted, she’s fabulously brilliant, which helps, but still), and so many people talked about it in tones of hushed awe that it acquired a near-sacral mystique. It lived up to the hype. I learned things about my writing, confronted old tics and bad habits, had that workshop epiphany where you can see the path you need to travel down, the question is are you brave enough…

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Also it was stunning there. That Vermont sky. I walked nearly every day, weather permitting. All the lectures and readings are up on iTunes, too, making it easy to relive the experience, or get a taste of it anyway (except that there’s no re-creating that sky).

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Photo credit: Lisa Schapiro Flynn

The Breadloaf campus is dotted with Adirondack chairs. It was mostly too damp to sit in them (this was apparently the wettest ‘loaf in years).  I was welcomed home from Breadloaf by the UNI campus, which looks like this:

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A bit of comforting synchronicity, these chairs.  This is the campus where I work now. I’ve moved to Iowa, where I’m an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, and this is the stately building that houses my office:

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Oh, and this happened back in June:

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So that’s where I’m at. Newly married to a man I love to write beside; teaching excited, exciting students in a brand-new town; hiking along the riverside. Every day I wake up astonished that this is my life.

Well, it’s not quite the perfect idyll: At month’s end I’m visiting a neurosurgeon in the continuing investigation of my nerve pain, which could please go away any time please.  Still.   I have never felt so lucky.

I have a new blogpost up at the North American Review blog. My essay “Dissection” appears in their Fall issue (it’s the first piece in the magazine, and they put me on the cover!).  It’s a great issue, with work by Denise Duhamel and Mike Antosia, among other luminaries. Consider picking up a subscription.

I think that’s all? Many new publications are forthcoming, and I’m a finalist for something I’m fairly certain I’m not supposed to announce yet, but I will save those agenda items for other, future blogposts.  This one is already full to bursting with happy news.

A review of Aimee Parkison’s The Petals of Your Eyes.

My (slightly delayed) contribution to the Wreckage of Reason II blog tour is here. Backstory: I met Aimee Parkison at AWP this year. She put together a panel on experimental women’s writing and invited a handful of people from the anthology to take part. I’d written a paper about the slipperiness of defining “experiment,” and she wrote a fascinating piece that defined experimentalism against mass market/genre literary production. If you know me at all, you know that I disagree emphatically with the elision of those two terms.  I believe that the devices used in so-called genre fiction are wildly useful, and not to be confused with market-based fiction (I agree with Brown’s distinction in this piece). I ended up throwing away half of my prepared remarks and speaking extemporaneously in response to Aimee’s piece. It was an invigorating Q & A session, and she was kind and forgiving of my spontaneous rant, and in the end she gave me a review copy of her book.

Backtracking a bit: I’d actually heard Aimee read the night before, as part of Starcherone’s offsite AWP reading (with Alissa Nutting, Brian Oliu, Cris Mazza, Andy Farkas, and a bunch of other authors whose work I follow). I’d very nearly bought her novel–picked it up, petted it covetously, set it back down sadly–but I’d already spent a horrifying amount of $ on books that day (much of it at the Starcherone table). So having a copy fall into my lap was…well, that’s the serendipity of AWP, which, for all its tradeshow pomp and circumstance, does have these fleeting bright moments of meeting other writers and expanding one’s reading list.

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Five months and several rereads of Aimee’s book later, I have a sort of review/meditation on it up at Entropy, the new blog launched by Janice Lee and Megan Milks (among others). If you’re looking for an excellent new literature/film/SF/fantasy/gaming blog, they’re the place to go. Very pleased to have work up on their site.

Blog revamp.

To state the obvious, there’s been a change of theme around this place.  My friend Benjamin Gemmel does digital art in his spare time and was willing to take on the project of making my sad blog a little less sad.  Girlwonders, new and improved, with 100% more Cthulhu!  Ben blogged about his process — he based the original concept on a few of my stories, let me weigh in on multiple drafts and was generally dreamy to work with.  We’ve been batting the header back and forth for a few months now, and I’m very pleased with the final result.  Thanks, Ben!

Never a day without pain.

I’ve stopped posting about my wrist and arm pain.  Partly because I was sick of my own whining.  Partly because I feared the professional repercussions of going on the job market while publicly “broken.”  But Cat Valente has as usual written the post that sums up what I’m feeling.  I’m doing better than a year ago, and much better than she is, from the sound of it.  But this week, when I’m grading 70+ essays by hand to help out a colleague who’s on leave thanks to recently becoming a father, after spending the morning reviewing, also by hand, a hundred or so compositions by incoming freshman so as to place them into an appropriate introductory writing course, well…I’m not getting much of my own writing done, and it kills me.  Every day I do what I can, and usually more — far more — than I should.  I return too many emails too conscientiously.  Every day it’s a battle between my desire to work, my ability to tolerate pain, and the sure knowledge that if I push myself too hard, I’ll shut down completely (which is what happened in June-July of 2013).  Braces help.  Dragon helps.   I’m beginning to understand that I’ll never be fully healed, and that the writing process that has produced my very best work is too brutal on my body to sustain over the arc of a career.  Slowly I’m piecing together a kinder, gentler, slower process.  It makes me want to scream.

My first Essay Daily post is live!

I’ve been reading Essay Daily for ages.  First discovered it through Nicole Walker, but I became an avid follower after putting Ander Monson’s Vanishing Point on my comprehensive exam list and falling in love with his fragmented style.  I never thought I’d someday be writing for them.  It’s is a review of Cris Mazza’s new memoir, Something Wrong with Her, with an interview to follow on Wednesday.  Happy reading!

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ETA: The interview is now live.