How to say “fuck you” sweetly.

My program holds/attends/participates in a metric ton of literary readings, and I’ve begun to notice a trend, especially in those readings sponsored by the department.  A first-year admitted for fiction read his Langston Hughes-esque poetry riffs.  A second-year guy who got in for poetry read a prose piece, about miscarriage and parrots (although I finally got to hear him read his poetry at an off-campus lit mag reading last night, and it was awesome.  He said fuck a lot.  Also, the poem was about fucking koalas).  I just submitted my very first short piece to a department reading, a competitive match between us and the Art Institute of Chicago.  Admitted for nonfiction, and what did I submit?  A genre piece, science-fiction.  I don’t care if it gets rejected because reading it in front of my peers and professor is such a bad idea to begin with.

So, why this trend?  Is it saying “fuck you” sweetly to the wonderful people who accepted us only to pigeonhole us by doing so?  I do love that all the PhDers habitually crossgenre.  I didn’t mean to say fuck you, but I fear that’s how it will be read by my profs.  My nonfiction’s all long form, though.  Only my short fiction meets the time requirement, and my short fiction?  Is all speculative.

The kinder gentler version is that we want to read aloud our experimental work, the work we’re least comfortable with, because that’s the work that benefits from an audience reaction.  But that’s never the way it’s pitched, and that’s not how I feel about my submission.  It’s not my best work, but it’s work I’m proud of, work that pushes the boundary of what I’ve been doing toward something better.  My best work, the stuff got me in, is artfully boring to me now.  The new is shiny, even if it’s unpolished rock.

I submitted the existential crisis of robot piece.  And if it does get selected, I will read it aloud with my head held high.  Because speculative’s what I do, what I read, what I love, just as much as memoir, and I’m not going to feel badly about that fact.

A life so full of joy.

So I keep track of my people on that ancient social networking tool, the Facebook.  Was bumming around and came across the pile of pictures from my hometown theater’s faux-prom. Everyone all dressed up snappy sassy and getting wild.  I miss Patty, and Laura, and Rich, and every time I see pictures of Matt my breath catches a little because even when making terrible faces with a garter on his head, he’s still the prettiest thing ever and I miss him.  I even miss the grumpy ones, the bitter ones, the ones who didn’t like me all that much.  ‘Cause they’re my people, you know?

And I know, because it’s theater, that likely as not all those laughing people are probably harboring secret resentments and crushes and what we see in the picture is an illusion and blah and blah.  Then I have to keep from idealization in absentia.  If I were there, I’d be desperately wishing to get out.  Now I’m out and I’m pining?  WTF?  I want to tell all those people to look through those pictures and see the happiness spilling out everywhere.  Good to stop and notice joy every now and again.

I just submitted to Clarion, two brand new stories, both of which I’m actually rather proud of.  It’s been so long since I devoted my brain to fiction, it was a rusty trap, and yet once I pushed through the shitty first drafts, well…yeah.  Working titles: existential crisis of robot and gender-swap Jesus.  As I said, I’m actually pleased.  If I don’t get into Clarion this year, I’ll at least know I did my best.  Opened the docs up last night and spotted five (five!   How?!) typoes, but that’s just Murphy.

Last night I rode the bus for two hours going nowhere.  I need to learn to read maps.  Was trying to get to a steampunk meet-up, but…epic fail on my part.  That said, Chicago night bus drivers are sweetness itself.  This guy was determined to help me reach my destination, despite the fact that I’d written the directions down wrong.  He was genuinely disappointed when I gave up and got off the bus to head home.

Chicago is worlds of awesome.  I went to see Brian Dennehy in Krapp’s Last Tape, $13 nosebleed seats.  I’ve never seen theater like this.  Luis Urrea is still a love. Although I’m tragedized that I missed Neil Gaiman’s pitstop in Naperville.  Director of the Program for Writers is setting up a mini-class with me and the other trauma memoirist, to “address issues you’re having with the form.”  So that’ll be fun.  And tonight I’m going to Mexican food and then on to a giant reading/party for a literary magazine run by one of my colleagues.

When I line everything up, I know I’m happy here, happy and productive, my little brain chomping away at everything I’ve been feeding it.  Critical theory!  Memoir!  Fiction!  I can see myself getting better, which means change must be happening quickly.  I fear plateauing, boredom, and loneliness.  But it’s almost Spring Break, when I’ll get a shot in the arm of Flag love.  Almost there.

A bad (teaching) day.

And sometimes, there are not so good days.  Hellfire, brimstone, drowsiness hyperbole booyah.

Exhibit F: I woke up and hustled to my first class.  There was no writing center instructor there.  See, I’d signed up to have an instructor come in and give a 30 min. introduction workshop/presentation.   So instead, I dragged the 20 min. lecture I’d prepared (counting on the WC to fill the extra time) into an excruciating 40 min. deathmarch that went down in flames.     During office hours between the two classes, I received a tragic WC email asking where I’d been–they were expecting my class to come by.  Doh!  So I emailed back that I’d bring my second class over–but of course, my 20 min. lecture had been reset to 40 min. in my mind, and I only got halfway through before it was time to leave for the WC.  Lecture truncated, which made my students truculent.  I’d made my students write a thesis/intro paragraph for homework the night before so they’d have something to work on at the WC, as I’d signed up for the “intro workshop” when I’d originally filled out the request form.  Umm, no.  We get there, and it’s an introduction to the services the Writing Center provides.  Obviously.

Exhibit U: Also, none of my students were able to download the reading for next class.  That would be the (absolutely crucial) reading their next paper is based on.  So now I have to play chicken with the computing office/library to get that fixed.

Exhibit C: I’m three days behind on my syllabus, all my deadlines are off, and I have 40 papers I must return to them graded with comments on Wed.

Exhibit K: My poor students.  I am the most disorganized instructor ever.