Cooking like a fiend.

The holiday season has been pell-mell busy thus far and I’m exhausted.  I never am able to keep up with my manic parents, who I love but who do not slow down ever.  Plus we have out-of-town guests: my uncle from Montana and his GF.  I am going to need a vacation from this vacation.  Have already started prepping for tomorrow’s tapas feast just so I get some downtime manana.  Every year my family makes Spanish tapas for Christmas Day.  Each person takes a few dishes so that no one winds up overwhelmed with preparation, which makes for a decadent multi-course meal.  This year’s lineup:

Hot buttered rum w/ maple Crown Royale

Wild mushroom soup

Tortilla espanola w/ aioli

Brussels sprouts gratin with ancho chili

Cranberry goat cheese, pecan and carmelized onion tarts

Lox rollitos with avocado

Gambas al ajillo

Patatas bravas

Salad (features TBA)

Salmon in mojo sauce

Various pies and cookies

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Happy holidays to you, and hope your festivities are delicious!

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WotF, EV, and other acronyms.

It’s been an acronymonious few weeks.   I’m back in AZ to spend the holidays with my family.  Two days after I flew in, we drove down to Tucson to celebrate my little brother graduating from college (how is he this old??) before he starts a fabulous new job in Phoenix.  On the drive down, Annie Bellet posted this to my Facebook, and I squeaked and immediately texted James.  Then I had to explain to my parents what being a finalist in Writers of the Future means for an aspiring specfic author, because they’re just pleased for me whenever I get a story or an essay picked up and have no way of assessing the relative squee-worthy-ness of any given accomplishment unless I tell them.  This = very squee-worthy.

I should add that on the day of said drive, Flagstaff was buried under two feet of snow, which meant the low desert (Phoenix and Tucson) was rife with rain and high winds.

So we were driving down 1-10 to Tucson when I checked my Facebook and saw Annie’s post.  Then I missed the call from Joni (WotF Dir.).  My phone was on but we must have hit a dead patch with no cell signal.  I missed the call despite Annie’s timely advance warning.  Doh!

Then I started seeing rainbows.  Something about the dust reflecting light or the humidity in the air produced perfect rainbow after perfect rainbow over the pastel desert.  No rain, just harrowing dust and wind shaking the car as we drove, and then to our left the arc of a complete, glowing rainbow.  It’d flicker out, then reappear a few miles later.  My parents and I debated what the phone call might concern—just letting me know I’m a finalist, perhaps (but then whyfore the FB post?).  Or might WotF already know the winners?  I’d skulked around the WotF forums but was only vaguely familiar with the timing and tiers of the selection process.  The adrenaline level in the car was so high it practically choked my mom and I as I played phone tag with Joni for the rest of the drive.  Meanwhile rainbows continued to stalk us gorgeously.

I finally got the call once we’d checked into our hotel room.  Like others noted, thanks to the accidental pre-release of the finalists, I knew in advance of the phone call and therefore managed to keep calm as Joni kindly explained what all would happen next.

Serious congratulations are in order for all the finalists.  I’ve been seeking them out around the Internet and it’s an impressive company.

So now we all wait on tenterhooks for the final results to come in.  I’m trying not to think about it.  James stayed in Chicago for work-related reasons, so we’ve been compulsively emailing each other.  A snippet from last night’s missive from him: “I love you, and I hope you’re having good times and not worrying too much about that thing you’re not supposed to worry about because it’s in the judges’ hands and there’s nothing you can do about it.”  Of course I keep waking up at 3am obsessing despite.  But I’m absurdly pleased to have been chosen as a finalist, whatever happens next.  Go, little story, go!

And then not five minutes after the happy receipt of a James email, I got an acceptance from Electric Velocipede for “The Entomologist’s Three Ballgowns.”  The planets are aligning or something, because this has been an amazing week of amazing.  Now’s when the apocalypse happens, right?

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I’m thrilled about all the recent writing-related excitement, but more than anything I’m proud of my brother and his many accomplishments.  That kid has such a bright future ahead.  Love you muchly, kid bro.

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I lied; I don’t have any additional acronyms for you.  Oh, fine, if you insist: DMV, OMGBBQ, CDB DB SA BZ B.  Note: to all of you my lovely and obnoxious friends, go ahead and let the Scientology jokes roll.  I know you’re barely restraining yourselves.

Dissertation leave.

I am officially on dissertation leave starting today.  No teaching duties from now until August 2013, just reading and more reading and writing and more writing and thinking til smoke pours out my ears.   Bliss!

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Just now completed grading my students’ final portfolios for this semester.  I generally don’t blog about teaching because it is potentially awkward for my students, but I had a truly exceptional bunch this go-round.  Add to that the fact that by some departmental alchemy I had only 24 students total (11 in one class, 13 in the other) and a T/Th schedule and I feel like I got my first taste of what it would be like to work at a student-centered institution.  I have no idea what my students experienced on the other side of the lectern, but I was definitely the best teacher I’ve ever been in terms of the time I was able to put in to each student’s work.  Extensive commenting and extended office hours felt like impossible luxuries in previous semesters when I had 75 students and my own coursework besides.  Anyway, I’ll be fascinated to see this round of evaluations.  If their feedback is appreciably more positive, chalk it up to scheduling luck, because I changed very little about my pedagogy.  I just wasn’t frenetically trying to serve too many students at once, for once.

In two days I head back to AZ for a month.  My kid brother is graduating from university with a degree in poli-sci and he starts an excellent job a few weeks later.  I’m terribly proud of him and also terribly envious.  The PhD feels interminable midway through year four.  Eh, it is a privileged life I lead.  No complaining!  It’s just that some days I miss earning a living wage, is all.  That will change someday soon, I hope.

Had a midnight dissertation epiphany. I’ve been thinking through and playing with the ramifications of said breakthrough for the past few days.  Perfect timing given that my other goal during the next month is to keep trundling along on the dissertation.  Slowly the pieces fit into place…   I’m also slowly feeling my way through a rather long short-story (possibly novella/novelette length, even).  It’s a bit overtly influenced by Eugie Foster’s “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest,” but I’m having terrific fun.  In other fiction-related news, I have a story coming out in the Spring issue of Mirror Dance, a publication I’ve long admired.  Oh, and my review of Anna Joy Springer’s Vicious Red Relic Love came out in the latest issue of American Book Review, and I’m working on a second review for them, this time of a memoir on suicide.  Steady (if plodding) forward motion on many fronts.

I may be scarce for the next few weeks as I crisscross Arizona for graduation- and holiday-related festivities, but then it’s dissertating in earnest for me.  Five months is a reasonable length of time to draft a book, no?  Madness!