One down.

As of 1:15 last night, I am done my first year of PhD school.  With the exception of a rough first month of homesickness, I’ve loved every second of it. A small record:

I’ve produced some fifty pages of criticism that I hope to revise into an exam paper; I’m very pleased with the ideas and actually want to return to them.  I had no idea how much I would love theory when I began this program.

The writing tally is a bit more grim: thirty new pages of fiction, thirty of nonfiction, and with a substantive revision done on sixty pages.  Oh, and I culled the good bits into one kick-ass essay I probably need to send out this summer.

Not a bad year, all told, and I’m hoping that I can speed up my process when I’m a little happier in my day-to-day.  I spent much of this year painfully lonely (although Sacha, Andy and a fantastic cohort helped), and the prospect of living with Matt fills me with butterflies.  I do not thrive alone.

The cohort gets the opportunity to bring in a creative writer and a literary critic next year (how cool is that?!).  We’ve talked about Anne Carson for creative work, and either Imre Szeman or Alan Kaufman for criticism.  The goal is to bring in someone who’s early in his/her career.  Suggestions welcome!

Also, big news (for me, anyway).  Today is day five of no booze.  I’m dreaming again, and sleeping better, and my brain is a well-oiled machine; that last paper burst out of my forehead in two freakin’ days like an early-bird Athena.  I do wonder if there’s a correlation.  It’s been a long while since I’ve gone more than a day without alcohol (and those days are only because I’m hungover).  It’s been even longer since I wrote something, prose or criticism, without a glass of whiskey at hand.  So we’ll see how long I can last.  I’m trying for two weeks without; if it goes well, I’ll shoot for a month.

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.