Then there were three.

So yet another person announced a pub while at Clarion. This is such a talented group of geeks, man…love love love. My crit was kind of an epic fail on my part, but oh well. I knew it was the wrong story for this week, but I had nothing else, and I don’t know if me at this point in time could have written the right story for this week. Meh. Ultimately it was an interesting series of lessons learned, and I promise I will be less vague about the whole thing when Clarion’s over and the (requested by the higher-ups) cone of silence is removed. I’m really looking forward to Bear. So many of us (and I do count myself in this) made huge leaps forward from last week to this, and that’s effing exciting to see. We all keep challenging each other to do better, be more ambitious, suck less.
Tonight should be a blowout drunkfest, but tomorrow: the ocean. And me calling all the friends and family I’ve been neglecting, finally.
I have an SF idea for this week, but the science terrifies me, which is probably a reason to just go for it. Wheeeeeee!

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In which I am surprised.

My UIC friends, specifically Ms. Sacha Fierce, threw me a surprise birthday party this evening.  It was so successful that I walked in, everyone said surprise, and I turned around to see whose birthday we were celebrating.  It took a solid ten seconds and Sacha pointing at me for me to clue in, “Oh hey!  Me?”

They hid it from me for two weeks.  And the day of, I changed plans not once, but three times, and somehow twelve people managed to wrangle me into the bar with the silly hats and the cupcakes only an hour ahead of schedule, and I WAS SO SURPRISED OMFGKITTENSWIN!!1!

It is all about the people.  I am speechless, wide-eyed and glowing.

Awesomesauce.

I have been meaning to post the utter happy for a week.  It’s spring break, though, so procrastination has ruled ’til now.

I won a thing!  A big department thing with money and stuffs!  But even better, way better, my brilliant colleagues (brilliant, I tell you) have given me collective warm fuzzies.  In what kind of program is the response to winning a thing not “I cut you,” but “hey, congrats!”?  I love these people more than conversation hearts, more than spring break, possibly more than alcohol.  I’ve won things before (haven’t we all or we wouldn’t be here?), but never when the field included a wall of geniuses.  My writing is unrecognizable from itself a year ago, and that is about the caliber of work I’m reading and criticizing–my colleagues’ work.  This is how a program is supposed to be, fear and loathing and a commitment to stop sucking and the joy of failure.  And then the rare success that is all the sweeter for everything that got cannibalized to get to three paragraphs that work.  Surrounded by devious minds, mine struggling to keep up…I couldn’t have conceived this life a year ago.

Girlwonders is a smiling girl.  Trying to pay close attention to what that feels like, for some future rainy Clarion day.

No good, very bad month.

March is the month when people find out awards they didn’t get, colleges they didn’t get into, workshops and jobs that gave them a pass, internships given to someone else.  Everyone’s depressed and licking their wounds, Spring Break is in sight but too far away, no one’s gotten enough sleep in weeks.

Third try, and I didn’t get in to Clarion this year. I am disappointed and terribly frustrated, despite the knowledge that it’s a crapshoot, taste of the judges, etc. I got waitlisted in ’06, with a story I wrote in undergrad, but I’ve been flat-out rejected twice now (’07, ’10). Now, I KNOW my writing has improved over the past five years. I got into a PhD program, ferfuckssakes.  But the fact that speculative is inadmissible to graduate-level workshops doesn’t help–it’s hard to improve when all I can do is a self-crit.  I want to form a speculative fiction crit group something fierce.  A project for next fall, perhaps.

I woke up to an email from the summer subletter I thought was a sure thing saying that she had found another place, so once again I’m staring down the prospect of paying $1500 for an apartment I’m not living in.  And this morning I had perhaps the third most awful student interaction I’ve ever had, ever.  I’m going to be spending more time than I wish figuring out what to do about it, self-criticizing, replaying the incident in my head ad nauseum.  One more thing I don’t need.

The (few) bright spots: I survived the insane quantity of work I had to plow through this weekend. Nothing got done well, but everything got done, which I need to learn to live with.  And I got into a department reading with the shorter of my two Clarion pieces, so at least that story won’t be a wholly wasted exercise.  I finished a new essay for Urrea, too, something that I may be able to turn into a memoir chapter.  I like its form, even if the content is still all over the place.  I’m not proud of it, but…yeah.  Is done.

The mantra is basic: writing is hard.  One step forward, two steps back.

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 good day.

I am attempting to teach a pile of freshman intro to feminism.  It hasn’t been going well (shocking, I know).  Breakthrough today after discussing the ERA and why it didn’t pass.  Staring down the barrel of thirty-some-odd papers to grade tomorrow, but I think I can bear it now.  And at the end of class, a student was giddy.  Giddy, I tell you!

Had my first workshop with Luis Urrea, and I could not love him more if he was entirely made of chocolate.  I got amazing feedback on my essay, and for the first time in years I think I might be within a few revisions of a piece worth sending out.  I never send things out.

I got the first season of The Wire, which apparently white people like?

And by some magic feat, I not only made it through the Hegel, but dare I say enjoyed it?  He lays out one of the more coherent defenses of what memoir (if it is to be art) ought do.  More fodder for the end of term trauma theory paper.   And I was only a .5 on the public shame chart, instead of X5 like last week.

Things to do: revise my Clarion submissions, for serious.  Grade.  Go see a Mamet play this weekend.

It’s hard to believe this life is mine.  Not sure where it came from, but oh, I’m happy!

Not bored. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/24/books/review/Schuessler-t.html?ref=review