Updates from the Classroom and Elsewhere

I’ve been reading and writing-o-rama this week and it’s going very smoothly. I have figured out how to manage my time here—by spreading out the workload throughout the week. Instead of doing everything on the weekend or the day before an assignment is due, I sprinkle little pieces of assignments on every day of the calendar. This not only keeps stress levels low; it keeps my fingers and my mind limber as I practice my skills every day and not on just one day of total brain blast.

It occurred to me that some of you blog readers out there may be curious what I’ve been doing in my classes lately! So this is the blog post in which I tell you:

  • What do you see when you stare at a fountain? This is the assignment Mary Ruefle gave to us for the last week of our three week module with her. There is a fountain out front of College Hall and throughout the week, her students sat on a bench and pondered the fountain. Our write-up could be any genre. The fountain could appear or not appear in the piece. The only true limitation was that the piece couldn’t be more than one page in length. It was fascinating how the fountain had influenced every single person in such different ways. In some cases, the fountain was a subject to be analyzed and described architecturally. In others, the fountain was absent in the piece and was a means of remembering a childhood memory. And for me, as I sat by the fountain, a scene unfolded before me and I saw so powerfully a tender moment between two characters that could not pass unwritten. The purpose of this assignment is an important one for all writers: when writer block hits, find something in real life to sit and really stare at. The world is our prompt. The thoughts will come when you use your senses and just be.
  • What does a sestina have in common with the first five minutes of The Social Network screenplay? Well, for starters, repetition of concrete words and subject matter layered in a circular way so the words revolve like a dry cleaning assembly line, always appearing just as you think the subject was dropped. See for yourself! Watch the opening scene of The Social Network and then read this poem by John Ashbery.

  • Speaking of Mark Zuckerberg, I learned tricks of the HTML trade and brought code to life on www.practiceboard.com. Now that I can use code to change font face, color, size, style, as well as indent, hyperlink, and create numbered lists, I feel so marketable all of a sudden. And to be honest, a bit amazed. Through HTML, we witness two languages instructing and cooperating with each other. I know that HTML is just the beginning of code, but it really is like breaking into another way of seeing, of thinking, of organizing those thoughts.
  • My program requires us to work at least 15 hours per semester as an Intern for an Arts/Literary Organization. As soon as I heard about May Day Studio (a quirky maker of letterpressed goods), I knew I wanted to be an intern there. This is my first time working in a letterpress studio, and I love it. From the moment I put on my apron, I become an apprentice. So far, my main task is to “distribute” typefaces my boss uses for projects back to their proper galleys (or trays). Every once in a while, she calls me over to observe what she is doing. Last Thursday, she taught me how to mix inks to create color blends using the Pantone Formula Guide. Then, she used a printing press to embed a design into a blank drink coaster and voila! In a few weeks, I will begin my own letterpress project—I’m thinking bookmarks or pocket poetry cards?

  • I’m embarking on a new novel project, which I can’t even say how exciting it is. I’ve been in short story mode for so long, so I feel like I’m diving off the high dive sort of fumbling with my own feathers and my swim cap is half over my eyes, but I know that when I reach the water’s surface, I will have found a way to enter the pool in my own streamlined way. I won’t spill too much information about this project yet, since it is still in its early stages. For now, free-writing to discover voice is my number one priority. But I can tell you that the idea for this novel came from a visualization exercise I came up with in class:

On a dresser drawer sits a metal tin. It may or may not be filled with anything. A person opens the door to the bedroom. They aren’t supposed to be there. This person looks nervous and frequently checks over their shoulder. This person places their hand on the tin and opens it. They look inside and see—

That’s all for now! Tonight is the Vermont Book Award gala, so look forward to an upcoming post about the event! Happy Autumn!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *