A Midsummer’s Miscellany Post

It’s my final week before heading back to Vermont to ride out the rest of the summer until the new semester begins in September. Can’t believe it’s already Year 2 of my MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts!

This past weekend was Trey’s birthday, so the wild rumpus included watching the World Cup, Cammie’s introduction to the world of Fortnite, Indian food, riverside bike rides, and culminated in the game that Sherlock and Watson play in The Sign of Three where you write a celebrity’s name on a slip of paper, attach it to the other player’s head, and then ask questions to help you figure out the name attached to your own forehead. We literally spent hours playing this game, which goes to show either how dedicated or completely loony we are.

I’ve been enjoying writing some flash fiction pieces (thanks to Midwestern Gothic!) to break up the slow-going thesis. I did recently watch Shohei Imamura’s A Man Vanishes, which gave me great insight into the phenomenon of Japanese johatsu (the 100,000 citizens a year who “disappear”) and the people who are left behind. I find that delving into other mediums greatly jumpstarts my inspiration to continue longform projects.

“I can still see but for how long…”

Here are all the delicious books I’ve been reading lately: Blindness by José Saramago, The Space Between by Kali VanBaale, Hiroshima by John Hersey, Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (Of a Crazy World) by Ingrid Schaffner, and The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.

I have this strange desire to rearrange all of my books by color. Maybe because I’ve always wanted to tuck a rainbow into my bedroom corner and give it a welcome home. (Note to myself: turn my books into a rainbow one day.)

Yesterday, I volunteered at a Creative Writing workshop put on by my undergraduate program. I was a student of the Residential College at University of Michigan, which is a small, liberal arts learning community heavily focusing on the arts, foreign languages, and activism. I knew that the workshop, intended for 15 incoming freshmen, was going to be informal and simply a way for them to explore the major and opportunities at the Residential College. Still, as I walked through the campus, my heart beat the same pitter-patter of three slammed cuppas. (I was later humbled to find out that the other facilitators, some who were long-time professors, were also battling a few nerves of their own). After introducing myself as an alum of the Creative Writing program, I read the first few pages of my currently unpublished novella called All the Facts You Need To Know About My Mother’s Oil Spill (Side note: I’ve been sending my manuscript to a few novella contests, but I’d love some advice on potential publishers who’d be interested in a story that is part mystery, part fabulist tale, part coming-of-age exploration, part queer love story, part environmental credo, and illuminated in the style of House of Leaves, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, and Bats of the Republic, meaning it combines integrated text and images, innovative typography,  lists and asides and sticky notes and flyers, and “found scraps of writing.”) I love reading aloud, but find that I am often nervous about sharing my own work verbally with the world. However, I feel such a kinship to this particular character I’ve created, that it wasn’t me up there on stage reading. I was her, the great Miss Sylvia Mariner. The response from the students was definitely encouraging — one young lady even gave me her email and asked how she could read the rest of the story because she needed to know what happens next, which is pretty much the greatest thing a reader could tell an author. For the next part of the workshop, we had the students read Sandra Cisneros’ evocative vignette called “My Name,” which is really an excerpt from her novel, The House on Mango Street. The students then tried their hand at writing a piece about their own name, its meaning, how they think people see them, what they are reminded of by their name, etc. After sharing in small groups, the students had to work together to weave all of their names/written pieces into a short skit to perform on stage. The other facilitators and I stood by in case the students got stuck, but our services were not needed. The students were proactive, imaginative, and quick on their feet. Quite frankly, they were amazing!!! I almost wish I could work at the Residential College just to see how these students I met yesterday progress throughout the year. Perhaps one day…

In other miscellany news:

  • I’ve sent in my absentee ballot for Michigan’s primary election and have written to my state legislature demanding they take action following *recent events in Helsinki.* It is not the time to stay silent. Use your voice to fight the fights.
  • I dusted off and retuned my violin a few nights ago and taught myself how to play this song.
  • My current always-on-repeat playlist includes Mystery of Love and Visions of Gideon by Sufjan Stevens, Impossible Germany by Wilco, The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National, Barnacles by Emancipator, and all the songs by Vaults.

And here’s a Sak pic for you, because how can you resist this face:

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