Friday, October 30, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Go Walt! Sell, Sell, Sell!

Slate Magazine's Seth Stevenson looks at Levi's new ad campaign.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Chronicle of Writer's Chronicle Anxiety

Writer’s Chronicles are piling up on my office desk. I mean to read, but before I get a chance another one appears in my box.

I know I should study the articles and learn, because writing is my scene, but I don’t know how to absorb all this writing about writing. Writing about writing is like teaching writing or learning writing — too many ings. I need to write. Write. Such a clean, simple verb, devoid of passive voice. I feel guilty if I don’t read Writer’s Chronicle but then I feel worse if I’m reading the Writer’s Chronicle and not writing.

I did make it through two articles this afternoon. One interview with Lee Gutkind, because he’s a nonficion honcho, and another interview with poet Sheryl St. Germain because a friend of mine graduated from Chatham and she’s the director there. And I saw that she’s from New Orleans so that caught my eye. More specifically the word "gumbo" caught my eye. Gumbo. I like gumbo.

Then I skim the ads, looking for anyone I know. I notice that more I stay in gradschooland, the more I recognize. But I am even more amazed by all the names I don’t know. How is it all these people are professors and visiting writers and I’ve never heard of them? Although clearly these writers are more published and accomplished than me or they wouldn't be featured in an ad.

Which leads to the next anxiety.

Why isn’t my name featured in an ad? Will I ever be one of these names other aspiring readers skim over wondering who I was and why I matter? Will I have a little black and white photo with my chin tilted at a saucy angle? Ack! I need a career. Which means I need pubs.

Which leads to the next anxiety.

All the contests. And calls for lit mag submissions. I try to circle with my pen but at this point I’m hyperventilating a little. Cookie. I need a cookie.

So I read the MFA ads. The MFA ads are safe because I already have an MFA. I wonder if ads work. I wonder if applicants look and think, wow that’s the coolest brick building I’ve ever seen. I am SO going there.

One trend I noticed in these ads was the slogan. I saw an ad for Ohio U and it was thankfully sloganless. Another advertising tactic is the writer’s quote. It seems to have more weight if the famous writer has an association with the program (Hugo for Montana, or O Connor for Georgia College and State). The quote is less of a sin than the slogan.

I don't know who is writing these slogans but I suspect writers aren't writing them.

Top Ten Worst MFA Slogans:

10. Be a Writer in a City of Readers (Portland State U)

9. Finally…an MFA that trains you for a career not just a genre (Western Connecticut State)

8. Immerse Yourself in the Writing Life (Old Dominion)

7. The World’s Focus is on our Faculty. Our Faculty’s Focus is on You (Drew)

6. My words... My time... My MFA. (U of Nebraska at Omaha)

5. Creative. Exploring. Worldly. Aware. Inventive. Challenging. Poetic. Engaging. (Chatham)

4. Write from the Heartland (Ashland)

3. Get Carried Away by the City of Big Shoulders (Roosevelt U)

2. Scribbling on the Ether: The Changing Nature of Writing and Publication (Western Michigan U)

And… the winner:

1. Write from the Heart of Writing (Lesley U)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Budget schmudget: A research coordinator's anxiety

I've kept a good secret. My untold secret at work is, evidently, that I Can't Do Math. I'm asked to do math and then I end up doing it--fuzzy math, real math, calculator math, math on the fly, math on Excel. Sure, it's only adding and subtracting and the occasional percentage adjustment, but geeze, do you really want your paycheck coming from the grant budget I prepare? Do you feel lucky?

Evidently, they do. With a whole lot of coaching and a whole lot of (necessary, for dolts like me) bureaucracy, I submit grants through the university channels and they make their way into the hands of the government. And they are reviewed by study sections. And funded. Or not. And people are paid. And accounting is complete. And, maybe at the end of the day, I can remember I did something sort of correct once.

Deep breaths.

What is more anxiety producing is the sheer volume of acronyms and procedure surrounding the process of fuzzy and real math and draft and final budgets and draft and final proposals. I work in chemistry, so that's the easy part. I watch as a narrative slowly, carefully, emerges like those swatches of blah in the color comics on Sunday that revealed an outline of something in 3D. Only upon sneaking a look at the answer key printed upside down did I say "ooooh" and know what the 3D lump really was. It is that way when I look at the science, written up in agreeable Arial pt 11 with 0.5 margins. I can see a 3D-ish lump, but I need someone to say something layman-y and then I can go "oooh." Then I get what's going on. Or, it stays a lump with no answer key. That happens too. Not a chemist, I.

Not a natural administrator, I. We learn a facilities and administration rate, we learn modified indirect cost bases, we learn consortium costs, we learn OMB circulars, we learn effort reporting, we learn voluntary cost sharing. I'm nomenclatured out and it still feels strange to walk into a room to talk about cost transfers and institutional endorsements and go out into the sun and drink coffee like nothing crazy just happened in there.

Then I saw C.D. Wright read at the Art Institute Thursday night. And all was well with the week.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Notes, Fiction Workshop 10/15/09

Proulx, The Half-Skinned Deer. Is the soft turn enough? Subject of story is not especially original, and then all the flashbacks but gee, what language. Powers of description. The Shipping News all written in fragments. Amazing, but — don't try this at home. She always has a male narrator. Bleak landscape. Is he dead at the end? Doesn’t look good. That one red eye is creepy. Yeesh.

Stuart Dybek, The Palatski Man. His stories always seem to be about the glory of childhood. Oh, those good old days. Catholic imagery (the apple, too much? Yes. No.) but potentially justified because of the authenticity of his background. I saw him read once and I heard he draws salary from Western Michigan University and Northwestern but doesn’t really teach at either. Is that true? Interplay between the real world and the alternative world. We go down the rabbit hole into Wonderland to learn about the real world. Then we come back from it and what? We get our period?

[[[Call Regions Bank. Re: bounced check!!!]]]

[[[[And Sexual Harassment Seminar 111 Ellis at 10 a.m].]]]

POV. The “We” narrator is always an “I” really, so who is the “I” in this story? What else has been written in we? There’s that story by Aimee Bender whatsitcalled. Then We Came to the End works because “we” is this corporate, office “we” that everyone knows. Story about the mail order bride by Judy Budnitz. Any others. Hmmm.

Play with POV. You’re Ugly, Too by Lorrie Moore begins with “you” but it’s the rhetorical you, not you, then moves in into 3rd and then close third where we inhabit the interior world of the narrator.

[[[Cat food. Rhet Comp presentation Mon.]]]]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seattle Bookfest is Back!

The long defunct Seattle Bookfest has apparently risen from the dead.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tips For Young Academics

In Heteronormativity is Hot Right Now from the October 7th edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, James S. Lambert, provides a valuable guide on how to properly introduce yourself to the discourse community.

A few choice highlights:

Never deviate from introducing your interests with the phrase "I am interested in," because this is what you are interested in. Really. You are interested in these things because they are interesting. Especially interesting is whatever your last long paper was about.


Here is a crib sheet of recent theoretical terms: liminal, heteronormativity, empire, postempire, trauma, narratography, post-new formalism, posthuman, specism, fecism, culturality, hybridity, hybridism, Lacanimal, bestiality, bestialism, bestialology, postbestiality, and so on.

Don't forget! —

Take two totally unrelated concepts, like bookbinding and waterboarding, and add "the intersections of" before them. This works really well for sexualities: "the intersections between monuments and masculinity" or "the intersections between transgender and Trans Ams."

Based his guide, here is my declaration of interests:

“I’m Kelly Kathleen Ferguson, I’m a first year in the Ph.D. program, and I am interested in the intersections between a structuralist model of frontier specism and the rhetoric of sexually-assigned chores, particularly as it relates the butter churn, the bovine, and the postbestiality construct of the American consumptive pattern. Before I came here I was working on a project with Judy Blunt at the University of Montana in which we explored means of survivalism in Western women’s memoir and where we pinpointed areas of domestic hybridity, and I hope to continue studying these junctions within the context of a posthuman anthropomorphic construct, and shame.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nola Writers in the News

Again! Jamey Hatley, one of my writer friends I made while in Nola was interviewed by Galley Cat as an "up and coming writer." We used to commiserate over writing troubles, post MFA blues, Fresh Comp foibles and all that at The Rue.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Post MFA Quiz!

Name the novels that belong to these first sentences:

When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.

Here is an account of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns.

Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

“Where’s Pa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice, vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her.

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong muscled and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.

Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona, ran off with a cowboy.

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of the voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of ________.