I know I abandoned the blog this past year. Guess I got worded out. When all you do day in/day out is words you crave a task that is not words. Frying a farm fresh egg in a skillet, for instance.
But here I am Summer break. My friends are (mostly) scattered. I find myself inspired to pen a brief wrap to the highlights of my past year as a PhD candidate in creative writing at Ohio University.
I navigated the usual stages if a first year: 1) exhilaration 2) resolution 3) pedagogy 4) assembling of posse 5) poetic musing 6) hedonism 7) deathbed hangover 8) atonement 9) actual writing 10) random drive to Target 11) Karaoke-ing 12) existential questioning 13) the frantic desire to move to France 14) disintegration of self 15) lunch 16) gang warfare 17) more actual writing 18) veganism 19) lapse from veganism 20) total burnout 21) acceptance.
I fought back a torrent of seminars, meetings, assemblages, surveys, memos, notices, warnings, emails, reminders, reports, colloquia, announcements and etc. Ultimately I have found the "oh, I didn't see that one" technique works best.
I still miss Montana. This heartache won't heal. I cling to my 406 area code and MT driver's license. My tags have been expired over a year but I refuse to change them.
I took a Tristram Shandy seminar, which rocked. Sitting around a large oak table discussing 18th century literature felt exactly like what grad school should be. Advice: take the time to search out those profs who bring the material to life, and the lit classes won’t feel like cement feet.
I lunched with writers such as Rebecca Skloot, George Saunders, Robin Hemley and Lydia Davis. I was hoping for a laying of hands or incantation of secret writer spells, but they did each break the terrible news that the actual writing part is up to me kindly. And sometimes, there was good cheese.
I published in The Gettysburg Review, Brevity, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and mental_floss magazine.
For coursework I read Phillip Roth, Michael Chabon, Denis Johnson, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Joan Didion, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Nellie Bly, Hannah Crafts, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and about 50 critical articles, most of which could have been cut in half, although I recommend Henry Louis Gates, Janet McMaster, and Hugh Kenner who all write *gasp* enjoyable scholarship.
I taught three sections of comp at OU, and eight sections of business communication online, and wondered if I will ever get to lead a workshop.
And, somehow, through all of this, I managed to complete a draft of my first book. Despite the extra workload, I believe school helped. Yes, school can be a bubble, but for me the bubble works. As my former Montana prof Kevin Canty wrote once on writers, "Talky, drinky, gossipy, insecure and overcompensating, self-doubting, self-promoting, bright and dark, you are nevertheless My People and I love you almost all."