Tuesday, April 26, 2016

God and the Registrar

I wrote like hell this weekend, or like hell was behind me. I wrote a 2,500-word essay about my experiences in the Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles during the weekend of AWP, and I wrote pages and pages of the scary story, which I should've started months ago and for which I'm now making up for lost time, I guess: it's coming quickly, feverishly. I'm still drafting, and I don't know if I'm halfway done or one-quarter done or what, but it is very, very difficult to write. It hurts and is hard. Despite this, it doesn't seem to be good enough; it feels like I'm not digging down deeply enough into my own flesh to write it. (I don't think that all writing has to feel like that, but for this one, it does.)

Plus I read an interesting book called Atta, and then wrote two posts about it for the class blog that reminded me greatly of what I do in this space. I'm not displeased with those posts, or with these posts, but I am dissatisfied at the idea that I might be slumping into a pattern rather than pushing myself into new places.

But then this whole spring has been like that. Spring fever. Senioritis. Whatever you call that restless crappy feeling that leads you to play solitaire for hours instead of clearing the clutter off your goddamn dining room table, I've got it. Bad. I hope it's on the verge of passing, because I successfully worked hard this weekend, but that hard work also took place after I stayed in bed hours longer than I should have.

It's just so comfortable. The pattern and the bed.

Okay, that's not fair. That bike and I are clearly victims of sudden mudslides.
Or snowslides, I can't quite tell from the coloring. Some kind of slide. 

I made a list of the books I'm going to read this summer after school is over (at a minimum).
Cat's Cradle (Vonnegut)
I Love Dick (Kraus)
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (Ferrante)
a David Shields
Don Quixote (Cervantes) (this is 2016's Big Book)
a Georgette Heyer
a Roxane Gay or two
Remembrance of Things Past (Proust) - not sure how much further I'll get
I Hate the Internet (Kobek)
Chelsea Girls (Myles)
Just Kids (Smith)
People Like You (Malone)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Murakami) 
And I picked out the classes that, God and the registrar willing, I'll be taking in the fall. Even though I'm kind of tired of school's grind, I'm nevertheless pretty excited about what I'm taking next.

Scratch that. I'm not tired of school's grind. What I'm tired of is feeling as if I can't get down to business on any of the stuff I need to do for school. I'd be happy for the semester to keep going on and on, peaking and falling and peaking again, but I'm tired of the squeeze of it, the sense that I don't actually have time to do all the things and then also relax as much as I need to so as not to go mad.

And, frankly, I'm pretty tired of student stories. That's not very kind, but it's the truth.

If I can sustain the work spirit that put the spurs to my ass this weekend, then I'm going to revise some of the secret project and give it to a professor who (kindly, generously) offered to read it. I hope I can do that before school officially ends, or I'll be emailing him over the summer, which is creepier than I want to be.

This summer I might try to teach a writing workshop. I haven't forgotten my New Year's resolution about that. We'll have to see which gets the best of me: ego or insecurity.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dignified and Sensible

Gaaaaah how did this happen it's been weeeeeeks.

I know how it happened: I haven't been able to gather up my thoughts enough to write something dignified and sensible. I've been taking notes for the last six weeks on my ideas, but none of them have been productive for this space. I've been writing some creative engagements with the experimental novels & other art I'm absorbing in one of my classes, but they are short and weird and I don't know what to make of them.

That's representative, I think. My energy of late has been scattered, and invested in the wrong places. I haven't been feeling it at work lately, which makes work a chore; I've been treating myself to laziness at home, which brings me pleasure but no satisfaction. I need to get down to business on three separate creative projects before the semester ends in about three weeks (!!!), but I failed to do this last weekend and I'm discouraged.

Personal is stuff going on that's distracting me, too.

Meanwhile, I'm still gathering up the fallen fruit from AWP. I met some amazing people - some of them far more impressive on paper than I knew when I hung out with them. I keep getting more and more books in the mail. A dear friend of mine, her literary star is rising like the sun at the moment, and I'm proud of her and frankly a little proud of me for not being jealous of her.

Here's a couple of things gifted to me by my best class this semester.

Something about this video gave me intense visual pleasure - aside from the intellectual pleasures of it - and reminded me of how much joy I took in film back when that was my main squeeze. Matt...did not love it, so if you don't, either, you won't hurt my feelings.

Oh, it has strobe effects, so epileptics beware.

The next one there's no need to watch from beginning to end. This fellow, Alvin Lucier, recorded himself speaking a brief monologue, and then played that recording into another recorder, and then played that into another recorder, and so on and so on until the sound of his voice became completely distorted. Eventually the recording is only the resonant ambience of the room rather than a recognizable voice. Skip through and see how it feels to you. It gave me food for thought for days. Really, I'm still thinking about it, and I don't expect to stop.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fragmentary Disorder

WOW there is so much.

I went to AWP. I workshopped a story that I kind of hate and it was well-liked. I went to an insane reading featuring some of the most interesting women in the nation. I caught a cold and failed to finish reading three! THREE! of the books assigned for homework in the last month. (Three! Who even am I?) I was awkward to Kelly Link and I hugged the writer of one of the best essays I've ever read. I spent way too much money and I can't wait to get my next tattoo. I had an epiphany or three. My apartment is messy and I (finally) don't give a hoot. I found out that at least one L.A. rooftop hotel bar has weird little waterbeds and is just as douchetastic and horrible as you might imagine, unless you're there with a clutch of badass women. I am itchy and miserable about all the ordinary job/school/cooking things in my life, but I am so happy to be living the life I have.

Oh, and Star Wars. Yeah. Whee.

Art by Paul Fricke

I want to put together a genuine AWP breakdown post, for the sake of at least one friend who wanted to know how it went down, but this will not be that. This is more of an "I'm still planning to blog here, I swear, but my life is hilariously messy and I need to find the narrative thread buried under piles of tote bags and book swag" post.

This is easily the least troublesome cold I've ever had. 3/5 stars, would get again if I had to. But it's making me tired and cranky and bad at concentrating and socializing.

My solitary goal for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference, or AWP, was to get as many tote bags as humanly possible. I got seven over the three days. Win! I also got a pile of books, and the advice I got to wait until the last day to buy books was correct. None of the presses wanted to ship their stuff back home, if they were located elsewhere than in L.A., so there were fire sales and how. I did very well.

I also saw many extremely famous writers and met a couple of them. I learned that prose chapbooks are indeed a thing, more so than in years past, which is encouraging. I drank free wine.

I am ready to revise some sections of the secret project after feedback from two readers. I definitely want to clip out its imperfections, but I want to do that without "fixing" it to any mainstream specifications. I hope I'll be able to set aside some time for that this weekend.

In general, my life has slowed down after a freaking insane March couple of months 2016 so far. (So, again, if I had to catch a cold, now is the right time.) I am having that old sensation of wanting my time back, looking forward to summer and no school schedule and reading piles of books. At the same time, I'm panicking slightly because I'll actually be halfway done with my MA after this semester, and then what?

Then what?

I want to apply for a crazy long shot Bay Area thing (again), and I'd like to teach workshops. But beyond that - and this was shored up firmly by the experience of AWP - I just want to write books. I want my life to go into the next phase, the phase where I can write books and see them in print.

I don't know how to do that yet. I thought I'd know, or be at the halfway point of knowing, by now.

Anyway. Stay tuned! Much more about AWP and other writing things to come.