What Have I Been Up To?

Magpie (2013) by Niroot Puttapipat

Magpie (2013) by Niroot Puttapipat (click on the image to go to his website)

I’ve been neglecting the blog most egregiously, I confess, but I’m hoping to start posting regularly again (well, semi-regularly. Or at least more frequently than a few times a year?). Last spring I was awarded tenure, and it’s taken me this long to let out the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding for the four years I was tenure-track.

This spring I’m on sabbatical from teaching, which makes me feel all kinds of things, not the least of which is how I wish more jobs allowed for sabbaticals (my own trajectory took me twenty years to get here). Taking some time away, to get recharged and re-focused, is something that everyone needs, and I wasn’t aware how much I needed this time until I was taking it. I’m very, very grateful for sabbatical; in no way do I take this opportunity for granted. Still, I feel like I’m not quite doing sabbatical right (why does every day feel like Saturday, which I usually reserve for housework and errands?), but there you go.

So I thought I’d write a bit about my sabbatical projects, of which there are many. Not all of them are going to get done—my application was extremely ambitious, and I haven’t listed here everything I thought I might do—but I’m going to give it the old college try. Writing them down is my attempt to keep myself honest. Here’s the general breakdown of my sabbatical, and I’ll follow up with a few specifics:

JANUARY. I knew I was going to need to take January off to recharge, so I planned for that from the beginning. My goal was to spend the month reading and watching DVDs in an effort to replenish the personal creative well I’d let dry up these last couple years. So far, I’ve read and watched more over the last month and a half than I read and watched over the last several years combined. Talk about your depressing revelations. But it’s been good, and I have felt more inspired for having done so. At the end of the post is the list of most of what I’ve read and watched at this point.

LetterMo2015square-1024x1024FEBRUARY. Now I’ve got several writing projects started and more to come. First, I’m writing a poem a day until at least May, maybe longer. I was inspired by several poets who’ve done this kind of thing (or are still doing it), like Jane Yolen, and so far I’ve stayed on track with my daily quota. I’m writing them longhand, which is unusual for me (my hands will cramp up if I write for too long, but poems are doable), in a lovely journal my friend Will gave me when I graduated with my MFA. I wouldn’t say I’ve yet written any good poems. Second, I’ve taken up the Month of Letters challenge again this year, so I’ll be doing some writing for others (granted, not everything I’ve mailed so far this month has been writing, but I’ll get there). Third, I’m enrolled in an online poetry workshop at The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative, “It’s Elemental: The Art of Revision,” with Lissa Kiernan, though I’ve fallen a bit behind because of my fourth project: I went on a writing retreat (Acres of Perhaps II) in Savannah, GA, with my writer-friends Will Ludwigsen (the aforementioned), Aimee Payne, Steve Berman, and Angela Still. Probably my only travel for the year, given financials. I knew from a previous writing retreat that I’m a little writing-shy (kind of like being a little pee-shy), so this time I hid myself downstairs during our writing times and I was actually pretty productive! For me, anyway. I wrote my poem a day, of course, but I also made revisions to four stories and started a new one. We also went on a ghost tour that was truly bizarre—fodder already for someone’s next story, by all means (sorry, inside joke)—and I was able to have brunch with my friend Vicki before I left town.

We had a meal here, though two of our party were sick later. Lesson learned.

We had a meal here, though two of our party were sick later. Make of that what you will.

The rest of this month I’m going to continue these projects: make more revisions, write some new stories, get caught up and finish the Rooster Moans workshop, and revise & update my submission strategy (new market research is called for, I think; my last strategy is four years old now).

MARCH. Rinse and repeat most of February, basically. I’ll also be starting some projects for work, including writing curriculum proposals for a creative writing capstone course and a creative honors major track, creating more rubrics for creative writing courses (sigh), writing the annual SACS report for the Creative Writing program and a portion of the English department’s annual report, as well as finishing up the editing and publication of the annual student anthology and the chapbook for this year’s Creative Writing Award (the chapbooks are handmade, which I enjoy doing, though it can be a little time consuming). Some other small program projects I want to work on.

APRIL and MAY. Continuing the above, over and over, plus updating the Poetry workshop syllabus and creative syllabi for two new preps: a new freshman course, Introduction to Composition, and a new Topics in Creative Writing course, (Re)Telling Fairy Tales.

Once June hits, I’ll be back in the office more regularly, getting prepared for the fall semester, and I’ll teach a composition class in the July term.

Why does it feel like sabbatical’s already over?

Here’s some of what I’ve been reading and watching, for those who like such lists:

Prose novels, anthologies, & collections

The Memory Garden – Mary Rickert
Blackbird House – Alice Hoffman (coll)
Among Others – Jo Walton
The Ice Queen – Alice Hoffman
Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide – ed. Cody Walker (essays)
By Nightfall – Michael Cunningham
What Remains: Stories and Interviews – Ellen Klages & Geoff Ryman
Horse, Flower, Bird: Stories – Kate Bernheimer (coll)
Zac’s Haunted House – Dennis Cooper (GIF novel–not prose)
Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid – Lemony Snicket
Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales – John Gardner (coll)
The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell
Hansel and Gretel – Neil Gaiman & Lorenzo Mattotti
Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 1 – eds. Laird Barron & Michael Kelly (antho)
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
Get In Trouble: Stories – Kelly Link
We Three Kids – Margo Lanagan

Graphic Novels

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me – Ellen Forney
The Graveyard Book, Volume 1 – adapted by P. Craig Russell
The Graveyard Book, Volume 2 – adapted by P. Craig Russell
Planetary, Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories – Warren Ellis & John   Cassaday (reread)
Planetary, Vol. 2: The Fourth Man – Warren Ellis & John Cassaday (reread)
Planetary, Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century – Warren Ellis & John Cassaday (reread)
Planetary, Vol. 4: Spacetime Archaeology – Warren Ellis & John Cassaday
Akaneiro: The Path of Cloak and Wolf – Justin Aclin & Vasilis Lolos
The Mighty Thor, Vol. 2 – Matt Fraction, et al
The Mighty Thor, Vol. 3 – Matt Fraction, et al
Journey into Mystery: Fear Itself Fallout – Kieron Gillen, Rob Rodi, et al
Journey into Mystery: The Terrorism Myth – Kieron Gillen, et al
The Mighty Thor/Journey Into Mystery: Everything Burns – Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen, et al
Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream
Olympians, Vol. 7: Ares, Bringer of War
– George O’Connor
Veil, Vol. 1 – Greg Rucka & Toni Fejzula
Young Avengers: Dark Reign – Paul Cornell & Mark Brooks, et al
Young Avengers, Vol. 2: Alternative Culture – Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, et al
Young Avengers, Vol. 3: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space – Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, et al
Rachel Rising, Vol. 5: Night Cometh – Terry Moore
The World of PostSecret – Frank Warren
Lobster Johnson, Vol. 4: Get the Lobster! – Mike Mignola, et al
Revelations – Paul Jenkins & Humberto Ramos
Abe Sapien, Vol. 5: Sacred Places – Mike Mignola, et al
Dream Thief, Vol. 2: Escape – Jai Nitz, Greg Smallwood, et al
Black Widow, Vol. 2: The Tightly Tangled Web – Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto

 Poetry (I really need to kick it up a notch in this category)

Not of Their Own Making – Alyse Bensel


I Am Love
Battle Royale
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Covenant
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Much Ado About Nothing
Taboo (1999)
The Long Kiss Goodnight
Far From Heaven
A Single Man
The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter
North Sea Texas
Tony Takitani
Batman: The Animated Series
(entire re-watch)
Penny Dreadful: Season 1
Hannibal: Season 2
Where the Bears Are 3
Elementary: Season 2



This entry was posted in About Writing. Bookmark the permalink.