Monday, March 30, 2009

Sappy moments

In bell hooks's memoir WOUNDS OF PASSION, she writes about this great love affair--a partnership, really, that lasted 12 years. When this love affair started, she describes how wonderful everything was, "It was a true and perfect union. We could lie together after hours of passionate lovemaking and recite poems" (hooks 61). I love bell hooks. I really do, but reading this, I was almost ill. This is a perfect example of romanticizing the past. I mean, really!?!

Then, I wonder if I'm just callous because to me, reciting poetry after hours of lovemaking sounds like a painful cliche, some "dream" of what "poets" ought to do and be. I'm completely resistant to falling into the traps of what it means to be "poet," "writer," or "artist."

I remember in my undergrad & even during my grad writing workshops, there were always these stories about "all night lovemaking" followed by hours of gently crying each other to sleep. Sure, it may be true or not, but ultimately, who would really want this? Is this what people truly desire? Am I just some callous, unromantic bitch?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grading: A Moment to Give Thanks

I am in the midst of grading essays for my Feminist Memoirs class. The prompt is: The Personal is Political. The stories are amazing, breathtaking, and while reading these painfully personal & political stories, I understand why I teach. This makes it worth it. Knowing that students trust me enough to share these stories, that these stories may never have been written down if not for an assignment for a class that requires an honest delving into the personal, that these stories may well have evaporated into the fog of busy life & repressed into the clamour of daily life, that I can read these stories makes teaching worthwhile. Teaching, whereas it's difficult, tedious, exhausting, etc., teaching is amazing. So to my Feminist Memoirs class: thank you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


There's something decidedly unpleasant about growing older. I'm officially no longer in my mid-twenties. I'm now in my late twenties. Not to whine, but really, what do I have to show for it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

cell phones

I dislike dealing with cell phones & Canada simultaneously. Why can't there be a simple plan that makes everyone happy?

Monday, March 23, 2009

the last samurai

Seriously... why would a bunch of samurais take in Tom Cruise? And of course, they're going to teach him how to be a samurai. Duh, it makes perfect sense.

I've never seen this movie before, but it's on tv. I'm not saying I dislike the movie, per se, because I haven't really been paying close attention, but god, the fetishization of Otherness...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

writer's block

A couple nights ago, I gave a reading at SMC, and one of the audience members--a student, if I remember correctly--asked me what happens when I get writer's block, how I get through it. For some reason, this question really stumped me. I thought about it. I thought about it some more. Ok, in a q&a session, you don't actually have that much time to think so yeah, I didn't think so hard. I gave an answer. Quickly. I admitted that I don't get writer's block, that I am not a "typical" writer in that sense. But then, I thought about why it is that I don't get writer's block, and I think it has everything to do with constraint. Because I do put all these superficial constraints of my writing, the process is then not as open and yet somehow there are more possibilities. I think it also has to do with the fact that I'm not a realist writer. Whereas I'm sure that non-realist writers get writer's block too, there is something stiffling about mimicking reality, right? Time is so focused on plausibility that a lot is forsaken in the process.

Well, this question has stuck with me, and I'm not entirely sure I have an answer now. But it is certainly something to think about.

Another question someone asked (Amanda asked this) that I was "unable" to answer: If my concern isn't plot or narrative, per se, how do I tell someone what my novel/story/etc. is "about"? How do I speak about the work? The honest truth is that I hate describing my writing. The truth is that I'm not articulate about it at all & I often sound like a bumbling idiot. I remember telling JB about this novel I was working on a couple years ago--turns out it's now THE EVOLUTIONARY REVOLUTION, which Les Figues will publish in Feb. 2010--and he told me that whereas my writing may be good, I should never talk about my writing. Well, yeah, maybe that wasn't a kind thing to say--his compliments are so often mixed messages--but there is some truth to it. So, now it's my goal to work towards speaking about my writing more articulately.

I wonder, how would any of you out there answer these questions?

Friday, March 13, 2009


I like books. I love books. It seems though that I am a dying breed.

There's this conversation that keeps repeating--the record skipping, continually bringing me back, regardless of my own desires--about the death of the book. I don't buy it. I believe there will always be book lovers, people who want to read books, people who want to make books. The books of the future will be beautiful. They will be even more lovely than we can conceive now.

And the trash, the shit they sell in the cookie-cutter bookstores, let all that go onto Kindle. I won't mourn their loss. But books, real books, book-objects, they will survive. They will remain. Those will be the books I will fall for, over and over again.


Yesterday morning, I saw this interview with Jonathan Safran Foer, and it's stuck with me ever since. Think what you will of Foer, but when asked about his writing, he said that his main goal is to write honestly, from a place of honesty.

So obviously, this made me wonder about my own writing. While I was in grad school, this was very important to me: to write an authentic story, not necessarily a realist story but one that conveyed an honesty. So I wrote PARABOLA and CHANGING. But since then, this need for honesty hasn't been a concern. At all. It's as if I needed to do it, and once done, it was done. That was that. The summer after grad school, I wrote THE EVOLUTIONARY REVOLUTION (which will be out with Les Figues in 2010). I had no desire for honesty. I just wanted to have fun. This, of course, does not mean that the novel is dishonest or even that it doesn't show authentic emotion (I'm talking more about process here than product), but I simply stopped caring about honesty. (This brings me another point, which I'll blog about some other time dealing with genre. I often call this a science fiction novel, but when pressed on, I have to admit that no, it's not science fiction at all. It just has non-realist characters & elements: a two headed boy, girls with wings on their thighs, an earth composed of only water, etc. This doesn't really make it science fiction though. It makes it fabulous.) I'm currently in the copy-editing stage with this book, and now, as I read it over again, even though I was unconcerned with honesty, there is a lot about humanity in there.

But moving on, last summer, I wrote INVISIBLE WOMEN (coming out with a kickass web-based version with StepSister Press in Oct. 2009). My goal here was simply to converse with Calvino's INVISIBLE CITIES, only instead of cities, women. Instead of Kublai Khan & Marco Polo, Freud & Lou Andreas-Salome. Again, I had no desire for honesty. I wanted to play, have fun, and even though honesty wasn't the concern, reading over the ms, there it is again.

And moving on again, this past winter break, I wrote OLD CAT LADY. (Don't worry. That ms doesn't have a home, lest you think everything I write finds a publisher, unless you are a publisher & want to publish my book. Then, by all means...) With this book in particular (it's a choose-your-own adventure love story), I actually tried not to be honest, but there's something about multiple endings that--whereas it's entirely unreal--is very honest. The honesty lies in the possibilities, the small choices, we obsess over, the fact that we all have regrets, desires for do-overs, mourning the loss of some small choice made wrong.

As a writer who's not trying to write honestly or even from a place of honesty, there it is. It crops up when you're not looking. So then, is Foer wasting his time focusing on the honest? In fact, if you're a writer, is it really even possible to write dishonestly? It doesn't matter how realist or fabulist your writing is, this honesty , this desire to convey some sort of truth or authenticity, keeps emerging. If this is the case, why Foer? Why waste your time trying to write an "honest" novel? Why not just write?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

being "proud of" someone

Yesterday, I got an email from a friend from my MFA program. In the email (which insulted me under the guise of compliments--I'd go into it but there's really no need), this email writer told me s/he was proud of me for my publishing accomplishments. As Elizabeth Bennet says in Pride & Prejudice, "I could easily forgive his pride, had he not mortified mine."

I dislike this very much.

This may be in part because I have always sought approval from my parents & other authoritative figures and am just now seeing how utterly detrimental this need is to me, BUT it's also because it's condescending and reeks of a hierarchical structure where this email writer deems that what I have done is "good" or worthy of being "proud of."

But let's back up a little. So yes, first off, I should clarify that like so many writers, I write for approval on many different levels. My parents think I'm a failure because I'm not a doctor. To make up for it, I went to a top notch Catholic university for my MFA and now teach at a Catholic college. (My parents are very Catholic. I'm not. This is my compromise, at least for the moment.) To make up for it, I am not just a writer. I write obsessively. I publish obsessively. And to show for it, I have books in print, books on the way, books written, stashed away on my laptop. (I've been asked how I write so much. I give some excuse, but really, when it's all said and done, it's for approval.) But aside from familial approval, which I think we can all appreciate, there's also something in the publication itself: Someone somewhere thinks what I've written is good enough that they want to put their time, energy, and money into bringing it out into this world. (Here, I'm talking specifically about book publication, but this also applies to journals, zines, etc.) There's a high you get when you have a ms accepted. Those of you who are writers, you know what I mean. Then, finally, there's the greater societal approval one gets for being a published author. The key word is PUBLISHED. Anyone who writes is given a certain degree of respect (by which I mean little to no respect) for being a writer, but let's face it, there's something about being a published writer that authenticates it to both YOU and society at large, and then, any grief you've gotten for wanting to be a writer (a most underappreciated occupation to be sure) is somehow forgotten because you ARE now a writer.

What is most frustrating though is that this notion of "being proud of someone" only makes us continue running in our little mouse-wheel because we thrive off of approval. We desire approval, no matter where it comes from (well, I guess I've shown here that where it comes from does matter a little), but ultimately, we--as writers and as people--want other people to like us, to like what we do, to tell us we're "good." But fuck that! We ought to write (but you can insert any other word here) for ourselves. But do we? So most of the people who read this are innovative/conceptual writers. The market doesn't dictate what we write, how we write, etc., but in place of the market, what other shadowy monster looms, waiting to give us a gold star of approval, dying to tell us how proud they are?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Being punched in the face

I dislike it when my cat punches me in the face at six in the morning because he's hungry. He's a real asshole about it too. He'll sit near me, purring. It's sweet right? Then, just like that, he smacks me. Right across the lips. If I respond (by getting pissed), he just punches me from a different angle. (He'll circle around me.) If I ignore him, he'll continue punching me until I get angry. If I get angry, I won't sleep. If I don't sleep, I'll get up and feed him.

He's clever, that cat.

Only he doesn't get fed until seven. Every morning it's the same. And yet, every morning, somewhere between 5:30-6am, there he is, all in my face, ready to fight.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze & Guittari write, "The real is not impossible; on the contrary, within the real, everything is possible; everything becomes possible" (27). So then, I think I like the real but only inasmuch as I prefer the fabulous. So if the non-real (irreal) is possible in the real, then obviously, I like the real. I think. Am I getting this right?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Copy editing

I dislike copy editing. I wish I did not have to do it. I would enjoy spring break much more if I weren't doing it, but alas, it's inevitable, isn't it? Luckily, I have a kickass editor who makes many corrections. & hopefully, this will be a good book.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I like falafel. Just yesterday, I had falafel at the Tomasula house. It was great. (I also like Maria's couscous, which is the best damned couscous ever.) Today, I will go have more falafel with Laura. Life is good.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I like to ride my bicycle. I dislike a hill.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The day before a reading

I dislike the day before a reading because I never know what I will read the next day, which is tomorrow, which means that I dislike today, which in fact I do. Dislike it. Today, I mean. Hopefully, I will not dislike it tomorrow.

But if you're around, I'll be reading tomorrow at the Hammes Bookstore at Notre Dame at 7:30. Come. Please. I will be happy to see you.

Midterm exams

Whereas having midterm exams means that one has to not only write but also grade them, it also means not needing to prep for that day. This translates into something I like very much.

Earl Grey Tea

I like Earl Grey tea with honey and milk (preferably rice but soy will also do). Before this summer, I had a firm dislike for Earl Grey tea. Then, I had it with milk and honey & then, love.

Virginia Woolf

I like Virginia Woolf. She makes me want to write, and even if I don't have the time to write, she excites in me the desire to make time.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Something I like

I like mechanical pencils but only certain kinds. I prefer 0.7mm lead. I prefer Bics, not particularly because I like the brand but because they come in different colors. I like colors.

I think from here on out, I will use this blog to write about things I like (including people, books, etc.) and things I do not like.

Virginal blog

Only it isn't a virginal blog. I've tried blogging before, never really got the feel for it. But because I require that my students blog, it's only fair that I do too. So here it is. My first blog.