Notes from a Writing Workshop

While looking through my files in search of something else (obviously) I stumbled upon the list of requirement from my senior writing workshop. They read,

No crying, and absolutely no single tears.
No vomiting, except in cases of drunkenness or illness.
No opening the mouth without speaking.

(I have to admit, I had been guilty of the vomiting thing.)

Other rules for this class included, but were not limited to:

Double space everything, and print only on one side of the paper. No, I don’t care what the college says. Writers hate trees.

I will lock the door behind me. Don’t knock; if you arrive after me, you cannot come in.

In the (unlikely) event that anyone ever asks me to lead a workshop I will adopt all these rules.

Bad Teacher

Guess I need to start vetting art books better before I bring them into class. One of my fifth graders discovered a photo of a live pig with the word ‘fuck’ spray painted on it’s side during our half hour reading time yesterday.

Another student insisted that a group photo of French street artists included several who were “showing their privates.” However I contend that those are just the kind of shorts French people wear.

Needless to say, the art books are extremely popular during reading time.

An ode to absent roommates. Six years. Six addresses. 23 roommates. The end of an erra.

credit: Liz Henry, Flickr
Roommate image

I reflect fondly on your boyfriend’s Grey Goose bottle bong, and the incredibly strong weed that sent me to my first ever publishing job still stoned, and thrilled to have my very own rolly office chair to play with.

Also, on the lime green living room with the hammock in it, the mouse that lived in the leather chair, the Katrina fire pit, and the owl with the glowing eyes. The way my bathtub used to vibrate from the base on your speakers, the same song over and over again as you wrote it. The bouncy boxing party when the cops came, that terrible girl who climbed in the window and covered my bed with mud, the way you told her that Native Americans invented the dimmer switch, and the way she believed you.

I miss drinking whiskey and torturing the downstairs neighbor. Painting the living room Gothic Rose pink and listening to that one Be Good Tanyas album over and over again. Eating ice cream and watching Bride and Prejudice. Buying bargain bin underwear in Oakland and dancing at the KitKat Club. Even the time you flipped the breaker box for April Fools.

I do not miss the way you itemized the dirty dishes and assigned pantry space based on percentage of total rent. The way you walked through my office (also known as the laundry room) to get outside, even when I asked you not to. The way you ignored my advice then blamed me when things went wrong. That time you locked me out because I said your dinner party was terrible, which it was.

I do not miss your drunk hipster friends passed out in my bedroom, or the vomit dried to a crust in the bottom of the tub when I came back from a long weekend in Santa Cruz. I don’t miss your loud friends playing cards at 3:00 AM on Tuesday, or the way you never cleaned, or the notes you left, complaining about fruit juice on the counter even though the sink was packed with your dirty dishes. I never understood how your boyfriend just moved in one day. I thought your bike was stupid, and I still do.

I hated coming home early the Friday before a holiday weekend to find you passed out on the sofa surrounded by nitrous canisters, and the way you let your cat destroy my sofa, then tried to make me get rid of it because it was so shabby. I hated you for your preachy crap about cars and street parking, your awful “films” and your insistence that I ask you about your day. I hated that restaurant you worked at. I don’t care what you say; it’s a cult. I hated never knowing what might have drugs in it–like those Altoids in the dish in the living room, or those brownies I ate for breakfast once, when I was running late for a PPR meeting, leaving me, once again, stoned in an office chair.

I hated your tantrums, and your made-up stories about your own heroic encounters with famous people. I hated your oily hair, and the way all your texts were always tagged ‘urgent.’ Your crazy cats, who continued the destruction of my sofa and always ran away when I entered a room. Your horror movie sex noises, your disgusting contact lenses, the way your hair stuck to the walls of the bathroom after you blow dried it. Also the hair in the shower drain and the animal hair all over the floors. The sad sound of your dog, crying and flinging herself at the back of your bedroom door. The cat box in the hall closet. The way you never paid PG&E on time, ever, and the self-righteous way you tried to dick me out of my deposit. The dumb shit you said, and the fact that you never ever cleaned anything, except sometimes, after a party.

Good bye, good and bad. It’s hard to feel honestly nostalgic about anything so recent and so nuts, but somehow, I think I’ll manage…

No book reviews–but still reading Paul Murray, Deanna Raybourn, Cormac McCarthy

I am currently simultaneously reading Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray (semi-literary, charmingly whimsical, overly ironic book club-style fiction), Dark Inquiry, by Deanna Raybourn (total masturbatory fodder for female and gay male former English lit majors whose soul sucking office jobs leave them unwilling to expend the effort required for reading actual Victorian literature–why can’t I look away!?!), and The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy (a counter balancing work designed to keep me from imploding in a cloud of purple sparkles). I’ll let you guess which of these three titles I’m most likely to finish first.

In fact, until yesterday I haven’t really had much time for reading, what with packing up all my stuff, moving it to a new house and then (beginning) to unpack it again. After the long weekend certain rooms are starting to look semi-presentable (bathroom, bedroom) while others (kitchen, office) have a pretty long way to go.

I have not even begun unpacking my books, except for the poetry and plays (by far the smallest section) and the old notebooks which I shoved, unopened, into the shelves beneath to my desk. I am fairly positive there won’t be room for half the fiction. I sold several big shopping bags full of old stuff to Green Apple and abandoned another whole bag at Borderlands–but then I went ahead and spent all my store credit (and then some) on a collected Rilke, the newest William Trevor, and a bunch of greeting cards for assorted upcoming family holidays.

Oh well. Pictures to follow (as soon as things are a bit more organized).

On Grad School

About a year ago, I decided that the book publishing business isn’t for me, after all–at least not in it’s super-giant semi-evil conglomerate incarnation. A hard choice, since being an editor at a major house had been my goal for like 10 years. All those unpaid internships. Long days, strange hours, crap salaries, crazy bosses, weird corporate upsets, reorg after reorg after reorg. All the stuff I gave up so I could work, including, for a long time, my own writing. Not to mention the not-insignificant list of things I completely loved about my job.

It look me almost that whole year to decide on my next step, and to act on it. I registered to take the GRE the day I found out about the third reorganization at my company in as many years. Then I spent the next twelve months filling out job applications and university applications and loan applications and the FAFSA.

But when everything was in place and it was finally time to make the changes I’d been working toward it was hard to really enjoy it. In quitting my job I felt like a traitor. I adored my authors (most of them). Still do. I felt terrible leaving them all to their own devices. And my boss. I cried when I told him I was quitting. I felt so guilty, I couldn’t help it.

And now finally my first semester of library school is about to begin. I’m eager to get started, hopeful that this will turn out to be a better fit for me, relieved, honestly, just to be doing something proactive, uncertain (still) about my decision.

I don’t exactly think there’s something I’m “supposed” to be doing. But it’s still hard to believe there isn’t a right answer somewhere.

San Francisco Reading Party

Frozen solid and sneezing continuously, with a bad mood and a raw nose, I never the less pulled on my new jacket (thanks Bestamor) and headed down to the nexus of SOMA and the Mission for Quiet Lightening, possibly my favorite San Francisco reading series. LDM is funny; Radar is striking and weird; Porchlight has that sweet, homey public radio feel (although it’s so freakin’ hard to get out to the Verdi Club I hardly ever make it); Writers with Drinks is hit and miss.

Quiet Lightening is pretty close to perfect. It’s immersive, it’s chill. It’s always somewhere new, always somewhere central, always somewhere with drinks, and they keep the pageantry to a minimum. Writers read one after the other in rapid succession, without pausing for introductions or explanations. The length of the applause is just long enough for the next reader to get to the front of the room.

Sure, there are some selections I could miss (not naming any names here, but if you were thinking of bringing an accompanist, please reconsider), but the rate of really good readings is remarkable–in every two hour event, there are always 3-4 writers who are honestly great.

The first night I attended, I was completely in love with readings by Charles Kruger and Lauren Becker. Last night’s videos have not been posted, but I was definitely impressed with Jesus Castillo (and that’s saying something–I don’t care for most contemporary poetry), adorable David Sedaris Jr., Graham Gremore, and pun-happy Steven Grey.