Friday, January 29, 2016

I miss you, Bennington

The cozy little perch I fashioned for myself at Bennington, during the Winter residency.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Talky Time

Try hard (very hard!) to remain firm when your toddler tells you that instead of quiet time, he'd prefer "talky time."

And he happens to pronounce the words "talky time" in a way that instantly supersedes every funny thing you've ever heard.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What I'm reading (for the next five months)

Here's my reading list for my final term in Bennington's MFA program for giggles... 

(Note, it's half the length of a normal term's reading list because we're writing our theses and preparing a public lecture in the final term)

1…Dante Alighieri, Inferno
2…Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility or Emma
3…James Baldwin, Notes of A Native Son or Nobody Knows My Name
4…Roberto Bolano, By Night In Chile (novella)
5…J.L. Carr, A Month in the Country
6…Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
7…Junot Diaz, Drown
8…Flaubert, Madame Bovary
9…Mavis Gallant, Paris Stories
10..Marie Howe, In the Kingdom of Ordinary Time (poetry)
11..Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son
12..Denis Johnson, Incognito Lounge (poetry)
13..Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John
14..Antonya Nelson (still need to decide which one...suggestions?)
15..Muriel Spark, Public Image

Sunday, January 17, 2016

We get to illuminate the human condition

Novelist Charles Bock came to speak at Bennington during the Winter residency.

And he leveled with us about hard it is to produce a novel, to find time to write along with all of the other responsibilities life has assigned us.

And then he said, but you know what? It's not really that hard. It's not that bad of a trade.

Because we get to illuminate the human condition.

Well, sure, when you put it that way, yeah, it's okay. It's more than okay.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Lost entry from the Leo Journal

From a diary entry, last October, uncovered here at Bennington, while I have some time to review and revise:

“I have a story to tell you.” 

Isn’t that one of the most joyful statements one can hear? Oh fantastic, I think, a story.

But it's gets better. Because in this case, it’s Leo who has made this announcement.

I'd told him I needed to go fetch something from the bedroom, and that was when he said it.

"When you come back, I have a story to tell you."

And when I came back, he said, "Once upon a time, there were five tigers..."

He's now going to tell *us* stories. 

It does not matter that he then said the five tigers were going to eat other tigers and then thought better of the idea (he's already learning to revise). 

He’s beginning to tell stories, hovering as he is between three and four years of age. 

Oh the places he will go with those stories! (Cliché, cliché...but nonetheless a true sentiment).

Monday, January 11, 2016

At Bennington

Went swimming. Has nothing to do with writing. Nothing and everything.

Because it's a way of seeing new things, especially when you swim somewhere you've never been.

And it's intense. Plunge your head under water for 30 minutes.

Intense isolation in the purest, most gorgeous form. Sounds like writing, no?

Plus I went swimming with Daryln from Western Pennsylvania, something I only do at Bennington.

So many things I only do at Bennington, where I'm enrolled in the Bennington Writing Seminars' MFA program.

Like consuming the writing equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast -- every day.

Wake up and write. That's my routine wherever I go now.

But here at Bennington, I wake up to the silence of rural Vermont, so thick it feels eternal. I look out the window at campus, marvel at the opportunity I've been given, the opportunity I've seized, and I get to work.

Then breakfast, and I'm off. We're all off -- to a day of student lectures, and a master class, and later workshops, followed by a craft session, maybe and then student readings, and eventually faculty readings and more student readings. Each segment soldered to the next by conversations you have along the way.

Conversations and writing swapped and tips shared and books recommended, all around.

Went swimming this morning.

I lose myself in the strokes, and then I leave the pool, and since I'm at Bennington, I return to my room to lose myself in the writing.