Wednesday, April 30, 2008

forge on

Last night Ron Fortune, my esteemed colleague and collaborator, delivered the College of Arts and Sciences lecture. His talk was called "Scattered Impostures: Writing and the Work of Literary Forgery," and it was clear from the discussion afterward that he and I aren't the only ones fascinated by this form of writerly deception.

Ron's retiring at the end of the semester and that makes me sad. Happy for him, but sad for me and for the department. Ron is hands down the most generous, compassionate, and fairminded colleague I've had the pleasure of working with. Luckily, he's promised to continue working with me on forgery--and one way of looking at his retirement is to say he'll have more time for that.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

mutant cupcake

For his birthday last week, I made my honey only one cupcake.

But it was a HUGE cupcake. Love that new pan I bought. How delicious does that look? It tasted even better....

On Friday night we had some friends over to share the mutant cupcake with us. It was a great night: burgers on the grill (despite the thunderstorms), cupcake and ice cream, and the Cubbies on TV. Okay, so they lost to one of the worst teams in baseball, but I still love 'em.

It's hard to watch the Washington Nationals play and not think about S.'s dad. They were his team, way back before they were the Nationals. We're driving down to NC at the end of May for his service, and the family is saving a bit of his remains to sprinkle at RFK stadium in DC. I'm looking forward to the road trip, and part of the reason for that is that I associate NC with S.'s dad. It's hard to convince myself that he won't be there.

Monday, April 28, 2008


On Mondays I'm at school ALL. DAY. because my classes are at 9 and then again at 3. I spend much of the time in between classes grading or prepping, but lots of times I just goof off. Well, today I spent some time talking to Hillary about the cyst in her shoulder.

A: How big is it?
H: I don't know.
A: What kind is it?
H: I don't know.
A: What was the point of the doctor's appointment?
H: I don't know, to tell me I have a cyst?
A: Can we name it?
H: Yes. Something feminine. Like Emily.
A: I have too many Emilys in my classes.
H: Ophelia.
A: That's great because she went nuts. Get thee to a nunnery, Ophelia.

Hillary then goes on to tell me that she's not too too worried about the cyst because it's a cyst and not a tumor, though when her doctor's office called and asked her to come in at 12:30 instead of her 3:00 appointment, she instantly assumed that it was because she only had days left to live.

A: And they wanted to give you exta time with your kids.

She's also got a couple of teeeeeeeny weeeeeeny cysts on her legs, so her reasoning is that the one in her shoulder can't be a big deal because if the ones on her legs aren't, then this one can't be either.

A: Nice reasoning.
H: Shush. I like my reasoning.


A: I kinda wish it was a little more dramatic. With a happy ending, but more dramatic for a little while.
H: I know. So boring.

I hang up the phone and not two seconds later a student pops her head into my open office door. She has a question about class today and she waited until I was off the phone with my oh-so-important phone call. I told her she could've interrupted me, that I was just talking to a friend about her cyst. No, she says, it's fine, I was just going over my paper one last time.

Woulda been a lot funnier, a lot more dramatic, ahem, if she'd said she knows all about Ophelia and that perhaps that name's a little too cliched.


Friday, April 18, 2008

an earthquake in Illinois?


I felt it this morning, but was so half-asleep that I didn't really stop to wonder what it was.

I just went back to my very important work of drooling and sleeping.


Monday, April 14, 2008

really, she's not at all spoiled

I was planning to take a picture just of the three Nylabones lined up in such a pretty row. Cute in itself. As I was about to click for the shot, Wrigley stuck herself into the pic with her little piggy nose as if to say, "Yeah, I line up my bones. You got sumthin' to say about it?"


Friday, April 11, 2008

Olivia is my little helper

Here's a pic of the fantastic gift Seth gave me for no good reason at Cs. Well, that's not true. He did give a reason: he saw this little doorknob hanger and she was screaming my name, so he had to buy her. In case you can't read her jumper, it says "Go away I'm very busy!"

And I am. I'm very busy! Too bad the doggies can't read. They barge into my office and seek out love and affection anyway.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

what it means to be a Cubs fan

I'm learning very quickly that it involves a lot of pain.

FIFTEEN. INNINGS. last night. I stayed up until after 10:00 (S. had already gone to bed at around 9:15ish) to watch as inning after inning passed with no change in the score. Then Ramirez hits a two-run homer, and I'm so happy I yelp, which wakes S. up. Sorry. Then of course the Pirates match that two-run homer with one of their own and I'm feeling dejected again. Then happy again with Pie's two RBIs.

Happy. Dejected. Ecstatic. Morose. Happy.

I stayed up through the whole game because I knew I could sleep in this morning. And I did. Until 9:00.

And tonight we shall do it all over again. That's what so great about this sport. It's on EVERY. DAY.

Me, to S. last night: Do you think that when Ryan Dempster was growing up all the kids called him Ryan Dumpster?

S.: Probably, but he's Canadian so he could take it.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

mean people really do suck

Got a rejection letter from Composition Studies yesterday for an essay I wrote about teaching the personal essay. The first review letter was at least kind in its rejection--gave me some things to think about in an encouraging way, a way that made me think that maybe, just maybe, I might have something to say on the subject.

The second review letter, though, was just plain mean and seemed to glory in it. "I have read your paper with mounting annoyance." Great way to start a review. Thanks.

"What's your point? Or points? Yes, I know that a personal essay doesn't necessarily have to have a thesis, but what's it about?" And then the reviewer goes on to make more mean commentary in a way that suggests he (it can only be a he, says S.) knows exactly what the essay is about.

There's a point in the essay where I talk about the ways that I've told so many of my students stories about Annabelle--but that last semester, I found that I had stopped doing this. This was curious to me. The reviewer wants to know how "knowing about Annabelle, the cutsiefied canine, will help your students to write better, rather than to encourage them to exchange sentimental anecdotes or write them and thus to use them as a substitute for the hard-edged critical thinking you appear to advocate via the discussion of Ways of Reading." Um, hi, I think the point I was trying to make, oh friendly person, was that something happened last semester that made me stop telling so many Annabelle stories. I'm sure everything you do in the classroom, every word you say and every story you tell helps students to write better.

Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick.

The first reviewer understood my essay as a whole. The second reviewer nitpicked this and that, enough to fill up two single-spaced pages, but never acknowledged that the essay has a point but maybe I wasn't as successful as I thought I was in making that point. No. What matters is that every word I say in the classroom is not directed toward helping students write. Because sometimes I want them to see me as a human being. Which is what I'd like to believe about this reviewer, but it's hard.

I know how bitter I sound. And it's not just because I was rejected. It's because I was rejected in a mean-spirited way, and the person who wrote that review cannot be held accountable. If this were my first piece sent out for publication, you can be pretty damn sure I wouldn't be sending anything else out anytime soon.

I'm not giving up on my essay. I'm taking the first person's advice and reworking it.

I was pretty down yesterday because of this. Not only did I feel like a bad writer, I felt like a horrible teacher, what with spending so much time talking about my dog instead of teaching students how to write with "ease, elegance, and grace." But then S. pointed out just how poorly this review itself was written--all over the place, unable to see the whole for the nitpicking parts--and I felt a little better. If there's one thing this reviewer could learn from the personal essay, it's that in order to be taken seriously as a writer, you've got to at least show some inkling of a willingness to implicate yourself in the faults that seem to lie elsewhere. Ending your review with "Best wishes" ain't gonna cut it.


Monday, April 07, 2008

back from C's

And I think I'll be taking a hiatus next year. I've been going back and forth about this for days. On the one hand, it's always so refreshing to see my friends and to catch up after the year since we've last seen each other. On the other, though, it's exhausting. And going to San Francisco is essentially an entire travel day there, and an entire travel day back. Plus, if I'm not there they can't schedule me for Saturday. There is that.

I think our panel went pretty well and I think it wasn't all that obvious that this was my very first time speaking into a microphone. They put us in the Napoleon Ballroom, which makes me think they expected a far greater attendance than we actually got. But what can we expect on Saturday at 2:00?

I'm really not bitter about the Saturday time slots. Really. Not at all.


It was absolutely wonderful to see and catch up with Becky, Jen, Jim, Paul, Tobi, Joddy, Seth, and Laurie. Good for the soul. Later I'll post a picture of the fantabulous gift Seth got me for no good reason except that it was apparently screaming my name.

Oh, and there's interest in my book manuscript. There is that.

Missed those girls and that boy very very much. Belly yelped and jumped off the bed when she heard the garage door open, and we've been doing lots of snuggling since. I promise her again and again that I'll always come back for her. My little Bugglesworth. Wigglesworth was happy to see me though I think that was the point at which she realized I'd been gone in the first place. Happy girl always. And the boy? Well, it was darn good to see him too. Though he did happen to mention that it was awfully quiet without me there. Not sure if that's a good thing...