Watch the Clock!

The Daily Life Text

As a student body, we’ve been thinking a lot about timing.

Why? Because every residency, we have something along the order of five readings. That’s five nights during which students spend another hour or so listening to valued fellow students and guest faculty read from their works. We do this at Whidbey for several reasons:

  1. Reading to a group is a professional skill, one which every student should have well under their belts.
  2. Reading your work out loud is yet another way of getting to know it, inside and out.
  3. Reading your work out loud is a gift to the audience: It’s rare that folks get to hear an author’s words from their own lips. It’s a gift that shouldn’t be taken lightly on either end.
  4. Getting to hear the pros gives us something to aspire to.

The flip, less-sexy-but-equally-important side to each of these reasons is time limits. Each reader is given an allotted amount of time, and each reader should stick to that allotted time, regardless of whether or not the readers feels the need to make a tremendously long explanation to his or her work. Here are the reasons why:

  1. It’s only fair to the other readers, that you each get the same allotment of time.
  2. If  you need to explain your work and the explanation takes up the bulk of your allotted time, then the piece needs more work.
  3. Readings are meant to whet the listener’s appetite for more from the writer, that’s all. Complete stories are nice, but hardly necessary.

At NILA, it’s students who run the readings. We’ve come up with several ideas, some of which were submitted by faculty, to encourage folks to stick to their time limits. They are:

  • Water pistols
  • Burp guns (both ping-pong and marshmallow)
  • Gigantic “Gong Show” type gong
  • Big hook, a la the old vaudeville shows
  • Swelling music that eventually drowns out the speaker, a la award shows

Hm. I like all of these. What’s your choice for encouraging folks to keep to time limits?


Things I Really Miss About New York

The Daily Life Text

Okay. I know I said I’d write a review of Lonesome Dove today, but this has really been pestering me for awhile.

I give you this untidy pile of  Things I Miss*:

  • Grey days that are not pouring rain
  • A non-static-electricity-charged dog
  • A non-bad-hair-day dog
  • Our concierges (always someone to say hello to!)
  • The folks in the park across the street with their dogs
  • The sound of school letting out across the other street
  • Walking to the grocery store to pick something up
  • Jim’s 6-mile commute to work on bike
  • Seeing people read on mass transit
  • Mass transit itself
  • Kathlyn and Payson from down the hall, always good for a stroll and puppytime
  • The Hudson River
  • Big, world-class arts institutions twenty minutes’ away by train
  • Little world-class arts institutions five minutes by car or half an hour by hilly bike ride**
  • Great fashion and personal style, RIGHT THERE ON THE STREET!
  • The lack of need for sunglasses (c.f. rainy days, above)
  • Being only 4 or 5 hours behind my friends in the UK, as opposed to a FULL FREAKING DAY OMG.
  • Related: Knowing they’re only a direct flight of 5 hours away, as opposed to FULL FREAKING DAY ETC.

*This list does not include obvious things, like people I went out with all the time and miss horribly.

**This may not be something I need to miss. I need to check out my alma mater’s art offerings, and that’s downhill all the way there by two miles and uphill back.

There. Now that I’ve braindumped, I can move on for awhile. And I can sort of content myself with this. And this, although they both give me pangs to looks at. Eurgh.


Hunkering down

The Daily Life Text

And now, for something completely different:

What is that? It’s my office wall, and it’s also something I’ve never tried before. It’s outlining. [Please ignore the fugly wood paneling. It is not my fault and soon I will be painting it something else, since my life has become a DIY show.]

Here’s a close-up:

On each of the yellow index cards is a full scene. On each of the white, is, dur, the MC’s location at that point in the book. My thesis adviser thinks this is going to be a one-month draft. I think, okay, I’m game for that.

And the other part of me thinks, oh, hell, it’d better be a one-month draft. Otherwise I’m might close to deadline.

So let’s just see how this goes, shall we? Two scenes a day. Let’s just see.

Is it so hard to be timely?

The Daily Life Text

In the 3 months we’ve lived here in southern California, we’ve never once had a workman show up on time. Typically, they’re between 15 minutes to an hour behind. One has a habit of showing up, or having his crew show up, half an hour to an hour early. Sometimes they wait until the tail end of their window to show up.

Folks. This is ridiculous. How hard is it to set yourself a reasonable window of time and then appear within it? How hard is it to consider that your being on time impacts everyone else’s time?

I’m about to start a gig that will require me to keep pretty tight watch on my timeliness. And one of my clients is still billed on an hourly basis. So for me, this is nothing new. But I’m also not fond of being late for business appointments. And in a world where everyone and anyone is subject to review, might I suggest that this world is also not the best place for you to piss someone off?

Heck, part of me wants to bring back to timestamp clock.

I think this definitely qualifies as a pet peeve. And no, I don’t accept “the traffic” as an excuse. Build it in, for pete’s sake. Perhaps I am persnickety about this because I’ll have to keep a tighter watch on my time than usual, as I head into drafting of my thesis.

And part of me is terrified that this is just the way the world works here, and that I will have to suck it up. Hunh.

All Hail the Residency

The Daily Life Text

Whidbey Writers’ Workshop MFA Residency, Winter 2013, is over.

I want to talk about a few awesome things that happened this time around.

We acquired two new awesome students, Doyce Testerman and William Xander.

Another good friend, Chels Knorr, had an essay accepted for publication in an anthology.

We had the best student readings, in my opinion, that I’ve heard in my six residencies there.

An acquaintance read an entirely new work about a subject she’s never been able to talk or write about before.

And we had the following awesome people speak, among others:

Knute Berger

Jim Lynch

Jennifer Basye Sanders

Kristen Lamb

And this happened:

Yeah. That’s pretty good, right?

Onwards, and forwards, to another semester of writing–and a completed thesis.

P.S. The winner of the contest last month is Jim Anderson. Jim, I will send you some Swedish Fish. 🙂