Filtering by Tag: school

Last Day of Classes

There's something wonderful and strange about the last day of classes. The hallways are electric with excitement, of summer plans being whispered in hushed tones. Flip-flops slapping the tile floor. Backpacks emptied of textbooks. The classrooms, dirty and worn-down, breathe sighs of relief that send a ripple of musky air through the building.

I stare at my cubicle and wonder if I've got everything I need.


While I do have summer plans, and final projects to turn in, it's different to be on the other side of things as a graduate student. For one, I'm lucky enough to be teaching while I'm here. This means that today, I had the distinct honor of watching my students fidget as they handed in their last assignments. In this moment, when the summer plans and playful jokes end, that the weight of what they've done weighs heavy on them. Final grades are coming. There's no turning back. I know the feeling. I still go through it myself with my grad classes.

My students turn in their papers and leave. Most of them I'll never see again. A few linger behind and we talk about the benefits of keeping a scrap folder on your computer and how to beat writer's block. They tell me that they've never written so many stories in their lives as they had this past semester. I want to say, well, this is college, and, you should be proud.

As I climb the stairs and walk back to my office, I discover a giant spill, as if someone knocked over a glass full of ocean and didn't bother cleaning it up. The room next to my office is open and the smell of hot pizza and subs drifts out. Students gather around the pizza box while their teacher fumbles with the paper plates. I smile at them and head to my own office, silent save for the vibration of their chatter through the walls.


"That's everything," I say, standing in my cubicle and a stack of final papers in my hands. The papers and portfolios all fit in my tote bag. Barely. I admire the artwork I have tacked up on the pumpkin-colored walls with some sadness, knowing that I won't see them again until fall. I gave a silent salute to my Peeta Mellark poster, the printed out copies of Dorothy Parker's poems, and the fairy tale illustrations I had scanned and printed from various library books.

When I return, I'll be a third-year graduate student. My final year in the creative writing program. This means that, among other things, I'll be coming back with a full manuscript in my hands: my thesis.

So summer for me will be made up of paper cuts, of long nights of writer's block, and indulgent purchases made in the name of "research."  

What I wish I could do with all the paper I've accumulated this semester.

Robert Southey and the Art of Gathering Everything

April begins with Romanticism. Not because I'm trying to be cute or that I'm testing out some kind of metaphor. It's true. For me. 

It's so secret that I love the Romantic Era. I cried like a baby while watching Bright Star. I wish I could get away with wearing a poet's shirt in public. And, for sure, I open my heavier-than-an-elephant college textbook way too often just to read snipits of closet dramas and love letters (Oh, Keats. You're so charming). 


In fact, while we're on the subject of English Romantic Writers: Second Edition by David Perkins, let me just tell you that this book if hefty enough to kill someone - like, in the way that Clove gets it in The Hunger Games. But the anthology is an excellent collection (even though I stub my toe on it way too often). My graduate textbook can't come anywhere close to being as cool. 

A project in my grad class is finally coming due, and so, with my head high, I'm working very hard to prepare it. It's strange to be in a literature class when my goal in school is to study and produce creative writing; it's fun in some ways, but stressful in others. The gap between college literature classes and graduate literature classes is a big one. And I've always been a tiny person. 

The most important man in my life right now is Robert Southey.

“It is with words as with sunbeams—the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.”
—Robert Southey, Poet Laureate of England, 1813 - 1843.

Robert Southey:
the man who is causing my fingers to cramp from all
of the research I've done.
All of my research, my sleeping hours, and the duration of driving to and from school is dedicated to him. After all, the due date is fast approaching, haha. Southey is one of those underdogs, I think. He's not a part of the big canon of popular poets and writers of the time, like Blake and Wordsworth and Lord Byron. Even though he actually knew them and even though he had written a ton of work and was named Poet Laureate. Well, good for him. Southey should be proud. 

A quick search will tell you that he explored almost every avenue of writing - from epic poetry to travel narratives - and he's written tons of letters in between. Being ambitious but distracted by too many ideas, Southey became a very interesting person the more I read about him. 

The one thing I learned about him that stood out the most is that he was an avid collector of words. He loved obscure texts and strange things, and kept common-place books to store everything he found in his research. He was also very meticulous, giving each scrap of text he squirreled away a proper citation and heading. Wow. When I look at my own chaotic collection of ideas, I can't help but feel like a slob. However did he gain such a habit of keeping everything so organized?  

I am a OneNote addict and I'm sure that if Southey lived today, he would be too. Whether I've found a really striking quote or an idea that keeps me up all night, planning, I put it in my OneNote files. It's such a great program where you can drop and arrange words, images, and links like you would if you were creating a scrapbook - that kind of manageable chaos is appealing to me. Before OneNote, I kept a dozen little notebooks and scribbled stuff in there. Never to be found again. I was always missing my notebook when I needed it. Now I have tabs for each book I'm working on, with subtabs underneath so that each character gets his or her own huge blank page to fill up with inspiration and notes. But I've gotten out of hand. Spring cleaning for me also involves cleaning those tabs up. 

When I write my stories, I usually start by mashing up different images or ideas. It's really fun. But by reading about how Southey tried, and sometimes failed, to patch what he collected into poetry, I felt like I met a kindred spirit across the ages. In one of the articles I'm looking at called "Poetics Of The Commonplace: Composing Robert Southey," author D. Porter said that Southey recognized the weaknesses in his hoarding tendency - that he collects too much because he thinks he'll use it someday, when really he hasn't used half of the quotes and tidbits of information he's gathered already. Ah, word-hoarding. Not quite like the physical television show. His theory, Porter explains, was to read and collect, “the ‘skeleton’ of a work, which he then made into ‘flesh, blood and beauty’ by arranging and digesting the materials he had transcribed in his notebooks” (28). 

I love that image. Because I love skeletons. It makes perfect sense, haha. 

Even though I think I'm getting sick and I've been away from writing anything creative in the last couple days, I'm still glad for the opportunity to have studied Robert Southey. I'm adding his common-place books to my summer reading list, for sure. 

That's right. He's that cool.
BAM! Citation:

Porter, D. "Poetics Of The Commonplace: Composing Robert Southey." Wordsworth Circle 42.1 (n.d.): 27-
33. Arts & Humanities Citation Index. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.

Toof and Tooth

School has officially started. The park lots are bursting like bloated stomachs. Students crawl or outright run to reach their classes in time. The weather is sweaty with torrents of rain in the afternoon. I'm buried deep in lesson plans, new assignments, and my own writing goals. I can barely breathe through the cracks in the pile. But there's something nice about being back too. I love unlocking my office door and shutting out the hallway noise. Sitting at my pumpkin-colored cubicle, I glance at the photos and illustrations tacked on the walls. I remember what had inspired me through my first year of grad school.

With the return of clustered classrooms and red pens comes, of course, the annual doctor appointments. I had ambled through my visit with the dentist and came out with the unsettling knowledge that I had another cavity. And worse - the cavity was on my wisdom tooth. Irony. Irony. Irony. I couldn't help but laugh.

I mean... who gets a cavity there?

I found out quickly that I wasn't alone in my ignorance. I told my friends, complained to my family. And they all said something along the lines of: "Your wisdom tooth? Don't those things just get yanked out?"

Hmm... don't they? I've been lucky enough not to have to get my wisdom teeth pulled. I think it's lucky, though I've heard that the longer you wait to get them pulled, the more painful it is when they do leave your mouth. I kind of wish that parting with one's intelligent teeth would be a more peaceful procedure. I imagine the four teeth wiggling out of my gums, as painless as climbing out of bed when you're wide awake. They'd pack their bags, wave goodbye as they jumped off my lower lip, and set off for a journey of continued enlightenment. But no, it's not like that, is it?

So yesterday I stepped into the very chilly dentist office, read some gossip magazines, and tried not to shiver when I left the left side of my mouth go numb. I got my shot (the dentist was pleasantly surprised when I didn't whine) and watched the metal instruments as they got passed along above my nose. The drilling, the buzzing, the red light - it didn't frighten me. I was riding a wave of relief, thankful that, for once, I couldn't feel a thing.

A little shaky and smiling awkwardly, I left the dentist and headed home to wait for the numbness to dissipate. I was worried that a sudden and intense pain would emerge, so to keep my cool, I found a wonderfully ironic blog to look at: My Milk Toof. I've been a huge fan of this lovely blog for quite some time. Inhae Lee, the talented artist who runs this blog, creates relaxing, whimsical stories and scenes with her two milk teef, ickle and Lardee.

Aren't they adorable? When I read Lee's new posts, I tend to remember how nice it is to actually love your teeth. And pretend they like to watch pancake syrup drip. If there's one thing you have to do after reading this post, it's to check out this blog and coo over it's awesomeness, haha. The numbness lifted with only a minor headache and no tooth pain. Maybe my wisdom tooth used it's x-ray vision to read the blog too. It settled down and went back to sleep.

Tidbits: August Edition

Picture / Photo Find

Something I Did

School is starting soon. I have two weeks left, but that doesn't mean they will be full of freedom. Orientation will block out a few days of each of those weeks; I'll meet new instructors and learn about changes and perhaps see my name somewhere in the new textbook. Doesn't it seem weird for school to start in August? Does anyone out there start later? (And I guess I'm talking about high school and college).

I shouldn't complain though. The weather doesn't change in Florida between the two months. September is just as hot as August. The new school year is close enough for me to close my treasure drawer and put away summer toys. Time to get back to work.

This summer has been exciting, and sometimes boring, and I am looking forward to getting back in the office again. There's a lot of pressure involved in summer vacation. You're required to have fun, goof off, and be unproductive. If you're not any of these things, you get pitying looks that are kind of funny to see. The secret truth of summer vacation is that it's a beautiful illusion; we're all working on something, whether it's paying the bills or taking another step towards our dreams. Although my pile of unplayed video games is getting dusty, I'm still proud of how I spent my time.

Off to school - to the papers, the freezing classrooms, and mandatory fire drills!

A Quote from a Book I Love

So it seems that one of my unconscious goals in life is to collect all of Francesca Lia Block's books. She is, by far, one of my favorite writers. The local library has been so amazing; they carry a lot of her books already, so I've been reading many of her books that I hadn't been able to get a hold of before. However, there are still a lot of them I have yet to read. So I ordered a few of those and happily awaited their arrival in my mailbox.

One of them is the tiny poetry book called Fairy Tales in Electri-City. My first instinct, as a fan of prose, is to latch onto her novels and devour their vibrant imagery and myth. So sometimes it feels like a treat to read nothing but her poetry, and this collection is no exception. Here's a small bit of one of my favorite poems named after the collection title:

once upon a time a man came west to a city
with a lake that glittered silver at sunset
from the scales of the mermaids under the surface
and a park named echo
where the nymphs in the trees
whispered back your words

there was a flock of angels who walked on the pier
beneath the ferris wheel
and a tinkling carousel
ghosts rode in the night

the man fathered a child and called her electra
and when she grew up she found
not only mermaids nymphs and angels
but witches and warlocks too
who would eat your heart like a christmas ham
if you let them

Song I Can't Stop Repeating

"Elf Song" by Priscilla Ahn.

I'm new to Priscilla Ahn, having somehow missed a lot of her music when her first album came out. However, I think I've fallen in love with a lot of her newer songs, including every single on of them on her When You Grow Up album. This song in particular is awfully lovely because it's a story that many people, I believe, can relate to.

When the moon was full
She sat on her stool
And said hello old friend
Could you grant me a wish
And take me away to some place that's different?

So the moon
Sang a tune

And it went like this...

A Writer Thing

86, 643. Oh. my. gosh. This is my word count on Birdcage Girl right now. It's so surreal. You know, I started writing and posting the chapters on only a few months ago. It's strange to think that December will come again - the birthday of my longest novel manuscript to date! I'm kind of stunned by it all, but insanely proud. Now that I'm close to the end, I can't help but marvel at how it feels. Sometimes I feel happy, but, for the most part, my head hurts.

My brain is sucking up all the energy I have in order to make this story complete. I'm almost haunted by it, thinking of nothing else in my idle time during the day. The ending, the ending, the ending. It'll happen soon. And if my heart is racing just thinking about writing it, then I hope that my readers feel the same way when they read it. August is a special month this year because, by the end of it, I plan to hold a finished manuscript in my hands. Warm, like a baby (so I'll have to stand at the printer and scoop it up right away, haha). I'm ready for the inevitable paper cuts. But for now, I have to keep trucking along until the words stop and I find myself at the end of this particular, peculiar, journey.

Video I Watched Too Many Times

Zune commercials! If not anything else, I really feel as if they have a wide array of fantastic commercials (I'll probably end up posting more of them at some point, haha).

Food I'm Craving

Tuna melts *_*

This time, I have nothing insightful to say about it. Only... I had lived on a steady diet of tuna melts when I spent my month in England. There were always fairly-priced and tasted so melty on a cold day outside. I remember when a friend and I sat on a bench with our chins buried in our coats. I had rubbed my hands all over the paper wrapping to gather the warmth.

Photos from We Heart It

Lord Byron is Haunting My Book Cover!

For the past two weeks, I've been reading Jane Austen's Emma in my Romantic Comedies class. This is the last of Austen's books I've had to read, and I was enjoying how well it was written and all the little bits with Mr. Knightly. However, I started to notice something odd about the actual edition we were reading from for the class.

We were reading from an Oxford World's Classic edition. My professor obviously chose it for the excellent notes and background information (including a comparison to Much Ado About Nothing, our first reading of the semester). The woman on the cover is not someone I could picture Emma actually looking like. Her chin is too round and strong, her cheeks too flushed, her look too manly. Not that Emma is a dainty creature. But this woman is not exactly right. While I happen to admit I am a picky cover art person, this one was bothering me more than I imagined it would. Picture us all in a board room type classroom, with one long shiny, wooden table for almost twenty of us to squeeze into, bumping each other constantly with huge leather spinning chairs. Now picture all of our books laid out on the table, all those Oxford World's Classic Emma's displayed at every angle - even reflected by the table.

There was another face I was seeing while staring at the multiple covers across from me. Upside down. And I gasped when I first saw that familiar face. I wanted to jump out of my chair, knocking the two people next to me, shouting, "Guys, did you notice this? Her face, when it's upside down, looks just like Lord Byron!" It was so obvious to me that I wanted to scream. To try and demonstrate the likeness to you, dear readers, I took a picture of the books side by side - Emma upside down and Lord Byron rightside up. If you can't see the similarities for whatever reason, imagine Emma at a distance (like, across a table). That might work better.

Lord Byron. One of the great Romantic poets. You might be familiar with him. Some of you might wish to have known him... perhaps in more ways than a simple hello (I mean, yeah, of course). If you don't know who he is, I suggest you search him when you have free time. I'm a huge Romanticism buff, which is why I say that, but it's an understatement to say that the Romantics have influenced us all. There. My tiny speech, haha.

And I found this bit from one of his long poems, Don Juan, that seems to me to echo the prank he was playing by showing his face to a tired grad student:

"Thus would he while his lonely hours away
Dissatisfied, nor knowing what he wanted;
Nor glowing reverie, nor poet's lay,
Could yield his spirit that for which it panted.
A bosom whereon he his head might lay,
And here the heart beat with the love it granted,
With - several other things, which I forget,
Or which, at least, I need not mention yet."

So I'm trying to imply, by his own words, that perhaps he was terribly bored and lonely. He could have left me alone to taking my notes on Emma in peace. But he reared his ugly (maybe) head just to get a reaction out of me. Maybe he hoped it was love, but I assure you it wasn't. I spent such an intense semester in my senior year of college studying the Romantics. When I see a picture or stumble upon a poem, I smile because it's like seeing an old friend. And, romantic wise, I'd probably sooner go on a date with Shelley or Keats (or even my favorite unknown Romantic poet, Thomas Lovell Beddoes) before ever putting my hand in Lord Byron's. He's just trouble.