Long talk with Bob yesterday -- he's done a first read of the novel draft, and likes it, yay! He thinks the editor will love it, which is nice to hear. It would have been even nicer if he'd said that he loved it and thought it was brilliant, the best thing since sliced bread, it changed his world, but perhaps that was a bit much to hope for. We're going to talk further on Monday, once he's had a chance to go over it again, chapter by chapter, scene by scene.
We also talked about the nonfiction book I think I want to write next, the combination memoir / travel book / history / cultural exegesis thing. Bob's v. excited about that, and I think my current plan is to really try to work on getting three chapters and an outline together in the next 3-4 months, so that he can try to sell it. I'm feeling very under-read in creative nonfiction, though -- any recommendations for fabulous books would be very welcome. I've read perhaps a dozen or so, and they were so varied in type that most of them aren't close to what I'm doing. I think what I want to do might be sort of close to Pico Iyer's Video Night in Kathmandu, or Amitav Ghosh's In an Antique Land. More books like that would be very helpful right now.
Last night was the scholarship auction here. I'm very pleased to say that when I got up and said a few words about Sri Lanka and the tsunami, and then passed my hat, we collected $600 right there from the less than hundred people in the room. Writers are generous folks. That's in addition to whatever's shown up in the tsunami relief donation box sitting in the room where we do our readings. I think in the end, this workshop will have raised a good thousand or so in the last week, which is lovely. We're planning on donating it to the Canadian Red Cross, to have the funds matched by the Canadian government.
In addition, for the scholarship fund, I donated one of my advance review copies of BiM, which went for around $40, I think, and four batches of curry powder, which went for $50 each. I need to go home and make curry powder. That sounds like a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon, right now, slow roasting spices. I miss cooking. It's been weeks.
This morning I gave my lecture (each of the faculty gives a lecture here, as do each of the graduating students). Mine was entitled "Identity Issues for the Straight White Male" and I think it went over really well -- I heard students talking it over hours later, which is very nice. :-) I presented for about twenty minutes on what I think of as Diversity / Identity 101, then I did a ten minute memoir of my developing consciousness of my own identities (geek, female, sexual being, upper-class, queer, poly, writer, sex activist, ethnic position, etc...).
After that was the fun part -- I had them get up (although I gave people the option of sitting out the exercise, which a few out of a hundred or so did) and move around the room, dividing them according to their various identities. So for example, I had all the white people stand up. I had all the men go to the back of the room and the women come forward (apologizing to the transgendered as we went). I divided the monosexuals from the bi/pansexuals. I had them divide into upper / middle / lower or working class. I divided the rural from the urban, the religious/spiritual from the agnostic/atheist -- and was surprised to find a bunch of mystics among the atheists. I asked them to consider age, to consider political orientation. I asked them to think about where they would stand if I asked the criminals to come forward -- those who got caught, and those who didn't. I asked about the adulterers, the cheaters. Finally, as they sat down, I asked them to think about whether they had lied at any point during the exercise. Then I had them write for five minutes about their identity, with discussion following.
Many people did come up to my afterwards and say that it worked really well for them -- that it made them uncomfortable and exposed, but in a productive way. I worry a little that those who may have been made unproductively uncomfortable wouldn't come and tell me about it in this kind of environment. Hopefully, I'll hear about it if so -- if any of you are reading this, do please e-mail me and let me know, or post anonymously here if you're not comfortable e-mailing. That exercise was new for me, and if it didn't work for people, I want to know, and know why. But right now, it seems like it was pretty successful.