Ah, waking up at 5 a.m….

Ah, waking up at 5 a.m. -- I've missed it. Somehow I got off this schedule, and it's so satisfying to be back on it. Hope I keep it up. Made my tea, took my medicine, made a first pass at the e-mail (to which I will return). Now to settle down and work for a couple of hours...

I did manage to finally figure out exactly how to modify the mailing list that notifies people about updates to this diary. Hopefully this will take care of bounce messages. It was very simple -- funny how technical things often are, but we avoid them anyway. I have a feeling that my inability to approach fixing my vacuum cleaner (El's promised to have a look at it) falls into this category.

I have a new roommate, did I mention? El, Ian's girlfriend, has moved in. As she is not only incredibly handy (unsurprising, since she works as a theatre tech director), highly efficient at cleaning (years ago, she worked cleaning houses for a living), a good cook (she made cookies last night), *and* a highly cool, interesting and funny person, I have a feeling this is going to go very well, even if the house is a little more cramped now. If I can only survive her taste for puns...it's nice to have another female in the house. Balance the energy.

If anyone wants to give me a three-sentence introduction to the beatniks by 9 a.m. California time, I'd appreciate it. :-)

3:50 - I just finished Bastard Out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison. I was sitting in a classroom, waiting to see if any of my students were coming to office hours today (none did). I was trying not to cry as I finished this book. She doesn't hold back. It is terribly real, and addresses issues of love better than anything I've read in a very long time.

The class I taught went okay. I ran through my material too fast, and was improvising for the last fifteen minutes; I was nervous, and could have taken it slower. I also didn't do a very good job of asking the right questions -- I asked too many questions with yes/no type answers, when I should have been asking more open-ended questions. I also wish I'd had more time to read more Whitman criticism beforehand, because I really didn't feel as if I had as good a handle on the material as I would have liked. I probably also should have concentrated on one passage instead of skipping around as much as I did, but we did manage to raise and discuss some interesting points, and my professor was encouraging, so I'm not entirely dismayed.

A cheering note came in yet another thank you for a rejection letter. I've gotten several of them, but each one still startles me. These authors are so grateful for an editor who takes a little time to explain why they couldn't take the story, and if possible, point them in an appropriate direction for either revision or other markets -- it makes me wonder if the kind of response I've been doing for this anthology is terribly rare. Maybe it's just because it's my first time, and I'll lose energy for it with future editing. Maybe it's because I'm an author as well, so I know just how much it hurts to have your baby sent back. I try to be careful, and so it takes a little more of my time, but it's well worth it in the kind of responses I've been getting. I hope the authors who are still waiting for responses from me (only a few left) don't mind the delay either...

Look, two journal…

Look, two journal entries in a row -- aren't you proud of me? :-)

I finally get a day to quietly work at home. I plan to be exceedingly productive, but it's certainly a relief to be able to take a half hour to read if I feel like it, or walk to the grocery store when I get tired of sitting on my butt...

Some of you may remember my talking about Sylvia Louise Engdahl in the past. She wrote some of my favorite childrens' books, which are now out of print. She had a request, and I pass it along and encourage you to follow up on it -- the books are truly brilliant:


My "Star" trilogy is presently being considered for reprinting by Meisha Merlin Publishing, a small new press that specializes in quality paperback reprints of science fiction. They state at their Web site that they will try to reprint the books for which they get the most requests, and have listed mine among those suggested at www.angelfire.com/biz/MeishaMerlin/suggest.html.

Therefore, if any of you care to put in a word for _This Star Shall Abide_, _Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains_, and _The Doors of the Universe_ by e-mail, it might help to get them back in print (this time as adult novels). Meisha.Merlin@usa.net is the e-mail address to write to.

- Sylvia Louise Engdahl


Not much else to report, but perhaps I'll check in with y'all later today...

9 p.m. -- Well, I just had some chai, which is perhaps a mistake, since I had thought it was decaf and it's not, and I had planned to go to sleep and get up at 5 and I'm not sure if that's going to happen now....

I just wanted to stop by here and put in a plug for high school English teachers. Why, you ask? Because some day you too may be about to teach Whitman's "Song of Myself" to a class of dewy-eyed freshman (or more accurately, bored, tired freshman who would much rather be taking the hip lesbian lit. class than Survey of American Literature), you too may be facing the prospect of teaching this class with a) a brilliant and incisive and scary professor looking on who is theoretically on the side of his TA and will jump in and bail you out if necessary but boy, that would be humiliating, and b) an almost-total ignorance of the subject, and c) a seeming inability to get through me than the first twenty lines of this approximately fifty-page poem, which David informs you (yes, you know David too) is really only a portion of a longer work, that in fact the entire thick book, _Leaves of Grass_ is in fact one large poem in Whitman's mind and there is certainly no way you are going to read the whole darn thing by tomorrow, much less explicate it to a class of freshman who have only read "Song of Myself" and only that if you're very lucky, since most probably had the same experience with it you did.

It is then that you, if you are blessed, call up your high school English teacher who allows you to skip over the pleasantries and the catching up from the last year in which you basically haven't called her even though you've certainly been meaning too, especially considering her new job is even on the same Coast and you're on the same time zone, no she just goes ahead and calmly asks what you think of Whitman and you tell her and she claims to have much the same problems, and then in a few well-chosen sentences offers you not only a way into the poem, a way into sympathizing with it, using Ginsberg of all people, but even an approach that the freshmen will probably like. *And* by the end of ten minutes or so, you are not only relieved, but also enthused, excited about the prospect of teaching Ginsberg and Whitman; you even think you might like Whitman, and *then* you do your catching up, and then she sends you off to do your research, and you find the Ginsberg poem on-line and actually sit down and manage to read through all of "Song of Myself" finding more than a few lines that you appreciate this time around, even if you do still find much of it somewhat overly exuberant and a little hard to take. And you are no longer in a total panic, just appropriately nervous and edgy which will probably even help tomorrow.

High school English teachers rock.

This morning, class…

This morning, class discussed one of my recent pieces, "Too Much King Arthur" (a name that must change). What amazed me about the discussion was not that they liked it, because people have liked my work before, after all. Rather, it was that there they were, nine people, focused for an hour and a half on my story, on a detailed, in-depth, serious discussion of it. That they should consider it worthy of that...I think it came home to me today what a gift this time in graduate school has been. When May arrives and I finish and the monthly loan bills start arriving, I must remember this; I must remember what it feels like to have colleagues whose work you respect, colleagues who are talented writers and critics in their own right, to have such people seriously discuss the merits and flaws of your writing. Interestingly, I think I had to start taking my own work seriously before this could really happen -- or rather, until I could see it happening. I've been getting mail from readers for a long time, readers who took my writing more seriously than I did. Maybe I should have been listening to them more carefully. Maybe I would have wasted less time.

Haven’t had time to…

Haven't had time to start the Matthews yet -- busy with Maiden Voyage stuff. Still behind on sending out letters, by quite a bit. Going to try to plow through this weekend...it takes a lot longer to send out personalized letters than one would think. A few people have written and thanked me for writing such nice rejection letters, though, which certainly helps motivate me to do so. It's not actually that hard to be nice -- I got a lot of really good stories, and even the ones I'm not taking ought to be publishable somewhere (most of them, at any rate).

It's strange being in Chicago again. Every time I come back it seems like fewer of my real friends are here. Even people who I wasn't particularly close to but who seemed a part of my life here are missed... I think that after this June, when both Bryan and Kevin graduate and leave, I'm going to have little reason to come back. There's only so long that I can keep coming to the math department teas...

The ending of an era. :-/ Ah well.. I think I'm taking myself too seriously again. I better get back to work...that's the only sure cure for the blues.

Due to some complicated…

Due to some complicated circumstances, I had to leave for Chicago on short notice. I'll be here until Monday night, so if you're a friend of mine trying to call me and wondering why I'm not returning your calls, that's why. Nothing terrible happened -- don't worry.

I'm way way behind in my e-mail. I'm going to try and clear the backlog in the next two days, *and* try to send out responses to all the people who submitted to my anthology. It appears to be a go! I can't say now when it'll actually be completed and published, but I'll certainly let you all know when I do.

I'm diving deep into my MFA thesis. I still can't tell what the shape of it will be, and I'm revealing far too much of myself to be comfortable publishing it right now, so I'm not sure why I'm writing it, except that my advisor tells me publishing is not everything and she's probably right. If you're wondering what it's like, I recommend reading Dorothy Allison's collection of essays, _Skin_. I recommend reading them in any case -- they're funny and frank and brutal and sexy and honest above all. She's the author of a novel, _Bastard Out of Carolina_, which I haven't read yet but heard was amazing. Almost won the National Book Award, and there's a movie version somewhere. As I was reading _Skin_ I felt as if she were talking directly to me and to my current work -- spooky. I hear she hangs out in S.F. -- I'm tempted to track her down and offer to buy her lunch...

I also just finished Feist's _Rage of a Demon King_, mostly on the plane. (Good plane reading -- light and fast-paced; rescued me from having to watch _Air Bud_ for entertainment/distraction). I've been a fan of his for a while, (though I prefer the companion series written by Janny Wurts, the Empire novels), and reading another Midkemia (his imaginary land) book is like visiting an old friend. Very comforting. Next on my list is Susan Matthews's _Prisoner of Conscience_, the sequel to her first Inquisitor novel, which I found deeply interesting and disturbing. (Imagine you're a young doctor, a brilliant young doctor. Then imagine you're growing up in a somewhat totalitarian regime, though as a member of the aristocracy, that hasn't touched you so much. Then imagine that with pressure from your father and the government, you have been required to turn your skills into their service, as a torturer, an Inquistor. You do so with loathing and disgust, taking their training, learning how to use your skill and knowledge of healing to destroy a human being...and then, worst of all...imagine you discover that you like it. What then?) I can't remember if I've recommended _An Exchange of Hostages_ before, but in case I forgot to mention it...there you go.

I'm procrastinating, I'm afraid -- afraid to face that mass of e-mail. Best to just dive in, though...I could talk books for hours, days, years -- oh, yeah -- so *that's* why I got an English degree...

2:20 -- My little sister is just too cute. She sent me a coloring book page over the web, that she colored herself. (Note that she is currently 18 and pre-med in college :-). If you want to try doing such yourself, take a look at http://www.kidalex.com/.

Hey, everyone. Mills’s…

Hey, everyone. Mills's computer room got flooded, so e-mail was down 'til Monday, and the dial-in lines are still down, so I can't log in from home. I've been doing the bare minimum of e-mail stuff as a result, which is why you haven't heard from me.

On the positive side, I've been doing lots of writing (as a result? :-) and will be sending a couple of stories and a poem to the first readers list. Let me know what you think of them...

Will hopefully do a longer entry soon -- there's lots of stuff rattling around in my brain these days and I may talk some of it out to you. Right now I should get back to holding office hours, though. :-)

I’m reading Anne…

I'm reading Anne Lamott's _Bird by Bird_ (and why didn't any of the people who told me that it was an insightful, fascinating, true book on writing also tell me that it's utterly hilarious? I would have read it much earlier). (This isn't one of the funny bits, though) Listen:

"It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company. This is what the writer has to offer." (204)

I love throwing parties, having people to dinner, making tea for someone. I'm good at the details (having an organizational mind helps), and there's some satisfaction in setting pretty table, or having all the dishes come out at the same time, on time, or in decorating the house. But it's really simply providing for people, feeding and watering them, satisfying primal urges in them perhaps better and with more care than they would have for themselves that night -- that's where the real satisfaction lies.

I realized at some point when I was in college that I never said 'thank you' to my mother for making me dinner...and that it was when people thanked me for cooking for them that the hours in the kitchen and the burned heel of my hand and the dishes still to be done and the frustration of the rice that burned and had to be made again, delaying dinner by twenty minutes -- that it was then that it all became worthwhile -- more than worthwhile, actively joyful. I tried to remember to thank my mother, for dinner at least, after that. I often forgot.

Wherever I go, I tend to meet people fairly quickly, and then I start to organize things. Dinners, potlucks, parties, brunches. I love doing this. What startled me about this passage of Lamott is that I have never before connected it with my desire to write.

We are all so alone -- anything that makes us feel more connected is a powerful thing. Anything that lets us know the Other, and lets them know us...the scared, shivering us, hiding in a corner, sure that everyone else is accepted and welcome and known.

I was generally a cheerful child. I think it was only in college, when I realized that everyone felt just as alone and Other as I did that I began to be actually happy. Because, of course, it meant that I was no longer alone.

a circle…

a circle closing

for now i will comfort myself with
eager reassurances that you will
return. i will wait impatiently.
i will send letters, and turn over
the memories of your words, of
your hand on my cheek, and that
indecipherable look in your eyes.

i will write poetry, and send it to you.
i will inflict it on the world,
that they may know that i love you.

i will regret the wasted days, and
hope you have not taken them too much
to heart. i will wonder what you
are thinking of me these days. i
will not dare to ask, except in
poetry. at least you will forgive me that.

i will fall into incoherencies,
the last refuge of stumbling love.

“Hope is the power of…

"Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate." - Chesterton

Okay, the circumstances aren't really even close to desperate. But I *am* hopeful that I will soon crawl out from under this teetering pile of writing (MFA thesis, idea for new book that would make a great movie) and sewing (I made my first real dress!) and reading (freshman English papers and 18th century American writing, oof!) and other stuff (finishing sending out rejection letters, waiting anxiously to hear back from Masquerade on whether they liked the anthology, spending time with Karina before she leaves, practicing for a music thingie I'm performing at, etc. and so on...) and actually talk to you guys.

Consider this as an arm sticking out from the pile to wave hello...

Despite everything, I'm having a good time. Not to worry. :-)

Okay, this story is too…

Okay, this story is too funny, even if probably not true:

There was a guy in Florida, Cuban by nationality, who had been unable to get US citizenship and was due to be deported. A couple of MIT students, who had heard about this guy and were after a lark, hopped a plane down to Florida and took this guy to a tattoo studio.

What they tattooed on to him was the DES algorithm, in some computer readable form. Thus rendering the guy unexportable. The US government offered to scrape the tattoos off, but they guy's lawyers screamed something about human rights abuses. The way I heard it, the guy was eventually granted citizenship.

In other news, I got e-mail from a 9th grader who wants to do a high school poetry report on me. *grin* This is even better than the student from Thailand who read one of my poems out loud to her class as her favorite poem. I wonder what it is about my poetry that makes it appeal to high school students. Mushiness, probably... Whatever the reason, I'm grateful. Made my day.