Thursday, December 06, 2007
Last night I participated on a panel of contributors to an anthology of DC women writers. It's the first time I've ever had anything anthologized. It was such a strange experience (not the anthologizing but the reading). The story, "Instruments of Torture" is the first and only funny thing I've written since a horrific novel I wrote in college ("Tygers and Berries: A Modern Inferno"...and no, I'm not kidding...a wild romp about two women on a road trip from New Hampshire to New Orleans, full of Dante and Zen...yikes.) Anyway, I am typically accustomed to people in the audience looking at me intently, eyebrows furrowed. But last night I felt like Ellen or Roseanne. Seriously...people were laughing! A love stories about medieval torture instruments...who'da thunk?
We also had our first snowstorm...it feels all festive and holidayee here. We did have a mishap with the Christmas tree...it fell on me while we were watching "Dexter" the other night. TIMBER!!
Sorry for the scatterbrainy post. I promise coherent contemplations in about a week.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Oh yeah...I've added a link to the slideshow of the exhibit on my photo blog in case you can't go see the pictures in real life: www.ephemerafiles.blogspot.com
Monday, November 05, 2007
Check out Big Esmee!!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
12 student stories to grade
60 critiques to grade
6 classes to teach
3 office hours to keep
1 novel to edit (not my own)
1 novel to start editing (my own)
1 photo exhibit to prepare...only 24 days to go
1 hour of volunteering at kindergarten
1 chaperoned trip to a pumpkin patch
1 ballet lesson
1 gymnastics lesson
3 blogs to catch up on
1 storage room to clean
1 photo portfolio competition to enter
1 poetry collection competition to enter
1 pan of enchiladas I've been craving for two weeks now to make
1 harvest dummy to build with the girls
2 Halloween costumes to make (ghost and butterfly or lion or witch)
4 large piles of laundry to fold
1 call to the vet
1 call to the dentist (should have done this 6 months ago)
100's of bills to pay
74 days to Christmas
some sweaters to buy for Kicky since the weather just dropped 30 degrees in the last 2 days
1 loose tooth to nudge
What are you doing this week???
Monday, September 24, 2007
So, on that note, way too much going on here...between getting my photo show ready and teaching and trying to raise these crazy children, I am left with little time, energy, or general gumption. I'm mustering up some tonight though to go hear Edwidge Danticat read from her new memoir at Politics and Prose. I have only read Breath, Eyes, Memory...which I loved. I'm meeting a friend there early on to catch up and browse...maybe treat myself to a new photo magazine.
The panel discussion at The Roundhouse went nicely, and the show (A Lesson Before Dying) was really incredible.
Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean...
Monday, September 17, 2007
This week is going to be busy...teaching and the usual ballet, gymnastics, grading etc... and on Thursday night I'm speaking on a panel at The Roundhouse Theatre in Bethesda about the adaptation of A Lesson Before Dying. It should be a fascinating discussion. My approach has more to do with what happens when a novel is stripped to its bare bones. The other speakers, I believe, will be addressing the more thematic concerns of the novel/play.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Yesterday P and I spent the entire day re-doing our livingroom. My entire body hurts today. I painted...Pebble Path is the color. During the day it looks like Dijon mustard, and at night it looks like a latte. Very strange. P assembled four gigantic floor to ceiling bookcases, and now we are officially the "crazy people with a whole wall of books." Poor sap didn't know what he was in for when he married me. Speaking of which...it's been eight years today since we got hitched. Some pretty great years.
On the writing/book front...some renewed interest and possibilities for Two Rivers. Also, I plan to get back to the super secret summer Scranton project this week. Too long of a hiatus.
Off to start my marathon teaching session in about an hour...writing from a brand new used computer in my office at school. Beats the hell out of the Windows 95 monstrosity I had before.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
We leave for Vermont a week from Sunday, and I am so excited to have a whole month to dedicate to working on my own work. I am going to be a writing, picture-taking fool for a month. I also plan to spend a pretty large chunk of time floating around in an inner tube with the girls.
Also, I just entered a small portfolio of work in Aperture's annual contest. I'm not expecting anything, but it was good to help me focus on selecting the best pictures I've taken so far.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Off to teach my Intro to the Novel class tonight. I wrote almost 4000 words this week. A breakthrough for me. I hope.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Friday, June 08, 2007
Friday, June 01, 2007
Anyway, Dani Shapiro...whose wonderful novel, Family History, I reviewed for the San Diego Union Tribune a few years back has a new novel out called Black and White. It is based, according to the author, on her imaginings of what an adult child (and former subject) of a famous photographer might be like in the aftermath of her mother's fame. The connections to Sally Mann are no secret...and the author makes no bones about this in her interview on NPR. But while the book truly was compelling, well-written, evocative etc... I just kept feeling like there was something wrong with what Shapiro was doing. I mean, Sally Mann is very much alive, as are her children. And while this is fiction, and (according to Shapiro) she used the photos as a jumping off place for this book, the art itself is almost identical to the actual, controversial, Mann photos: a Popsicle-stained chest, a pee-stained bed, a black eye, a child hanging (though from a rope rather than a hay hook). I don't mean to suggest that the novelist has any particular allegiance to what is now a part of our culture...art becomes, to a certain extent, part of our cultural inheritance, a part of our collective visual vocabulary. However, it is not necessarily the assimilation of Mann's now iconic images by Shapiro that bothers me. It is, rather, the premise of the novel itself...that photography, and the photography of one's own children, is, by nature, exploitative. Of course, she does not come out and say this explicitly, but the story is told via Clara (the grown daughter of the fictional Ruth Dunne) who, in her early thirties, is reunited withe her estranged mother after fourteen years. She is so angry, so paralyzed, so stunted by her mother's "work," that she can barely function. The now dying Ruth is depicted as a manic, egotistical, and impossible artist who is completely unable to see beyond her own nose (or camera viewfinder). Fine, fine, and fine. But what really irks me, is that we side with Clara. We have to. She is the heroine of the novel, and the victim or her mother's art. The end of the novel...I won't give it away...means to offer some hope, some resolution for Clara, but, to me, it lacks credibility, because we never really see Ruth as a mother. Not really. We see her through Clara's very own viewfinder...distorted, warped, and larger than life. Now, fine, fine, fine...but what about Sally Mann? I mean, the real woman. The photographer. The mother. What does this mean when an author takes an artist's work, a living artist's work, and then fabricates a life, full of motives and agendas, for that artist? Never mind that in addition to the familiar images Shapiro borrows, there is one fictional photo (published in Vogue) which makes Ruth's character just plain wicked. And there is no such photo in Mann's portfolio...not that I know of anyway. If I were Sally Mann, I would be furious. Indeed, I am so curious to see if there is any fall out from this. Besides, and I hate to knock what is, for all intents and purposes, a very well-crafted and riveting novel...it's been done before. Exposure by Kathryn Harrison is a terrific novel based on the shattered life of a child muse. And, more recently, The Effects of Light by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, examines what it means when childhood and art reside together. Beverly-Whittemore, who herself has modeled for Mona Kuhn, gave a much more compelling argument for the inherent complexities, the gray areas, if you will of the photographer's ethical responsibilities: to her subjects, to the truth of experience, to art.
I started reading this book after I spent the afternoon photographing my own children gleefully running naked through a sprinkler in the backyard. And it plucked a raw nerve. I truly believe that artists, particularly photographers, look to capture moments. To preserve them. I know that I do the same as a writer. Art, for me, is the beauty in my life. And I have spent my entire adult life trying to replicate that beauty with words, and now with pictures. I would hope that Shapiro, as both a mother and a novelist, might understand this too, but I fear that the revelations Clara has come too late and without nearly enough to evoke them. And lastly, I worry what people might infer about Sally Mann, who strikes me as a terrific mother, based on this novel and its sometimes uncomfortably close comparisons to the real artist's work (if not life).
Then again maybe this is all intentional...the author distorting the truth, "staging" the picture, to her own ends? Is writing a novel of this sort any different from the photographer who exploits or manipulates reality in the name of art?
Sunday, May 27, 2007
The girls were delirious. I had some nice grown-up time with old friends and some cool new folks, and then twenty-four hours later, we left again to return to the city...but I feel salvaged somehow.
Friday, May 25, 2007
We're headed off to Deep Creek Lake this weekend. The girls are so excited to go to "the beach." I'm excited to be near the water again too. It's been hotter than hell here, and a lake will be a nice change from the kiddie pool. Though Esmee and Kicky don't seem to mind our suburban beach much at all:
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
Lastly, I am still obsessing over my new love. I can talk f-stops and exposure all over the place. I got shutter speed and white balance on my brain. No room for writing???
Oh, I almost forgot to mention Mother's Day. It was soooo nice. Patrick gave me a tripod. Kicky made an art installation on the front door. And Esmee? Well, just look at her. that's gift enough. We all went to The Capitol Lounge for brunch and then spent the afternoon in the backyard. I even fell alseep in the hammock...though I awoke to a size 11 toddler foot in my face. All in all, I'm happy to be a mermama.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Meanwhile, I am obsessed with my new camera. I have two pictures that I am certain will be included in my upcoming "show" at The Atlas. Here's one of Esmee.
Sally Mann sort of feel to these pictures...I just adore her work, and there are so few photographers who approach children in the way she does. I feel like I'm starting to capture something with the girls...though I'm not sure what. Lucky for me, they are both quite at ease in front of the camera.
Anyway....I am on a summer vacation high right now. How many grown-ups get to have that??!!
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Good news here is that school is OVER come Friday. I actually teach my last class tomorrow morning. I have a hell of a lot of grading to do, but at least I can park myself in the hammock to do that.
I am always buzzing with a sense of possibility this time of year...one of many carryovers of childhood, I think. I am making lists all over the place...summer projects, reading lists, writing goals, etc... I am so excited to work on my photography. The new goal is to have an exhibit of work up at the Atlas's gallery by the end of the year. Poetry is not going so well, and I am debating whether or not I should quit. I'm actually starting to dread writing the poem a day (and, to be honest, I'm a few days behind). I have over a hundred poems, and I think I miss my novel. Would that just be terrible? I hate quitting things, but I also don't want poetry to become a sort of torture either...
Oh yeah....other big news here is that I got my hair cut. A lot. It's the best haircut I've ever had. I feel like some sort of sassy mama now :)
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
So, the ball is rolling. Today the film producer optioned Nearer Than the Sky... I have a great feeling about this. That's the good news of the day -- and a seriously welcome change to an afternoon spent watching the madness at Virginia Tech, imagining my own classroom, my own children in theirs. I can't get any sort of handle on this horror. There was something portentous about this whole day...frigid weather and violent wind. I spent most of the day examining the trees around me, wondering if any of them might come crashing down.
Anyway, here's a lovely picture of our garden before the storm:
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Kicky, on the other hand, exercised remarkable self-control (probably after last year's hard-boiled chocolate barf fest). Esmee wound up with an all-night bellyache as well as an earache which was later diagnosed as a giant acron-size ball of wax in her ear. Beats a jellybean, I suppose.
Three weeks until the semester is over.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Anyway...a few big bits of news here. The first is that I finally bought the new Digital SLR camera I have been coveting for nearly a year now. It's my new favorite possession. It takes amazing pictures...already, and I don't even know how to use it yet. Here's one of Miss E.
Secondly, I booked my flight to San Diego for the Ocean Beach Street Fair and Chili Cookoff. It's one of the things I miss most about OB. And this year it's on my birthday! What a present.
Lastly, I have a producer and screenwriter who really want to work on getting Nearer Than the Sky made into a film. Lovely, lovely people. I am so excited.
Last night was a crazy night, a rockstar night (well as close as I'll get to a rockstar night anyway). I joined a few of the GW faculty at dinner with Vikram Chandra before his reading. His new monster of a book, called Sacred Games (900 plus pages) came out not that long ago. I haven't read it yet...but it sounds fascinating. Vikram was very kind and friendly. Joining us at dinner was Howard Norman who is married to Jane Shore (whom I adore). They have a home in Vermont, and they invited me to swing by this summer. Oh...do I love hanging out with writers. I got a chance to catch up with some of my other colleagues who I haven't bumped into yet this semester, despite my taking up residence in my office.
Three and a half weeks left of school...and then I will be finally be able to get back to work on the novel. Still writing poems, though lately they've been pretty crappy.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I was simply luxuriating in the blissful nothingness of an uneventful springbreak, and now I am a single mother while P globe hops with his buddies. He is in Amsterdam until Wednesday night, and (can you believe it??) his cell phone is for the first time non-functional. This is good for him. I suspect the beers and everything else are good for him too.
I actually managed to get a lot done last week. I collected fifty pages of poetry for a contest...the collection is called "Small Sorrows." I'm as proud of it as you would be of a homely child. I mean, I made it, even if it's not perfect. I also painted an octopus for the girls over E's bed (see below). I revised the novel a little bit, watched a lot of movies ("Half Nelson," "Sherry Baby," and "LoverBoy" -- as well as "Barbie Princess and the Pauper," "Peter Pan," and, tonight, "ET").
But the nose will be pressed back against the old grindstone again tomorrow. Ah well....six weeks until summer break.
Friday, February 23, 2007
The poems are coming along nicely...54 and counting. Today I wrote a nasty bad-love poem using each of the twelve Chinese horoscopic (is that a word?) animals.
I've been reading a lot lately. I finished The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood which just made me cry -- maybe too close to home. I am reading Chris Bohjalian's newest The Double Bind now, which I am amazed by. I'm not sure how he's going to pull off the sort of literary high jinks he seems to be up to in this one, but I'm just along for the ride.
We're talking about putting a second story on the house, and I've been fantasizing about a new office/library. That and a tub that doesn't require the contortionism our existing tub does. Not in the library, I don't think. Though that that might be an idea...
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Today was a weird day. I finally got confirmation from UMD that the position I applied for has been filled...a disappointment, but good to know I made it so far along in the selection process this time. And, the director of the search committee is also the director at Breadloaf, and asked me to join them for a night and a day this summer while I'm in Vermont. So exciting!
I've submitted my poems to two contests so far: The Iowa Review and The Florida Review. Both have a $1000 prize. Now wouldn't that be a treat??!! I am fairly certain my poems aren't quite the caliber they're looking for, but I swear I'll get a poem published before the year is out. All part of the resolution.
I sent Henry the first 40 pages of the new book. God, my heart just aches that Two Rivers is dead in the water. Move on. That's all I can do.
Sorry this is so schitzy. My brain is fractured and fragmented these days.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Sorry for the delay. Here's the last month in a flurry...Flagstaff was wonderful, lots of snow and sunshine. Esmee's birthday, a ride on The Polar Express, belated Christmas celebrations, a night out at Kama Sushi...the best sushi ever. Lots of great times with both sisters and all the family. Then, to San Diego. Oh, my heart. That's where I belong. Every time I have to leave, it feels like I'm tearing off my own skin. We caught up with all of our friends, got a chance to show the girls off, and then spent lots of time at my super duper girlfriend, Heather's house with her husband and her own two beauties. So hard to come home.
THEN...school started. talk about biting off more than you can chew. I'm like a crazy cave man gnawing on the leg of an elephant this semester. Three classes at GW and one on Saturdays at the Writer's Center. I have sixty students. And I KNOW THEIR NAMES. It's nuts. I didn't think there was room in there for sixty more names.
Since we got back, I have thrown a belated class birthday party for Esmee (which went great until I gave a Reeses to a little boy with peanut allergies...he's fine, no reaction, what does that say about what's in a Reeses though???). Here is my birthday lovely...
I have also managed to write 31 poems in the last 31 days. Some suck. Some don't. If I get gutsy I'll post a couple.
But for now, I need a beer and some American Idol.