On Teaching Writing.

posted in: Art, Work 4
One day, I'll have a circular rug and a redhead in a hunter hat in my class. Until then, it's just tables and chairs. Photo: Wikipedia
One day, I’ll have a circular rug, long dangly earrings, and a redhead in a hunter hat in my class. Until then, it’s just tables and chairs. Photo: Wikipedia.

Back in March, I was asked by an accomplished and incandescently beautiful woman at the University of Chicago if I was interested in teaching some writing classes over there. I yawned and told her I was washing my hair but that yeah, maybe that would work, and I told her I’d call her later that week. I forgot about it and then remembered and texted her, “hey u wat up. still want me 2 teach?”

Actually, that is not what I did. What I did was a backflip. I ran around the room and yipped like a dog. I levitated. Really? Teach at the University of Chicago? Teach writing at the University of Chicago? I sat down so my legs would stop wiggling and said that yes, I would like to do that very much. Would she like me to pitch some ideas for classes or was there something she had in mind? Could I get her anything? Coffee? Tea? A new car, perhaps? She said she’d love to hear my pitches — no car or coffee required — and within the week, all three of the classes I pitched to her were put on the schedule. These are they:

Blogging as Reflection & Reputation (4-week)
Blogging isn’t just for political junkies or mommies — though if that’s the kind of blog you’re interested in writing, that’s great. Blogging at its best offers a platform for daily writing practice, self-reflection, the opportunity to understand the world a bit better, and to give yourself a presence online that extends far beyond your Facebook or LinkedIn page. In this 4-week workshop, learn the basics of blogging, do’s (#consistency) and don’ts (#oversharing), and gain confidence as a writer.

Stories Onstage (4-week)
Everyone has a story to tell. Our stories can be sad, hilarious, thought-provoking, completely nuts, quiet, loud, weird, sweet — and are often a combination of all of that. In this 8-week course, we’ll put your stories onstage in the form of solo monologues. We’ll stretch them, bend them, shape them and generally play around with them to form a piece you’ll be invited to perform for an invited audience the last week of class. Writing and performance go hand in hand here to illuminate your life, your story. Bring paper and your voice. 

Beyond Slam: Poetry on Its Feet (4-week)
You may be familiar with the poetry slam: competitive performance poetry created in Chicago in 1982. Slam is here to stay, but the old tropes have fallen away, leaving the strongest elements of performance poetry as a gift to us all. In this workshop, write your life in poems, hone solo performance skills from a professional poet/slammer, and come closer to what poetry was originally meant to be: an aural tradition.

This poetry class is the first one up, actually; it began this week. The students I have are engaged, interesting and interested, funny, and excited to learn everything there is to learn about delivering a poem effectively while standing in front of a microphone. My core objective is to break them of any preconceptions of what a poem onstage looks like. I’m drilling into them that the typical slam poetry rhythm and schtick is dead, dead, dead; the only poetry worth sharing onstage, worth honing and rehearsing to perfection is the original poem, the true-to-your-own-voice poem, the poem that no one else could write but you. I can teach them how to win a slam, but I’d rather make it okay for them to be themselves.

You don’t have to be a student at the University of Chicago to take classes at the Writing Studio. So if you live in Chicagoland, come on by. The next class up is the blogging class (starts July 11th) and the Stories Onstage class is slated for September right now, but that might move up.

Teaching scares the poop out of me. But saying no to something that scares the poop out of me scares…more poop out of me. Did I mention I’m a writing teacher?

Atlanta, Silk Pajamas, and A Twist At the End.

posted in: Day In The Life, Story, Work 0
It could be an ad for silk pajamas. It could be an ad for something...else. Either way, image courtesy Wikipedia.
It could be an ad for silk pajamas. It could be an ad for something…else. Either way, image courtesy Wikipedia.

This coming week has me heading over to Atlanta to teach and speak at the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo. This is one of my favorite gigs to do because I get to see Marlene. Marlene is the brains behind the Atlanta operation among other, similar operations and has been a friend and mentor to me for years. She was most publicly my friend when I went down in flames in Atlanta a number of years ago; without her help, I might still be casting about in the halls of a hospital in Georgia, filling out endless forms in triplicate and not getting the good kind of pain medicine.

Whenever I go to Atlanta, I am reminded of the first time I went to Atlanta. I was traveling with Bari; like Marlene, Bari is the sort of person you want around when the zombie apocalypse comes. It was awhile ago, but I remember Bari needed to drive to St. Louis to deliver something to her grandmother. That sounds like a cover for something, but I think it was legit. Bari grew up in the Atlanta area and her parents still lived there; for some reason, it made sense for her to drive to Atlanta and then go on to grandma’s house. Bari and I were living together that summer and she asked me if I wanted to go. I had no plans and I loved Bari. We got in her SUV and got on the road.

Bari’s family home was the finest house I had ever been in up to that point. The architecture, the interior, the grounds — these people had impeccable taste in every area in which impeccable taste matters (e.g., food, art, dogs, etc.) And they were all so nice! Within an hour of being welcomed inside, I got used to the fact that there was a grand staircase in the front of the house and a back staircase in the back of the house. I wanted to live in the kitchen and could have, perhaps with ten or eleven other people.

Bari showed me to my own guestroom where I had my own bathroom and my own balcony, I think. There were silk sheets on the bed and I had packed silk pajamas. When I got into bed that night, I really slid around.

All the comfort of that home was thrown into sharp relief the week after: I went to visit my boyfriend Dan in New York City and we heard a dog get shot. Dan lived in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a decade before Bushwick began to be remotely cool or safe. I didn’t like being there, but I really liked Dan. One night, we were going nuts listening to this dog bark and bark and bark and bark and bark and then we heard a gunshot and the dog didn’t bark anymore.

In life, as in patchwork, contrast is what makes things interesting.

This Sunday, A Marriage.

posted in: Day In The Life, Family 2
It's hard for me to express how much I enjoy this photograph. Bride and groom, Moscow, 1990. Photo: Wikipedia.
Exhibit A. Bride and groom, Moscow, 1990. Photo: Wikipedia.

Not long ago, I publicly noodled on proper attire for my sister’s upcoming wedding. I have made my selection — simple, tailored black frock with pink Yves Saint Laurent heels — and it’s a good thing I have. The wedding is on Sunday!

Even now, I am trundling along on a train to Green Bay, inching closer and closer to the occasion. In a few hours time, I will be scooped up by my elder sibling who is coming in from New York. She has procured a car so that we can drive north to Door County. Once we reach the tip of the peninsula we will drive the car onto the car ferry and float over to Washington Island. And then it’s game on.

My sister and her betrothed have been up on the Island for a number of days, now, getting everything ready. The wedding is taking place at our home there and the kids will get married outside, though I’m not exactly sure where they’ve set up shop for that; they might be down by the water or maybe up closer to the house. Understanding the location of the actual ceremony is on my list of things to do.

The next few days will be dispatches from the wedding. Consider me your Girl Friday, reporting on The Wedding Of The Century. It’s gonna be good, I assure you: a magnificent wedding dress on an exquisite bride, well over 100 guests, a pig roast, and actual, literal fireworks. Seriously, there are going to be fireworks at my sister’s wedding. I know, right?

If you’re the praying kind, pray that it will not rain and that there will not be a bug issue. If you are not the praying kind, pretend you are for two seconds and pray that it will not rain and that there will not be a bug issue. Merci.