Tuesday, October 29, 2013

About the time I ditched Nevada for Nevada Day

Nevada Day occurs annually on the last Friday of October. It's a holiday for Nevada to celebrate its Nevada-ness. Or something like that.

The point is: we had the day off school. Since I feel no particular obligation to Nevada (it's nice and all, but I haven't left the state since I arrived), I decided to spend my weekend in Los Angeles. This was most certainly the correct decision.

It was a lovely time. I stayed with Katie, my good friend from high school, at her gorgeous apartment by Griffith Park. The weather was unseasonably warm, and I enjoyed wandering her adorable neighborhood--very high-end hipster. Lots of trendy cafes, bookstores, boutiques, and the like. I even walked right past Kristen Schaal, one of my favorite comedians. I didn't say anything to her because I didn't want to be that person. I didn't realize running into celebrities in L.A. was something that actually happened, though.

On Friday evening we attended Mindshare L.A.'s 6th Annual Halloween Masquerade. Picture the most stereotypically Los Angeles event you could possibly attend. You are picturing this event. We drove to an area full of warehouses that appeared abandoned at first glance, but were actually full of restaurants and markets and studios. The masquerade took place at Lot 613, an art gallery in one of these warehouses. Practically everyone we talked to was an artist or worked in the entertainment industry. Before the party started, Mindshare brought in a few people to give talks. For instance, the masterminds behind the waiver-requiring haunted house experience "Blackout" discussed how they got into the business and how they scared people. We played a zombie infestation logic game with a bunch of strangers. We peered into interactive art exhibits. We danced to the music of "DJ Pumpkin" (who people seemed far too excited about--although any DJ who kicks the party off with Bowie is alright by me) in a blacklight room where painters were creating glowing pictures. I ran into my second B-celebrity of the day when Santino Rice served me a piece of raw-vegan-gluten-free-cacao-with-dates pie. I regret not asking him to introduce me to RuPaul.

Now we get to the part of the weekend where I basically just ate food. Saturday we had brunch #1 of the weekend at Home, Katie's favorite brunch location. We spent a lazy day shopping and lounging at Katie's apartment, and later I drove to Kenzie and Alex's new HOUSE to catch up with them. It's strange thinking of my friends as homeowners, but that they are--a beautiful 1914 flipped place with a cute front porch and an extensive garden in the back. We were going to go to a hipster hot-dog restaurant in Santa Monica for dinner, but the line was unnecessarily long, so instead we went across the street for Carolina BBQ. Pulled pork. Delicious.

Later I went back to Katie's and carved pumpkins with three of her friends. They discussed D&D and WoW and I was confused but I carved a pretty awesome Night Vale pumpkin, so all was well. (ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD.) We drank hot apple cider and watched scary YouTube videos until 2 a.m.

We kicked off Sunday with brunch #2 at Cafe Figaro, a French restaurant with myriad brunch options. We people watched. We meandered. We checked the air pressure in Katie's tires. And then, alas, it was time for me to return to Las Vegas and all my grad school obligations.

I can't really get the post-vacation blues, though. It may be a busy week, but Justin Torres is coming to do a craft talk with us today! Meeting all these critically well-received authors makes me want to write even more.

Speaking of the craft talk--that's in a half hour. I should go. Until the next adventure...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I'm Considering a Move to L.A.

Well, not a move--a visit. And not considering--I am indeed going. Tomorrow, in fact. You'll have to excuse the imprecise title. It's an Art Brut song. Many adventures await me in the Golden State, but I want to save everything for when I get back, so no details yet.

Instead let me tell you what's been happening this past week.

The exhaustion never ends. I thought last week was busy, since we had to finalize our students' midterm grades. I'm afraid that the upcoming weeks, however, are going to be much worse. I have an essay due for Gothic Fiction class next Thursday, a pedagogy presentation due next Friday, and I have to submit my next fiction piece for workshop next Friday as well. That's what I'm most worried about; I have no idea what I want to submit. I've been working on a series of linked flash pieces, but I know they're not ready for workshop yet. I've started writing the gothic fiction piece that we'll turn in at the end of the semester for Maile's class. I suppose that if I managed to bang out the rest of that I could workshop it, but I don't know that I'll be able to finish in time. There is one older piece I could submit, since it's at least a finished draft, but I'm afraid. It's weird. In terms of how it's written, I mean. It's written in letters and report cards and IM conversations. I don't want to be laughed out of the classroom if it doesn't work.

I'll have to think about it.

I'm still stuck on what to do with Pretending to Know You. I want to keep it going in Vegas, but it's difficult to find the time, or even the inspiration. If anyone can suggest a viable Las Vegas angle (i.e. people on the CTA in Chicago), I'd be grateful. I am editing a manuscript of several PTKY stories from Chicago to submit to a few chapbook contests. That's another thing I have to finish--the deadline for most of the contests is November 1st.

I did lots of work (too much work) for Pedagogy class over the weekend, but I did manage to have some fun as well. Saturday evening was the MFA girls' night. Me and the other lady-writers gathered at Jean, Brittany, Austin, and Shaun's for an evening of snacks and wine and chitchat, and it was delightful. (We kicked Austin and Shaun out first, of course. Actually the men decided to have their own guys' night. I'm sure it wasn't as good, although I did hear it may have involved shirtlessness?) On Sunday night I went to see Gravity with a few other MFA-ers. The cinematography was gorgeous, but I had a difficult time suspending my disbelief. The dialogue was often cheesy, and absurd stereotypes abounded. (How do you know it's the Chinese space station? The floating ping-pong paddle, of course! And you know the Russians have vodka stowed away on the ISS.) Nevertheless, I was holding my breath most of the time.

Today Dr. Roop observed my English class. I think it went well. I talked about logical fallacies today, so I showed the kids the "burn the witch" clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. They seemed to like that.

That's about all I can think of for now, which is a good thing, since I have to change clothes and go to Zumba. Exhaustion is not an excuse for laziness! I shall write again when I return from the sunny climes of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Blog That Writes Itself

Or at least this would be the blog that writes itself, assuming I could find the time to transcribe everything. It's an unusually hectic week; our students turned in their second writing projects, so we had to grade all those, and then they took their midterms, so we have to grade all those, and the university demands that we officially submit their midterm grades by Friday. Bureaucracy sucks.

Friday night Michael and I launched The Salted Lash at Atomic Liquors. It was a fun event, hosted by the Writers of Southern Nevada. We sold a few zines, and we got to talk to lots of local authors who are fairly commercially successful. I'm excited about the future. We're gonna make business cards.

After that we proceeded to run into two tourists from Ireland because of course we did. Why wouldn't we? This is the ridiculous life of an MFA student, after all. They joined us as we partied it up at a few bars in the downtown area.

Saturday was full of procrastinating and grading and more procrastinating. Sunday I got sick. It's been going around. I called in to the writing center and I watched something like twelve episodes of 30 Rock. I also managed to grade eight student essays because I am made of magic.

Monday I gave my first midterm, which was a rather relaxing experience, actually. I didn't have to plan a lecture, so I read for fiction workshop the whole time they took their test. I had them apply the various aspects of rhetorical situation and stasis theory to Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," so I'm almost looking forward to grading some amusing essays tomorrow.

Today was busy, and I've been so sleep deprived that I thought I was actually going to faint at one point. (I'm going to bed directly after finishing this blog entry.) In the writing center I encountered one English major who had somehow managed to never analyze a poem. That was unexpected, to say the least. In Gothic Fiction class I led discussion on Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," which, if you haven't read it, is essentially the most horrifying story ever written. I highly recommend you take the time to look it over. People seemed to have a lot to say, so I think that went relatively well. Although it's difficult to imagine it not going well simply because the story itself has so much depth. I could have talked about a million issues; it was difficult narrowing it down to three.

This evening, dear readers, was spectacular. The Black Mountain Institute brought George Saunders to speak. Yes, that George Saunders. The guy who, according to The New York Times, wrote the best book of 2013--in January. It turns out that one of our professors, Doug Unger, was Saunders' fiction professor at Syracuse, and that another of our professors, Maile Chapman, was Saunders' fiction student at Syracuse. So they all chatted together, and what a lovely and insightful discussion it was. He even signed a book for me. (I'm relatively certain it says, "with best wishes," but it kind of looks like "with best wife," which cracks me up.)


This is why MFA programs are cool. I mean, they'd be cool anyway. But to get to talk about craft with someone like George Saunders--that's priceless.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Procrastination & Promotions

I had a wonderful reason to procrastinate this weekend, as the lovely miss Leta came to visit me! She's winning the best friend contest at the moment.

A recap of our adventures:

Upon her Saturday evening arrival, we went to Crown & Anchor for dinner, since I knew Leta's affinity for British pubs after her days in London. From there we headed to Casa de Jean-Brittany-Austin-Shaun for this year's first meeting of the Good Hair Fiction Club. It's an informal reading/workshop in which the fiction students get together and talk about what they've been writing. Jean was kind enough to allow Leta to join us--she even brought her own piece to read. I'm sure everyone was awed by Leta's mad writing skills. I know I was.

Afterwards we went back to my place, watched Star Trek Into Darkness with Lulu, and ate the delicious chocolate cookies that Lulu had baked earlier that day. We then went to bed and talked until 4 a.m. This became a pattern.

The next day I had to work in the writing center, but after that I proposed a trip to Sunset Park. We meandered, looked at the ducks and geese, talked some more, etc. We ate dinner at The Dispensary (delicious-burgers-divey-goodness), and then we went to the Freakin' Frog, where we were joined by the Shauns, Austin, Olivia, and Lulu. Leta wanted to see what my normal life was like out here, so I figured she needed the full practically-on-campus bar treatment. It was a little weird; I've never seen the Frog so dead. We still had a good time, though. Drank some beer, played Exquisite Corpse. Afterwards, Leta introduced me to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, which is basically my new favorite thing. I'm a sucker for creepy. Then we talked until 3 a.m.

Monday I had conferences with my students (ugh), and later Leta accompanied me to fiction workshop. After critiquing Haider and Dan's stories, we all headed (as usual) to Stake Out, where we drank more beer and ate free Monday-Night-Football-halftime hot dogs. Yum. Later we listened to more Welcome to Night Vale, and we talked until 2 a.m. Never doubt the ability of two best friends to talk.

Yesterday we went to Mint Indian Bistro for lunch because it is freakishly delicious. We wandered around campus for a while, and then we went to American Gothic class, where Leta basically owned everyone else with her insightful comments. Get that girl into grad school!

After that we headed to the airport. I considered stitching our arms together, or perhaps biting my arm and hers and letting the wounds heal together, so that we could be conjoined twins and she could stay forever; although Leta considered these ideas appealing (because we are both equally as bizarre), she was forced to reject my proposals in favor of returning to Denver. I was sad to see her go. It was nice to have someone here for a while who actually knows me. I love my new friends here, and they sort of know me, but they don't know know me. Hopefully they will someday.

Speaking of the difference between knowing and knowing knowing, you should read my friend Jane's Dictionary.com blog post, which is about just that--reduplication.

As far as the promotion goes, I am no longer the intern of The Salted Lash. No, fair readers--I am now the assistant editor of said publication. I've always wanted to work on a publication of some kind, so the fact that I'm working for two--the zine and Witness--is exciting. I can't wait for the launch party on Friday, and to start taking submissions for the second issue.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)

Yeah, that's right. I used a song by The Monkees as the title of my post. Deal with it.

I borrowed the aforementioned song title because LETA IS COMING TO VISIT ME TOMORROW AND I'M SO EXCITED WHAT EVEN WHAT EVEN WHAT

You'll hear more about besties in Vegas after that actually happens. In the meantime, let me fill you in on what's happened over the past week.

The Writing Center has been insane lately, probably because midterms are coming up soon. Honestly, I thought I'd like working in the Writing Center far more than I actually do. For some reason I assumed that I'd prefer working with students one-on-one, when in reality I far prefer teaching my class. I don't like planning for the class or grading for the class, but the part where I actually teach them is great. We have so many ESL students come into the Writing Center that I always seem to be giving the same advice: watch your plurals, watch your articles. I'm happy to try to help them, but I feel like the aid I can give them isn't particularly effective.

I've been quite productive this week. I finished grading my students' first major essays, turned in my midterm exam materials and final writing project materials to my pedagogy professor, read for Gothic Fiction class, read for Witness, cleaned my room, cleaned my bathroom, and repaired the towel rack with my handy toolkit--all this while still managing to meet up with friends several times. Not that exciting, perhaps, but definitely further proof that I am The True Champion.

On Thursday night Tom Barbash, a journalist and fiction writer, came to speak at the Marjorie Barrick Museum on campus. I greatly enjoyed his talk; based on the story he read, I think his new short story collection is worth reading. The best part was that afterwards he and a few students and professors--myself included--went to a nearby restaurant for drinks and snacks, where he continued to impart his writing wisdom. It was amazing to get that up close and personal with a successful author.

This evening I finally went to First Friday in the Arts District. It was such a cool event--busy bars and chic art galleries and people in costumes and bands and food trucks. A spectacle, to say the least. Parking was a bitch. (I miss public transit!) A few of my fellow MFA-ers read their poetry there, along with some other local Vegas poets. I had a really good time.

I was supposed to go to Jess' birthday party tonight, but I am so sleepy. Friendship failure.

Remember how I mentioned that I'm the new "intern" for my friend Michael's zine The Salted Lash? Because I am such a dedicated intern, I created an official Facebook page for the zine today. You should go like it so that you can hear about rad stuff like the Las Vegas launch party we're having next Friday at Atomic Liquors.

That's all for now, I'm afraid. A little writing before bed, and then one more sleep until Letakins' arrival. (!!!)