Saturday, March 17, 2012

What's Percolating in Colleen's Head (Or On Her Computers)

I am, indeed, alive and kicking. In between work, research for work, coursework for the doctorate, and trying to maintain a decent bedtime to keep the immune system mollified, I thought I'd talk a little bit about the works-in-progress on the humanities/creative writing side of life.

I was lucky enough to receive a contract from McFarland for Mythology and Modern Women Poets: Analysis, Teaching, & Critical Reflection. (I may or may not still be dancing a jig about this. SO EXCITED. Ahem.) The call for chapter proposals is open until April 30, and I'm still looking for folks interested in writing on teaching women poets and myth, or women poets who work with myth writing critical reflections of their work and inspiration in the genre. You can find the call here if interested. I already have a number of talented scholars and writers lined up to submit chapters - it's wonderful company to be in!

I also find myself working on and then drifting away from a handful of creative manuscripts at varying stages of completion.

First, there is a collection of CNF essays. Right now, the essays have the common themes of socio-economic class concerns and (oddly enough) lessons learned from my father's presence, and later, his absence. I'm letting this one grow organically, which means that I wrote about 7,000 words on it last weekend, and it's lain silent since then. It's "percolating," which is what I call it when I'm conscious of a project, and have it rolling around in my head, but nothing - aside from incubation - is happening. These essays are interesting as an exercise in non-fiction (which sates my librarian-need to research the oddest of phenomena), but they are also emotionally draining. I don't want to slide too far into sappy memoir, so this is a delicate balance. I will note that I notice my writerly tics far more in prose than I do when I'm in poet-mode. Repetitive phrasing, sentence length, and other bad habits stand out to me more in this format. I find I am also much more mentally tied to the Times New Roman 12-point-font in essay form, while I am far more likely to experiment with new fonts when writing poetry. (This project is also a interesting exercise because I'll be teaching a CNF workshop in the fall. Getting a taste of my own medicine before I inflict myself on the students, as it were.)

I am wrestling with two poetry manuscripts at the moment. One could be close to finished - at least length-wise - if I could wrestle the poems into submission, somehow. I'm tentatively calling it Madwoman City, and that's what it feels like right now. Disparate pieces, disparate voices, disparate styles, no organizing principle that makes me happy. it reminds me, in fact, of living in an all-women's dorm at college. But I'm drawn back to it, again and again, so there must be something salvageable in there. I may try to shave it down to a chapbook before trying to rebuild it into a manuscript. What I really need is a weekend in a hotel room, where I can run clothesline up and down the room and fool with the order of poems that way. (I do believe poet Kathleen Driskell mentioned doing that at one point for one of her books, but it may have been one of our other Spalding poets.) In any case, this collection seems to be missing something, some sort of connective tissue, so I'm worrying at it like a hound with a bone.

The other poetry manuscript isn't so much of a manuscript as a manuscript-fetus. Right now it is taking form as a collection of loose narrative sonnets, following the life-thread of a woman. Originally I titled it Gentle Cycle, right now the title on the file is Some Assembly Required. There are (I think) some really wonderful and mature pieces in there, but it is slow, slow, s-l-o-w going. This is due to a combination of factors - that the time I've been devoting to creative writing has been minimal, that I work extremely slowly when faced with formal strict containers like the sonnet (this slow speed is faster than usual, since I'm going with loose sonnets and not strict ones), that I have not yet cancelled cable so I have a DVR full of delicious trashy television, that I have a 9pm bedtime. But this one, too, is percolating, simmering just under the surface. And what is happening is lovely, it's just (the word again) slow. I'm trying to imagine it as a cask of something lovely that needs to steep a bit before it can be loosed on the finer palates of the world. That sort of sentiment has the bonus of not making me feel guilty for not getting off my arse to do more writing, of course.

As I've been reading more nonfiction (and particularly nonfiction on writing), and reading to prepare for teaching in the fall (the CNF workshop, and a freshman seminar on reality tv in literature - more on this soon), I'm also thinking about writing a series of essays on the intersection of librarianship, teaching, and poetics, but my brain would need far more rest than it's had in the past few weeks before I tackle something like that. But again...percolating.

Other things in the mental percolator: a paper on using myth as a vehicle for an interdisciplinary curriculum in higher ed (if it doesn't get picked up for the conference I'm hoping for, I might use it as an introductory chapter to the Mythology and Women Poets book, with some tweaking), a paper on leveraging academic libraries to support the creative writing curriculum (and why honest-to-gods research is so very, very important to good creative writing), some critical reflections on course-building, a collection of slightly-longer-than-flash fiction that has been moldering in my projects folder that I should consider returning to.

Percolating, percolating, percolating.

I don't even drink coffee.

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