Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Many Maniac Faces

Poetry out loud in your face is my favorite thing to do, and even though it's not Eddie's favorite thing to do, he accompanied me to two readings in one week.  TWO!  That's like, double the pleasure, double the fun, in that "this is not pleasurable or fun for me" kind of way.  He actually doesn't mind going to places and listening to poetry all that much. He simply minds awkward encounters, which we always have.

Reading 1: Astoria
I know my way around Astoria in the same way one knows the way around a dream.  It's like, I totally know where I'm going, but I also, at the same time, have no clue. Thankfully, Eddie drove as I navigated, and I got us to the right parkways and correct exits, and then we were under the El. I can't drive under any elevated trains ever because I get confused as to where is the lane and where is the place you park and how do we turn the car without hitting pedestrians or cyclists or hoverboarders or other people or animals that might be getting across the street in some new-fangled way.

Astoria Coffee was the easy find. We drove right past its big bright window and saw it was about the size of a walk-in closet, which was adorable! And a bit frightening simply because that meant the reader would be really in someone's face, and while I love poetry out loud in your face, I didn't mean it incredibly literally.  I like my face to be several feet from the faces of strangers because, you know, germs.  And smells. Anyway, we found it easy-peasy, and then we drove around for about a half hour looking for parking.

This was like parking in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge.  Many a time we've driven in widening circles around Brooklyn, looking for parking.  Once we drove into Brooklyn for a drop-in appointment at the chiropractor, and after driving around for 45 minutes looking for a spot, I was like, We need to go home now, and we did.

We found a spot because I noticed a few blocks ahead of us reverse lights go on.  This never happens.  I never see anything blocks away.  This was a proud moment.

Astoria Coffee offers hot chocolate.

Eddie was one happy camper.  That and a croissant meant heaven.  I had green tea and it was uber delicious green tea.  The only drawback was that the place was about 105 degrees so I ended the tea drinking for a while to cool off.  I'm never hot.  Ever.  I peeled off layers of layers and then held up my hair for a while.  It was that warm.  No one else was that warm.  Maybe I'm getting hot flashes already.

So about the poetry.  The Risk of Discovery series puts on a fantastic show.  We were four features, two of whom were more performancy than me and the other poet, which meant for a lot of variety.  But before that, there was an open mic, and that was really interesting.  One poet read a pantoume (I THINK it was a pantoume, but it might have been a villanelle--I can't remember which at this point, but anyway, both forms involve repeating lines and usually are done horribly) and this piece was excellent.  It was so very well done, and at the end, I asked the poet to email it to me so I could read it again.  Other open-mic-ers were fun to listen to, and the other most memorable was a poet who learned that a publisher wants to publish his book but he has yet to put his book together.  That's not why he was memorable though.  What made him memorable is that he talked a bit about how summer was ending, and then he whisper-sang two lines from that song Summertime Sadness before  his poem, and it was all kinds of amazing.

That aforementioned awkward moment was later on when this poet came over to talk to me and I couldn't answer anything he said at first until I hopped myself back up on a stool because he was about six feet tall and that's simply too far away from my ears for me to have any kind of normal conversation.

I read for a bit under 10 minutes.  I did not use the mic because the room was small and I have a big mouth.  Also, the mic was over my head and I didn't feel like playing with the stand to make it lower.  And I made these faces.
Stank face

Contemplating my collection face

Waving around a post-it note face

Hey! I'm smiling!
I walked away from that reading with a book and a CD from one of the singer-poets who agreed to exchange books with me, and I also sold two other books.  Oh, and somehow it cooled down and I finished my tea, which was, again, delicious! It was a good night.

Reading 2: Hicksville
Finding the room for the reading in Hicksville Public Library poses a challenge.  We asked the librarian who gave us two options, one for stairs and one for the elevator, and both sounded confusing, especially for two people who get lost in parking lots.  We took the stairs and found that we couldn't follow the directions well.  However, we did find a door and surprisingly, that door led us to the right room, and we had to walk down the stairs of a stage to get to the seats.

After meeting and greeting and picking out seats, I opened my bag o' books to put out some candy I'd gotten previously in the day (more on how I made an ass out of myself when I got the candy at some other time!), I found a spider in the bag.

Earlier that morning when I pulled my car out of the driveway, I found a spider web connected from the dash to the passenger seat.  Along that web I found a teeny-tiny spider. I grabbed him up in a napkin and swept away the web.  I think that maybe he had a large spider friend lurking who made its way into my bag.

OR I'd picked up the spider in my travels throughout the week.  Or it came in with the money exchanged for the books.  Or it crawled into my home office, where I've found large cave crickets before, and into my bag.

Really, it didn't matter where it came from. All that mattered was it needed to get the fuck out of my bag.  (Sorry for the language--spiders and I don't get along ever since one bit me and I had to go on keflex for a week when my hand blew up and I had scarlet striations from the back of my hand all the way up my forearm). Eddie, who also does not like creepy crawly things, decided I should remove all the stuff from the Ziplock that it had crawled into, and he would throw out the plastic bag with the spider in it.  Okay, fine.  That actually worked, but not without my freaking out in silence as I pulled each item out of the plastic bag and put it into the larger bag that contained the plastic bag, each time the spider moving more towards me rather than away from me.

Crises averted, I put out the candy, and people went nutso over it--especially the host who was quite fond of BubbleYum. What made this even better was the mom of the usual host who was out for the night attended and brought cookies.  She's a fantastic cookie baker, and at the end of the reading, upon insistence of the host who held out the tray of cookies and said, You have no excuse, I ate an oatmeal cookie that was delicious.  Actually, I ate half of it and gave the other half to Eddie to hold when someone came up to ask me to see my book and he stood there holding the cookie until I told him, You can throw it out, and he was like, Why don't you just eat it?  And I was like, Oh, yeah, I can do that, and I did. See? I sometimes create my own awkward moments for him.

The reading went well.  There was another event happening on the other side of the folding accordion wall, so I again relied on my big mouth teachery voice to get the audience to listen to me.  I read from both collections. I made the following faces.

Mid-poem face

I'm so drunk right now face

Sleepy reading face

Hey! I'm smiling again!
Then the host ran the open mic. That was again interesting because there were poets there whom I had never met before (ooh, that reminds me! the host said she was impressed with my correct use of whom versus who!).  Then, as aforementioned, a bunch of people came up to me afterwards to chat, and I sold some books.  I also chatted a little about how to get published, and I made this face.
I'm clearly a maniac, and my husband thinks this is funny even though he's trying not to laugh face.
There you have it. Poetry things are happening, and I cannot bluff my way through poker. And now to get a feel of what all this sounds like:

See? Poetry out loud in your face.  It's all the rage.

Friday, October 9, 2015

So How's Your Semester Going?

Glad you asked.  It's not too bad.  Dare I say: It's actually pretty good.

The start of the semester slowly progressed as each of the first three weeks of class were only three days each with Labor Day and several Jewish holidays.  A nice way to ease into a new session of teaching.

Promotion awaits in the near future, so in addition to teaching, I'm putting together my application binder.  The application form is about 27 pages. I then have an additional 150 pages of what I like to call "Proof I Did Stuff."  I consider the whole activity an arts and crafts project that involves highlighters, plastic binder sleeves, and stickers. The due date is in February, but since I'll be on sabbatical in the Spring, my due date is December.

I've also been focusing on pushing through a new class about Writing for Digital Media and an online version of Poetry Workshop. Lots of curriculum stuff that I began over the summer is now in high gear.

Speaking of Curriculum, I joined the department Curriculum Committee, so I took on the task of revamping the department's catalog page.  Also, during the most recent meeting, I was stung by a yellow jacket.  Mid-meeting, I put my hand on my head, felt something funny, went to pull out whatever was in my hair, and BUZZZZZ it was a yellow jacket stinging the heck out of my finger.  So I reacted like a normal adult and shouted OW OW OW OW as I jumped up from my seat.  With my colleagues stopping midsentence and staring, I explained, I was just stung by a bee; I'll be right back.  I hung out at the water fountain down the hall for a while and kept my finger under the cold water until the water started turning brown.  Well, that's gross.  So I went back to the meeting, and the guy in front of me was like, That was so weird!  And I was like, I know!

I spent the rest of the meeting shaking my hand vigorously.  My finger turned bright red with bright white lines coursing through the middle, tracing the venom.  Then the skin felt really tight as it started to balloon up.  When I got back to the office, I rinsed it off more in the bathroom until that water turned brown.  So gross.  When I came out, SD was at her desk so I explained: 1. The water is brown and has nothing to do with me, and 2. I got stung by a bee.

My finger ached well through the next day.  So that was a noontime stinging followed by an afternoon and evening of a lot of pain and then some more pain the next day.  Plus, the night of the stinging, I went to Oceanside Library to present How To Write A Basic Essay as part of their programming.  The whole carride, I was shaking my hand and sort of laughing in disbelief--how could it hurt so bad?

Anyway, that's probably been the worst part of my semester.  I've gotten a little snarky with some of my classes at some times because of their rudeness, but overall, they have been listening and learning and participating and being nice people.  Like, the other day in Comp, I taught a grammar lesson, and they participated, and the next time I saw them, I reviewed the lesson, and they, like, knew the answers.  I can't remember the last time that happened.  They weren't all sleeping or staring off into space.  They were being studious, and it's been refreshing.

Also refreshing is the amount of work I'm getting done on campus.  I'm still bringing home the huge paper stacks, of course, for marathon grading sessions.  However, the small assignments that I usually bring home too have not found their way into my bag.  Nope, I'm doing all my grading at work. I have mandatory built-in grading time now.

That's not really true.  What I have now are Seminar Hours during which I mold young minds.  Those young minds have yet to show up, so I spend the time grading.  I'm getting so much done!

You see, the English Department has had an agreement that full-time professors teach four courses as opposed to the five that other full-timers in other departments teach.  This four-course load is due to our teaching composition and having an abundance of grading every week.  In exchange, we were told hold normal office hours every week like all full-timers, but we also hold floating conference hours to meet with students throughout the week, not at a set time.  This schedule worked well for me.  I was able to make appointments throughout the week with my own students who could not make it to office hours.  Every week, I met with at least two students off-hours during these floating times.

With a new contract this year clarifying what these hours should really entail, the powers that be came up with this plan:

1. We were to hold seminar hours during set blocks of time.  No more floating.
2. We could not meet with our own students.
3. We could mentor developmental students, mentor non-developmental students, mentor a specific cohort of students (like online or creative writing--though the creative writing cohort was nixed because apparently they don't need mentors), tutor in the writing center, work with LINCC (the program for English language learners), or advise in the advisement center.  Only any mentee or advisee could not be our own student.

So this semester, I've held my Seminar Hours twice a week and I look at my Seminar Hour schedule daily and usually, the schedule is gray, which indicates I have no one to mentor at all.  Once it was a light blue, indicating that I had someone scheduled.  I turned that into a dark red when that student did not show up.

Instead of being able to offer a slew of possible appointment times as I have in the past, I can offer like one half-hour of free time as a possible appointment time for my own students.  So they either have to make it to office hours when they might not be able to because they have class or are not on campus, or they have to find my one half-hour of free time available in their own schedule.  They can't come during Seminar Hours when I sit by myself with no mentees because that's just not allowed.

Ideally, I'd like to not mentor anyone.  I'd like to have simply extra office hours.  If we can't be trusted to hold floating conference hours, then I want to have double office hours, and I want to be able to help my own students.  Since our classes have increased in size, having time to meet more students one-on-one would help immensely since more of them can get lost in these bigger classes.

But for now, I spend my time in the office grading, working on curriculum, working on my promotion app, reading submissions for The Nassau Review (I'm still the editor), finishing up committee work for four other committees I'm on, NOT holding my former floating conference hours and NOT helping my own students. I go to teach my four classes.  I hold my regular office hours during which my own students who are available at those times stream in and out regularly.

I'm looking forward to sabbatical.  Even though this semester has been pleasant, I need a break from the illogical ways of thinking.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Another Book Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

WakeBreatheMove by Christina M. Rau


by Christina M. Rau

Giveaway ends November 02, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway