Monday, January 25, 2010

Life Gets Ahead of Me

OMG! Has it really been that long since I wrote here? Blogspot doesn't lie. Sorry, kids, no good excuse, but that stack of Sue Grafton mysteries a friend loaned me is partly to blame. Because each book links to the previous one, it's like reading one long novel I cannot put down. And, unlike the Harry Potters, the next volume has already come out. They just sit there, lined up on my desk, whispering, "Oh, just one or two chapters more, then you can go out and play." Ha! But I cannot blame Grafton for all my procrastinations. We've had a family member, elderly, ill. She died last evening, and while we will miss her, she's no longer confused and in pain, and the air feels lighter without her suffering. It has taken all the adults in our extended family to support her and each other. That's a legitimate commitment to life outside the book.

Then there were writing assignments: a friend and I have worked on a script for a coffeehouse performance coming up this spring; another friend and I have been inventing a workshop on creativity; poems have piled up and now require compilation into a new collection. I'm plugging away at that, and my first readers have signed on, but I must get a generous selection to them so we can weed out the weaker pieces. Then the actual manuscript must coalesce. (Hmm, that's a big word for come together.) This whole mess, then, is the writing life. Stephen King says in his admirable book On Writing, to put the desk in the corner and remember that's where it belongs, not center stage. My desk sits in a specially built writing nook, in front of a big window, and from the living room it's invisible. But I always know that it's there, waiting for me to pay some attention. Just not all my attention. My desk is patient; it knows I'll be back. Now, I have a meeting to prepare for. Talk soon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On-line Learning

Given the overwhelming amount of stuff on line, I consider it a gift to have found a site called Open Yale Courses. I cannot tell you exactly how I stumbled across this grand virtual place, but if you have an academic bent and the curiosity to follow a semester's worth of lectures and reading assignments, go there. Free. Yes, you can be a Yale student--well, minus the transcript and those bothersome exams and written assignments--for nothing but the paper and ink to print out the materials. And if you choose a course in your own area of interest, mine being poetry, you may have some material on hand. My old, much used poetry books are helpful, if not all inclusive, for Modern Poetry, taught by Langdon Hammer in 2007. That sounds a bit dated here in 2010, but the great Modernist poets have been dead for years, so any information and insight is still useful. They won't be changing their style or content.

I started this course on Dec. 29th, and so far I've listened to four lectures, so I've done two weeks in one. I can move as quickly or slowly as I want. No waiting for the twice-weekly class schedule to roll around. If I need to shuffle pages in a book, I can stop the video, and Dr. Hammer resumes his talk at my request. If the dog wants out, I can attend to that need and not miss a word. This is better than squeezing into a cramped desk in a lecture hall. How else could I go to a 300-level lit class in my robe and slippers?

Most of the dedicated writers I know love to learn, whether it be the wiring of plot lines or the making of radial tires, anything that feeds their work, that enriches the world of thought and feeling that makes writing exciting. Now I'm about to check out renting textbooks on line at,, and I don't have room on my shelves for more books, but renting sounds like a good reason to take more courses. Look at me, I'm studying at Yale.