Happy Holidays from McSweeny’s!

If you have not ever looked at the McSweeny‘s website, you’re missing out. I was first introduced to this website by my husband, who also encouraged me to read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers.  This is part of the blurb on their website:

McSweeney’s began in 1998 as a literary journal, edited by Dave Eggers, that published only works rejected by other magazines. But after the first issue, the journal began to publish pieces primarily written with McSweeney’s in mind. Since then, McSweeney’s has attracted works from some of the finest writers in the country, including Denis Johnson, William T. Vollmann, Rick Moody, Joyce Carol Oates, Heidi Julavits, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Ben Marcus, Susan Straight, Roddy Doyle, T.C. Boyle, Steven Millhauser, Gabe Hudson, Robert Coover, Ann Beattie, and many others.

These are some of my holiday favorites (new and old):

Stopping By Woods on a Bro-y Evening

The Twelve Days of Christmas*

The Corporate Christmas Party As Told By My Cocktails

Staff Editorial from the Who-Ville Picayune, January 1958

Donner Looks Back

*Hilary Knight’s The Twelve Days of Christmas is one of the best versions in print.

Thursday (Concert) Musings

Tonight we’re going to see PJ Harvey. This will be a nice way to end my week.

The Argument of His Book

I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers,
Of April, May, of June, and July flowers.
I sing of Maypoles, hock carts, wassails, and wakes,
Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes.
I write of youth, of love, and have access
By these to sing of cleanly wantonness.
I sing of dews, of rains, and, piece by piece,
Of balm, of oil, of spice, and ambergris.
I sing of times trans-shifting, and I write
How roses first came red and lilies white.
I write of groves, of twilights, and I singThe court of Mab and of the fairy king.
I write of hell; I sing (and ever shall)
Of heaven, and hope to have it after all.

Robert Herrick
Another gem from McSweeney’s:



– – – –
ENG 371WR:
Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era

M-W-F: 11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.
Instructor: Robert Lanham
Course Description

As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade. Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era focuses on the creation of short-form prose that is not intended to be reproduced on pulp fibers.
Instant messaging. Twittering. Facebook updates. These 21st-century literary genres are defining a new “Lost Generation” of minimalists who would much rather watch Lost on their iPhones than toil over long-winded articles and short stories. Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t! Throughout the course, a further paring down of the Hemingway/Stein school of minimalism will be emphasized, limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, and other literary pitfalls.

Monday Musings

I hope that I become accustomed to these three hour back to back classes, because if I don’t, it could be a long eight weeks. Tuesdays and Thursdays aren’t too bad because I have a break in the middle, but those six straight hours on Monday and Wednesday are killer. I’ve incorporated group activities and in-class work so I’m not constantly talking or answering questions, but even so, it is exhausting. Of course part of the problem is when you teach everything four times, it also starts to get boring.

I will admit that I’m jealous of poets who are taking it easy this summer or who are working simpler, less demanding jobs while they’re on breaks from their PhD or MFA programs. However, whenever I start to feel really tired I think that this is reality. This is how life is and while I’d like to take the summer off from teaching, it isn’t realistic and it won’t be anytime soon. Also, I am able to write and read and learn and continue on despite my crazy teaching schedule. And really, life is never going to get less hectic and while I loved my time as a student, it’s an artificial environment. It doesn’t last. Sooner or later you’re going to have to learn how to be a poet in the real world, so here’s to keeping on keeping on.

I know people have a variety of feelings about Dave Eggers and McSweeney’s, but the most recent issue includes excerpts from actual writing workshops. These are some of my favorites:

“It’s your story, your voice, your choices, and I don’t want to question them, but why these words?”
“You talk about pregnant raindrops and chaos and auditory canals and ‘the passing of time’ as ‘an orifice,’ when you could really just be talking about humidity and ears.”
“This character seems more like a retired librarian than a former terrorist.”

There are a lot more. Check them out. They are well worth it.

Tuesday (Rejection) Musings

I received my first online rejection yesterday afternoon. This is a new form for me and it comes on the heels of my first set of online submissions. Currently, I’ve received four rejections out of twenty-one submissions. We shall see…

While I was in Cabo, I read one novel and two collections of poetry. The poetry books, Atlas and Wedding Day were interesting, and I plan to blog more about them tomorrow. The novel, Vacation, by Deb Olin Unferth was a selection from the McSweeney’s book club that RJ and I joined.

It was an interesting read. I finished it feeling intrigued but annoyed at the same time. The characters were not likable, but I don’t think that’s why I had a problem with it. It was more that I couldn’t identify why I was reading the book. It wasn’t a gripping plot, I wasn’t invested in the characters, and I found the structure of the novel irritating at times. I suppose my entire feeling about the book could be summed up by saying, “so what?” The thing is, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.