Calm Waters

After last week’s midterms, I have been able to relax. My schedule this week has emphasized light reading and light writing. The perfect existence, I think, would be to read and to write and to think and to sleep (until sleeping is cured), and to be interrupted occasionally by experience. I imagine this flow of time would resemble Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge’s theory of punctuated equilibrium.

My sad public admission this week: I’m not very well read. I have read a lot of books, but most of them have been science fiction, fantasy, horror, and nonfiction about technology and the planets. Thankfully, this semester has really opened my eyes to literature. This week I read works from  16th century England including sonnets by the Italian Petrarch translated to English by  Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey; Edmund Spenser’s Sonnets 1 and 68 from Amoretti and “Epithalamion”; and Sir Philip Sidney’s “The Defense of Poesy.” I also read David Foster Wallace’s essay “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” and the first several pages of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. I started reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë in anticipation of Wide Sargasso Sea, but I will probably have to finish it after the latter is due for class. I read and critiqued short stories from three classmates in my fiction writing class. Inspiring, all of them.

As for writing, I wrote a new essay – “Space Tomatoes” – and a short poem – “Erotica” – for a weekly #WednesdayChallenge on

National Novel Writing Month begins next week. The goal is 50,000 words by the end of November by writing rapidly and without regard to quality. I succeeded in 2010 but not since. The goal will be extra challenging this year because of school, but I do plan to participate. I have not decided on a story yet, except I want to write something smaller in scope than my previous novels, with fewer characters and locations. I need practice with tales that lie somewhere between short stories and ambitious epic novels, where 50,000 words contains all of the beginning, middle, and end. The story needs to be set not on a global stage but locally. Somewhere calm waters are about to splash.

A Writing Journal

What was previously my blog – full of news, likes and commentary – should now, I think, become a writing journal, a document more closely related to the craft of writing. The individual posts might be daily reflections on writing, or, more likely, periodic summaries, but I would not be surprised if there is occasion for unrelated news, likes and commentary.

Today – this being Saturday, October 19, 2013 – I reflect on the week just passing. I am in the middle of fall semester at the University of Arizona, taking classes in literature and the craft of writing. I am forty years old and it seems like I finally know how to go to school. I completed two midterms this week without my mid-semester collapse that often shattered past attempts at an undergraduate education. Not to say that this semester has been easy, but the difference is probably a shift in emphasis: the point of my effort is to benefit my writing, rather than to receive a degree. After eight weeks my excitement remains and my writing has improved. I think this is working.

In ENGL 373A, “Survey of British Literature from Beowulf to 1660,” we have arrived at the strange world of England in the sixteenth century. One has only to read the introduction to the ninth edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume B: The Sixteenth Century  and The Early Seventeenth Century to put today’s world and its issues into perspective. The threads that tie the Old World to modern America are prominent stitches to be explored reverently with fingers, before picking and pulling to untie them. Why, I’m asking myself this afternoon, are there still pockets of this awful place even today? Is William Gibson’s famous quote “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed” a tenet of history? Maybe the chasm between the best world and the worst world grows wider over time, even as all worlds move forward. In our time, technology spreads rapidly to where even the worst poverty lies, but it has also already reached places where archaic notions of how women and children, for example, should be treated still exist. Are we a globalized world, and better off, or are we a hall of mirrors, reflecting in each pane the either our happiest dreams or our most frightening nightmares?

This is my education now, where reading about literature makes me question the impact of technology, and the horrors of the past frame exquisite accomplishments in writing (my favorite so far is Doctor Faustus, the play written by Christopher Marlowe.)

I’m forty years old and maybe I finally know how to learn.

Meanwhile, I write: journal entries (welcome!), essays and literary analysis for class, and fiction. Yesterday in ENGL 304, “Intermediate Fiction Writing,” the class critiqued my latest short story, “Horrible Daughter”. The critiques were generally favorable and the suggestions I received will indeed make for a better work. That my story cleaved the class in half according to their sympathies to certain characters demonstrates, I think, the story’s relevance.

I am, in summary, where I want to be. I hope, if you are reading this journal entry, you find it interesting.