Archive for July, 2008

In a matter of hours taxis will come and whisk away many of my fellow residency friends while the rest of us sleep.  Those who haven’t already left will wake up for a last somber breakfast in the cafeteria before a final packing in the room, a double-check to make sure we didn’t miss anything, a hasty run through the showers.  We have said our goodbyes several times throughout the day, unsure when we would last see each other.  The forces that brought us all together, the in-person portion of this educational experience, will now release us like the seeds from a dandelion clock.

In the reading room at school, full of old books on 60’s politics and psychology, I spotted a collection of haiku and landed on the following poem by Issa.

for one who says,
“i am tired of children,”
there are no flowers

We have spent the past week and a half dissecting Hemingway’s dialog and quoting Eliot at will.  We danced until soaked with sweat and stayed up when we should have slept. We picnicked on the lawn, fanned away flies and heat at lectures, and workshopped each other with vigor and admiration.

As we leave, we find ourselves midair again, having leaped from the diving board with an eye toward the water below.

Now we get to work.

Poetry Friday.  It’s going down at Reading and Writing this week at Writing and Ruminating.

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I never do well at these things because (a) writing on command for contests really freezes me up and (b) I just don’t think I get the right vibe on the humor around this ol’ Vermont College.

The deal is, with every graduating class comes a party, and with each party a writing contest.  Last year… I forgot what it was.  I entered and lost.  Whatever.  This time around I thought I might have a chance: a good news/bad news film treatment contest.  The good news is that a famous/classic children’s book has been chosen to be turned into a big Hollywood film.  The bad news is, well, it’s being made into a crappy big Hollywood film.  100 to 200 words.

This should so totally be mine.  I know films, I know classic kid’s books, I even know how to write a freakin’ treatment.  But humor is the name of the game and maybe I’m not as funny as I think I am when under the gun.

There were co-winners, a treatment for Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath pitched as as musical — “It’s Cape Fear meets Oklahoma!”  The other winner was Anne of Green Gables starring Li’l Kim.  Me?  I went with It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World crossed with Pulp Fiction for a retelling of the P.D. Eastman classic Go, Dog, Go! It goes a little something like this…

Yo, Dawg, Go!

An Old Dog careens off the highway and with his dying breath reveals to a group of strangers of a secret stash hidden in a suitcase in a coastal California city.  Among the strangers are Big Dawg and Little Dawg, a pair of hitmen who have been assigned to retrieve the suitcase for their boss, Top Dawg.  They immediately wipe out the other witnesses to the accident and head off to claim the loot themselves.

Along the way Little Dawg is asked by Top Dawg to look after his wife who insists on a series of exchanges over whether or not they like each other’s hats.

Eventually Big Dawg and Little Dawg continue their drive across country and discover the suitcase with the loot on top of a large tree full of other Dawgs.  While Little Dawg sends the tree full of Dawgs to bed for the Big Sleep, Big Dawg foams at the snout barking biblical verse from Ezekiel before returning the suitcase to Top Dawg.

Driving away, Big Dawg and Little Dawg discuss the misuse of the article “der” in the name of the fast food chain Der Wienerschnitzel.

Quentin Tarantino directs.

Eh, I at least gave it a shot.  Maybe I was too esoteric in my references.

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This is a raw piece of poetry that came from a workshop exercise today.  First we were asked to come up with a list of words of phrases from our earliest memories, then we were told to organize the phrases and flesh it out to make it a poem.


from Manhattan Beach
toddling days
where i ate cool crumbled dirt beneath the teal stairs

to stucco row
in our Ford Ranch Wagon
vinyl bench seats in cowboy theme —
lassos and steer horns and wagon wheels —
a place with a garage
the smell of stale motor oil and bleach
on smooth concrete floors

sandbox beneath the clothesline
lines of crust where the laundry dripped

the time of day measured
by the smell of kitchens:
pot beans in the morning
meat sauce in the afternoon
sausage and onions in the evening

night time
the sweet smell of slowly melting Yogi Bear plastic

Poetry Friday is over at Under the Covers this week.

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Here we are, future children’s book authors (and a few already published), gathered together in this insane double-H weather (only hot and humid, not hazy) for another retreat from the “real” world to recharge our batteries by staying up lae, getting up early, and doing a lot of sitting.

This second time around the residency already feels like it’s rushing past.  Everyone (from my perspective) is quickly trying to catch up, tell our stories, frantically at times.  When an informal group reaches more than six people the volume begins to increase exponentially.  Inappropriate topics become the norm. Standing in line at the cafeteria feels oddly familiar, like we were only standing in that line last week and not six months ago.  It’s as if an entire year’s worth of school gets crammed into these semesters, all those casual moments normally spent with classmates after class in cafes or in study rooms are condensed into bullion cubes of ten minutes, chewed hastily and swallowed just as fast.  In quiet moments we’re searching out those we haven’t had close face time with.  What’s the hurry?  It’s only the first day?

I think it’s because we now know how quick these residencies feel that there’s the added urgency to make every minute count.  As peers, professionally, down the road, perhaps we’ll have more time to stretch out and enjoy our connections; or maybe this is pracice for the real world, where authors only get fleeting moments at conventions and whatnot. The residency is the oasis in the desert of solitary that is the writing process.  We slake this thirst for one another’s company precisely because we are physically so far removed from one another.

Like summer camp, where you only see your new best friend for life for 10 days a year.  Or in our case 20 days a year.  Today we met with the counselors who told us that now it’s time to take camp more seriously, that we’ve had our fun and now it’s time to build on that previosu work.  Tomorrow it all begins, the workshops and lectures and the battle to stay on top of note-taking and good thoughts and fellowship and ideas.

Bring on the residency.

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I’m being all self-indulgent and presenting one of my own this week. I’m no poet, so please go easy on me.

postEst lin







It isn’t as bad as it seems. I was working my last Thursday shift ever and trying to sort through why it doesn’t bother me so much. I think every time one leaves a job, for whatever reason, there’s a mixture of relief and that “school’s out” feeling that mixes with any doubt or regrets. Folk have been wishing me well, and I appreciate it, but I’ve been feeling a little guilty because (a) it was only part-time and (b) I’m seeing it as the natural transition into whatever comes next. I’m having a very zen time of it, a very unusual calmness about the whole thing.

So anyway, I thought that I’d try to wrap it all up with a little homage to e.e. at work.


Poetry Friday is rounded up this week over at In Search of Giants.

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Lay – to place, set, or locate; Off – so as to be away or on one’s way.
Laid off – the temporary suspension or permanent termination of employment.

I have been sent on my way. Business in the bookstore is down enough that my part-time services have made me redundant. Further euphemisms include: downsize, rightsize, smartsize, workforce reduction or workforce optimization, simplification and reduction in force. For a brief period of time I worked in Human Resources (I thought I might be good at it) so I’ve seen my share. I’ve also managed retail businesses and have been forced to make and justify my hiring budgets, including periods of “planned layoffs” and “periods of known attrition” which had to do with the transitory nature of college student employees.

With luck, perhaps, I can return to bookselling in the fall. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the crappy economy caught up with me. It’s also fortunate that we’re moving to a new place this month, and that I’ve got my residency in a week, enough to keep me busy from feeling the blow of once again “being made available to the industry.”

I’ll be spending some idle times over the next couple of weeks reassessing my situation to see if there isn’t some way to continue with my education and still contribute financially to the household.

I understand there’s money to be had in setting up bank accounts for overseas interests, Nigeria in particular. All I need to do is give them my personal information…

Other suggestions will be entertained as well.

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