Friday, February 28, 2014

Voluptuous Conundrums, or, Day 1 Debrief



I am already a good way into Day 2, so I think it is high time to stop and get my head together about Day 1, as though that is even possible. I am sitting on the lower level of the hidden annex side of the conference center, where I just found some interesting glass sculpture and friendly school teacher from Pheonix, who grew up in North Canton.

Yesterday, I went to more things than I even realized until I looked at my notes just now. A brief rundown:

- Raven Chronicles reading - Here is the lovely serendipity for the day. I came to this panel purely for the name. Donnelle and Seven - two friends from grad school - we're already there, and I discovered a lovely journal - a multicultural journal with themed issues published here in Seattle and featuring, from the panel's evidence some really smart and interesting writers. The title to this post is drawn from a poem by Carletta Carrington Wilson, who spoke.

- Hanging out with my friend Paula, who lives in Cleveland but we don't see each other enough so we get to see each other here. Lovely Paula, who is funny and generous as a writing friend, and who gave me the solid advice not to resist the lure of the crows and ravens and the story they are connected to just because I have another story I am "supposed" to be finishing now. "You never know," she said cocking her head and making a slightly screwball expression, "what that story might have to teach you about the book you are writing now," and added, "We don't get to steer the bus from the back seat."

- Panel on writing about music and musicians - Highly relevant to me, always. Last time I went to a panel like this I got turned on to Wesley Stace, whom I adore as a writer and a musician. This time I enjoyed A. Manette Ansay talking about her life as a serious pianist before becoming a writer and am stealing the concept of a story having a tonic key like a piece of music, a home that it rises from and returns to, changed, at the end. Also engaging on the panel was Constance Squires, whose work I am unfamiliar with, but her book Along the Watchtower, about a military kid coming of age at the end of the Cold War and the music that was a part of her life, is one I would like to read.

- Panel on assigning adventures to creative writing students to surprise them into new experiences in fresh writing. I like this panel a lot. It totally syncs with my teaching style and I plan to use their ideas.

- Panel on high school creative writing programs, full of useful ideas, but the panel was limited to people who teach specifically at schools of the arts, so it begged the idea that AWP needs to have a subsection for high school teachers of creative writing in general. Please note, I am not currently volunteering to organize this, which would be my bent.

- Panel on "Can You Grade a Poem?" The overwhelming answer, with one energetic dissenter, was, "No! ... but there are a lot of other things you can grade along the way." Again, useful.

Also:
Touching people I know but don't have the time to stop and talk to. Wide variet of fashion sense among the academically inclined writer set; lots of fab dresses on display. Exhaustion. I barely made it to see Annie Proulx give the keynote, and even then could barely stay awake. She was talking about the history of publishing and writing, and I think, but I can't be sure until I see a transcript, she was optimistic even in the face of these troubled times in publishing. I appreciated her "long view," historically locating the beginning of the current trends in the late 1980s, which satisfies me because that is precisely where I locate them. At the end she said something about elephants but I had missed the reference.

Then, I went back to my hotel and was, of course, wired, so I watched Portlandia and did some school work and planned day 2.

Reading: haha
Writing: haha

Dinner: Lunch was a thoroughly forgettable salad from a deli near the convention center. Dinner, back at hotel was terrific. I ordered the omakase (chef's choice) first course and ended up with an absolutely beautiful plate of Ahi sashimi and pickled onions. I supplemented that with a chicory and beet salad with blue cheese and hazelnuts.

Soundtrack: "Walking Around in Circles" by Soul Coughing should be the theme song of this convention center. The miles I have walked. Here, listen: http://youtu.be/rEFQTY4hjUk

Corvid Sightings: See above.

Random thing: The theme of the next issue of Raven Chronicles, I discovered this morning is "Personal Sound Tracks; Soundscapes; The Sound Track of Your Life." Dear reader, make sure I submit.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Welded Art and Old Newspaperwomen

Evidence

The time change is really affecting me. I can't remember ever being so confused by crossing time zones. I can't figure out when to sleep or eat. Also, when alone and not responsible for other people's forward motion, decision making is confusing. I am slow and a little stupid out here.

And yet, I got to explore Pike Street Market, took a long walk out to the Olympic Sculpture Park, sat for a while by a tiny "pocket beach" right on the sound and watched the waterfowl and the mountains and the freighters, encountered a hipster in an overcoat sitting on a park bench reading an ipad and smoking a meerschaum pipe (honestly, I witnessed this), drank lots of latte, and reconnected with an old coworker.



Today the conference begins in earnest, and my head will crushed.

Reading: Trying desperately to finish Looking for Alaska.

Writing: Note taking

Lunch & Dinner: Lunch, which was also a very late breakfast, because I couldn't figure out sleeping and eating, was at a French cafe near the market. I had the Oeufs en Meurette (poached eggs in beefy red wine gravy ove garlic croutons) with frites.

For dinner I met up with Mary, an old friend from my newspaper days, 5 lifetimes ago, who took me to the a place that shares the second floor of a building with a ballroom dance studio. I had arugula salad and gnocchi. We talked about life, art making, feminism, trans issues, education, kids, marriage equality, jobs, cities, and so on. It was nice.

Soundtrack: Freight trains by the sculpture park. An accordion player in the market.

Corvid Sightings: At lunch crows flying past the front window lured me back out into the sunshine and on my way to the sculpture park. At dinner the was a large painting of a crow on the wall behind Mary. There were probably others too, but those stuck.

Random thing: As I was walking out to the sculpture park, I stopped for a latte at a place cattycorner (kittycorner?) to this, the Labor Temple:

a location appealing to a granddaughter of a onetime Longshoreman's organizer and Daily Worker jazz critic.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Serendipity and solitude, be my guides (Seattle edition)



Dawn from my window.

I arrived in Seattle yesterday. I've never been to this part of the country before. I'm going to AWP later this week, which if you don't know is a huge writing/teaching writing conference (The schedule alone is 500 pages long. I exaggerate. But, please, never ever use the word "praxis" in a panel title, even if you are in graduate school. More on AWP later.) 


This trip has been in the works for a couple months now, but like  most things in my life recently, if it isn't immediately in front of me I don't have time to consider its reality. It was about half way through the flight from Chicago that I realized I was actually going to end up in the Pacific Northwest. Then a little later as the plane started to descend, I opened my window shade and saw this:

Well, I didn't see this precisely, because this image is from
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mount_Rainier
But I saw a view like this, only there was a cloud streaming off the top of the mountain. 

Some things I've noticed:

I am slightly obsessed with this
pillow. it is fuschia velvet lace
over beige tweed.
Mt. Ranier is really big. The airport here has a strangely provisional air to it, like they might tear it down and relocate at any time. There are a lot of pine trees. On the highway signs, the state route numbers are printed on a profile of George Washington. I have a tendency to wonder about what it would be like to live in places like the apartment complexes by the highway or the little tent villages one can spot in the woods south of the city or those bright townhouses I passed as we drove into downtown. Sometimes I think what-if thoughts about just picking up and relocating, like when I moved to Atlanta right out of high school with $300 in my pocket and a cat. Seattle feels more like Chicago than I would have expected it to. There are a lot of hills. The people here are very, almost weirdly, friendly. In my hotel room, I am pleased by the fuschia accent pieces. The sound looks lovely but I haven't seen much of it yet; maybe I'll take a ferry for fun.

I walked around the city a little yesterday, in sunny mid 50s weather, had a great lunch, and poked my head in some shops, almost met up for drinks with an old coworker, then spent the evening in solitude, which is a big part of what I have been looking forward to on this trip: being alone. I don't really have any alone time in my life right now and I need it. Of course, I am out of practice and feel very odd being alone and don't quite know what to do with myself. That's part of the point. There are lots of people I know who will be in town for this coference -- some of whom I made friends with at prior AWPs. I look forward to maybe seeing them, but also to just being by myself. I am just going to let what happens happen.


Reading: I discovered a cool little e-book called Seattle Before 8, as in 8 a.m., all about the hidden joys of early morning in the city. I am going to put my Ohio jet lag superpowers to use this week and do some dawntime exploring.

Writing: Yes, I should do that too, in the midst of all this talking about writing.

Dinner (and Lunch): I had the most amazing lunch yesterday at Il Corvo in Pioneer Square. It's a tiny order at the counter lunch place that serves amazing freshly made pasta. I had pickled celery and prosciutto to start (a freaking revelation, it was so good!) and tagliarini alla Siciliana (think garlic, anchovies, chili in tomato sauce, topped with a generous toss of breadcrumbs). THIS WAS SO GOOD.

And, serendipitously, corvo=crow, and I have a writing project looming (the book after the book that currently won't finish itseld) that prominently involves crows & ravens. I have actually encountered several corvid references already on this trip. This feels like good juju. I will try to keep track of them.

For dinner, I just went to the hotel restaurant, which was pleasantly good. I had a lemongrass gimlet and a very good grass-fed burger covered with yummy things. The fries were only OK.

Soundtrack: My room clock has nature sounds. They were playing when I walked in. Yet another thing to momentarily discombobulate me. Also, a Nirvana song came on the mix while I was having lunch yesterday. What is the ironic opposite of irony?

Random thing: As the carbound suburbanite that I must after all admit that I am, I managed to score blisters on the balls of my feet on my first day out. Not cool.

On the other hand, "Serendipity and Solitude" is the title for the new series of artsy solo travel guides I am going to write. Someone get me a publishing contract RIGHT NOW.