Sometimes I end up blogging on Twitter.
It happened on Tuesday night, when it seemed certain that my Governor would sign SB 101
This summer, I’ll be teaching a one-day intensive fiction workshop at the Midwest Writers Workshop here in Muncie. Here’s the scoop:
Those accepted into this intensive will have the opportunity to have their 5-10 page short story critiqued by me and by the whole group.
Specifically, you’ll be working to improve your facility with scenecraft (when to dramatize, when to summarize), point of view, setting, suspense, and readability.
All work will be discussed anonymously and read aloud.
To apply, send a 5-10 page writing sample in manuscript form (as an attachment) to Cathy Day at cathy@cathyday dot com. Applications will be taken from the day MWW registration begins (February 12) to midnight on March 27.
You will be notified of your acceptance by April 15 so that you can sign up for another intensive if you’re not selected.
Because Midwest Writers is a great conference. Here’s a previous post extolling its many virtues.
Because normally, I don’t read work by people I don’t know. I devote my energy to my current and former students–and that’s considerable. All writers get a lot of requests like this from people they don’t know. But I almost always say no. I just don’t have time, unfortunately. But this summer, I will say yes to six people.
Because the best thing a writing conference can give you is writing instruction. Not “how to market yourself.” Not a lecture on “how to write better.” But someone spending time with your words specifically.
Because your work will be read aloud. There’s nothing quite so illuminating as being physically present when a group of strangers experiences your work for the first time. You see them fidget when they get bored. You hear them laugh and sigh. You watch them lean forward in their chairs. (Ever since The Circus in Winter started its journey as a musical, I’ve realized how important and instructive “live reading” can be.)
Because your work will presented anonymously. Nobody will know whose is whose. This might make you more inclined to write about something embarrassing or difficult–which is probably your best material, actually. And you’ll get more honest feedback, too; people tend to pull punches in their critique when the writer is right in front of them.
Registration for the conference opened up today. I hope you’ll consider applying!
This morning I woke up early, made myself some coffee, and got back into bed with my husband and my dog.
I needed to do a brain dump, a blog post, but I was too lazy to walk into another room and get my laptop.
I hope these words help others–not just the students in my department.
In 2013, I posted to this blog once a week and enjoyed some pretty great stats. 47,000 unique page views. Up from 20,000 the year before.
But at the beginning of 2014, I declared (a little facetiously) that this blog was a waste of my time. Instead of posting once a week, I posted sporadically. About 17 times total.
And a funny thing happened: I still got about 43,000 page views.
How did this happen?
Truthfully, a lot of my blogging energy went into this blog, maintained by my department at Ball State. If you read the post I’ve linked to, you’ll see the stats, etc.
Lately, my blog posts have been about administrating in higher education and my personal life rather than teaching and writing. I guess that’s what happens as time passes–the things that occupy space in your brain change.
I’ll be happy if you continue reading, despite these changes. Thank you.
My husband published an essay at the Rumpus on the occasion of the death of chef Charlie Trotter.
The Indy Star did a nice story about me.
Spoke about Literary Citizenship at the Antioch Writer’s Workshop “Paths to Publishing” event. Reunited with Erin Flanagan and met Kirby Gann and Steve Saus.
The night I came back from Yellow Springs, my dog was hit by a car. He lived. We rejoiced.
Went to Seattle with my husband for AWP 2014. Loved Seattle. For some reason, I felt compelled to blog about my marriage while we were there. I put them on Tumblr rather than here. I don’t know why. “Traveling as a Couple,” “AWP Spouses.” And this one, too.
I wrote about my fear of and desire to be looked at on my Tumblr blog. (I wasn’t sure if these personal stories were appropriate for the Big Thing. I guess I felt safer posting them in this little corner of the internet where you might not see it.)
Took part in a roundtable discussion on Money and Creative Writing Programs with some amazing writers (Dinty Moore, Robert Hass, Elizabeth McCracken, and Yiyun Li. ) for Scratch Magazine.
Helped my mom start a caregiving blog.
Redesigned this blog. Click around. It’s kind of pretty.
Started a new job as Assistant Chair of the English Department.
Gave a talk at Hanover College because my book was the “common read” there. What an honor.
Published an essay about the value of a degree in English at The Millions. (This too started as a blog post that I sent out rather than posting here.)
Taught with Dinty Moore at the Grailville Retreat Center for the Antioch Writer’s Workshop.
Found out I’m going to be an aunt again. To a girl this time.
Read with Ben Clark at the R.J. Julia Bookstore and at the Mark Twain House and Museum. What an honor.
Went to French Lick for a book signing that went bust, but got to stay at West Baden.
Did a webinar for AWP’s Career Services on Requesting Letters of Recommendation.
Saw a new production of The Circus in Winter.
Launched my department’s first e-newsletter.
Lost two members of my extended family to cancer.
Reunited with an old high school friend and started trading work. Thanks to a new set of eyes, I got excited about my novel again. Worked on it a lot over Christmas Break and have applied for a sabbatical so that I can get that baby out the door.
I started writing this post feeling like “Man, I don’t feel like I accomplished much this year,” but now I see that I was as busy as ever in 2014.
Thanks, as always, for reading. Have a great year!
A few weeks ago, I started thinking out loud about my new job. Here’s part two of my thoughts on the subject.
Don’t all 46 year old professionals wonder if they’ve made the right life choices?
For the last few years, I’ve been able to translate my teaching and writing into interesting blog posts for you, faithful readers.
But I don’t know if you’re that interested in what I did on Friday:
Basically, I’m a bureaucrat.
It’s been four months since I started my new job, and the things I most feared have happened.
I’m not surprised. Administrating changes you. Entire realms which have been hidden from view suddenly appear, and all you can really say is, “Holy shit.”
This quote from an Inside Higher Education essay by Chuck Ryback is on the money. Read the whole thing here.
Looking back to when I was first hired on the tenure track, I really didn’t know anything about how the systems I was working in were structured. Literally, it has taken me 10 years to even achieve a competent grasp. Why? If a maze built by Daedalus is complicated, imagine a maze built by an army of Daedaluses. Campus and system governance in public universities is deeply complicated and entangled, and this is largely because it’s supposed to be difficult to understand (but that’s a whole different post).
When people ask me what I do all day as Assistant Chair of Operations, I tell them it’s like this:
You walk in the door and the moles start popping up—in my office door and in my inbox—and I take my mallet and whack whack whack as fast as I can.
Perhaps this makes it sound bad. Like I’m mad. Like I resent the moles from popping up. Like I’m trying to hurt them.
The “whacking” isn’t hurting, it’s helping, solving, progressing.
For twenty years, I’ve written words that took months if not years to be published, taught students that I (mostly) never heard from again. So there’s something deeply rewarding about walking out of the office at the end of the day knowing that I actually finished something. Even if it was answering/archiving/deleting 50 emails and signing five forms.
I like coming home and having dinner with my husband and maybe writing a little in the evening or reading or watching a movie, like a normal fucking human being who is almost 50 years old, not a graduate student. Like my doctor. Like my lawyer. Like pretty much every professional person I know.
Except for teachers.
We don’t expect our doctors to help us and answer our questions when they aren’t in their office. Why do we expect college professors and teachers to do this? I don’t know. But it drives me crazy.
I never worked this hard when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. This is a new development. It’s Lucy Ricardo’s candy conveyer belt and the chocolate is coming faster and faster and faster. Because there are real chocolates and virtual chocolates coming in via email.
One reason why I took this new job, I think, is that I’m no longer Lucy at the conveyor belt anymore. I’m her supervisor. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but for me, it was a necessary thing.
Last night I went to a play with my cousin, who is a freshman at Ball State. She introduced me to a friend and I said I was the Assistant Chair of the English Department, let me know if you need anything, etc.
Later, I saw a dean walk down the aisle and pointed him out. “That’s the dean of your college,” I said to my cousin. She looked at me, and I thought, Oh my God, if I was 18 years old and a freshman, I would have no freaking idea what that meant nor why it mattered in the slightest.
So I said, “Okay, so pretend Ball State is a country. President Ferguson is the President. The deans of all the different colleges are like the governors of the states.”
She nodded. “So you’re like a senator, right?
“No, a department chair is like a senator. I’m like his chief of staff.”
“Oh.” She sighed. “I’m sorry. I just think politics is kind of boring.”
“Yeah, I know. Or think of it this way. The department chair is like the mayor of a city. And the English department is a big city in the country’s largest and most populous state.”
“So you’re like the mayor of Los Angeles?”
“No, more like Sacramento. I’m like the deputy mayor of Sacramento.”
I remembered then that her friend had wanted to meet me because I’m a writer, but lately, I’ve started thinking of myself as the deputy mayor of Sacramento because I really like the job.
And that’s what scares me. Can you help run a city and write books at the same time?
That is the question, isn’t it?
(more later, i’ve been thinking about this a lot)
Note: This is about LORs for the academic job market, not for applying to MFA programs. That post is here.
A few years ago, a writer I knew (I’ll call her Chris) sent me an email asking me for some information. A graduate creative writing program had asked her to speak with their MFA students about “going on the market.” How to do a CV. How to write a good letter of application. How to read job ads. How to ask for LORs. That sort of thing.
The problem was that Chris was not on the faculty of that (very prestigious) MFA program. She was visiting and had only been on the job market in a limited way. So when Chris asked me if I would share my job search materials with her to share with MFA students in this program, here’s what I said:
You know, no. And I’ll tell you why.
First, I think that it’s the responsibility of the faculty of that very fine school to mentor their students. Not mine. And really, not even yours. THEY need to make their CVs and job letters and wisdom available to people who worked really hard to get into that school. That is why one works hard to get into that school–for access to that sort of thing.
Second, my materials are for my students and for my friends. If YOU want to see my letter, my CV, really ANYTHING, I would give it to you in a heartbeat. But not to them.
I don’t usually tell personal stories here, but helping my mom get her caregiving project going has inspired me to tell my own caregiving story. This a cross-post between my blog and my mom’s. Wow, now that’s something I thought I’d never say.
On Sunday Dec. 4, 2011 my mom called me and said Grandma had had a stroke and could I go to Peru. An hour and a half from Muncie. I went.
Route books are a gold mine of circus history. They’re a yearly archive of a show’s acts and travels, meticulously recorded for posterity, then printed and given to circus personnel as a keepsake.
I have one that belonged to my great great uncle Henry Hoffman, superintendent of the menagerie for the Great Wallace Show.
When I started doing readings for The Circus in Winter, I took lots of pictures and put them in scrapbooks. I wanted to remember as many of those wonderful moments as possible.
But I noticed that many of the pictures from those years featured me standing behind a podium or sitting at a table.
That isn’t how I remember readings and events. I remember looking out at a sea of faces.
So for the last few years, I try to take a picture of the audience at all my readings.
When I was creating my Route Book page for this website, I decided to do more than caption the photos. Where. When. I decided to share my memories of those events, and what I realized is that I’ve met and re-met so many people by going on the road.
Readings are hard on me. I have a bad back. I have anxiety issues. I’m an introvert. But I also love the experience of being in the room when people are experiencing my work or reacting to my ideas.
So feel free to follow the link and thumb through the pages of my route book. Maybe you’re in one of the pictures?
I’ll be adding lots of pictures to the Route Book page soon; I’m going to be on the road a lot this fall. For more information, check out the Events page.
And may all your days be circus days.
It’s July 5th, P.T. Barnum’s birthday, the 10-year anniversary of the publication of my first book, The Circus in Winter.
In 2004, I was teaching at The College of New Jersey. I was 35 years old.
That was the summer my sister got married. The first time I saw the book on a bookstore shelf was on June 17. We were on our way to her wedding rehearsal, which was near a Borders. I asked my dad to stop so I could go inside and see if the book was on the shelf yet. It was! I took a picture.
I wondered why my pub date was July 5th if the book was available in a bookstore on June 17?
My agent called me on July 5 to say congratulations and asked “What are you doing right now?” and the answer was that I was shucking corn.
That was a fantastic summer, full of happiness and starred book reviews and wedding receptions and a book tour.
I didn’t realize at the time how special that summer was, that sometimes a book pops and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s been hard to write my third book with this knowledge in the back of my mind. Here’s something I said to Bryan Furness when he asked me how a writer gets past moments like that.
In late July 2004, during my town’s annual circus festival, I did a signing in my hometown historical museum and many, many people came. Ex-boyfriends. Former teachers. Former circus people. Former babysitters. Childhood friends. It was completely overwhelming in a good way. I sat next to the skull of the elephant that killed my great-great uncle, the artifact that started my writing journey.
The next morning, I got to ride in a convertible in my hometown’s annual circus parade and wave at people. My brother and sister walked alongside the car and threw candy at the crowds lining the streets. The sign on the side of the car said: Guest “Author” Cathy Day.
Ah, the unnecessary quotation marks of the Midwest!
In my life thus far, these are the four greatest moments (in chronological order):
I’m incredibly fortunate that people are still reading The Circus in Winter. It was selected as the 2014 Common Reader at Hanover College. The other day, I got an email from a young woman who had just finished it.
I am attending Hanover College in the fall and I was required to read The Circus In Winter. I just finished reading it. While I was reading I didn’t know how I felt about the book. I kind of liked it and I kind of didn’t until the very end when Jenny talks about hometowns and how no matter what you can always go back. Just those very last paragraphs really got to me and it helped me appreciate the book so much more. Besides that I love the little bits of the book that actually happened. I understand some details were changed and so were names but it’s amazing for me to think something exciting has happened in Indiana.
Back in 2004, I sent a postcard to every county library in the state of Indiana asking them to add Circus to their collection. Someone asked me why I’d done that. Why focus on getting the word out about the book in Indiana rather than New York or Los Angeles? The answer is contained in that email.
I’m visiting Hanover College on Aug 25 and 26th.
In September, I’ll be in Connecticut for two events with Ben Clark, who wrote the music for Circus. We’ve actually never done an event together where we trace the evolution of a story into song. I’ll let you know more about those events as details are finalized, but one of them will be at the Mark Twain House and Museum. Very excited about that!
And then from October 23-November 16, Goodspeed Musicals is mounting a full production of Circus. I’ll be there, although I’m not yet sure which date.
Will you do me a favor today? Will you like the Facebook page for The Circus in Winter? If things go well with the musical, I hope that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will reprint Circus, and those likes might help me make my case.
I’m writing this on the porch of my house in Muncie, Indiana. If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be back home in Indiana or that I’d be blogging or that there’d be something called “Facebook” or that there would no longer be a thing called “Borders” or that my book would be a musical, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Thank you very much. Today I’m filled with so much gratitude for the blessings this book has brought me.