How I travel back in time, hold myself accountable, and refrain from smoking

How I travel back in time, hold myself accountable, and refrain from smoking

Mrs. Cole Porter Writing

I’ve been blogging a lot lately, just not here on WordPress. I’ve been using Pinterest and Tumblr for quick posts. The interfaces are simple, and the stakes are low because not a lot of people follow me there.

What am I blogging about? Well, they aren’t “essay-like” blog posts, as you are used to here. These are more visual, like a bulletin board or scrapbook. Or they’re more utilitarian, like a ledger. That’s why I don’t think to share them here on the Big Thing.

A few years ago, I went to an exhibit at the Morgan Library on diaries. I was especially interested in how artists use them.

I spent a lot of time looking at the writing journal John Steinbeck kept as he wrote The Grapes of Wrath. Here’s a great post from Austin Kleon’s blog about that.

steinbeckI want to hold myself accountable, too, like Steinbeck did. That’s why I started this little Tumblr blog called Every Day I Write the Book.

I also use Tumblr (and Pinterest) like scrapbooks. A place to archive the images and maps I find.

Sometimes I just reblog a picture.

Sometimes I add a picture to a scrapbook I keep for Linda.

Sometimes I make digital scrapbooks comprised of images and maps of one particular place, like Villa Trianon.

The pages I’ve been writing this week are set at Villa Trianon, and I look at these pictures to sort of “will” myself into that time and place.

exterior villa

I suppose it’s no different from cutting something out of a magazine and pasting it down so that you can go back and look at it later.

If you’ve seen Somewhere in Time, you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes I do more than just clip images. I actually start writing about what they mean to me. Proto blog posts. Like this one on the so-called “classic” look.

In this article, Edwidge Danticat talks about how she creates bulletin boards so that she can see her ideas and the images that inspire her, as well as the overall plot structure.

That’s what I’m doing, too, I guess, except my bulletin board is digital. And share-able.

But this research can’t overtake the actual writing. Instead, I play with my bulletin board/scrapbooks as a way into the writing or when it’s time to take a break from writing–instead of smoking. (The urge to do so has been strong lately for some reason.)

I’ve also been watching period dramas to keep myself thinking in the past.

  • A Room with a View, both the 2007 and 1986 versions
  • Ridicule
  • Austenland
  • My Immortal Beloved
  • The Other Boleyn Girl
  • A Royal Affair
  • The King’s Speech
  • Agora

Another way that I will myself into the past isn’t digital at all. I read books that were published at the time I’m writing about. Right now, I’m reading a novel by the Duchess of Sutherland, who was a friend of Linda’s. It’s not very good, but the book smells old, the details are marvelous, and it definitely transports me into that milieu.

 

If you have any other suggestions for me, let me know. Good luck with your own writing projects. Thanks, as always, for reading.

[And so ends today’s writing warm ups. Time to start writing for real.]

This Blog is a Waste of My Time: Thoughts on the Three-Year Anniversary of The Big Thing

Teaching Writing

waste of timeI’ve been thinking a lot lately about this blog. Last week, I wrote about “lore” and informally trading teaching information vs. formally publishing teaching research.

This blog began because in 2010, I wrote an essay about teaching.  I realized that the default setting of all my classes–of most fiction-writing classes, really–was the short story. I wanted to tweak that default setting. Not just in my own classes. I wanted to inspire other people to tweak theirs, too. Continue reading

The Top 5 Most Popular Posts on the Big Thing–and Why

Writing

dems_top_5_101It’s almost the end of the year, plus I’m nearing the third anniversary of The Big Thing, a blog I started so that I could talk more about teaching writing.

I’ve been looking at my stats, seeing what I can learn.

Here are my most popular posts, according to Google Analytics:

This one about visiting Linda’s grave.

  • Why is it so popular? Every time someone sees De-Lovely, they Google “Linda Porter Rose” and boom, they find me. I get at least one comment on that blog post every other week. Continue reading
Teaching Tuesday: Requiring Students to Blog about the Class

Teaching Tuesday: Requiring Students to Blog about the Class

Teaching

This semester, I’m teaching a grad course on the linked stories form and an undergraduate course on the novel form.

These past two weeks, in both classes, we’ve been talking about subplots, layers, and throughlines.

My students have been doing an excellent job of sharing their notes on our course blogs.

Each week, I select one student to be our class “scribe.” They turn their notes from class (lecture + discussion + personal anecdotes/flavor) into a class “report.”

And I grade it.

Here are a few samples.

What I’ve learned

Continue reading

Bringing New York Publishing to Muncie, Indiana

Literary Citizenship Teaching
This is the table where BSU Board of Trustees meets. It's kind of awesome.
This is the table where BSU Board of Trustees meets. It’s kind of awesome.

Thanks to a grant from the Discovery Group, I’ve hired 11 Ball State students for internships at this summer’s Midwest Writers Workshop.

I’ve told you before about this conference, but here it is again.

Some backstory

Ever since I arrived at Ball State in 2010, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to expose students to the benefits of this conference.   MWW is run by a group of dedicated volunteers. It’s not funded by Ball State University; it just happens to take place on campus. One day, I was talking about this to BSU professor Beth Turcotte (who knows everything about how to find the resources to make amazing things happen) and she recommended I look into the Discovery grant, and boom, I applied. In December, I found out I was a finalist and made a presentation to the members, and in February, I found out I’d been funded. I quickly put out a call for applications, and by April, I’d assembled my team.  Continue reading

The Next Thing: Professionalization in Creative Writing

CW Programs Literary Citizenship Teaching

Careers (job search)Not every Creative Writing major wants to go to grad school, and to be honest, I’m not even sure if most of them want to be published writers. What brings them to our classes, I think, is a desire to be connected to the world of books. This essay by Dean Bakopoulos speaks to that desire.

Creative writing isn’t a pre-professional discipline. We’re not like some academic majors which prepare students for a concrete, discernible “next thing,” such as graduate study, this job, that career path. When my students say, “What I can do with this degree?” I talk about “transferable skills.” I point them in the direction of the career center. Continue reading

On Writers Without Websites

Literary Citizenship Writing

My husband and I have started a little website business, of sorts. We’re not looking to build or expand, mind you. We have one client, my yoga teacher/massage therapist. I’ll call her Violet. She runs a studio out of her lovely historic home. I go there a few times a week and do yoga in her dining room and get acupressure massages in a little room off the kitchen. Violet’s been doing this work for over 30 years, and working with her has made a big difference in my life.

The Findability of Violet

I only found Violet because a friend of mine, Nancy, introduced me. I would never have found Violet on my own. There would have been no way to find her.

From the image search “Yoga Muncie”

See, I knew Nancy did yoga, but I didn’t know where. So I Googled “Yoga Muncie.” This made me very depressed.

Go ahead. Try it.

Continue reading

20 answers to the question: “But what should I blog about?”

20 answers to the question: “But what should I blog about?”

Teaching The Biggest Things

Relax. Don’t try so hard.

If you focus on the stuff that matters to you, everything else will fall into place: finding readers, an audience, your tribe.
 
Pay attention to what you Tweet and share on Facebook.

Maybe that’s the material you should be blogging about. Every time you share an article or tweet or retweet a link, you’re microblogging. Why not blog-blog it? Take a few extra minutes and say something about that link and you’ve got a blog post.
 
I was on Facebook for a few years before I started blogging. I thought, What the hell do I have to blog about? After about a year or so on Facebook, I found that most of my friends were other writer/teachers. People I worked with. People I’d gone to school with. People the people I worked with had gone to school with. 
 
Continue reading

My Next Big Thing: Literary Citizenship

My Next Big Thing: Literary Citizenship

Literary Citizenship Teaching

For the last few years, I’ve ended my classes with a presentation/pep talk on Literary Citizenship (basically this post as a Power Point). But next semester, I’m going to teach a whole class on Literary Citizenship.

Course descriptions are due this week, so I just wrote this up:

A literary citizen is an aspiring writer who understands that you have to contribute to, not just expect things from, the publishing world. This course will teach you how to take advantage of the opportunities offered by your campus, regional and national literary communities and how you can contribute to those communities given your particular talents and interests. It will also help you begin to professionalize yourself as a writer. You will learn how to 1.) create your own professional blog or website, 2.) use social media to build your writing community, 3.) interview writers and publish those interviews, 4.) review books and publish those reviews, 5.) submit poems, stories, and essays to literary magazines, 6.) query agents and editors regarding book manuscripts, 7.) apply to graduate programs and write an effective statement of purpose, 8.) deliver an effective public reading of your work, 9.) pitch to an agent, 10.) craft a professional résumé. Students who complete the course in an exemplary fashion will be eligible to apply for internship positions as Social Media Tutors at the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie July 25-27, 2013. 

Continue reading