Notes I Took

The Michael Perry workshop was this morning.

I think I was worried that he would have us do some writing, and then read our work aloud.    Which seems silly in retrospect, especially since I’m not exactly shy about sharing the things I write (hence this blog).  But blogging to strangers (who I’ll likely never meet) and writing to peers in a Fiction Writing class is different than writing to famous authors.

Even if they’re Michael Perry and utterly approachable.  (See below).

Here are some of the notes I jotted down during the workshop.  I didn’t take meticulous notes, as I kept getting caught up in the stories he was telling, but this is what I managed:

1.  Learn about writer’s rights: copyrights, etc.

2.  Self-publishing requires promotion: sell books at craft shows, events, etc.  Take down names of buyers, send postcards to those people when you publish something else.

3.  While in the editing process: make a little booklet out of one of your chapters.  Staple pages together, and carry it with you to mark up while you’re in a deer stand, in a waiting room, etc.

4.  Key to creative non-fiction: get your facts straight!

5.  The only power you have over your reader is trust.

6.  Choose words for their taste over their meaning (Dylan Thomas).

7.  Read what you’re trying to write.

8.  Work at writing every day.

Support the U Day

It seems that every story I tell begins with me waking up obnoxiously early.  Since I guess I’ve only heavily hinted at it up until now, I should say straight out that I am not a morning person.  Far from it.  You would know this if you’ve ever talked to me before nine a.m; I may have been incoherent, or I may have been mean.  What I’ve come to learn, however, is that although they start sluggishly, and usually with little natural light, early mornings often lead to fantastic days.

Today was Support the U Day.  A three-hour bus ride during which I managed to pour people’s OJ without sloshing it all over their jeans, teach the Minnesota Rouser to everyone (while possibly singing/chanting out of tune; ask the guy who stood in front of me), and accomplish nothing homework-related.

Then we arrived, and despite attempts to be everlastingly blasé, my mouth hung open just a tad.  I’ll never fail to be impressed by the state capitol building.  It’s marble and murals and an echoing rotunda and an inspiring portrait of Jesse Ventura in the basement:

In the standing-around-and-gaping stage before the rally began, (Support the U Day, I must explain, is when students of the University of Minnesota bus down to the Capitol to talk to their legislators about the importance of funding the U), President Kaler (of the U of MN) came up and shook my hand.  Well, we all know how I get around famous people.  I stuttered something about us being from Morris, while wondering if my handshake had been limp.  Everyone hates a limp handshake.

We pause for a moment in order for the writer to mention that she is currently blogging in her apartment stairwell (for lack of a better place to go), and that the RA just came by on his rounds.  Your friendly blogger scared him half to death, which was fairly entertaining, especially paired with the fact that it’s awfully difficult to explain yourself when you and Mac are sitting in a stairwell on a Friday night.

And back to the story…

Note: there is no snow in Minnesota currently. This picture (along with the one of Jesse) was taken last year, when I brought my camera to Support the U Day (and remembered to use it).

The rally was kicked off (as all rallies should be) with speeches.  We heard from President Kaler, from Governor Dayton, and from various student leaders.  Then Morris folks, at the count of four, began clapping out the Rouser.  We ended up singing alone (despite, I must add, the number of other U of MN students in the vicinity), but it was fun and it got everyone revved for some lobbying.

Unfortunately, and unlike last year, students were not able to meet with their legislators (from their home districts) individually.  Instead, because both the senate and the house were in session, we had to send notes into the forums, asking certain legislators to come out and chat with us.  Most of them were kind enough to do so, and we huddled around them in vaulted hallways, listening to them defend their votes with regards to the U.  They all said, of course, that the University is important, and that we (the students) are the future.     Yes, yes.  But then why are you cutting University funding down to 20% of our budget request?  How do you expect us to live up to the high standards we’ve established-technological innovation, top-notch research, sustainability, global outlook, academic excellence, etc.-if you won’t provide us with the means to maintain them?  How do you expect our generation, and the next, to lead the state someday, when we consistently feel that the state doesn’t value our education?  What do you have to say to the first generation college student who works three part-time jobs while at school, and will still graduate with $30,000 worth of student loans?

Those are some of the questions we had, and will continue to have, as the state continues to hole up in the Capitol and ignore the needs of its most valuable resource.

The bus ride home was quieter; most people snuggled down into their jackets and slept.  A few Disney singalongs floated up from the back of the bus, but I was too far gone to think about joining in.  So far gone, in fact, that when I finally awoke, I had a spot of drool on my sweater.  Attractive.

Tomorrow, I am happy to report, has the makings of being just as powerful of a day.  At 10:30 I’m going to a creative non-fiction writing workshop led by Michael Perry (  Having read an excerpt from “Coop” in class, and having attended his reading/concert earlier this evening, I can safely say that I will be learning a lot in this workshop.  And that I want to read all of his books, and will do so the minute Amazon delivers them to me.

Party Tricks

It’s amazing, really, how far you can go in the course of the day.

This morning, for instance, I never would have guessed that by this evening I would have successfully picked three locks.

That’s right, folks.  I picked three locks, with the help and moral support of Morris Lock Sport.

And now I have a roaring headache from peering into the depths of a keyhole (sorry, MLS; I can’t remember all of the technical terms you taught me), and my studies have once again been slightly neglected, but of course it’s worth it to be able to brag about this at every party I attend for the rest of my life.

I mean, think about it: reciting poetry at parties gets old after a while, even for me.  So at New Year’s next year, once I’ve worn out the Keats, I can stride over to the nearest padlock and have at it.



Live from Higbies

I went to bed at 3 a.m. this morning, having finished my paper.

I then slept in until 10:30, padded out to the living room in my sweats and Stanford sweatshirt, and watched cartoons with my roommate and her boyfriend for an hour.  The programmers seemed to know I was there, as they made a point to show both Scooby-Doo and Foghorn Leghorn.

I then proceeded to attend three meetings with my running mate, and brainstorm (and fail to come up with) a title for my paper.

Now I’m sitting at work, letting my coworker hold the ropes while I crank this out.

Going to go contribute now.  See you!

A Procrastination Poem

I’ve been at the library for weeks and months,

or maybe two hours.

I’ve bobbed up and down several times, up to check out two movies

(needed to write my paper on the cinematography of The Queen and Gandhi),

down again to write a paragraph, hammering at my thesis with bit-blunt nails

I would rather sink into this uncomfortable wooden chair

And watch Helen Mirren do her best

But instead I have to focus on the way the light bounces off her hair

and the reason why she stands behind the couch instead of sitting upon it with the rest of them.

Why should I suffer so, you wonder?

Folded into coat and scarf in the corner of the first floor?

For my GPA, of course.

And to graduate with Honors, and to get into grad school and to earn my masters and doctorate

and to eventually sit in a far more palatable chair, doling out papers such as these

to poor juniors who would rather



Paper Writing Season

It’s paper-writing season again, unfortunately, and I’m stuck until Tuesday evening with a prompt asking me to compare the representations of leaders in “The Queen” and “Gandhi,” focusing specifically on cinematography.

I don’t mind writing about films.

What I do mind is the fact that as I’ve only seen Gandhi a few times and am not overly familiar with it, I’ll likely need to rewatch the entire three hours in order to write this particular paper.

In other news, I got an A on my story.  The workshoppers were kind, although they pointed out something I would never have caught on my own: that my opening paragraphs make my protagonist sound like a prostitute.  Whoops.


Butt Funny (Let Me Explain)

It was a gorgeous afternoon.

At eleven I had my second round Orientation Group Leader interview.  It was speed dating style; we had to answer two questions at each station.

I think I did well.  I was tired, so I didn’t feel as energetic as I usually do, but I answered every question with appropriate pragmitism and spunk, I hope.

One that threw me was this:  What would you do if a first-year student in your orientation group asked you on a date?


Say no?

I think I bumbled something about telling them that it wouldn’t be appropriate given I was serving as their mentor, but it was a strange, strange question.

After my interview, I went downstairs to meet with my running mate and our campaign team.  Two members of that team, thank the heavens, had experience making and editing videos, and so we were able to shoot our own successfully with plenty of advice from them.  It was warm and sunny out, so much of our footage was taken outside, perched casually on a park bench, talking about our platform.

A highlight was when I went to move one of these, because it would have been in a shot otherwise:

And the darn top pulled off in my hands, leaving the bottom to crush my toe and splash cigarette water all over my feet and legs.  It was disgusting, but funny.  Butt funny.  (Sorry)

Now I’m sitting in my room, wrapped in a blanket (which is what I always do when I’m forced to sit at my desk.  It makes the uncomfortable chair somewhat bearable).  Some freshmen are screeching across the way, surely happily aware that their voices carry.  It’s almost 10:13, and I’m undecided about watching SNL, for once.  I do have a five page paper to write.

The Rest for Rest

What I want to say tonight is that I loved The Hunger Games last night/this morning.

In all honesty (and you won’t hear me say this often), the movie was everything I’d hoped for.  It stuck to the book as much as it possibly could have.  The casting was magnificent.  The acting superb.  The special effects were nice, although I don’t talk about that.

It’s been a long week, as I’m sure you’ve noticed (given the increasing desperation/decreasing length of my posts).  My running mate and I (sometimes alone, sometimes together) went to a total of fifty meetings this week.  Meetings with faculty, staff, students, etc.  And they’ve all been enjoyable, of course, but there have been many of them, and I’m so grateful for the weekend, which features one afternoon of campaign stuff and the rest for rest.

Sorry about all this election talk.  It’ll be over April 6.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

I’m posting now, from the dimming orange-ness of early evening, because I won’t be posting later, from the lines in front of the Morris Movie Theater.

Why yes, I will be attending the premiere tonight.  I already have my ticket.  I ate veggies for dinner and will be eating popcorn and Reese’s Pieces for dessert.  I may be doing a little campaigning whilst I wait, talking platform with the rest of the chattering UMMers in line: “See?  I’m a normal person.  I wait for hours in the rain for movies, too.”


I got my first workshop comments via email today.  I told myself I wouldn’t read them until after the in-class workshop tomorrow, as I want to be surprised by people’s reactions and idea, but I couldn’t help reading just one email.  Luckily for my ego, it was a good one.  The girl who wrote it was thoughtful, thorough, and actual knew quite a bit about the historical period.  She also had extremely good suggestions for improvement.  I may have her read everything I write from now on.

I’m not nervous for tomorrow, but I may be when the time comes.  I’ve rarely had my creative writing workshopped, and it’s an entirely different experience from having an essay workshopped.  Everything I write creatively (and, I suspect, everything everyone writes creatively) is intensely personal, and reflects not only the span of my innovation, but the things I think about and worry about.  The other difficult thing about this workshop is that the author (me) is not allowed to comment/ask questions/answer questions until the very end of the period.  So, if someone is getting something entirely, entirely wrong, not only will I not be able to lunge across the table and shake them, but I won’t be able to explain anything.

Happy Hunger Games, everyone.

Story Departing

Besides pitching our platform to so very many fine people, guess what I did today?

I finally turned in the darn story.

12 pages long.

Officially the longest (by far) story I’ve ever written.  Actually, the longest anything I’ve ever written.

I have yet to reach the 20 page research paper stage of college, but oh my, it’s coming.

Now to bed.  I really should start studying for Friday’s quiz, but sleep is much more important; I’m still recovering from Monday’s almost-all-nighter, and it’s difficult to be charming and persuasive whilst campaigning when one is only half-conscious.

P.S. Hunger Games premiere tomorrow night (technically Friday morning).  Who’s excited?