Sunday, November 30, 2008

trying to focus is hard after all that food...

I am trying to write a paper about what works in teaching writing, even though I've never really taught writing. Well, not to a classroom of kids, well, not for more than a little bit at a time. There are all those hours I've been putting in as a consultant at The Writing Center. And Last week I gave a little talk about paragraphing in fiction, which was actually more like a conversation. And last spring in San Francisco when I was subbing, I would try to steer kids in the right direction whenever I saw them writing things that made no sense. But I guess I've been learning that a hands off approach is better, that instead of telling them what to write and how to write it, instead of fixing every typo, it's a lot more valuable for them (and easier on me) to focus on the bigger picture, to have a conversation about what it is they are trying to say. I guess my opposite impulse was developed when I was in high school in Surabaya, one of only five native English speakers in my class, and really the only on who cared much about English class. Anyway, I was kind of a dork and sort of obsessed with getting people to like me so whenever people would ask me to fix their papers or articles, I would. I would make them perfect--no conversation, no questions asked. So I guess I've been working towards unlearning that in order to some day perhaps be a decent teacher of writing but for now I have to write this annoying paper.

Friday, November 28, 2008

thank you!

Thanksgiving at the Pierce house was a lot of fun, as usual. Somehow, the kids table has turned into the under 30 table, and there were more of us than the "adults." My cousin R wowed us with his knowledge of wooing women (apparently, the dim ones can really be a lot more fun), and our guest P told us some things we never quite considered about the melding of medicine and business. D and Y were visiting from Cairo/New York, and seemed to have a pretty good time. My brussels sprouts (despite boohooing from several male family members) were received so well the full pan of them disappeared. Beforehand, we talked to my absent Aunt Y by Skype for the first time. My mom and Aunt A carried a laptop around the house, showing her the tables and the food--kind of cheesy but pretty cute. Didn't have anything else to eat after the 2pm meal, but did have some coffee at the movies later. We ended up heading to the only independent theater in northern virginia to see "Slumdog Millionnaire"--a film that more than made up for the bad choice we made at Blockbuster the previous night. Where "Snow Angels" was a self-indulgent, non-sensical myriad of characters and painful scenes, "Slumdog Millionnaire" was an exciting, colorful myriad of characters and lovely scenes. It was a cavalcade of colors and sounds but nothing about it was painful or forced or overdone. Quite sad in regards to the recent Mumbai attacks, the movie was something of a bittersweet entertiainment. Not sure what I'd say if I was familiar with real-life Mumbai at all, but, as it is, I admired the storytelling acumen of the writer of the novel that inspired it and the screenplay. I guess I just feel like a good movie is hard to come by in this day and age, and this definitely is one.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

the ramble, the update

So it turns out I'm not too good at this blogging thing lately. A few things have happened. I've been writing and reading, a lot. Reading mostly the impressive work of my peers and students here at VCU. Seriously, I'm routinely blown away, which makes me want to be a better writer. The last story I turned into workshop was pretty disjointed but cool if only for the fact that it takes place mostly on a night train in Thailand. We will talk about it at our meeting next Wednesday and I'm frankly kind of dreading it. Also, my reading as part of our Moveable Feast monthly series went really well. I was reading some scenes from a novel I don't think I'll ever finish about a disfuctional romantic relationship. I gave the audience the choice between narrative of that relationships beginnings or of it's fall out. They chose the latter, yelling it at me, not even letting me have them vote, which was all part of my master plan. I recently had a visitor from far away for a week. It was amazing to show him what my new life in Richmond was like. For Halloween we showed up late at a grad student party full with people dressed like rockstars--from Loretta Lynn to Kurt Cobain to Rob Zombie. The two of us wore all black and kuffiahs and told people we were an obscure pro-Palestinean punk band, and they were like, oh. We biked around and sat on a sunny rock in the James River and ate amazing bbq rips like barbarians and drank beers while we watched Obama's votes come in. Could hardly believe he won, though, when I think about it, what was our alternative, really? Could you imagine what things would be like right now if McCain won? For starters, I'm pretty sure the thousands of people who took to the streets all over the world would not have been as jubilant. What else? I have been delighted by the students I see in the Writing Center at school. Each week, I have 12 random appointments, 20 minute slots with people from all over the university looking for help with what they are writing for class. At first, it freaked me out, but now I kind of enjoy it. Not to say there aren't moments when someone says something or I read something, and I think, this isn't happening. I've been going up to NoVa to see my parents quite a bit, which is a really cool thing, considering this is the closest I've lived to them in over ten years. Writing that makes me feel old. I planted some tulip bulbs in our front flower bed in honor of the first frost. I just ate some amazing tomato soup and now I have to go write.