Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reflections on the first semester

Just attended a "collaborama" sponsored by the students in Robin Behn's collaboration class. Some hits, some misses. Overall: silly fun. Martone pointed out to some of us standing around in the lobby afterwards that we wouldn't have had this experience (or anything like it) at many of the schools we were looking at. This fueled a moment of introspection on my experience at the University of Alabama creative writing program so far.

Firsts this semester: many cities and states (Denver, St. Louis, Florida, Chicago, Atlanta), Gulf Coast, the Atlantic, tailgating southern-style, authentic southern BBQ, working on a lit mag, linguistics class, losing a toenail, drinking beer and grain whiskey with professors, feeling like a career having something to do with writing is feasible.

High points of the semester: Beaches, workshopping my first story in a graduate workshop, BWR meetings, the Downtown Pub (DTP), Laser Decadence, successful tutoring sessions, and of course movie nights with my neighbor, Tim.

I truly love it here. I feel privileged and grateful to be paid to do something that I love, to be learning alongside such talented people, to feel supported and encouraged by the faculty and entrusted with my own education. Tuscaloosa isn't such a drag if you're a homebody like me who never lived in an exciting city like Chicago. Sure, I miss having a wide variety of delicious brunch spots to choose from. I miss the public transportation, the grocery store options, the independent movie theater, the symphony, the theater, the excellent restaurants. But I enjoy the weather, the antique stores, the down home cooking, the "sir" and "ma'am" mentality, and the frankness and friendliness of the people.

So. First semester gets great reviews.

More than anything, I miss Andy. But we're doing well. We're doing us proud. I'll see him in a week and we'll have nearly a month together before the next long stretch. What a great Christmas present.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall thoughts

This is undergrad: ramen noodles.

This is grad school: ramen noodles plus broccoli.

That's not entirely true. I did bake myself two lovely loaves of pumpkin bread with walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Now the house smells like autumn. And the air feels like it. And somehow everything is so much better because of that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Midterm Resolutions

Wow, Tuscaloosa. Not really what I thought you would be. Your stormy weather is startling. You slay me with your river, trees, your sunsets. Your natives, who catcall the grad students as they bike by with phrases like "GET A JOB" charm me with the simplicity of their lives: they exit the womb, spit out the silver spoon, pick up a football/tennis racket/golf club, master that 80's prep school coif, drink wine with their parents at the country club, go to college, pledge a sorority/fraternity, don the non-required uniform (track shorts and size XL shirt w/flip flops or tennis shoes for the ladies, khaki and polos for the gentlemen), drink, network, make sexual advances on one another, and leave college married and set for life. It's so idyllic in its way. It has the same gentle, predictable rhythms as the life of a shepherd.

My life is organized almost at random. Shifts at the Writing Center, where I help said undergrads write better papers about significant events in their lives like cheerleading tournaments and rush week (no lie), are sprinkled across Monday, Friday, and Sunday. Shifts in the Graduate Office with the lovely Vernita and the lovely Carol are pleasant and offer ample time to catch up on reading (though I've learned that when I save homework for the last shift before a class, a mountain of work magically appears to reprimand and punish me for my procrastination). Classes occur on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of every week, with the exception of my publishing seminar, which pops up once every other Tuesday. Also every other week: Writing Center staff meetings.

On the side, I'm reading fiction, poetry, and non-fiction for the Black Warrior Review (which equals 3-4 meetings a month), attending readings (of course), learning to belay with Betsy at the rock climbing wall in the student rec center, trying to read "The Essential Jung," "Beloved," "Arkansas," and multiple slush piles simultaneously, making notes of other things I want to read and write, chatting through all of this with Andy, and last and regrettably least, the occasional run, the occasional session of yoga (video yoga), and some writing.

So here we are: fall break. I must say I am ready for it. I am busy in a good way, but busy nevertheless, and I am tired. So this weekend: the Shrimp Festival at Gulf Shores, the beach, my first alligator farm, and plenty of fun with Tim and Casey. Hooray!

But most of all, next weekend. Next weekend I fly out to Utah for some quality time with my lover. I am counting down the minutes. (No, really: at the time of posting there are 216 hours and 48 minutes until I see him again.)

I have goals for next semester. I want to spend more time writing and exercising, less time drinking. I want to get back in touch with my inner peace, the part of me that remains unruffled no matter what else is going on. I want to be less selfish. I want to nurture my friendships. I want to spend less time thinking about all of the great things I want to do while I'm here and start actually doing them.

Here's to midterm, everyone. Roll Tide.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


After one grueling week training to work in the Writing Center, four of the gals in my program and I decided we needed a vacation and took off for Florida. We got up early Sunday morning, packed into my car, and drove almost an hour in the wrong direction before turning around and heading back to start from scratch. Along the way we played fun games like Count the Confederate Flags (about one for every backwoods cabin we spotted, when averaged) and Identify the Roadkill (mostly snakes). Once we were back on track and heading for Birmingham then Montgomery then Florida, we played a lot of Where the Hell is this Road, Oops Wrong Exit, and I Wonder if a Hurricane is Coming.

Five hours later, we found ourselves in Beaches (aka Grayton Beach). Lovely, lovely Beaches.

Our "cabin" turned out to be more like a condo-- two bedroom, one bath, one screened porch, one fully equipped kitchen, one ten minute walk from the beach. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the fishy decorations, dropped off our bags, and decided to walk down to the beach before dinner.

Oh, the beach. Storm clouds were rolling in, the waves choppy, the white sands growing blue in the dusk, the dune grasses swaying. And the water surprisingly warm. After we had all taken the edge off our craving for sea, sky, and sand castles, we headed over to a local seafood place for boiled shrimp and crab and a two-person folk band.

I won't say anything about the intoxicated evening which followed except: what happens in Beaches stays in Beaches.

Next day: long walk to get coffee, local shops all closed (what day is again? Monday? it a holiday?) circle back to campsite via beach (windy windy, shrieks of "ow" in unison whenever sand sprayed our bare legs, Faulkner--I mean Steinbeck--references) a drive to Seaside to shop for ingredients for dinner and more booze (all out), lunch and beer, another trip to the beach (sting rays spotted: 2), back home for showers, wine and beer and amazing risotto (thanks Dara!)

On Tuesday we all rose surprisingly early and went on walks to the beach to say goodbye. There was in inlet with a sign proclaiming "Beware of Alligators"--I walked up and down it hoping to catch a glimpse, even thought about dipping my toe in as bait, but nothing. Guess I'll save the gators for later.

As a last hoorah we had breakfast at "Another Broken Egg," apparently a tourist trap as the food was mediocre but expensive. Then another five hour drive, much more subdued this time, through spotty tempests so extreme I felt like Ms. Frizzle driving the Magic School Bus underwater.

Shortly after we disembarked in good old Tuscaloosa, school started.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Home, Sweet Tuscaloosa

It has been an eventful couple of weeks. Things are only just settling down, which is why I now have time to do things like experiment with Rice-a-Roni (recommended), see Inglourious Basterds (recommended with reservations), stub the toenail off one of my toes (not recommended)... and blog.

The night before the twenty-seven hour drive from Utah to Alabama, I realized that I had been overly optimistic when planning what to bring with me. In my Prius. (I know, right?) After playing tug-o-war and there's-no-way-in-hell tetris for a sweaty and frustrated half hour, I gave up on bringing any furniture, including my Swedish bit-by-bit desk. Then I gave up on bringing all of my books. Then I started evaluating every item I owned for its utility and replacability (bowls and plates? I can buy new ones.) By the time I crawled into bed I had pared down my earthly possessions to the point where I probably could have entered a prison or a monastery without having to surrender anything further, but everything was packed nicely into my planet friendly vehicle.

I let Andy drive because I was extremely nervous about whether or not my car would be able to attain full speed loaded down with all of those boxes and pillows and things. Actually, looking back, I was very anxious over who-knows-what, and I didn't relax for the first, oh, three hours of the drive. Luckily Andy's sense of humor, a great playlist, and the little Prius that could helped chill me out, and by the time we got to Denver, I was ready for a good time.

Which we proceeded to have, first at Great Divide, then at Wyncoop, several glasses of good times, in fact.

The next morning we peeled ourselves out of bed bright and early and drove our hung over butts through the McDonald's drive through, out onto the freeway, all the way through Kansas (where we managed to pick up a $164 speeding ticket) and on to Little Rock.

In Little Rock, we stayed at a motel several notches skankier than the one in Denver witnessed behavior and outfits several notches skankier than you'd find in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. Once again, we enjoyed ourselves a large glass or two of good times, this time at The Flying Saucer.

The next day, in spite of confusion over toll roads and a seemingly obscure back road into Alabama, we quickly found ourselves in Tuscaloosa--so quickly, in fact, that Andy expressed regret that the trip was already over. When we were almost to my new house, I figured out how to load google maps on his blackberry. How timely.

The next several days were a blur of procuring furniture, a bed, and a million other things that had been left behind (intentionally or accidentally) in Utah, attending Writing Center Orientation (part of my assistantship), getting a bank account, pestering the landlord for a refrigerator (received two days after arrival) and a washer and dryer (received one week after arrival), meeting new people, etc. Shout out to Andy for all of the things he did for me: assembled bookshelf, bed frame, bedside table for me, fronted me the money for all purchases since financial aid hadn't come through yet, replaced lightbulbs throughout the house, fixed doorknobs, and generally did everything he could to look out for my safety and comfort. He also treated me to several delicious southern meals. Just generally let me know how much he loved me in every way possible.

And then, on Thursday, I drove him to Birmingham. We went to the J. Clyde for lunch (and of course beer) and then I dropped him off at the airport. What a surreal moment, knowing it would probably be months before I saw him again, having to turn around and navigate my way back to Tuscaloosa for the mixer which concluded the WC Orientation. Needless to say I got a bit drunk, which helped me to sleep that first lonely night without him.

More later.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Long Distance

It has taken most of the summer for the reality of what's about to happen to sink in. I'm moving over a thousand miles away from my home of six years and my boyfriend of three years. The office is empty around me, except for impressions of the furniture in the carpet and an anxious spider on an exodus for cover. I just started packing but I'm almost done already--maybe the next four days won't be as hurried and busy as I anticipated. Which could be good or bad. Andy has finals this week, so we won't have much time together either way, not until Friday, when we'll start the twenty seven-hour drive.

It's been a tough summer--it's not a good time to be waiting tables. I'm thrilled that I only have two or three more shifts to work and then I get a year-long hiatus. Plus, with Andy taking Organic Chemistry and working a lot, we haven't had much time together in general. I do feel like we're doing well with what time we have, though. We're always hungry for each other, as though extra cuddling now will make up for physical absence later. When I start to think about being away from Andy at all, let alone for days, weeks, and months at a time, I hyperventilate a little. We haven't been apart for more than two weeks at a time since we met. I really don't know how we'll cope with it, both individually and as a couple. He claims to fall a little more in love with me every day--and as cheesy as it is, I feel the same way. We've had our ups and downs, but we're in such a solid place now. It's a shame that everything has to change.

However, I am also very excited for what lies ahead. I intend to make the most of these three years. I would hate to find myself heading off the podium at graduation with nothing but a degree. I want to make significant progress in my writing. I want to have some publications by the time I leave. I want to have a solid idea of what kind of career I want to pursue. I want to develop strong habits of writing regularly. I have so much hope for this degree, so many expectations. Not so many for Tuscaloosa (since the other grad students call it "Tuscalooserville.") I'm always one to like new places, but I find that if I keep my expectations low, I'm more likely to be pleasantly surprised. I await the large insects and intense humidity with apprehension.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Alabama it is. Tornadoes, crawdads, and football obsession: here I come.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More News

Okay... updating that list is becoming depressing/boring/inconvenient. Here's where I'm at right now:


Alabama (full funding)
Hollins (partial funding)




We do not speak of these schools. These schools are dead to me. Oh! Except for Johns Hopkins. What gives, Johns Hopkins? I thought we were friends at least, but now we're not talking? Talk about bipolar.

***UPDATE: We're really coming down to it! I think once I hear from Virginia I'll be able to make my decision.***

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Official List

Since all I can think about right now are grad school notifications, I might as well blog about it. Here's the official list, to be updated as I receive news from each of the schools.

I applied for an MFA in Fiction to the following:

Alabama- Accepted
Brown- Denied
Johns Hopkins- Denied
North Carolina-Greensboro- Acceptance reported 1/25. :(
Notre Dame
Texas-Austin- Denied
Utah (BA to PhD track)- Denied
Washington U-St. Louis- Denied

The acceptances should start to trickle down to the lucky candidates over the next six weeks, but most of them will hit during the first two weeks of March. Wish me luck.
Web Analytics