**UPDATE **RENEE ZULEMA SUMMERFIELD book release party TONIGHT!!! **DOUGLASS READS 9 **THE (LAST) DOUGLASS STREET LAB STARTS 1/18/11...REGISTER NOW! **SAVE THE DATE for FOURTEEN HILLS issue 17.1
Teaching this semester in all the various places has been an endurance test and a thrill, just like I like it. The MA/MFA students at San Francisco State have impressed me. There, the students in Building Characters are a force on their own, and the work they're producing keeps getting deeper no matter what I throw at them. There's a joy in that, in being able to assign an interview or essay along with a story or novel and just let smart people respond. My biggest challenge as a teacher in that class is getting out of the way.
I just had an overdue talk with a long-time friend who, after moving to the middle west to attend (one of) the most prestigious Creative Writing MFA programs in the country, is dismayed by the ho-hum fiction in the capital T The capital W Workshop. I told her she should've chosen SFSU!
The editors and staff of Fourteen Hills work endlessly. At least an ambitious handful of them do, and they will leave an MFA program with actual marketable world skills. They're busy with the myriad of ways they're building community by sponsoring readings, promoting writers, and seeking innovative or undervalued or just plain good work for Fourteen Hills. They're doing themselves such a service by branching out beyond the safety of their academic program and taking their inspiration from and out into the world.
Speaking of Fourteen Hills, there are two events coming right up, one with Zulema Renee Summerfield, the winner of The Michael Rubin Book Award, put out by Fourteen Hills Press. I was lucky enough to have Zulema as a student more than once. If you know me at all, you've probably heard me tell the story of the inspiring, completely engaged student whose deep craft analysis (reading as a writer) on Virginia Woolf's MRS. DALLOWAY taught me about the book. Later, she wrote creative responses to the text which were memorable, funny, and surprising. A year later she showed up to my office with a paper she'd written for a lit class on Woolf that detailed her journey of discovery from a text she initially loathed. Loathed? By the way she wrote about it I assumed I'd made the introduction between two new best friends!
In the darker moments of teaching writing, it can seem "everyone" wants "everything" handed to them. Students not finding an assigned piece aesthetically to their own taste on first glance can sometimes render them into sluggish complainers.
I've lucked out, with stand-out students like Zulema, who understand that learning happens sometimes when we're uncomfortable, when we're pushed to our limits, and made to grapple.
And as long as you have your calendar out, save Thursday December 16th for the release of Fourteen Hills issue 17.1, which will feature an interview with and novel excerpt from Adam Johnson. It'll be at 7pm at the ultra relaxed, ultra hip COFFEE BAR which has great food, beer, wine, and of course, java.
This Tuesday DOUGLASS READS 9 takes place at The Douglass Street Lab. Historically, we've always had the readings away from our beautiful spot, "off-campus," but because this January's will most likely be the last Lab on Douglass Street, Mark (The Lab's host) and I decided it would be nice to have the reading at his place so people curious about taking The Lab can come check out the diggs.