Fall Underway

Fri, 09/05/2008 - 7:22am

I had such a great summer. Not just the 5-week writing stint in New York, but I also enjoyed a visit from my momma (who is the world's best motorcycle passenger. She practices reiki on me while we drive). My younger brother Paul, and his wife and daughter, Terese and Amara, also trekked from Colorado Springs to the Bay Area, and were surprised by the chilly late-July-weather. They quickly gave up on Half Moon Bay (where they'd hoped for a warm & relaxing beach weekend) and joined mom and me for tours of Golden Gate Park, the Chihuli exhibit, the Palace of Fine Arts, etc. We even attempted to get tickets to Alcatraz—but with the Euro so high and dollar so low we didn't stand a chance. 

Soon after they left, we got together again, this time in Pittsburgh, to celebrate my older brother Jon's 40th (which was a great excuse to gather up all four of my nieces). There are few things on earth that are a better match than my being an uncle to four girls ages 1-10! 

This summer could not have been better. 

And now it's back to work. I celebrate my New Year in late August with the beginning of the academic year. I love teaching! I'm underway with Craft of Fiction and Short Story Writing at SFSU, where I'm also the faculty adviser for the literary magazine class Fourteen Hills. What a thrill it was to walk in to Fourteen Hills on my first day and see a half-dozen former undergrad students who are now new students in the MA and MFA programs. The others in the class aren't only new to State, but also to San Francisco, to California. Imagine the courage it takes to up and move your whole life in the pursuit of becoming a better writer. I admire artists for their courage and determination. 

I'm instantly reminded that SFSU is like almost no other in the mix of people it brings to its classes. The things that make their program a challenge, especially the undergrad program: class-size, wait-lists, rooms that are often too small or not seemingly conducive to the creative process (I like circles, not rows, and it takes a huge room to get 40 people into a circle)...are all of the things that make it a joy. Like forms with constraints, it's always a surprise to see what will arise from within the limitations.  

We held the first artist orientation at Performing Arts Workshop on Saturday and I start mentoring my first artist next week. I can't believe how lucky I am to be around theater artists, martial artists, drummers, hip-hop performers, and dancers of all types. It's just so good what happens when artists and artistic types of all kinds get in the same room. 

Speaking of which, the third cycle of the Douglass Street Lab is in full swing. Here's a picture I found of Brad, a former Lab participant. He's getting his notebook and pen while I finished setting up. 

Douglass Street Labs

I love Mark's place on Douglass Street. Contrasting State's tight classrooms with desk rows and florencent lighting, at Douglass street we look out to a mosiac tile and plant garden with coy pond. 

Natural light illuminates the gorgeous hard word and Mark's blown glass collection while we sit and write. 

This cycle's is another great group. Half of the people are former-students from State and half people who I've met for the first time in The Lab. Our class felt supercharged on Tuesday. We looked at "change" from a slightly different angle. We agreed that we aren't interested in stories where giant epiphanies abound; where realizations come marching in with their accompanying uniformed bands with trumpets blaring and cymbals (and symbols) smashing against one another. We looked at how change is sometimes thrust upon us and our characters by life. We talked about how most people change not because they want to—but because either 1) their behavior stopped working or 2) because life: a hurricane, faulty birth control, a call from an estraged relative, etc; intruded. So we started writing from this prompt, a line from a short story by Mary Morris: “Look again, I told myself, still unable to decide what bothered me, what seemed wrong...”  

I'm grateful for the response and in answer to the question: The next Douglass Street Lab will begin in January. If you'd like me to hold you a spot, please email me: matthew at matthewclarkdavison dot com.