The Rumpus Interview with Manuel Gonzales

“If it felt like a trope was pushing a character to a direction that a character wouldn’t feel comfortable going either, I push them there and I make sure the discomfort is naked on the page, or I realize that’s the wrong direction for the character and the point at that moment is to subvert the trope and to zig when the trope wanted me to zag.”

Full interview here.


Compensation and Nuance: An Interview with Michele Hutchison

“To be more explicit, I’m talking about compensation, often discussed in translation circles. I try to compensate by imitating the author’s style where possible. For example, if he’s used alliteration in a passage, I might not be able to replicate it at that exact same point, but I hope to get it in somewhere.”

Source: Compensation and Nuance: An Interview with Michele Hutchison

Bang not Whimper

I had this wonderful conversation with one of my undergrad professors yesterday and we were talking about work and I told him I feel like the hardest thing right now is prioritizing.  I don’t know when to hunker down and work on something long versus how much of these short interviews/reviews to do versus whether I should really push to publish something academic since it’s about one year from my inevitable job hunt.

What I’m getting at here is that this blog has slipped down in priorities and I think that doesn’t matter, but I do need to transition to some sort of non-blog-based web presence in the not so distant future.  Any suggestions on that front would be fantastic – what are your favorite author sites?

2016 has gotten off to a good start.  I already occasionally use a standing desk, but one of my first investments of the year was an exercise bike with a desk attached.  I’m using it while watching television and getting my morning interneting done – I don’t think I could read on it, but I think it works well for most other things.  I think we need to tell beginning writers/academics more often that so much of getting started is figuring out how to make being hunched over your desk for a long time work out for you.  You don’t just have to do it, you have to do it while remaining healthy (physically, emotionally, socially, financially) and productive.  That looks different for everyone.

I’ve also written a letter, went on a mini road trip, and baked – all things I want to do more of in 2016.  I think I’ve hit the pinnacle of hipsterness by drinking some small-batch tonic and enjoying it.

I don’t know what my goals are for writing.  I think I want to get something academic published before I start job hunting.  I want to review only books by people of color, women, or translated authors.  I have a new job as a blogger for Ploughshares, which I’m pretty pumped about.  I’ll be doing an interview with a translator for them once a month.  I also want to pitch some long-form journalism.  We’ll see what happens.

Outside Content:

Gender gap in translation.

Lots of good Star Wars writing out there.  This has minor spoilers and was one of my favorites.

We’re a little past the season, but here’s Neil Gaiman reading A Christmas Carol.

Weighing Social Networks

As the semester draws to a tumultuous close, I’m looking ahead longingly at the month-long break of winter vacation and thinking about how to spend it.  Of course, it’s not really a vacation.  There are still book reviews to write, submissions to be made, a syllabus to write, and a book chapter deadline to meet, among the various personal obligations that accumulate throughout the semester.  But it is a vacation insofar as I get to spend a lot more time working on writing projects as opposed to classes (both as a student and as a teacher).

Thus, as I look ahead longingly, I’m thinking about what things I’m not doing now that I want to do then and what things I’m doing now that I don’t want to do then.  The former includes decisions between academic essays versus nonacademic prose, short-form versus long-form, revisions versus new writing, etc.  Ultimately it will come down to what projects I’m most motivated to work on at that time, but it’s still nice to speculate.

The latter question, though, that’s the one I’ve really been turning over in my head.  Anyone who knows me knows I’ve had a lot of struggles with controlling the time I spend playing video games.  I’ve tuned it way down since starting grad school.  What helped was not playing as many “endless” games (MMOs, PVP-oriented games, ARPGs, etc.) and, to be honest, having a lot of my video game friends stop playing and leaving me with fewer people to play with.  Plus, I can justify some of my playing since I write about video games occasionally, so that’s no longer an issue.

That means I’ve turned my sights to my other modes of procrastination, namely social media/networks.  Reddit is already fading from my life on its own: the racism/sexism is just too much, unless you stay confined to tiny subreddits, but even then it’s become embarrassing to talk about the site with anyone else because of how bad most of it is.  Twitter and this blog feel important, as they should, in theory, contribute to my persona as someone who writes and researches.  They also don’t take up much of my time (as is obvious by my infrequent entries here).  Neither does Instagram, which I just use for personal fun.

Facebook, though, Facebook can eat some time.  It’s become way too easy for me to jump from Facebook to articles and videos and god knows what else.  It’s also just way too easy for me to procrastinate by opening a chat window with a friend or family member.  On one hand, this keeps me in touch with people better than I probably would on my own.  On the other hand, it also has this kind of relationship equivalent to slacktivism, where these tiny bursts of communication stop me from sending out meaningful missives or having a real voice conversation with people.

So I’m thinking about deactivating my account for winter break, to turn off that source of procrastination.  We’ll see what happens, where that goes.  I would like to add a caveat though, that there is one function of Facebook that I just love.  Debra Monroe, in her latest memoir My Unsentimental Education, has this great line about how in reality, people disappear from our lives, and that’s tricky to write about in memoirs because characters in books shouldn’t just disappear.  Facebook has stopped some of those complete disappearances from happening, for me.  Maybe it’s just a voyeuristic thrill, but I love the occasional reminders that people who were once important to me but have drifted away due to the movements of time and space are still out there, are still doing okay.  It’s really satisfying and one of the reasons I would probably never consider a permanent separation with Facebook.

I still need to send more letters, though.

Outside Content: 

Jason Segel’s interview on WTF has been my favorite aural experience recently.

Lincoln Michel has a nice compilation of thoughts on getting published in lit mags over at Buzzfeed.  Probably nothing new there for most people, but a nice centralized repository of concepts.

Speaking of procrastination, I got kind of fascinated with Graham’s Magazine recently.  Someone buy me an original copy or three.

Teaching: Year Two

(This entry is brought to you by the fact that Tim O’Brien is going to read my short story and I’m freaking out and not writing and not writing and procrastinating and not writing and this is one of the products.)

The fall semester just concluded its fifth week of classes, meaning we are ~1/3 the way through already.  It’s kind of hard to believe; I’ve kept myself more busy than usual and time is flying.  Teaching feels a lot different this year, a lot easier, and so I’d like to take a moment to jot down some of my guesses as to why (although I am not entirely sure).

Repetition.  First of all, most obvious, repeating some of the things I taught last year means less work for me, because I don’t have to replan those lessons that went well.  Second, I’ve been given a chance to remove the lessons that didn’t go well.  Third, the stuff that I’ve kept from last year I’m able to anticipate a little better what is going to bring the most discussion, what is going to cause the most tripping.  As an example, last year we went to the library for a class on the basics of research, and it didn’t go very well because most of the class didn’t even know what their topics were yet.  This time, we spent a whole class on picking out a topic the day before the library, and I assigned them having a topic as homework, and that made our visit to the library much more focused.  Not perfect, but better.

Confidence.  I don’t just mean being in front of a room full of people – I think I got used to that fairly quickly.  I don’t mean confidence in being a voice of authority, or confidence in the material, which, again I felt I had last year.  Instead, I have a confidence in where we’re going as a class.  I can tell the students what I think they’re going to get out of the writing, I can tell them where I think they’ll have difficulties, and I can tell them what they’re going to wish they had taken notes on.

Building on confidence, I’m able to be a little bit more candid, a little bit more honest.  If your first year of teaching is all about faking it as you make it, then the second year, in my experience, is about dialing that back until you find a comfort zone.  This is stupid little things like “I don’t like teaching this part, but you’re going to be glad I did when you go to turn in a paper for x.  Let’s work through it together.”  I think a lot of people confuse being candid with being the students’ friend, which is a dangerous territory.  I can be up front with the process of teaching the class without losing my role as guide.

Not taking it personally.  Definitely my biggest problem last year (and something I’ve written about here before) was thinking that I did something wrong every time a student didn’t do their reading or missed class.  It took a while for me to remember that when I was 18, I missed a lot of classes and I didn’t do a lot of homework, and it rarely had anything to do with the professor.  You forget the varying levels of commitment that people come into a classroom with once it’s your job, I think.  Actually, being in graduate school and sitting next to people who are paying more attention to their phone than the seminar helped ground me.

Giving up some battles.  I’m definitely less stressed this year because I’m not worrying about cell phones and I’m not sending out as many reminder emails and I’m not picking up as many in-class assignments.  The person who did our training has a great mantra – “You should be doing less work than the students.”  That wasn’t true for me last year, but I’m working on it.

Part of my better feeling is just residuals from last year, e.g. seeing a student randomly in the wild who was excited to see me and tell me about his second year of college.

I get my first real batch of essays on Tuesday.  Let’s see how I feel after those are digested.

9/11 Writing

I don’t have a clever title for this blog post.  I wanted to put together a list of pieces I’ve found powerful to read that have been written about 9/11.  It’s a wide range, in terms of feelings toward the event, approaches, and how broadly they are looking back.  I hope this is useful for you.  Alphabetical by author, with a collaboration up front.

Article Round-up: The End of the Tour

It will come as a complete surprise that I am super pumped about The End of the Tour.   I’ve yet to see the movie (it has a delayed release in Austin) but have read some pretty stellar writing about the movie, so I thought I’d collect it.  I strongly disagree with some of the opinions presented in these links, but they all have their place.

Edit: Additions.

Further Edit: Self-promotion.