Updated: Jun 30
It was so great to be at the winter Hamline Residency this year for a few days. I have my Master's in writing for children and young adults. Since young adult is up to age 18, I often shorten that to Masters in Writing. What I gained the most from my degree is a unique ability to write short, for short attention spans. And to make creative non-fiction as interesting as possible for the same reason. My fave writing of course, is about art and artists.
I'm writing today from my sewing room/ office well really it’s my mother’s office. I have no idea why my computer is in here really. My mother's doctorate degree is here above my head and a quilt I may never start is folded up on the table to my left; a picture of my grandmother on my right-- along with the iron. It’s been out since I put the Boy Scout patches on them in the wrong place and they had to be removed.
It’s finally come to my late-blooming-attention that writing, art, and creativity is something that almost always happens on the side. And won’t happen without intention. I am maybe one of the only people I know who loved writing my critical thesis for my master's degree. I worked on it from the day I began as a student up until I graduated three years later. I took it from 40 pages to 20 pages. I guess I’m a research paper nut. This all makes sense to me now that I’m in my second semester teaching college freshmen to write term papers. Yes, it all makes sense. I get some kind of evil enjoyment out of teaching other people to write essays. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. But I’m glad I fit in somewhere, thank you, God. I have taken a break from gallery curating and moved my focus three blocks up at the community college. Same commute, same neighborhood—different art.
I get to write notes to the students thanks to Blackboard. We didn't have that privilege when I was in college. I never ever sent a message to a teacher outside of class. hmmm. Now I get messages night and day. I’ve even gotten a call during class so someone could tell me about their intestinal trouble. Student-teacher confidentiality has changed a bit since I was in school. One thing, I have the students write me letters at the end of the semester about what they’ve learned as part of their final. So cheers to me. I finally get some letters.
So my crazy need to write to people and have them write back is now fulfilled by being the cooky absent-minded English professor. Yes, I like it. I also wear silly scarves and thick glasses—it makes for the look, too bad everyone still thinks I’m a student. I don’t know what I do wrong there.
And I’ve decided to take my beloved master's thesis topic on the subconscious creative process and use it again! First I took it from twenty pages to 6 pages and submitted it to a contest and won a research prize. Then from six pages to a one-page abstract, and I got accepted to share at a conference-- and went to a conference and shared it. That was fun. Next, I want to turn it into a book. Everyone should have to take three years of research and whittle it down to 20 pages, then one page, then fifty words. Nothing has ever taught me about writing, and about my vision and mission for my creative work-- more.
This summer, I’m going to be writing for kids. I’m writing and creating an art curriculum for summer camps at InterUrban ArtHouse! Who knows how that will go. But let the paint fly.
Being a writer is turning out to be really life-changing. I’ve been put on a Title III committee to teach classes that help students get college-ready. Our textbook in English 90 and 101 is "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson. One of my students asked me to watch the new documentary, 13th, about the thirteenth amendment by Duvernay… I’ve never learned so much about the country that I’m living in and what people overcome to just live. Just live. All my students want to be better writers. I’ve got single moms, people from every continent on the globe and several islands, basketball scholarship winners, hopefuls, baby boomers, survivors, and kids from down the block. We all jump into writing together. What I learn about students needing a voice is the same as what I've learned about artists. Sharing our work in our communities is what makes our work, sharper, more purposeful, and more beneficial to everyone. Next term I'm going to try and restart the Urban Campus MCC literary student magazine. If students don't read each other's work then I think that completes the cycle of learning. Just as when artists have an art show. Without the community aspect the learning isn't finished. Celebration is part of the process of doing creative work.
This whole writing thing. I can see it changing lives. After each student leaves, I take a small breath. There goes one more person who will now get a better job, have a chance to get an education, someone who will make a difference. Next fall I’m teaching English 102. The textbook is Hamilton. Profs are fondly calling the class: Find your own revolution. I certainly have.