Catch Up/Catch All

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Well, it’s been a while since my last post, so this is a condensed catch up/catch all for the end of the year with some ideas for 2017. My last post was at the beginning of October, and since then, I’ve been busy with some travel and, of course, teaching.

First, my family went to Leukerbad for a mini vacation. It was our first time in Leukerbad, and we were just there for four days, but it was a much needed break. We spent an afternoon at the thermal baths and then on subsequent days headed up two different mountains for some hiking. Here’s a photo of Daubensee (Lake Dauben), which by fall was basically like an alien landscape.

Fascinating, right? I’d never encountered anything like it. Here’s a view from the top of the mountain, where we enjoyed some post-hike dessert — plus coffee with eau de vie for the grown-ups!

The next weekend I went to the SCBWI Switzerland fall writing retreat, which I also needed. We did a little more hiking there, and generally I just enjoyed the company and the wonderful meals and the time to work through a couple of difficult chapters in my novel revision. This was the view from my room in Wilderswil:

At the end of November, the whole family headed to Texas. Andrew and I’d been invited to give a talk on digital humanities at Southern Methodist University. The talk went well, as we saw from the long and interesting Q&A afterward, and then we went on to do critiques of grad projects for a digital humanities seminar in the afternoon. Over the course of the visit, we enjoyed meeting faculty from a range of disciplines and getting to see some student work.

I got back about 10 days ago — just in time to wrap up the term. The final session of my creative writing course is this week, and I’ve organized a class reading. Students will read from their portfolios, and then we’ll have a reception afterward. Basically, it’s a celebration of their work after an intense semester.

I’ve been really pleased with how the class turned out. We did five weeks of poetry and five of short fiction with weekly assignments and related readings. In every class, we begin by discussing the reading, and then we workshop three student texts. Students have been extremely committed, both to developing their own work and to the comments they provide to their classmates. Grading has been a bit intensive, of course, as I have 16 assignments to read and comment on each week, and I’ve had 30-minute individual meetings with every student over the course of the term. It’s been well worth it, though, and I’m looking forward to reading portfolios in January.

Given how hectic things have been, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to pull things together in 2017. I’m not teaching in the spring. Instead, my plan is to read, write, and think. I have several projects and ideas simmering right now, and I’m starting to get the brain space to think about them and to find those little serendipitous links between them. It’s really nice.

We also, post-election, started hosting monthly brunches to bring local friends together. I think that will be my other big focus for 2017: gatherings and communication. Even when people can’t come, I’ve been getting notes and updates in response to my invitations and having more of those personal exchanges that I miss from general social media posts and updates (although I still like those, too).

For me, I think 2017 will be a bit quieter and more contemplative rather than my usual call to adventure. I’m still always up for exploration, and I hope to travel a bit more now that my son is getting older and better able to understand what’s happening, but for the most part, I want quiet focus.

As such, I’ve been thinking about this blog. I like posting here, but it also sometimes feels like this is competing with everything else that’s on the to do list — especially when life gets hectic. Earlier this year, when there were so many tragedies, I’d decided to treat this more like microblogging with more frequent short posts, but that didn’t stick because really, this isn’t a microblog, and any post through WP takes more time to set up than copying and pasting a link in Twitter and Facebook. I’ve also been thinking about connection — between people and ideas — and instead of microblogs, I’m going to aim to post at least one thing that’s interesting per week — something that I read or heard or saw that made me pause and think. So this will be slower paced than microblogging, which fits the format, and I hope will be a place for others to also say, “Huh. Interesting.”

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