Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Still sad, still angry, still compromised

Today was anniversary of the first women's march, in 2017. Spurred by Trump's victory and what that says about how the men and women who voted for him value lives other than their own (to wit: not at all), we gathered to assert our values, to shake him with our powerful outrage, to join together imagining a better future, and to feel less alone. There are millions of women and men who are outraged at the efforts by our leaders to reel us back to the bad 'ol days.

On a personal note, I have felt disappointed in myself that I am not living the values I espouse to the hilt. Today at the 2nd women's march that hit home. The speakers were calling for intersectional social justice -- what are we doing to help the homeless? How are we engaged in choices that thoughtlessly oppress, or which reinforce racial and gender disempowerment?

When we look out for ourselves first, and we engage in protecting ourselves, we use tools that are infused with capitalism and patriarchy. We own our house and we own a condo that we rent out. We are part of Oakland's changing face, and while we are not technically gentrifiers (we purchased our home from a family of color who owned and lived in the home, so we did not displace renters and we increased the personal wealth of that family), we benefit from gentrification.

I am currently working for a company whose ethics I am waffly about. It is entirely growth-focused, determined to produce more and more books, the rapacious extraction capitalism that says everyone needs to buy buy buy all the time. The books we do can prey on people's insecurities, promising health through fasting or juice diets. These books are pure content churn; there's not even the excuse that we are producing art when we produce these commodities.

I have written 5 reviews for the SF Chronicle this year, and one for the Women's Review of Books. That's all the writing I've done. Parenting and working full time has taken so much away from being able to do projects and events that make me happy that I'm putting having another child on hold. I have read almost no poetry. I have written no poetry other than scrawling depressed journalings. I haven't even had a chance to think about it. This is the first year that's been the case EVER.

I edited one novel and reviewed 300 queries for an agent friend for free. I was late on both projects. Severely late. Took 12 weeks when they were supposed to take 6 late.

I thought I'd be able to keep up with this blog, but I haven't. I'm working so much, but not prioritizing projects, or even reading, because when I'm not working weekends, I'm falling behind.

My work is not fulfilling in any kind of way other than to my pocketbook. It's fun, and the fast pace is actually a good match for me because I can't really get lost on over analyzing and delaying like I am wont to. But I continue to feel that I have completely sold out and screwed myself.

No one at Counterpoint is going to hire me, ever. That was my hope. I no longer have bonafides. I have sold out. I just internally keened when I read Yuka Igarashi's professional bio -- Granta. Catapult. Soft Skull. Prestige is the coin of the realm, and my skills and network I am developing at Callisto will have no value outside of this field. I've locked myself out, and no-one I care about cares who I am anymore. I have no time to attend readings  -- or at least, I don't prioritize that or put it on my calendar.

I do get to bike to work, if the weather's good, and I spend more time with my son. But during the week it's still not any fun time: it's get dressed-feed-him-change-diaper-get-to-school-bike-go go go hustle hustle hustle, and same thing again at home.  There's so little opportunity for connection. It's just me constantly trying to rein in my temper as he is so unable to do things for himself while able to only make messes and NOT want to do whatever I need him to do.

Not to mention that what I love about editing is being stripped away.  I have the title of editor, but I am basically a sales person.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Taking Initiative

It's the first day of 2017, and it's a bright, quiet afternoon in Oakland. 2016 was a year of unexpected educations. My son was born, and I learned about myself that I can act only in his interests without feeling like I am gone or utterly changed. I took an ambitious job, and I did not succeed in it, closing down an avenue I thought was going to define my life.

December of 2013, December of 2015, December of 2016 -- all years in which I left positions, variously despondent and hopeful. Januaries are quiet winter mornings that open up possibilities.

What I would like for myself in 2017 is to move from possibilities to acting. From dreaming and ideas to purposeful action.

Taking initiative, not waiting for permission or approval. Being bold. I crave structure, but perhaps in the end that sense of making and completing checklists makes me complacent.

Moving from idea to action will be 2017. Whether in the political arena, or moving from to-do list to completing tasks, to pitching interviews and reviews and articles -- and then actually writing them.

To be a writer, you have to write.

And then, I am a mother -- and this year, with fewer barriers, a much more present and engaged mother. An engaged and active partner.

This will involve challenging myself to make plans, to look ahead, to strategize. To try to anticipate the unknowns, or at least build in buffers. More than just the "swallow the frog" of doing the hard thing first, this needs to be trusting myself to spearhead and develop ideas, to plan out and follow up.

This is more than informational interviews and gathering facts and knowing about things. It's synthesis and action and invention.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Review I Didn't Write

I was supposed to write this for The Rumpus,  but felt that I had to beg off since I was at such a loss to appreciate this book. I am sure it will find some sympathetic readers, but I just couldn't get on board with its efforts, and was mostly bored and annoyed as I made my way to the end. It doesn't help much to put pans and slams out there for books that aren't exactly raking in the readers anyway. I also felt like maybe my reaction revealed my lack of imagination, and was worried that it would undermine my authority as a reader if I were to write a review mostly consisting of "I don't get it." And maybe I am not the best reader of that kind of work these days -- I want fiction to be at least a little reader friendly, to be absorbing -- yes, to challenge and engage with formal adventures, to make you work a little, but still have basic elements like plot, and interesting characters, and setting. I did write out my puzzlement, which is what lies below.


Reading Pharos Editions’s reissue of Jason Schwartz’s A German Picturesque, the big questions that immediately come to mind are, Why bring a book back from out-of-print? What and why is non-narrative fiction? How do I read a book that is all style, yet is not poetry? Why did Ben Marcus choose this as his one book to resurrect, and what light does that shed on Ben Marcus’s literary ambitions?

Monday, February 9, 2015

A little backpedaling

[I edited this when I realized I had missed an entire person!]

I was at dim sum on Sunday with a bunch of Wellesley alums, most of whom were fairly recently graduated. And I start going into my bitter spiel about "don't go to graduate school, it just drains your twenties away and leaves you no better off, etc etc..."

Which, in many ways, was true for me.  But was that graduate school, or me?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Down the thrifted book rabbit hole

I am working on a craft project that ended up overlapping with my professional interests pretty significantly, as I should have predicted it would.

I wrote about the project, decoupaging pages for old books onto the back of bookcases, on a new blog I began in order to practice my wordpress skills and have space for non-work related writing.

But then,  it clearly spilled over into work life, because as soon as I started getting intrigued about the book we'd found (a letter was tucked into it!), I discovered so much more about it and its author and the beautiful network of connections and information that the digital archive allows us to learn these days.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On Homes and Grading and California

Early this morning, I entered the grades for my second set of classes taught at the Fall Program or Freshmen. Done!

My course is focused on writing about place and how we connect to it, which resonates with these students who are often leaving home for the first time, though the typical freshmen experience doesn't really apply to Berkeley freshmen -- at least,  not the ones in my classrooms.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In Which I Have Thoughts about Irish Publishing

Responding to Publishing PerspectivesIreland's Tradition of Small Presses

This came out in July, but I was busy writing, editing, and prepping for my course this fall (in which I taught a novel by Colm Tóibín, another lauded  Irish writer who has moved to the US and who is not published by an Irish house [though a quick search indicates that his first two houses were now defunct small Irish presses Raven Arts and Pilgrim Press, back in the '80s, before he moved to being published in England].)

I did an MA at UCD on Irish lit and a PhD on Irish poetry at UC Santa Barbara (so there are my bona fides), and one thing I became entirely fascinated by was the role of the publisher in Ireland. I can't recall the exact numbers off the top of my head, but the arts council report during the boom years showed that about 30% of what was in Irish bookstores was from Ireland, and that only about 30% of Irish authors were published in Ireland.

I spoke with the publisher of a great poetry press back in 2006 about this, and I remember that he -- and later, others -- told me that he felt the problem was not lack of demand, but lack of distribution for Irish titles in Ireland.