I was back to my happy place this week for two games at Truist Field with the AAA Charlotte Knights. Now I really feel like we're coming out of the other side of this pandemic.
Tonight is the opener for the Charlotte Knights, the Chicago White Sox AAA team and my neighborhood baseball. Six blocks down the street I'll enter through the gate by the outfield. Hopefully, the regular off-duty cop will be there directing traffic at that Mint Street entrance. He's a nice guy. Hope he's been doing OK through the pandemic. It will still be light out, since sunset won't be until a bit after 8. The setting will make the skyline glow. There'll be no programs to fiddle with before the national anthem - they are a Covid safety causualty. Instead we'll be able to pull one up on our phones. I'm planning for the usual 3rd inning hot dogs and 7th inning ice cream. We'll see if there are other ballpark treats to celebrate with on this special night. The last Knights' game was August 2019. I've missed it so. Pictures to follow.
I just got word that my poetry chapbook "The House Inside My Head" has been accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press. I am beyond thrilled. No details yet, like when, if the title will remain, covers, etc. But I'm accepted! WOO!
I am finding it almost impossible to write about the events of this week. Perhaps it's because it all feels so personal to me. I've worked on Capitol Hill, walked those halls... in the faces of the rioters, the cult members, and the President of the United States, I have seen none of the respect, reverance, honor, duty, or commitment I felt when I worked there. None. You are the very opposite of patriotic.
All I think I can say is this: If you believe in ridiculous conspiracy theories, that the election was stolen, or that Covid isn't a pandemic and killing thousands of Americans every day, I am truly sorry for you. You are a member of a death cult.
But my sorrow does not let you off the hook. I hold you accountable for the disgraceful violence at our Capitol, the death and injury that took place. You are responsible for the growing numbers of dead from a very real virus. If you are an elected official and you have cynically thrown in your lot with the rightwing disinformation machine in order to further your own ambitions, you are responsbile, directly, for what happened this week. And, if you do not do every possible thing in your power to stop this lying, reprehensible President from doing further damage to our country in the next 12 days, you should plan on finding new jobs.
We the people are watching. We see you. We hear you. We are taking names.
Really, what a dumb name it is. As if the days are any longer. They're exactly the same amount of daylight no matter what time the clock says, right? I vote that 2020 would be the perfect year to just quit messing around with this crap every Fall and Spring. Oh dear, I said that dreaded word: vote.
In the interest of sanity, in proximity to Election Day, instead of reading the Washington Post, the New York Times, Jim Wright's Stonekettle Station, or The Atlantic, first thing this morning, I finalized my poetry chapbook entry and used Submittalbe to send it to a publisher's contest.
I did it.
It almost (almost) doesn't even matter what they tell me, if I win, if they say "yay" or "nay." This morning, this day, I feel like a real writer.
So it's September already. Tomorrow classes start for the Fall semester. Back in the Spring when we were getting ready to put the schedule together, I chose to go all online. I figured that's where we would be anyway, so why not just get real and plan for it for the get-go. And, here we are. I'm teaching two sections of Introduction to Creative Writing and I think I've got a good plan to make this a doable opportunity for students to dive into the world of writing poetry, essays, and short fiction. Wish me luck (and my students, too).
Here also are a couple of stories from this month's issue of the Charlotte Writers Club newsletter. I'm the "Meet a Member" this month, and my poem "Little Birds" is a part of the ekphrastic exhibit at Mooresville Arts.
Meet-a-Member - Christine Arvidson
I live in Charlotte, again, after being gone for 20+ years to Pittsburgh, northern Michigan, and the mountains of NC. I teach in the English Department at UNC Charlotte. I've co-edited and have writings in three anthologies:
Mountain Memoirs: An Ashe County Anthology,
Reflections on the New River, and most recently
The Love of Baseball: Essays by Lifelong Fans.
My poem "Little Birds" is part of CWC's and Mooresville Art'sBeyond Poems and Paintings, and, I'll have an essay in the journal "Nines: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture" later this year. I earned a BA from Olivet College, an MA from UNC Charlotte, and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. I've got some letters and some miles on me.
When and where do I write the best?
I write mostly in the morning. Early. First thing. At a desk. The habit became really ingrained with my MFA program because I was also working a demanding day job.
Favorite writing tool?
It's weird. I always write poetry with a pen or pencil, in one notebook at a time. Fiction or essays, I'm strictly a computer banger. I think it has to do with speed. I'm a fast typist and can get words down quickly in prose. Poetry is more of a word-by-word thing.
Favorite advice about writing?
That's easy. Butt-in-seat. Just get down words. I'm a big fan of Nanowrimo for that reason.
A favorite writing resource (book, website, etc.)
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Charlotte Lit have been invaluable for me since I moved back to Charlotte last year. I religiously attend their programs. The Main Library has "Write Like You Mean It" once a week (now via Zoom) and it draws a fascinating group of people of all colors, ages, backgrounds, and interests. Likewise, Charlotte Lit has "Pen to Paper" once a week (in better times). I'd say 75% of what I'm working on right now had beginnings in one of the prompts used in these writing sessions.
Best writing advice you've received and actually taken?
Definitely butt-in-seat. Or another way to put it, just get words on the page, don't fear the vomit draft.
One thing I would like help with?
I think we all need to have spaces to freely share our work publicly. The more opportunities we have to stand up and read our work to people, the better.
Beyond Poems and Paintings: An Ekphrastic Exhibit
Co-sponsored by CWC North & Mooresville Arts
Although the coronavirus derailed plans for an in-person celebration, our partner Mooresville Arts has provided a virtual tour on the Mooresville Arts Facebook page. You can hear our poets read and see how each Mooresville Arts artist interpreted those words.
It is a truly special event for this exciting, first time collaboration between CWC North and Mooresville Arts. To learn more about the project and the eight poems selected for artists to interpret, visit the CWC North Calendar of Events page.
Poems and paintings will also be on display in the gallery housed in the historic Mooresville Train Depot, from August 15 to September 24. If you plan to go to the gallery to view the exhibit please call ahead to ensure the gallery is open since it is staffed by volunteers. For that information and/or more about the exhibit contact the
Mooresville Arts Homepage.
I did a double-take when I saw the date on my last blog post. I had no idea it had been that long since last I sat down to add to my website. I take solace, though, in understanding that I have actually been writing regularly during this time of isolation.
And, I have learned a few things since this Corona crap all startedl, or maybe I've just put in practice some things I always knew about writing. Here's what I've done that's helped me (and my family) get through it all:
1. I have made it a point to attend (via Zoom) my local library writing group as religiously as possible. It's a weekly 90-minute session with prompts, writing, and sharing. Never have I appreciated this contact with other writers more. The group is very diverse, with all ages, colors, flavors, and circumstances. They are my spirit animals.The group is called "Write Like You Mean It." How good is that?
2. Because I am creating new work (essay starts, ditherings, poems) at least once a week via #1, I find I have many things to actually work on the rest of the week between sessions. I scribble in a notebook during WLYMI and later type things into Word documents. Lo and behold, I have many pages of interesting stuff to ponder, rewrite, renew, and sometimes toss.
3. I have gotten back together (also via Zoom) with my two writer buddies from my old town. We share what we're working on, make helpful suggestions to one another, and act as a writing support group. Triumphs and defeats are regularly shared, and we are accountable to one another for having something to bring to the table each meeting - which is every 2-3 weeks right now.
4. Because of #3 above, I am actually submitting things. I can bring final drafts to our meetings just prior to deadlines. I find this holds me accountable to myself for ACTUALLY SENDING THINGS OUT into the world.
5. I joined the NC Poetry Society and am thinking seriously about applying for fellowships and/or residencies to work on a chapbook length book. One of the benefits of joining, by the way, is critiques of work in progress. I got my first one back yesterday and it was tremendously thoughtful and helpful. Honestly, I was blown away with the quality of the comments, which is incredibly encouraging.
6. I haven't graduated to the "write every day" routine just yet, but I'm doing very well working some several times each week. Managable expectations have been the key. Like everyone, I'm having trouble sustaining focus and many times I find myself wandering away from the writing. When this happens, I just say F-it and go ahead and watch an old movie or pick up a book - I don't worry about having done so. All of this will pass.
7. I have sent emails to writer friends/acquaintances that were excruitiatingly honest and vulnerable about things I was working on. I mean, I really just laid it all out there, really taking chances with how I was feeling. It felt scary but good. Of course, the responses were lovely and supportive -- and commiseratingly helpful to the receipients, too.
Hang in there everyone. Now that I've written this blog, I'm going to take a shower and watch something stupid on TV.
I've been reading articles and blog posts about writing in times of pandemic, isolation, quarantines. Some see this as a kind of writing freedom, space free from everyday tasks, and that's certainly true. The blankness of my calendar is welcome. How many times have I wished to shed responsibilities for being somewhere, at a meeting, in a classroom, at an event? Each of these things would have seemed fun or exciting when I made the plans. Then when the time to go, get ready, go out the door came, often I'd just wish I could stay home and read a book or sit on my ass.
Well, I'm sitting on my ass now. And I must admit, yes, I DO like not having to be anywhere. In some ways, it's everything I every fantisized about or wished for or dreamed of. But. But. But. It's so blasted hard not to give yourself new jobs, tasks to be completed, reasons why you should be writing, thinking, painting, somehow taking advantage of this great pause. The more I try to focus, the harder it is to focus. It's some kind of perverse rule. The opposite of restful meditation. My mind wants to jump around and not settle.
The other articles I have been reading have been about not writing. Blogs with titles like "It's OK Not to Write." I want to embrace these sentiments, and feel OK about not doing something. Not doing anything. Because somehow when I let go of these virus-inspired obligations, then i actually really do feel like writing something, or painting something, putting things together, reviewing old drafts, compiling work. It feels like resting, and resting well, in this groove. Words pour through my fingers onto the keyboard and thoughts flow from my pen onto notebook pages. And paintings look like they might come together afterall.
I'm not going to count the days of the shelter-in-place orders. And I'm not going to force any productivity goals on myself either. I'm going to let these days flow the way they want. And if a day goes by and I don't do a damn thing, so what. :)
Well, I've just submitted grades for the Fall 2019 semester of Intro to Creative Writing. I loved this class. I generally have students from across the university, many of whom take the class to satisfy their writing-intensive-outside-the-major requirement. Also, after leaving very white, and skewing older, Ashe County, my students are many colors and countries of origin, rural and city, you name it. They're computer science majors, and history majors, and yes a few English majors.
To add to the fun, I am the grandmother, as of September 18, of triplets! Good thing the light rail stops at their house between home and the university. More on that to come.
This semester, they wanted a photo on the last day. Good class. Next semester - two sections of the same. Psyched!
I'm back to school for the Fall semester. This is a tough one for many at UNC Charlotte. On the last day of the Spring semester, a shooting took place on our campus. Two students were murdered in their classroom; others were wounded. I had just gotten home from my last class when it all went down.
We've got more police around these days. But on we go because that's what we all do. We go on.
I'm teaching the same class this semester, my favorite, Introduction to Creative Writing. There's a ceiling of 25 students, and that's what I have. Because it's a designated "writing intenstive" class, many are enrolled because they need the course to graduate. I really like teaching this class. There are kids from across the disciplines, freshman to graduating seniors, and they are a rainbow of colors and enthnicities, and just plain delightful.
And inspirational, too. They make me think of the damndest things.