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Always, always moving forward...

Fall Semester Begins

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.


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Writing, Coping, and Being Cranky

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.

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The Great Pause

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. :)




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End of the Semester and Triplets~!

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!


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Being Inspired

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.


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Saying Goodbye to "Things"

Part of moving is letting things go. We've done a pretty fair job of it. Of course it helps mightily that where we have ended up is so fantastic. I must note that saying goodbye to Santa was especially difficult. He is now "up north" in Michigan at my sister's house, along with the kayaks, and assorted other stuff they packed onto their Beverly Hillbillies truck this past weekend. He did wave goodbye. :)

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Moving is hell.

You probably knew this already. Moving is hell. Henry and I have done it many times over the years. We've been in West Jefferson, in the mountians of northwestern NC, full time for 13 years, pretty much a record for us. So, naturally we decided it was time to shake things up...not get stale...and to quit driving to Charlotte 2x a week to teach at UNC Charlotte.


We're kind of all-or-nothing guys. No subtle changes. We've gone from small mountain town little old bungalow to uptown Charlotte and have moved into a condo in the old Ivey's department store on Tryon Street. Ironically, I'm finding myself walking more here in the city -- just a few steps to grocery and drug stores, a skip over to the light rail, and only 4 blocks to the BALLPARK! In 3 short weeks, we're all moved in and I've been to the Charlotte Symphony and the Charlotte Knights already. Tomorrow night it's the Detroit's AAA Toledo Mudhens game. 


Well, I'm a little slow on the walking for now. One of the casualties of the monstrous moving process was the base of my little toe, which I broke on the leg of our bed...new place and all. I have this Frankenstein shoe thingy I'm about to jettison and all is healing fine. But damn. There's no way to move without some kind of something.


We also knew that Elizabeth, commonly known as daughter #2, who moved back to Charlotte from San Francisco last Fall, wanted to start a family with her husband Sean. So that was just one more reason to move back.  Boy, did that ever happen. She's now well into her 2nd trimester with triplets. I shit you not. Spontaneous, no family history, no ferlitiy stuff. So, good thing we're showing up now, right?


Class is about to wrap up for the semester at UNC Charlotte. April 30 is the last day. Then it'll be time to grade exams and turn in grades. In the Fall, I'll be once again teaching Baseball in Film, so I (and my students) will have that to look forward to over the summer.


Play Ball!



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Last days of class

I have to admit it. I'm looking forward to the end of the semester probably as much as my students are. It's always this way, I fear. One more week left of classes and it seems to have flown by. The inevitable  thought of "what did I leave out" and "why didn't I?" creep in. But, all in all, teaching classes about baseball literature, culture, and film has been an interesting experience. Who knew there was so much out there in academia connected to baseball anyway? 


I also have to admit I'm looking very much forward to the spring semester. I'll be teaching only one class, Introduction to Creative Writing, and I love doing this class. I'm really more of a coach than anything else, and I find it inspires my own writing as well. 


Hanukkah starts tonight. Wednesday night is my last class until January. Whew. s

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On the Same Page is an inspiring delight once again

From Tuesday afternoon to Saturday lunch, we had wonderful literary overload here in West Jefferson with mesmerizing author presentations and insightful and inspiring workshops. Also, lots of great stuff to steal for my classes and books to bring to other readers and writers galore.


This year, our 11th, was no different in that the week before I was questioning my sanity. It's a lot of work. And, I volunteered to do the wrap-up discussion for the Festival Read book. I had such angst. Stupid, of course. It went fine. Everyone said so. But you know that old saying about the "expert from afar" it really is true. 


It was a really great festival. We had stellar attendance at every single event, and plenty of new people, too. Even though hurricane Florence was barreling down on NC, our only cancellation was our big draw, Tracy K. Smith, the poet laureate of the United States. She was rightly worried about getting the hell outta here when she was finished with us. She'll come another time late, and we'll make a big deal out of her again!


Now, it's raining buckets. It started just about the time we finished up yesterday. Looks like it'll continue through the night. I'm reading an advance copy of one of our Festival author's new books while it's pounding our roof. Henry says a huge limb has come down off our giant poplar tree out back. Guess that's what I heard fall when I was taking my marathon bubble bath this afternoon...after my nap. 

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Park Road Books and the Charlotte Knights!

Look out Charlotte - here comes "The Love of Baseball" crew to make for an incredible weekend of baseball fun.


We'll be at Park Road Books at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 4. And when I say "we" I mean a bunch of us from the book!  Expect to see me, Henry Doss, Doug Butler, Nancy Gutierrez, Editor and Partner-in-Baseball-Crime Diana Nelson Jones, Caroline Kane Kenna, Rebecca Bratcher Laxton, Elizabeth Scott Leik, David Malehorn, Ellyn Ritterskamp, Victoria Stopp, and Stephen Ward.


Many of these wonderful contributors are coming from way out of town. So, give them some love and come on out.


THEN, if that wasn't enough fun, we'll all be at Charlotte Knights Park for a before-game book signing at 4:00 p.m.  Game starts at 5:05.  This August Sunday is Women in Baseball Day at Knights Park, so you couldn't ask for a better game to come on out to. 


See you in Charlotte in August.

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