One of the many rewards that flowed from my yearlong training to become a master steward of the St. Croix Watershed is the connection I made with Sharon Day, an Ojibwe water protector and leader of Nibi “Water” Walks. I joined Day on her Kettle River walk; you can read about it here on Agate magazine.
never ends. I’m so pleased and proud to have an essay publish on Grown and Flown this week. The essay explores a few difficult junctures of letting go as my oldest–my daughter–has spread her wings in life. Please check it out!
H teaching her little brother Japanese quite a few years ago now.
Ponyboy, as played by C. Thomas Howell in the film version of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsider’s, that is (that crush burned out quickly, I’m afraid). These were the three faces that covered my walls when I was fourteen. I was a Police fan even before I was a U2 fan. I’d haul home Police albums, in vinyl, from my local library. It was impossible to act cool while listening to The Police in my parent’s living room, on my parent’s cabinet stereo. By the time Synchronicity came out, however, I had a little funky blue plastic boom box (if I’d have kept it, it would be worth some good money now in the collector’s world) and could listen to the album in the privacy of my own room. The Police imploded before I was able to get to the big city of Minneapolis for a concert. I did, however, see Sting live at smaller venues, such as the Orpheum Theater, in the late 90s and early 2000’s. I missed The Police’s reunion concert, which happened in 2009 at a large stadium in my hood, because I was very pregnant with my third child. I didn’t want to waddle through the crowd (and, likely, pee on the floor while dancing because I always dance at concerts).
I never thought I’d attend a concert at the Myth Club in Maplewood, Minnesota. Never (which kind of sort explains why I was a bit of a righteous idiot and never saw Prince play at the Myth and now it’s too late). Even more, I never thought Sting would play this venue. Never . But when–last fall–I heard that Sting would be there on March 2nd, I promptly joined the Sting fan club (which would have been a much more logical development back at age 14 than now) so that I could purchase tickets that allowed me special early entrance to Sting’s soundcheck. Yes, I paid way too much money for the whole experience, or so I thought. After the soundcheck, however, but before the concert, I used a phrase my seven year old is now using: mic drop. I’d already received my money’s worth and more. The soundcheck experience was that good. It was worth it to have a private “introduction” to Sting’s supporting cast: his long-time guitar player, Dominic Miller and two musician sons of note. Joining Sting and Dominic on this tour were Sting’s oldest son Joe Sumner (doing back up vocals and guitar, and a brief warm up set for Sting) and Dominic’s son, Rufus Miller. Joe looks like a taller, more burley version of Sting. He sounds like him too. Rufus looks like a younger twin of Dominic, but he has wonderful 70s-era headbanger hair. And can he ever play guitar. Rufus channels Jimmy Page. And, to be quite honest, I kind of developed a crush on him throughout the evening. I’m considering starting the Rufus Miller fan club. (The below video features lots of Rufus–check him out!)
We weren’t allowed to record during the sound check. Sting, ever the perfectionist musician, did lots of fine tuning with all of the different musicians on stage. I was located, however, dead center, right in front of Sting. I made sure I danced like crazy. I was the only one dancing like crazy. Do you think Sting noticed? The only true disappointment of the evening: Sting didn’t grab my hand and pull me up onto the stage like Courtney in Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video. But okay, I got over it because Sting was kind, convivial, and gracious throughout the soundcheck (well, throughout the whole evening really). He seemed quite a bit less serious than he had in his earlier years. Sting even played predominantly different songs from his concert set list, so we’d have a unique viewing experience. That was nice of him. Even if he didn’t want to dance with me.
After the soundcheck ended and on the advice of two fellow fans that my husband and I met at the soundcheck, we moved up to the next tier surrounding the floor, to stand against a metal bar, which was a few feet higher than the floor. We relocated before they let the throngs in for the show. In this manner, we avoided the mosh pit, but had fabulous seats (“stands” actually–standing room only at the Myth) where no tall person could stand in front of me, as they always do at concerts. I leaned over the rail to get this shot of Sting playing his very ancient base (I had wanted to ask him during soundcheck if it was from the 70s, from his Police days–but I was too shy, in spite of the dancing).
Anyway, it was great to get to know the key players of the evening, including the main warm-up band, The Last Bandoleros, during the soundcheck. The Last Bandoleros played with Sting and Sting played with them; between the soundcheck and the concert, Sting was on stage for about five hours straight (what stamina! his yoga and vegan lifestyle really has paid off). And, in consequence, my 46-year-old body danced for about five hours straight. The fact that I could hardly walk the next day, however, was immaterial compared to the glory of this concert. I’ve been to many concerts in my life (far too many) and this concert comes in at number 3 on my top ten concert list. Number one was a U2 concert in 2001; Number two, a DMB concert in 2008, when I earned front row, dead center, seats at Alpine Valley–because of my seniority in the DMB fan club (long long term member of this one).
So why was this concert so awesome? Because Sting finally, after all these years, played his Police songs. It was like seeing The Police, but better because Dominic Miller and Rufus are such fine musicians. Here, have a listen and see what you think?
Posting my friend Kim’s recap of #AWP17 panel on Digital Pedagogy, in part because it is so well done, and in part, because I want to remember the lessons of this blog post.
#AWP17 Panel:F124. Digital Pedagogy for Beginners
Description: From podcasts to Twitter essays to .gif novels, digital storytelling is on the rise. This panel is aimed at instructors interested in experimenting with this fascinating and challenging material, but unsure of how to begin. Panelists work to demystify the world of digital pedagogy by offering their experiences integrating new media into writing classes. Panelists also suggest examples, assignments and discussion topics appropriate for literature, creative writing and composition courses.
Panelists: Aubrey Hirsch, Faith Adiele, Brian Oliu, Adriana Ramirez, Erin Anderson
Five faculty members currently teaching digital storytelling in various forms at different institutions shared stories of both success and failure during this lighthearted, completely engaging Friday morning panel. If any one tagline can be said to encapsulate the discussion — which seemed designed to simultaneously pique instructors’ interest and calm their fears about the daunting amount of software they…
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So grateful for the opportunity to guest blog over at Assay Journal about an excellent panel discussion that I attended at #AWP17 on The Craft of Empathy.
#AWP17 Panel Report: F151 The Craft of Empathy
Description: Writing with empathy in mind, especially in nonfiction, can create texture in our work and be transformative for both writer and reader. On this panel we explore various angles of perspective: scenes where narrators show empathy toward other characters—especially ones who are unlikeable—and vice versa, reflections that suggest empathy of a memoirist for a younger self, as well as techniques for showing empathy, as a writer, for the reader, and from both reader and writer for the nonhuman world.
“Empathy is the deeper understanding that we’re all working towards as readers and writers,” Ana Maria Spagna told the audience of the #AWP17 Friday morning panel she moderated. Spagna referenced a 2013 study, which revealed that those who read fiction are more empathetic than those who don’t…
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I like “timeline” math. It’s really the only kind of math I enjoy. Here’s an example of how it works: I zero in on a number, like my youngest son’s age. He’s lived seven and a half years, as of today. I then figure out how old he’ll be in that same amount of time, looking forward; counting from today, he’ll be 15 years old. I might then figure out how old I’ll be when he reaches that age. I’ll be 53 (not sounding so old anymore). I usually then move on to figure out something like how old I was when my oldest—my daughter—was fifteen. I was 37 years old (now seems incredibly young). I have no idea where timeline math gets me, in the end. It’s just something I do, perhaps because I’m a planner.
Today marks the beginning of week three of my final semester of my MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Bay Path’s semesters last 16 weeks. Because we get one week off for spring break, there are really only twelve weeks of my MFA program remaining. I was 44 years old when I began the program; I’ll be nearly 47 when I graduate. Hopefully, this leaves me time (before I die) to pursue the many writing projects my brain is entertaining.
Over the past few days, I’ve been reading about Ann Patchett’s writer’s path. She was 21 when she began Iowa Writers’ Workshop; presumably she was then 23 when she graduated. She was 27 when she published her first book. As hard as I run at this new career path, I’ll never catch up. There’s some relief in admitting I entered this writing game late. There’s also some relief in acknowledging I’ll never be Ann Patchett (particularly since I haven’t the slightest clue how one write’s fiction). Finally, as much as I’ve loved the Bay Path program, it’s fairly indisputable that it is not (yet) in the same league as Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Interestingly, Patchett does not speak glowingly of her MFA experience, or even of the inherent value of an MFA. I, in turn, will speak highly of my MFA experience, particularly of the accessible, one-on-one relationships that I’ve shared with writers like Kate Whouley, Lisa Romeo, and Mel Allen. I’ll also sing praises to the wonder of Suzanne Strempek Shea, who I encountered during Bay Path’s Ireland Field Study Program, which—thanks to Suzanne—is the crown jewel of the Bay Path MFA program. I will actually be sad (even depressed) to release my student status in mere weeks. This course of study was always less about the degree, or end result, than it was about the process along the way. For me, the journey was worth the sacrifice of time and money, even if I don’t end up with a $45,000 publishing agreement for my first book, as Patchett did, within a few years of graduating.
Immersion in Publishing is the only class on my roster this semester. It involves some class assignments but mostly time spent immersed in a publishing internship. I chose to do my internship locally, with Agate magazine—a journal that has a regional focus on the greater Great Lakes area. I might have, instead, procured an “East Coast” journal gig, as most of these internships can be completed online. Bay Path itself is fairly East Coast orientated. Although nonresidential, there are times I’ve felt a certain lack of connectedness with the program because I can’t simply “drive” to Bay Path to participate in some of its writing events.
Lately, I’ve wondered if I limited myself by procuring an internship in “Middle America.” That said, I’m likely to stay in the Midwest (I’m 46—as we covered above—and I haven’t left yet) and to prevent the anticipated void of writing mentors at the end of this program, I hope to have developed some potential Minnesota-based mentors. Although I’m doing acquisition work and social media marketing during the course of this internship, which I’ve only just dipped my toes into, Agate co-founders and editors, Laurie and Stephanie, have kindly offered to mentor me. I’ll be following retired MPR reporter, Stephanie, on some of her interviews and Laurie, a naturalist and poet, will work with me during the month of April, National Poetry Month, on developing a nature-based poem—one that might be published in Agate.
One and one equals two new writing mentors (perhaps more) and the promise of new beginnings.