Monday, 30 March 2015

Last Two Weeks of My Teaching Career, Day One

It began early. The bus was late. I barely had time for illegal photocopying. (I admit it--for the cause of writing that my students could learn from in writing of their own.) 
To provide meaningful writing experience for students, ask them who they are, and don't settle for surface answers. Then feedback. Then a new draft, maybe starting at a page and stretching it--like dough, I claim--to a page or two, then two or three, finally 4-5. Like the wide receiver, going deep.
They've got the material; all it takes is the chance and a watchful eye.
The afternoon class is doing the same from different prompts. Most students see "informal personal essay" as easy, but if they don't push, too bad for their readers.

Thursday, 26 March 2015


When students disagree with me, I'm fine. But what's the purpose of disagreement. Is it to avoid being beaten, or loser in some ego clash? Or take shortcuts? Is it to affirm one's understanding, enhance it?
I frequently remind my students that in any class if they have questions about method, information, grades, assignments, future classes or anything else, they should ask those questions. See the prof, don't let things fester. (A digression would be in order here, if I had a moment.)
Disagreement works best when it's talked about. The longer you wait, the less credible your concerns must be.
But not to leave you on such a solemn note . . .
My best advice today was to let the world into your writing, as in, let in a siren, a diesel engine, bootsteps on a sidewalk. I invited them to go on location in Luther right now and collect some samples, so to speak. Bring back details. Which led to a buttoned-up collar, strand of hair, oversized sweater, the jolt in the chair when your phone rings. Maybe everyone's story would be better for opening up to such matters. Might freshen the narration or a character.
Still too solemn a note, however . . .
Wardrobe for the class reading/GH launch draws discussion. How to dress is entirely up to them, of course. But there's talk of pink, taking the lead from the gown of one of the students, who has a classical recital gig an hour later. I bought a pink shirt for sale at the Bay, for instance. Another student, when this topic came up, stood up and said "I'm wearing this" and showed us her blouse.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


Yesterday Paul Matwychuk, General Manager of Newest Press, produced this podcast of an interview with me re my Hillsdale Book, soon to be launched in Regina.
One (me) fumbles at such times. I may have sputtered out one or two words of interest.
Today my creative writing students, co-stars of the launch, talked wardrobe. The word pink came up, because one of the student writers has a gig an hour later playing a flute concerto. In her pink, floor-length gown. (Later I bought a pink shirt.)
I admit to a fondness for my own books. This Hillsdale Book offered many useful challenges in the last few years. I feel as if I've taken many a happy walk down its sidewalks.
We'll see how it goes from the launch, two weeks from tonight.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

This Evening

Shaping up well, the spring so far. People push it with their footwear--thongs, sandals with holes, canvas slip-ons. I've thought about getting the bike out. It's too early.
This afternoon pushing Giselle around the blocks--between the alley closest to Albert and Lorne, College and 13th--I had to rub the stroller over patches of soft ice. Giselle didn't mind, pointing at things and calling out.
Earlier, I had a laugh in class. Trying to avoid ignorance yet again of a song known to everyone but me, I latched onto a lyric one student offered, a line from a Journey tune. Maybe only I knew the tune, yeah right.
I don't remember the line right now, but they're coming to town, Journey, in July I think. My student wants to go.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A Title

Before landing here I checked Footbook, where I thanked my likers--that's you, Uncle Sal and Aunt Maglie. You're such a small crowd.
I hope my students dug Jordan Tannahill today. He's got it going, open to all forms, all avenues. We should all so swiftly chase what we see. 
I blame Jordan's rihannaboi95, in its current form as YouBoot video, for the idea of me hiring Rihanna's people to produce our book launch/ class reading set for April 7th at 7. A student laughed, bordered on loss of self-control, managed to keep it together. I told her she wasn't the only one who could dance. She did stop laughing after a while.
Still, I'd want the full crew. No loose two-shots--even if the other is Paul McCartney, as seen on a recent Rihanna single. I want twenty arms reaching as I emerge--just kidding!

Friday, 6 March 2015


The class was split--for the fun of it--over two poems, one an ultra-ravenous hit of Canadian Shield, the other a love poem so tender only a new poet could come up with it. We all agreed that preference doesn't matter, of course. The two sides eyed each other. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


I'd invented it three weeks ago and told everyone. Maybe I'd heard it somewhere, but I guess not. So yesterday when a student came up with stressed as backward desserts in what might turn out to be her finest language moment of the semester, I chimed in with my own champ, shopportunity (#3 on my personal hall of fame, after autogeography, which for a while I called my new book, and in the days of grad school theory textu(re)ality).
Students know it's easy to take interest in a word, when they're invited to. It will break through, that word, into smiles or a twitch of eye at least, maybe laughs. 
We'll see tomorrow. With the fabulous John Newlove poem a student selected, I want to see if any of the words are fun backwards, by the way. If someone says "shouldn't we be talking about that ending or what the title does?" I suppose that's what we'll do.