Saturday, June 30, 2007

Reading, Writing and no Arithmetic!

Today was the 13th annual Francelia Butler Conference at Hollins.

I actually helped out with a lot of different parts. I helped collect doodles from different professors, wrap said doodles, set-up the auction items and various decorations, and I even did a little skit in-between some of the readers. I had to sing. I know. You don't have to tell me.

It was a lot of fun and I'm on the "future planning committee" so I'll have an even bigger part to play next summer. That is if I don't . . .


Next week they will unveil next summer's trip to London and Oxford. OMG. It's so hard because one of my classmates who has been here for several years mentioned to me that I might be a good person to help co-run the conference next year. So there's that. But then there is a chance to study in the place where my particular field of study frickin began.

Unfortunately they only take 15 people, you have to pay a gazillion dollars on top of the normal tuition costs (keep in mind this is a private school), and I have to apply and probably write an essay to just kept a chance to go. However, unless they tell me it's going to cost more than Bryan and I agreed on, I will be trying. Maybe. Unless someone gives me a chance to do something really important for my career. So right now it's up in the air.

Back to the conference. Some of the highlights include hearing my classmates read; I especially loved the creative work and I was so thrilled that one of my pals won with her awesome story about a girl hitchhiking to a destination unknown. It was one of those great 60s stories with lots of good Southern dialect thrown in. Beautiful.

I also had fun trying to win things! We had a silent auction that raised buckets of money. I had my eye on a copy of Robert Heinlein's Grumbles from the Grave, two Chris Van Allsburg prints and a framed poster of a knight and lady. In the end, I only won the prints because I got into a bidding war with someone over the Heinlein book and when I found out who it was and we talked about it, she was willing to spend more money than me. We had to use kiddie lit. pseudonyms and I was Hermione from who know who. The prints are cool though and I imagine they will work well in some capacity some day--if anything, in my dorm room next year:
Both prints are of children sleeping. Sorry about the flash but it goes all blurry if I turn it off.

I also bought, from our in-residence craft lady extraordinaire, this frame:

It has a Peter Pan theme and it's simply perfect. I'm not sure what I'm going to use it for, but I'll think of something.

It was a fun day and I am really starting to mesh with some of my classmates and spend more time with them outside our classes. Today we are having our "Halloween in June" party and I really thought I would be checking out early on this one, but I bought some ridiculous gear and I'm going. One of my roommates is going to be a "Harry Potter Trading Card" and the other will be Hermione. Pictures will follow, but I'm not going to tell you my costume yet. You'll just have to wait.

Also, one of my favorite parts of today was meeting Michael Patrick Hearn. He wrote the Annotated Wizard of Oz and basically knows everything there is to know about L. Frank Baum. A few things he cleared up for us today:

1) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is not about early 20th century economics. The yellow brick road does not reflect the Gold Standard and Dorothy's silver shoes have nothing to do with silver values during Baum's life.
2) Dorothy was not dreaming when she went to Oz. It is a real place, at least in Baum's mind. The movie made it seem like she had been ill and that's why she dreamed it. Apparently that is not the case.
3) The man, W. W. Denslow, who illustrated the first book was partly the reason that L. Frank Baum became so popular with publishing companies, and yet he died a pauper and today very few people credit him with having anything to do with the franchise.

He's doing an annotated collection of Edgar Allan Poe's stories, which I will probably buy the second it comes out. And just in case some people don't know what I mean by "annotated," it means that he has gone back and researched EVERYTHING he can about the author, the work, its allusions, its vocabulary, etc. It's like a biography, history textbook, and novel in one.

Here's me with "da man":

Doesn't he look like the quintessential scholar?

Not to mention he's super personable. Not at all stuffy or high brow like so many scholars. You could actually have a meal with him and talk about sports or something. Very cool.

Even he seemed surprised I wanted a picture with him, but writers are my rock stars. Especially ones that can combine a knowledge of history with their own skills as a writer. Now if I could just meet Philip Pullman . . . I could die happy. For real.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Can I turn off my brain?

I'm not sure if it was a dream last night, but when I was trying to drift off to sleep I kept seeing flashes of light in front of me and hearing curse words in my head. (I know this sounds like something out of a Twilight Zone episode, but whatever.)

I turned over on my other side and the flashes went away. I drifted off shortly afterward.

While that event in itself is frightening, it's very reflective of my current state. I can't turn my brain off. I'm not going to go into all the things troubling my psyche right now, but I have way too much time to dwell on the most trivial of issues. A sampling would include:

What am I going to do with this degree?
Are my writing/thinking skills competitive enough to make a difference in this field?
What conferences, journals, call for papers, should I be hurriedly responding to?
How will I construct the two essays I've got to write?
When will I stop having to read a novel a day?

What is truly silly about these mostly rhetorical questions is that they won't matter the second I step foot on Raleigh soil again. As much as I love the mountains and the camaraderie and the discussions, we are almost too closed off here. I'm used to having day-to-day concerns, but here, other than eating, I'm left mostly to my own devices. Which, for someone apt to over thinking situations, is not a good thing. I'm going to be OK as soon as I move away from this computer and stop googling various young adult-related journals, but still . . . .

I had Tourette's for like five seconds last night. What's up with that?

And for a completely random conclusion--there's a bunny outside my window. Awwww.

Fairy Tales

I was a fairy tale junkie when I was a kid. I had my mom's old copies of Grimms and Hans Christian Anderson, which I would read over and over again. I lived for Disneyfied cartoon versions of these tales and I think I watched Aladdin about 50 times one very boring summer. Part of me just loved the cheesy romance and the other part of me loved the fantastical elements. Now I've grown up and become "the biggest feminist" that Chris Baskett (one of my students) knows. Whatever I may have believed about romance is now countered by six years of a happy but very real marriage. I still love fantasy but modern fantasy is easy to digest because many novels have strong female protagonists and there are even stories that don't feature a love interest. Thus I could give a future child any number of fantasy stories and feel that I was giving him/her good literature.

But let's review a canonical fairy tale, shall we?


This is the tale of a woman who allows her "evil" stepmother to force her into household service (wimp). She calls on birds to assist her with her chores (helpless). Then she decides that she must go to the big ball (materialistic) where she meets the man of her dreams who loves her based on her looks (shallow). Rather than show him who she really is she attempts to escape (the "real" story had her attend several balls, not just one) and the day of the last ball, she drops her shoe (dainty). After having no luck with getting the shoe on the big-footed step-sisters (thus signifying their lack of femininity which becomes their downfall), the shoe fits on the lovely Cinderella who has incredibly tiny feet (Chinese ideal). And she lives happily ever after. If I were to teach this story literally, here is what my students would (in theory) learn from it:
1) Whatever crappy things happen to you, you just have to take it because eventually it will get better.
2) That when facing any difficult task in life you will have help to overcome it (birds, fairy godmother).
3) That one must hide one's flaws (Cinderella hiding her poor attire).
4) That step-families are evil.
5) That a man will rescue you from your crappy life if you're attractive enough.

With the popularity of the Disney Princesses line, I think it's a good thing to at least look at what ideas we're introducing our children to. Admittedly, I read this tale and watched the Disney film many times as a child, and I still was able to see past the superficiality of the relationships within it. However, there are lots of little girls (and teenage girls) who believe some of these ideas about beauty and men, so not everyone hears the tale without being influenced by it.

The Cinderella "formula" has been around since the 7th century, so it does promote an ancient concept of love and a woman's place within society. In other words, it's dated. And there are several good novels out as well as the film Ever After that try to update it. But the Disney Cinderella is still out there (apparently you can buy a standee of her for $32.95 since that's where I got the picture above). Should we encourage young girls and boys to read fairy tales which often describe women as helpless until a man comes and rescues them from their various dilemmas? What's really awful is that the fairy tales that didn't follow this formula, like one called "Tattercloak," fell out of circulation in the Grimm and Anderson collections. So anything that might have offered a different perspective died out because they weren't as popular as the traditional tales.

I don't know what the answer is--there is a part of me that would want my daughter and/or son to read and watch films that do not make her/him feel like she/he has to be this caricature of womanhood/manhood. However, I grew up loving those films for their sentimentality and cute supporting actors (namely the mice or whatever creature was the hero/heroine's assistant). So why shouldn't children of the 21st century get to have their own say? I guess the compromise is to expose them to it but talk to them about what they think of Cinderella's decisions and how the story ended. I don't believe in censoring literature for language or unpopular ideas, but I also think that fairy tales can be dangerous because they don't specify a specific time or place, so in theory, they could be happening in a small European country somewhere. Whereas tales of women being mistreated in ancient Rome are historical and not timeless. We can look at them and say, "Aren't we glad it's not like that anymore!" With fairy tales, they are archetypes, so they live on forever in several chic lit. and romance books out there. Thus they stop being "once upon a time" and become very much a part of the modern world. As with all things, the discussion is necessary even if it does yield a definitive answer.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I've gotten into a very consistent routine here. I get up around 7:30AM. Do the shower thing and get ready. Eat breakfast. Ride my bike to class. Sit in class for three hours (which is easier than it sounds). Go to the gym (Mon., Wed. and Fri.). Ride back to the apartment for lunch. Read /write for two hours. Take a nap. Read/write some more. Eat dinner. Read/write some more. Go to bed.

I know. Boring, right?

The consistency can be a little unnerving at times. There is ALWAYS ANOTHER BOOK TO READ! I like reading; I would go as far as to say it's my favorite past time, but this is required reading to an extreme. Plus this weekend we've got the Butler Conference which is a student-run critical/creative paper extravaganza. We get to sit and listen to 14 folks read their papers (about 15-20 min. each) and then listen to a keynote speaker talk for who knows how long. Some of this will be very interesting. Some of it will be mind numbing. Afterwards they are having a Halloween in July party but most of the people I've talked to just laugh because most of us are probably going to go home and crash.

It's tough because I had such a good time with Bryan last weekend and as much as I will enjoy hanging out with my classmates, I will be sad that I won't be having a repeat experience of last week. :-(

In addition, I finished my first Hollins paper and I think it definitely exhibits some suckage, so I'm going to try to get my professor to give it the old once-over tomorrow and help me out because I've gotten to that place where I've read it too much and I just can't look at it anymore and be objective. As a teacher, I know how annoying it is to read long rough drafts (this one clocks in at 7 pages, which is 3 more than it needed to be), so I'll see what I can get out of her. The good news is that our class is the only thing she's working on right now so in theory she's got the free time. We'll see.

On rereading this entry, I sound maudlin and I don't mean to be--I think the fact that I have to go to the gym before class tomorrow (eek!) is weighing on me a little. Getting up at 6:30AM is too reminiscent of the school year for me. And even then I usually didn't get out of bed until 6:50. So it's going to be an early day. However they are having a screening of Serenity tomorrow night so if I get all my homework completed like a good girl then I can go. Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Paper Time

It's 1AM, and I'm about three pages into my first essay for Hollins. It's not due until Friday, so, no, I am not procrastinating.

Today I read my third "flying off to Mars" book for sci-fi. The only problem with this one was that it had really pathetic romance scenes in it that overwhelmed the science portions of the book. Yes, I am one of those people. The kind of people who lift up their noses to books with high-heeled shoes on them or people discussing what brand of purse THEY MUST HAVE within its pages. I hate "chic lit." as they call it. I hate romance novels. I feel that both are fluff and should be treated as such. So whenever a romance writer gets all high and mighty about how his/her work should be respected and treated with the same reverence as Joyce Carol Oates or Tom Wolfe, I want to remind them that their books feature "aching bosoms" and "shoe fetishes" and thus are not works that I would ever consider taking seriously for a split second. Sorry. It's not that we shouldn't have such books because obviously there is an audience for them, but they shouldn't be expecting to be featured in the New York Times, that's all I'm saying.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm Back!

Let's start off with the good news.
I got to see Bryan!!

The bad news is that it took me four hours to get to him. Even now I can't tell you what went wrong. On Saturday, I got in my car at 8:15AM and drove down the street to the McDonald's to get some breakfast. I turned around, got on what I thought was 220 South and happily zoned out as I thought about my upcoming reunion with "meus vir."

About 45 minutes into the drive, I noticed that none of the signs were counting down the miles to Danville or any other town in southern Virginia. In fact, they were talking about Richmond, which is in the eastern part of the state. Then I looked for a highway sign--and saw one for 64East and 81North. Huh?

I pulled over at an exit and checked out the 1990 U.S. Atlas that is in my car and I realized what was wrong. I WAS DRIVING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION! Yes, after an hour in the car, I figured out that I was going north instead of south. Somehow I had turned onto 220 North instead of south and that led me to the two interstates mentioned above. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to cry or scream because now I was going to be late AND Bryan wasn't going to know what was going on because, again, he doesn't have a cell phone.

Using my trusty atlas, I tried to figure out an alternate route so that I wouldn't have to back track all the way to Roanoke and then back down to Danville. I thought that I could take a smaller highway and cut across to an interstate that heads right into Danville, so I turned around and went south and took the appropriate exit.

However, I couldn't find the minuscule highway I needed to use to cut across, and, after pulling to the side of the road at least three times, I gave up and headed back to Roanoke.

My inner fury at that point is hard to describe now. I was so frustrated. I get to see my husband for maybe 26 hours and I just lost two of them to my own stupidity. For those of you with GPS crap in your cars, I don't want to hear it. I like my archaic way of traveling and even though some computer telling me how to get to Danville would have saved me all this grief, it would not have been as good a story. So blah.

To alert Bryan of my situation, I called 411 (sorry, Mom--you can send Bryan a bill) and called the motel we were staying at (and meeting at) to see if they could keep an eye out for him and give him the message that I was going to be about 2 hours late.

At noon, rather than at 10, I pulled into the Innkeeper's parking lot and encountered my husband coming out of a room with a smile on his face. He had gone into the office when he got there to get something to drink and they asked him if he drove a big red box-like car (my description of his Element) and gave him the message that I would be late. Apparently he was quite incredulous at first, "What do you mean she went the wrong way?" But they let him check in five hours early and watch some TV while he waited for his tardy wife to appear.

Thus, it was a very rested Bryan who greeted me. I was so happy to see him that I didn't even care we had lost two hours because we still had 24 to go. The Innkeeper actually turned out to be a decent hotel. It was the cheapest place we could find on, but it was clean and they had a decent breakfast buffet this morning. Here are some pics:
The sign I had been waiting for! For FOUR HOURS!

Our snazzy room. To be fair, it had a microwave, fridge and a king-size bed (quite an improvement from the twin I've been sleeping in for the past week).

Danville itself is not very interesting. The park I had investigated and printed out maps for was really intended for mountain bikers, and since we were sans bikes, we walked for about an hour and a half and left it at that. Danville also doesn't have a Target, which was unfortunate because I needed to buy a new bike helmet because mine is missing one of its clips. In addition, Danville has the most confusing highway system I've encountered in a while. They have a mixture of four highways with various bypass and business labels and it was not a system we could master in the 12 hours we were driving around it. We made a lot of u-turns. Thus, our feeling, at the end of our stay, was that Danville sucks and we'll be trying a different town for our next meet-up. However, they have very funny signs including this one that I snapped on the way out of town:

Needless to say, I did not see this sign stop flashing on the 40mph road it was on. I love U.S. speed limit laws.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Today one of my professors called me "incredibly intelligent." Ha. Coincidentally we dissected a children's book called Neenie Coming, Neenie Going where the protagonist is full of herself because she lives in the city now and is visiting her family on a small island off the coast of South Carolina. In one picture she looms over her grandmother and cousin because her "head is so big." So today I'm kind of like this:
Just be glad that you don't have to witness it for yourself. The whole reason it came up was because I volunteered to be on this Southern Humanities Council that one of her colleagues is operating and she has to fill out a recommendation form for me. Since she has only known me for a total of six hours of class time, I asked her if she wanted me to send her a resume or something to help her find some things to talk about. She said that she'd think about it and get back to me because she already had some sense of my abilities and that's when she gave me the ego boost that frankly I needed because I'm among a lot of very talented writers and it was nice to know someone sees some potential in me.

Now on to why I called this entry "generosity." I went to a reading tonight by Nancy Ruth Patterson who is one of the most engaging speakers I have ever encountered. Funny. Personal. Encouraging. She had "presence," as I like to say. She did say one thing that I will definitely take with me though and that is the idea that our writing should be seen as an act of generosity rather than as a means of earning an income or entertaining others. This idea goes along with her belief that writers should write their dedication page first because then their work truly is a gift to someone--the person he/she dedicated the book to. For some reason that makes my first novel easier to write because I know who I want to write the book for and I know why I want to "give" them that sort of novel. So a book that was about fun in my mind is now a testament to the way someone lived his/her life.

Tomorrow I get to see my husband, which is also why my head and smile are so big right now. I will not be updating until Sunday when I get back from the exciting town of Danville, VA, where we will be rendezvousing tomorrow in an effort to shorten a 3.5 hour drive for one person to 1.5 to 2 hour drives for both of us. I have no idea what we're going to do in Danville for 24 hours, but, you know what, I really don't care. After this visit, it will be two weeks before I see Bryan again so I am going to try really hard to enjoy every minute and leave my computer at Hollins along with whatever novel I should be reading this weekend.

I will leave you with some of Nancy Ruth Patterson's beautiful words:

"Because I do remember so many people from my own life fondly, I keep on writing, even though it is usually a struggle for me. I do not ever want the goodness I have found in life to be lost. I want the best I know of life—the strength of my mother and the optimism of my father, the goodness of my grandmother and the honesty of my grandfather, the spirit of my brother and the faith of my friends, my gratitude for my students and the encouragement from my editors—to live on through the characters in my books. I want the lives of those I love to live on through my words. That, quite simply, is why I am a writer."

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Yeah, so I played BINGO tonight. It's rough. I won twice; the first time during the oh-so-challenging "postage stamp" design game and the second during a wicked round of speed Bingo. I came away with a few fantastic prizes: 1) a $5 gift certificate to Bruester's (which is conveniently located across the street from our house in Raleigh), 2) a "girl" gift bag with assorted candies (mostly containing peanuts--obviously they've never had an allergy scare) and 3) some beautiful blue bath fizzies (their word, not mine). Oh, and my most prized prize:
Yes, that orange wrist band is all mine, ladies and gents. And notice the gender-specific bag in the background. I was not aware that only girls could utilize stickers and eat peanut M&Ms, but I won't look a gift horse in the mouth as they say.

So my science fiction paper is going to deal with the television show Firefly (which later became a feature film called Serenity). I love it when I can watch television for the sake of academia. Now, admittedly, I will have to use books too, but I'm much more excited about it now that I have some idea where I'm going.

Tonight I get to read alternative versions of Cinderella. Apparently almost half of the Cinderella-esque tales did not involve a wicked stepmother but a daddy with too much interest in his daughter, if you catch my drift. Let's say it together folks: "EEEEWWWWWWWWW." Should be exciting and slightly perverted stuff.

I have to say that Hollins is pretty awesome. The faculty members I have interacted with are really top notch and it is a very supportive environment. So supportive that I have decided to submit a critical essay and a short story to our 13th annual children's literature conference. I can honestly say, as a first year student, that my chances of being selected are REALLY SLIM, but I would feel stupid not trying. My short story may not even be eligible because it really toes the line between young adult and adult fiction. It's a black comedy that involves a young girl who likes to play "let me kill myself" for attention and because she thinks, if she ever succeeds, she might be reincarnated as a dog. Now I know some of you are staring at your computers and wondering why the heck I would ever write such a thing, but one of my classmates did a take on it while I was in undergrad and I never felt like she captured the humor she was aiming for. So I took my own crack at it a few years ago using a journal/letter/email format to add some suspense. Obviously it's a hit or miss type piece because people will either think it's hilarious or think I need to be hospitalized myself. So we'll see how that turns out. If my classmates start giving me concerned looks on Monday, I'll know what they thought. :-)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Tonight I went to a storytelling event at the library that was awesome. This kind of storytelling is basically where someone creates fables and presents them as monologues (with all the voices included). They do everything from memory which is quite a feat since they have to tell it like a "story" but do it all off-the-cuff. The funniest was this guy who told his own version of Hansel and Gretal where their mother was a pirate and their dad sounded like Apu from The Simpsons. Hansel and Gretal had southern accents and the old witch's house was made of monkeys with bananas for windows. Apparently, the storyteller, Ricky, is a 3rd grade teacher. I would pay serious money to have him teach my future children. For real. Every time I think of the mom saying "Aaargh," I crack up.

My second class did turn out to be as good as I thought. My professor is funny; she had us answer the following questions to introduce ourselves:
1) A movie I never want to see again...
2) A word that I hate is...
3) My least favorite food is...
4) A celebrity I would like to smack up the side of the head is...

I answered Anchorman for the first one because Will Ferrell is great in small doses, but that movie was too much of the same bad jokes over and over again. I hate the word "fine" because it's too nondescript and it simply means that you're not telling me how you really feel. I will NEVER eat veal because it's cruel that they chain calves at birth for our eating pleasure, and, as much as I hate to give her more publicity, I really think Lindsey Lohan needs to stop doing pretty much everything that she's doing. I really loved The Parent Trap remake and even mimicked her voice for fun whenever I had to sound British, so her fall from grace has been very bizarre for me as an early fan of her work. For those who comment regularly, what would your answers have been?

I have to say that I'm handling the pace pretty well although my sleep schedule is messed up. I have class from 9-12PM and then I usually go to the gym or various meetings and then I come home for lunch and settle in for whatever reading I may have to do. Inevitably I doze off for an hour or more while doing so because it's kind of cold in my room and I end up getting under a blanket on my bed and the sun is up and it's cozy and before I know it the books on the floor and I'm fast asleep. Thus I am not tired again till midnight or later so I get all this nervous energy, right about now in fact, and end up getting everything ready for the next day. I guess it's a very "college-like" schedule, but for someone who has been in the working world for two years, it feels indulgent. For those of you who can't take naps, I'm sorry. We need to become more like Spain because it really is the way to live. A little siesta and everything is right with the world.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

So Behind

Today I realized that I do not know a lot about science fiction. Sure I know that Frankenstein is considered the first sci-fi novel by many and that the genre has gotten a pretty bad rap from high-brow critics, but I never realized just how knowledgeable some people are about the writers and critics within the genre itself.

Thus, I felt a little behind today as I listened to my classmates, some of whom have already been published in this field, discuss so and so's critique versus so and so's. The problem is that I'm not behind in regards to other first-year students, but some people at Hollins seem to never leave.

I've met one student who is hoping to take nine years to get her degree (this is a summer program so that's not as alarming as it would be if we were here all year). I've met another who already has an M.A. from Hollins and is now working on her M.F.A. (Masters in Fine Arts). There was one student in my class (the well versed one on sci-fi criticism) who actually is done with her thesis and has graduated. She just felt like showing up for the class today. I really thought I would take my coursework over three summers, do my thesis in the Fall following my last semester here and be done. I still plan on doing that (don't worry Bryan), but all of these very senior students make the gap between their experience and ours all the more apparent. If I weren't so anal retentive, such a gap would not bother me. I'd be happy to bask in their knowledge and learn from them. But I'm not naturally like that. The competitive side of me makes me want to try to outdo such people even when that is not possible nor beneficial. It took me two years to get over the idea that I could be the "best teacher." I didn't understand at first that having multiple good teachers is far better for the students and the community as a whole. Now I'm trying to get my brain around the idea that I'm new at something again (much like I was when I first matriculated into college) and that I just need to chill. Heaven help me if I make a B.

By the way, I'm not proud of my neurosis about grades and competitions. I consider it to be my biggest fault and I would love for someone to just knock me out some day and hypnotize me to feel differently because it's exhausting to always worry about "my rank." I am going to have to work very hard to not pass on this trait to any future children because we don't need a third person in the household behaving this way.

Tomorrow is the class that I am more comfortable with --the History of Children's Criticism. It is also a class with just first year students, so I will not be encountering more Van Wilders for which I am most grateful.

I forgot to mention yesterday the passing my first cat, Figaro. For the past six years he has been living with my in-laws because Bryan and I couldn't have pets in our first apartment. Once we could have pets, Figaro was around 15 years old and very comfortable with his new home so we got a new cat instead (Quark, who has been terrorizing us for two years now). Figaro was now 17 years old and had developed liver cancer so my mother-in-law had him put to sleep yesterday. It's hard because if he had remained my cat for the past six years this event would have devastated me because he was such a big part of my growing up. However, I had compartmentalized the situation to the point where I saw him more as the Millers' cat than mine these days. Thus, I am sad, and I wish I had a picture of him to look at now that I know he's gone, but I know that she made the right decision.

Figaro was my "alarm clock" when I was younger because around 6 or 7 in the morning, he would start howling for someone to wake up and feed him. Recently we stayed with the Millers and were dismayed at 7AM to find out that he had not lost the habit. Sure enough he started howling when the sun came up and then proceeded to use the litter box (which was in the room we were staying in) just to make his needs especially clear to us. So my last memory of him brought me full circle. I guess that's all the closure I'm going to get.

Monday, June 18, 2007


The good news is that Prasanna Thwar (who turned out to be a guy, go figure) did not donate my books to his favorite elementary school. Rather, he kept them and returned them to my husband this evening. Crisis averted.

As for my first day as a graduate student, it went well. I've gone green for starters. Yes, Michele is no longer using a vehicle to transport herself to class. I am using my bike. The apartments are close to the university and they have an underground path for walkers so I have found it very easy to get around. I haven't tried taking it to my local Kroger yet, but I need some yogurt so that may be happening soon. There is no way I could get around Raleigh on a bike so I'm living out a fantasy of mine where I don't have to depend on a car to live out my day-to-day life. I feel very European and I'm sure I'll be bemoaning my commute on I-540 when I return home. Everyone can look forward to my sanctimonious rants come August.

Today was the usual orientation cycle--welcome to the program, here's how to use a computer and here's the library and all the comfy spots to sleep while you pretend that you're studying. The computer orientation was redundant but most people from my generation and after find computer instruction from 40-year-olds rather humorous. "This is how you change your password." "This is how you check your e-mail." I played along like a good little student but I think most of us were checking our e-mail when she was teaching us how to turn our computers on.

I have met many of my classmates and they are a varied bunch. They're from all over--California, Wisconsin, Missouri, Florida, etc. Hollins is a big draw for my field, and I feel like I'm at Duke again where being somewhat local was actually out of the norm.

Tomorrow is my first day in an actual class--Gender in Science Fiction with Dr. Sullivan. I love breaking down some archetypal hero stories, so this should be fun. We're reading a lot of middle school-aged works, so I can't say I'm familiar with Space Station Rat, but I'm sure I will find some things to say about how it engenders its protagonist. I've already deconstructed Charlotte's Web and how it actually demonstrates the fickle natures of young people, so I'm on a roll. I promise I will just read the books to my children and not tell them all "my opinions" about them, but once they're 13 and up, it's on. Just wait, Phoenix (my nephew)!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

I did want to take a moment and reflect on the fact that today is Father's Day and last year at this time I had just finished scattering some of my dad's ashes in the Atlantic Ocean.

I know my dad was very firm on me going to graduate school and pursuing my writing career, and I'd to think that this experience fulfills some of his own dreams for me. I wish I had something profound to say about fatherhood and my dad; all I have is something I wrote right after he died:

Some little girls think their fathers are superheroes. They envision their fathers as the best of men—strong, consistent, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

My father was a superhero. His costume was a breathable hiking shirt, tear-away pants and a red bandana tied around his forehead. His weakness wasn’t kryptonite though; it was his heart, which was so full with his love of life that it could not sustain him more than 55 years. He lived strong and now we all must live strong for him and for ourselves.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.

New Digs

Wow, so that was really hard. After roughly 24 hours of Roanoke fun, Bryan left to go do his own grocery shopping, make sure our cats don't die from starvation and to prepare to go to work again tomorrow. Now I'm sitting here at a wooden desk in front of a dirty window and wondering what the next six weeks are going to be like. But let's begin at the beginning....
Me leaving home.

The trip was relatively peaceful, but Roanoke is an interesting place to get to from Raleigh. We drove through the downtowns of several small communities including Hillsborough and Yanceyville. Both were thrilling, let me assure you. The scenery was mostly funeral homes and missionary Baptist churches along with a scattering of ramshackle farm houses and random elementary schools. We made a few missteps, which was fun because we only have one cell phone between the two of us so if the other one realized that something was amiss, we had to honk and gesture wildly or pull up alongside the other car and shout through closed windows. Our lack of cell phone comfort comes in handy in times like those for sure. However, and I wish I had a picture of it, the most interesting thing I spied along the drive, besides a defunct gas station with unleaded gas for $1.01, was a sign that read: "Thieving Bastards Burn in Hell." Someone obviously has an ax to grind. Poor fellow.

My first view of Hollins' campus.

The front of my apartment. Gulp.

Our "great room." I think those chairs have seen better days.

My chosen bedroom. I got there first and had the pick of three bedrooms. One of them had its own bathroom and two beds for some reason, but I went with a normal size one because I didn't want to be "the girl who took the biggest bedroom." When my first roommate got here, she said the same thing. So now Erin, who has yet to appear, will get the large bedroom by default. Such manners!

My room with my stuff in it.

My room fully decorated. Now this room is proof that I am both my mother and father's daughter. This is what my room looked like after about an hour of being at the apartment. That proves that I'm my mother's daughter because she nests like nobody's business when she comes to a new place. That end table with the printer on it proves that I came from my dad because it is actually one of the end tables out of the living room. Considering the living room's condition and the fact that no one was there yet, I figured they wouldn't miss it. And it makes such a nice table for my printer!

More room.

Last part of room.

Bryan was an amazing help. He helped me unpack all my stuff, got my computer online, got my new printer working, bought me a television so I could rot my brain a little while I was gone, and hooked it up to the cable line in the other room. He hung up all my posters and rearranged the furniture in my room. When I went to Duke, my mom moved me in and Bryan visited during orientation. Now he's my husband and he gets to do it all. He knew that it was important that I make my room home, especially since this apartment is more like Kensington Park (our first apartment in Raleigh) than our current home. He was awesome; no other way of describing it.

After a massive grocery trip and the unfortunate, but necessary, visit to Wal-Mart, we got around to celebrating our anniversary. We tried to recreate our first anniversary with a trip to Outback, not knowing Roanoke's dining options. However the wait was 80 minutes because we were young and stupid and had our wedding on the same weekend as Father's Day. So we ended up at a Mexican restaurant with outdoor seating. It was nice and chill, but it made me wish we were in some island paradise rather than in a surprisingly southern town in Virginia. I've heard stronger accents here than in New Bern.

Today we actually walked around Hollins' campus and figured out where my classrooms would be, the library, etc. Here are some highlights:
This picture shows one of the paths near a cluster of theatre buildings. It's very liberal artsy. Meaning nice trees, beautiful buildings and lots of flowers. Pretty much the anti-NCSU. :-)
Me, traveling the campus.

The view from the library. Gosh, what a drag to have to spend six weeks with views like these.

My home, 9-12PM, Tuesday-Friday. Yay school!

Now I'm left with a sizable stack of books to read and a lot Lean Cuisines in the freezer. This first week will be rough until I get some type of routine in place, but I'm excited that I'm finally getting to go the kind of school I should have gone in the first place. I love NCSU and I have no regrets on that point, but this experience is more than just a master's degree to me--it's a chance to have the college experience I didn't get to have at Duke (because they suck).

I'll leave you with some...LATIN!
It's the motto of Hollins University. Five bonus points to whoever can tell me what it means!

Friday, June 15, 2007


It's hard to anticipate everything I'll need for six weeks. Vacuum? Desk lamp? Deco art? I'm going to see Bryan again five days after he leaves me on Sunday so that makes our separation less stressful, but it's starting to hit me that I'm leaving my home too. I like my house; in fact, I'd say it's definitely home sweet home. Now Bryan gets to enjoy it all summer and I get to live in some random apartment in Virginia.

I don't mean to complain about everything. In fact, I'm pretty sure that when Bryan leaves on Sunday and I'm there with my books and my computer and my two new roommates that I'll be excited about pursuing my degree. It's just this build-up that's hard to take. Not to mention that I've had a stretch of bad days recently that has made my grand send-off more chaotic than I planned.

The problems are mostly tied to these five books I have to read for my science fiction class. Five little novels that my professor put on the list of things to read. The issue is that these five books are out of print. Now I've got five years of college under my belt, so I'm done the whole textbook purchasing thing before. The difference is that I'm used to showing up at the campus bookstore, finding my course, and seeing all the texts required for that course for sale. Hollins, at least during the summer, does not do that. Thus I, with a week before I left, realized that I couldn't wait to pick up these five books when I arrived at Hollins--I was going to need to get them myself. So I ordered them through various used book vendors on Amazon, paid the expedited shipping, and relaxed.

Until I was driving home from the gym on Thursday and remembered that I had done the whole 1-click purchasing thing at Amazon and they still have our old townhouse address listed as our main address. When I got home I looked at the e-mail confirmations and sure enough, the books were being sent to some stranger at Sunscape.

So I rushed over there in the hopes that the man or woman living there now would have either sent them back to the vendors or better yet have them stacked by his/her front door in anticipation of a postal worker or perhaps this Michele DeCamp character they were sent to in the first place. When I got there, of course, there were no cars in the parking spaces and no boxes. I looked at an address label in the trash (it was in plain sight :-)) and left her a note telling her how to reach me.

So Ms. Prasanna Thwar....where's the phone call? I called Amazon and they delivered the boxes to someone so what were you planning on doing with books like The Winds of Mars or The Keeper of the Isis Light? We're stopping by there again tomorrow on our way to Roanoke if we don't hear from her tonight. I hit up two Wake County libraries last night to get four out of five of the books. I'll have to read the Hollins library's reserve copy if I don't get my hands on the other one. All this stress for five books out of the 22 I have to read this summer.

And so it begins.... However, I'm going to enjoy my six-year wedding anniversary tomorrow. Apparently you're supposed to give iron and/or candy. I've managed to get my hands on both for Mr. DeCamp. Six years. It's funny when you reach the point where you forget when that person came into your life because most of your existence has been tied to him in some way. We've been married for six but we've known each other since he was in the seventh grade and I was in the eighth. I never believed in soul mates when I was younger, but I do believe that he and I are perfect for each other, and I know this six-week separation will be survivable because we are best friends who love each other very much. (On re-reading this, I apologize for the mushiness) And this is basically what it was like when I worked at Technician. Sort of. Except for the whole Virginia part. And the graduate school part. And the lack of writing news articles part.

But otherwise, it's the exact same.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Almost Gone

In a few days I will be leaving for Hollins. I just finished my second year of teaching and now I'm about to become a student again. I'm excited to have this opportunity, but I also don't know what it's going to be like to be away from my home for six weeks.

I know Bryan and I will be OK, but I'm going to miss all the little things like when he tells me the time in 10-minute intervals in the morning (I have trouble getting up) . I'll miss his meals. I'll miss living with someone who I am 100% comfortable with at all times.

I'm going to miss my cats too.