[photo “Nikki” by Susan kae Grant] When I was younger, all I wanted was to be pretty. * Mother looks at me, concerned: Are you sick? No, I say. I just don’t have makeup on. All day she is suspicious. * At the Women in Business conference in the tiny rural town […]Read more "Pretty"
She keeps asking why I’ve come here— what spirit called me deeper or what bet I’d lost: the land baron and breathing wet and full with pine. He keeps naming me baby— I cannot be angry with a holy jaw. The hawk guards the tongue, the mouth— I watch the feathers fall […]Read more "Teaching in Pembroke, North Carolina"
Sometimes we say, “This tragedy, it happened far away. I don’t know what to do. I’m concerned but I’m just dangling in space.” A poem can lead you through that, and it is made of action because you’re giving your whole life to it in that moment. –Juan Felipe Herrera Tell them you are not […]Read more "THE DAY AFTER or FIGURING OUT HOW TO TALK TO MY STUDENTS ABOUT THE UCC SHOOTING"
My skirt is penciled— my hair pinned back. She is 17 and 18 and 19, and I am pretending I know what to teach her. She marks her sentences breathlessly— doesn’t remember the comma rules. I forget she can see my punctuated skull—the otherwise naked space between the hairline and the ear. I hear her […]Read more "My Student Stares at my Semicolon Tattoo"
As I prepare to teach my first, full-length college-level fiction writing class, I think back on the writing advice that resonated with me over the years. I remember Mary Oliver’s advice: “Writing is like a date. Nothing happens if you don’t show up.” I remember the Willamette Writers Conference session where I grasped the subtleties […]Read more "Maximum Capacity for the Writer"
This guest contribution comes from Ariel Chesler, an attorney and writer in New York. He lives with his wife and two daughters, and one cat. He is the son of feminist author and psychologist Phyllis Chesler. He’s a contributor to The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Role Reboot, and Ravishly.com, a feminist news+culture website and cross-posting collaborative […]Read more "Reading Books About Women Made Me A Better Man"
The 157th person to tell me I would never get a job in teaching was my mother’s friend’s sister who was visiting from New York. We met in line at the Safeway and engaged in the small talk that transpires between well-meaning 50-somethings and 20-somethings clinging to youthful naivety. “So you’re in graduate school. What […]Read more "Men Swallow Live Boa Constrictors or How I Got My First Teaching Job"
Sit in the front row. It will make you look smarter. Know that the people who seem smarter, probably aren’t. They just put in more time. You will never have enough time, but you have more than you think. Stop playing video games. Raise your hand. Visit your professor’s office. Do not begin with […]Read more "Advice to My Students on the First Day of Class"
Fourteen months ago I wrote an essay that appeared on Gawker.com as a response to the Newtown shootings. I wanted people to know what it felt like to be shot while you were at elementary school, as I was subject to a drive-by shooting at my elementary school in 1995 orchestrated by teenagers—teenagers that actually […]Read more "Do Something About It"
Every mother, every father, every person, judges everyone else. That’s just the way we do. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. We live in a competitive society and being successful does actually mean that sometimes we see each ourselves in a pretty damn fantastic light and others in a dimmer one. So am I being […]Read more "Home School"