thoughts on last semester

Another semester of grad school down, two more to go.

It’s strange (amazing) being in Alaska while healthy, while stable. I mentioned this in an Instagram post: it’s a tangible affirmation of how much healing I’ve accomplished since I was diagnosed with bipolar ii in 2016, when I was last here. It’s also a testament to mood stabilizers and good psychiatric care.

“Affirmation to how much healing I’ve accomplished.” I’m aware of how ridiculous I sound.

I took Forms of Poetry last semester and it was nice to write poems every week, weird too, weirder to have to share them within a day or so of said writing. I liked the practice. Not the sharing so quickly but the regular poetry writing. I like to think that maybe I’ll write a poem every so often now, or return to revise the poems I wrote for that class. Crack those poems open. Maybe. I think I’m too obvious in my poems, too sweet and sentimental.

I know that I’m always initially too obvious in my prose, absolutely too sweet, horribly sentimental. My first drafts are syrup. Sticky on a dirty plate in a sink.

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I also took a British lit course. I’m so out of practice in the realm of “academia” and lit theory. How was I ever an English major? How am I a grad student in an English program? Was struggle in that class imposter syndrome or boredom or fatigue? If I’m being honest, I don’t find lit theory terribly interesting anymore. (But did I ever? Not much. Oops.)

It’s really weird being one year out from the debut of Nothing Left to Burn. I feel like that time was an entirely different life, I was a different person, it was another world. And it kind of was. It’s sometimes hard to be a year beyond with no future publications on the horizon. It is sometimes hard to see those I debuted with, friends, actively publishing and me as an author arguably fading out, no longer a part of the world I recently inhabited.

Would it be so hard if it didn’t feel so public?

My process is my own. I’ve never once thought I’d be one to publish every year, let alone every other year. As long as I’m actively writing, I’m doing my work. Something will land again.

Real talk: in my writing life, I feel more fulfilled now than I did last year.

In every part of my life, I feel more fulfilled. (I think.)

We’re a week or so from summer solstice. Night isn’t a thing anymore here in Fairbanks and it hasn’t been for awhile. And yet I haven’t had a bout of insomnia since March and that from stress, not the light. How. Who am I? A diehard fan of lamotrigine and sequel, that’s who. Someone who keeps a mini fan by her bed and blows air in her face when she can’t sleep and then wala she seeps.

My third class this semester was workshop. I liked it enough. It was interesting to give feedback in that setting after years of doing so in my usual paid editorial capacity. But I’ve always had mixed feelings about workshops and I’m not convinced they are always especially helpful, aside from the deadlines and camaraderie. Both of those are important enough. The spare bits of inspiration too. I think it’s a matter of pinpointing the other writer/s in the workshop who get what you’re doing, who offer the most passionate feedback (esp negative passionate feedback), and listening to them.

The forest that was frozen over three months ago is now blazing green and studded with wildflowers and weeds and moss and it’s all muddy and glorious. I will never be particularly fond of spring or summer but it’s also kind of great. Divine.

Maybe part of that divine quality is because the cross country ski trails stopped being cross country ski trails and so there are more trails open to me now, trails that go deeper into the trees.

I’m teaching my young adult lit composition course again this fall! I’m stupidly excited. I’m also stupidly intimidated because it’s been three years since I taught, three years of building it up in my mind—how much I love it. Maybe it’ll be an awful semester. Maybe it’ll be fantastic. Maybe it’ll be just okay.

But I’ll be teaching and I’m so relieved.

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In the past two weeks, I wrote twenty thousand words of the manuscript I thought would be my thesis. I was gun-ho, sure. And then: no. It’s not right for the context of my current situation, an MFA committee, a thesis chair reading as I go. The book was paranormal bent and maybe it was a retelling of a weird 20th century horror novel (the genre of said book is disputed), and I need to save it for a time where I can remain in my vacuum for several drafts, not only one. It’s not right for right now. So I’m archiving those twenty thousand words and some hundred pages of explorative writing and now I’m so so behind on my thesis writing schedule.

I promise this decision has nothing to do with hitting 20k middle area. I’m being sincere when I say that.

My young adult lit composition class is “growing up in apocalypse” themed. Apocalypse in a wide sense of the definition. We’ll definitely be reading Courtney Summers (zombies and suicide/abuse) and Laurie Halse Anderson (sexual assualt) and watching It Follows (one of my fav horror movies). I haven’t decided on the other books.

I transferred my website over to squarespace from wordpress last month, which meant transferring all of my blog posts over, copy and paste style, because despite being convinced that I was going to do away with all of them, I just couldn’t. What does that say about me? That I went through all of that effort to keep the cheesiest most dramatic writing of mine online? I don’t know but it’s so embarrassing.

Then again this blog post is embarrassing too but here you go. Old habits die hard.

It was alarming to read each blog. 2011, I was a mess. I was such a cycling manic mess and I wish I’d asked for help.

(OK, I admit: some blog posts did not make it over, like maybe ten, and nine of those were from 2011)

In the next twelve months, I need to write and defend a thesis, take two lit seminars, take one workshop, take one elective (maybe pedagogy related?), pass a thirty-book (or something in that range) comprehensive exam, teach two classes, enjoy Alaska, move out of Alaska. I did a rough estimate and in theory I’ll be needing to read about four books a week starting in August and that’s if I manage to continue to read even more this summer.

My wrists hurt. I’m still glad I came back to grad school. Very. Because teaching. And more. Almost done.

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You’ll notice I’ve now labeled my blog as “updates” because that feels less intimidating, less youthful, less 2011, like I can be more sporadic, like I’m not indeed blogging personal thoughts to the internet but just giving oh so vital updates to my readers!

So my thesis will be another weird book, not that supernatural one, a weird book that has been mostly haunting me since 2016. The bone book. I’ve given hundreds of pages to it over the years (most of those planning pages, freewriting, first fifty pages, synopses, faied outlines, crappidy crap) and I had to set it aside last summer for a break. I’d beaten the thing into the ground. This was one of the two projects that acted as a stark reminder that I need to write the whole book first before I can possibly know it and tell it right.” And I knew I’d come back to it eventually but I didn’t think I’d do it so soon, but this is one of those gut feeling situations. Bone book: now. Bone book: thesis. And as soon as I made this decision, some significant anxiety fell away.

This will be my last go with this specific story.

I think this appeals to me—the bone book being this next year-long process, drafting and intensive revisions—because even if nothing comes of it in terms of the publishing world, it’ll serve a significant purpose in acting as the final means to this silly degree. I just want to get this book out of my head, off my hands already.

The current situation kind of reminds me of Nothing Left to Burn, which was my undergrad thesis after being a book I worked on for years as a teen. Originally I was going to write my Mormon book (ha) for my thesis, but at the last minute I decided to return to Audrey for “one last go”.

I’m obviously so glad I did.

I often forget Nothing Left to Burn was published. That it’s a book and one can still buy it. But then someone will mention it, or I’ll be tagged in post on social media, a photo or kind words, or I’ll get an email from a reader that makes my heart swell, or I’ll see it on my shelf, or I’ll just remember. And it’s like. Oh. Right. Dang. It’s always a good feeling, that remembering.

Speaking of remembering. One of the best parts of Forms of Poetry was a discussion on wasting time. The need, I guess. Especially for a creative mind. Or whatever, whatever, insert something deep here. I still have yet to waste time this summer. Maybe I’ll drive to the gas station diner some thirty minutes out of town. Drive all that way through the hills for a piece of pie. Does that qualify as wasting time? If you plan to waste time, and you plan to waste it by doing something specific, can it really be time wasted?

I feel like this blog post was me wasting time, actually.

Don’t ask me how that relates to poetry I don’t totally remember.

This was my update, bye.