My Spring Break this year began with visits to friends and family in Illinois and Iowa, and now I'm on day two of my visit to the University of Northern Iowa.
Yesterday, I had the great good fortune to sit in on Vince Gotera's poetry workshop at UNI. The students were bright, engaged, and clearly well-nurtured by the creative writing faculty and especially Vince. I met Evan, John, Sean, Peggy, Tiffany, Sara, Jenna, Danielle, Brian, and Jason (who I'd met at AWP in Chicago!). This group of students embodied the best of what a workshop can be. We started by workshopping two poems, both of which showed enormous skill and promise. It was fun for me to see a group of students not my own grappling with the same issues. Not only does writing often feel like a solitary task, so too does teaching sometimes.
After workshopping, we moved on to discussing Blood Almanac, which the students had read earlier in the semester. It was a joy to talk about individual poems with the students and answer such perceptive questions. The conversation eventually wound its way around to publishing and advice on submissions, rejections, and the business side of things. These students are truly lucky as UNI houses North American Review, and each semester several students work on the issue with the editors. They were already quite savvy to the publishing world but seemed interested in my take on things.
After class, I hung around a bit to sign books. Tiffany brought her book up and revealed that it had already been signed. This was a first for me; however, based on the date next to my name, I was able to piece together which school visit had resulted in the occurrence. We had a good laugh over the fact that this previous student had sold my book back after taking the time to have me sign it, and Tiffany promised to keep hers forever and ever. I hope so. My handwriting is a bit big and that page is filling up fast. (No ill will to the previous student. I was once a starving student myself and often sold books back that I would have preferred to keep...never poetry though.)
Finally, the afternoon closed with a nice chat with Vince and Jeremy Schraffenberger in anticipation of tonight's reading. If you are in the area, I'm on at 7:00 p.m. in Baker Hall 161. I'm thrilled that my family will be on hand for this reading; even my niece and nephew want to be there! Usually, I relate how things go the next day with a phone call to Mom. How cool that they will be able to see exactly what I do at these things for themselves.
And that leads me to the latest project with Mom. We have been preparing the party favors for tonight's event: Earnestine cookies. Everybody gets one! Here's a photo essay of the process (minus the finished product as the icing is still in the process of setting before we package them for guests tonight).
|baked and cooling|
|nested for a night in the fridge|
|iced and drying|