Combining the new tenure-track job and travel for the new book means that this semester is a "fingernail" semester (aka hanging on by one's fingernails), but in all the best ways.
One of those ways occurred this past week when the Department of Writing (and the College of Fine Arts and Communication) hosted Dinty W. Moore as one of UCA's Artists in Residence this semester.
Prior to his visit, I'd read a few of Dinty W. Moore's essays, but not many. Now, I've got another book on my stack to read and a new writer to admire. Moore is a professor at Ohio University, the editor of Brevity, an online journal of brief creative non-fiction, and the author of many books of creative non-fiction, most recently Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy, from which he read for us. His essays are poignant and funny at the same time, as Moore is able to look at his own life honestly and poke fun at himself, no matter the subject. Through that humor, he shares the wisdom he has found from contemplating the important people and moments in his past. It was a real joy to hear those essays come alive in the writer's own voice.
The day after Moore's reading, he led two class sessions. The first was a Q&A about CNF for undergraduate students. In this session, Moore used his friendly and funny demeanor to provide a very brief overview of the genre's history, and then took question after question from a packed room. His knowledge, patience, thoroughness, and kindness were all exemplary. Finally, he wrapped up his visit with a more private workshop with graduate students in the Arkansas Writer's MFA Program at UCA.
With two full sections of Introduction to Creative Writing, I asked my students to attend one of Moore's two "open" events. It was an awesome feeling for me to sit in the audience and soak in the words of a great writer, and then to look over and see my undergraduate students doing the same thing. We were all scribbling in our journals like literary chipmunks storing away bits of wit and wisdom. (I did ask them to do a written assignment during Moore's talks, but I do think they seemed to be as fully into capturing Moore's gems as I was.) In class the next day, they exploded with enthusiasm.
I had to laugh because Moore basically repeated many of the basic writing tips I'd already covered in class, but hey, he was the visitor, so his words had a higher impact. (When I shared this observation with Moore right before he left, he confided that the same thing happens to him when another writer comes to his campus.)
After Moore's visit, I turned my attention to Comp I, as I'm now hip deep in grading essay 1. And now that I've gotten my thoughts about Moore's visit down on the page, I need to turn back to that grading. For anyone worried, I've developed fairly strong fingernails over the last four weeks.