30 July [1975]

In the face of vicious reports from gossip columnists, Antonia Fraser “Forced myself to write my weekly review for the Evening Standard (I had been chief non-fiction reviewer for several years).  I sat in Diana’s garden in my long flowered cotton ‘writing-dress’ and a red hat against the intense heat.”

Antonia Fraser.  Must You Go? My life with Harold Pinter.  New York: Doubleday, 2012.  30.

Spring 2012 Writing Group, week 12: Dedicated Space

This week’s theme is space, in various senses: first, amstr is offering a space for the Summer 2012 writing group.  Go on over and sign up if you’re interested!

Then we have space in the sense of physical places in which to write.  I am fortunate in having a study at home as well as an office at work.  However, at the moment Glendower has taken over the study.  He cannot let papers be.  And he doesn’t just shove them onto the floor; he also chews on them.  Worse yet, he loves to chew on power cords.  Dude, if I had wanted a puppy I would have adopted a puppy.  Ditto for rabbits.  Anyway, I can’t leave anything plugged in or spread out in my study, and I have rather got used to leaving a project lying around so that when I see it I start work on it.  This is sort of like leaving an unfinished sentence when you stop writing for the day.  I’ve been trying to work on the couch downstairs, but that has its drawbacks.  Since both Glendower and Basement Cat need playtime (but not at the same time), it’s hard to get time to go out to a coffee shop or library; I keep trying to work on the couch while tossing mylar balls for someone.

Even worse, my laptop has died.  I can write on an old one that is slow and uses old versions of programs I commonly use, but it doesn’t have a wireless card.  Thus, no internet access at home.

So, not the best of weeks.  I’m hoping to get into a better headspace next week.

Roll call:

Amstr: 1) notes/annotations on the articles I’ve read in the past couple weeks, 2) complete my introduction (add 2-3 key pages at the beginning, fill in some blank paragraphs) and send it off to my writing partner.


Contingent Cassandra: work on ancillary tasks related to the P project.

DEH: 20 minutes on teaching days, 2 hours each on Wednesday and Friday (I will see if I can schedule a writing date with a buddy), and another hour on Saturday. I hope that will get me a presentable conference paper draft.

EAM: Write an hour a day.

FeMOMhist: Foot front, do best.

GEW: Buy plane tix to UK so I can go to my uni and meet with my supervisor at the end of May. Re-read current draft and make notes for changes and next steps.

Ink: survive the grading avalanche and get two new pages done!

JaneB: write 500 words worth of actual coherent sentences on the funding idea I came up with from free-writing, and go over the revisions to the R&R we got for the paper with my post-doc (she drafted it, now I get to polish/check/add to it). Anything else will be a bonus.

JLiedl: Complete the draft.

kiwimedievalist: Write up the 1,000 word proposal by Wednesday, so I can post three copies of everything to the other side of the world… Then shine it up a bit more, before sending to the other uni in the Centre.

Luo Lin: 1/2 hour Monday and Friday; 1 hour Wednesday.

Matilda: finishing my presentation and hopefully some developments with it.

Nancy Warren: this week is all about the Kalamazoo paper, which I hope to get drafted.

profgrrrl: excused absence.

Rented Life: Apply to 2 jobs. (One I’m unsure on, but will need an interview to get more info.) Read one chapter. Anything else is bonus.

Sapience: another 10-15 pages of revision. Might be less depending on how much harder the hard part is.


“Astounding and enchanting change in the weather, which becomes warm.  I carry chair, writing materials, rug and cushion into the garden, but am called in to have a look at the Pantry Sink, please, as it seems to have blocked itself up.  Attempted return to garden frustrated by arrival of note from the village concerning Garden Fete arrangements, which requires immediate answer, necessity for speaking to the butcher on the telephone, and sudden realisation that Laundry List hasn’t yet been made out, and the Van will be here at eleven. . . . Shortly after this, Mrs. S. arrives from the village, to collect jumble for the Garden Fete, which takes time.  After lunch, sky clouds over, and Mademoiselle and Vicky kindly help me to carry chair, writing materials, rug, and cushion into the house again.”

E. M. Delafield, Diary of a Provincial Lady (New York: Harper, 1931; rpt. Academy Chicago Publishers, 1998), 230-31.


“I have written two books of poetry and eighteen books of fiction about the struggle to free myself from my family and my conditioning so I could write and/or live as an artist with a mind that was free to roam, discriminate, and choose.  I will leave the details of that struggle, which included four marriages, three cesarean sections, an abortion, twenty-four years of psychotherapy, and lots of lovely men, to your imaginations and go on with the story of where I landed, on this holy middle ground that I don’t feel the need to fortify or protect, only to be grateful for having, as long as my destiny allows.  I tell myself I am satisfied to be here now, but, of course, I would fight to keep my life if I had to, with sharp number two lead pencils and legal pads, my weapons of choice for all battles.”

Ellen Gilchrist, “The Middle Way: Learning to Balance Family and Work.”  The Bitch in the House, ed. Cathi Hanauer (New York: Harper Collins, 2002), 249-55, at 250.


“I’ve heard endless stories of young mothers rising at 5 a.m. to fit in a few hours of writing before the children were up, but I can barely make coffee at 5 a.m.  My productive hours are between 9 and 3, an elementary school schedule, once the only predictable part of my working day (unless one of the children got an ear infection and then all bets were off).  If I go out for lunch and interrupt my rhythm, I’m sunk.  I think that all of those lunches were what diminished Truman Capote’s output.”

Anna Quindlen, “The Agony of Writing,” in the WSJ’s “Word Craft” column.  The Wall Street Journal, April 21-22, 2012, C12.


“Hanging on a long wall facing the windows is an old wooden desktop plastered with colored index cards.  Bechdel doesn’t outline her stories, which jump back and forth in time, so much as map them, using the cards as placeholders for her scenes.”

Judith Thurman, “Drawn from Life: The World of Alison Bechdel.”  The New Yorker, April 23, 2012, 48-55, at 54.

Thinking ahead

I’ve been thinking ahead to summer, counting days in various categories: number of days left to teach, number of days total till I have to present my Kalamazoo paper, number of days between K’zoo and when I leave for 5 weeks teaching in our summer-abroad program in the UK, number of weekdays when I will be within walking distance of a major UK library.  I still have to look up when classes start again in the fall, so I can work out number of days between my return and when I’ll begin teaching fall classes.

This all makes summer seem much too short, and it hasn’t even started yet.  It feels particularly short because, in addition to the big trip, there are 3 more smaller excursions I want to fit in.  Well, smaller, but at least 2 of them involve a plane ride, and the third is a full day’s driving if I don’t fly.

This is all to say that much as I have enjoyed hosting the writing group this spring—and I have, it’s been great fun—I think I should take a break during the summer.  I’d love to be a part of someone else’s group, because I do have writing projects to work on (planning them is why I started counting days).  But with so much travel, I think my internet access may be spotty at times, and weekends may be very full indeed.

Running a writing group doesn’t have to involve inspirational quotes every day.  I did make more work for myself with that gimmick, though I enjoyed doing that, too.  It really only needs one post a week, plus curating comments and cheering people on.  I recommend making a list of names of participants and saving it, then fill in goals for each week as they get posted.  Then you don’t have to go through a lot of comments to find the goals the next week.  And having a format like the four-paragraph one I mandated also helps keep things organized; you don’t have to read through a long comment to try to figure out what the goal was.

The various groups over the past year have been so helpful.  ADM and Notorious deserve a big round of applause for having the idea and running the first two iterations.  Let’s keep it up!  I’d be happy to come back in the fall, if there’s interest, but I think I’ll have logistical problems doing it in the summer.

So I’m calling for volunteers: who would like to run a summer writing group?  Please leave a comment!

There is a willow . . . .

I’m sure I ought to come up with some more formal, dignified, and appropriate way to phrase this announcement, but instead I have the Skinhead Hamlet as an earworm:


GERTRUDE: (Looking out the window) There is a willow grows aslant the brook.
CLAUDIUS: Get on with it, slag.
GERTRUDE: Ophelia’s gone and fucking drowned!


The Shakespearean Heroine has gone and died on us.  At least it was quick, and she was very old (probably 19 or so), and had lived years beyond what she would have if she had not joined our household.  So we are shocked and sad, and yet not surprised, and certainly not so grieved as for the Scot, who seemed to have been cut down in the flower of his days.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll remember a suitably dignified bit of verse with which to memorialize the Heroine.

Writing Group, week 11: scrambling

I didn’t get this post written & scheduled in advance, and I’m feeling very scattered today.  The Tiny Cat has been losing weight for no clear reason, so we had another vet appointment for her this morning; and the Shakespearean Heroine has a UTI caused by highly antiobiotic-resistant bacteria, so she’s been poorly all week despite the wide-spectrum antibiotic she’s been on.  I will shortly be going to collect the one drug the vet could find to treat this.  So the day so far has been eaten by cat troubles and troubled cats: I am trying to get some things done in my study right now, but Glendower keeps munching on me, the power cord, my pen, and anything else he can find.  Cat toys are just as popular as anything else, but basically he defines everything smaller than a bread box as a cat toy.

So, post your results and new goals, and if you have any concentration tips (or if you’d like a fluffy black cat), leave a comment about that, too!

Amstr: 1) write 1000 words on Chapter 3, 2) take notes on theory articles, 3) read 5 more articles, 4) record necessary stuff from advisor meetings and write in between meetings to process feedback.
ComradePhysioProf: finish editing and submit a revised version of a grad student’s manuscript, write two invited review articles, and finish editing and submit a revised version of a pre-doctoral training grant application.
Contingent Cassandra: work on conference follow-ups/ancillary tasks related to the P project
DEH: same time goals. I’m not very happy about having the MMP and the Zoo paper going simultaneously, and I need to decide how to manage this
EAM: Continue to work an hour a day.
FeMOMhist: get 1 more section completed of side project
GEW: Read 20 pages of a secondary support book (or one article) and write two pages.
Ink: another page plus revisions.
JaneB: a) paper with MSc student (draft results and discussion sections) b) paper WeirdBugMan wants to see, draft results and note the main discussion points.
JLiedl: 1000 words.
Luo Lin: One hour Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
Matilda: working on materials and arguments; starting to write a draft for my presentation; revising my writing schedule.
Nancy Warren: try to do the reshaping I have in mind, and keep plugging away at getting those pages. Also, time to start the Kalamazoo paper, which I have to extract from a longer draft of a different chapter.
profgrrrl: Touch the manuscript each day until it’s done (whenever that is). Do necessary work to set up summer study (write the IRB, etc.)
Rented Life: Finish started job application. Read one chapter. Any writing on my project is a bonus.
Sapience: Revision of at least 5 pages of chapter 4.  That’s probably far lower than I’ll get, but I also need to do some work for my summer research trip, which is going to mean figuring out which libraries have which manuscripts and books I want to look at and writing requests for access.

Friday, 20 April 2012

“Think of this as a surveying tool, one in which you will get the lay of your emotional landscape.  This is a tool that you might want to think of as playing scout or lookout for hostile or dangerous elements in your life. . . . Actress Julianna McCarthy calls this tool ‘Who would you take to the war?’ . . .

“Physically list those people who are friendly to you and your writing and those people who are dangerous to you and your writing.  Remember that there are people with good intentions who are detrimental to your work while there are other people whose impact is invigorating.  Emotional closeness does not always translate as safety.”


Julia Cameron, The Right to Write (New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1998), 192.