Copyright notice

All content copyright 2010 by Chelsea Biondolillo. Seriously.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 364 & 365

Here it is: Day 365.

I never had a chance to write yesterday, as several members of the cohort went out after we were released from our final orientation, and well. It was a long night.

Yesterday was a much more momentous day than today (in part because I have spent all of today recovering from a brutal "altitude induced" hangover--the altitude, she befuddles). After we finished the last of the teaching demos, we had some pizza with the second-years and our subject librarian, and then we were done with the colloquium. We're teachers now.

In the afternoon, all of the writing program met in our devoted building, The Carriage House. We heard three really amazing, inspiring speeches from the faculty and students and then our Director, Beth Loffreda stood up and said that our number one job for the next year is to write. We can be good teachers and good readers, but we need to write and write and write. She urged us to appreciate fully this time when so many people are invested in our words and our progress (because who knows when that will happen again). And most importantly (for me) she said this was our time to figure out the ways we fuck ourselves over as writers: our distractions and the stories we tell ourselves about our writing and our processes that keep our pens still.

We all walked out of there in high spirits (which was SO important after the mostly exhausting and occasionally frustrating colloquium all week).

How fitting is it that my "year of being a writer" ends the day before my year of writing begins?

Today, as I lay around nursing my bruised liver, I tried to think about the last year. One year ago today, I was pretty certain that I might never be where I am. While I poured my heart into my applications, there was the threat of a second shut-out hanging over my head. All fall and into the new year I tried to cultivate a habit of writing and submitting. And a bunch of stuff got published! I placed essays, book reviews, even a poem. I met hundreds of writers like me on Twitter and Facebook, trying to get into programs, into print, and into their own process.

This year taught me, above all else, that determination and hard work really can make anything possible. That's not some cheesy bullshit platitude: it's the stone cold truth. AND, Nothing easy or truly valuable happens overnight. Shit takes time and patience. The patience part is something I am hoping to cultivate here, now that the scrabbling part is over for a little while. I can exhale for a bit.

Thank you, everyone, for reading along and cheering me on and keeping me going. I may not post daily going forward, but I will still keep track of my progress here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 363

I managed to stand in front of a classroom (full of colleagues, but still) for twenty-five whole minutes without bombing or losing my place and managed to make pretty good sense.

Right now I am sitting in a room that slowly became dark while I was staring at a screen. Coltrane has been on repeat so I could get some reading done. Today felt weird. Good, mostly. I have a better handle on my ability to teach these students, I think I will do okay at that. But all day, this creeping worry that I still haven't written, not really, since I've been here. This week has been as brain-frying as the day job used to be, more so even, because I've been listening and doing with every ounce of focus I possess.

My neighbors seem to smoke a lot of really good weed.

A week from tomorrow, I will review my manuscript with our eminent writer. Between now and then, I will listen to him read, attend a Q & A, and then perhaps join a gang going out drinking after. I suddenly doubt everything in that manuscript. I don't know what I was thinking. And now, I can't think of anything to write at all. Write? That's also what I am supposed to do here, to earn my keep, right? About... things, I suppose?

Now I can smell the strange mix of BO and Asofetida that wafts into my livingroom after dark each night. Somewhere below me must be an Indian laborer of some kind, just home from the what, coal mines? We have those here, but I don't imagine they employ exchange students from the city.

I still keep my windows open all night, though it is getting chillier each morning when I get out of bed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 362

I feel a little bit better about teaching on Monday for the following reasons:
  • We got to hear a bit more practical advice in today's session. There still wasn't quite enough "doing" for my hands-on self, but there was more discussion about in-class specifics rather than teaching generalities.
  • I got to see my classroom. At first I was bummed out that it's in the Agricultural building (4th floor--my ass will be fucking STONE by summer break with all these goddamned stairs), but it turns out that the fourth floor is where all the plant sciences and entomology labs are. There is a locked door marked "Insect Gallery" just down the hall! I could have swooned from the awesome.
  • I have fortified my organizational defenses. I went out and got a whiteboard for the house, an appointment book, notebook, file folder, and supplies for class. I still need to get a VGA adapter for my Mac, as the classrooms are not yet fully Apple friendly.
This evening I drafted out my demonstration, which I am NERVOUS about, but prepared for. As a good friend of mine says, "Everyone starts out a white belt."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 361

At one point this afternoon, I was fairly convinced that I could not be a First-year Composition teacher.

From 8:45 am until 4:15, with painfully few breaks, I sat in a room and got more and more confused and more and more anxious. I don't feel QUITE as bleak as I did earlier, but wow. The trepidation, she begins.

Now, I am going to finish grading a couple of "test" papers before bed.

I am finally online at home. More later.

Monday, August 15, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 360

I cannot WAIT to have the Internet back, y'all. Seriously. While this phone is a miracle of computing power right in the red-hot palm of my hand, it is still just a fancy phone.

I can't write on it. And while I COULD write on my "unplugged" computer, it's just not the same. What if I really quick need to see a waterbear or what frog teeth look like? Or how the hell you spell Lysergic acid Diethylamide?

Anyway, today began my week of graduate student orientation. The highlight was actually the presentation on sexual harassment, if you can believe it. The presenter said her mantra on Monday will be "Let the sex begin."

After I left the general meeting, I went to the beautiful Environmental and Natural Resources dept. building and introduced myself. I chatted with one of the department advisors about what I was looking forward to and how I could prepare. I am hoping to get in on a December trip to the Canary Islands, fingers crossed.

Then I came home and finished my homework, finished the Chronology of Water (which killed me dead, completely), finished some laundry, and cooked up an abundance of farmer's market vegetables.

The Buddhist center in Laramie still hasn't posted which night meditation classes will be held, though I've been checking often. It's a satellite location of a Fort Collins center, and I am hoping to practice there, funds permitting. My ragged brain could only be helped by some practice in stillness and focus.

Tomorrow, I start actual English 1010 teacher training. I feel like a nerd for being excited and a dork for being scared.

Here's one from the walk to the grocery store today. Maybe I'll get tired of these great clouds, maybe I won't.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, August 14, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 359

Today I met several members of the creative writing faculty and some more of my classmates.

Tomorrow our week-long teaching intensive begins. One professor responded to my concerns about being able to teach after only a week of training, "No matter how little you know, you'll know more than they do."

I'm still nervous: about getting along with my cohort, connecting with my professors, getting through to my students. I want to make the most of my time here. I want to work hard and still have some fun. I can be too critical and alienating and the community aspect of this process is important to me. But I don't want to only agree and go along, either--this process is about my future, and I need to own it.

Another professor this evening told me how glad they were that things had worked out so that they were going to get to work with me. THEY would get to work with ME. I almost started crying big goofy grateful tears right there.

I'm beat and tomorrow begins a big ass week and my last week of this experiment! Until then, goodnight.

Yesterday, part two

I woke up this morning (late, obviously) thinking, I can't believe I didn't post last night. HA HA. Drunky the Clown is in the house!

I edited some of last night's post because I have no idea what I was talking about. None. The terrible mountain whiskey from the dancehall must've gotten me higher than a giraffe's pussy (as a good friend of mine would say).

It was fun. There was dancing--first at the dancehall and then at a crazy danceclub downtown. That place will be so full of undergrads that we will probably have to avoid it in the future. I also got to meet three more members of the cohort and the group is still an awesome one.

But yes, the liver will be resting for awhile now. Summer is almost over and it is time to get to work.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

365 days of being a writer: day 358

Okay. Okay. I wasn't going to post again, hey, I'm drunk but I am. I have had a lot to drink. I have hopefully maze a good impression on my cohort,because I'm not sure my liver or wallet could keep up.

I finished almost all of my homework (before dribking). That's all the redeeming that I can say about today. There was a dance hall. There were shots later. We ended up at my place (which makes me happy).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 357

Look, I'll admit right now that I have had a few drinks. I walked home from the bar (3 blocks) against flashing red, then yellow, then red lights. This is a small town: the lights flash after whatever hour o'clock.

I spent the day waking all over campus. First to HR for paperwork, then getting my student ID, then the library, then IT services, then I met with a professor who will be on sabbatical next semester. He walked me around campus some more and the surrounding neighborhood. I came home, beat, to find a farmers market practically on my doorstep. I bought greens, beets, squash, zucchini, pasta, and salmon. I spent too much but I was enamored with the personalities and all the storied fruits and veggies.

After all of the movement and activity of the day, coming home to my quiet apartment was a bit of a letdown. I had food to make, homework to do, unpacking-sorting-organizing to do. None was appealing, but I cooked anyway--made dinner plus leftovers and built the foundation of a bean, rice & veggie soup.

I was stoked when I heard from a classmate that several folks were meeting up downtown for drinks. We talked about teaching, long distant relationships, students, professors. It's funny: we seek out bars where we won't have to deal with undergrads, do the graduate profs do the sane thing with us, I wonder?

anyway. I am buzzed and warn and fuzzy. More tomorrow.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, August 11, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 356

I got my office keys today! I also walked all over town and bought Carharts and veggie chili fixins. I will FIT RIGHT IN.

And I changed my address and car insurance. I did laundry. Strolled campus. Bought groceries. Scouted out a bookstore AND co-op. Unpacked almost all of my clothes and filled a big plastic tub of things to let go of: dishes, tchotchkes, funny t-shirts. I have too many of these things. Next it's books and DVDs and "doodads". I bet I can lose one whole box of JUST miscellaneous junk. It's scary, paring down--and yes, this is not about writing strictly, but neither is it NOT about writing, entirely. It is hard for me to let go of the remnants of where I've been. But these extra things are not just literal weight. They weigh on the mind: collecting dust, requiring navigating and accommodating. Cluttering.

I can't ever see myself as a minimalist. I love books and buddhas and clothes too much. But the rest? It drags me down.

The other morning I dreamed that I was burning all my old notebooks, my journals from those worst years of self-doubt and sadness. I woke up wondering, Why do I drag them around like lead weights? Are they cautionary tales? My friends and I used to joke about the importance of these artifacts to our eventual collections of papers loaned to some collegiate library. If it ever came to it, I would rather be remembered through my drawings and paintings from back then; at least in those I was trying to improve. Those journals are circular, self-critical, and dishonest.

And yet, for all that, they are also true. They are a record of what I thought I should be thinking. Who I loved. All that I did to keep love far from my unworthy grasp.

Would you keep them or toss them or burn them? Do you keep your old diaries, and if not do you regret losing them?

Flowers from my 'hood. There are a lot of these towering lovelies all over downtown. Are they hollyhocks?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 355

I drove all the way home from Denver today, alone. It's the longest I have ever been behind the wheel at a stretch. That has nothing to do with writing, but it is what I did today.

My consultation with Colson Whitehead will be in two weeks, at the tail end of my first full week of school. Even though the daily posts will be over by then, I'll still post regularly about school and writing.

Last night, I celebrated my successful move and the start of my adventures with gin and a cigar on the sidewalk.

(It's hard not to crack up at the start of amazing adventures.)

I keep waking up early. I'm hoping to make better use of my early-birdness tomorrow with a long walk to campus and back.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 354

I have been here two days (or three?) and still no writing! But there were banking freakouts today (the closest Bank of America is in Denver) and I had to call a bunch of places to find Internet I could afford--but I'll have it on the 16th! And I bought some groceries... Funny how it SEEMED like such a full day...

Warren goes home tomorrow, and I am a little worried about that, I mean he has fixed every broken thing that I didn't even know was broken! Like my car windows, hazed over by off-gassing and the deadbolt that needed WD-40 and my turntable with the dislodged belt... What'll I do when he goes? I have definitely been more stressed yesterday and today--the nuts and bolts of settling in are not fun and require many phone calls and automated voice activated systems. This puts me on edge.

But the breeze through my open windows, the church bells I can hear on the quarter hour, my new industrial coat rack, the walk to campus... These things make my heart sing. It's going to be a great year.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, August 8, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 353

Still no Internet at the new place, though I did scout out a coffee shop with wifi this morning.

I also replied to a call for book reviewers on the [PANK] blog, so we'll see how that ends up.

Today was all about unpacking and having an existential crisis about my large quantity of stuff. Why do I need so much? For preparedness? And yet, there WAS a time when I could do with less...

Already I'm jonesing for Internet in my apartment. There are people I want to talk to, work I want to do.

This evening I hung out with 4 of the incoming MFA class. I'm glad to report that every seems cool so far. Also, what they say about the altitude seems to be true--two beers an I'm out.

Life in a (small) northern town

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, August 7, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 352

It is late. I'm so exhausted, but I'm moved in--to my apartment in Laramie.

I've also met a third of my cohort, and they helped me move so goddamned much stuff. They are my new favorite people in the world.

Tomorrow begins the real work.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:N 9th St,Laramie,United States

Saturday, August 6, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 351

Day two on the road. Same as yesterday... no writing, unless you count a steady stream of tweets from the truck.

Here are some pictures from today:

If you look real close, you might see Wiley E. Coyote!

A beautiful presentation of fried ice cream at Adelita's in Santa Fe.

Speaking of Santa Fe, here's a shot of Palace Ave. When I moved to New Mexico with my husband in 1999 we lived just up this road. I would move out less than an year later.

After living under Phoenix's relatively cloudless skies for so long, I can't stop taking pictures of clouds. I want to lie under them and let their shadows move across me, chill me.

And the entire set is here (more coming tomorrow!) We are in Colorado Springs right now. The plan is to leave late after a good sleeping-in, and get to Laramie by six tomorrow evening. I can't stop smiling and laughing and being ridiculous. I could get used to this.

Friday, August 5, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 350

Alright. I will admit, straight up, that no writing occurred today.

Instead, packing, truck loading, and hitting the muthafucking ROAD happened today. In lieu of scribbles, I took a bunch of pictures with my new Instagram app. So, here are the sights from today's drive.

Transitioning to pine forest

Ponderosa pine forest signifies the climb out of the Sonoran desert. I can't get enough of the random dead and stripped trunks along the road, but it took forever to capture one at 64 mph.

Cloud cover

After climbing up and over Flagstaff, the landscape flattened and stretched into the distance. The clouds were a wonder (after so many cloudless skies in Phoenix) and while they threatened rain and lightning, we saw only virga.


I am quite smitten with the filters. This could be frothy surf at the Oregon Coast or golden scrub fields on the road to Gallup, New Mexico. I want to put those cloud shapes in my mouth and suck on them until they've melted down.


I waited for fifteen minutes for this plant to finally step from the windshield to my side window, and then it was gone.

Low Hanging Fruit

We don't know what the atmospheric condition is that caused these low-hanging fruit clouds, but they kept their shape from dusk to dark.

Tonight we sleep in Gallup where, I have it on good authority, there are more wandering drunks than anywhere else in America. Tomorrow, we shoot for Colorado Springs.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 349

As they used to say in the '70s, "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go..."

Today was my last day at the day job and I feel pretty good that I spent most of it working. My coworkers were all fantastic and supportive. Even the girl at the little sandwich/coffeeshop was sad to see me go. She wanted me to keep in touch with them on Facebook. Who is this person that laughs all the time and makes jokes and friends?

It has been over two years of working hard to get to here. And nearly a year of floundering trying to find this road after the one I'd been on washed out. How many years before that was I out of alignment? I must have needed to step away from making art, so I could get more clear about the form my particular voice wanted to take. I really like drawing, but I write even on the days I don't like it--and there's the difference. There's something there, something about need vs want. I needed the time to figure that out. But shit, twelve years? Am I so dense, or is the universe so emphatic? It's late and I'm tired. This is no time to go all woo-woo about fate and destiny. And yet, how many times have your dreams come true? Who would stop me from singing and dancing in the middle of traffic or the sidewalk?

Warren and I will have no help loading the truck tomorrow, I'm a little worried about that in the heat. He's hoping it will only take us 5 hours. I was sort of hoping unrealistically for two. My mother insists she'll help. My arthritic, carpal-tunneled mom. Don't worry, I won't let her.
The dog days, or diēs caniculārēs, are traditionally the hottest summer days between July and August. They are marked by stagnation, lack of progress, and general malaise. Like the oceanic doldrums that forced Spanish galleons to jettison their horses, the dog days are an imposed time to reflect, an opportunity to purge the ballast, and the perfect time to realign one's direction.

And they are, for me, for this season at least, OVER.

"Leave all your love and your longing behind, you can't carry it with you if you want to survive."

365 days of being a writer: day 348

I feel like I should have a summary post about Phoenix ready to go, but I do not. Tomorrow will be my last full day living here for (hopefully) a very long time. I will still come visit my family, but that will be different.

This evening, I packed all of my clothes and shoes and coats. I think I have about twelve coats right now. Ninety-five percent of the books are packed. How it is that seven can be "essential" I'm sure I don't know. There is a profusion of papers that I need to deal with tomorrow, as well as packing up my computers and travelin' backpack.

I got a bit stressed out today, thinking about how to spend my last evening. What a waste of energy! The only way I could have spent it was packing. It isn't a bad thing to want time to do what I need to do. It's okay to say no, to say to myself, you need to take care of yourself this evening. I feel a deep tiredness, down in my marrow. Is this what exhaling feels like? Or is it finally letting all the tension go, as I will when this desert city is in the rearview? I feel like I could sleep for a week, even though it is the one of the last things I actually want to do.

This is what leaving Texas looked like, just over two years ago.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 347

I'm glad I got a fair bit of writing done in Austin, because I am not sure how much will happen over the next few days.  I've got two projects left at work to finish, and two days left to do it. That and my teaching seminar homework may be all I can handle. Today I rounded out my winter wardrobe with a couple of long coats, one quilted and one wool.

Remember that construction paper chain I made back in April--before I gave PJ away, before I moved back into my folks' house? It used to drape all over my mom's bike: one link for every day left here.

 It's now down to this:

Monday, August 1, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 346

I am back in my bedroom. It's hard to say "home" since I'm leaving it in four days.

This morning I got around 600 more words and then knocked out another couple of hundred in between delay announcements at the airport. All in all, I pulled off over 3200 words over the course of a three day vacation. I know that isn't much, but it's a lot compared to the nothing I had been producing. It bodes well for the future (knowing I can sit down and write every day when I don't have the day job to deal with).

I'm leaving in four days. Did I mention that? So freaking amazing.