Torn

I can’t decide whether to keep reading or start writing some stuff. This post doesn’t count.

It feels like I’ve read a lot over the break. More than I read this last semester, but I know that’s not true. I hope that’s not true.

Interesting how I’m an English major and my only solid A was in French. I recently asked my professor if I could use him as a reference for something, and he replied he couldn’t think of anyone he could more highly recommend. Very nice of him.

Yes, I complained a lot about French class, but don’t the French gripe about their passions? Couldn’t you tell through my spitfire how much I love the language? I felt a little cheated with the A I received, only because the 100-level classes seemed so much harder. I thought this class was going to really whip me. And coming from a 7-week 102 course during the summer, 201 felt like a breeze. Plus, the 100-level classes prepared me pretty well for 201; perhaps they made me smarter, after all.

Brit Lit History was odd. I don’t know how else to describe it. We read a lot, we discussed stuff and wrote papers. I got to translate 15 lines of Old English Beowulf. The exams should have done me in, but somehow I squeaked by with a very merciful non-B. What I loved most about the class were the personal critiquing sessions for papers. We signed up for 15-20 minute appointments, we handed our papers to the professor, and she read them while we looked up information in the MLA Handbook. Then we talked about the strengths and weaknesses of the papers with the professor. Admittedly, at times it felt like a big thrashing – hung, drawn, and quartered – and I wondered during these sessions what the hell I was doing and why I couldn’t write anymore. But the professor provided some really constructive and encouraging ideas, and each time I left her office a little dejected but with more resolve to write better. She gave us a holistic grade at the end of the semester, so she didn’t give us number grades during our appointments. That was helpful for me, only because I correlate such numbers with my worth as a person.

Kidding. Mostly.

Then I took this Brit Lit class, which covered authors from 1603-1660. I commented on this class before. Just the other day I sent an email to my professor:

Professor [Super Cool]:

I just want to thank you for a truly delightful semester in English 385. While familiar with many of the names we studied, much of the literature was new to me.

The material and your presentation of such invited the Spirit, which I haven’t felt so abundantly in a classroom, even compared to the religion classes I took hundreds of years ago.

Instances:
-Jonson and his deliberate (non)usage of names in his poetry
-Milton and Areopagitica – thoughts on censorship and agency
-Milton and Paradise Lost – enhancement of my temple experience
-Herbert’s “Love (3)” in conjunction with Thanksgiving – eating of the meat means I’m no longer at the kiddie table
-Traherne – my newest big favorite

Even though I didn’t test incredibly well in that class either, that class left quite an impression on me.

Finally, I took a short story class, which, if you know my love for short stories, was better than cookies for fourteen weeks. We read dozens of amazing stories. We talked about them. We wrote about them. The professor was pretty rad and quite funny. My quizzes in that class weren’t the best, and neither were my papers, and yet I managed another squeaker. Maybe I cemented it with the final. Who knows.

This semester I’m taking French 202, which is a literature class.

Then I’m taking French 321, which is a grammar class, and the thought of it seriously freaks me out.

The second half of Brit Lit History should be interesting. I mean, fun.

Then I’m taking a Myth, Legends, and Folklore class. I love that this stuff counts toward an actual degree.

This semester is going to be great.

Oh, yeah. I have real entries to write. Two prompts, one personal essay and the other, fiction. But I guess I’ll work on those later.

I do think I’ll read a little more. It’s been nice to relax and escape these past few days.

Oh, but wait. I have to post this photo. Basically the only photo I took with my camera during the Christmas break. (Our waitress attempted this photo three times, and this was the best of those.) I’ve known these girls for 20 years now. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Biscotti’s (is not a girl, but a restaurant in the Riverside section of Jacksonville. It’s our “place.”). Sarah, May, and Jenny. Lots of memories and laughs, long passed and more recent.

More School Stuff You Can Skip Over

I finished my big paper, and I’ll get started on the last one today. Tonight.

Then I need to prepare a powerpoint presentation on the Tom Stoppard paper I turned in today.

But I want to take a nap. And watch Chuck and Lost.

11 more days. Then I go to New York in 20 days.

I was talking with someone yesterday. I told her a certain class really validated me. She said some things about playing to our strengths and telling ourselves we’re good at what we do. And believe our friends when they tell us positive things.

That came after the part when I told her how insecure I get sometimes. She reassured me though.

We walked out of the classroom, out of the building. We talked about an author we both like. We talked about the different people who use the transit system. We approached the bus stop.

She asked about my plans to write, if I actually wanted to write. We talked about other classes I could take. She told me I should definitely work toward publishing.

She said other stuff, too.

Ego Boost: Check

We got these essays back today. Mine was about reading John Updike’s “A&P.”

Again, it wasn’t about the story; it was about reading the story.

I hope the writing here somehow transfers to the papers I’m writing for finals.

This is nervewracking. I’m glad my mom can’t see my cuticles now to yell at me.

Anyway, I like how the instructor underlined beautiful to describe my prose. I even like her suggestion to the right.

I also like the quaternary underscore beneath the … perfect score.

I’m taking university writing courses. This is so utterly cool.

Back to work.

Happy Friday

So much happy news, all around this week. Friends are pregnant; friends with hot radio voices are filing stories for bigtime news networks; friends are taking exciting, new opportunities in the workforce. BYU finally got past the first round in the NCAA tournament. I’m even wearing my Florida Gators t-shirt to celebrate.

Let’s get my stuff out of the way first. Last month I presented a paper on Bryant’s “Thanatopsis.” I got the paper back on Wednesday. I didn’t want to look at it in class, because I thought the instructor would have shredded it. I just remember as I stood in front of the class last month looking at the paper I was finding huge typos. Anyway, I happened to glance at the paper yesterday, and the disbelief always surprises me. He gave me 50/50. (Still getting a B in the class, though.)

I spoke with the teacher from my favorite class yesterday. I related to her some experience I’ve had submitting essays, and we ended up talking shop for a little while after class. She told me with my experience and writing skills, I could skip the intro class and start with the essay or short-story class. I asked about a market for super-shorts or flash fiction. She told me where to go in the library for references on where to submit work. Then she told me to contact her anytime on help with submissions, as she does that kind of thing all the time.

Y’all, my tear ducts are streaming with validation.

Congratulations to my pregnant friend(s) out there. You’ve asked me to keep your news quiet, and this is the best I can do. I’m very excited for you! Everyone else, you can ask about who you think she (they) is, but I’ll neither confirm nor deny your queries.

I haven’t obsessively listened to the audio news file, but this person knows what I think and how impressed I am.

Those of you who are moving on to bigger and better opportunities, ROCK ON. I can’t wait to hear about everything.

I couldn’t be a prouder friend, people. I’m so happy for everyone.

Moments in My Favorite Class

So I have a favorite class.  About two weeks ago, we broke into groups to present ideas on a short story the teacher assigned us to read. My group was pretty big, and there was no way I was going to speak in front of the entire class, so I decided to lead the discussion and delegate speaking parts to other members of the group. They let me, and it was fun being in charge. I got them to determine who was speaking, about what, and in what order. Then they delivered, not because of anything I’ve done, but because they’re purely stellar students. But boy, it felt great when they payed attention when I spoke, asked questions, conversed with them. It was neat.

Last week we split into groups to have peer reviews of first drafts of a paper. The final drafts are due on Tuesday. After the teacher told us to group up, one classmate called out my name and said, “I want to be in your group. I like your clarity of thought.” Took me off guard. Apparently, he can decrypt my Mad Libs. The teacher overheard and more or less agreed with him. Took me off guard even more. Then two other students quickly sidled up and we had our quorum.  And I was worried about being able to find people to work with. I guess I got lucky. Anyway, we read each other’s papers aloud and provided feedback, and as far as academic experiences go, it was rather uplifting.

The teacher asked us if we were going to try to rewrite or revise our papers from the other classmates’ work. I thought about it and was getting ready to raise my hand, and then she said, “You might be surprised. You’re not going to. You like coming up with your own ways to express your own ideas.” She’s right, you know. The more I read, the more inspiration I find, but I’m also more apt and content to let authors rule completely over their domain. Maybe it’s respect for the author, maybe I’m just a big snob, and since nearly every original thought has been reworked and reincarnated a million different ways, I feel I’m preserving somehow the purity of an honest process by being less of a ripoff.

I could also be legitimately disillusioned.

The dream makes me happy.