Things to Teach, Things to Learn

Spent the past couple days devouring Lynda Barry’s new book Syllabus. My sister gave it to me for Christmas because I am gearing up to teach my first class in February, and it’s a fitting source of inspiration. My sister and I talk a lot about how our lives have been shaped and how we work to shape to our lives and about all the things that fall in between. We talk a lot about gaps and bridges and phases of life.

A few weeks ago, she told me “We teach what we want to learn.”

In Syllabus, one of Barry’s notes says “Teaching this: To be able to accept what comes up.”

That about sums up what I’m hoping to learn, and how I wish I could live out my days.

So, to get started on that…. I have a pretty big fear of drawing. You can ask any of my work-work coworkers, and they can tell you how funny and out of scale and crooked all my lines and shapes are, especially when drawn on those massive white boards. My inability to draw has bummed me out for as long as I can remember. I just dug out a sketchbook I last drew in back in March of 2012. But about half way through the Barry book, I felt like I had an opportunity, and the responsibility, to just see what came up if I tried without trying. In one of her classes she took attendance by having her students draw 2-minute self portraits on index cards, which she then collected and held all semester. So I pulled out an index card (which I got in my stocking!), set my timer, and went for it. So that I wouldn’t feel so alone, my five-year-old son joined me, though he spent about 10 seconds on his after bemoaning the unfairness of only having 2 minutes.

Here it is, my first self-portrait in 10 years.

O said, "Aw, you look so cute, like a kid!"

O said, “Aw, you look so cute, like a kid!”

"But two minutes is toooooo short for me." (O's 10 second self portrait)

“But two minutes is toooooo short for me.” (O’s 10 second self-portrait)

It is tempting, but I probably won’t have my students draw attendance cards.

I’ve spent the last year working part-time and going to grad school full-time. I’ve written 21,000 pages of my book and started a crown of sonnets. In a few days, I’ll reverse the order and work full-time. Writing needs to make its way back into my morning routine, which means before I wake the boy up and get him ready for school, which means I’ll write from 5 – 6:30 am. These 2-minute self-portraits are going to become part of my morning warm up, to keep my head from taking over too soon and to get my hands moving.

xoxo

How to Begin When Your Head is Empty – From Writing Exercise to Finished Prose

I’m teaching a class this winter at the Hugo House in Seattle! Classes run Wednesday evenings from 7 – 9pm, February 25 – April 1.

There are days when we sit down to write and nothing comes. In this hands-on generative class, we’ll use a series of writing prompts to generate ideas and get our pens or fingers moving. Over the course of the class, as the exercises uncover hidden ideas and surprising connections, we’ll refine our focus and develop the our explorations into structured finished pieces. We’ll look at a few examples of how to structure these kinds of essays and stories from short nonfiction and fiction for inspiration. Class may include a peer workshop of drafts.

Good for prose, and poetry too!

Registration opens on December 9th for members, and the 16th for the general public. You can get to the registration here, and see a funny picture of me.

YOU CAN GET A PREVIEW OF MY CLASS, AND TAKE SOME OTHER GREAT SESSIONS, AT THE UPCOMING WRITE-O-RAMA, THIS SATURDAY (12/6)! A FULL DAY OF GENERATIVE FUN AND ARM-CRAMPING GOODNESS. CHECK IT OUT: http://hugohouse.org/classes/write-o-rama/

Feel free to email me if you’d like a reminder email once registration opens: samantha [dot] updegrave [at] gmail [dot] com.