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Friday, September 30, 2011

Border Policy Colloquium

Hello All! If you have free time on Thursday this might be interesting. I spent the summer working on this project with other students from different disciplines across campus. The project turned out to be an interesting experience in interdisciplinarity and produced very interesting results. We compared the cross border flow of people into the U.S. and Canada in relation to the legal framework that each nation has put in place to allow for and regulate that flow. Three of us (Susannah, Austin, and I) will be presenting our report.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy Hour Wednesday!

Just a reminder to stop by Boundary Bay today at 4:30 and enjoy some cheap beer and tiny foods.

Convening at Conferences

When I attended my first Associated Writing Programs (AWP) conference way back in the year 2000, I had a huge grin on my face that just wouldn't go away. I couldn't believe that gathered together all in one place were  writers, editors, publishers, teachers, students who all loved writing, were excited about writing, published writing, thought about writing, etc. etc. I got to meet editors who had published my work (or who I HOPED would publish my work!) and to talk with colleagues from across the nation about our work.

I attended this conference as a new Assistant Professor here at WWU, but I wish I had known about such things as a graduate student. So here I am to tell you about these things!

One great opportunity is coming right up, and right here in our neck of the woods. The annual Modern Language Association (MLA) conference will be held in Seattle the first week of January. Several of your professors will be presenting papers, and there will be sessions focused especially on graduate students and professional development. The MLA is where many interviews take place for university jobs (my first MLA, in 1998, I sweated in my ill-fitting suit as I waited outside various hotel rooms for my 12 interviews!), and I wish I had actually ATTENDED an MLA first, to get the lay of the land. Student registration fees are $45-65, depending on when you sign up.
We're looking at how the dept. might support grad students to go, but just wanted to plant the seeds now. I'll give updates as we consider the options. I see that the conference will also provide child care if enough people request it.

A little further afield will be the AWP conference, held in Chicago at the beginning of March.

And here is notice of a conference devoted  to graduate students.

The university has the Ross Travel Grant to support graduate student travel to conferences, but the student must be presenting a paper. So keep an eye on conference opportunities and deadlines.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spotlight on an alumnus

Today I read that one of our MA graduates, Julie Wade, was awarded the "Student Spotlight" in her PHd program at the University of Louisville. Julie has had much success in recent years, with a memoir, a book of poems, and book of essays all published or about to be published. There's a wonderful interview with her here:

One passage that I think will be of particular interest to you:

What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?
I think time management is always the greatest challenge for any of us, especially learning to balance your work as a student/scholar with your work as a teacher.  It’s very much like I imagine juggling flaming torches in the circus would be—a strange mix of anxiety and exhilaration, incomparable satisfaction and complete exhaustion.  The only way to deal with this challenge that I have found is to love everything you do with the greatest possible passion and dedication.

How do YOU find balance in your life?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An event on Sept. 30th, if you like.....

Phew, that first week of the school year is over! I always find the first week to be both exciting and exhausting.

For me, the academic year has always been my "new year," more so than in January, probably because the Jewish New Year usually begins around the same time. This year, it begins on Sept. 29th. On the Jewish New Year, we take the time to look back on the year past and acknowledge where we could have been more skillful in our doings, and we look ahead and set our intentions. It's a ten-day period of reflection, and we are essentially wiping the slate clean.

On September 30, coincidentally, I'll be holding the book launch reading/celebration of my new collection of personal essays, Listening Against the Stone: Selected Essays, published by Skinner House Books this summer. It's serendipitous, because this book essentially spans my writing career, including much older essays and brand new pieces. Taken together, they form a picture of how my own sense of spirituality has evolved over the years. The title comes from a scene in one essay in which I lean against the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, seeking some guidance.

I would love to see you there, if you can make it. It will be at Village Books in Fairhaven (if you haven't been there yet, Village Books is our groovy independent bookstore in the groovy part of town...) at 7 p.m. Thanks!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Funny weather.....

The weather today reminds me of those hot winds we used to get in Southern California: the Santa Ana winds. As kids, we kind of reveled in that weather; walking to school felt exhilarating, with the wind blowing hot air down our necks. We got giddy. We jumped in our seats. There was also a hint of danger; anything could happen. Our parents looked distracted, as if thinking of times and places far away--lost friends, lost selves.

The master crime novelist, Raymond Chandler, got it just right in his story "Red Wind." I often think of this memorable opening paragraph when the weather turns like this:

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."

What are some memorable opening paragraphs of books you love?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Funny or is it just me?

"What's another word for a synonym?"

Here's a chuckle....

Debate over ranking of MFA graduate programs

To get us started, here's some news that's been hot in the Graduate School world lately. Poets and Writers annually "ranks" the best MFA programs, but they do so with questionable criteria. Check out the debate here and add your thoughts if you like!