Sunday, July 5, 2015

What I'm Reading

I haven't read nearly as many books this summer as I usually do, but I have been writing a lot, and that's usually how things balance out. I'm a poet and went to grad school for seven years for literature and creative writing, and I've been an avid reader since I was four, so I'm always reading a pile of books at a time, including hardcopies, ebooks, and audiobooks.

I just finished reading Tender Points by Amy Berkowitz, a booklength essay about trauma and fibromyalgia. It was exquisitely crafted and detailed. I have fibro as well, and it was like reading my own diary, which is both validating and a bit terrifying. From the website:

Tender Points is a narrative fractured by trauma. Named after the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia, the text explores sexual violence, gendered illness, chronic pain, and patriarchy through the lenses of lived experience and pop culture (Twin Peaks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, noise music, etc.).
I read all of the finalists for the Lambda Literary Award in poetry this spring. The judges had a very difficult job, because all of the books were incredibly well-written, and showed quite a range of diverse styles. I've been reading the finalists for the Lammy in poetry for years, and it's a great way to discover great new poetry. 
I'm slowly rereading Mansfield Park, one of my favorites by Jane Austen, but which I haven't read since college. 
I'm listening to All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr on my Audible app, and I just began it, but so far I'm liking what I hear.
I'm slowly savoring The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, which is the kind of book that so brilliantly mixes theory and memory and poetic writing that it makes me alternately want to write and want to give up writing. Nelson is so talented she has that effect on lots of us, but in the best way.
I also started A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara just today, upon the recommendation of a friend. 
I have a huge TBR stack for my current writing projects on disability and everyday life, friendship, and girlhood trauma (those may or may not be separate projects; it's still too early to tell), so I set my Goodreads Challenge goal much lower than usual this year. I normally aim for 100 books, but since so many of my books are longer and heavy theory, I lowered it to 65, and I'm six books behind, but I actually get a lot of reading done once school starts, because I'm in the car commuting more. 
What are you reading?

On Liking Things

My whole life I've cycled through obsessions. My entire family is this way. And I can't have just a passing interest in something, no. I need to read everything about it, watch all the Youtube videos, read all the blogs, become part of the community for that thing. (And I've learned that there is a vibrant online community for pretty much everything!) When I was young, I was really into rock collecting, so I studied geology, and amassed quite the impressive collection of crystals and gems. A more serious version of this is my love of France and other francophone countries. I took French classes in high school, visited France, majored in French, studied abroad in Paris, translated a French novel for my senior thesis, and I'm still relatively fluent in it. Similarly, my obsession with creative writing turned into a career. People get teased for the things they love, but what I enjoy about fandom culture is that these fan communities are the one place where we can safely be unabashedly in love with that thing, whether it's a book, movie, TV show, planner, nail polish, food, notebook, religion (I don't mean to be reductive, but there are definite elements of fandom culture in religion. Or maybe the other way around.) I used to be ashamed of my obsessions, embarrassed by the things I love. In junior high I was so obsessed with the television show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman that I missed school because I was so distraught during a particular story arc where Lois & Clark don't actually get married. I watched that show repeatedly, taped it on VHS every week, chatted online with other fans back in the day of CompuServ) and wrote and read endless fanfic. I've since re-watched the show, and it is not good. It's very sexist and goofy, but Teri Hatcher is still pretty attractive, and if I'm being honest, that is a main reason I watched the show. I always wanted to be a writer, and here was a show about, in part, a woman who has made a career out of writing. It helped me take myself seriously as a writer. I wrote a 200-page fanfiction novel about Lois & Clark, that I worked on to the exclusion of anything else during seventh and eighth grade. This show was canceled and I took up with a much less embarrassing fandom, The X-Files, which I still love to this day. 

Some of my obsessions last, some are fleeting, but I enjoy my time in all these subcultures, and I enjoy learning the vocabulary of each community, the drama and beliefs and battles. I believe that this obsessive nature is related to my life as a writer. These artistic obsessions lead to poetry, and I have to be totally in love with something to spend a decade writing about it (which is how long it took me to write my first two books concurrently). Other obsessions can seem more frivolous, but I am here to celebrate loving things! Finding joy in stuff and culture and media! Why am I always so scared to admit my obsessions to other people?

I recently re-read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which is my favorite YA novel. I got to see Rowell last month when she spoke at a library event in my town. She was funny, and even though I own her books on my Kindle, I bought a hardcover of Fangirl so she could sign in, and then started re-reading it that night. The book is wonderful, and explores this odd relationship our culture has to fandom, where something can be mainstream, but we still treat fans like they're pariahs for daring to be effusive in their affection. Sometimes I think this outcast status can be a badge of honor, the "I liked this before it was cool" and desperate attempts to categorize who is a "real" fan or not. You should read the book soon if you haven't already. 

Simon Pegg has a quote I just love: 

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”
This is what I want to cultivate in my life. Not being afraid to demonstrate my affection. I was teased recently for posting about my new planner (that I'm definitely obsessed with, and about which I will write a separate post). on Instagram. I felt chastened for showing my affection for something, my joy at paper goods. I used to have a different Instagram account for everything, but it got exhausting. I want to just have one integrated identity, where I can post about all the things I love. I want to feel that liberation and just own my obsessions.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Let's Try This Again, Shall We?

I have had a lot of blogs in my life. Personal journals, wedding blogs, fatshion blogs, nail polish blogs, reading blogs, poetry blogs. None of them lasted, for one reason or another. I know that readers of blogs prefer that a blog is about one thing, but I'm tired of compartmentalizing my life. I don't have any aspirations for this blog, beyond just wanting to write about things in my life, so here I go.

An introduction: I'm in my 30s, a writer and professor, a few years out of grad school. I live in the Midwest, where I moved to be near my family, especially my niece. I'm a femme lesbian with multiple chronic illnesses, and mental illness. I cycle through obsessions regularly, and I'm likely to write about those here. Currently I'm really into paper goods, and writing letters. (I'm always looking for new pen pals!)

The name of this blog, More of This & Less of That comes from a conversation I had with a friend about what we make room for in our lives, what we allow, and how we wanted to be happy, and make room for more of this: the stuff and people that make us happy, and push out the thats that are destructive. So this blog will focus on the things that I enjoy in life, and serve as a reminder that venting is ok, but it's important to be conscious of where we put our energy. I'm working hard to cultivate joy in my life (I have severe depression and anxiety, so this is a constant process. Thanks for reading! Feel free to introduce yourself in the comments!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Skype Job Interview

Friday I have a job interview over Skype. I'm very excited for the interview, but I'm nervous, too, because I've never used Skype for professional purposes. I looked up a lot of Skype interview tips online, and found a lot of good advice that I'm going to aggregate here.

  • Dress from head-to-toe like you are going to a job interview. Don't throw a blazer on over pjs, for example. Feeling fully professional will help you come across that way. My friend Sara said you should look your absolute best for a Skype interview.
  • Do a test run to make sure the technology works, and that you're comfortable. If possible, hook the computer up directly to the internet, rather than relying on wi-fi. Close all other programs.
  • Look directly at the camera, because then it will look like you are looking them in the eye.
  • Make sure your Skype username is professional (mine is my first initial and my last name)
  • Consider your surroundings. Don't try to Skype in a noisy location, or with a lot of clutter in the background. If possible, stick to a neutral wall behind you. I'm going to set up a staging area in my bedroom, so I can close the door and keep out my cats, and have a plain beige wall behind me.
  • Sit back farther from the camera so they can see your hands, too. Body language is so important, so don't make yourself just a talking head.
  • Make sure you have good lighting in the room. Play around with lamps and overhead lighting to make sure you look your best.
  • Avoid patterned clothing, which tends to come across as too loud on screen. I'm hoping to wear a dark blazer with a pop of color shirt underneath.
  • It's easy to talk over people in Skype conversations, so make sure the other person is done speaking before you reply.
I have not had many job interviews, because most of my work has been part of my graduate school funding, so I was just given the job. I honestly don't think I realized how lucky I was until now.

I want this job so badly. If all goes well, it could be the last job interview (barring promotions) I ever have, and that idea is miraculously comforting, and also nerve wrecking. 

Have you ever had a Skype interview? 

Wish me luck!