Monday, January 07, 2013


Today I was working on the syllabus for my creative writing class. I had some ideas that I had noted on a piece of paper in my purse, cryptic little phrases ("shapes," "locations," "voices") that were just not giving me much momentum in terms of overturning the categories that had governed this course for awhile. It has been a good course. I've felt pretty proud of it. But I have the chance this semester to teach it in the Pedro Almodovar style ("Live Flesh!"), and I want to make the most of it. I don't want to do the same thing I've been doing.

So I wrote those words down on a new blank document. I thought about them. I took the sheets off the bed and put them in the washer. I looked at those words some more. I thought about going to Target. I realized with great fervor that my iPod needed a charge, so I went into my study and plugged it into my desktop. I organized some stuff on my desk like it was my job. I found another piece of paper that had some notes on it. I added those to the blank document and thought about it some more.

Then I started to look for this one book on the upper corner of my shelves. I couldn't find it. I looked again and again in that corner--I thought I remembered it there. Then, I looked on the shelves adjacent to that, and then I looked at all the shelves, my eyes raking those spines. No luck. The book is, I think (I'm not absolutely positive at this point that the book is a real thing as opposed to a fantasm, or else sitting on some shelves in my work office, which amounts to the same thing). Right: the book is an estimable creative writing textbook (I think). I was hoping to harvest some stuff from it. Ideas, exercises, assignments.

But what happened instead (since the book is either not real or else not on the present shelves) is that I began to get new ideas. I ran to the other room and got my little piece of paper and a pen, and looked over the books more carefully, and thought of new categories, and activities, and little writing prompts, and more. By the end of my shelf scan, I had the big shape of my syllabus, more or less, and the momentum to keep working on it. It seemed exciting and fun and worthwhile.

And that, the people, that is what books are for: the spark they hold of your experiences with them, the memories they're vested with. The actual physical artifacts, organized however the reader has organized them, so that they speak not only to you, but to each other.


  1. This is one of the major disadvantages of eBooks, the lose of that tactile mind body experience.

  2. We need to x-stitch that last paragraph and turn it into a pillow--many pillows--and toss them around TKE. Beautiful!

  3. LOVE! Reading this was like following the lighted fuse snaking around and through right before it blew in the face of Wiley Coyote.



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