It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part II

Morning broke with gray skies. I’d heard rumblings of rain on the way, so I headed out early to eat and take in the rest of what I wanted to see. I tried to go to a local diner that was supposedly open but was completely closed. I figured I’d take a tour of the town and come back and they’d be open. Nope. But my tour was fun.

I found the Joplin mural. Very jazzy. I found another  mural. Very history-y. I found old timey buildings and a train. Very very.

Then, starving, I went to Cracker Barrel. The only drawback of going to Cracker Barrel is that I’ve had  a few dollars left on a Cracker Barrel gift card for years and I don’t have it with me. I’m clearly never going to be able to use it. Hangry (I’d been yelling at the roads and the GPS and the fact that the diner wasn’t open), I inhaled my food, which was from a healthy section of the menu, which I didn’t know about and didn’t see right away and then I felt very happy with myself for finding it and not eating a pile of biscuits that I’d later regret.

When I got back to the hotel, I went to the business center to print out a few extra poems that I’d forgotten to print. I also did a lot of my normal get points for free stuff routine. Then I came to my room and began planning my workshop and reading.

Then a little before 1, I got a call from the front desk. Someone from the college was here to give me my check. Oh, okay, I’d be right down.

He greeted me with, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Well, that’s never a good start.

You know how when we get snow on Long Island, the weather people roll up their sleeves and scare the crap out of everyone and everything gets canceled and then we get a passing shower? So, like, I’d been hearing weather forecasts of thunderstorms that would bring about hail. Then hailstorms that would bring about golf ball sized hail. Then the possibility of a tornado or two. There’s a lake effect wind warning. There’s a severe storm warning. The entire weather map bleeds red. BUT I was like, oh it’s just some rain.

Nope, the college closed at 1 PM. The guy was apologetic. He got a call from someone back at campus asking if he’d brought books they bought for me to sign. No, he didn’t. I was going to offer to drive up to the campus to sign them, but campus was closing in less than five minutes. He took my cell number and gave me his card. Then he said he wasn’t sure if the professor who’d originally contacted me would want to do something otherwise, like gather a group on his own, but that was probably unlikely. I said I was wondering if the weather reports were anything to worry about, especially because it was warm and the sun had come out every now and then, but he said that they were thinking about liability. I said I wouldn’t want anyone driving and in danger. He said it could hail for five minutes and they’d be like, Why did we cancel!?!?, but then again, it could be worse than that. It’s so unpredictable.

Let’s take a moment to recap: Months ago, Texas A&M at Texarkana found little poetic me through some two year college list of presenters and invited me to read on campus. We set up a reading for April 13, 2018. Fast forward to April 12, 2018, I took two planes and a rental car to get here. And now instead of a workshop and reading with students and the community, I’m in my hotel room, having just eaten a very large salad, sipping on a very large unsweetened ice tea, watching the weather channel for tips on how to avoid becoming Dorothy.

Processed with MOLDIV

Processed with MOLDIV

Right now is about the time I’d be leaving for campus. It’s less than 15 minutes away. But I’m not going anywhere.

I did change into my poetry professor outfit so it wouldn’t go to waste. I might parade around the hotel in a bit, reading from my book to anyone who’ll listen. But first, I’m asking the front desk exactly what to do if sirens go off. I’m on the 2nd floor and I can hide in the bathtub, but since I’m not much of an expert, I’m going to get a second opinion.

******

I asked the front desk. Apparently, this happens all the time in Nebraska said the guy from Nebraska. I was like, I’m from New York where it doesn’t. I learned that they would set off the fire alarm if they got word that something was on the way. Then, they would get into their back hallway while I would close my curtains and then climb into my bathtub with some reading material. They told me not to stand near the window and try to take pictures. I said the bathtub seemed like a better idea.

Then it drizzled a little. I heard some thunder. Then nothing actually happened. As the guy from Nebraska predicted, we didn’t even get hail. There were tornadoes, but they were happening in what seemed to be north and east from where I was. Now I’m not great with directions, but usually I can see on a map up down side or side. On the maps on the tv, though, I couldn’t really tell. They had black backgrounds, white lines, and then swoops of green and red. I think these are tornado maps. Or Texarkana maps. Or special maps made to confuse me.

The tv showed skits of the do’s and dont’s’ of taking shelter. Then at least one of the weather guys kept using the acronym PDS. This stands for Particularly Dangerous Situation. Which is apparently a technical term for tornado forecasting. There were reports of storms touching down as reported through storm chasers. So like that movie with Helen Hunt is real. People go outside and follow the storms.

I stayed inside even though there was no storm. I gave a Facebook Live reading.

I would totally embed the video here, but WordPress doesn’t allow embedding with iframe html code. I sound like I know what I’m talking about. I don’t. I also don’t know how this text is highlighted. So there. Anyway, you can click above or click here to see the video.

Then I got into my jammies, had some baked Lays for dinner, and then wrote and watched tv into the wee hours.

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It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part I

Many months ago, an email arrived in my inbox from TAMUT. That’s Texas A&M University in Texarkana. In Texas. I clarify that because there’s also a Texarkana, Arkansas. Right across the border. Across that border is a post office, the only building in the U.S. that sits in two states. Already, just getting this email, I was in heaven. Because, you know, this kitsch is my jam.

They have a program called PLACE and its theme was Science and Technology, and the email was from the English department. Everything here describes the essence of my being. They invited me down there to read. I was like, Yes please.

On an early morning in April, I got into a van and got dropped off at JFK.

A lot of airport adventuring occurred. By adventuring, I mean waiting on lines. Bag drop line. Security line where I took off my shoes and then the TSA guy told me I could take them back but they were already in the bin. Also, the guy on the other side of the bin line was telling me how the bins needed to be stacked even though I was the only one stacking them, so I told him that and he said, oh no it’s okay. I think he felt bad because I used my “I’m a little girl” voice that I hate using but I really was the only person stacking them and I didn’t need to be lectured. Then there was the long slow walk to the farthest gate. I ate a bagel and then it was time to board. Boarding line. Line in the plane down the aisle. Sitting in the seat waiting. Waiting for take off.

The flight was great because I read a lot of the very large book I borrowed from the library (The Sleepwalker’s Guide To Dancing by Mira Jacob–read it–it’s uh. may. ZING.). I failed to check the page count when I requested it to be sent from another library, so when I saw that it was almost 500 pages, I wanted to return it to read at a later date but felt bad about the energy used to get it sent to me. Carrying it around isn’t a fun time — it reminds me of that summer I read 1Q84 and took it on the train with me to hang out with S and then wound up carrying it around like — well, what’s that cliché about an albatross? You know that one? It was like that. This time it worked better because even though I had to carry it in my backpack and then after switching into my shoulder bag, a lot of the time I was able to sit with it.

I wound up carrying it around a lot when I got to ATL for my layover. ATL is a long airport. I could have taken its train between terminals, but I opted for walking since I’d be sitting to eat and then sitting on the flight and then sitting in a car. Between the book and a writing book and my folder of fun and my tablet, it was pretty heavy. Once I found the terminal, I circled it a few times, looking for a salad. Found one. Ate it. Walked back to my gate which again was the farthest gate, and sat and read. I like ATL’s airport because of its urgent messages about how not to spread germs. I like your style, ATL.

The flight was quick but I don’t know exactly how long because there was a time change where I gained an hour. I found my bag easily and then found the rental car place easily and they barely looked at my license before handing over the keys. I like Shreveport. Very easy.

The drive to Texarkana brought about all kinds of feelings. Terror at the 75 MPH speed limit. More terror at the idea of passing trucks at the 75 MPH speed limit. That awwww so cute! feeling upon seeing cows lolling about in the fields on the side of the road. As if I’ve never seen a cow. As if at home I can’t drive an hour and see a cow. Still, I exclaimed Aww Cows Awww! Excitement came about when I passed the Welcome To Arkansas sign followed by melancholy at not being able to take a photo of it. I realized later on that I’d probably see more of them since I’d be on the boarder of the state for the duration of my stay. Then I felt pure bliss as the waves of color blossomed on either side of the road for stretches at a time. Dark red flowers first. Then some white. More red. Then purple. Then yellow. If I knew flower names, I’d tell you what they were, but we’ll all have to settle for color.

Finally, I pulled into the hotel lot after driving in a very large and confusing circle–which I should have expected since the road it’s on is called Loop. Just as quickly as I checked in, I changed because it was 80+ degrees, and ventured out to do the one thing I wanted to do more than anything.

I headed to the State Line Post Office so I could stand in two states at once. Really, you can do that all along State Line Avenue, but if you don’t want to stand in the middle of traffic, standing at the post office is the way to go. They have signs and everything. One side Texas. One side Arkansas. Also, the post office is the only building in the U. S. to stand across a state border. So I was in heaven. The wind almost blew me away, but still, heaven.

Also heavenly: Mexican food. I pulled into Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and feasted to my heart’s content. My body did not have an adverse reaction, which is surprising since I usually eat along the lines of Whole 30. Soft chicken tacos, black beans, refried beans, and a huge chicken enchilada slathered in enchilada stuff is not exactly Whole 30 approved. What it is is delicious. Heaven keeps expanding, y’all.

 

Gifted

It’s the last week of classes, and I was collecting piles of portfolios yesterday from my two creative writing classes. It’s been a long semester. I even took a mental health day a few weeks ago. I’ve never done that ever in my career, so you know it had to be a real need. What did I do that day? I graded and made sure all my grade books were up to date. That made me mentally healthy.

So yesterday I walked into the classroom and immediately I got the sweats. For those of you who know already, the sweats are really part of who I am. However, this time it wasn’t the Nervous Sweats or Sweats Of Great Jubilation or Swearing Through The Awkward. This time I started sweating because the classroom was 80 billion degrees, give or take a few. Because I teach in a building that’s a hundred years old—one of two that didn’t get closed down while the other one that didn’t seem worse but I suppose was actually did. Get closed down that is–the heat doesn’t regulate itself to adjust to the temperature outside. Now that it’s a typically cold season, the heater stays on no matter what’s happening outside, like the 50 degree weather. Unless of course you go to the bathroom, and in there it’s a balmy negative 2.

Side note: last year, one of the bathrooms stopped working in the building that did not get closed down this semester. It was the only lady’s room available unless you went to the third floor. Fact: I didn’t know there even was a third floor. One of my students came back to report it was creepy so the next time someone had to go, I yelled out, Bring a buddy! And they brought buddies, and I told them if they weren’t back in ten minutes, we’d all come up there looking for them, which back then was for their own safety, but right now I realize I could have caused extra  distress for anyone having digestive afflictions. Thankfully they were back in under ten minutes and no one got murdered on the mysterious third floor. This is the building that remains open. This is also the building that currently has a gate and plywood and caution tape across a set of formerly automatic doors that led out to a ramp. There is now a makeshift ramp on the other side of the building, precariously build over dirt piles, blocking off any steps to the entrance, and not wide enough for a wheelchair to make a turn or for two people to cross paths. Again, this is the building that’s open.

I settled in to the 80 billion degree room as any adult would: by shouting Omigosh, you guys, it’s so friggin hot! Then I peeled away layers of outer wear and then a cardigan and then fanned myself down with brochures for the Writing Center that have been stacked on my podium all semester. At least this room has a podium, and at least the podium faces the class.
We got into greetings and salutations, and one of my students indicated a shiny red bag that I’d spotted sitting on my desk when I walked in. I rarely sit at that desk because of said podium. He was like, this is for you and you can open it now if you want.

And my reaction was, Really? Are you sure?

Once in my teaching career I’ve been given a gift. It was a journal and it was very sweet. Since then, I’ve mostly been given handshakes after which I Purell and the occasional awkward hug. I’ve also fended off both because germs don’t understand affection. Still, I’ve been open to big hugs and handshakes for those who really truly genuinely react that way. FYI: I never instigate the touching, even though sometimes in my mind, my normal reaction says to me, I’d give this person a hug in a different situation. Sometimes I’ll say something like, this portfolio was so good that I want to shake you OR your writing was so fantastic that I want to punch the wall! They laugh because the ones I say that to understand what passion is.

So now here’s a gift bag with a gift in it, and it’s guaranteed that it’s mine. Hmm. Whenever I see a name on a roster for an upcoming class that I recognize as someone who has taken a different class with me previously, I always assume they don’t remember what went down and probably enrolled with me again by accident. I know I’m a good teacher, but that means I really challenge my students at a college level, and I’ve been known to be a bit too sarcastic, which I genuinely have tried to tone down over the years because a lot of young people don’t get it and think I’m serious and rude.  I can be all three but still I’ve tried to convert my sarcasm into some sort of dad joke vibe. Basically I’m a closet stand-up act, and I have a captive audience. This is the power that professors yield.

Back to the gift. I was like that’s so sweet! I’ll open it after we go over a few things to ensure you don’t want to take it back.

See? I’m funny.

We went over a few things, and he didn’t take it back, so I opened it, and it was a mug, and I said thank you about 8 billion times as we all sweated together, and I noted how I could drink my tea from it. There was a card, but I kept that for after everyone else had gone. Then he asked to take a picture with me, and because I’m now high off of being the recipient of a gift, I think I’m a pretty big deal, so I say yes to the picture, making sure he acknowledges that we will both look sweaty and gross, and I sit on the radiator that’s 80 billion degrees, and he leans back against the radiator next to me so that we’re the same height, which shows how he’s really the sweetest young man ever and his friend counts down the photo and then counts down a second, and I’ll point out again that I’m clearly a pretty big deal.

It’s probably one of the highlights of my teaching career not because of the gift itself but because lately I’ve come pretty close to giving up faith in everything about teaching and my overall institution.

Then in That’s About Right fashion, I walked into my next class bogged down with my rolly bag filled with portfolios, an armful of outerwear, my water, and the gift bag, sweat evaporating from my head and face. I plopped everything down and sat at the desk I haven’t really sat at a lot because the computer in this room is in a small metal box in the other corner, facing away from the class, and that’s where I conducted most of the lessons, but this was the last day, so I kept the desk where it was and sat on the other side of the room, which felt weird because I was facing them for once instead of twisting my body around.

One of my students was like, Is that a gift for me?

And I was like, someone gave that to me.

And they were all like, a student?

And I was like, yeah.

And they were like, Really?

And I was like, I know.

And they were like, Really?

And I was like, I was as confused as you.

Clearly I was not the only one. Several of them were convinced it was to get a higher grade but the gift-giver is super smart and doesn’t need bribery. There were two more students who came into my second class late, saw the gift, and then asked if they could go buy me something. I was like, I’ll take whatever you give me, but it won’t make your grade higher, and they responded with, never mind that’s cool I’m sure I’m fine.

And they’re all fine for the most part. This profession is fine for the most part. Sometimes, however, a little pick-me-up goes a long way to really change a perspective that’s been drowning in the part that hasn’t been so fine.

Lunacon Badge and Schedule

My LunaCon: Part 3

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Badly lit conventioning selfie

A morning panel at 10 AM was the plan. The original plan had included an afternoon reading, but with nothing to do in between and checkout at 1, the plan got pared down. I packed my stuff and then packed my car and then went in search of hot tea. The free coffee outside of the hotel restaurant did not have a hot water accompaniment, so I had decaf. Then I realized I could have taken the empty cup to my room to make tea in. So I drank the coffee and then rinsed the cup and then had tea. It was early. I had time to drink things.

I watched the news. I watched some Mystery Science Theatre on Netflix (the hotel TV had a smart TV). I check all the drawers again to see if I’d left anything behind. I found reading materials.

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Decisions, decisions.

Then I headed out to the second panel I’d attend on social media. If you’ll recall, the first one didn’t exactly go as planned. I hoped that this one would not include unwanted touching or any other kinds of accosting.

When I got to the room, the door didn’t open, so I leaned against the wall and tried to get the wi-fi to hook up to my phone. I’d been doing this since I’d arrived on Friday to no avail. Then I heard a door open and someone say, Hey you stalking me?

It’s game time! Ooh, I think this is the first time I’m doing this on this blog. Or maybe the second. Whatever, we haven’t done this in a while.

Question: Who was the guy who came out of the room across the hall?
(a) Hotel staff
(b) Someone from the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers crowd
(c) Okay, this is dumb. We all know the answer is B because there’s no one else it could be.

Answer: B!

I was like, Oh hey.

And he was like, You waiting for a session to start?

I was like, Yeah but I think the door is locked.

He walked over and then opened the door.

This. Is. My. Life.

He held it open for me, and I walked in, and we both told each other to have a good day. I sat on an aisle seat towards the middle and again fought with the wi-fi. Then two men came in–two of the three Glenns from yesterday–and one asked if I had moved from that seat. Because that’s exactly where I sat during their panel. On the plus side, someone remembered me, and that’s actually a nice change of pace. Usually, I have to introduce myself to people about nine times on the average until they recognize me later on. This is not self-pity. This is another fact of life, and I’m okay with that.

More panelists came in followed by two more audience members, so the panel began. It was a good conversation about social media. They didn’t really give the ins and outs of actual examples of how-tos and which apps (Reddit was mentioned but not like how to actually use Reddit so it is still a complete mystery), but they did give solid advice about writing: be genuinely consistent and consistently genuine. I kind of know that, but it’s good reinforcement. One of them talked about how one of his non-fiction pieces went viral and how he continued to blog using interesting titles. So, click-bait.

Another is a creative writing professor at St. John’s and a fiction writer. He made some grading references and student paper references, so he was speaking my language. So much so that I went up to him afterwards, introduced myself as a professor at NCC, and then chatted about students and social media. Yeah, that’s right. I went up to someone. I engaged in conversation. A conversation I started. He agreed that that the younger generation is into the way everyone thinks they are.

Here are the two take-aways that stood out:

  1. Pieces should be personally dangerous.
  2. No matter how or why you begin a project, in the end, it must emotionally resonate with an audience.

What I’ve found is I do all the things these panels talk about. I don’t have the kind of following they all have. The main difference seems to be that I don’t go out and meet people face to face as much as they do. I suppose I should go to conventions and conferences more often. I can take my department travel money and run! (Of course, the travel budget for each faculty member barely covers one conference registration, but you know, one can dream.)

I ate a Larabar, put on The Dear Mattie Show Podcast, and drove home, listening to the GPS until I got to Bronx River Parkway and then took my own way home. Where I found the house immaculately clean courtesy of Eddie. Aww, what a way to end a weekend.

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Lunacon Badge and Schedule

My LunaCon: Part 2

Because I’m an 87 year old woman, I wanted to turn in before midnight. I even chose a quiet floor to cater to my wanting to sleep. When music came booming from somewhere and echoed throughout the entire hotel, I used my nifty Marriott app to inquire as to why I could hear blasting music on the quiet floor. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if you’re on a quiet floor if there’s an event  that goes until midnight. You have to wait it out.

Marriott App Chat

You also have to wait out evens. (read closely)

Even so, I woke up early, did some dance aerobics to a workout DVD on my laptop, and then headed out to the Stop and Shop to gather food for the day. Yes, I’m a gatherer, not a hunter. I then wandered around until it was time for Plausible Impossible.

I’m getting a lot out of attending fiction-writing workshops. Though I don’t write fiction, I teach it in Creative Writing, so it helps to pick up these tips like 1. Create your own set of rules, and 2. Break the rules for conflict, and 3. You can’t know everything. This last one is a really good rule for life, too.

0174e6a3ca2e8bbf08ce2d4740123b981a4587e9c9I went to the Lobby to pick up my stuff from Programming. I got a name thingie and a badge thingie, making me a pretty big deal. Thingie.

The woman who handed me my stuff asked me, “Did you dance last night?” I took a moment to think and then said it wasn’t me. I’m not sure why I had to think about this.

Clearly, I blog. I’m on Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat, though Insta and Snap are more for fun and not for promotion for me because I can’t really figure out the promotional aspects for my purposes. And I really can’t figure out Snapchat at all aside from sending funny filtered faces to people. Anyway, I figured I could get something out of the panel on Pop Culture and Social Media. The panel wasn’t well attended and two of the panelists were MIA. No biggie. I moved to the front and engaged in listening to everything the three remaining presenters had to say.

There was talk of Refinery 29 (that site that sends you lots of emails when you sign up for it and then you spend two hours reading everything and then you realize you can’t get anything else done in your day so you unsubscribe only to resubscribe when you come across it again and then it all starts all over). There was talk of saying yes to everything and being nice to everyone. I pretty much do that. What I don’t do is talk to people face to face, and that’s kind of why I’m here. I need to do that more as it seems to be key in, you know, life.

There was talk of blogging and friending and being a woman on panels at conventions where that is not the norm. There was the very brilliant idea of hashtagging and metatagging using words that are not traditionally for your own audience so that you reach a wider audience, whether or not they’ll immediately like what you have to say. Simply. Brilliant.

The moderator explained that Twitter will be gone very soon, replaced by Instagram. Hmm. IMHO, until you don’t have to write Link In Bio on Instagram, I don’t think Twitter is going anywhere.

Most of all, however, Things. Got. Weird.

The panel dynamic seemed to be someone who tells bad jokes and knows it combined with two very outspoken voices. I don’t think they knew each other prior to the panel, and it seemed like the moderator had a list of items to discuss but was thrown off by the two additional panelists not being there, and it also seemed that the list was not shared beforehand. This seems to be common at this convention, however, because there’s simply a lot going on all over the place.

So that wasn’t exactly the weird thing. This was the weird thing. Okay, not so much weird as really uncomfortable because sometimes people don’t understand boundaries, especially when they think they are half-joking in a friendly way but what they do is not funny and they aren’t your friend. The moderator basically attempted to cover the mouth of one of the panelists. Jeez. No no no.

The main reason I loved this panel was that the two panelists were simply fabulous at being confident people. Immediately, they were like, that’s not okay. Immediately, he was like, I’m sorry.  See? Make it clear and don’t get cutesy, and your point gets across.

Remember that song “The Bad Touch”? Yeah, that’s what this reminded me of. Not the entire song, just the title.

A bit later when the moderator was explaining something or other, the two panelists were whispering to each other. That was a bit distracting, true, but the moderator was like, I’m just going to stop because the thing that gets to me is people talking when I’m talking.

As someone who encounters that every single working day of my life, I get the frustration. I have even used that tactic in a classroom.

However.

I have never done it while on a panel in front of an audience. It was really, really uncomfortable.

So when asked if I was interested in promoting myself on social media, my response was, Well I’m not sure. I wasn’t responding to the question being asked. It was more of an I’m not sure what the hell is happening here. I wanted so very badly to explain to the incident-maker how to not make things weird, but I’ve been really good at not trying to micromanage strangers, putting my teacher-persona aside in situations where I’m not in charge. Plus, the panelists held their own. They did not need my help.

When it was over, I thanked both of the panelists for their insights and followed them both on Twitter. In fact, I realized that I had already started following one of them before the convention when she was retweeted by LunaCon. That’s serendipity.

Things got a little lighter at the Marvel Comics/TV/Film panel. It was billed as a panel of Glenns. All three guys were named Glenn with two n’s. Then another Glen arrived, with only one n, sent there by Programming to do a song about comics. Because his name is Glen.

This is why I’m loving this convention.

The discussion went in all different ways. I kept busy, jotting down snippets of super hero ideas and tidbits. My next collection is going to incorporate super heroes in some way, so anything that sounded like it could be a poem went straight into my notebook.  This panel ended in a song by Glen with the one n.

Moving on to the next session: Writing Social Change in SF. Again, the women from the character dialogue workshop was on this panel, so that’s three things I’ve attended that she’s been part of. I feel like I’m fanning out on her. The panel offered insights into diversity and building worlds. Mostly, I was distracted by the two people in the room who were coughing. Lately, I’ve been getting really bad with cringing at first cough. People cough for many reasons, not only because they are sick. Some of them even cough into their inside elbow as we are all supposed to. Still, I get germ-ed out and fixate on where the cough is coming from and my potential of getting sick from it. Then the panel was over.

I walked through the fair and this time bought stuff. Yeah, that’s right. I. Bought. Stuff. Me, the girl who hates shopping. I bought some spices from Auntie Arwin Spices. Then I bought two charms for  myself. Yes, that’s right. I bought stuff for myself. I couldn’t decide between the two, so I bought them both. And because I bought them both, I got two dollars off. Steal! Thanks, Geeks Bearing Gifts!

It was break time. I came back to my room to warm up. All the conferences rooms are about 20 degrees below zero. I’m keeping my room at a balmy 70something. I wrote. I ate dinner. I had coffee. I then headed back out into conventionland.

I first sat in on a panel about Cult Films. I thought they might show film clips because there was a projector in the room, but they didn’t. It was still interesting, listening to plots of movies that people watched in the 60s, 70s, and 80s on Channels 9 and 11 or on Mystery Science Theatre. A lot of cult films sound like horror movies. Then there was a guy in the audience who was participating as if he were part of the panel. Then a lot of people were participating. I had nothing to offer, and then I had to go to my own panel.

bad mirror selfie

I look like a poet, right?

Erasing SF and Fantasy: Creating Found Poems! The panel/workshop in the room before me seemed to not want to end, so at 7, I walked in and started putting my stuff down on the panel table. Some people in the room saw me setting up–the folks from the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction thing because of course–and asked what was going on. I was like, It’s poetry! I showed them my book, prompted by my colleague who was attending. I didn’t sell one, but I gave away a space sticker. People like stickers.

There were five people. Two girls I’d met in the lobby. I was walking down the hall from Cult Films, and a guy pointed at me and said to them, She’s a poet so maybe she knows. I was like, Know what? He was like, There’s a workshop. I was like, I’m giving that workshop. So I had the girls follow me there. They were really awesome young women. I keep saying girls because they looked 12. They were, I believe, college age.

The workshop went exactly as I’d hoped. I talked a little about found poetry and then erasure poetry. We went through examples of different ways to erase. Then I let them pick up photocopies of different sources ranging from sci-fi novels to science textbooks. I put colored pencils, crayons, and pastels on their tables. Then they made poetry.

The room got quiet. Every so often, I suggested ways to spark new poems. They really worked at it. Time flew. I mean, we started late, but it still flew. They all shared what they wrote, and what they wrote was so fantastic. I told them if they wanted to send me their final product, they could. One of the young ladies asked if my email was on the handout. I was like, no but it should be. So I handed out my publicity postcards. Then I said I also had stickers but they could get one only if they bought a book. Both gals were like, Stickers! And I was like, I know, right? And they were like, Stickers are awesome. So I gave them each a sticker. See? People like ’em.

Then I sold two books AND I found out that there’s an old Solaris movie, one without George Clooney, that I haven’t seen and need to see. How did that come up? One of my sample poems is from Liberating The Astronauts, based on Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. Want to read the poem? Go here.

I went with my colleague to the masquerade. It lasted for maybe 20 minutes because there were only four entries. Then the emcee made bad book puns as a band that sings about fandom set up. This went on for much longer than it should have. My colleague tapped out after they’d sung two songs, and I thought I’d stay to hear the winners of the masquerade, but I tired pretty quickly and headed to the lobby for some semi-silence before the last panel.

The last panel was Real Bio-Apocalypse. Basically, we’re all going to die because everyone takes antibiotics too often when they shouldn’t like when they have viral infections AND because there are many of us who stop taking meds when we feel better instead of finishing out the dosage, which means we are potentially leaving behind bacteria that is now getting stronger because it hasn’t all been killed off.

I will point out that there was an incessant cougher at this panel.

I called it a night so I could go warm up from the ice den that was the last meeting room. My head is swimming from all the stuff of today. There’s more to come tomorrow, too.

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Lunacon Badge and Schedule

My LunaCon: Part 1

When I pulled up to the hotel / convention center / largest building with the most rooms ever, I wasn’t quite sure even where to go to get in and to the front desk. On the way to what seemed like the front door, I saw this:

Lunacon1

And then everything was okay because Big Band AND Harry Potter? Yes, this was the right place in so many ways.

I checked in. I figured out how to use the elevator (you push the floor and the screen on the wall tells you what elevator to go to and then you go in it and there’s no buttons inside because it takes you only to that floor). I found my room. I called internet help to get onto the wifi.

Then I wrote a poem. Yeah, that’s right. I made a cup of free hotel room coffee, and I wrote a poem about the Fantastic Four.

After that, I headed downstairs, got my badge and schedule, and then wandered around to find the first workshop. It was about character dialogue. I thought it would be ideal for me to get some good ideas about how to teach character building in my creative writing classes. I sat down, and then the woman running the workshop told the set-up crew that the chairs needed to be moved because she needed space. All the chairs were pushed aside and she asked us to stand up and move around and shake things out.

My first instinct: Run away.

I fought that instinct and simply shook things out. I realized at that moment, Wow, this is exactly how my students feel when I ask them to do anything. Plus, I’m always telling them to go do things that make them uncomfortable, so I stayed.

I uncomfortably walked around and stopped and talked to whomever was in front of me when she tapped her glass with a pen. I uncomfortably repeated this walking and stopping and talking until I’d said weird things and asked awkward questions to half the room. Then I uncomfortably paired up with someone and had a conversation as a dead witch in a cave (he was an alien in disguise over a million years old).

Then things got a little less uncomfortable because she told us to plan a vacacation as our characters, but we had to give our characters an actual voice. I chose a valley girl witch who needed a new hat, and since the alien traveled the world, I told him to choose where we went. Sumeria. That became our vacation plan, and he needed to drag me because, remember, I’m dead.

The final thing was choosing a character we invented (most people I think were fiction writers and had characters already–I chose a persona in a few of my poems named Judith). We had to answer questions about the character and then say them as if we were the character: I’m Judith, aged 32 or not or maybe or perpetually. I’m disgusted by warm milk in the sink, and I laugh at funerals but only if they’re outdoors. I have two friends, but they don’t know it, and maybe enemies; I really don’t keep track of those things. If I could be anything else in the world, I’d be my mother.

Not too shabby for a poet, huh?

I took a quick walk through the fair on the way out of the workshop. I turned a corner and saw a man in a cape. I gasped on the inside. And then I remembered, oh, yeah, I’m at Lunacon. Things like this are going to happen, and this is where they should happen. Yes, quickly getting over my fear of adults-wearing-costumes.

Then I met up with a colleague friend for dinner. For some strange reason, the hotel restaurant has a pared down menu. It worked fine, though–a grilled chicken sandwich with a salad works for me. We chatted about conventions and books and work and writing and mountain trails that seem shady, like not tree-shady but murder-shady.

We both were interested in the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers reading, so we headed up to that. A group of writers read vastly different stories. That’s the great thing about the speculative genre–there’s a lot of difference within it. The woman who had conducted the workshop earlier was one of the readers, and some of the other readers had been participants.

And now I’m in my room because I’m exhausted already.  I know I did only two things, but it was a long day that included driving all by myself, which means using my sense of direction, which means a lot of brainpower and willpower to not get lost. There’s a lot of stuff still going on. There are parties in rooms and official gamers gaming. On the way to the elevators, we passed a party room in which a man was holding a stuffed octopus that was half the size of him, and I startled a bit, but then again reminded myself, hey, this is Lunacon. These things happen here, and they should.

Currently reading: The Circle by Dave Eggers
Currently watching: The X-Files, Season 1
Currently planning: tomorrow night’s presentation on Erasing SF & Fantasy: Creating Found Poems