Week 1: Reflections as Writer-in-Residence

[I’m putting together the ice fishing pictures, so it will be another day or two before that post. For now, here is a photo of a Hawaiian student tapping a confident toe at the edge of Green Lake. Why are the edges the most dangerous? Because if they’re next to exposed, dark rocks or sandy shores, those dark colors attract and hold more heat during the day, thus warming the area around them, constantly softening and weakening the ice nearby. Also, moving water—entering streams, springs, etc.—is always more stubborn to freeze.]
I’ve been called “a planner” all my life. Type A. Work hard. Know in advance. Get the job done. I consider it a strength most of the time and I’m getting better at determining the places in my life it’s more hindrance than help. But when it comes to organizing two years on the road, the first major stop is also the first major test of all that planning. Was the time I put in beforehand worth it?
If my first week at Interlochen was the test, I most surely passed. The students here go on winter break then return for two more weeks of 1st semester. I arrived on the last day of finals and two days later started teaching 2nd semester classes. This means everyone had a rhythm going. As the only new faculty in my department it would be best for everyone if I could hit the ground running.
With many thanks to my boss, whose detailed information via email before I arrived was my figurative lifeboat all week, I managed to strike a fine balance between teaching and writing my first week in. My schedule is as follows:
Interlochen weekends: Sun, Mon
Teaching hours: Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 10am-12noon
Office hours: Tue 6:30-8:30pm, Thur 2-4pm
Dep’t meetings & guest readings: Thursdays
I arrive at The Writing House by 8am and plan the next day’s classes, then glance over my notes for that morning just before walking through the classroom doors. Sometimes we use our clean, well-lit, windowed classroom and other times we walk down the hall and use The Great Room, complete with sofas, armchairs, gas logs fireplace, vaulted ceiling, and towering stone and wood work. If I have student papers to read, I’ll return to my office after lunch for a few hours. Otherwise, I lock up at noon and don’t return unless absolutely necessary. Three afternoons and evenings a week are mine for writing, reading, exercise, and adventure. Two afternoons and evenings are tied up, and two full days (Sun, Mon) are completely free.
So far, the students have been phenomenal. There’s not a moment lost in the classroom and each of them has something unique to contribute. I’ve got my eye on a few who may or may not be doing the reading assignments, but for the most part 98% of them are prepared, engaged, and fully willing. Part time teaching with enthusiastic students? Yes, please.
If you want to see some of them reading, go to http://www.interlochen.org and follow the links for Interlochen’s Live Webcasts. If you’re a writer or artist and want to know more about how to get a position like this, leave a comment and I’ll provide more info. There are positions for artists in other mediums as well.
I’ve had several pretty magical moments with students this week, but I haven’t figured out how or if I can write about that. It’s important to honor and protect their privacy and right to learn without a web audience, so to speak. Suffice it to say I dig the kids and, so far, at least a few of them dig me.
  • Anonymous

    hey — i came across your blog via the Electric Literature story (nice!) and after seeing that you were writer-in-res at Interlochen, went scrounging for more info. ended up at this post. i'd LOVE more info on how you got into what sounds like a beautiful, ideal situation. whenever you have the time. i'm at helen [dot] rubinstein , on gmail. THANK YOU!

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