Friday, October 30, 2009

Two quick (completely unrelated) links...

1) Remember this post about Tamara, who graduated from Roanoke with me? Short recap: she wrote a blog about 31 dates in 31 days. Well, how about an ending straight out of a movie? Love it!

2) Via Andrew Sullivan, a really cool chart that helps you understand cell size.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More TV heaven...

So right now, Castle is on, always a fun TV treat given my love for Nathan Fillion. But my heart skipped a bunch of extra beats when A) Rick Castle put on a Mal Reynolds costume (he looks so good in that get-up), B) a few bars of the Firefly theme played, and C) he made a Buffy reference. So much geeky Joss Whedon love!

Here's the youtube clip (that is sure to vanish soon):

World Series, baby!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TV Heaven...

Joss Whedon is directing an episode of Glee. Seriously. Awesome.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Common reading suggestions?

I put this on Facebook, too, but I am now on the FYEX (first-year experience) Taskforce (sounds official, right?) and one of our jobs is to select the common reading for Shepherd.

Some guidelines: the book should appeal to lots of different groups (not just freshman, not just English-major types), should be in paperback (or at least an affordable hardcover), and should be no more than 300 pages. You can read about this year's book and the events we've held around it here.

Any suggestions, oh wonderful readers?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Portfolio: done!

For those of you keeping score at home, check another item off my huge Fall 2009 semester to-do list. This morning I handed in my pre-tenure review portfolio (also known as "third-year review portfolio").

It actually was a pretty easy process--time-consuming, I suppose, but not all that difficult since I've been saving and organizing all the materials from day one here at Shepherd. (That's a piece of advice to all my friends who are also in new academic jobs--be pack-rats! Save thank-you notes and emails, fliers with your name on them, write-ups in local papers, etc.)

Incidentally, I think part of the reason the process was relatively pain-free is because at UNCG, we were encouraged to create and constantly update our teaching portfolios. The pre-tenure portfolio is a lot like a teaching portfolio, but with sections about your scholarship and service, as well. Anyway, just another reason I am glad to have gotten my degrees at UNCG.

Now...back to work on that SSAWW paper!

Also, someone please explain to me why in the last week or so I agreed to A) serve as a reader for a manuscript submitted to a journal (I can't say which journal) and B) write two introductory essays for an anthology? I might never get out of this hole...but that's okay.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Another good one from GraphJam

Captain Lou!

Another icon from my childhood passes away...

Rest in peace, Captain Lou Albano.

My kind of tax break...

Up to a $3500 tax break for pet owners? A great idea, especially for those who take in "recession" dogs and cats, which I've previously blogged about here.

Why do babies love Beyonce?

It's one of the world's great mysteries, I guess. Don't worry. Time is on the case.

For the record, this is my favorite. Baby's got mad moves!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One more on Silas House...

...take a listen to this radio interview with House in which he discusses Eli the Good and other works.

Silas House at Shepherd, Pictures

Some pictures from Silas House's visit to Shepherd...

The Sigma Tau Delta students, who hosted Thursday night's keynote event, posing before anyone showed up.

Some of them wanted to take a "funny" picture. The rest just acted normal. This is the result.

Dr. Shurbutt giving Silas the 2009 Appalachian Heritage Award. The plaque has this wonderful quotation from Clay's Quilt: "He had spent his whole life listening to stories from the past, and now he had his own, and it was slowly building, chapter by chapter."

Silas talking about the winning story from the West Virginia Fiction Writer's competition. It works like this: a panel of judges (including yours truly) narrows the pool down to about 10 stories and then the writer-in-residence picks the winner and two runner ups. This year's winning story, "Ruined Water" by Natalie Sypolt, is an amazing story.

Silas giving his keynote, "The History of Every Country."

Silas answering questions.

More questions.

Another question, this time from the President herself.

After the event, Silas posed for a picture with the STD students.

Silas House at Shepherd

September 28 to October 4 marked Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence week here at Shepherd and this year's writer, Silas House, certainly left a positive impression on everyone here. I've been saying for a while now that I am going to get around to writing a long post on House's novels, but there just hasn't been time. I don't think that's just a stall on my part: his stuff is so good that I don't want to rush through it--and I don't think a few blog posts will do him justice. Seriously--he's that good. And don't just ask me--ask anyone who has been lucky enough to read A Parchment of Leaves, Clay's Quilt, or The Coal Tattoo. They are simply amazing books. Silas' texts embody just about everything wonderful about Appalachian literature but also remind me a lot of the Transcendentalist texts of the nineteenth century.

We read Parchment in my English 204 classes and out of 100 students in those three sections, I didn't hear a single "why did we have to read this?" at the end of our discussions. In fact, many students said something like, "I don't like reading [they say this to their English teachers all the time!], but this I really liked."

Anyway, I thought I might just paste in my opening remarks from the "Writing Life" event, held on Wednesday, September 30. (Yes, I was lucky enough to get to introduce Silas, who told me, "You can introduce me anywhere" when I got done. Swoon!) I'll admit that the text reads a bit hokey, but it was the best I could do during that extra busy week.

Welcome to tonight’s Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence event, “The Writing Life” with Silas House. We are in for a treat tonight. First, though, I’d like to thank the Shepherd University Foundation, the Friends of the Shepherdstown Public Library, and the West Virginia Humanities Council for sponsoring this event.

I picked up my first Silas House novel in May of 2008—Memorial Day weekend. The book was A Parchment of Leaves. It was a lovely day—the windows were open, a sweet breeze blew in, birds sang outside. I opened that book in the early afternoon and before I knew it, it has grown dark outside, singing birds replaced by singing crickets. And if you’ve read Parchment, you know how appropriate that setting was. And I read on and on and on. Eventually, I took a break, but got right back to that book the next day and finished it that next night. I was, simply put, captured by this book—moved by it, exhilarated by it, and wanted to read more. Since that time, I will confess: I can’t read enough Silas House and continue to be thrilled by his words.

Last November, I saw Silas read at the South Atlantic Modern Languages Association conference in Louisville, Kentucky. I sat in the back and just listened as he talked about his craft. This is a man who knows what it means to be a writer. Again, we are in for a treat tonight, folks.

At that reading in Louisville, Silas spoke of the best piece of writing advice he’s every received, from the great Appalachian writer James Still: “Discover something new every day.” If you’ve read any of his books, it’s easy to see how closely Silas House has followed this advice, how he makes his readers see the new, the interesting, and the beautiful in the everyday: the way he careful writes of his characters singing, dancing, cooking, or just sitting silently with each other. The way he lovingly creates the landscapes he knows so well. The way he writes about what it means to be alive in the world. Anyone interested in writing—or in reading great writing—will benefit from hearing Silas House talk about his craft and about “The Writing Life.” So it gives me great pleasure to introduce Silas House.

Consider this your introduction to Silas House and pick up one of his books. You will not be disappointed. I picked up a copy of Eli the Good at one of the events and can't wait to get into it. Also on my wish-list, Something's Rising, a collection about mountain-top removal that Silas and some other writers (including Jason Howard, who I also met--he's terrific!) put together.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Bring on the Angels! (Although, gulp, they scare me more than the BoSox.)

Constance Fenimore Woolson

Yes, I know that most people have no idea who Constance Fenimore Woolson is, but she's kind of a big deal in 19th-century women's writing. As I mentioned below, I am hard at work on my paper about her poetry, which I'll present at SSAWW's conference in late October. I've been going through all my research notes and found some great quotations from her worth sharing.

Woolson, who had a difficult life as a woman writing in the nineteenth century, wrote to Edmund Clarence Stedman in 1876: "'Why do literary women break down so...It almost seems as though only the unhappy women took to writing. The happiest women I have known have belonged to two classes; the devoted wives and mothers, and the successful flirts, whether married or single; such women never write'" (qtd. in Torsney 19). What a powerfully sad observation--and one often repeated by other women artists. I am reminded of that troubling section in Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall where the main character tells her daughter that she prays the child never ends up like her mother--a successful writer. "No happy woman ever writes," she thinks to herself.

Woolson's writing is full of such observations as again and again she acknowledges her own desire to write and be respected yet also notes how this separates her from other women--how it marks her as different. Torsney's Constance Fenimore Woolson: The Grief of Aristry covers this idea quite well and it worth a read if you are at all interested in Woolson.

Additionally, she writes again and again about the limitations she feels imposed on her--about what a woman should write about and just how she should handle her subject. For the most part, even if such choices kept down her sales figures, she wrote what she felt she had to, a courageous choice for a woman who was more or less financially dependent on selling her writing. Here's a heck of a passage from another letter: “‘I had rather be strong than beautiful, or even good, provided the good must be dull’” (qtd. in Pattee 132).

But it's not all sadness and gloom in Woolson's letters: check out this gem from a letter to Henry James, her good friend, written in February, 1882, in response to his Portrait of a Lady:

“How did you ever dare write a portrait of a lady? Fancy any woman’s attempting a portrait of a gentleman! Wouldn’t there be a storm of ridicule…For my own part, in my small writings, I never dare put down what men are thinking, but confine myself simply to what they do and say. For, long experience has taught me that whatever I suppose them to be thinking at any especial time, that is sure to be exactly what they are not thinking. What they are thinking, however, nobody but a ghost could know” (qtd. in Torsney 39).

I love this passage because it's both funny and biting, playful and serious, marks of the best kind of humor.

And one more--just because it gives me funny mental images--an excerpt from an 1875 letter: "'I hate Wordsworth. Yes, I really think I hate him. And the reason is because people keep flinging him at your head all the time'" (qtd. in Hubbell 725). Don't tell anyone, but that's kind of how I feel about Wallace Stevens (in part because I don't get him!).

Works Cited

Hubbell, Jay B. “Some New Letters of Constance Fenimore Woolson.” The New England Quarterly 14.4 (December 1941): 715-735.

Pattee, Fred L. “Constance Fenimore Woolson and the South.” South Atlantic Quarterly 38 (1939): 130-141.

Torsney, Cheryl B. Constance Fenimore Woolson: The Grief of Artistry. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1989.

Fall Break...

Technically, we are on Fall Break today and tomorrow, but I've been up here at school since about 9:00 this morning. Despite this, it does feel a bit like a break--it's very quiet here and I've been ultra-productive. After all, on a normal Monday, I would have already taught three classes and held a bunch of office hours by this point. (What does it say about me that "feels like break" = "time to be productive"? Note to self: consider more ways to expand life beyond work.)

Anyway, here are the three things that have been occupying me so far today:

1) Printing and organizing application materials for our two job searches. All of our materials (with the exception of reference files) are submitted online (official university procedure), but someone (me!) still has to print them out for colleagues who don't like to read online documents. It's a pain the neck and takes an incredible amount of time (hours and hours and hours), especially with my super-slow printer, but it is easier on the candidates this way and I am all about making things easier for the poor folks on the job market.

2) Working on my third-year review portfolio, due on October 15. It's not all that different from the teaching portfolio I put together while on the job market, although this one includes documentation of scholarship and service, too. It's coming along, but I have lots of question about formatting and stuff and no one to ask until Wednesday when we are back in session. I also think it's always a bit strange to put together what is essentially a binder all about how awesome I am (ha!) and how they ought to keep me around. I mean, I know you've got to do it, but it's a weird process.

3) Working on my paper on Constance Fenimore Woolson for SSAWW. I've been done with the research part of the project since the end of the summer, actually, but haven't taken the time to do the actual writing. It's all up in my head and everything, but I've got to just sit down and write the thing. And I am about to write another post about how cool she is...

Don't worry too much about me working through the break: I have scheduled myself to stop at 2:30 to run to Hagerstown to run about a thousand errands, with a healthy mixture of "fun" and "practical" tasks on the list.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wildlife at the new house...

A couple of weekends ago, I was outside working in the yard a bit when I noticed Bing and Wesley transfixed by something...

I wasn't sure what to expect--I knew it had to be something small (since I couldn't see it from where I was) but not too small since they don't pay attention to really little things outside.

Well, here it was...

That's a pretty big mantis, right?

I put the watering can next to her so you could get an idea of her size. (I think it's a girl...don't know why...I think it's because in my mind, all the boy-mantises have had their heads removed by their mates. I know that's not accurate, but oh well.)

Check out Bing and Wes fighting a bit over the best viewing position.

Anyway, the preying mantis has made a few more appearances, although I haven't seen her in a week. I hope she comes back, though, as last weekend I saw her grab one of these sucker and eat it!

Take that, stink bug!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Two quick links... fun blogs.

1) My Parents were Awesome. Great old photographs of cool looking people.

2) 1000 Awesome Things. No explanation needed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take that, Midterm Week!

If there were a hidden camera in my office, it would have just recorded what I am sure was an interesting, amusing, and potentially disturbing sight: yours truly doing a happy dance* celebrating the end of my midterm grading. That's right: I've finished grading 100 ENGL 204 exams and 20 ENGL 101 papers. I've also survived AHWIR week, the Sigma Tau Delta conference, and a weekend visit from the 'rents. I might even survive this cold.

Cue another happy dance!

*the soundtrack: "The Air That I Breathe" by the Hollies. Not the best choice for a happy dance, but it's been in heavy rotation on my ipod since I downloaded it earlier this week (after seeing it on last week's episode of Fringe).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So tired...

So posting has been especially light here lately, but I have pretty good reasons.

1) It's midterms week. A week from tomorrow (at 9:00 a.m.), I'll have to have graded 100 ENGL 204 exams (complete with essay section) and 20 ENGL 101 papers and submitted midterm grades for all of my students. Now you might be thinking, "That's okay--knock out that grading this weekend." Ordinarily, that would work just fine, but not this weekend, as you'll see.

2) It's AHWIR week, which is awesome, but oh-so-time-consuming. I've been on campus every day this week for at least 12 hours straight.

3) We've got this going on on Saturday, all day Saturday, and it really might do me in. Never thought I'd be worrying about things like tracking down a registration table, printing name tags, etc. at this late date.

4) My parents are visiting this weekend--not to see me, but to crash at my place so they can visit with little sister and her fiance (and meet his parents). It's always nice to see my parents, but man, this couldn't come at a worse time.

5) And then there's this lovely cherry on top of the big bowl of stress-sundae: I've got a very nasty cold. No, not the flu...just a cold. But really...when I felt it coming on Monday night, I said, "Really, God? This week?"

It's been fun. I get home, eat dinner, collapse, and then start it all over again the next day. The only light at the end of the tunnel? For the first time ever, Shepherd is giving us a two-day Fall Break, October 12 and 13. So if I can just make it to October 9, the day the grades are due, I'll be okay.

(No time to even think about the other things on the horizon: the two search committees I am chairing, my third-year review portfolio--due on October 15, a conference I've got in a few weeks...)

Nevertheless, I might--for mental health breaks--still manage to do some catch-up link dump postings in the coming days.


Everyone is talking about this, so I thought I'd add my two cents, but only in the laziest way, by linking to what I feel are some pretty definitive takes on the situation.

Read this.

And this.

Enough said.