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Showing posts from 2017

Settling Down for a Long Winter's Nap

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So, this is weird.
I'm on VACATION!
I've returned to my home in Edinburg for the holiday, and it feels very strange to be back in my old office, hanging out with the cats. B and I made the trip down here on Sunday night/early Monday morning, and I've been in recovery mode ever since. My body hasn't quite caught up on sleep from the madness that was last week.
I'm just not very good at being on vacation, though, and sometimes, the stillness makes me feel even more anxious than the bustle of my usual semester. While having lunch yesterday, B explained to me, from a physics standpoint, that nothing or no one is ever completely "still." We're all orbiting around the galaxy at incredibly fast speeds, and we never stop. We're also orbiting around the sun. And we're rotating, too. And on a subatomic level, we're always bustling with movement. So that's why it's so impossible for me to be still!
Ted, my cat, seems to have the right idea. …

I Survived My First Semester on the Tenure Track!

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Excuse me for just a moment while I squee like Professor Farnsworth!

My first semester at Lamar University is in the books, and all in all, I couldn't be happier with both how it went, and also, that it's now officially come to a close. Today, I roamed about the MAES building one final time to turn in one last grade change form. B and I celebrated with dinner at Willy Burger's, and tonight, we're going to Classic Movie Night at the old Jefferson Theater. It's a truly Beaumont way to celebrate.

This semester, I went through a lot, accomplished a lot, and of course, I learned a lot. Here are some of the lessons I learned this semester:

1. Being an Assistant Professor is Nothing Like Being a Lecturer

As a lecturer at UTRGV, I got real good at being a teacher. I had to be; it was my job! Juggling a heavy teaching load became doable, enjoyable even, and the majority of my professional time and brainspace was focused on the classroom itself.

However, as an Assistant Prof…

Becoming Beaumont

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Today has been an interesting day. There's snow in both Beaumont and the Rio Grande Valley! I'm in the midst of that literal storm and on the cusp of the metaphoric storm of grading. My students' final papers and writing portfolios are due tonight. I'm ready for this last flurry of work before kissing my first semester at Lamar goodbye and taking a nice, long, much-deserved break.

I don't quite feel ready to reflect on what I've learned yet in this first semester, though I hope to return to that thought soon. For today, though, I'd like to instead share some fun news: I'm a columnist for The Examiner, Beaumont's weekly newspaper! My column is titled The Beaumont Book Beat, and there I am, above, proudly holding the first edition of said column. The second edition runs next Thursday, December 14th.

My column runs once a month and covers the literary happenings in Beaumont, the Golden Triangle, and the greater region of southeast Texas. Houston has s…

Fall Semester Update

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I figure it's about time for another update! My last post left off on a bit of a cliffhanger. Hurricane Harvey sure did its number on my life, Beaumont, and pretty much the entire Texas gulf coast. However, life's returned to a new normal. I'm settled into my new little apartment. I have a nice routine going. I've gotten used to the Beaumont smell (sort of). I've made friends. I'm getting the hang of this whole assistant professor thing, more or less.
Here's a summary of my first few months on the job:
The first two weeks of instruction at Lamar University were canceled due to Harvey. I was stuck at my old home in Edinburg, thanks to some flooded roads. To make things even more complicated, I had a writing residency to complete! My original plan was to teach two weeks face-to-face at Lamar and then transition my students to an online enviornment for the duration of my residency. Um, the best laid plans, much? I was able to cut my residency a little short a…

Surreal Beginnings

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That's me, a week ago today, starting a new chapter of my life, a new job, in a new town. But so much has changed since I snapped that impromptu selfie after Lamar University's fall convocation. 
When I took that picture, Hurricane Harvey was a mere remnant low churning away in the Bay of Campeche. I love tracking hurricanes; it's somewhat of a seasonal obsession. I get a bit of a thrill from it because, living in the Rio Grande Valley, if we did get a storm, it was usually just a tropical storm or low grade hurricane. My most significant hurricane story is Dolly, a Cat 1 that hit the day after I signed the mortgage for my first house. The worst that happened was we lost power for maybe 3 days. But as probably everyone knows by now, Harvey is/was a very different storm.
On Wednesday, it looked as though Harvey was aiming for my beloved valley. It looked like it was going to be a puny tropical storm that dumped some much needed rain on a dry and sun-scorched landscape. It …

The End of a Chapter!

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Once upon a time this was my home. Literally! I lived there in the UTPA women's dorms back in my undergraduate days.

Today marked my last day at UT-RGV/UTPA. I spent the day packing up my office, walking around campus, and reflecting on what all this means. It's amazing how much one can be shaped by (and shape) a place. This institution has been a major part of my life for the past thirteen years, so saying goodbye is a little tricky. I thought this might be a good time and space to look back at what UTPA/UTRGV has meant for me, how I've grown, and hopefully, too, how my time here has benefited and shaped the university as well. So stroll with me, will you, down memory lane a bit?

This story goes back to 2004. I was seventeen, graduating high school, and was genuinely in love with life. I went to high school just across the street from campus. I ended up at UTPA for an incredibly practical and impractical reason. 1. They offered me $$$ and a free dorm room and 2. My first…

Speaking in Tongues Workshop/Reading

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A nice event, indeed! 
There we are, a little slice of the beautiful RGV poetry community. From left: Anthony Ripp, Brenda Nettles Riojas, Odilia Galvan Rodriguez, Edward Vidaurre, Me, Celina Gomez, Emmy Perez and Ronnie Garza.
It had been awhile since I'd participated in a poetry reading, and with my big move ahead, I thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity to meet with my fellow Valley poets. I'm glad I did! There were plenty of hugs to be had :)
The event took place at Rio Grande Grill in Harlingen. It's a nifty little restaurant that serves BBQ and tacos, good Tex Mex. They had us in a private room so we could have some peace away from the noise of the restaurant. The vibe felt comfy and cozy -- perfect for the reading/workshop, which is a part of a series organized by Odilia. Emmy, Edward, and Brenda were featured. I read at the open mic. 
Here I am, reading a few of my newest poems. They're from my currently disorganized/crazy colle…

A Homecoming of Sorts

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Oh my!
Talk about a blast from the past. There I am, at Stephen F. Austin University, during the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. I'm with two of my high school besties, Ana and Minji. I'm fifteen years old.
Why am I sharing this picture, you ask?
Tomorrow, I'm returning to my high school to talk to girls not unlike that crazy blonde with the wild hair and the key around her neck about careers. So, naturally, this puts me in a reflective mood. 
I'm supposed to prepare a little talk about how I became a writer, which is a complicated question to be sure. That girl there? She was writing all kinds of angsty poems because she was falling in love for the first time with a boy who played football and drove an old pick-up truck. 
Being a writer's always been who I am, but I suppose they don't want me to talk about that. It's a career day, after all, and of course I want to encourage these young folks to follow their dreams, whatever th…

The Academic Job Search: My Experience

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Ok, so, that's not how it was like for me at all. 
In fact, I think my quest for an Assistant Professor position was a bit charmed. But I figure it might be helpful to chronicle my experience. What was the process of interviewing for an academic job in creative writing like for me and what did I learn? I'll explain:
Last fall, I heard a rumor there were going to be some openings this English department. Because I already knew some of the faculty members, I had a good idea that I wanted to join that department, but of course, how does one go about doing that? I've applied for a few academic jobs, and up until this one, I never get so much as a sniff.

This time, though, I tried to be a little strategic. At an upcoming conference, I knew Department Chair would be there, and it would be a great opportunity to introduce myself and make a first impression. I attended his presentation and asked him some hopefully smart questions about his book to break the ice. It worked! He probabl…

Big News!

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I'm smiling in this photograph for two very wonderful reasons: I'm eating pasta.I just signed my contract with Lamar University to join their English department in the Fall 2017 semester as an Assistant Professor and Editor-in-Chief of Lamar University Press! Words can't even express how grateful I am for such an opportunity. But since this is a writing blog, I'll give it a try :)
This position is pretty much my dream job. I really can't imagine a better place to work, a better team to join, or a better job to do. I will be working half-time with the English department teaching poetry, creative writing, and whatever else they need. My other responsibility includes helping with the press, learning the ropes, and eventually taking over as the director. It's a tenure-track position, which, if you know academia, the arts and humanities in particular, English especially, even more so creative writing, and specifically poetry... well, you get the point. When I told c…

Submissions: My Process

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Recently, a friend asked me for some advice when it comes to submitting poems to literary journals. I've been at this for awhile now, and my "process" for submitting poetry to literary journals has changed over the years, mainly because of the different goals I have for submitting and the different tools available to me. I thought it might be useful to describe my process here, and perhaps end with some advice for someone feeling overwhelmed or lost in this crazy process.

I think the first thing you want to ask yourself when you start submitting to literary journals is WHY? What is your goal from this process? That will likely steer your efforts in the right direction. For me, submitting work is of course about finding readers, but it's also about gaining recognition in the writing communities I see my work contributing to, including feminist poetry, formal poetry, and Texas poetry. Also, let's be honest, I do it, too, for the C.V.

Now, how do I find appropriate…

Texas Weather and Smoked Blood and Lavender

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With my newfound free time, I've had the chance to attend two poetry events recently, both of which were delightful in their own ways and for various reasons. Summers tend to leave me feeling isolated, artistically and socially, so coming out of my "cave" for a couple of events is always a good thing.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of reading at the Texas Weather reading at my local Barnes and Noble. The anthology was published earlier this year by Lamar University Literary Press and was edited by two Terry Darlrymple and Laurence Musgrove, two professors from San Angelo State University. It has fiction, poetry, and essays from authors all around the state. Since its publication, different readings have been held in different regions of Texas. A few months back, Jan asked me what I thought about doing a valley reading of the anthology. Of course, I was game.


The reading went really well. It was well attended and we nearly sold out of books. In addition to Jan and I, …

Autobiographphobia?

Well!

It's been precisely one week since I've posted grades. And I'm getting into the swing of being on "vacation" which has fortunately meant that I've been writing writing writing. I don't know how or why, but it feels like I have a strong stream of ideas flowing. I've had enough mental energy to accomplish two writing sessions a day lately, which is enormous for me. I spend the morning with my poetry, and then in the afternoon, I'm switching to fiction. I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep this pace up, but hopefully at least until summer school begins.

Part of why my writing has been going so smoothly (well, no, not smoothly, but productively... I've encountered plenty of snags and tangles) is because I've also been reading. I've got four books "in progress" right now, and I spend the day thumbing through each of them: A Certain Attitude, which is an anthology of Texas women poets in which I've encounter…

Summer 2017 Begins!

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Oh joy! I posted my grades today :) :) :)
Which means I am on vacation.
There's me and Ted celebrating with a good snuggle shortly after logging off my UT-RGV account and vowing not to return for a good long while.

Summer! You always come with a myriad of emotions, and this year is no different. There's something I love about the calm, about the quiet, about having the time to sit and get into my creative self. But at the same time, summer always brings with it a certain sadness for me. I love teaching. Truly.

Well, this year I'll be teaching summer school (I think... my chair sent out a cryptic email about possibly canceling classes, but mine are pretty full so I think they're safe). I could use the money, and it'll give me at least 6 weeks of structure. Classes begin June 5th.

But aside from teaching, what do I want to accomplish during these months of heat, of quiet, of relative solitude?

1. Make headway on manuscript, An Illiad of Bones. I'd like to shape …