Saturday, January 16, 2010

Week One

I said I wasn't going to count down the weeks of the semester, because I don't want to count my life away, but it really is irresistible, especially if I don't say, "Whew, one terrible week is behind me," but insteady say, "Wow, what a pleasant week that was!"

And it was a pleasant week. All three classes have lively, engaged students. I loved the familiarity of my dear, darling Intro to Ethic course over in the Farrand dorm, where I knew so well that the students would find Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics hard to read, and then I'd illuminate it for them so helpfully, with such engaging clarity. I liked the challenge of teaching material I had never taught before in Philosophy and Society, having to be on my toes in front of a large lecture hall. And best of all, I loved returning for the third time to Rousseau. We begin with his Confessions, his dazzling autobiography, and yes, the students were dazzled, and I was dazzled once again, too.

I also met with three of my mentees for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators mentoring program, and I do think that I gave my advisees pretty excellent advice on how to strengthen their already promising manuscripts. I told the first to eliminate one unconvincing and distracting plot line and concentrate her energies on her riveting central story line, taking longer in chapter one to motivate the crucial conflict - and to consider trying to develop the kind of voice for her narrator that will make us fall in love with her on the strength of voice alone. I told the second one to take her 150-page-long manuscript and chop it ruthlessly into two different 50-page chapter books and then throw the rest of it away (or save it to appear in bits and pieces in other projects) - to save all of her delightful sparkle, but strip away extraneous story lines and long stretches of dialogue that don't advance the main plot. I told the third to introduce her antagonist earlier in the book and intensify the conflict between protagonist and antagonist, and to streamline a disproportionately long scene in the middle of the book that occupies several chapters in a short mansucript. If only I could give myself such good advice about my own manuscripts, but it's always easier to see the potential for improvement in somebody else's story.

I wrote the abstract for my paper, "Rousseau Redux: Romantic Re-visions of Nature and Freedom in Recent Children's Books about Homeschooling," and sent it off an hour ago. This has been hanging over my head for six months at least, so it feels so good to cross it off my to-do list.

I had several good walks with my friend Rowan, including a beautiful icy, muddy hike on the South Shanahan trail. I wrote a poem on Thursday and emailed it to my poetry buddy, Clara. I attended an excellent talk by a former grad student and went out to dinner with her and four other philosophy department women.

To quote a poem I loved when I was younger:

The optimist fell ten stories
And at each window bar,
He shouted to his friends,
"All right, so far!"


  1. Mine was more of "one terrible week behind me." Hoping you continue to have good weeks.

  2. We need to make you an escape plan. We need to send in the helicopters to airlift you out!