Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Meet Emily, the Bivalve Books Instructor

Hey everybody!

So Ryan and I were talking and it's kind of weird to sign up for a writing workshop put together someone you don't know, so I thought I'd take a post to introduce myself.  Read on to learn more about me and my interest in Bivalve Books! (BiBo for short)  Or click the links below to learn more about the course and register.


On the formal end, I'm just finishing my first year as a Creative Writing Master's student and Sutherland Fellow at Illinois State University. I've spent this past year working at the English Department's Publications Unit learning loads about putting together journals and books, all the way from cleaning text to proofreading to interior book design. I've also been prepping to teach Introduction to Creative Writing for the 2012-2013 school year. I always make sure to bounce around the various genres. I earned my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing from North Park University in Chicago, and while there I studied poetry, fiction, storytelling, performative literature, and dramatic writing. As of late, I've been learning about poetry and experimental autobiography. I'm excited to for next semester where I will be again focusing on prose, storytelling, and screenplays.

I wanted to talk about Bivalve Books and why I hope that I'll get to write and discuss these four books with you. Bivalve started when Ryan and I were imagining what would be fun for us to do as writers over the summer. An online writer's book club seemed perfect because you rarely had to be tied to a computer, you widened your repertoire of influences, you got to read some great books, and - best of all - you got to write!

Now, maybe you're way better at this than I am, but I find that deadlines often kick me in the butt and really get me going on my creative projects. For my experimental autobiography final, I managed to write 10 pages of prose a night just because I was given permission to do something big and creative and messy. Putting together the Bivalve Books course has been exciting for me because I hope it'll be engaging for you.

So why a book club for writers instead of offering an "Intro" course? Because if you're looking at 12Writing, you're already interested in writing, which means you've probably tried to pen a thing or two. Instead of assuming a ground zero starting point, Bivalve Books has the potential to challenge you at your level while simultaneously challenging someone else at their level. Because of our focus on outside literature, you'll have something to share no matter how long you've been writing.  We've set up the Bivalve discussion community so you can form new and lasting connections (and I'll start calling it BiBo now). If you're fairly fresh, you can talk about what you're learning. If you're not learning these ideas for the first time, you can talk about how you utilization of reading and writing techniques has developed and changed during your time as a writer.

This course, like any other, will give you as much as you put into it. The writing directives and discussions are offered as structures for you to leap from. Take that risk with the writing prompt and literally cut your story to pieces for nonlinear narrative! Go ahead and say that weird insight you had about the reading that no one has mentioned yet! That's part of what's great about this course: you don't need to come into this course certain of yourself; you can just say "Hey, this is what I saw, and why I thought I saw it."

I also chose these books because I remember how they were not only good reads, but that they made an impression on my writing before I was even conscious that I was trying to read like a writer. That level of impact impresses me, and that's what I want to share in your reading experience of these books. You don't have to love them, like them, or hate them, but you can most certainly explore them and interrogate what they're doing.

The Metamorphosis is a short book. That means you can slide into a habit of reading for this 10 week course without me throwing War and Peace at you. I also like Kafka to begin with because it's a pretty accessible but still hard-hitting story. It's also one of those classics that we're all told everyone should read. If nothing else, you can look all fancy-pantsy when you tell people what you did over the summer: you analyzed Kafka.

Madwomen was a book I actually got by completely random happenstance. My boyfriend had been searching for a gift for me a few years ago, and he gave me this book because, as he said, "She sounds like how you write," which roughly translated into more feeling and less technical knowledge. I was taken with that connection, and so I read the book. I loved it. Some of these poems have stayed with me for the past three years after my initial reading. Books of poetry can sometimes be hard to teach (or at least, a lot of people seem to be afraid of teaching poetry), but this book is insightful, engaging, and multifaceted. Overall, it's simply a lovely lovely book that I would love to see more discussions about.

The Hours was one of the books I was tested on for my Bachelor's degree, so I know it's a postmodern work and renowned, etc. etc. However,I wanted to include this book because I was blown away by the connections Cunningham makes by the end of the book. As a writer, it was always fun to see the links between the narratives, but wow. The ending literally made me gasp. "No Way!" I wanted to be able to pull off a story like that myself, and that reaction put the book at the forefront of my mind as I was preparing BiBo.

Finally, last but not least, is The God of Small Things. Again I was taken with the narrative play as I was with The Hours,but Roy does narrative in a totally different way. She also addresses characterization more intimately than I've seen in most other books. The characters here truly inform how the story is told. Roy is one of the few authors who, even if you know where the ending is going, there's still no force on the earth that would made you put her book down. It's that riveting - it felt that real to me when I read it. This book also had a fantastically wonderful way of giving me hope even though so much of what happens is sad and dark and complicated. I have rarely felt so sincerely and acutely affected as when I read this book.

Anyway, that's my elaboration on myself and the Bivalve Books course. I really hope that I get to work with you for this course. I'm excited to see not only how you'll grow as a writer, but how you'll surprise me in return with your work, your comments, and your participation in a community.  With Bivalve, we have the opportunity to come together online, getting to know writers who we might otherwise never meet.

I hope this has been informative and engaging for you and, whether or not you take this course, that you'll always keep reading widely and writing diversely.

-Emily (emoody)

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