Friday, September 27, 2013

forever twenty-one

I love my org’s interns. They’ve ranged from nineteen to thirty-one-ish, from literary prodigies who can’t stop talking about their favorite professors to waitresses ready for a career change (who are now nonprofit development directors; hi, Lenise). They used to seem more like peers and less like charming teenagers. But they radiate curiosity and give me the feeling that something new and interesting might be just around the corner for me, too. They’re the difference between “ugh, I wish it was lunchtime already” and “maybe I will look up that word I don’t know!”

I have never asked an intern to get me coffee with even one of her eight arms.
One of them, Sanam, is a grad student at CSUN now, and the president of the school’s Northridge Creative Writing Circle. She invited Jamie and me to read our fiction and talk about our org last night. It was like they’d read the Guide To Presenting Readings And Workshops on our website that no one ever downloads. One of the club members greeted us right on time and walked us to the hospital-like building where the event was happening. They gave us flowers.

Sanam read the most thoughtful introduction I’ve ever gotten, like a tiny dissertation that made me blush. She and the other board members all wore dresses and heels. They all had curly hair tied back. They were all—and I feel like this is relevant—the hardworking children of immigrants, and wanted to write about cultural hybridity and feminism and art, but also to do right by their families.

One of their professors, Martin Pousson, brought out what Jamie described as a diaper bag for grownups. Inside were crystal glasses and fancy libations whose names I’m too uncultured to remember. I only had one drink, but, well, it was the most…relaxed reading I’ve ever given. Martin was intensely fabulous, with a stand-up pompadour and an amazing necklace. He was the professor who was game to go to Chili’s with his students and talk about his thoughts on the most recent round of MacArthur grants over novelty margaritas.

This is a thing you can order at Chili's.
I talked a lot to a student named Stephanie, who was thinking about an MFA but also about studying communicative disorders and helping kids with autism. She remembered every brilliant thing Douglas Kearney had said when he’d come to campus.

One of the many good questions the Creative Writing Circle students asked us was what inspired us to keep writing in the face of writer’s block. I gave a not entirely creative answer about writing routines. But an equally true—if trite—answer would have been them. I wanted to live the week ahead asking myself, What would a CSUN student do? College students have an effect matched only by caffeine, strong liquor and a handful of my favorite writers. And unlike strong liquor, you don’t have to quit engaging with them a good hour before driving home.

If you’d like to meet Martin Pousson, and get inspired yourself, join me Sunday at the West Hollywood Book Fair, where I’ll be moderating the 2:15 panel on Fiction and Identity at the LGBT Lounge. Also featuring Eduardo Santiago and Abigail Tarttelin!

1 comment:

Shannon Baker said...

It sounds like an interesting series. I will check it out

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