Thisbe Nissen: Tour Diary
Preliminaries - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 -
Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11 -Day 12 - Day 13 - Day 14 - Day 15 -
Day 16 - Day 17 - Day 18 - Day 19 - Day 20 - Day 21 - Day 22 -
Day 23 - Day 24 - Day 25 - Day 26 - Day 27 - Day 28 - Day 29 - Home Diary -
July 25 -
I guess I can't list my tour dates as "Day #" anymore. . . But not being able to do so messes with my sense of order. My sense of order is feeling very important to me these days. I keep cleaning the house. It never actually all gets clean -- by the time I get to the living room, the kitchen's a mess again -- but it's better than it was. I scoured the bedroom yesterday before leaving for Milwaukee, and it made me feel extraordinarily accomplished and at peace. My office is next.
So it's been a while. 3 weeks off. Well, "off" is sort of not the right word. A week of getting my land legs again, and planning my class, then two weeks of teaching in the Iowa Young Writers' Studio . Two weeks of really intensive teaching. I had a group of 13 teenagers, basically all day, 5 days a week. We had literature seminars in the morning and workshop in the afternoon. And it was amazing. Hard work, but amazing. I feel really rejuvenated by it, reminded of how much I love teaching, reminded that teaching makes me feel relevant and a part of some sort of exchange that makes me understand a little more what I'm doing with my life on this planet. Because I lose that sometimes. Too often. The insanity of this book tour had made me forget that, and now I feel I have it back a little. Here were kinds who were writing for all the right reasons, all the reasons I started writing: because they have words in their heads and it feels better to get them out on the paper. I've been way to far away from that myself on this tour, so enmeshed in the reviews/interviews/publicity machine, unable to access what got me here in the first place. Teaching -- and these amazing kids -- made me remember what I'm doing. Made me able to reprioritize again. I know teaching has to come way at the top of the list, because I know it makes me feel like I have a really tangible, relevant role in some ongoing process of things. I think it also has reminded me of the project of writing, the fact that I don't really know what I'm doing, and that whatever I'm writing I'm experimenting, I'm going down roads I haven't gone down before, and I have to remember that that's what's important. Not pleasing people. Not making people think I'm "talented." The real project has to be what keeps me challenged and interested and what creates writing as a sustainable lifestyle for me. Sustainability is the word I need to keep reminding myself of. That's what I care about. Sustainability.
Bedroom immaculately clean, I take off for Milwaukee. Who knew what lovely city Milwaukee was going to be? Huge beautiful old houses, all on the water. So nice. I bum around a few hours, then browse the bookstore for a while. Harry Schwartz. great store. Everyone's super nice, and there's a great turnout. I read the first chapter, and people actually laugh. (Thought, god, the writing of that seems so far away now, so distant, really like I am reading my own juvenalia. I wonder if it ever stops feeling like that. Or does Charles Baxter look back at "A Relative Stranger" and feel like he's reading the work of a different person? The biggest surprise of this reading is my old Oberlin friend Ted Wesp sitting there in the audience! Ted, who I haven't seen since the summer after graduation when I stopped and stayed with him and his folks in Ohio on my way across country moving out to Berkeley (where I lasted all of 4 months). And not only is Ted there,but he's brought his girlfriend and his folks, who just happen to be visiting from Ohio! Turns out Ted's in an English PhD program here in Milwaukee, and we all go out to dinner and eat really really good Vietnamese food, and it's so good to hear about what Ted's working on. Makes me want to drop it all and go do a PhD program too. And really I've been thinking a lot about that these days too. Just to take how ever many years and do that. be a student again and just read everything that I've always wanted to read. I think it's probably the best thing I could do for myself, as a writer and as a human being. I don't know if I could get in anywhere, my literature background spotty as it is, but I could really bone up for a while and then take the GRE. . . It seems like a really right thing to do maybe at this point.