>Sunday Miscellany

>Wow. It’s been awfully quiet in here lately. Sorry about that, but I’ve been busier than usual. Here’s what’s been happening.

The new semester started this week at Blue Ridge Community College, where I’m teaching one section of Freshman Composition II. I like this course because the students read and write about literature, so I get to talk about fiction and poetry and drama. We’re using a new textbook this semester, so that means more work for me, but it also means I can think about and explore some things I haven’t read before. We’re just getting started, but we had a nice discussion this week on Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” which is terrific.We did a close reading and even I noticed things this time through, although I’ve read it many times before. The class is only 18 students, down from my 26 last semester, and we’re in a nice, modern classroom. Should be [mostly] fun.

And I decided to TAKE a class in addition to teaching one because French 101 meets right before my Composition class and I have to be on campus anyway. That’s also going to be fun. The homework is enjoyable so far and the teacher is using My French Lab, which allows us to do the exercises online and have them graded automatically.

This week we also had the August meeting of our Reading Liberally book club. I started the group five months ago because I felt that many of us talk about issues without being fully informed. Not only do we solidify our beliefs when we do more study, we arm ourselves to discuss the issues with others. The first book we read was Agenda for a New Economy by David Korten. Then we read Michael Pollan’s Defense of Food. Two months ago we read Beyond Fundamentalism by Reza Aslan. Last month it was Color-Blind by Tim Wise. This month we read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Next month we’re doing Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, and in October we’re reading The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman.

Then there’s SWAG–the Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta Group of Writers, a group that I started. We’re a subgroup of the Blue Ridge Chapter of the Virginia Writers’ Club and the goal is elevate the profile of local writers and the literary arts in the community. In June we had a terrific reading with a visiting novelist and a local poet and next month we have a reading with a visiting poet and a local essayist. More about that to come. But a couple of our members approached me about doing a talk on their experiences with self-publishing, so they put that together and the program was yesterday. On a Saturday afternoon at the library we had about ten people, and I was happy with that. The two presenters were Alexandra Jefferds, author of Earlier Heaven, and Caleb Grimes, author of Star Wars Jesus.

I’m also keeping busy with Prime Number Magazine, which is humming along. Earlier this week we posted the latest update to the first issue, Prime Decimals 2.3 with more flash and short poetry. This weekend I’m working on layout for 2.5, due out in a couple of weeks, and lining up work for the next full issue, No. 3, which will be live on October 19. Because we’re using Submishmash as our submission manager, keeping track of all this is relatively easy. Still, at the moment we’ve just got a few people doing everything, so it’s a fair amount of work. I don’t think it will be long before we’re looking for help.

And then there’s my own writing, which is moving slowly. I’m doing revisions to a novel and it’s taking longer than I thought it would. Doesn’t it always.

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