The following was written on the plane leaving San Diego. Donna Alvermann, an SU graduate and role model for most in adolescent literacy and its research, did a paper on trying on a new identity as a flash-fiction writer (as if she could be someone beyond the research identity she's created during her career). We had a few moments to bond during the trip and this was what came out of me when I flew home.
A Flash of Non-Fiction (of sorts)
(LRA Conference, 2012, San Diego)
They never called on me in a class for writers (designed for collegiate publication) because I took notes in poetic verse and responded to prompts like a lyricist.
“There’s rhythm to academic prose,” I was told, “and the reviewers are not fond of syncopating the scholarly tradition.”
I wrote, however, as I do (to ease mental constipation in the contemplation of being alive and to survive within the explanation of the universe’s complex simplicities and simple complexities without inhibition, but with the ambition I inherited from the pond). Ribbit. Ribbit.
“I can’t help but write creatively. It’s genetic.”
So, in margins, I doodled cartoon photographs of myself - a quirky doctoral student - but included a parenthetical citation.
“In these courses,” I was told, “the primary goal is to fine tune your professional vitae and to submit your research for publication.”
Eeks. Humiliation. This mind always entrenched in the magical fabrication of fiction and its creation, all my whacky imagination, and the miraculous revelation that I have always found hope while playing with words (intellectual brain turds meant to be scattered upon the page).
“Think like an academic,” was the advice.
“What the heck is that supposed to mean?” I thought ... at first.
I am a conflicted character in need of a denouncement.
At first I thought, “What the heck am I supposed to be? An academic?”
The advice. “Think. Think. Think.”
Ugh. Contemplation. A mind schooled along the stones of Ruth’s Ordinary Words that made Last Calls with Skinner’s Louisville workshops and learned poetry of Affrilachia, quite frankly, with Walker as I finger-tapped on the keyboard piano.
And then she presented at a conference. I was a chair (but, to be honest, I’ve always identified as a couch) and it was a paper on the performative nature of writing – I can play the academic upon the stage (tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow) but first must submit my research for others to read.
As we drove home that night she thanked me. It was at LaQuinta. It was late at night. Dark. After an evening of orange hugs and comfortable tapas. I had a car. She needed a ride. San Diego. We got lost for a while (but this is what writers, researchers, human beings do).
We found ourselves, together, while looking for solutions in the darkness.
The next day I read her paper and with brilliant lightness she wrote, “more important than the genre of one’s writing is the process of self-reflecting that comes with discovering the “as-if” writer in each of us” (Alvermann, 2012). So, the next day I wrote this, narratively, in a flash of my own reflexivity while flying above the earth.
I can’t help but write genetically. I’m creative.
And it’s as if I’m a scholar, too.
Alvermann, D. (2012). "As If" a Writer of Flash Fiction: A New Literacy for an Old(er) Professor". Paper presented at the Literacy Research Association, San Diego.
Crandall, B. R. (2012). "A Responsibility to Speak Out”: Perspectives on Writing From Black African-Born Males With Limited and Disrupted Formal Education. (Dissertation), Syracuse University.
Stone, R. (2000). Ordinary Words. Ashfield, Massachusetts: Paris Press
Gorham, S. & Skinner, J. (1997). Last Call: Poems of Alcoholism, Addiction, and Deliverance.
Louisville, Kentucky: Sarabande Books
Walker, F. (2000). Affrilachia. Lexington, Kentucky: Old Cove Press