Monday, January 3, 2011

open letter in pursuit of writing time

Dear Professors:

I'd really like to be selected for your residency. The truth is that for the first time in a while I feel like I might be beginning to understand the path that I'm on as an artist. I've been working on a memoir for more than a year now, and I discover that the question I want to explore is what it means to be an American.

It's a fascinating, quite alarming time to be alive. I feel as if the stakes of identity and interaction are so high. People who could take their citizenship for granted are now feeling acutely threatened, are beginning to circle the wagons. The question of American identity affects our politics, our relationships, our jobs and schools, our artistic expression. America is changing; I ask myself is American optimism, our relentless can-do, pick-up-by bootstrap attitude a virtue or a vice? As we toil toward a better existence (individual or collective?), what problems are we ignoring that will hinder our nation? I am fascinated, arrested by the question of what it means to be an American, a black woman in America, in an adolescent country that has prospered faster than it can keep pace, that wants desperately to forget horrors it's committed in the name of America, or to justify them as necessary and appropriate. I feel like I'll be writing to ask this question for a long time in my artist's life.

Right now I'm writing about my family, my upbringing, my race, all of the things closest to me that make me an American. I guess I'm writing inside out. But I know that this is just the beginning.

I get so excited about this work it makes me shake. Salivate. Ache. I'm desperate for it.
I've been working really hard with mixed success. I've learned that teaching is super important to my writing. When I am able to be super disciplined and focused, the students I work with reflect back a boundless amount of energy, energy that feeds brilliantly back into my work, and also allows me to funnel back into them at my best. Unfortunately, what generally happens to this symbiotic relationship is that I pour into their writing, and am often left without enough time or energy to approach my writing in a way that feels truly satisfying. A residency like this would afford me the time to focus my efforts on my work without having my attention divided.

I don't really know how to ask for a good opportunity except for to ask. To say please, I'd love the chance to come to your university and finish what I've been working on for months. To say that I'm vibrant and hard working and ambitious and that one day you'll want your uni to be a part of my bio because of what I'm doing in the world.

Pick me.

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