Journal Entry June 29, 2018

I am thinking about having students in my writing courses write for seven minutes each class session. I could give them the choice of writing in a journal or in a digital document. I wondered how many words I would write in seven minutes. Here I go.

Of course writing is more than about word count but if there isn’t a minimum word count then there will be a few students that will write something like 17 words, call it a day, and then check their phone or head off to the bathroom. So there needs to be a minimum that they can finish up on their own time.

I feel torn about the WAC class I am to teach. On the one hand, I like thinking of writing studies as a field that can be studied like an Introduction to Psychology class. There is much to be learned for sure. It makes the course more rigorous. Will any of the info stay with the students in the years to come? Will I be able to get the students to engage with texts about how writing works?

Rapid change of topic: can I figure out a way to give the students reading check quizzes online? What platform should I choose that will integrate with Digication, the platform I will use for the students’ to build their ePorts? I haven’t given reading quizzes for years, but I need to use some leverage to get the students to read, right?

On the side opposite the idea for a writing studies class is more of a digital genres kind of class where I can bring in some of my enthusiasm for podcasts, documentaries and working with images and video. There is a more straightforward path I can see to the students enjoying the content and the experience being more memorable for the years to come.

7 minutes is up. Word Count: 312

Armpit Travel and Beer Poems: Torg Stories Podcast with Editor Peter Gregutt

I met Peter Gregutt when he worked with me as an editor on a piece published in Asheville’s Mountain Xpress titled “How Christopher Mello Sows Peace and Community in his West Asheville Garden.” 

In addition to listening above, you can click here for the iTunes link or just search for “Torg Stories” in the Podcast App of your iPhone.

When I learned Peter had climbed volcanoes in Guatemala, trekked the Himalayas, and spontaneously took a boat to Africa, I wanted to get him on the podcast. I was interested in his time in New York City studying English at Colombia, that he’d spent decades as an editor, and I admired his clever phrase Armpit Travel as a way to capture some of his experiences on the road.

Armpit Travel, Peter Gregutt, Travel, Mountain Xpress

***

As a way into our conversation, I asked Peter to read from the introduction to his collection. Here it is:

 

My Slime, Your Dime, High Time

Some folks “travel” via flickering images that dance across the screen. Others prefer to plant their ample posterior on a cushy seat in plane or train or air-conditioned motor coach and watch the world pass by beyond the glass.

And then there are the Armpit Travelers, those intrepid souls who strive to sniff out places a less ardent sort might choose to skip entirely in favor of a visit to the proctologist’s office.

Guided only by their own nose or gut, these indefatigable wayfarers aim to see the world — to taste the motley pleasures of the road and touch the very essence of experience — while ducking the troublesome encumbrance of paying for it. (Inevitably, of course, one does pay, though perhaps in blood and suffering in lieu of legal tender.)

To some, the words “budget travel” evoke visions of bland, greasy food; filthy, flea-infested beds; bathing in frigid water thick with icky microbes; and long, arduous bus rides that seem to go from nowhere to nowhere else. But to the true Armpit Traveler, the rewards of the road don’t stop there.

Beyond thrift, beyond grit or grift, beyond sanity, even, there lies a further storied realm whose streets might well be paved with gold if only they were paved at all. And to those with ears to hear and a nose that isn’t overly particular, that unceasing siren song may ultimately prove as irresistible as the last unprepossessing-looking person who’s still lingering in the singles bar at 2 a.m., blurry but determined, and casting inflammatory glances your way…

No travel agent orchestrates the Armpit Path; no map can aptly delineate its putative treasures. No, it’s up to the self-annointed pilgrim to discern and pursue the elusive way, guided only by the kind of enigmatic inner prompting that drives the arctic tern on its annual pole-to-pole journey and makes lemmings take their fateful leap…

But to the curious, the damned, the misfit or the annelid, a hint or a whistle or a tissue of outright lies just might prove to be the fire that lights the fuse, the fire ant whose mordant mandible incites the sluggard’s reluctant posterior to forward motion…

And to any and all who thus succumb to the blandishments and ballyhoo presented in these pages, I bid you a hearty bon voyage, albeit tempered by the slippery wisdom of an old Scottish proverb: “What may be, may not be…”

Thanks for checking out this edition of the Torg Stories podcast!

Coming soon: French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson and Grail Moviehouse owners Steve and Davida

Four Keys to MY Daily Happiness

You’d think I’d know better than to try and tackle a big-ass abstraction such as happiness, but what I’m trying to write about here is the stuff I need to do most days to continue to feel pretty good about the prospect of another day. I was careful to include MY in the title as a nod to you all that my way of finding a degree of happiness could be real different from yours.

Let me say this, first: there’s a lot of big-picture happiness that is derived from my family. That I’ve got my sister Anne, my mom and dad here in Asheville, my wife Megan, and our two girls, have helped me to build a strong foundation from which to live a life. If work isn’t going great, rejection slips for my writing seem to be piling up, or people are otherwise giving me a hard time, it’s pretty easy to shake all of that negative weight.

Georgia Review, rejection, writing

The Georgia Review says, “No Thanks.”

 

When little girls are calling you daddy, the world isn’t as likely to land a good punch.

Journey, Torg Stories, Charlotte, 80s, music

Family at Journey Concert

1. Write / Make Stuff

When I need a short answer for why I spend so much time writing, podcasting, making films, posting on the website, shooting video with my kids, and participating in projects such as the 48 Hour Film Project, I say, “It’s fun to make stuff.”

My answer is an oversimplification in that it ignores the mental health portion of why I need to write. I have A LOT of mental energy that can take the form of what can feel like tornadoes of too many thoughts slamming around inside of my head. Writing regularly–preferably first thing each morning–seems to dissipate the strength of the mental storms that seemed inclined to form in my thinking. I understand writing might not lead to improved mental health for all.

2. Exercise 

In addition to having a lot of excess mental energy that I need to burn off each day, the same is true for the physical part of me. I really stumbled onto this key ingredient for my well-being back in the late 90s when I was in the midst of becoming divorced. As that process began, I started to train for a marathon. There’s nothing like twenty miles on a Saturday to help calm the soul put you down on a bed fast asleep. These days–with a family I want to spend time with, teaching to do, writing I want to accomplish–I don’t want to allot the time needed to do long-distance running, but I do run at least six days a week. I like running way more than I like lifting weights, and my latest plan to get the lifts in has been to do half of them each day. So on a typical day, I run three miles and do half of my weight-lifting workout. This usually takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, and is a big part of what helps me feel good about myself and the rest of what each day has to bring.

indyhill

My Running Partner Indy

3. Moderation with Alcohol

I can have a beer–probably two–in the evening and be at my best the next day. Anything more than that or something along the lines of two margaritas, and I’ll find myself waking up after a few hours of sleep unable to get any more rest. It could very well be that I have talked myself into such a cycle being true, but it does seem to me that alcohol is the primary fuel for those tornadoes of thought I was describing earlier.

4. Good Sleep 

This post could have been shorter if I’d just have written I need a good night’s sleep to call myself a happy person. I have found that if I get in a bad rut of sleeping…

writing + exercise + abstinence from alcohol usually equals a good night’s sleep

The other part of getting a good night’s rest is that when my wife is teaching, she gets up no later than 5:30 am and that means I at least wake up, if not actually get out of the bed for another thirty minutes. I am the kind of person prone to staying up late to watch sports or play sports video games. When that happens, I wake up tired and am less likely to get in good writing and running sessions. And then I’m feeling bummed and ticked off. Most days, I know I hate not writing and not running enough that I can make myself go to bed early. When I fail to execute the above four-step process, I try to give myself a break and do better the next day.