So, the fine people at Fordham University have decided I am capable of teaching a writing class to their lovely students. This will be a composition and rhetoric class, which may sound dull to some, but to me this is quite exciting. Why? Well, here's why: because I've been teaching undergraduates since 2004 in England and in the U.S. and guess what: they all needed a composition and rhetoric class, even the brightest ones. Since I was teaching a class in say interpersonal communications or contemporary performance I only had the time to guide the students in their writing, not teach it outright as its own subject. So, I celebrate this development with great joy and trepidation.
Why trepidation you ask? (I don't know why I've decided 'you' are asking questions, but bear with me, I've been reading essays from the 19th Century - blame the transcendentalists) Trepidation because writing matters so much to me as in it's what matters most to me right now, so the prospect of teaching this skill is both exciting and scary. I feel a tremendous responsibility to get it right, make it exciting, challenging and of course effective. If my students are not writing better by the end of the class, I will feel like I failed. Knowing how to write is the greatest tool a student - not to mention a human being - can have in the contemporary world. Yes, I know, we're all digital and visual and twittified, but still if you know how to write, which of course implies that you know how to: read, listen, observe, bear witness, communicate and analyze, then you are better equipped to live a full life. Some would argue with this statement. I'm willing to debate this proposition with anyone, anytime. Bring it.
There is then, too, this issue of voice. Since Virginia Woolf laid down the gauntlet with A Room of One's Own, the importance of women (and we can extrapolate from this any group who has not hitherto been heard and/or had the tools to write and publish) having a voice that can be heard is a big deal. This is not simply for basic fairness but so that we can see the whole picture (apologies for so much italicizing but I'm obviously worked up...it's that or Initial Caps...) of how people perceive and articulate the world. Without this information, we are only living in a partial reality. I would argue that right now, given the gaps between rich and poor, educated and illiterate, etc. in the world and in This Country (as shameful as that is), we are all the poorer for such a partial view of the world.
I am also particularly pleased to be teaching at Fordham because my second step-father's college friend, Walter, who became a mentor/guardian angel figure for me growing up was a professor at Fordham until his horrendously premature death of pancreatic cancer in his mid-50s. I spent time with him while he was dying (frighteningly quickly) in his West Village apartment in August 1998. He died in October of that year. The grief I felt at his passing is barely explicable, because it felt like the floor underneath my feet had been ripped away. Here was the man who tried to answer all my annoying questions from age 6 onward, who leant the money to me and two other people he didn't even know so we could get our first NYC apartment, who cared about every little thing I did no matter whether he agreed with it or not (and a lot of times he didn't), who helped me get my first theater job in NYC and on and on and on. We had issues as I got older and saw he was human - all too human. I think he felt the same about me as I got older and little more, shall we say, um, bratty? That is the peril of all heroes, they will fall and the worshipper will be Pissed Off, but we got over that. I'm crying while typing this, realizing now how much I miss him still all these many years later - 15 to be precise.
The woman who gave my resume to the person who hires writing adjuncts is someone I met first at my guardian angel's funeral. We re-met in a totally different context a couple years ago and have been cheering each other on ever since. We didn't recognize each other at first but when she told me where she taught I asked if she knew him and she said yes, she had been at his funeral. I remembered then that she had been kind to me the day, but I could not reciprocate because I felt like I was going to pass out. I remembered she had long hair. I could barely breathe. I think it was Halloween. A very Walter thing to have his funeral on Halloween complete with Harold Pinter character looking undertakers in a cavernous Catholic church running the show - in Rhode Island - his home state - and where I was born - orange leaves everywhere it seemed - swirling in the breeze. I had vertigo, nausea, was puking or almost fainting, crying. It turns out Walter had been my new friend's mentor, too. This makes sense to me because she is so lovely and we think in some ways weirdly alike. So there is some continuity here. I like to think Walter is happy. I do believe that actually.
I have a strange belief that all the people I loved and have died are this pantheon of ghosts/guardian angels. I talk to them all the time. And yes, of course, in case you have been reading this blog for a while, that includes my grandmothers. I hear them answer. This probably makes me certifiable, but so far, since I do this all silently, I've gotten away with it. A therapist suggested I write a play about this phenomenon. I laughed, but she may have been right. Stay tuned.
As for the grandmothers book, I am still working on it, though not this week. Right now it's all about creating the Perfect Syllabus...or at least one that's good enough. But you know, it's me, so it has to be The Perfect Syllabus. That and deadlines and applications, etc. I am reading Thornton Wilder's biography, which is turning out to be helpful for the grandmothers book, because he was alive when they were, though he was older, but the detail about the cultural landscape and New England mores is quite useful to help me melt more completely into their points of view.
In other news, my beloved Canadian husband is still stuck in Canada until his visa comes through, but visits when he can. That is both wonderful and hard. Wonderful and precious to be with him when we can be, hard because the visits are shorter than either of us would like. I would not trade it though, because I'm aware that the pain of our separation is in direct relation to how happy we are when we are together. This too shall pass. The visa process will end eventually and with luck that will coincide with him finishing up his business in Canada.
I'm too tired to be more articulate alas, but wanted to write a bit of an update. I hope everyone who reads this is well and following their own internal rhythms through life. I'm re-reading Thoreau (oh yes, my students will be reading Thoreau) and of all the things he got right, that's the thing he got rightest (yes, kids, I know that's wrong grammatically but I have a PhD so I can do this shit now...bwahahahahaha...). In regard to writing in voices as they exist (including PowerPoint): a book I will be teaching will be A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, which - if you have not read it yet - is genius. She said her main inspirations were Proust and The Sopranos. That about sums it up, except it's better than that.
With that bit of not so humble opinion, I bid you goodnight.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.
I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.