On the end table next to me there are two new books and one empty bottle of beer.
The beer is (was) an I.P.A. from Full Sail. I smile when I see I.P.A. because it reminds me of a green server in Denver who told me it stood for “Indiana Pale Ale” rather than “India”. I think the British who hopped their beers so deliberately for exports to their colonies probably didn’t send too many to the Midwest of North America.
One of the books is a new release by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. If you know who that is, you know her work well. And, also, you’re probably a knitter; or at least you’re married to a knitter and you’ve heard passages of the writing read aloud to you as you are trying to read your own book in the bed next to your partner. The thing is, she’s a fabulous writer. Witty, engaging, thoughtful . . . all of these things. But it is all about knitting, or more precisely, about knitters and their ways and their obsession for yarn. It includes, as well, advice to those of us who are tangled in the yarn of loved ones.
I’m not actually going to read most of this book, but it does inspire something. I look towards a possible new position where I’d work with university professors and administration all over campus. As McPhee writes about the trials, tribulations, and hilarity of the knitting community, I wonder if there are parallels for the university community? And if I were working in a position where I saw these stories writ large before me, would an hour a day of dedication to writing* be a good use of time? It’s probably something I should try to work in anyway, but if I restructured by day anyway, wouldn’t this be something I could work in?
More importantly, would writing about the foibles of colleagues be a wise pursuit? Maybe that’s not for me to judge early on, but something that should wait until later.
Mostly, I am captivated by the way that a writer can write specifically to one audience, one demographic, and have such resounding success. If someone can write only for knitters, can’t someone write only for academics. Hmmmm. I guess they do this all the time, actually. Only most of what we write isn’t that insightful. Nor funny. It makes you want to take up knitting.
So, as my colleague is presenting the inspiring idea of a “conference in a box,” I’m wondering how we can unbox the academy. Maybe this is all for my own personal entertainment. Maybe that’s exactly why it would be a good idea.
*This is what’s suggested in a passage of the other book sitting here, and I’ve read the same kind of advice elsewhere.