Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Alumni Voices with Polly Alice: Changing Lives

Dear MFAC Hamliners and Alums,

It was so great to be at the winter Hamline Residency this year for a few days. I was inspired, encouraged and impressed by all the new faces.  I’m writing to you from my sewing room/ office well really it’s my mother’s office. I have no idea what my computer is in here really. Her doctorate degree is here above my head and a quilt I may never start is folded up on the table to my left; picture of my grandmother on my right-- along with the iron. It’s been out since I put the Boy Scout patches on.  I ironed them in the wrong place and they had to be removed.

So how is writing going for you all? It’s finally come to my late-blooming-attention that writing is something that always happens on the side.  And won’t happen without intention. I am maybe one of the only people I know who loved my Hamline critical thesis. I worked on it from the day I began as a student up until I graduated three years later. I took it from 40 pages to 20 pages. I guess I’m a research paper nut. This all makes sense to me now that I’m in my second semester teaching college freshmen to write term papers. Yes it all makes sense. I get some kind of evil enjoyment out of teaching other people to write essays. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. But I’m glad I fit in somewhere, thank you, God.  (Yes I know last time I wrote you Hamlinites, I was running an art gallery—ahh the life of the artist, things change so fast). Now I’m three blocks up at the community college. Same commute, same neighborhood—different art.

I get to write notes to the students thanks to Blackboard (a new invention since I was 18). I never ever sent a message to a teacher outside of class. hmmm. Now I get messages night and day. I’ve even gotten a call during class so someone could tell me about their intestinal trouble. Student teacher confidentiality has changed a bit since I was in school. One thing, I have the students write me letters at the end of the semester about what they’ve learned as part of their final. So cheers to me. I finally get some letters.

So my crazy need to write to people and have them write back is now fulfilled by being the cooky absent-minded English professor.  Yes, I like it. I also wear silly scarves and thick classes—it makes for the look, too bad everyone still thinks I’m a student. I don’t know what I do wrong there.

And I’ve decided to take my beloved Hamline Thesis and use it again! First I took it from 20 pages to 6 pages and submitted it to a contest and won prize. Then from 6 pages to a 1 page abstract and I got accepted to share at a conference--and went to a conference and shared. That was fun. Now I’ve turned it into a book proposal. One of those books you read on the plane. I think that although I have fun trying to get to my novels I will get to these nonfiction books much faster. Let’s hope.

Besides all that I just got a new summer job. I’m going to be writing for kids. I’m writing and creating art curriculum for summer camps! Who knows how that will go. But let the paint fly.

Being a writer is turning out to be really life changing. I’ve been put on a Title III committee to teach classes that help students get college ready. Our textbook in English 90 and 101 is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. We watched the new documentary, 13th, about the thirteenth amendment by Duvernay… I’ve never learned so much about the country that I’m living in and what people overcome to just live. Just live. All my students want to be better writers. I’ve got single moms, people from every continent on the globe and several islands, basketball scholarship winners, hopeful ex-cons, baby boomers, survivors, and kids from down the block. We all jump in to writing together. I share with them what I learned from you all.

I can see it changing lives. After each student leaves, I take a small breath. There goes one more person who will now get a better job, have a chance to get an education, someone who will make a difference.  Next fall I’m teaching English 102. The textbook is Hamilton. Profs are fondly calling the class: Find your own revolution. I certainly have. 



POLLY ALICE author and illustrator, opened New Thing Art Studio in 2015 back home in Kansas City-- where she paints, illustrates children’s books, and teaches college writing. Her work is often mixed media. “I create my art to be more like poetry—to have symbolic meanings layered from dream and memories.” Polly won the 2014 Ernest Hartmann award from the International Association for the Study of Dreams from Berkley CA for her research on self awareness for writers and artists through dreamwork. She loves to grow basil and explore the unexpected in her free time.

No comments:

Post a Comment