Thursday, June 13, 2013

2013 University of Iowa International Writers Program Residency

Big news Thrillsters, I’m off to Iowa in August. Look, there’s even a press release.

Don’t worry. It’s just for a couple of months. I’ll be back in Wellington soon enough to whinge about how busy I am and apologise for not blogging more often.

Things Im excited about
  • Meeting with the 30+ other writers on the International Writing Program (and becoming buddies with as many of them as my social skills can handle)
  • The packed programme of readings and other events around Iowa City
  • Writing some freakin’ fiction – I haven’t managed to expand the 'The Cloud Seeder' beyond its first sentence, or write anything else, lately. Nine-ish weeks of solid writing (amid all the other activities) should let me finish at least three stories, and get me well on the way to finishing my next collection in 2014.
  • I may even be able to do a spot of research for my project-after-next (the time travel family saga romance novel).
  • Having plenty of material to write about for my fortnightly Dom Post column.
  • The mid-residency and end of residency travel around the US.
  • Weaselling myself into other parts of the creative writing programme at Iowa – meeting the workshop leaders, maybe a few guest speaking spots.
  • A stopover in San Francisco on the way to Iowa (one of my favourite cities: El Taqueria in Mission, here I come).
  • A bit of travel after the residency, before flying home (Plan A: road trip the length of the Mississippi)
  • Having my wife and daughter with me (the length of their stay and where they stay are still being sorted out… there’s a chance of a house swap with a dude in Coralville, which would be awesome if it happens - please send positive vibes).
  • Finding those US dollars I decided not to exchange a couple of years ago because I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll go back to the States sometime in the next five years,’ AND SPENDING THEM.
  • Getting a bike and riding it everywhere (until the snow comes at least).
  • Getting a new wardrobe (clothes are so much cheaper in the States, and it saves having to lug cold weather gear over there to arrive in 25 degree heat).
  • Escaping the tail-end of the NZ winter.
  • Birds (photos to be posted here!), squirrels, skunks, chipmunks (I haven’t actually researched the Iowa wildlife, but I’m sure they’ve got some cute/interesting rodents).
  • Iowa Hawkeyes Football!
  • Kinnick Stadium, capacity 70,585
  • Being within four hours drive of at least 4.5 hours drive of three NBA franchises when the 2012/13 season starts.
  • The food (hence the need to cycle everywhere, if I wanna brave the beach upon my return to NZ).
  • Cut and paste: "Creative New Zealand is keen to encourage emerging writers to apply [for the residency] (particularly, those who are on the cusp – with local publisher support – of breaking into the American market)" - who knows how far I am from the cusp, but being in the States for a few months might bring me closer to it, eh?
  • Leaving NZ a fortnight after The Mannequin Makers comes out, so I’ll be available for any and all publicity opportunities that might present in the weeks either side of the launch, but will be completely preoccupied when the great slab of silence and disinterest that follows a new book inevitably falls.
  • The timing also means I’ll avoid a lot of awkward conversations with people at work as they work through the novel (especially after they read pages 278-9). Better to just pretend they've all read the book and loved it when I get back at the start of the NZ summer.

Things Im less excited about
  • Getting Lia to Iowa – if she comes with me in August, she’ll be 8 months old. Not the best person to share a seat with for 16+ hours of flights (and the terminal downtime in between).
  • Getting Lia home.
  • If I can’t fly with Marisa and Lia there and back: letting the team down / being a long distance daddy / Skype father, even if it’s just a couple of days. Sob.
  • The inevitable hassle that comes with going to another country for a block of time (visas, sorting out what to do with our house while we’re away, tax returns...).
  • Having to pull out of an event at the mini-writers festival as part of this year’s Christchurch Arts Festival (last time I was booked to appear down their the festival was gazumped by the first Chch earthquake; next time, Canterbury, next time) [NB: this is what I was talking about when I said I’d finally said no to something the other month].
  • Not being able to attend the awards ceremony for the BNZ Literary Awards and shake the hand of the winner I will have picked for the novice category (though I’ll try to pre-record a speech and tee up a meeting with the winner when I get back).
  • Going back to work in late Nov/early Dec and finding out all the things I was working on before going that haven’t gone anywhere in my absence.