Discover more from My Newsletter "about Norwich"
A day in the life of a Writer/English and Creative Writing Professor
And it all happens in Sanborn Hall at Dartmouth College
I reached out to Peter Orner for a story for my ‘A day in the life’ series and asked Peter to explain a typical day in his life and here is what he had to say:
Demo I tried...!
I’ve never been asked to describe my days before, and I don’t know whether to be flattered or scared.
But here goes, Demo…And I apologize in advance if this account puts any readers to sleep.
I try to wake up early, before the kids are up, to read and possibly write a little. I crave the silence of an early morning and I usually sit by an open window and listen to the beautiful Blood brook and read and read until something strikes me. Then I might take down a note or two about the book I’m working on -- a new book that is going very, very slowly. I basically work one slow sentence at a time. Then I’ll read a little more. I’m usually reading a few books at a time, a novel, a book of nonfiction, a story collection, maybe a couple of books of poetry. Though I always have one book that is sort of my main one (usually a novel that I'll often misplace around town) I do love wandering from book to book. It’s like having your feet in multiple worlds at the same time.
My reading tends to be as random as my wandering. Many of the books I read come from the dump. The book shed at the dump is one of my favorite things about Norwich. I’m very thankful for the volunteers who keep it going on our behalf. I could not imagine living in Norwich without the book shed.
After the kids are off to school, I usually walk the dog down Beaver Meadow to the woods beside the American Legion, being careful on the road because many cars don’t have any intention of going the actual 25 mile-an-hour speed limit. This is a shame because so many of us walk or run or bike along Beaver Meadow, which as we all know is good for the environment. It can be unpleasant when a truck or car is barreling at you at over 40 mph.
As for my day job, I’ll take a typical Tuesday. After doing some more reading and, if things are going well, a little writing, I’ll head over to campus and to Sanborn Hall.
On Tuesdays, I teach a 10am class called Senior Workshop in Creative Writing, which we call a capstone class. It’s made up of ten very committed and talented young writers. In class, we talk about published stories and discuss student work in progress. It can be intense at times as these students are very serious about their work and thoughtful when it comes to discussing the work of their colleagues.
After class, I’ll usually spend the next few hours working on departmental issues. I’m currently serving as chair of the English and Creative Writing Department. It’s a large department and there’s often a number of things I have to juggle at the same time. I’m lucky to work with Kate Gibbel , our department administrator. Without Kate, I’d been in big trouble. Being department chair also means I attend a lot of meetings. Lately, I’ve been to more meetings than I’ve ever been to in my life, but I’m enjoying learning some new skills, such as how to look awake. Managing an academic department is challenging, and you never quite know what sort of problems each day will bring. Sanborn Hall is an old, historic building, and we love it, but it isn’t without its problems, too. Sometimes the problems are beyond me, as in what to do about our departmental squirrel problem. They seem to like our walls very much. So do the bats. We’re working on it, not that we have anything against squirrels (or bats).
In between teaching and all my responsibilities to the department, I’m always trying to keep up with my own work, a book in progress and various writing assignments. There always seems to be more work than I can handle, but working in words and working with people who also work in words, makes it all worth it, usually…
In the afternoons, we might have a poetry reading or a lecture, which are often inspiring as Dartmouth attracts some great writers and thinkers. Last week, for instance, we hosted the poet Bianca Stone and Norwich's own Nora Jacobson who directed the outstanding documentary about the life of Vermont poet Ruth Stone, "Ruth Stone's Vast Library of the Female Mind," a film I highly recommend.
Time to get the kids…soccer, piano, lacrosse, Hebrew school, etc…
Then, if I'm lucky, later on, some more reading, writing, taking notes…
I found a parking space and made my way over to 19 Sanborn
Hard to get lost once you get to Sanborn though
Peter in his office
Some of the recent faculty publications
The Shakespeare room
The Shakespeare fireplace
The Sanborn Library where you can enjoy a tea every day
The Sanborn classroom
The Poetry room
The Wren room
Peter teaching a class in the Sanborn classroom
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