Looking at Who You Used to Be

by Kirby Gann

Spalding MFA Fiction Faculty

Though I’ve long considered myself primarily a novelist, I’ve taken a shot at the short story form (never with real confidence) off and on over the past twenty-five years. Some of these efforts were better than others, and found homes in the journals and magazines that help keep the vitality of the American short story alive and evident. I don’t know exactly why, but the past several months have brought me an unsought yet reinvigorated enthusiasm for the genre—both in my reading, which has been confined mostly to stories not only in magazines but in single-author collections and group anthologies, and in the focus of my own writing. I’ve set aside a deep draft of a novel in progress without the inner conviction that I’ll return to it eventually. Continue reading “Looking at Who You Used to Be”

Advertisements

Innovationally Stimulating and Emotionally Rewarding

By Karen Mann

Spalding MFA Administrative Director

In 1997, Sena Jeter Naslund asked me to co-direct a low-residency MFA in Writing program. We approached Spalding University with the idea, and we all know how that turned out—570 alumni later!

Sena Jeter Naslund Karen Mann SP02

For years, Sena had taught in several graduate programs, not to mention another low-residency program, and she had ideas for innovative ways to design a program, ways that would improve upon and be better than other programs. From the outset, she planned for our program to be intellectually stimulating and emotionally supportive.

Even after 14 years of directing this program, we are constantly evolving. In addition to Sena’s groundbreaking ideas that have been a part of the program from the beginning, many of our innovations have grown out of students’ and faculty and staff members’ suggestions. Among the many features that make us unique:

  •      Cross-genre exploration, allowing students to learn from other modes of writing while focusing on their own area, even taking a residency or independent study outside their major area
  •      A rotating series of international residencies, giving writers a wealth of opportunities to deepen their understanding of different cultures
  •      An emphasis on the interrelatedness of all the arts: writing, visual art, music, dance, theater, etc.
  •      An extended summer semester, allowing busy students to choose the semester length that fits their schedule
  •      The most active alumni association in the country

Often our best brainstorming sessions happen at the faculty meeting at the end of a residency. For example, at the end of last fall’s residency, we hatched the idea of offering more generative workshops, which led to faculty developing a focus and description for their spring workshops. Students then filled out a preference form before they were assigned to a workshop at the spring residency.

From every new idea we learn even newer and better ways to present our intellectually stimulating and emotionally supportive program to our students, students for which the passion to write is central to their lives.

I’d love to hear from you about which innovations helped you. Leave a comment below in response to one or more of these questions: Which feature of the program meant the most to you? What about the program changed the way you think about writing? What most surprised you about the program?

Bio:

Karen Mann is the co-founder and Administrative Director of the Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing at Spalding University. She has published two novels: The Saved Man (Page Turners Publishing, 2014) and The Woman of La Mancha (Fleur-de-Lis Press, 2014).

My Role Model is a Roll of Toilet Paper: Writing with Passion and the Limits of Machines

by Nancy McCabe

Spalding MFA Faculty, Creative Nonfiction and Fiction

When my daughter was in sixth grade, she was assigned an essay proposing a new holiday honoring an underrecognized historical figure. She thought and thought about this, considering favorite writers, political figures, ordinary people.

Finally, she wrote about not one person but a group, the Little Rock Nine, the African-American students who endured much when they helped integrate Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957. My Asian-American daughter, one of very few non-white students in her middle-school, deeply admired these teenagers, and her subsequent essay was a passionate, thoughtful one about their legacy.

Days later, I asked her how she’d done on her essay.

“I got a 4,” she said.

It turned out that her essay had not been read by a teacher, but instead had been graded by a computer program that gave each paper a score between 1 and 5. Her essay may have been imperfect, but it saddened me that a message that deeply mattered to her, a message that a mostly white community would have benefitted from hearing, had been reduced to a score on a computer.

A year later, she brought home another essay assignment: to write about her role model. She wrote a lovely piece about her mom. Of course I could assess this essay with total objectivity. There might have been some clumsy sentences here and there, but its sentiments clearly made it worthy of an A+.

Once again, she made a 4. Once again, the essay had been put through a computer program rather than read by a live person.

She wanted a 5. She revised obsessively, making improvements and putting it through the program repeatedly. It got a 4 every time.

A computer, I tried to convince her, cannot evaluate your passion for your subject, the quality of your ideas, the incisiveness of your language, the sophistication of your thought, the merit of your metaphors. It can measure whether you have an introduction, a thesis statement, a structure that echoes the thesis statement, transitions, examples, and complex sentences that are basically grammatically correct.

She didn’t believe me. So I set out to prove it to her, writing the following essay:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one role model to assume, among the powers of the earth, a separate and equal station, that role model can change our life. The person who most exemplifies these qualities in my mind is the roll of toilet paper in my bathroom. Not only is she a friendly and delightful person who makes every day special, she is, most of all, as incandescent as a candle that daily lights the darkness.

From the moment I met her, her friendliness was evident. She introduced herself in such a way that I was certain that she was the most exuberant apple pie I’d ever met. When she danced, her secondary sunburn drew laughter and happiness from every far-flung artichoke. She was especially warm and welcoming when she quoted the cat, saying regularly, “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like the cemetery.” I was especially impressed by the friendly way she executed every small bug that crossed her path, fashioning small skirts and tennis shoes for the cutest among them.

But that alone is not enough to make her my role model: it is her delightful scent that makes her so intriguing and exceptional. I take endless pleasure in the loops and whorls of her fingerprints, and sometimes, the hottest bath can cause a streetlight to topple, crashing to the ground, bringing me a delight unlike no other. Her insistence on good manners, on the boundless, crashing energy of the sea, on singing and rappelling from every mountain and lowering herself from the greatest heights to re-create the majesty of the purple mountains, is what impresses her peers daily. Her delightfulness is exemplified by all of these, and I could elaborate on this for the next eighty bra straps.

Most of all, my toilet paper is as incandescent as a candle. Her flaring green elephants, her crisp potato chips that come in a can rather than a bag, and her tall, effortless demeanor and drug habit shine through the darkness like a candle or a very powerful lamp that has never been muted. For example, one day I had forgotten to pack my lunch and discovered that there were no mousetraps left in the cupboard. She rushed to the rescue, prompting me to re-evaluate my entire life and refine my philosophies until the dog barked at the door, wishing to be let in. Another instance of this is the day I raced to catch the moon but found it under the hood of my car. Her shining light beckoned to me repeatedly, and I realized that this made her a special role model indeed.

It should be clear from all of these examples why my role model makes every day so initially towel-like and luminous as an egg. She is the wind beneath my ice cream cone as she shows me that being friendly, delightful, and incandescent are the keys to every cloud’s silver lining and every small raccoon’s badger feet.   She reverberates with unsaid encyclopedias, struggles vociferously in all she does, and keeps me entertained by creating squeaky rubber toys that children and dogs can throw in their fish tanks. I am proud to be a part of her satellite, and am often motivated by her example to be friendly myself, to be delightful, and to shine as incandescently as the most riveting, most enervating candle.

I made a 5.

I’m not a public school teacher, faced not just with designing assignments, delivering lessons, and grading work of more than 100 students every day, but also with demands regarding standardized testing, housekeeping, recordkeeping, discipline, hall duty, bus duty, coaching, etc., etc., etc. I’m sure that there’s some value in using a computer program as a supplemental tool for teaching writing.

But I still hope I made my point to my daughter. That while grammar and structure matter, they are no substitute for real passion and engagement. Maybe computers can create squeaky rubber toys for children to throw in their fish tanks or fashion small tennis shoes for cute executed bugs, or think that apple pie can be exuberant, artichokes far-flung, and elephants green and flaring. But they will never replace humans when it comes to moving and inspiring an audience, to paying tribute to a group of brave teenagers or to our mothers.

 

Nancy McCabe’s most recent book is From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood. She has published three additional memoirs, and her essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Massachusetts Review, Fourth Genre, Newsweek, and others.  Her work has received a Pushcart and made notable lists six times in Houghton Mifflin Best American anthologies.  She is a regular blogger for Ploughshares, directs the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, and teaches creative nonfiction and fiction for the Spalding MFA program.

ARTIST COLONIES: The Value of Lost Time

by Rachel M. Harper
Spalding MFA Faculty, Fiction

IMG_7DB5036F9AE7-1I recently returned from a 4-week residency at MacDowell, an Artist Colony in rural New Hampshire. It proved to be an important month in my life, and in my writing career, but not in exactly the way I’d thought it would. I went seeking freedom, but what I found was a lot more meaningful. Continue reading “ARTIST COLONIES: The Value of Lost Time”

Community/Creativity

 

by Eric Schmiedl 

Spalding MFA Faculty, Playwriting

(originally published 2015)

 

In his book Love and Living, the writer and theologian Thomas Merton discusses the relationship between the individual and the greater community when he says:

love-and-living-thomas-merton-a-posthumously-published-collection-of-mertons-essays-and-meditations-centering-on-the-need-for-love-in-learning-to-live-love-is-the-revelation-of-our-deepe

 

“Through our senses and our minds, our loves, needs, and desires, we are implicated, without possibility of evasion, in this world of matter and of men, of things and of persons, which not only affect us and change our lives, but are also affected and changed by us …”

Continue reading “Community/Creativity”

Guarding Our Time

by David-Matthew Barnes

Spalding MFA Faculty, Playwriting, Screenwriting, Writing for Children & Young Adults

Time. It is the most elusive thing. It is a luxury of which some of us are willing to beg, borrow, and steal for. People wish for more of it, convinced if they had just a few minutes more the results could be life-changing.

It’s true. We are busy people. Our schedules leave us exhausted, delirious, overwhelmed. To survive, we are constantly juggling, balancing, shifting, always dangling just above the edge of a looming deadline.

I lose count of how many times I hear the words, “There’s just not enough time in the day to get everything done.” It pains me most when it’s my voice saying them.

We are a breed of our own: the busy.

To achieve this livable state of sleep deprivation, we make caffeine our favorite food group, existing in a jittery existence of the fear and consequences of nodding off. We are masters of the to-do list, the weekly calendar, the span of 24-hours.

This constant battle against the clock must be universal. Surely, others feel the tremble of the ticking constantly beating beneath every step they take through their mine field of a day. We constantly avert any possible social scenario that can pose a threat to our down-to-the-second agenda, knowing if we stop long enough to smell those ridiculous flowers the less-busy always talk about, we’re doomed.

They say the early bird catches the worm, time waits for no one, time is money, and there’s no time like the present. We are constantly bombarded by the insistence to do more, be more, live more. This is our fuel.

And then there’s writing.

I recently had an online discussion with two fellow writers in which time was our topic, specifically how to find more of it. As creative people with unconventional lives and schedules, we are often time-shamed. Example A: “When you’re done with your little writing thing, do you think you can actually spend time with your friends and family? We miss you.”

To ask someone who is not a writer to understand how we work and why time is everything to us is asking for the impossible. Non-writers can view our desire for writing time as selfish; our writing – and the time we need for it – can inconvenience many people. We are expected to keep a more world-friendly schedule by only tapping into and channeling our creativity during business hours – and never on weekends.

Finding the time to write can become the most challenging aspect of a writer’s life. It certainly is for mine. We can tape as many Do Not Disturb signs on our home office doors we want, but that tiny flicker of guilt still remains each time we sit down at our laptops and the world continues to happen without us, hopefully missing us. It is indeed a high price to pay.

Yet, the results can be life-changing – or, more specifically, career-changing. Many of us dream of one day writing for a living, of reaching a point in which our talent and creativity sustains us. But we cannot get there without time.

The discussion with my writer friends ended with the conclusion that each of us need to be more protective of our schedules, that we collectively have to guard our writing time. We are soldiers, protecting our own very precious turf. Because every second really does count, as much as every word we write.

The struggle against the clock, our own lives, and the demands we must meet can be a difficult one to endure. Yet, in the end, those few moments in which the world around us slips away and nothing else matters but the words on the page – they make the pace worth it. It’s usually then we feel like we won. And, as they say, even the smallest victory counts.

 

David-Matthew Barnes is the bestselling author of twelve novels and several collections of stage plays, poetry, short stories, and monologues. Two of his young adult novels have been recognized by the American Library Association for their diversity. He has written over forty stage plays that have been performed in three languages in eight countries. His literary work has been featured in over one hundred publications including The Best Stage Scenes, The Best Men’s Stage Monologues, The Best Women’s Stage Monologues, The Comstock Review, and The Southeast Review. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina and graduated magna cum laude from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta with a degree in Communications and English. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, the Horror Writers Association, International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. He has been a teacher for nearly a decade, instructing college courses in writing, literature, and the arts. He is the new Program Director of the Theatre Arts and Dance Department at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado. 

Swimming Through Doubt

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Spalding MFA Faculty, Writing for Children and Young Adults

As a teenager I had a recurring dream that I was drowning. After one particularly frightening nightmare, I told my mother. She immediately worried that the dream was prophetic and signed me up for a life-saving class at the YMCA. The class met four nights a week for two months.

We began by swimming sixteen laps: four crawl, four breaststroke, four sidestroke, four backstroke, up and back. At fourteen I was the youngest – and smallest – in the class. I wasn’t the strongest swimmer and I wasn’t the fastest swimmer, but I held my own and always finished the laps.

After our laps, we learned to identify distressed swimmers. We learned to use rescue aids and various rescue holds to tow a drowning victim to safety. We learned to administer CPR

As the weeks passed, I grew stronger and faster – simply by showing up each night, getting in the water, and doing the hard work.

Then the final test came. The night before, I couldn’t sleep. The self-doubt! I wasn’t worried about the written exam – I knew the material and could save anyone on paper – but the actual-save-the-drowning-victim test terrified me. The victim would be an adult. What if I wasn’t fast enough or strong enough, compared to my older classmates?

That night, my classmates and I huddled at the deep end of the pool. My jaw dropped as our volunteer victim – a very, very large man – emerged from the locker room. (Did I mention I was five feet, two inches tall? One hundred and five pounds?)

My classmates knew him. He was the largest man in Dunmore. He could hold his breath for an inhuman amount of time. He was a sado-masochist who lunged at his teenage rescuers and fought them off. He looked forward to this test all year.

Our victim slipped into the water and swam to the center of the deep end. He turned and stared at us, unblinking. Then he sank like a depth charge to the bottom of the pool, thirteen feet below.

Our job was to bring him to the surface, using a proper hold, and tow him to safety.

Time after time, the whistle blew. From above, I watched as each classmate approached the victim beneath the water. Then it became a blur of shapes. The shimmering blue water churned to a frothy white. Eventually, either my classmate succeeded and towed the victim to the side, or gave up and surfaced, shrieking and gasping for air.

And then it was my turn. “Campbell, you’re up,” said our instructor.

The whistle shrieked. I sucked air and dove in. Squinting, I made out the victim’s hulking form, waiting for me. He looked like a boulder.

I swam around him, gauging the best approach. As I circled, he pivoted, watching me through unblinking eyes. I had no choice but to go in.

As I swam closer, he stopped moving. His meaty arms just floated. I grew hopeful. Perhaps he was taking it easy on me. Perhaps he was tired out. Maybe he was dead. I decided to use the simple cross-chest hold.

I crooked my arm around his neck and across his chest, hooking him under his armpit. I scissor-kicked to lift him. He broke loose. He grabbed my arm and pulled me down, just as a drowning person is known to do.

With both feet, I launched myself off his chest. Now it was a fight for survival. I kicked. I punched. I clawed. I grabbed a fistful of hair, determined to use the hair-tow. He grabbed my foot. I kicked loose and fought some more.

In the end, I don’t remember what tow I used. I remember that I wrangled him and I towed him to the surface. I remember how my lungs burned. At the surface, he tried to break my hold again, but I dug in and got him to the side of the pool.

When he climbed out of the water, he bore long red scratch marks down his back.

Self-doubt again. I thought for sure that I failed, but a week later, my life saving badge arrived in the mail. I don’t remember ever having a drowning nightmare again.

Today I swim in words and ideas more often than in water. You won’t see me dive into the water – unless you need me to rescue you. I tend to tiptoe around the shallow end, getting wet gradually, before I move into the deep end. I know writers who plunge headfirst – and I admire their spirit and style – but you know what? We both make it to the finish line.

I still do laps. I set a kitchen timer for 45 minutes and write nonstop. When the timer rings, I stop – even if it’s midsentence. I take a 15-minute break. I try not to make phone calls or check email during my break. I stretch my troublesome shoulder. I do small, rote chores such as laundry. I walk the dog. I trust that my subconscious keeps swimming, even while my conscious mind is doing something else.

At the end of the 15 minutes, I return to the water. I do several sessions like this throughout the day. In the early stages of a work, I might do as few as two or three. As I move deeper into the work – and especially if I‘m revising – I do more.

At the end of the writing day, I try to take notes for the writing I intend to do the next day, to avoid starting with a blank page.

Over the years, I’ve learned to lower my standards. Most of my rough draft writing is ordinary at best. At its worst, it’s the sort of writing that makes me plug my nose. But you know what happens when you lower your standards? You doggy-paddle your way through sentences. Paragraphs. Eventually a page. More pages. And one day, a rough draft.

In life-saving class, we learned to rescue others. We also learned to rescue ourselves. We learned to tread water. We learned to bob. Most importantly, we learned to relax, because fear kills. It kills the physical body and it kills the spirit.

What kind of swimmer are you?

A publishing strategy for your first poetry collection

by Kathleen Driskell

Spalding MFA Associate Program Director

Publications in good literary magazines lead often to book publication, not the other way around. You do see poetry collections without a long list of magazine acknowledgments, but not often, and not at the better presses. A list of acknowledgments from solid literary magazines is an endorsement of sorts to a book editor. It means a number of other editors have already stamped your work with approval. It means, usually, your manuscript is worth a good long look. So one of your best book publication strategies is to submit and submit and submit the poems in that manuscript to a variety of literary journals.

But landing a poem in a friend’s journal with no reputation for publishing work of any merit isn’t that meaningful, frankly. If you simply want to see your name in print, then okay, that publication has served its purpose, I suppose. However, if you want to use magazine publications to build your book-publishing platform, not so much.

I regularly get CVs from writers who’d like to teach in Spalding’s MFA Program and I can tell you if two candidates both have a ten-page list of publications, all is usually not equal. Publications in one-off magazines or unprofessional online magazines don’t really work as endorsements for your writing. In fact, those publications can work against you. One might be left to think reputable magazines haven’t seen much to consider in your work, or, worse, that you don’t have much confidence in it either.

So, aim high! By all means, send poems to your “dream-date” magazines like Poetry, The Georgia Review, or Paris Review. In fact, make a list of places where you’d run out into the street to yell hooray if you were published there—and make sure something is out to one or two of those places at all times. When I pick up Poetry or Ploughshares, I always find myself reading a poem by someone who has just begun publishing. There’s no reason that next someone can’t be you.

At the same time, you should also be sending out work to respected magazines considered “next tier.” How to choose from so many? Newpages.com is a great resource for submitting writers. Also, look through the annual prize-winning anthologies, like Best American Poetry, to see which magazines first published those winning poems. Send there.

But, in addition, research and find good literary magazines in your own region. You’re more likely to get a scribble or two on a rejection slip if you point out you’re a writer in that magazine’s geographical area—writers, even editors, don’t want to be rude to writers in their own back yards. You never know whom you will run into. That goes for you, too: go out of your way to meet and say hello to that editor when opportunity presents at a book fair or AWP. All these things help you build relationships with magazine editors. All these things help you place your poems.

Poets just beginning to submit work always ask about what to include in the cover letter, as if it’s the cover letter that cinches publication. If only. But no matter where you submit, in your cover letter, let the editors know you have actually read their magazine and appreciate it. I know from experience that editors get piles and piles of mail and are reading submissions, often, at the expense of time they might be spending on their own writing. Be nice, for goodness sakes.

And something else . . . you don’t have to subscribe to every magazine you submit to, but do make sure you subscribe to a handful. That’s part of being a good literary citizen.

The other thing I’ve learned is that editors, particularly those at regional magazines, are usually good literary citizens, as well—why else would they be doing so much work for no pay? Likely, too, they are involved with other literary things for nothing, like running a reading series or a writer’s conference. Often these regional events are small-budget affairs, with no money to pay large honorariums or fly in writers from across the country, but you’re a beginning writer (meaning low-cost, I’m afraid, at least for now), and a writer they respected enough to have published, so perhaps your name will pop up as a possible reader or panelist at one of those literary events. And at those events, you’ll get more exposure for your publishing career. Yet another reason it’s nice to be nice.

Don’t forget to have submissions out to online magazines, as well. Research to find a few web journals you can send to, because they offer exposure like no paper journal.

Recently, my poem “What the Girl Wore,” was published by Shenandoah, a well-established literary magazine that has recently gone completely online, but lost none of its stature. Within a few days of my poem going live, the editors of Poetry Daily emailed to ask if they could feature “What the Girl Wore,” the following week. Poetry Daily not only has a wonderfully large readership, they also have 62,000 Twitter followers. Overlooking online publishing opportunities can deny you a huge audience.

If you consider a poem finished, make sure it’s out, and out at more than one place—finally most editorial boards are acting more humanely and now permit simultaneous submissions. Gone are the days, thank goodness, when we waited six months or more to hear back about a batch of poems, only to have all returned with a slip of paper one would have to DNA test to know if it actually had been touched by another human being.

Besides, with online submission managers, it’s so easy to submit a batch of poems that every poem you think is finished should be out for consideration. Every poem.

Then, when poems come back—and most will—get them right back out again. If you can’t bear to do this in drips, then set aside a time when you aren’t in the mood to write poems—if you’re like me and write best in the morning, put aside time in the evening every two weeks or so to submit. Put that commitment to your work on your calendar. Better yet, make something beep at you.

And even if a poem is rejected a dozen or more times, if you believe in it, keep sending it out. I can’t remember how many times “What the Girl Wore” was rejected, but I kept it out there until it received a debut beyond any I could have imagined. And, I also gained a pretty solid acknowledgment for the front of my next book of poems.

Beets

by Fenton Johnson

At the grave risk of thumbing my nose at the writing goddess for whom I have such love and respect, I don’t believe in writer’s block. The words come or they don’t. Sometimes – for me, rarely – they come easily. At other times, they are fearfully hard. There are long periods of generating crap. Sometimes the crap extends over weeks, months, years. There are long periods of silence. Sometimes the silences extend over weeks, months, years. I don’t think of that as writer’s block. I think of it as writing. The silences are part of the process. Am I producing words to feed a post-industrial capitalist / academic publishing machine, or – worse yet – my own ego? Or am I striving to write what needs to be said, when it needs to be heard?

Having said that, I also believe in sitting at the feet of the masters and striving to imitate them, brushstroke for brushstroke, verb for verb, comma for comma. Stuck against a deadline? Words not coming? Sit down with a paragraph of a writer who stuns you into silence. Then write that paragraph, laying aside any thoughts of plagiarism, holding in the heart only the desire to learn. Amazing what that gesture of respectful imitation can do to liberate the imagination from its self-imposed fears and fetters.

The first writing was plagiarism. All that came before is lost – except as it filters down to us through the writing of our conscientious thieves. It is the conscientiousness – the desire and determination to make it new – that distinguishes that gesture it from real plagiarism and makes it unique, makes it new, makes it mine, makes it yours.

Now I light a candle to the writing deities, Seshat, Saraswati, Hermes the messenger, St. Paul (St. Paul?), in gratefulness and supplication.

But while I’m waiting for those really fine golden beets I came across at the farmer’s market today to roast, let me grind a favorite kitchen knife and underscore the distinction, familiar to many of my Spalding students, between “fact” and “truth.” “Fact,” as the roots of the word suggest, is malleable – the root is the same as that of manufacture, i.e., that which is made by hand. “Truth,” on the other hand, is enduring, eternal – the root of the word is the same as that of “betrothed, i.e, “be-truth-ed”.

Newscasters and others who use phrases carelessly may use “fact” and “truth” interchangeably, but we are serious writers whose task and discipline – never forget, voluntarily taken on – is to use words with care and attention.

If you think I’m wrong, take a quick tour of “facts” that a century ago were taken for granted: non-Anglo races genetically inferior; women inherently weaker; same-gender love between men an unspeakable crime and between women nonexistent; two clearly defined, black-and-white genders; black and white. Try this parlor game, after a bottle of wine and/or bubbly water at your next dinner party: Ask the guests to imagine what “fact” we now take for granted that a century hence will be trotted out as evidence of how primitive, silly, and wrong-headed were our ancestors, by way of proving how much superior we are to them in perspicacity, judgment, and intelligence. As is demonstrated, say, by the rhetoric of the midterm election, upcoming as I write.

Then, after everyone has spoken to much discussion and hilarity, at the party’s end, speak this single truth: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

q.e.d., quod erat demonstrandum: Thus the proof is made.

Beets done — a kitchen knife, the very kitchen knife we met in paragraph five, above, sharpened by the intervening words, pierces easily to the center of the beet. I’m off to supper.