Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

Three quick things.
cover of Ilana M. Blumberg's "Open Your Hand"
1. As I’ve suggested on my page of “brief book reviews,” I’m massively impressed by one of my recent reads, Ilana M. Blumberg’s Open Your Hand: Teaching as a Jew, Teaching as an American (Rutgers University Press, 2018). Yes, the subtitle is what drew me to this one initially (and I’m grateful to the publisher for the review copy). But at its heart, “teaching” itself is what this extraordinary memoir of the author’s experiences in a variety of settings, with a variety of students (early-elementary-age, middle-school, undergraduate, and graduate-level) has made me think about most: what makes for good teaching—and good learning. The more I think about it, too, the more I realize that another subtitle contender could be “teaching as a writer, teaching as a reader—and teaching as a mensch.”

2. Reminder: the December issue of The Practicing Writer will be sent out soon. Along with a fresh helping of  calls and competitions—none of them charging fees to submit/enter, and all of them offering cash payment/prizes—this issue will also feature what has come to be an annual year-end feature: book recommendations from and for practicing writers. Perfect as you work on those lists of books to give others–or yourself–at holiday time.) Subscribe (if you haven’t already) and be sure to give the current (November) issue a final look for opportunities that are still open.

3. This week brought the sad news of the passing of poet and memoirist Meena Alexander. We hadn’t been in touch for a number of years, but I had the happy experience of discovering her work, meeting her, and writing a profile of her about a decade ago when I was working at The City University of New York, where she was a Distinguished Professor. My condolences to her family and friends.