Looking for (some of) My Roots in Minneapolis

"downtown minneapolis at sunrise, good friday," by bikini sleepshirt, via Flickr, see CC license belowMmmm. My first foray into truly mobile computing. Writing this post as I ride shotgun in a little Honda fit on I-94 through southern Minnesota to this year’s RSA Conference in Minneapolis.

I’m sort of returning to my home region. I grew up in a small town on the North Dakota/Minnesota border: Wahpeton/Breckenridge. A pretty great place to be from, actually. About 45 miles south of Fargo/Moorhead. I’m not exactly feeling nostalgic. But maybe a little. Minneapolis was where we would go to watch concerts (Toad the Wet Sprocket, Sheryl Crow, Hootie and the Blowfish… Wow, that’s embarrassing), see decent art (the Walker Art Gallery and the Minneapolis Institute of Art are both pretty amazing), and watch the Twins and Vikings play (only once each!).

But Minneapolis/St. Paul holds another place in my heart. It’s where I attended the Summer Mathematics Institute at Macalaster (sp?) college in St. Paul. For two different summers. Three weeks each time. Basically, the state teachers’ association and state legislature funded a program to host (fully-paid, even!) fifty young mathematicians from around the state. I’m not sure how rigorous the selection process was, but it’s truly amazing to see what these folks have grown up to do with their lives. I’m pretty sure part of the reason I was chosen (we all applied during our high school freshman year, and attended that summer) because I was from a very rural area and I had pretty strong recommendations. I’m digressing a bit here.

To my point… Freshly home from what I felt was a phenomenally exciting Computers & Writing Conference, I’m getting more and more comfortable identifying myself as working primarily within that part of our discipline. It’s been a circuitous route. Look way back to those two summers when I self-identified–and actually did the work of–a young mathematician, I can see that mathematics, patterns, and computers have always been a part of my interests. My first two majors at North Dakota State, Architecture and Mathematics, were both relatively obvious. But then I switched to English. Fancied myself a poet. But again, I actually did the work of being a poet–self-publishing a couple chapbooks, working intimately with a prolific and challenging writers group, and organizing several readings for the four of us. That sent me off to get my Masters in Creative Writing from the U of Colorado, Boulder. Even in Boulder, I always maintained a close attention to the contemporary formalists and wrote dozens of (bad) sestinas, sonnets, villanelles, and other metrical exercises. Then my interests shifted to pottery. I apprenticed for a couple of years with a potter in Boulder, before opening my own studio nearby. But my interests were always focused on the processes of production, and the pacing of multiple simultaneous production elements that had to work in concert with each other. And the mathematics and chemistry of the glaze kitchen were also some of my favorite parts of the studio. To help supplement my income, I also designed websites and did a little freelance writing. I was a decent potter, decent writer, decent designer, but a bad business man. Yikes.

Eventually, I moved to Kentucky to mine databases for my brother’s business. That was good work, but it dried up pretty quickly (not because of tension with my bro, though). And throughout all of these changes in day-job and location, I always maintained a presence as a writing teacher. From my last three years as North Dakota State as a writing tutor and instructor, all the way up to now, I’ve always been a writing teacher. And the other thread that has followed has been a strong interest in numbers, computers, and design. I don’t know where these interests came from. But they seem to have always been there.

And now, here I am, writing an entry for a blog that I’ve slowly been cultivating into something I can proud of. On my laptop. On the way to a rhetoric conference. And now, as I consider the projects of which I’m a part, I can see just how important this work as become to me. Digital scholarly publication. The future of books in our discipline. A blog for an up-and-coming digital press. Editing work on a collection of born-digital scholarship.

The body of work so far is meager, and mostly in-progress. That’s fine. I guess I just wanted to take this post, and consider how my current self has emerged from the lives I’ve lived before this one.

image: “downtown minneapolis at sunrise, good friday,” by bikini sleepshirt, via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license