I resigned from my University of New Mexico position a few months ago. Around the same time as my resignation I released a new album of music WINDING THROUGH THE MILKY WAY. Funny how much attention I've received over the resignation. Many have emailed or called, in solidarity, and wanting to know the story. As for the music, the CD is making it's way, huffing and puffing over the boulders of the native music police who kicked the CD out of the Grammy native category. Apparently I don't have enough native flute or powwow for it to qualify. Hey, the Creeks were there when jazz was invented!! And, by the way, the album has more then the required percentage to qualify as a native album, including flutes, Mvskoke language, etc. I guess there's sort of a blood quantum thing going on here for music,too..
(You can buy it NOW for Christmas on Paypal. I'll even send it Priority Mail and sign!)
Goes to show you however, how much we humans are drawn to controversy, to flashy story. Must have sex, betrayal, and people we know, or think we know and a peaks of highs and lows. Alexie knows this. It's an element of his success.
And almost to the day of my resignation I got word that I had been chosen for a Rasmuson USA Artists Fellowship. What a gift! It will help me live for a year, without university pay. And will help fund a writing/music workshop for Mvskoke students next spring or summer. At the same time, I was turned down for three proposals, including one I sent in to a national native organization. One of the reasons I was rejected was because my creative work, the panel decided, "was not the highest artistic quality" (This particular note is for the friend who was surprised I got rejected for anything. Yes, I have and do. As I've said, after I've been introduced by a long list of accolades, that my list of failures is much much longer.)
Because I keep getting inquiries, here's my version of what happened: a UNM female creative writing poetry professor colleague (not Diane Thiel) was discovered selling phone sex on a website with female students, all in s and m undress, complete with accoutrements and accompanying demeaning dominatrix language. She denied there was a site and proceeded to attack the creative writing program director for slander. The site in question was uncovered in internet archives after it had been quickly taken down. The university legal counsel came to the conclusion that all involved were consenting adults, even though the students were taking classes from the professor at the time of the interactions. The investigation became a castigation of the creative writing director whose credentials and contributions to the university were stellar. Most of the creative writing faculty and many of the English Department were surprised and stunned at the turn of events. Our concerns for the students were not addressed. The sex site was actually only a small part of the problem. We took the case, level by level, up the ladder of the university hierarchy to get the situation evaluated by the faculty ethics committee. We were refused, despite the many policies in place to address the behavior. We were then called "troublemakers" and those of us most outspoken suffered direct retaliation. The creative writing program director was forced from her position. Against a majority vote the then then department chair appointed someone, against our collective will to direct the program. At the beginning of fall 2008 the President of the university basically cleared the faculty member for teaching. There was no reprimand. We were told we had to continue to work with her. I hear that the poetry professor is quite proud of her "win".
I travel all over the country and I am contacted by many students who want to come and study with me and others of the mostly fine faculty in the writing program at UNM. I could no longer recommend the creative writing program. It was painful to come to this conclusion. I loved the program and my students. I had to walk away.
So there it is. All parties weren't served. Nothing was put to rest. And because there are complex reasons and forces behind everything, I chose to think that I needed to leave, so that I could turn my full attention to my creative work.
And I'm working to get the CD out there. I need a radio station in every state who will interview me and play the album. The last interview was with KAOS Radio at Evergreen College in Washington State. Please email me with any suggestions. Many of the songs will be in my one woman show, Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light, that opens in March at the Well Fargo Theater in L.A..
Come and see me there! And don't be shy. Come up and say hello. It matters.