Found out today that my plan for world domination has come to fruition. I’m pretty sure the planet isn’t ready.
That is all.
Found out today that my plan for world domination has come to fruition. I’m pretty sure the planet isn’t ready.
That is all.
Well it’s over. The glorious, frustrating, and rejuvenating AWP 2013 conference has come to its close. This AWP has probably been my favorite as far as conference enjoyment is concerned. Every panel I sat in on was fantastic. I, once again, am leaving Boston with motivation and energy to go hard or go home in regards to my tenure track professor goal. I am even more sure that I need to get the hell out of teaching high school, because I feel more at home with the AWP crowd, despite my inability to bond with them, than I do anywhere else.
It is so strange because as Missy and I search the conference for the worst and best hair and outfits, I know we both find ourselves not wanting to be anywhere else. We might mock the pretentious and sometimes overly enthusiastic moderators (was anyone else witness to the moderating train wreck at the Amy Bloom-Richard Russo reading?), but let’s be honest, we wouldn’t mind moderating such a great pair of writers. Albeit, I don’t know if we would be as star struck as the moderator seemed to be. At the end of a day of conferencing, it seems necessary to seek other Bostonian neighborhoods in order to escape the AWPers; however, the next day we return for more.
I perused my old posts for 2012 looking for a post on AWP and realized that I hadn’t written about my Chicago experience. While Missy and I had a great time exploring the city, I found the conference to be a very difficult experience. I hadn’t gotten anything published in 2012, I hated (and still do) my job, and it seemed like everyone around me at the conference was doing something awesome. So and so had gotten blah blah blah to write a blurb for their book, this press had just published whoever’s novel, and so and so was on a panel with yada yada seemed to be the only kinds of conversations I heard. While I can truly say, I was not jealous that these strangers had success, I was deeply upset with myself for my lack of effort and very epic failure.
This year however, it didn’t seem as tough to hear the same exact conversations knowing that the editor of one of my pieces was sitting at a table at the book fair. It wasn’t as tough knowing that this year (and it’s early March) I have done more writing than I did all of last year. I have also submitted more work this year that I have ever in writing career. That feels good–okay it feels awesome. It’s nice to know my s*$& is coming together.
I’m not saying things are peachy in my world, but they seem to be looking up. It’s like I’m failing better, so I’ll just put that in my pocket. If I can keep it up, AWP may actually start feeling good and less painful. Last year, I hit bottom and while I’m by no means close to the top, I am at least starting to get glimpses of sun.
Well, Beantown is but a few hours away. Firstly, the American history nut is so excited. And my inner Thoreau is pleased to finally be able to visit Walden Pond. I’m also excited about the conference. I’ve already seen several AWP-types at the airport discussing their novel and dossier. Oh brother.
Regardless, I’m pumped.
Well, things have settled down over here. I still can’t believe that when I get out of work I can’t call my mother, but it’s starting to become a part of my routine, so I guess that’s good. I’m grateful that AWP is this week because AWP is always the best distraction. Husband’s work gets crazy this time a year, and he’s gone a lot. AWP is a nice transition/distraction to the craziness.
I’ve been submitting my work these past two months and have already submitted for March. I have an essay I’m working on for the end of March, so hopefully I’ll have a few new publications soon. I was hoping February would be as successful as January. The first place I sent something to repsonded almost immediately (like four days) and so I January was a great way to kick of the year. Tenure track resume by October. That is goal.
I’m looking forward to Boston. I’ve never been and am an American literature nut so it’s fun to think I’ll be in a city that discuss so often when I teach.
I love AWP; it’s always such a rejuvenating experience. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the bullshit of teaching high school and forget that I’m actually writer. It’s been my mission this year to reclaim my inner artist. I told my students today that I was writer first (which was dumb because they are sixteen and don’t get it and one kid said, “you can’t be a writer, you’re not published.” It felt good to inform said student that I was, in fact, published. I wanted to add, “you little s*&!, but I do need the job to pay my bills. That shut the kid up.) I don’t want to be a bad, or even mediocre teacher, but my end goal is not high school. It’s college-level and not community college, but four-year university.
Husband is always reminding me to not settle in my career. I’m glad I have his support. He understands that putting forth tons of effort into a job like teaching is not beneficial. It’s all about the writing.
I’ll try to post from Boston this week. I wonder how many of you readers will be there. Maybe you’ll start up a random conversation with me (I’m very much a talker) and not even realize it’s me.
See you in Boston.
It’s here! I’ve been off for about two weeks now and have been enjoying every minute.
Currently, I’m catching up on the classics that I should have read in high school but never did.
The first book on the list is The Great Gatsby. How I managed to get through honors and AP level high school English classes, college as an English major, and an MFA in creative writing with 48 literature credit hours having not read this book kind of blows my mind. Currently, the Kindle says I’m 52% of the way through. It’s pretty solid. Not sure what all the hype is about, but I’m not done reading it yet. I’m hoping once I’m done (hopefully by tomorrow or the next day) I’ll be able to understand what the hell all the literature nerds are talking about.
This summer is my first summer where I’m not working. I’ve been writing and reading for most of it and catching up on some TV shows that I’ve heard so much about. I did realize today that I have been watching way too much TV and have decided that starting on Monday I will only allow myself TV time after 4 or 5 pm.
I’ve also been spending the past week or two trying to get back into shape. Before the wedding, I was training for a half marathon and was in the best shape of my life. Even though I was not at my thinnest, I still was able to run 6 to 8 miles without stopping. Since the wedding, I have gained about 15 pounds (yeah I know, I’m disgusting) and can barely run 1 mile. It’s awful. I refuse to be this fat person. I’m completely appalled by my lack of care for myself and my appearance. What is frightening is that I haven’t really changed my eating habits, I simply took a too long break from exercise.
I’m definitely one of those people who will have to workout 5 days a week for 1 hour until they die if they want to maintain a healthy weight. This sucks because I don’t love exercise, but I also don’t love being the heaviest I’ve ever been. Currently, I don’t fit into any of my clothes. I look gross. It’s amazing that Husband is even attracted to me.
Not to mention, my 10 year high school reunion is this September. I swear I’m more motivated by this reunion than I was by my wedding to look good. Throughout high school I was always the dumpy, fat, nerdy older sister to one of the hottest girls at school, and I’m still self conscious about it. It would be pretty awesome to roll up in September looking like I did when I was in college–thin and fit.
This, of course, will depend completely on my focus. Frankly, my motivation to do more reading, writing, and exercise will also depend on whether I can kick my TV addcition. Today, I debated starting a new series on Netflix but decided to knock back some more reading.
How is your summer going fellow educators? Any fun plans? What do you do make it through the summer without going crazy?
Last week I started teaching an excerpt Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. I’m not a huge fan of this time period of literature, and we had already read a chunk of Beowulf and a chunk of the Canterbury Tales so the thought of reading another work out loud was making crazy. Like any good English teacher I allowed for my students to use the last ten minutes of class to read quietly. I sat down at my desk and started doing work. Not even five seconds later I started to hear talking. I looked up and my students were reading the story to each other out loud.
I almost fainted.
I was almost afraid to say something to them because I was worried that if I did the behavior would stop. They’d just start talking high school nonsense. I did tell them that I was very pleased and reinforced the good behavior. This of course didn’t work because this was the same class that a week ago all needed hall passes to the library because they hadn’t printed out their papers (something they also did this Thursday). I wonder if I can take credit for this behavior, both the good and bad. I doubt it. The good behavior was a case of straight up self motivation. I love it. It was the first time since school started that I felt happy to be in a classroom. Of course, this all went out the window on Thursday when every single one of my classes were the classes from hell. Sometimes, I think there is something in the water.
Watching my students break into little groups to get their work done and then actually doing it made me wonder why older people (I guiltily admit I sometimes do this) talk so much smack about the younger generation. While my students are not as motivated and disciplined and academic as I’d like, on occasion they show me that the potential is there. The possibility that when the world is in their hands they won’t disappoint us.
I will admit that I did tell my students, when they didn’t come to my class prepared, that I feared for my future as they would be the generation that would responsible for taking care of mine. Seriously, how do you not come to English class without a pen and paper? and how do you not get your crap printed when you’ve been reminded for a week? and why do you complain when you’re given a writing assignment in a writing class? Seriously?
God-willing the students will continue to surprise me (in good ways). I know I’m not built to teach high school, but there are days when it’s not all bad.
Have your students ever surprised you?
Well, the Fall semester is in full swing. We’ve had our first rained out home football game, I’ve had to rearrange the seating charts in all three classes, and I’ve already written five referrals. Welcome to secondary education.
When school started I told my students my year’s goal was to not write one referral. Well that was shot straight to hell when the principal announced that every time a student is late they get a referral. Very nice. Thank you first block.
Overall, things are good at the new school. The faculty is made up of predominately young teachers. This means there are very few teachers with that negative attitude where they are constantly bitching about the current state of education. While there always teachers that bitch about students and how awful teenagers are, there aren’t as many at my school. Most of the teachers don’t complain, they are, instead, proactive. It’s a very nice, positive change from the adjunct office.
I am struggling to adjust to things like hall passes, bells, and the PA system. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Teachers, please excuse this interruption,” I’d be rich. It’s weird being interrupted while teaching by the administration, the phone in my classroom ringing, and the bell. I don’t really like that aspect of it, especially since educators repeatedly hear “The time in the classroom is sacred.” I don’t see priests, pastors, and ministers being interrupted. Church is sacred. Right? I’m also not accustomed to students trying to talk over me and all the meetings and rules. Sometimes I forget they are teenagers and get really irratated during discussion when they are talking over me and each other.
In this economy, however, I’m grateful to have something steady. I started working towards to my teaching license so that I can have high school teaching to fall back on. Still, high school is definitely not the end goal. It’s just not stimulating enough for me. I need higher level thinkers to talk to daily. High schoolers just aren’t there yet.
As you know, I feel very strongly that things happen for a reason. I’m pretty sure I’m teaching high school because I finally have some time to write. My life is slowly stabilizing, and it’s time to publish the crap out of my writing.
I am busy as hell. I’m currently working as band staff, am a co-sponser of the creative writing club, and am training for a half marathon–not to mention, anything and all things wedding related. I like being busy. When I’m not busy, I don’t do anything. I’m totally unproductive. It’s awful. One of my best and favorite girlfriends from grad school and I have decided to begin exchanging writing to each other starting this month. I’m so grateful for this because 1) She is brilliant 2)I have someone to be accountable to 3) I have been itching for some feedback. Good feedback.
So far the energy for this school year feels right. I feel good.
It’s going to be a great year.
I was mentally shopping for a new wardrobe, specifically some fabulous shoes, when I called HR. I called because I’m terribly impatient, and I wanted to know what the deal was. Where was my contract? What was I going to get paid? When was orientation?
I should mention I don’t have a teaching license. For the past three-four years I’ve been putting off getting my license. It’s probably because I want to be a tenure-track professor, but I’m not. I was a lowly adjunct. Getting a license has been a very low on my list of priorities, writing and getting full-time work has been a first (and I guess the wedding planning). However, I am pretty specialized in the subject of writing and literature, more so than necessary to teach high school. Right?
For a week I was jerked around by HR. I couldn’t get them on the phone and when I did no one could answer my questions. The thing is, I don’t give up that easily. I finally got my recruiter on the phone after three emails, two voicemails, and at least three messages with secretaries. I told you, I’m a bit of a psycho.
“Hi, this is One Mean MFA, I emailed about my hiring and lateral entry status.”
“Oh, yes, hi.”
“Hi, I’m really sorry. I’m sure all my calls and emails are driving you crazy.”
“Well….” this was followed by an awkward laugh.
“I did email you back.”
“You did? I never got it?”
“Yep, my sent messages confirms it.” Well, my freakin’ inbox is empty, so you’re a liar.
“Hmmm, I don’t see anything here.”
“Well after looking at your transcripts, it’s clear you’re not eligible for lateral entry.”
“You’re GPA is too low.”
“How is that possible?”
What the hell?
Turns out I had accidentally sent transcripts from undergrad, forgetting I’d taken a chemistry class that I’d failed during undergrad that I had intended on transferring. Ah how quickly I had repressed my pre-med adventures and failures. Pre-med. What the hell was I thinking. Anyway, the transcript didn’t have anything from my master’s degree.
So, I dropped 40 bucks and had my transcripts from grad school sent to me instead of HR as instructed. I had them sent to me so I could have them scanned at Staples to then email them to HR. What a clusterf*#&.
Two days later I actually received a call from HR.
“One Mean MFA?”
“Yes, this is she.”
“I have [insert generic name of HR staff person here] on the line. I’m going to transfer you so she can explain your lateral entry status.”
Immediately I knew something was wrong. Had everything been okay, I would have simply been told that I was good to go and been given further instruction. Instead, I was being transferred to some lady who was about to tell me I didn’t have a Goddamn job.
“One Mean MFA?”
“Unfortunately you’re not approved for lateral entry.”
“What?” I remember standing in my kitchen in my workout clothes. I had just come back from a run.
“You’re missing classes and aren’t qualified to teach high school English.”
“How is that possible? I have a master’s degree.” I couldn’t breathe and started shaking.
“The state requirements changed July 1st, lateral entry applicants teaching English are required to have six credit hours of grammar, six credit hours of linguistics, six credit hours of British Lit, six credit hours of American Lit, six credit hours of journalism….” she just kept listing all these classes: adolescent lit, child developement, and on and on. Seriously, who takes six hours of flippin’ grammar.
“But…” I held onto the kitchen counter, “this is so upsetting.”
She kept talking but all I kept saying was, “This is just so upsetting. I can’t believe it.”
The HR rep on the phone was cold and didn’t even say sorry for the misunderstanding. I even went on about how the state and county’s website had not listed those changes even though almost a month had passed.
“Well, what are you going to do? That’s life.” It was the only words that I could think of to end the phone call.
The phone call ended, and I dropped to the ground shaking.
The End of the Hunt: The Conclusion will be up soon. Thanks for hanging on and reading on.
Recently, I wrote about how I was looking for work outside of education.
The 2010-2011 year has been a tough one on me. Between finishing my M.F.A., teaching high school, then being an adjunct there has been a lot of crying, crisis, and questioning. I decided in March that I wasn’t going to settle for adjuncting and began applying for full-time jobs in education and publishing. The fifty mile radius was hunted and conquered. If there was a job I was qualified for, a cover letter was written and resume altered. This was no joke.
By June, when my workshop ended, I had pretty much given up on a career in education and was actually excited about a possible career change. The thought of not grading badly written papers and reading annoying student emails made me hungry for work in copy editing, copy writing, whatever. I’d be able to leave my work at work, plan the wedding, and train for the half-marathon in November–the positive energy was flowing.
By the end of July, I had applied for unemployment, and things were not looking good. My lack of experience outside of the classroom and the job market left me feeling discouraged. What the hell? Why did I go to school for all those years? I wanted a full-time job, with benefits. No matter what.
I had applied to any, if not all, full-time college level teaching jobs I was qualified for. I even applied for a full-time lecturer position at the school I was adjucting with. I was told that while I was qualified, I needed a few more semesters of teaching “under my belt” before they would call me in for an interview. Apparently going into my fifth year of teaching wasn’t enough experience to be interviewed. They instead hired an adjunct with no publications but ten years of adjuncting experience. But, I digress. The rejection letters kept coming from the colleges. It was time to cave in and apply at the high school level. Because I am without a teaching license I wasn’t very confident. Like most school districts in the country, my area had recently closed down schools and let hundreds of teachers go, only to get back a budget with the funding to rehire some these teachers; many with licenses.
Still, full-time with benefits and a killer schedule was too appealing. With the wedding coming up, the housing market being a buyer’s market, and being sick of being poor, teaching high school didn’t sound like such a terrible pathway. So, I applied. I emailed principals my cover letter and resume. Drove, sometimes over an hour, to drop off cover letters and resumes. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m an aggressive person. When I want something I get it, no matter how long it takes. Mark my words, I will be hired as a tenure track professor. It’s going to happen. I can see it. The visualization has happened. I pound the pavement. Not to mention being aggressive is necessary because the market blows and getting unemployment is demoralizing and depressing. The thought of the government taking care of me, helping me with my rent and groceries– frankly, I’m ashamed. I may be the first in my family to earn their master’s degree, but I’m also the first to receive unemployment. Not something to be so proud of.
Within two weeks of hardcore applying and pavement pounding, I was called in for two interviews. The interviews were scheduled the same day FH and I were headed out for vacation. I had to interview, pack, then head for the airport.
The first interview was for a position teaching IB (International Baccalaureate). I’ve taught IB before and it’s wonderful. It’s college level teaching, but with the high school atmosphere. It’s great. The school, however was absorbing more than half their student population because of recent school closings.
The interview went well. I nailed it. I was funny, passionate, and hungry for work. An hour later I was sitting in the another interview. So, you know how during an interview when the person running the interview starts telling you about the job, the company, and themselves? Okay, imagine this. Do you find yourself in an out-of-body experience? Well, the principal, starting discussing his pedagogical theories on education and how he ran the school elaborating on pedagogy, leadership philosophies, PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities) and my thoughts were as follows.
This is not going well.
I hope I have time to pack.
Why are their so many acronyms in education. PLC, IEP, ESOL, ESE, PEP, W.T.F?
Wait, did he just ask me a question?
Snap out of it.
So, after adamantly explaining why I was most comfortable teaching seniors, the principal said, “Well OMMFA, you are defitinely one of our top canditates.
“Oh, wow. Great.”
“Although,” awesome, here it comes, “you don’t have a license and hiring a non-licesed teacher can be a nightmare.” He stopped. “Are you planning on staying in the area?”
“Well, I am getting married, but if it doesn’t work out…” Laughter. Sometimes I think I’m a stand-up comic. I live to make jokes and make people laugh. The thing is, I’m not so funny.
“Okay then, we’ll be in touch.”
Moments later I was in the car texting FH when…
“OMMFA, it’s B—-” I was in the parking lot. I must have left something in the office.
“So, we really like you. Think you’re terrific, and would like to recommend you for the position.”
“Oh wow.” Wait a second. “To teach seniors?”
“Well, this is great, but can I think about it?”
“Of course, we’re confident the other school is going to call you too, but we want you here.”
“Thank you so much. I will let you know in a few days.”
By the time FH and I were in the air, headed for vacation the following had happened.
I called my mom, dad, and FH for advice.
Cried for joy.
Spoke to the vice principal who’d sat in the interview. VP called to reassure me I’d be teaching seniors, if I accepted the position.
Got a call from HR offering me the position.
We landed. I was finally employed.
Full-time with benefits! I could finally afford a shopping spree! New shoes!
When we returned from vacation I found out the shoes would have to wait.
Part 2 should be up in a few days.
For months I’ve been mentally preparing myself to revise my novel. It’s sitting there on my flash drive, backed up in my email, and in my Dropbox account. I’ve been trying to prepare myself to sit down, reread it, and finally decide what the hell I need to do to it. When I finished it and had people read it, I was told “the skeleton is there, you just have to flesh it out.” It’s historical fiction and I don’t think I’ve done enough research, and I feel like I don’t know the right details to make it strong. To make it believable. To make it good.
I should mention my mother said it was “alright.” While I’m blessed to have a mother who is honest, oftentimes brutally so (seriously who tells their kid their novel is okay, that’s messed up right?), it still hurt to hear. When I defended it to my thesis committee, I felt that they didn’t think it was literary enough and found it to be more of a genre piece. This was also painful. There is an element of a “love story” in it, and when I was told it was “marketable” it wasn’t in a small-press-get-recongized-for-being-profound way, it was more of a stay-at-home-mothers-would-appreciate-it way. Although Nick Sparks tapped that market, so yeah I wouldn’t mind owning a boat and not being in debt. I think love stories scare professors or something. There is definitely a danger to play with cliches. While I wasn’t expecting my committee to tell me I was the next Aimee Bender, I did feel like I walked away having disappointed TC and my committee and still not understanding what the eff literary even means. Frankly, by the time the process was done I was so over it. I wanted to chuck it and never look at it again. I was told by FH, TC, and my mother that I held back. Held back from what? What am I so scared of?
Now that some time (okay too much time) has passed I think my eyes will be fresh, and I can look at it less critically. I know what needs to be done. The arc is there. For the most part the novel needs to be filled in. It covers a very long period of time and there are gaps in time that don’t necessarily need to be covered but addressed, and there are storylines and details that need developing. I also need to do some major research. I suck and hate research. Research is why I will die when I decide to finally get my PhD. Seriously. I hate research. My future dissertation is going to be my death. I’ll be buried under books about Beckett or Borges or God knows who else unable to breathe shouting, “How am I not myself?”* This is how I envision my death. At least there are books involved.
As of right now, the novel is about 200 pages long, maybe a little less. When I started the project and presented it to TC, I was told I was writing a 500 page novel. I laughed and told TC that I was not. I’m sure when I start rereading it I will finally realize TC was right. I’ll have to finally dig deep and pump out another 300 pages. Although a page a day is less than a year of writing. That’s not so bad.
The past couple years I have been really struggling with my fiction. My non-fiction is not an issue. I feel very comfortable writing about myself. Possibly because I’m a narcissistic, selfish bitch (it’s true readers, and you know it) and because writing about myself and my family is something I’m very comfortable with. For years I’ve been saying my family could be the next Kardashians, only likable in our craziness. Not to mention, watching rich people be crazy is annoying. Watching real people be crazy, that’s entertaining. My issue is with my fiction. I have hit a road block. I have a short story sitting on my computer that I have no clue what do with. I don’t even know if I’m halfway through with it. I don’t know if it might be part of a novel. I just don’t know.
There is some strong writing there, I think. I have the horrible habit of reading my writing and wanting to rewrite it immediately after it’s been processed by my brain. I’m so self-conscious. I think it all sucks. Frankly, when go through some of these blog posts I wonder why some of you come back for more. I’m grateful that you do. I don’t tell great stories like Wide Lawns does. Now that girl can write. I feel like I don’t have any ideas. None. Zip. It’s an empty space up there.
For sure my fiction is suffering because I’m not reading enough of it. I’ve been trying to get through some short stories and I’ve finally sat down with the Marquez. I’m also reading a book about running because I’m training for a half marathon (got to get skinny for the wedding). I’m hoping that as life begins to stabilize I’ll be able to get some fiction going. Actually, screw that. I’m not going to hope. I’m going to do. I think feeling ready to revise the novel is a big step for me. Huge. Lately I’ve been dreaming about my characters, worrying that they are lonely in the world I’ve created for them. I swear those suckers are alive sometimes.
After some small errands and a fierce workout I’ll sit down and finally start digging in. I’m scared to death I’m going to want to throw it in my fireplace. Good thing it’s hot as hell outside.
Why is revision so effing scary?
*If you didn’t get this I Heart Huckabee reference hurry up and put that movie in your Netflix queue. Seriously. Do it.