Rabbit Holes and the Art of Self-Loathing

If ever you need someone to go down a rabbit hole of hypothetical situations with you, I’m your gal.

Seven months ago I left my full-time high school teaching job to focus on my writing and see what the big, beautiful world had to offer me. Since I’ve done some freelance writing, and I’m teaching part-time online (which I was doing while I was teaching full-time), and I’m writing every day. It’s been pretty glorious.

I’ve also been applying for jobs in academia because who doesn’t love vacillating between self-loathing and imposter syndrome? While, for the most part, it’s been a great 7 months of writing and being so much present with my husband and kiddo, applying for jobs in academia is draining. It’s an emotional exercise in dreaming of the perfect syllabi with the perfect department with the perfect office at the perfect school. The key word being dreaming because I’m fully aware of the politics and bullshit that are part of any institution. I worked in a public high school for a large urban district in a state (like most) that continues to devalue public education.

In addition, I’m getting older. I’m not old by any stretch, but folks, I’m not 25 anymore. My ovaries are aging and my mother passed away at 58 so I’m fully aware of my fucking mortality. I’m ready to have another kid and give my kiddo a sibling to torment and bond with. I’m worried that I’ve waited too long to have baby number two. Will my kids be too far apart in age? Will they even like each other? Will I be changing diapers well into my forties at this rate? Will having another kid mean closing the door on a job in academia?

There is so much writing about the challenges of working motherhood, these challenges are amplified when the pressure of tenure is put on the table. Of course, this means I’m in a situation where tenure is even a possibility, and as the husband reminds me (in his best effort to keep grounded in reality and away from the hypothetical) I haven’t gotten any phone calls for interviews in all my years applying.

I say this with the full knowledge that you, readers, will now know how fucking pathetic I am and that maybe I’m reaching too far. Like that academic job is not like that bag of chocolate chips in the cabinet that can be reached with a pair of tongs while standing on my tip toes. No, it’s like a cobweb on a vaulted ceiling that not even the vacuum attachment can reach if I’m standing on a ladder. If that is the case, if my publications and CV are too pithy for me to reach my “dream” job in academia, what in the fucking hell am I doing waiting to have more children? Am I waiting so that they are more at risk for disorders or am I waiting so that my pregnancy will be a high risk one?

When I mention these things, Husband gets frustrated with me (and rightly so). How can you talk sense to someone living in hypotheticals? But. And I say this “but” loudly, there is a lot of scientific research to support these concerns of mine. Still, my vanity and pride get the best of me and I think, “This is the year I get the TT job. This year. Professor One Mean MFA. That’s me!”

Regardless of what I decide to do, and readers, I’m leaning towards the baby because that’s a real door that closes for women despite advances in modern science, I’m feeling screwed either way. If I am lucky enough to get a job interview, I’ll be stressing out about traveling and hiding a baby bump. If I don’t get a job interview, I’ll be depressed because yet another academic year will have passed where my peers will have rejected with me a resounding “No.” Sometimes, I worry I’ll get back a rejection letter that reads in the same tone as Regina George telling Gretchen Weiners to “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen.”

I know it’s all foolish thinking and I should follow my husband’s advice. He says, “Why not just work hard today. Got to sleep and try to do that again tomorrow.” He’s so good at being present. I, on the other hand, am sinking down a rabbit hole Alice in Wonderland-style, getting nowhere.

Look, I know that failure and rejection are an important part of this writing and academic world. I fucking get it. Mostly, I’m just tired and worried, nay panicked, and confident that whichever choice I make and whatever ends up happening, I’ll be wondering how it would have turned out on the other side of the looking glass.



The G-ddam Academic Market

shield-1020318_1280When I graduated with my MFA in 2010, I thought I had gone on “the market.” Oh how I lied to myself. I finished my MFA and eagerly, nay, foolishly took two positions at two different schools an hour away from each other as an adjunct. I spent most of my time that fall and again that spring driving back and forth from campus to campus to make about $10,000 for the year. Yes, I know my tale is one the media has begun to tell. NPR did a story or two about it. The Chronicle has done great coverage of the issue of the adjunct. Also Dr. Karen L. L. Kelsky has done excellent work helping graduate students find the elusive tenure track positions on her blog, The Professor is In. If you haven’t read her book of the same title, for goodness sake, buy yourself a copy and do yourself the favor. Anyway, back to my sad story of my adjuncting experience.

When I graduated, I was so eager to get to work. I thought being an adjunct might give me some necessary experience to be a professor, despite my grad school professors warning me against it. I also had taught high school before being a TA and had gotten the taste of teaching college students and didn’t want to go back to parent emails and the bureaucratic bullshit of teaching high school. I didn’t want to join a profession that was on the downslide. A profession constantly being vilified in the media? No thank you!

Once I got engaged, shit changed. I wanted to get a little more settled. I wanted a job where I didn’t have to drive back and forth across my state to be living under the poverty line.  I wanted health insurance, not necessarily because I am unhealthy–I’m not–I knew I wanted children and those little things are expensive and impossible to care for without health insurance. As a side note, Mini-OneMean recently ran into a bookcase at daycare (also expensive) and had to go to the Emergency Room. There were no stitches needed just tape and glue to close the cut. This set my little family back $700. Yes, you read that correctly, $700 dollars. When my appendix ruptured–there’s a fun story I’ll eventually type out for you all, readers–it cost about $4000 bucks with the insurance. Needless to say, my move to teaching high school and making a salary and having insurance was a the fiscally responsible one.

The issue, of course, then became I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t doing the one thing I was an expert on. Instead I was spending an exceedingly large amount of my time after school working on crap that was not nourishing and not moving me in the direction of that elusive tenure track job. Though I have been teaching high school, I have made it a point to stay abreast and relevant in my field as an academic. I’ve been presenting at conferences and have continued to attend the AWP conference, despite not being a professor at a college or university. It was (is) important to me to continue to be present as an “academic.” I even wrote sporadically. I wrote enough to keep getting published, though not nearly enough, and I don’t have a book or chapbook or anything big enough to get me an interview. At least this is my theory and one that the Husband has said is very likely the reason I have not received a phone call for an interview.

My friends in academia, one in particular who is a department chair, has said my job documents are great. My friend has gone above and beyond to help me refine my job documents, even looking at ads, sending me ads, and telling me when a job is a long shot or to apply for certain jobs because I’m definitely qualified. Still, my phone doesn’t ring, I’ve gotten no interviews, and I’ve been applying for jobs since October. People, it is JULY.

Since summer began, I have had this hope that any day now, I’ll be emailing my high school to tell them I won’t be returning in August. I have growing anxiety about telling my school, a workplace that has been pretty good to me, that I won’t be back. Sorry (not sorry) the school year is starting and you need find my replacement because no parent wants a substitute teacher in their kid’s English class. I have wonderful coworkers and even though I bitch about them, pretty wonderful students. Because of my seniority, I teach all the classes I want to teach. It’s not a bad gig given the circumstances. While I wouldn’t hesitate to take a college job, even if that meant leaving the first day of school for my high school students, I would feel so terrible about it. I don’t know why I’m worrying about this hypothetical scenario given the lack of evidence that it will happen (i.e. no interviews), but I am. I would hate to burn a bridge that has kept me out of some dangerous waters.

Here’s the thing though, since summer began, Mini-One Mean has been going to daycare. I drop the little kid off, drive home, and WRITE. It’s been glorious. I’m writing and submitting and applying for college jobs. Yesterday, however, as I wound down my work and realized I had spend nearly 6 hours working on job applications and not on writing, I became extremely discouraged. After nearly 40 job applications–17 just this month–I have heard silence. Yesterday, I even said the rosary for the first time since my mother died–3 years. I wept in my car as I said my prayers, basically begging God to get me through this job search.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I was told that some people apply to 200 jobs only to get nothing. I’m blessed to be employed and to be employed at a place that isn’t hell. It just feels a lot like a purgatory right now. I’m waiting and waiting and waiting. My confidence is totally shot, but on the upside, I’ve done more writing this summer than I have since grade school, and I’m exercising, and I’m happy(ish). I am worried that come this October I’ll be back on the market again, and I wonder how many more years I will put myself through this process before resigning and accepting that I will teach high school until I retire.

This thought, this “Plan B: High School Teacher” is not okay with me. The Husband is always saying you can’t have a Plan B, only a Plan A because then you give up on Plan A. I definitely and beginning to feel the pressure of this. It’s like be a professor or bust! I would hate to end up settling into this profession and have my kiddo (or maybe kiddos) see that I settled for work that wasn’t enriching. It was for the benefits and stability. While there is nothing wrong with wanting those things, it’s just not enough.

If you’re on the market right now, or thinking about getting on the market, know I’m standing with you in solidarity. It’s a shit process, and it’s degrading. It’s difficult and trying, and if you are lucky enough to have a spouse, lean on them. Know, however, if your spouse, like mine, isn’t in academia but in the corporate world, he or she will be clueless. My husband is a smart man. He is a really smart man. I married him for his mind (and his looks ;-D), but he doesn’t get it. I love him to to death, but he doesn’t get it. He does get the publishing element, his theory is, get the book published, and you’ll get a job. This go around, as I’ve applied for Lecturer and Instructor positions–those positions more focused on teaching versus research and have heard nothing–I’m not so sure the book would be enough. I’m applying for Assistant Professor jobs. These are ENTRY LEVEL positions. A book is not a requirement in the ad. Maybe like the Husband, I don’t get it either.

Regardless, I’ll continue to plug away at job ads. I’m not sure when I’ll decide to hang up the towel. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. I do know that I’m relieved to be caught up with job applications today because my novel is waiting to be revised so it can be sent out to possible agents. That’s real and tangible and also a great place for rejection.


Why you hittin’ yourself?

I have a personal Facebook account. The more I friend people who I’m not super close with, I find myself posting less and less about things that are going on in my life.

Recently, I posted a status up about how I was trying to decide if I should apply for Fall 2012 PhD programs. Of course, most of my friends were super supportive and awesome, then Thesis Chair posted.

First, I should explain that I was contacted by TC through a Facebook message about a page that might pique my interest. I was shocked by the contact. Facebook is weird that way. It’s like you want people to want to be friends with you. In my never-ending need to be liked, I was so excited especially after the whole, “You’re not thinking of a PhD are you?” incident. Why would someone as smart and awesome as TC want to contact me through something as social as Facebook?




I immediately texted Missy (you might remember her from our adventures at AWP).

Me: OMG (yes I use texting language so effing sue me) TC messaged me on Facebook.

Missy: Me too!

We were both excited because of TC’s elusive and mysterious social behavior. I wasn’t as excited because I now knew I was no longer special, but whatever, that is besides the point. I sat, staring at the computer screen. Should I send her a friend request? What if she didn’t accept it? Why did I need her to like and respect me so damn much?

I sent the request and was thrilled when she accepted. I imagine this is about how happy high school boys are when they ask that special girl to prom, and she says yes.

So, to recap: I posted about the PhD, friends were supportive, then TC posted.

I wasn’t even the first person to see it.

Missy texted me.

“Just saw what TC posted on your Facebook status, WTF?”

I was driving and wished so badly that I had a smart phone.

“I haven’t even seen it.”

I got to work and wanted to make a mad dash for the office, but I had to go to a meeting so about 45 minutes went by and I was freaking out. My heart was beating. What the heck did she say?

I got the computer.

Her comment used the word, “realistic.”

Enough said.

I texted Missy.

“Why does she hate me?”

FH texted me about it also asking, “What does that even mean?”

I’m still confused.

I tried to respond with something self deprecating, like haha, you didn’t just punch me in the heart . But TC had broken my little heart, yet again.

FH said she can suck it.

That made me feel better.

So, I guess (if I was teaching narrative and my student submitted this story I’d make a comment that said, “where are you going with this) what I’m trying to say is I can no longer enjoy  Facebook in the same way I once did. Now, I worry that I with every comment TC sees me post, or status I share, I’m being judged, hated even by someone I admire so much. Or should I say admired? I don’t know.

It could be that maybe TC has my best interest at heart.

Who the hell knows?

The bigger question is why the eff do I care?

Teaching, Writing, and Thesising: Oh My!

In One Mean MFA fashion I’m writing a blog post instead of just banging out the last ten–really 8 pages of my thesis essay. The essay is a discussion of my influences, my process, and why I write. As with everything related to my thesis, I’ve waited until the last minute to complete it. I know what I want to write, but as is the case with any of the writing I do, it’s not the conception, or the characters, or plot, or whatever that troubles me, it’s simply sitting down to do it.

As you know I’ve been teaching high school English since March, and while I’ve been surprising more productive despite being busy, I find myself entering my apartment after a long day of teaching teenagers and being unable to do anything intellectual. I would wake up earlier to get some writing done, but my only qualm with this is that I already wake up at 5:30.  How much earlier can I wake up? 4:30? I mean I would be able to get a good hour in of writing a day, but I’d have to hit the sack around 9ish and that is not going to happen.

Teaching wears me and while I know it’s going to sound terrible, I refuse to bring home any teacher stuff. All my grading and planning I do at school, at my desk, in my classroom. My first year teaching I used to lug around textbooks, papers, homework, and tests. Back and forth, I’d carry it into my house and work on it at the kitchen table; the same place I did homework in high school. Because I’ve been trying to stay focused on my thesis, I’ve decided that it’s more important to devote my kitchen table space to my work. Not my students’ work.

Still, even though I’m not grading or planning at home I can’t seem to get myself to be motivated enough to do anything when I finish teaching. I know I started teaching in the middle of a semester, but I”m looking forward to summer when I can have my days off to continue looking for an instructor or adjunct position in the area and get some writing done that doesn’t have anything to do with my thesis. Teaching high school again has really helped me decide what my priorities are and writing is definitely on top.

Making money is great; I’m not going to lie, but I can’t honestly say that when I wake up to go teach those high school kids that I’m truly content and satisfied. I found so much more happiness teaching college students how to write papers and got paid peanuts to do it. I got to see them grow as writers and thinkers. At the high school,I mostly witness new cheating techniques and different levels of complaints about how I chose the most horrible literature for them to read. I will say, on a positive note, that they are really enjoying the novel I’ve chosen for them; this is a refreshing change from all the complaining.

While I know everything will work itself out–I’ll get that essay done, finish those last-minute touches, and manage to be super teacher–right now I wish I had a little more motivation to finish the measly 2500 words I have left to write.

I will add, in an effort to be positive, I have been enjoying thinking about my process and what I learned about myself as I wrote my very first novel. It’s also quite awesome that I get to write about myself for 10 pages. Can’t complain about that.

Now that I’m feeling more focused and ready to work, I think I’ll get to it. Who knows I might get it all done tonight.

Missing the Classroom

Today I have a job interview. Praise Jesus. I’m now registered to be a substitute teacher, but as my mother pointed out to me on the phone, “You’re a leader. You like to see results. You’re not the babysitting kind.” I of course took the praise and am glad I called  my mother. It’s always good to feel confident in an interview, especially when I’m sure I’m going to hear at least once, “You’re quite young.”

While I don’t mind substitute teaching, it is a paycheck afterall, that is all it is. I have never been good at jobs that just pay the bills. I was the WORST waitress ever. In the history of  waitresses. When I’m teaching, although it is hard work, I do love nearly every moment of it. I will admit when I taught high school I didn’t love all the in-service meetings, I didn’t love pushy students and parents, and I didn’t love turning in lesson plans once a week. I wasn’t a huge fan of grading papers, but there are worse things about teaching, to be frank.

Since I recently moved and am working on my thesis hours I’ve been job hunting like a maniac and you know what? I miss being in the classroom as both teacher and student. I miss not having a list of books to buy that I know I’ll get to discuss with my classmates. I miss my smart professors who find ways to shed light on concepts and themes so dark. But I also really miss being the teacher.

I was telling my boyfriend the other day how much I miss being in the classroom. I should mention this was during winter break, maybe a week and half after the semester ended. I’m an addict. I love my students, even the annoying ones. I don’t miss the annoying ones a lot, but usually they are the students that provide the best conversation starters.

The interview is to teach at a high school and last night I was prepping, by looking at some commonly asked interview questions; I noticed that one of the questions was about my teaching portfolio.

I freaked. Stephan Colbert was almost over, I was tired. I scrambled for another two hours getting together the documents that I now need to take to Staples to get put into a nice folder with tabs. While gathering these documents I thought it would be a nice touch to add some of the essays my high school students wrote my first year teaching. I asked them the question, “What will you miss most about this class?” And while there were a lot of answers that felt fake, I did make the assignment a completion grade, and told them that they could say they hated the class, didn’t learn anything, and thought I was a poo poo head, if of course they backed it up with evidence.

Some of them did say mean things, but it’s a free country and I was grateful they felt comfortable and confident enough to be honest.

A good portion of them wrote some of the most lovely things and I would like to share this one quote with you.

“I will miss the teacher and hearing her crazy jokes. I really never met a real geek until I got in this class. No offense but you was mean sometimes when we talked over you.”

How can you not love teaching when students say things like this?

I hope this afternoon I get the opportunity to get back in there with the kids. Lord knows I miss them and I haven’t even met them yet.

So you want to be a racist?

So, I was grading papers this evening, and for the first time in my teaching life I came across a paper that I’m going to label as “racist.” It is important to note that the students had to read an article suggesting that American colleges and universities have issues with diversity and community. The students were asked to propose a solution to this or prove that the author was incorrect and that there was no issue. Overall the papers were not that great, but when I came across the “racist” one I was forced to stop in my tracks.

First of all, the paper was not a good one. The quality of writing was not up to the level that I expect my students to write at. It was choppy and needed a lot of work with argument, thesis, and organization. That being said, the student then had a paragraph that had some pretty racist comments. The student was discussing segregation and how it wasn’t something society accepted, but it made sense for people to stick with their own kind. This was always qualified by the student suggesting that some groups made white people uncomfortable because of how they were different.  The student also wrote how people in one race only exposed to their own race would be uncomfortable around people different from them and would only communicate with their own race because of their comfort level. I’m paraphrasing of course but I think you get the picture. I would love to post the paragraph up here but I like my job, and would like to keep it.

I do not by any means want to make excuses for this student, but is it possible that maybe this student trying to say that people mingle with people they feel they already have a connection to, a similar background? Is it possible that the student is just using this paragraph as an example of that? 

To be honest, I don’t think the student realizes what they are doing. Or maybe I want to believe they don’t realize it. Think about it. This is this student’s first college English paper. If this student isn’t the great communicator, isn’t it possible that this is a mistake or should I say miscommunication, that happened late at night after trying to pump pages out?  

I’m trying to decide if I should use this paragraph as example when I’m teaching. I’m concerned, first and foremost, the student will be highly offended. I’m also worried that it will lead to a blowout in the classroom where students start spouting off and possibly over reacting.

Currently, I’m at quite a loss for words. Paper grading really takes it out of me.

How to: Design a summer composition course Part 2


 So here is my summer syllabus. I would love some criticsm, suggestions. I can always make adjustments to it. I’m quite pleased with it. I am a bit worried about getting all this grading done as quickly as the syllabus demands but I’m sure I’ll survive.

Thanks in advance for your help.


OneMeanMFA’s Summer Syllabus

We will be using a modified portfolio system.  Each portfolio will consist of two major papers, each undergoing a draft and revision process, as well as an additional significant revision of a previous paper.  Clear, written descriptions of all writing assignments will be distributed to the class, as well as the evaluation criteria that will be used.  Response papers and other writing assignments will be reflected in your class participation grade.  The grade break down is:


Paper 1: 100pts                        

Paper 2: 100pts

Paper 3: 100pts

Paper 4: 100 pts


Quizzes: 10pts each (40 pts)

Paper Outlines: 25 pts (100pts)

Annotated Bibliography: 50 pts

Final Portfolio Assignment: 50 pts

Participation/ Attendance: 10 pts


Class total points: 650pts


You will receive substantive comments on all written work through both instructor and peer comments. 

1)     Paper One: Prompt based paper using reading one. You will use the reading to support a topic that works outside of the reading. This paper is worth 100 pts.

2)     Paper Two: Prompt based paper using reading one and two. This paper should use reading two more than reading one. Roughly 60% reading two to 40% reading one.  You will use the readings to support your original idea that works outside of the readings. This paper is worth 100pts.

3)     Paper Three: Prompt based paper using reading one, two, and three. This paper should use reading three more than readings two and one. Roughly 50% reading three to 25% readings two and one. You will use the readings to support your original idea that works outside of the readings. This paper is worth 100pts.

4)     Paper Four: This is a research based paper. You will be required to use reading four  and outside sources. You will need a minimum of three outside sources and a maximum of five. Two of these sources should be books and not retrieved online. You may have a maximum of two online resources, available to you via the library’s electronic journals. This paper is worth 100pts.

5)     Final Portfolio Assignment: This is a written assignment that will discuss your progress as a writer, what you have learned in this course, the strengths of this course and as well as the weaknesses. You will also discuss what grade you believe you have earned. This paper should be no more than 3 pages and no less than one and a half. This assignment is worth 50 pts.

6)     Paper Outlines: You will outline your papers paragraph by paragraph. Inserting which quotes from the readings you plan on using in the final draft of the paper. This assignment worth 100pts.

7)     Quizzes: I will give you a short quiz on the reading in the first 10 minutes of class. Each quiz is worth 10 pts.

8)     Annotated Bibliography: You will take the resources for your research paper, cite it, then give a brief summary of the resources as they will apply to your research paper. The summary should be no less than 2-3 sentences and no more than a half page. This assignment is worth 50pts.


Week One:

 June 23rd


Contracts in

Writing Sample

MLA Formatting

What makes a good paper?

Prompt Paper One

Assign Reading One:

June 25th

 Reading Quiz One

Free Writing Exercise

Discuss Reading

How to outline a paper

Begin Paper Outline


Week Two

 June 30th

 DUE: Rough Draft Paper 1

Review thesis writing

Peer Review

What makes a good thesis?

Begin Changes to Paper


July 1st:

 Continue discussing prompt

Create Paper checklist

Peer Review revised paper 1

MLA formatting Review

Work on paper

Assign Reading Two 

Week Three

 July 7th

 DUE: Final Draft Paper 1

Quiz Reading Two

Free Writing Exercise

Parallel Readings

Discuss Reading Two

Prompt Paper Two

MLA Review: Quotations/ Evidence


July 9th

DUE: Rough Draft Paper 2

Peer Review


Work on papers

Assign Reading Three 

 Week Four

 July 14th

 DUE: Final Draft Paper Two

Quiz Reading Three

Free Writing Exercise

Parallel Readings

Prompt Paper Three

How to Research: Using the library


July 16th

DUE: Rough Draft Paper Three

Peer Review


Work on Papers

Assign Reading Four

MLA Review: Organization


Week Five

 July 21

 DUE: Final Draft Paper Three

Quiz Reading Four

Free Writing Prompt Paper Four

Parallel Readings

Introduction to writing a research paper

How to write an Annotated Bibliography

 July 23

 DUE: Annotated Bibliography

Continue Discussion on Reading Four

Outline Paper Four

Introduce Final Portfolio Assignment

Week 6 (We’re almost Done!)

July 28th

 DUE: Rough Draft

Peer Review

Work on paper in class

July 30th

DUE: Final Draft

DUE: Portfolio Assignment

School’s out for Summer!