AWP

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.

 

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On a Moderately Personal Note or (Shut the F*** up and Write)

Disclaimer: I don’t think my husband knows about this blog, and while he helped me come up with the title (I seriously suck at titles;it’s a curse), I don’t think he’ll ever read this. Babe, if you read this, please tell me.

Okay, I have the best husband. No, seriously. I know this sounds like bragging, but he really is awesome. First off, on a non-One Mean MFA career note, the man is an incredible father. He loves our kid a lot. I can see it in his face, in the way he holds our little one, and in how he wishes our kid will learn to walk quickly so he can chase the Mini-One Mean in the yard. It’s amazing.

As far as my career is concerned, he is even better. I knew he would be a great dad; it’s one of the reasons I fell for the guy. He loves unconditionally. When he loves, he gives all of himself. It’s something I wish I did. I don’t love like that. I’m guarded. I don’t trust. I worry and am not confident that I can be loved unconditionally. I love him unconditionally now, but it has taken me years to learn to love in the way he does. Even when I f*** up (which is often), he forgives and does something incredible. He reminds me why I love writing. I love writing because I love people, and he is the people that I love.

Okay, I know you’re thinking, “Shut the hell up, One Mean. No one wants to read a stupid lovey-dovely bullsh** story–and right before Valentine’s day. You stupid whore. Shut. Up.” Well, I won’t shut up. I love him.

I.

Love.

Mr. One Mean MFA.

A few weeks ago, Husband and I had a huge fight. I hadn’t been writing, reading, and my agreed upon house commitments were falling wayside (don’t worry, our kid was still being well taken care of, and I was all caught up with my television shows). I was in a deep rut. I had abandoned myself. I forgot who I was before marriage and Mini-One Mean.

Since we’ve gotten married (strangely enough), it’s been rough. I think losing my mother didn’t help with that. When you lose a parent, you lose yourself. You’re angry because your mother was young and wonderful and now who the hell can you talk to when you’re having an existential crisis. Whose going to talk you off the ledge when some teenage son of a b**** cuts you to your core, and vodka feels like the only solution? You remember you are mortal and that sh** is real. Anyway, I was in a rut. Things were not great. Since we’ve been together we’ve always been great at communicating, and we’d both shut down. We weren’t interacting with each other. We had good days, but mostly they were blah days.

This past weekend I spoke a conference for the first time in a long time. It felt so good to be an academic for five minutes (I’ll be writing about this sometime soon). I was excited, Missy and I were about to get into some trouble (again, don’t worry Missy and One Mean MFA will have another reunion in Minneapolis at AWP this year!). Husband was upset because he felt like (rightly so) that I wasn’t doing enough to get out of the high school job that I’m still at. While conferences are part of this, it’s not enough. I need to be publishing.

I got upset that he was upset.

“Speaking at conferences is important.”

“And publishing isn’t?”

“It is, but this is part of the academic stuff!”

“One Mean, you’re not writing.”

“When am I supposed to write?!”

This has been a challenge for me (as it is for all writers–I know perspective and all that jazz). Being a teacher at the high school level limits my time to do anything, including parenting. I often leave work many hours after the official school day ends and then it’s mom duties, wife duties, and before I know it, it’s bed time. Of course, I was also squeezing in a ton of TV, not reading, and not exercising.

“Do you know what I’d give for 30 minutes a day to just f***ing write?”

“So do it!”

“When?”

It seemed like the best time would be after dinner when our mini-us was sleeping and we’ve had dinner.

“What about the kitchen? Oh God, it’s like never-ending the crap I have to do!”

“If you were writing, I’d be okay with the kitchen being a mess.” I thought he was bullsh**ing me, but he wasn’t.

Since this horrible fight where I cried and got super upset, he’s helped me with the wifely duties, but and the biggest thing I’ve had to give up was television. I’m really behind on all my shows, but for the first time since grad school I have a routine. I’ve even managed to squeeze reading a book into the week AND have been writing more than ever.

I always wonder how the successful writers do it.

There are a million articles about the habits of successful writers. It seems they all skirt around two issues.

The first being, you have to fucking write.

Shut the f*** up and write.

The second is being single helps. I don’t want to blame motherhood or wifelyness on my lack of writing because those things are not the reason I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t writing because I had found other things to make a priority. I have serious guilt issues and sometimes feel like I need to abandon everything for my husband and child. This is not the case. In fact, my husband fell in love with me because I loved to write. He loves the writer version of me, not the version who is all caught up on Downton Abbey, yet she doesn’t have a writing project she’s working on. It’s so easy to let that version of one’s self go after marriage and children, but I’m not happy teaching high school (more on this “revelation” soon).

I’m blessed to have a husband who actually believes in me. He sincerely believes there is talent in my fingertips waiting to reach the page. Needing to reach the page. He believes in me way more than I do. I often hate what I write. In fact, this feels self-indulgent, and I probably relied to heavily on curse words when I could have inserted more humor. Regardless, he loves me so much he’ll let the clean-freak version he knows me to be go to the wayside if it means I’m being the nerdy writer he met in college plus a few pounds.

I’m lucky.

I know this. I thank God every day, even when I’m in rut.

So my advice to those of you who are in a rut, maybe you’re single and maybe you’re busy as hell. Regardless, you can find 30 minutes, hell maybe you can start with 15 or 10 minutes. I know I started writing over an hour ago. I got lost in the words and the story and here I am, still writing. It happens. The first day I committed to 30 minutes, I struggled; 30 minutes felt like a lot, but today it seems it may not be enough. Cut something out of your life you’ve been prioritizing and writing.

Shut the f*** up and write.

AWP Bound

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. 

Transitions and Distractions

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. 

CV Building Via Conference

This year February has become the month of conferences. I’ll be presenting at a conference this weekend. I’ve presented at conferences before, but they were sponsored by the English department of my grad school and I knew pretty much knew everyone who attended. Does your English Department hold conferences for TA’s and other graduate students?  A lot of the GTA’s in my program, including myself,  used the conferences as a way to add lines on our CV’s. I think it’s a really effective way to make you look like you care about your field. It’s also great practice for conferences that make you nervous. What do you do to build your CV?

Since this is my first official conference, I’m a bit nervous. Generally, I don’t get nervous when it comes to public speaking, but I’m kind of freaking out about it.

My paper is almost finished–I know, nothing like the last-minute. I think it’s pretty decent. I’ll probably edit it when I get back, and make it sound less conferency, and more edgy and essay appropriate. I’ll then send it out to a gazillion magazines in hopes that someone will pick it up and publish the thing. Do you guys do that with your conference papers?

Well, I recently got an email from the director or coordinator of the conference asking me if he could share my email with my panel. The panel originally had three people on it, but one of them had to drop out, so it’s going to be me and another person. I’m kind of glad about this, because I’ll probably lengthen my essay a bit and go into more depth. At first, I was glad I’d let the director give out my email. The other panelist emailed me and it turned out he knew one of my professors from graduate school. “What a great way to network,” I thought to myself.

WHAT AT MISTAKE.

This panelist is email happy, and frankly is a little too excited about presenting this weekend. He must be tenured and have job security. What’s that like? He keeps emailing me nerdy jokes about our panel topic, but at least he doesn’t want a super structured discussion. I also think he and my connection to my former professor may come in handy. Afterall, it’s not what you, but who you know. 

Let me clarify, it’s not that I’m not excited, I am. Presenting at this conference has forced me to work on an essay that I’ve been drafting mentally for about a year. It’s also a networking opportunity and with the job market the way it is, I think I’ll be able to become more than just a CV to some of the schools I applied for full-time work at, (some) who will be at the conference. When the panelist mentioned he knew my professor, I thought “I should exploit this connection to get some job interviews.”

Maybe this line of thinking makes me a bad person, but I don’t think so. I mean aren’t we supposed to take advantage of opportunities that lead to our success? Wouldn’t you network? Frankly, I’m seriously considering bringing my CV to this conference and passing it out. I know it isn’t a job fair, but what if a department chair from my area is looking for a full-time instructor of Creative Writing? This whole conferencing thing makes me wish I had a business card. It may be a good investment.

In the end, all this conferencing has made me realize that I need to be way more aggressive with the job hunt and building my CV. Also, having to work on my own writing instead of focusing on my students has been really refreshing. Don’t you remember when I had my mental breakdown in October? I’m truly on a mission, and I think TC’s comments, AWP, and my being reminded why I write is helping.

The Snubbing

I’m still deeply saddened by it. So very saddened. This evening after a long day of sightseeing and a little shopping–minor shopping (listen, there are only so many panels a human can absorb) my girlfriend and I (let’s call her Missy) sat down at the hotel restaurant to get drinks and dinner, but mostly drinks. After a glass of wine and some beer, my thesis chair and former professor entered the restaurant. She was with some of her friends–I’m assuming from grad school, undergrad, and/or academia. Of course, the hostess seated her group directly behind Missy and I. As she entered, Missy said, “TC is here.” I got excited because I love and respect her and so desperately want her to kind of like me (I thought she did, but after another incident which will become a post I’m confident that she doesn’t think highly of me).

“Oh my God, she’s sitting right behind us.”

At first I thought she was sitting like a table or two away from us, but no, she was directly behind us. She was close enough to touch. And so I did, a light tap on the shoulder and waved hello. She smiled and that was it. No “hey, how’s the conference treating you?” or “did you do any sightseeing today?” NOTHING. Nah. Da. Zilch.

So of course during the rest of dinner and drinks Missy and I couldn’t help but wonder why TC was being so cold. We could hear laughter and happiness from her table. Another professor from our graduate program was also in attendance at the conference, but not dinner  we are confident would not have been so cold. This professor would have suggested the groups join together and enjoy each other’s company, but Professor Nice and Friendly wasn’t around to unite us.

I figured she was probably trying to be professional, show a distance between her students and herself. The thing is, both Missy and I have graduated. Would you be so cold to former students? I think not. While, I probably wouldn’t willingly sit down and have a meal with any of my current students, I do think, the students that I’ve mentored and have close relationships would likely be candidates to break bread with. So whatever, she didn’t want to eat with us, or really talk, big deal. Heartbreaking and kind of upsetting because she’s pretty awesome, but whatever, I get it, you’re at a conference and you don’t want to chat it up with your students, you’d rather shoot the shit with your grad school pals. WHATEVER.

This is not the snubbing I’m referring to.

As the meal began to wind down, Missy and I were offered another drink. TC’s table was finishing up. They got up.

Missy looked up.

“She’s leaving.”

“Oh, is she coming over?”

“No, her back is to us She’s leaving.”

“What?” I was surprised. “She’s not coming over to say good-bye?”

“Nope, there she goes out the door.”

“I can’t believe it.” I was stunned, not even a see you later?

“Yep.” I watched Missy wave in TC’s direction.

“Oh is she waving?”

“No, she looked over here and I thought she was going to wave, but she didn’t.”

“Isn’t that rude?” I thought back to the etiquette lessons forced upon me by my mother. That kind of behavior was not becoming of a lady.

“Yes, it’s also quite bitchy.”

“Yes, it is bitchy.”

We may have uttered the word bitch a few times–look we’d been drinking.

But, I can’t help but think that what happened, the Snubbing, was well–bitchy. It was right? I mean at least wave for crying out loud.

And so this evening has been such an awakening. I mean, Jesus. I feel completely confused and deeply saddened. The entire time I was working on my thesis, I thought my TC and I had a bond. I didn’t think we’d ever be BFF’s, but I did think we had developed a relationship. A kind of mentor-mentored relationship. I learned this weekend that this most definitely not the case.

So, I’m pretty upset and am trying to listen to FH’s advice and think “who cares?” but I just can’t. I mean, it kind of hurts when someone you look up so clearly demonstrates a behavior as cold as this.

Still, I’m wondering if maybe it’s the AWP atmosphere (don’t worry I’ll explain in another post–a lot to write about this year). There is a kind of vibe at the conference and I’m noticing it more this year that the last time I attended. This vibe is like pseudo-intellectual-snobbyish. It’s a kind of wear-your-sunglasses-indoors-beret-wearing-Urban-Outfitters vibe that is so horrible. I hate it. Maybe she just got caught up in it, and in the meantime shattered my little admiring heart.

It was rude though, right?