novel

I’m Back!

FH and I went on vacation last week. We spent a week in the city where is from and the time flew. I had never been to the part of the country where FH hails as home and got to see his old stomping ground. I also got to meet his best friend from high school and some of his family. I don’t want to sound all patriotic (not that there is anything wrong with that) but America is fucking gorgeous. I got to see some new landscapes and was very impressed with our county. Okay, patriotic rant over.

He says I was campaigning hard for the wedding to his family. Our wedding is practically a destination wedding, and our families will be traveling from all over the place to celebrate. What, I want them to party with us.

We had a great time, but now it’s back to reality. He is looking for work as well so we’re in a big state of limbo right now. I know I’ll be doing something steady this fall, just not sure about all the details.

Right now all this instability has been stressing me out. I’m not sure about our money situation, where we’re going to live, and if we’re going on a honeymoon. We will go on a honeymoon but I have my heart set on Hawaii but it ain’t cheap.

I have 5 days to figure out how to pay my bills this month with $45 in my checking account and $0 in my savings account. Ah to have a real paycheck.

Writing this post forces me to ask myself why I didn’t become a nurse or an engineer, or a hair dresser. Honestly. At least I have time to work on revising my novel and banging out a memoir.

#depressing

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Goals Goals GOOOOOOOALLLLLLS!

Sitting next to me is my revised thesis which still needs revising. While I’m sure I will feel it needs perpetual revision, this weekend I found myself unable to get anything writing related done. My final final final draft is due to my committee on the 7th. So I basically have about 10 days to get it done.  This weekend I instead starting making big plans for the up and coming months.

Because of my brilliant planning, I am done teaching any new literature to my high schoolers, and have actually made copies of just about everything I’m going to need for the rest of the year. There are a few things here and there that will need copying, but there is hardly any homework to grade, because most of it will be drafts of their final paper. I’m looking forward to summer, because these past few months of teaching have taken it out of me.

I will say that I think teaching this past semester, at the high school, has forced me to be productive. Last night while watching whatever was on TBS and then later North by Northwest, I reorganized all my previous teaching materials into psychotically organized binders. I still have to do the same with my teaching stuff at work, but once it’s done I’ll be good to go.

Spending this past semester working on my thesis and teaching high school, I have learned a lot about what direction I’d like to take and teaching high school is not it.  It could be that I’ve had  a rough experience, but I do find that I’m too invested in writing and this is why teaching at the secondary level is not for me.

I’ve been so eager to get out of the high school that I decided sometime this past week that I needed to start packing up my classroom.  While it may be premature, because they may ask me back, I have found myself thinking about what papers I’ll be recycling and which papers I will be organizing into binders. Also, some of the old teacher’s things are still in my classroom and frankly I would like to have the whole room packed up and ready to go by the 8th.

My writing goals to be completed by August:

1)  To write another food essay

2) To write two to three short stories (in the first person) my thesis is in the third and I’ve been itching to write in a character’s voice

3) To publish some more work (at least one)

4) To get a job at the college or university level (this will mostly depend on the market but I have faith that my CV is pretty good and will land me a job)

5) To be halfway done with major revisions to my thesis as I work towards having it ready to send to publishers.

Some reading goals:

I’d like to finish reading some books I started and didn’t finish including:

The Time Traveler’s Wife

-The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

-The Road

I’d also like to finally read:

-Jane Eyre ( I know how I have not read it yet)

Love in the Time of Cholera

-Dante’s Inferno

Goals that have nothing to do with writing or reading

1) I’d like to get back into my running routine. My sprained ankle and laziness has gotten me into a running rut.

2) Finally get my apartment decorated–this will require funding and right now the money situation doesn’t look good.

Well, I feel good having written down some goals. It always makes them more official when you know some people will be reading them and you have to live up to them. I’m thinking I’ll update you guys on my progress after my thesis defense.

Holy crap I’m so close.

 

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.

Revisions: CHECK!

Well, I’m now one step closer to graduation in August.

This afternoon I finally finished revising my thesis. While I know I’m not completely finished (there are some minor additions and subtractions that I need to do) I’m really close to being done.

When I got to my last ten pages I broke down in tears. I couldn’t breathe, but I was smiling. It’s crazy to be able to see the light at the end of an oh-so-dark tunnel.

I’m super excited to be inching close to a goal that I’ve had for so many years. I’m also stoked because once I’m completely done I can start working on some new projects that have been marinating in my brain. I have a ton of short stories I’d like to write, and I’m cooking up a nonfiction piece that I’m eager to get into.

Even though it’s very exciting I still have a twenty page essay that I need to write and I have to get all the formatting on point. I know I’m really close to getting it done and don’t want to forget about my end goal.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on this essay and working with the graduate college on my formatting. I’ll be defending some time in June and then holy crap I’ll really be One Mean MFA!

God-willing I’ll find a job that doesn’t require parents calling me to tell me I’m too mean. More on the high school teaching later.

For now I think I’ll celebrate with a much-needed workout!

Later tonight, I actually get to have my boyfriend back because the past two weeks we’ve both been so busy that we have barely seen each other. It’s been a lot of phone calls that go something like this…

HIM: Am I coming over for dinner tonight?

ME: Sorry, I’m not quite done with this project.

HIM: No worries.

or

ME: Sorry I was going to make dinner for us but this is taking longer than expected.

HIM: No worries.

or

HIM: I’m not going to be coming over.

ME: Why?

HIM: I don’t want to be a distraction.

ME: Oh, fine….

This has been life for the past two weeks. I’m glad I’ll be able to start cooking for someone other than myself.

REVISIONS CHECK!

Hysterical Appreciation

A month ago I turned my thesis rough draft in. I busted my ass to get it done in time and the last few days I spent working on it I was convinced completing the rough draft of this novel would never happen.

It did.

I was surprised that I did it, having under estimated myself, something I do too often and is a result of my destructively low self-esteem. Seeing the manuscript printed and ready to be mailed to my professor was pretty cool. A stack of papers, half a ream of paper…whoa. The work I had done, had me on track to graduate in Spring.

I neglected to think that my thesis chair would ask me to push back my graduation, so after a failed job interview (yes, I’m still unemployed–this economy is so terrible–Great Recession, try Depression) I received an email from my chair telling me my thesis wasn’t ready for a spring graduation. My chair was kind enough to acknowledge that informing over email was harsh, but I was scheduled for a visit the following week. I’m relieved my professor told me over email because I read the email and in my already emotional state, I was hysterical. I cried and cried and cried.

I was failure. A big fat failure.

Well, after my breakdown I drove to my boyfriend’s (this seems like a luxury since for the past four years I was only able to call him, now if I get upset he gives me a hug instead of kind words over the phone miles away from each other). He helped me realize that now my thesis would be even better than if I were to graduate in Spring. I’d have three more months to make it perfect, to make it something I will be proud of.

Having a thesis I love is something very important to me. My chair knew this from the get go. My chair gives great criticism and holds me to the highest standards. This is initially why I asked this professor to be my chair. During our meeting my chair said, “It’s already good, I just want to see you take it to the next level.” That felt good. I should mention my chair doesn’t give complements out willy nilly.

I now have new deadlines. The program I’m enrolled requires M.F.A.’s to turn in a completed rough draft at the beginning of the semester they are going to graduate. Since I anticipated a spring graduation I turned my thesis in this January. Now that I’m graduating in summer my “rough draft” is due at the end of May or beginning of June. The final version is due in July and the defense is at the end of July and graduation is in August.

While this seems like a ton of time, it isn’t. Before I know it will be May and I’ll be turning it another “rough draft” which I’m hoping needs minimal revisions.

My chair was very encouraging during our meeting, pointing out my growth as a writer and easing my worries about certain aspects of my novel. Since the general concept of my novel has the potential to be cliché, I was worried this might happen, I was assured it had not.

I left my meeting almost relieved that I would have more time to write a thesis that I can be proud of and can hopefully get published. 

I have a friend from grad school who had the same thing happen to her. She turned in her rough draft and her chair advised her to push back her graduation to summer. She wrote a collection of poems for her thesis. When I was venting to her about my disappointment she told me how the same thing had happened to her. She then told me that every poem in her thesis has been published and one of her poems won a prestigious award. Hearing this made me feel better.

While my goal is to produce the best thesis possible, it would be pretty cool to have written a book that can be picked up at Barnes and Noble.

A Quick Update

So, I’m done with my rough draft (PRAISE JESUS!) and am trying to get through another large document for my thesis. This one is more of a “why I write” and “these writer’s changed my life” sort of document. I do need to do some major revisions for my novel, but I’ve put it on the back burner for now because I didn’t even want to look at my thesis. I am currently compiling a list of “what I learned when writing my first novel” which I am eager to share with all of you.

While writing and graduating are my top priority the first of the month is approaching and I’m still unemployed. I’m starting to get freaked out. I paid my electric, so at least I’ll have power for one more month. Ha! Well, I’m quite overwhelmed and have so much discuss and not enough time to write it all out.

Eventually, I’ll get a rhythm. I had a great rhythm when I was banging out those pages, I just have to adjust to another deadline.

Back to work and job hunting.

Okay I lied…

I thought I wasn’t going to write but I really needed a warm up this morning. I started to write and I have a page of crossed out sentences, which will end up in the recycling bin. Yesterday was a very productive day and today needs to be as well. Still, I’m getting a bit nervous about this thesis. While, I’m confident that with some long nights and days I’ll be able to bang out the pages, I’m super worried that it sucks.

Is this normal? To hate such a massive work. I’ve never worked on anything this big before, and as I was opening up the first chunk I realized, it’s not as big as I thought it was. I don’t know if this means I’m going to be doing a lot of revision (which is highly likely) or if I need add some more significant sub-plots.

I’ve been thinking a lot about subplots lately. I’m trying to do a lot of novel-reading since I’m writing one. I look very closely at structure since I think this is one of my weaknesses. I know what I want the major story to be about, but I never realized how important subplots were until I started to really focus on the structure of published novels. Successful novels both critically and commercially.

While, right now, my major focus is getting that main plot out, I know I’m going to have to add some more.

Every morning, when I open up the pages of this thesis on my computer I think about it the project and how much time I’ve devoted to it, and it freaks me out. I need to get over this because I’m making this project bigger than it actually is. I need to look at it for what it is: a story that needs to be told. I also need to just tell it. The rest of it will come. It will come.

Well, I feel warmed up. Happy writing!