Tag Archives: academia

Happy Accidents

I did a thing. It was a semi dumb thing and I’m not sure why I did it.

As you may or may not know, my third book, The Earl and the Artificer, is also my MFA thesis project, so I have an advisor who is supposed to look at it and give me feedback along with a class who does the same. Thus far, my thesis advisor has been very lenient with me. Some demand at least a chapter a week or put their students on a strict schedule, but he’s pretty much let me do what I want since he knows I’ll get it done.

Well, I knew he would need to see something before the end of the semester, something substantial, in order to give me a grade. Originally, I told him I would hand in the finished piece (unedited) by mid-October. At the time, it sounded like a good idea. I’d have all the time in the world. I’m only taking two classes, so how much work could I have? A lot, that’s how much.

This is when I did something dumb. Part of my job in the English department is to create a newsletter, so I spend a bit of time emailing professors, harassing them until they tell me what they’ve published this semester or what events they’re holding. While emailing my advisor to ask him about his writing, I wrote, “I’ll be leaving an edited draft of the first act, which is about 80 pages in your mailbox next week.” I sent the email off without thinking much of it until about an hour later. NEXT WEEK?! Was I temporarily insane? At that point, I had only edited three out of the eleven chapters in act one. In less than five days, I would need to edit eight chapters to get them to where I was willing to show my advisor without cringing.

I immediately texted my best friend telling her of the stupid thing I had done. “But you work well under pressure!” she replied. I do, but why did I do this to myself? Why give myself added stress for no reason? If I had told him I would hand it in two weeks from then, he wouldn’t have cared and I wouldn’t have been freaking out. Then again, my best friend is coming from England in two weeks, and I would be worrying about my stupid project instead of getting ready for her arrival.

It’s strange, but it’s as if my subconscious gave me a boot in the ass. I’ve had ample time to edit my story, but I’ve been procrastinating and doing everything but writing and editing recently. Would I have had anything to hand in by the end of the month if I hadn’t accidentally cracked the whip on myself? Probably not.

Over the course of three days, I powered through chapters one to eleven, going over what I edited already and combing through the ones I hadn’t touched yet. Last night at midnight I finally finished. While I was too tired to add any new content to the story, I officially finished my edits of act one and will hand them into my advisor on Monday.

I’m somewhat proud of myself for actually getting this all done before the weekend and that on Monday I’ll be able to present my advisor with the first third of my work. After dilly-dallying for so long, it seems strange that I’ll actually be handing in part of my thesis. Luckily my mistake created this progress. Sometimes all you need is to give yourself a kick in the ass to get going.

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The Anxieties of the Awkward Authoress

Fears…

Most of us probably have a list of fears that we keep tucked close, hidden where they cannot be seen, where others cannot seek to infiltrate and destroy us.  I’m pretty open with a lot of my fears.  In the past I have wondered if there was anyone else who felt the same way I did, so by sharing my experiences, I hope I can spare someone that feeling.  This weekend, I confronted one of my main fears– social anxiety.

I feel I am getting better about dealing with a lot of people in one area.  It’s odd, I can go around New York City, moving shoulder to shoulder with the crowd, but when the crowd is vying for my attention and wants to talk (and go off script), it’s hard to deal with.  At my university, I worked two events, one Saturday and one Sunday. Sunday’s event was an open-house, which I’ve done several times already, but Saturday was my first writer’s conference.  Luckily, I was only manning the sign-in desk along with the other graduate assistant. Unfortunately, I forgot the signs I printed earlier in the week, which threw me off, but thank god, there was a script I repeated about eighty times that day.

For the rest of the day, it was smooth sailing, but when I got home, I threw myself down and took a two and a half hour nap to recharge. I should really say surrendered to the nap. I don’t think I could have stopped it.  That’s what happens quite often with social anxiety. Dealing with other people is stressful. They’re unpredictable, sometimes rude, pushy. More than often, they’re none of the aforementioned things, but one never knows when they’ll surprise you.

In May, I’m doing a reading and small seminar at the Steampunk World’s Fair, and of course, I’m worried about it. I worry about not making a good impression or that I’ll be dreadfully boring. Will I stutter or will they hate my books?  If more than a handful of people show up, will I freak out? Of course I will. I’ll bring water and coffee and possibly a bag to hyperventilate into, but I won’t stop myself from doing my reading.  Probably a dozen times I’ve asked myself why I signed-up to do a reading. I’m a nobody author with a tiny following.  I know at least two people will show up, and if more than that comes, I’ll be eternally grateful.  As a writer, my biggest fear is that they’ll hate my books. As a person, my biggest fear is I’ll make an ass of myself. Honestly, they aren’t too far from each other.

No matter how many times I read aloud or do group events, the fear is still there. I’m hoping that practicing every few days for about three weeks leading up to the reading will help to lessen my fears. Pretending not to be an anxiety-ridden introvert takes a lot of energy, and I’m beginning to wonder how long I’ll sleep after the Steampunk World’s Fair.

On the topic of the Steampunk World’s Fair, I’m supposed to have a short story in a you pay what you want bundle along with several other artists and musicians.  When I get more information about the bundle or what day I’ll be giving my reading, I will let you know, but for now, if you want to get a ticket, which is good for Friday to Sunday, please go here.


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Wrap-up and Resolutions

Wow, 2014 has been a crazy year for me.  A great year but a whirlwind of insanity at times.

This year, I began graduate school to earn my MFA in creative and professional writing, and now that a full year in the program has passed, I can say that I love it and believe I made the right decision.  I don’t think my parents were terribly pleased when I decided to change my course of study in the second half of my junior year from pre-med to English major, but I’m a lot happier reading and analyzing books and writing constantly than I ever was doing dissections and memorizing muscle groups (though biology and science still hold a special place in my heart and in my books).  In 2014, I also became a graduate assistant at the university I attend, which means I help out the professors and put together the end of semester newsletter as well as work on the department’s literary magazine. Continue reading

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Checking Those Boxes

Become-a-writer

Often my posts mention my dealings with academia, and the stark contrasts between the “normal” world and the academic domain.  These differences have sparked an interest in figuring out the psychology of not only some professors but the world they are enmeshed in.  One of the things I have noticed during my time as a graduate student in an MFA program is the difference in publishing goals and how the professors treat their writing versus how most authors deal with their work and how they market it.

To be hired as a professor, one must publish at some point, and it seems for some that the only reason they have published anything is to able to put it on their resumes.  Maybe I’m naive and idealistic, but to write a novel or short stories to check off a box seems disingenuous.  If you have a passion for writing, why would you only write one book or a handful of short stories?  Most writers have a hard time stopping or getting other work done when the writing bug bites, so how can one instruct and inspire young writers when they haven’t really done it themselves?  Can you really consider yourself a writer or author when you only write to further your career goals?  It most definitely is not my motivation for writing, but I cannot say why others do it. Continue reading

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You Are What You Read

tbr pile oct 30What do your reading choices say about you?  Since beginning graduate school, I have been turning this question over in my mind as I listened to others in my classes mention who their favorite authors are.  Most of them are people I have never heard of or read but are rather famous in the contemporary lit world.  Typically, I hold my tongue and don’t mention what I read for fear of being ridiculed or looked down upon.  This led to a greater question: why do people read certain books?

Do people (especially those in academia) read for fun or do they read certain books because they feel it is expected of them?  As I continue my journey through the MFA in Creative Writing program, I find myself wondering what my professors read, especially when they are writers or poets as well.  What we read automatically becomes ingrained in our beings and eventually comes out in our writing. I can attest to the fact that when I read a book I love, I am inspired to write and often I will lean toward that genre or some theme found in that work.  If I read a book I had to drag myself through, it typically slows my writing to a crawl.  Oddly, while I didn’t love reading Virginia Woolf for the most part, her works had a huge influence in the way I deal with close narration and “head hopping” as others call it. Continue reading

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