Tag Archives: graduate school

Graduation

As of last Wednesday, I have officially graduated from graduate school with my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing.

It seems strange to say that I’m done with school since I’ve been in it one way or another for nearly 20 years. I still may go back for a MA in literature, but for now, I’m done.

It still hasn’t sunk in yet. I feel like in the fall I should be ordering texts for class and preparing my backpack with supplies.

I guess I’ll be doing much of the same thing because in the fall I’ll be an adjunct professor at two universities, teaching freshman writing. An adjunct professor is basically a part-time professor who teaches the underclassmen. An entry level professor. It’s the bottom of ladder, but at least I’m on a rung. I’ll be one step closer to becoming a full-time English professor. It may take years to get there, but I’m willing to stick it out.

For most of my life, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I went from wanting to be an archaeologist to a doctor to an English professor. What I really want to be is a writer, but I think I can balance that with working as a professor. I’ll be teaching students about writing and literature while actively engaging in that community. I’ve seen the publishing industry change over the last five years, and I’ve been self-publishing for the last two. I’m someone who loves reading and writing, and I hope I can impart that to my future students. My life was changed drastically by the influence of a few key professors, and maybe one day, I’ll be that professor for someone.

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The Nervous Nelly

So I realized I haven’t written a blog post in over a week. I’m not sure how I managed that, but… sorry. I’ve been feeling mildly overwhelmed this past week. Our house has been torn apart by construction workers, which means my dogs have not shut up every time they come to work. Honestly, it’s been fraying my nerves a little.

This has been manifesting itself as anxiety at school. I try to keep my anxiety under wraps, but it’s like a bag filled with water. If you squeeze it down in one spot, it just pops up somewhere else.

During my thesis seminar class, I have been having a very hard time reading my work aloud. Part of the class is that we bring in a chapter/section of our project, read it aloud, and then our classmates give their feedback. My classmates and professor are great, so they aren’t the issues there. It’s just built-up anxiety.

I have been battling stage-fright for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, I performed in the talent show and realized I was terrified by being on stage. In middle school and high school, I dreaded being called on to read aloud and being the center of attention was a nightmare. Unfortunately, this has stuck with me through college and graduate school. If I signed up for an MFA reading or to speak at a conference, I’m okay because I chose to speak and have prepared (probably over-prepared) for it. When randomly called upon, I feel my anxiety level jump about three notches.

Last Tuesday after dealing with strange people in our house, dogs barking all day, and trying to scarf down a late lunch at my job, my nerves were frayed by the time I got to my thesis class. I sat there with my classmates’ papers in front of me barely saying more than a few words. It seems as the anxiety level rises, so does my muteness. Everyone seemed ten times as chatty as they normally are and speaking seemed absolutely impossible, so I didn’t bother.

I sat for over an hour listening to everyone else read their work and get their feedback, my chest tightening as I watched the pool of potential readers dwindle until there was only me. In an instant, my spit dried up and no matter how much water I drank, it didn’t get any better.

“Your turn,” my professor said with a smile as she flipped to my chapter.

I drew in a tight breath, opened my mouth to speak, and faltered.

“Dear, you can have someone else read for you.”

“No, I’m fine. I’m just a nervous nelly, I’m fine.”

And so I droned on for five minutes, stumbling over words and apologizing for every screw-up. The one week I got out of reading my work aloud, I was so thankful, but this week, it was impossible. Yes, I could have said, “Please let someone else read my work,” but I can’t. It’s my story, and if I’m in the class, I will do whatever everyone else does even if it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I try to not let my anxiety run my life when it gets bad. Sometimes I fail at it, which of course causes another anxiety spike.

Some of you may be wondering why I bothered telling this story of a young woman who gets heart palpitations when she has to do a task as simple as reading aloud. The thing is, I want people who don’t have anxiety to understand how it all builds up. Yes, the task at hand may be simple, but you don’t know what has happened earlier that day or even earlier that week. Instead of telling the person to suck it up or not to worry (totally useless platitude, by the way), try to be supportive. Give them a moment to collect themselves or try to accommodate things that help lessen their anxiety. For example, I do better when I do my reading earlier because it doesn’t allow the anxiety to build over the course of an hour or two.

I also wrote this to remind those who have anxiety that you aren’t alone. Most of us put on a brave face, and while we’re melting into a puddle of anxiety, we barely show our panic on the outside. Just know, it can be managed and it feels worse than it looks most of the time.

If anyone has any tips for managing anxiety that have worked for you, please pass them on! I’m always looking for new ways to deal with stage fright and all of my other anxieties.

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August in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

Much like July, August has been a rather productive month. It seems so long ago that it just started, and I am absolutely amazed that it’s already over. This month I have tried to get as much done as possible before graduate school started again for me in September. Usually when school starts, my productivity tanks for a while as I adjust, but I’m hopeful that September won’t be too bad.

What I did accomplish:

  1. Published my series companion short story “An Oxford Holiday” on Amazon
  2. Wrote 25,000 words of The Earl and the Artificer (60,000 words total)
  3. Met my “far” word count goal for the month
  4. Read For Love or Money by Susan Kaye Quinn and 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
  5. Released the audiobook for The Earl of Brass
  6. Proofed the first 15 minute clip for the audiobook of The Winter Garden
  7. Put The Earl of Brass ebook on sale for 99 cents for a limited time.

Goals for September:

  1. Write at least 10,000 words of The Earl and the Artificer (but optimally more like 15k to 20k)
  2. Read 2-3 books
  3. Manage my grad school stress
  4. Continue to write every day
  5. Balance life, writing, and fun
  6. Refill my creative reservoirs
  7. Possibly work on another bonus short story (if an idea takes shape)

So I think I have finally found something that works when it comes to keeping my productivity up and at a good pace. Seriously, the word count tracking spreadsheet has done wonders. I’m now about 60,000 words into The Earl and the Artificer, which blows my mind because I’m over 2/3 through it! A few months ago, that was unimaginable. Now, the end is in sight in a few months (probably October). During this time, I also finished and released the audiobook of The Earl of Brass and the ebook of “An Oxford Holiday” on Amazon. Now that I know I can work on a short story and a novel without sacrificing either, I hope to release more companion short stories in the future. The best case scenario is that I might be able to release a Halloween themed one in October, but I can make no promises there, especially with the semester starting. I also got a glimpse of the audiobook for The Winter Garden, and it is perfect! I am so looking forward to hearing more, and while I would like to say that I hope my narrator will send me some this month, I won’t push it. He has a life outside of narrating.

This has been an odd month. I’m feeling very productive in terms of what I have produced, but as of the last few days, I’m feeling incredibly drained. Last week, I had a workshop to go to, which is mandatory for my degree. I enjoyed it and it was incredibly interesting (about teaching writing), but it kind of drained me. It’s hard for me to be social and outgoing while surrounded by new people. It’s done now, just in time for the semester to start. Yay… Prepare to see me crawl back into my shell for about a month while I continually scream internally until I’ve adjusted to dealing with people again. Current status: exhausted and in denial that school is starting again in a few days. Today, I will be reading and chilling with my dogs in hopes of recovering some of that creative mojo since it’s edging toward burn-out level.

Kate

This month also brought a new addition to our family: Miss Kate (named by my dad). Kate is a border weenie, meaning she is dachshund and border collie. If you think she looks oddly familiar, it’s because we have 2 other border collie mixes (Edgar and Finny) who are also black and white and look a lot like her. The boys are still ignoring her, but they seem to be getting along. Don’t let her cute face and squeaky toy voice fool you, she has plenty of attitude. She already hip-checked Edgar and took a bone from his mouth.

For September, my hope is that I can keep writing every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. 500 a day for 30 days still equates to 15,000 words. I only have two more semesters of grad school left until I have my MFA in creative writing, so I just need to power through and get it done. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to start outlining book four of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices. I’d love to begin writing that while editing The Earl and the Artificer.

One last thing of note: The Earl of Brass is on sale for 99 cents for a limited time on Kindle. You can pick it up here.

eob 99c promo

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Age and the Awkward Authoress

The age of the author is often brought up when discussing young adult novels written by middle-aged authors or older authors writing about younger characters, but young authors tend to fall to the side unless they are exceptionally young.  This isn’t going to be a post about young people griping about “the man” or older people.  Most of my friends are older than I am, and I enjoy their company immensely. Recently, my age has come up several times when talking about my writing or books.

I’m twenty-three and am currently working toward my masters in creative writing.  I went directly from high school to getting my bachelors to getting my masters.  Somehow I always feared if I stopped, I would lose momentum or be talked out of working toward my next degree.  Apparently, I look young according to other adults.  Not sure what that means exactly. Sometimes I wonder if they expect a twenty-three year old to be in a business suit sitting demurely behind a desk or wearing a uniform at McDonalds.  I have a chubby face and wear jeans, t-shirts, flannel shirts, and hoodies, which constitutes looking young even though most of the people in my class dress the same way and are often older than I am. Continue reading

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Chapter 23: In Which the Author has an Existencial Crisis

love-yourself-quotes-To-love-oneself-is-the-beginning-of-a-lifelong-romance..I am never sure how many people know I have anxiety.  I am a class A worrier, dweller, and moment-reliver.  Last week was my first full week of graduate classes, and midway through the week, I sat and cried when I got home.  Sometimes I wonder what has happened to me.  I wasn’t always such an emotional person, but honestly, sitting down and having a good cry is better than bottling up until you explode or internalizing your misery.

I am not like most of my family.  The idea of working in an office for the rest of my life is repellant even if I do not mind the place I currently work and enjoy the company of the people who work there.  I just want more than that.  For my entire life, school has been a factor that validated who I was.  I was a (mostly) diligent student who got good grades.  School has been there to give me a ruler to measure myself against and prove my worth, and this is probably what pulls me toward the world of academia. My family went through the motions of school and seemed to enjoy the social aspects more than anything they actually learned, but because I typically had few friends, my focus was on homework and my classes.  In my family, I was first one to go to college for four years and actually earn a degree, and I did it because I loved my classes for the most part and my professors.  I had a drive and my mentor nurtured that by giving me the confidence to write more and actually participate in literary conferences when most undergrads didn’t.  Toward the end of my time in college, I realized I wanted to be an English professor, but my family has not exactly been supportive of my endeavors. Continue reading

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