Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Job Hunt Sucks... and now I have a killer headache

So, today I had an interview and 15 minutes after I left their office, the lady I met with sent me an email stating that they didn't choose me. Personally, I don't think that's very classy--they could have waited until the next day or maybe an hour afterward. Plus it took me 2.5 hours to drive home (when getting there only took 45 minutes--thanks rush hour). I'm not really disappointed that I didn't get this, but I am starting to feel hopeless about my ability to find a "career" job. I know that the economy sucks now, but I don't want to hear that anymore because it's not helpful (especially hearing it from people who already have work).

Friday my sister and I fly out to Nebraska to see family. I'm dreading it because my dad's a "fixer" and will constantly question me about my job finding skills, and will then suggest I print off 100 resumes and ship them off to companies, which is how you did it in the old days, I guess. I'm really not looking forward to that. Maybe I'll get lucky and it won't happen. I'm not holding my breath though.

Anyway, the cartoon below represents my experience so far:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Big Plans for 2011

Now that I'm done with my MFA I need to keep myself motivated in regard to writing, submitting to journals, and editing old things. I feel like I want to set some goals for this up coming year, but I worry that I'll be disappointed if I put too much expectation behind things. Regardless, I want to list out a few things to hopefully keep myself honest in the upcoming months.

1. Edit/Revise novel and send it out to 1-2 readers.
2. Send query letters to agents/publishers.
3. Work on short story manuscript.
4. Submit to at least two contests.
5. Submit short stories to journals.
6. Finish the first draft on a new project.
7. Start revision/rewrite of old novel series.

There, seven feels like a nice round number to start with. My goal for the last 2.5 weeks of 2010 is to finish the first draft of the teen novel I'm working on. I'm about five chapters from the end, so I do see this happening. I'm excited to go back and revise/edit. I should give myself a little distance from it before doing this, but I'm not going to. Distance will come between later drafts I'm sure.

In other news, the first real snow of my first Maryland winter is now falling. It's so peaceful. In the words of Annie: "I think I'm gonna like it here."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Over Now: Hello MFA

It's official... I've earned my MFA degree.

My thesis has been turned in and after an amazing week visiting friends in New Hampshire (and doing my first public reading, which went very well even if I didn't engage much with the audience while reading) I'm back at home in Maryland. Now the job search starts all over again and hopefully I'll be able to finish my novel and start edits on it. I still cringe at the amount of debt I went into for this program, but it is what it is. Too bad the loan people are already riding my back asking for money. [Photo credit]

Anyway, the entire graduation experience was amazing. It feels so weird that now I'm completely done. 100% done. It's a little scary in a way because I feel like I should know what's next. I don't think I'm going for a PhD, but who knows. Maybe I should just focus in publication. Oh well. When my diploma comes I'll snap a shot and post it. :)

I started this blog to jot down my thoughts about the MFA process, classes, projects, etc. So now it might take a new twist and turn and become something else? A blog about the battle of publishing perhaps? Or possibly just a bunch of random entries about my life. I guess we'll see about that too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

By Thursday, I'll be Done

I'm printing out my final thesis as I type this. Then I'm on my way up to New Hampshire to defend it (Monday) and then have my public reading (Wednesday). I can't believe I'm almost done with all of this. It seems so crazy, like I just started and that I haven't really learned anything. I'm horrified to see any typos in this thing, but if they're there, they're there for good. :) Next time I post, I'll officially have my MFA degree.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coming to an end

So, I'm finally full-speed ahead with my final thesis revisions. I took a few months off while waiting to get all the comments back from my professors. The edits are going well. I was told that they weren't expecting many revisions from the first draft to the final, but I'm crankin' them out. I don't really want to look at this thing ever again--I feel like I say that a lot, but it's true. When I turn the manuscript in for binding, I'm done with it. At least for a while. I just get impatient, that's all. I want to work on new things all the time (sometimes to the detriment of the finished piece as it's never touched again). Most of my writing ends with the first completed draft. Writing and revising the thesis is great practice for me. Hopefully I'll be able to continue this with other works and actually get something to a presentable state.

My reading has also been schedule for the second week in December. I was really apprehensive and nervous about this, but I'm trying to relax a bit. I tell myself "it'll only be 20 minutes of your life" and try to focus on something else. It's worked so far, my stress level is down a bit. Just a bit. I'm sure it'll sky rocket the day of.

I need to get better about posting more regularly, but blogging has taken a back seat. It's different not being in school. I feel like I don't have much to say. Who else is looking forward to the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 release? I am! I bet I'll feel a little depressed after Part 2, just like I was after reading the seventh book. I am glad that she's not going to write any more Harry Potter books. It's time for her to bring forth something new. But that's TONS or pressure--how can she live up to Harry?

OH WAIT... I do have something else to add. The job market really does suck. It's only been about 3.5 months since I moved to Maryland and I still haven't found work. Not even part-time, retail things. It's very stressful. My credit is about to take a major hit. I'm trying to stay optimistic, but it's difficult at this point. Too many rejection letters from potential employers and too many form letters from literary journals. When's my break gonna come?!?!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Returning to the Thesis

Soon--once I get comments from the last professor on my committee--I will pick up my thesis again and start revising based on their suggestions. Part of me just wants to leave it where it stands and never look at it again. Not because I'm unhappy with it, but because I've moved on. I don't want to be like the song that never ends. I don't want to pick at these stories for years and years to come. Stories get old to me after a while and I feel desperate to work on something new. I figure if no one wants them then they won't be published. And so far... I've only received form rejection letters on what I've been told is my strongest story. After all responses are in from outstanding submission, I think I'm done with literary journals for a while. I need to expand my horizon and look for other appropriate places--I'm not sure that lit journals are for me. Or, like the job market, competition is just too high. The only problem is that I wouldn't know where to begin looking for alternate sources.

I'm 230 pages into my new project--that's 78,751 words to date and I haven't started working on it yet today. Some days I write over ten pages and other days I get in just one. At least I'm still meeting my goal of writing a page a day. I wish the same could be said for my goals to get a little exercise each morning. Bah. One goal at a time, maybe. :)

My sister and I are going to see "Red" this weekend. I used to go to movies all the time, but now that I literally have NO spare spending money, I have to really pick and choose what looks good to me. Part of me really wants to see "The Social Network" because it's written by Aaron Sorkin, who I think is one of the better screen/TV writers out there. Hello, he's the creator of "West Wing"! Though, I recently learned that he was on cocaine while writing most of that show because he thought he needed the drug for the creative process. I'm glad that he's overcome that. He really is an excellent writer. I'm also planning on buying "How to Train Your Dragon" because it was the BEST movie from the spring. So good. I'll have to dig into my piggy bank to do it, but it'll be worth it to have that one in my collection.

I also recently went apple picking and made homemade applesauce. Cobbler is my next venture with the apples. I felt very "home on the prairie" at the farm. Farms are great. I think I was a farmer in another life. Or maybe it's just my Nebraska roots coming through.

Okay, enough randomness. Cheers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Projects... looming thesis reading

I've written 98 pages to a new novel and I'm still going strong. Yay! It feel like AGES since I've written like this and I'm just enjoying every afternoon that I sit down and write. I feel about 95% back to normal. I still feel like my MFA degree may have killed 5% percent of my desire to write while making me a better writer in the process. I'm not sure how that works, that's just how I feel. I'll keep plugging away though--it would be amazing to have a draft of a new novel done by Christmas. Of course it would be an incredibly ROUGH draft, but still a draft. So, there's that.

For the past two nights I've been dreaming about school. The first night it was a semi-nightmare about being unprepared for my upcoming (and first ever) reading. I do not want to do this. I really don't. The dream gave me more anxiety about it all. Last night it was more about MFA student drama. It's like I've immersed myself in the rumors that have reached me in Maryland. Oh the drama. I wonder what tonight has in store for me. Hopefully no more dreams about my reading--maybe something will happen and they'll give me my diploma without that mandatory step. Such foolishness. I don't even know how to prepare for such things.

I have comments from two of my faculty members and so far things have been more positive than negative. I feel like they're being truly honest with me too, which I'm very happy about. My final comments should reach me by next week (hopefully) and then I'll have to take a brief hiatus from my new project. Or just split my days up so half is to old work and half is to new. Lord knows I'm not working at present and have all the time in the world, plus no money. It's a win-lose situation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First Steps

My birthday was a few days ago and I made a goal for the year to write at least one page everyday. I have yet to do that and we're three days into this new year for me--so I guess I owe myself three pages. When did starting a new project become so difficult? Oh well, here's to first steps.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thesis Update

So, I received comments from one of my committee members a few days ago. Overall, I'd say that the outcome was positive. She says four of the eleven stories need more work. Sadly, two of the four were the new stories that I wrote this summer and was feeling pretty positive about. However, I'm not deterred. Unlike the rest in the collection, they do need to sit for a while and I need to re-approach them (and wait to hear feedback from my other two committee members).

I filed my intent to graduate form today and sent a picture in for this graduate student bulletin board that they're putting together--both of these things were awkward for me. The first, because I can't believe I'm graduating with an MFA (and will soon have to read in front of people--I'm not looking forward to that); and the second, I'm not even in New Hampshire anymore. I'm 500 miles away from campus. I don't see people and I certainly don't feel like I'm in school right now. I'm in the "real world" suffering because I don't have a job and don't have money coming in (though I seem to be spending it left and right--hello more debt). Life is difficult right now. Whoa is me. Oh well. Maybe I'll get published soon (just sent out another round of submissions)... and maybe not. Uncertainty makes me insane.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Needs a Project and a Job

Wow... so I need a job, immediately. And I need to start a new writing project now that my thesis is being read. Finding a "career" would be nice. I'm tired of working three part-time jobs all the time. Competition is tough. Stupid economy. Sigh.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Finished... at least for now

11 stories - 204 pages
Something about completion feels so good.
Sending copies off to my committee on Monday... it's so strange to be nearly done.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So, I am official. Well... I'm official for a month, but I have all of the documentation I need to get registration stickers on my car. I'm going to wait though--I paid $20 for a temporary sticker that I didn't even need (was told it was needed in order to get an inspection, but the guy didn't even bat an eyelash or ask for it... grrr). I'm going to use this temporary sticker! I'll tell you what, it really helped taking care of some of the paperwork while I was still in New Hampshire--I've been here only a week and after one failed DMV trip, I have Maryland plates on my car after 1.5 hour wait. So, the above image is not my actual plate number, but it is what the plate itself looks like. This is the new Maryland design and I actually think it's kinda ugly. Sorry to all native MDers out there... I'd love to know what that building is supposed to be. I really did want the old plate (middle) though; I think it looks "governmental" not to mention classy. Thoughts?

Oh well, it's "just a plate that no one looks at" according to my sister and she's completely right about that. But the thing is that I've had Texas plates for over 4 years now--the same plate. The same simple plate. I feel like it's got a simple design--I think I like it when none of the letters/numbers are obstructed with nonsense. I lived in New Hampshire for two years and didn't even register it there! But that was for financial reasons and sheer stubborn behavior (I didn't want to pay over $300 for plates, but low and behold, I'm paying exactly that now). I also wonder if the NH plate design had something to do with it too. The "live free or die" part was nice--I do like that motto. I don't know... this all feels like a bigger deal that what it really is, so lets move on.

Thesis Update: I am working on the final story revision! It's a story that I did last semester so this is the first big edit on it. It's actually a little too fresh still. I do most of my editing 6 months after the first draft is finished and workshopped. After I finish this revision I'm going to look at my table of contents closely again, try to get it all laid out (how the heck do you do that with an unlinked short story collection anyway?!), and then take it to Staples for one big print out. I want to do one more edit (hopefully line edit stuff) before I mail it to my thesis advisers on Sept. 1. I hope to fly up to NH to meet with them sometime in October (or late September), get their comments, make revisions/edits and then turn in a final draft sometime in November. I'll defend in December and read at the same time. BLAH. I'm not looking forward to public reading--the program probably should have arranged for practice opportunities for their students. Some people got to read (like at perspective student day) but those were likely the favorites. What about me, Bob? What about the little people still struggling to figure out structure and story? Are we not good enough? Haha... sigh.

I'm just glad to have a car again... to be able to drive around and see my new neighborhood and scout out potential job prospects. Jobs... that's a subject for another post entirely.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hello Maryland

So, I made it to Maryland in one piece and nothing flew off my car and smashed into the car behind me. Overall, it was a good trip. I felt bad for my cat trapped in his carrier for so many hours; so, in solidarity I didn't eat meals in front of him and felt guilty for sneaking pretzel bits from time to time. My cat is still adjusting, but it's so nice to be in a place where I'm not trapped in one room (too bad Tri is for the meantime). Trust me, the last two years have been pretty confining.

Anyway... the drive was nice. New Jersey sucks the cash right out of your wallet though. I spent about $15 dollars on that state's toll roads. It was ridiculous. My favorite place to drive through was New York City. There's so much to look at there, and there's something romantic about that city, I think. I drove across the George Washington Bridge and that was pretty exciting. So, next step is to finish my thesis and find a job out here. I'm looking forward to getting things started again.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Moving... I feel exactly like this cartoon... I've got a creepy roommate who always wants to offer help. I tend to move more things when he's out of the house. I'm antisocial when he's involved... trust me when I say that the creeper-vibe is legit. [Photo plucked from this website.]

Moving is exciting for a lot of reasons (new opportunities, new people, new place), but the process (cleaning, packing, loading the car, etc) is stressful. I'd like to say that I'm never going to move again, but in reality I'll probably move several more times in my life. The next move takes me to Maryland, which I've mentioned here before. I'm excited to live near my sister (in the same house) again. I hope that I can find a good job and a social network. It's all very odd. I'm glad the next few days will be mild in temperature because I've had to give back my beautiful AC unit. I've been so spoiled the last few weeks. Anyway, I have a few brave friends coming to help me load up my little Rav4. The more things I take down stairs the more freaked out I become about what's going to fit and what may be left on the side of the road with a free sign. Hopefully it will all fit. Hopefully. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oooo Updates

I'm not sure if I really like this new background, but I'm gonna let it sit for a while... or change it a dozen more times tonight. I need something fun to remind me to come post. :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pluggin' Away

So, I've had a productive summer so far. I'm working on my thesis, reading a few short story collections (I recommend Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned), and planning on moving to Maryland at the end of the month. I guess it's time for another big life change. I like visiting the D.C. area, but will I like living there for a year--who knows. Anyway... just wanted to post something real quick since obviously I haven't had this blog on my mind lately. Sad. Hope everyone's doing well!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rounding things Out

I'm done with all of my classes--gasp. It seems like this program flew for me, and I suppose in retrospect it really did. The first year was incredibly difficult; started things out on a sour note (first workshop) got a little bit better toward the end, won and award that felt more political then deserving (recently had a friend say "yeah, a lot of us were like, huh?, when awards were announced." Shit thing to say, but I'm not stupid, I saw what was happening last year), and spent the first summer reading YA novels and trying to regroup after a rough year. This past year has been great for me. Everyone says that my writing has improved, which it has. Still, early comments about me "rocking" made me second guess everything that was said the first year. The worst thing for me was the placating, the tender "let's not scar her for life" comments that beat around the bush and weren't straight up. I am a better writer when people are honest with me and maybe tear me down a little. It would have been great to hear one of my peers say "step it up." Sure it would have hurt in the beginning, but I would have pushed myself even harder. Anyway, this year's been great and I'm feeling more comfortable like I'm my old self again. Writing is coming easier, when it comes at all, and I'm grateful for that. [Image from here.]

I rounded out the year with a great final workshop and just won a second award from my department, this time the contest was judged by an outside person: the fiction editor at Crazy Horse. So, I definitely feel like I deserve it--or at least there are fewer doubts. Unless there was some back handed stuff going on. Who knows. The same three people (including an undergrad) who won awards last year won them this year, so I'm sure there was some bitterness floating around. I feel great about the award, but it's difficult when you've sense that some of your "friends" think that you're less than deserving. That sucks. It really sucks actually. My friend J made a good point when she said that all of us (all the people I came into the program with) are going to eventually be competing with one another for publication in journals, teaching positions, etc., and that we may lose friendships because of it. I'm not that type of person--I feel genuine happiness for people who receive things that I don't (with the exception of financial aid decisions when I felt a little bitter myself toward a good friend, but it was more about me feeling not good enough than she receiving funding). It's just difficult when said people receive tons of awards/recognition and when I win something there's a sense of disappointment (that they didn't win) and the question "really?" Oh well... all I can hope is that this time around things were legit. I'm not going to let doubt creep in. Begone, evil one.

Let's see... yeah, I have a draft of my thesis due October 15, a final draft sometime in November, and then a defense in December. Then I'll be done, done, done. I'm currently looking for full time work in a writing/editing heavy position. I'm in a wedding in July (about to start crash dieting cause I'm worried that the dress won't zip up, gasp), maybe some more vacation in August, and then maybe my life will start anew. Time will tell. Let me just say that it's SO nice to be done. I'm not sad about not being in classes anymore--not yet anyway. Maybe it will hit me later--or maybe I really am done, mentally and spiritually.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I think I just had my last workshop!

Wow, so besides the fact that I haven't been a regular poster this semester (or last)... I think I just had my last workshop class tonight. I may get to do one more revision, but this may be it. I can hardly believe it. Seems like I just started this thing yesterday. If I think about my first workshop story in the Fall 2008 to this one tonight, I can say that I've made some huge advancements. I feel like I've regained some of the confidence that I lost the first year. Too bad my classes are over now because I think that with one more year with this program I would have so much more experience under me. Now, it's thesis time, which I have yet to really start work on.

You know, for all the ups and downs that I've reported on this blog. In the end, well, the end of fiction workshop anyway, I feel really satisfied. It feels like a good note to end on--maybe I won't do another revision. Now if I could just get something published! :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's Gibberish

Sometimes I sit in class and find myself asking: "What the hell are they saying?"

These thoughts have become an epidemic. I'm not sure if it's just burnout of the "academic jargon" used when they talk about writing or true ignorance on my part. I say "they" because I can't speak this way. I don't speak this way. I enjoy the stories and essays I read and then we have to talk about them and I find myself going through mini breakups.

What are we doing here--that's what I really want to know. I'm learning, just not in the traditional sense. I suppose it's seeping in somehow (I hope); it's got to be. My conscious self shuts down. Hopefully someone else inside my head is paying attention.

I'm in the process of writing a short story (due tomorrow), and I'm beating my head against the desk. I just spent the past two hours restructuring it because in class we talked about beginning in the middle of things and not starting from the beginning. I panicked. Does starting at the beginning of a story = boring? Is what I had initially okay? It's difficult to talk about writing when you're in the processes of a project. I want to change every little detail. Is my beginning strong enough? My ending? Are there enough metaphors? It's tiring. Writing is hard this way--I miss when it was easy.

I've yet to start on my thesis, but I wrote the following today. Maybe it will spark some primal need to create:

When I first saw him, Saturn was standing profile, his silhouette dipping and swelling like rolling black hills. I imagined running a little red Hot Wheel convertible down the middle of his face. Down a curving forehead, swept up a bubble nose, a quick dip and then over the bumps of his lips. A straight passage down his torso then up the mountain of his belly, swollen with organs that just won't work properly. He held the curve of a pink hula hoop at the small of his back--he was mid-twist, having spotted me in the back of the car, refusing to move.

Why are starts the hardest? I need to get into a better mood.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Last Semester

So, my last semester of classes starts tomorrow afternoon. The break was long (perhaps too long) and relaxing, and now I don't want to get back into the swing of things. I haven't written anything in months. The idea of writing a thesis freaks me out. I need a schedule... sleeping all day isn't that great for my psyche. :) I'm not sure what to expect tomorrow or Wednesday for that matter--it feels weird to be going back.

Hopefully I'll get back into the swing of things and continue the forward momentum from last semester (where supposedly my writing improved a great deal--guess I sucked it up first year, which isn't that surprising actually). I'm still undecided about this whole MFA thing. I'm too deep in to quit now, but I feel that my expectations and hopes weren't met. It's been a long, HARD road. Full steam ahead, I guess.


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