Writerly growth

Because I’m shipping my stuff through the post office instead of hiring movers, I’ve been trying to winnow my belongings as much as possible, especially heavy things like papers. I’ve throwing out a stack of paper literally two feet high, and I still have twice as many papers as I came with!

Some of the stuff I threw out was old bills, or multiple critiques of stories that I’ve condensed down to one master copy for easier revision. But I also threw out a huge stack of articles offering advice on writing, articles I was struggling to understand when I came here (and brought along because I thought I’d need them), that now seem both way below my skill level and in some cases painfully misguided.

What’s really shocking to me is that these articles are almost entirely on plot and conflict, topics that are almost taboo in the MFA world, and yet I seem to have learned a ton on the subject while I was here. I know a lot more now about internal and external conflict, how to keep a story moving, and how to pick problems for the characters that match the tone I want for the story. I’m not saying I know it all, not by a long shot, and I’m still working on putting it all into practice, but I have a way better sense of what I’m aiming for than when I came here.

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Aaaaand we’re moving at top speed!

Not half an hour after that last post, I got a solid offer from Oxford University Press, which I accepted! I’m going to be a production editor at their Cary office in North Carolina, doing air traffic control for several academic journals (assigning copy editors, checking in with art department about cover design, etc.) I’m really thrilled (and a little terrified!) and I know it’s going to be a great place for me to grow.

Just so there’s movement, even in the wrong direction.

It’s been three weeks with barely a single rejection letter. Understand, I don’t particularly like rejection, but I can’t send any new stories to any of the markets until they accept or reject the pieces I’ve already sent them. I haven’t really sent anything out to publishers in about ten years, so this sudden logjam, just when I’m getting really excited about sending stuff out again, is leaving me a bundle of raw nerves (and it probably doesn’t help that I’m in the midst of a job search AND an apartment search too).

Most of the journals are closed to submissions for the summer, which is even more frustrating because for the journals that are closed, I’m going nuts wondering why I still haven’t heard from them, whether they’re deliberating on my piece, trashed it when they hit the end of their reading period without notifying me, or just haven’t gotten to it yet. And for the journals that are open, I’m going crazy wondering which of my pieces I should send to them next and which I should let languish until Fall, when more markets are open.

Mainly, I just want something to happen, because I need to do something with all this restless energy. Now. Please.

Stupid, stupid rat creature!

Note to self: Yes, you can talk on your cell while you bike, as long as you’re on a safe bike path away from the roads. You can put on your gloves or zip up your jacket as you bike, too.

However, biking, talking on a cell, putting on your gloves and accidentally clenching the brakes is a really dumb combination.

I managed to leap off the bike in time, so I remained standing while the bike flipped over in front of me, which was a pretty impressive sight, but the bike hit me in the stomach just to remind me not to do that again.

Launched

My folks just flew back yesterday; it was amazing having them here and we really took full advantage of the time together. We drove up to Boulder and Cheyenne (yes, I know Boulder is south, but any time you’re hauling up a sheer cliff face counts as “up” in my book!), watched Jane Eyre at the Lyric Cinema, hiked along the Poudre River, sponsored a kiddush at my shul, and oh my God, the food this week. For those of you who know Ft. Collins, the seared tuna with mango salsa at Coopersmith’s and the pumpkin bread french toast with rum butter sauce at Rainbow were particular favorites. Om nom nom.

More than that, I got to introduce them to all the amazing people I’ve been telling them about for the past three years–my friends inside and outside the program, the community at my shul, and the teachers who’ve really been mentors to me. It was so important to me that my folks get at least a taste of why I adore all of them and see who I am out here (which is very different from who I was in New York).

And, of course, they got to be there for my reading. While my program has a number of venues for students to do less formal readings earlier in the program, I really hadn’t felt ready to share my work before this. Partly, I felt really vulnerable about my work and didn’t want to show it to anyone unless I had to, and partly, it felt really clear earlier on that I had a lot of work to do on revising these stories; that they weren’t ready to be shared any more than I was ready to share them. But I really felt by this point like the stories in my thesis had really come together in a good way, I was thrilled about them, and I wanted everyone around me to be just as excited as I was about them. So I just got up there and completely rocked it. I used every trick I ever heard my parents discuss about public speaking to keep the audience interested, and I think the fact that I was so excited and in love with the story came through and got passed to the people listening. It felt so joyful and perfect, and five minutes after I finished I wanted to go up and do it again!