Saturday, April 23, 2016

Unstoppable

I have applied for 33 jobs. Thirty-three.

Lately I've been feeling frustrated. I know that sorting through applications is probably not these companies' top priority, so they'll take as long as they need. But for me (and for the bazillions of other applicants), this is higher than top priority. This is the continued ability to afford housing and groceries. It's maddening that the next step in my life is entirely determined by other people, and it's entirely on their timeline, and all I can do is wait.

And apply to more jobs. But mostly wait.

Ah, how nostalgic I am for the days when I had actual agency. I hope those days will return soon. Fortunately, Meg & Leta & Molly & my parents & Leta's parents are coming to Vegas later this week to distract me. I look forward to it.

In the meantime, Santigold shall be my anthem.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sick!

I chose the title "Sick!" for its dual nature. I mean it partially in the 90's slang way. It's so sick that I successfully defended my thesis! I'm a Master of Fine Arts now! Sick! But I also mean it in the literal way--I'm grappling with a stomach bug. Last night I was nauseous with fever and chills. Today the chills are gone, and the fever has gone down, but I've been ping-ponging all day between my bed and the bathroom. At least my body waited until all the important stuff was over to do this to me.

As I mentioned, my thesis defense was Thursday morning, and it honestly couldn't have gone better. I was nervous at first, but once the conversation started I felt confident. Most of the questions my committee asked were ones I had already anticipated having to answer--though I was a bit surprised by their questions about the YA market, whether or not I could sell a YA book that references sex and has characters swearing. Everything I learned at the SCBWI Conference last year came in handy. My favorite part was when Anne Stevens and I got in a good-natured tiff about whether or not the Jesus Christ Superstar score could be classified as disco. (Although with those particular backbeats and string arrangements, I still can't understand how the issue is up for debate. Andrew Lloyd Webber was just ahead of his time, okay?) Anne also stole the show by wearing her Godspell sweatshirt. Of course, I looked pretty awesome as well.

Me and the world's best committee

After the defense was finished, I promptly walked to In-N-Out and got a chocolate milkshake to celebrate. Couldn't do much more than that--I had to teach in the afternoon, and I had a job interview the next day. Alas, the world does not stop for major life accomplishments.

The job interview went reasonably well, though the beginning was a total nightmare scenario. The position is in New York City, so we were planning on a Skype interview. I've done Skype interviews before, but when I video chat with my friends, I typically use Google Hangouts, so I hadn't used Skype in a while. About a half hour before the interview, I opened Skype, added the new contact, made sure everything was in order. When they called, I clicked on the button--and Chrome told me I needed a new plug-in. Panicked, I sent them a message explaining the situation and quickly began downloading the plug-in. When it was finally ready, I clicked to install it--and a window popped up explaining that my computer's operating system couldn't run Skype. Which is ridiculous. My computer's only six years old. Extra-panicked, I downloaded the Skype app on my phone, and then I was finally able to call them back. Fortunately, they seemed to think the whole thing was more funny than anything else, and I don't get the impression that they held it against me. Nevertheless, it was embarrassing. If there are more Skype interviews in my future, don't be surprised if I ask one of you to have a test-call with me beforehand.

If there's one good thing about my stomach bug, it's that I had time to apply to more jobs--SEVEN of them, to be precise. Listen, don't beat yourself up about not being as cool as me. Most people can't be that productive when they're sick. But I'm the True Champion, so I'm a special case. If you're even 1/10 as cool as me, you're doing tremendously well.

Alright. Time to drink more Gatorade and binge watch something on Netflix. I hear that this How to Get Away with Murder show is good? I guess we'll find out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Publications & Defenses & Vacations, Oh My!

Let's do this in order.

My trip to Florida was relaxing--and what better way to kick it off than a publication? My flash story "Puff Piece" came out in the newest issue of PINBALL on Friday, so it was great to start the weekend on a high note. If you're in the business of writing stories, PINBALL is a great publication to work with, for the record. They publish fiction, creative nonfiction, and comics. You should submit to them.

As I said, Florida was relaxing, but also a bit surreal. We were visiting what we affectionately refer to as "The Boyd Hotel," my Uncle Bill's place in West Palm Beach. I've been going there on a frequent basis ever since I was little, and it always used to be that my sister and I were the youngest and we adored our cool older cousins. But now my cool older cousins have a litter of children, and I'm the cool older cousin (once removed). So that was a strange transition, but not necessarily a bad one. I finally got to make the acquaintance of baby Mattheijs, as well as Uncle Bill's girlfriend Boots. Spent most of the weekend in the pool, which is exactly how a trip to Florida should be.

This week I've been attending as many of my friends' thesis defenses as I can. Michael's on Tuesday, which was outside in the school's cactus garden. Don and Claudia brought their dog. Today I went to Kayla's and to Shaun's. Everyone has been phenomenal, and now I'm especially nervous for my own defense tomorrow. Tomorrow! How did that happen? I know it's my own novel, and I wrote it, and nobody can possibly know it better than me...and yet.

I'm sure it will go well, assuming I can ever get iThenticate to run the required plagiarism report. It seems to be taking a while, presumably because my thesis is 235 pages long.

That page count makes me feel like a badass. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Calm Before the Storm

Actually, I don't think that title is appropriate at all. For one thing, I certainly hope my thesis defense is not going to be a "storm." For another thing, my trip to Florida probably won't be calm, as there will be several children under the age of seven.

But I'm tired, and I can't think of anything else right now. You'll have to forgive the cliché.

I am flying to Florida tomorrow. I have relatives there--it's where my mom spent her teenage/college years--so I'll be spending most of my time in the West Palm Beach area. I haven't visited since...2012, or possibly early 2013. I'm looking forward to seeing family, relaxing in the pool. Although I can't go swimming-swimming, as my France & Morocco passport stamp tattoos are still too fresh. But that hot tub. I am in that hot tub, already, in my mind. I can't wait to be there in person.

My cousins are bringing their many children, and one of my cousins will have a friend there who's bringing her children. I love it when my cousins have children, because then my mom doesn't bother me about having children. Have more children, cousins. Please, feel free to singlehandedly reverse the trend of population decline in the U.S. I'll just be over here, reading a book.

Seriously, though, the kids are really cute. Smart, too. My brain has been in grad school mode for so long that it'll be nice to spend some time with a few wildly creative, silly sprites.

In Florida I'll try to rest, because when I get back, I have to defend my thesis. One week from today, assuming all goes well, I will be a Master of Fiction. I mean, technically. Minus the paperwork. Minus the fact that no one can ever truly master the written word. But I'll get my degree, at any rate. It's always strange when you're on the cusp of achieving a goal that you've been pursuing for a long time. Once you succeed, you have to find another goal. Or, I suppose, you could choose to live a goal-less life, but I think I'd go nuts. That's one big reason I decided to apply for MFA programs in the first place. Just having a job and doing that work to no clear end bothered me.

Anyway, so many other people are defending next week, and I'm going to try to attend as many defenses as I can. I love these people, and we've worked so hard together during the past three years. It's wonderful to see the culmination of that. Brett defended on Tuesday, but I was unfortunately teaching at that time. However, Olivia defended today, and I was able to attend. She's a doctor now! Doctor Clare! Couldn't be prouder of her. She was so eloquent and poised during her defense, too. She set a high bar for the rest of us.

I ought to go. I have to teach my composition class, and I have to pack. But I'll talk to you all when I get back from the Sunshine State.

Monday, April 4, 2016

#AWP16

I slept until 10:00 a.m. today, but I suspect it will take weeks to regain the energy drained from me by the 2016 edition of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference (#AWP16), which was held just across the Mojave in Los Angeles, California. I don't mean to be unduly negative--the conference was fantastic. I've attended for the past three years, and it might be my favorite so far (though 2014 in Seattle gives it a run for its money). Even so, going to panels and readings all day and parties and readings all night can really take it out of a person. It's a good sort of exhaustion, I suppose.

I road-tripped out to California with Olivia and Austin on Wednesday morning. The drive is through the desert is always beautiful, if desolate--hazy blue mountains, twisted shrubs, dilapidated ruins of rest stops. After checking in at the hotel, I took the Metro up to Los Feliz, where Katie was kind enough to host me--not that I had much time to spend with Katie, or any of my other L.A. friends (sorry Mackenzie & Alex!), as the conference ate up most of my weekend. I don't know why people disparage L.A.'s public transit so much. I found the Metro to be quick and efficient. Mostly clean, too. Maybe the buses are worse.

When I hopped on the Metro that first day, wearing a pink shirt and with my purple suitcase in tow, a very stoned man leaned over to me and said, "you must be going to Hollywood." Cracked me up. I probably did look like a wide-eyed Midwestern girl coming to the big city to break into acting. 

On Thursday I got a little too ambitious with the panels--it left me feeling somewhat panel-averse for the rest of the weekend, which was a shame. If you ever go to AWP, remember to pace yourself. I left Katie's bright and early so I could get to the conference center by 9 to see Olivia's reading. The panel was called "The New South: A Reading in Three Genres." All the writers were good, but Olivia was my favorite. I'm slightly biased, of course. Then I headed to a panel called "Coming-Out Narratives: Beyond Queer 101," featuring Charlie Jane Anders, Lucy Corin, James Hannaham, and Justin Torres. I wanted to go because I love Justin Torres and Lucy Corin, and I've been intrigued by Hannaham ever since I read an excerpt of his most recent novel in The Offing, but I also thought it might be helpful for my own book, which has several prominent queer characters. Their discussion, which centered around the usefulness of coming out narratives and whether or not they're cliché in today's queer fiction, was really interesting. When you get your hopes up for a panel, it's easy to be disappointed, but this one was even better than I thought it would be. I took pages and pages of notes.

Other panels I attended that day: Graywolf Press' "Emerging Authors: On Publishing First and Second Books," where various Graywolf authors discussed the different paths they took to eventual publication, and "Revolutionary Voices: The Queering of Young Adult/Teen Literature," where three YA authors talked about the obstacles they've faced (and the benefits they've experienced) writing queer characters. After the conference, a bunch of us walked to Barcito to attend a party hosted by L.A. Review of Books & The Common & Ecotone & The Library Foundation of Los Angeles & Santa Monica Review. The venue was a tad too small for an AWP-size crowd--I spent most of the party chatting with a woman who works at the PEN Center while we were both shoved to one small corner of the patio--but at least the sangria was free. Then we went to another party at Monty Bar hosted by Tumblr & Nouvella & Catapult & WWLA & Unnamed Press which had a PHOTO BOOTH! We're so cute it hurts.

Friday I spent most of my time at the book fair. The book fair is simultaneously the most glorious thing about AWP and the most overwhelming thing about AWP. Hundreds of publishers (from big names to small presses), literary journals, nonprofits, bookstores, and writing programs set up tables and try to sell you their wares. In many ways it's a good resource for up-and-coming writers, as you can learn all about new opportunities and new places to submit your work. On the other hand, it's also a good way to go broke. I never let myself buy anything until the last day of the conference, so I mostly browsed. I had some good conversations, though: with the women at VIDA, who do the important work of counting the representation of women and minorities in prominent literary venues, with some of the editors of The Offing, which I've been reading religiously since its launch, with my former boss  & current friend Andrew Wessels, who flew all the way back from Turkey (!) to help at the Les Figues table. I went to one panel that day, "From MFA to JOB: Making a Living, Making a Difference." It was mostly information I've heard before, but it's still nice to hear some of it reinforced, and to know that I'm not the only one trying to figure out my life right now. Plus, I got to personally thank the Academy of American Poets' Jen Benka for creating their weekly "Jobs for Poets" listing, which is tremendously useful for those of us on the hunt.

That night I did not go to any offsite events. I took a nap, and then I got some pizza with Katie & friends, and then I went to sleep. It was all I could muster.

And I was awfully glad that I did sleep, because Saturday was just as packed. There were two UNLV-related panels that day: "Las Vegas Writes: Black Mountain Institute Alumni Fiction Reading," which featured PhD alums Vu Tran, Dan Josefson, Alissa Nutting, Maile Chapman, and David Armstrong, and "A Tribute to Donald Revell," which was exactly what it sounds like--a tribute to our dear poetry professor Don. To be honest, I felt obligated to attend both these panels, but in the end I was very glad I went. They were both great. The alumni reading was fun--I especially loved Alissa and Maile's stories--and the tribute to Don was so touching that I legitimately teared up. And I'm not normally one for tears in public.

That afternoon I swept the book fair and made my purchases. I know I'm not supposed to be buying books, but the deals were just so sweet. Open Letter Books was selling three for $10. Three for $10. How was I supposed to resist that? My haul also included Graywolf Press, Kaya Press, Saturnalia Books, and Les Figues Press. It is pictured below for you to salivate over.

For the grand finale, Maile, Cindi, and I took a cab to The Last Bookstore for a party hosted by Graywolf and Riverhead Books. I'd been there before, on one of my recent trips to L.A. It is a bibliophile's paradise, full of words and whimsy. However, we didn't so much attend the party as help Maile sort through and carry her giant selection of used books from the Occult and Paranormal sections of the store. Which was a blast, actually. I dare you to not laugh while reading excerpts aloud from Brock Brower's 1971 National Book Award nominee The Late Great Creature. I dare you.

We made our way back to the hotel, where we ran into pretty much everyone else we knew in the lobby bar. It was nice to wind down with friends. Then I saw Saeed Jones getting a drink, and I thought to myself, is that Saeed Jones, and then, oh my god, it's Saeed Jones, and then I somehow worked up the courage to talk to him, and to tell him that he's one of my favorite people on Twitter, and he hugged me and said he loved my tattoos. I was painfully starstruck. Definitely a major #AWP16 highlight for me.

I drove back with Olivia and Austin yesterday, and after some delicious Indian food at Mint, I crawled into my bed, grateful for my own pillows and sheets. Nevertheless, it's sad that I have to wait another year to attend AWP again--and I'm not entirely sure that I'll be able to, as I'll no longer have funding from the program. Ah, the perils of graduation. But I'm a crafty woman. Don't be too surprised if you see me in D.C.