Archive for October, 2007

The accidental time machine, part 2

Well, that was a busy and fairly productive weekend–not in the writing sense, of course, but in the family and grading sense, and also in the job-search sense, in that I did manage to get the most pressing application sent.  I guess I feel I have accountability to invisible people, because it helped me enormously to post that list on the blog, as well as to reward myself by going online to cross things off.  Our internet connection was somewhat unreliable this weekend, so I wasn’t always able to do it in a timely fashion–but then, I also had no trouble keeping my vow about no more than an hour of goof-off web surfing, because the damn thing wasn’t up when I was ready to use it.  (Fortunately, it was working when I needed to look up a couple of things for the job app.)

And now to grade those last few papers for today’s class and otherwise prepare for the day and for tomorrow (Terrible Tuesday).  Once again, the Snork Maiden will probably wake up to find me grading at the dining-room table.  (I realize that something is out of whack when, five days out of seven, I greet the dawn while I am grading at the dining-room table.)

The accidental time machine

On deck for this weekend:

  • Complete three two job applications (I finished the one due Wednesday.  Next deadline is Friday.)
  • Grade 25 16 5 papers for the Monday-only class (Will finish the others Monday morning.)
  • Grade 15 papers for the MW class with the aim of handing them all back on Wednesday (Okay, this was a little too ambitious.  Hope to get 15 done Monday.)
  • Get three two one good night(s) of sleep
  • Hit grocery store, pharmacy, and Target for birthday gift* (Stubb did pharmacy and Target; I made a grocery run.)
  • With the Snork Maiden, take care of New Niece for a couple of hours (Cute cute cute!)
  • Take the Snork Maiden to birthday party; have a little alone time while she is there and not spend it all grading (Tried to nap, but it didn’t take.  Read instead.)
  • Drop in on friend’s pumpkin-carving party with the Snork Maiden (Stubb can’t go) (Fabulous pumpkins!  Can’t wait to post a photo.)
  • Do something fun and family-like with Stubb and the Snork Maiden** (We went out for breakfast.  Not original, but fun.)
  • Do something fun and couple-like with Stubb** (We ran out for coffee for an hour.  Nice to have even a little time hanging out together.)
  • Run a load or two of laundry(Joint project.)
  • Pay a couple of imminent bills
  • Write a few pressing emails and letters
  • Talk with the trick-or-treating posse to make a plan for Halloween night*
  • Added: Supervise the Snork Maiden’s completion of her book report

*denotes task that can/probably should be delegated to Stubb

**Stubb has a couple of commitments this weekend, so this will take some planning–must endeavor not to throw him and Snork Maiden together every spare minute so that I can grade, or abandon Snork Maiden to Nintendo DS.

Yes, I think I definitely envy people with time.  But hey: this is basically all good stuff, right?  There’s no “Visit sick friend in hospital” on that list, for example, or “Fill out power of attorney for senile parent.”  In fact, two people I care about have recently been sprung from the hospital.  And we have money in the account to pay the bills–not all the bills, but the ones that need to be paid, like, now. 

I could feel myself piling up the small but necessary tasks at the end there, so I thought I’d better just stop before I started making up things that would be nice, but not necessary, to do. 

Things I probably won’t do: Watch any TV.  Work in the yard.  Read a novel or some poetry, unless for a little while in bed.  Write. 

Amount of time I’ll allow myself for surfing the internet: one hour, after the Snork Maiden is in bed and while Stubb is out.

Envy

I guess there is no way that these next two applications, which are both due Oct. 31, are going out today–not with two classes to teach.  Okay.  Saturday, perhaps.  Or Monday, since I’ll have to Express-Mail them anyway.  There are many things I miss about my last full-time job; a small but significant one is having carte blanche to use their UPS account for Second-Day and the occasional Next-Day Air shipment. 

So there’s still time to answer this question about whether I can leave 2YC off the c.v., if you like.  That’s not the part I’m puzzling over; it’s more that both of these applications require an element that I haven’t had to develop before.  One is a particularly specific way of demonstrating past teaching success, and one is a “one-page description of your work.”  Really?  I mean, for the dissertation, I would understand; it’s called an abstract, right?  But an abstract of one’s creative work?  Not, I take it, a synopsis of one book, but a page about one’s work as a whole.  Are they not planning to read the writing sample unless this page gets them interested in it?  I would have thought a paragraph in the cover letter would be enough to do that.  Are they looking for the ability to talk to nonspecialists about one’s work?  And/or did this line get carried over from the last job ad they wrote?  Fortunately, I have a couple of grant applications I can probably cannibalize for descriptions of my published work and my work in progress.

Which is not so much in progress at the moment, honestly.  And that made me extremely cranky for a while after I heard about the Whiting Writers’ Awards this week.  The Whiting is a terrific award with, from everything I can tell, an exemplary selection process.  They have a great track record of choosing excellent writers who aren’t totally obvious choices–occasionally even before they’ve published a first book, but more frequently after a first book has come out and the writer can really use the money (which is now up to $50,000, according to their website; it was $40,000 for the last few years) to work on the next one. 

And, as I said about the MacArthur, money is time–and time is what I don’t have very much of right now.  Or, rather, too much of my time is being put into teaching.  And now that all three institutions are going full bore, I am just not finding time in a typical week to work on book #2. 

So I envy the Whiting recipients.  And in a corner of my heart, I feel happy for them, too, because I know what a life-changing thing a good-sized award can be.  (No friends among this year’s recipients, but also no enemies–not that I have many enemies, but I do have a writer who is my bête noire, for reasons that might be interesting to discuss in another post, and if he got one, I’d take it personally.)

And I also feel ashamed of not having gotten more done with the grants I’ve had.  I’ve been lucky enough to get a couple of good ones, and there’s no question that they’ve made a difference, but now that the money’s spent (and a sizeable chunk of it, I ruefully reflect, spent on the Great Plumbing Disaster of ’05), of course I feel that I didn’t use the time wisely enough.  I’d probably feel that in any case–most people seem to–but at the moment the feeling is especially piercing.

Envy has often been a great motivator for me, though.  My first publication in a literary magazine, twelve years ago, was a direct result of envying a writer I’d known in college, who brought a first book out indecently early, and being spurred to start sending my work out seriously.  At other times, envy has helped me propel myself into the scrum of writers applying for grants and prizes.  I’ve never recognized envy as a motivator for actually writing–I don’t seem to need a lot of external motivations for that–but it’s helped me recognize what I wanted and helped me to believe I deserved it (“if a joker like that could get prize X, why not me?”).  So right now, perhaps I need to look at writers who are cashing their first $25,000 Whiting check and recognize that, damnit, I want what they have: more time.  Heck, maybe this will give me the extra shove I need to admit that I need to stop teaching at 2YC.  And if it puts a little extra zing into these two job applications, all the better.

In search of the perfect job, part two (with bonus question!)

I’m pulling together a couple more applications to send off on Friday, and I’m wondering whether it could possibly be okay to leave 2YC off the c.v. altogether.  There are two reasons for this.  One is that 2YC is a for-profit technical college, and I’m afraid that the four-year liberal arts school and the state university I’m applying to will be distinctly underwhelmed by its inclusion.  (And I really wouldn’t blame them, for reasons I’ve discussed before.)  The other is that since my last full-time appointment, in 2005-2006, I’ve taught at five schools, and I’m afraid that this makes me look not like a perfectly normal adjunct, but like a really marginal adjunct who hasn’t been able to put together a sensible gig.  Of course, I think that I’m in a transitional period and that by this time next year, if I’m not in a regular f/t position, I should at least be in a pretty decent adjunct groove.  But for right now, it looks (and feels) like a big ol’ mess.

I thought that if I took it out, I would rename the “Teaching Experience” section of my c.v. “Selected Teaching Experience.”  I don’t want to deny I ever taught there; I just don’t think it does anything for my c.v. except make it look more cluttered.  Does this seem reasonable?  Have you seen it done before?  Would it raise any red flags for you?

Little boxes

As I predicted a couple of weeks ago, I’m delighted with my Ori Yoki pencil box.  I always have a selection of writing implements, and I don’t poke myself in the hand while scrabbling for a pencil in my shoulder bag.  My pleasure in using this seventy-five-cent item is surprisingly intense.  It reminds me of an essay I haven’t read in perhaps two decades, Alan Watts’s “Materialism.”  The comment which made an impression on my teenaged brain could be paraphrased like this (remember, I haven’t read this in a long time):  People say Americans (or did he say “Westerners”?  I remember “Americans”) are materialistic, but in fact Americans behave as if they hate material–they use it, waste it, don’t take the time to notice or appreciate it.  I think of this when I pull out, admire, and feel gratitude–yes, gratitude–for this small manufactured object that removes a measure of frustration from my day and replaces it with a small, predictable pleasure.

Is there a material object that’s been giving you a lot of pleasure lately?

ori-yoki-001.jpg

The insect god

mantis

On Thursday evening, Stubb and the Snork Maiden found a praying mantis with a swollen abdomen climbing up the front of our house, and on Friday morning, Stubb found her protectively hovering and feinting over an ootheca which she’d securely attached under the roof.  By Friday afternoon, however, she’d gone off, perhaps to lay more elsewhere; according to The Big Zoo, females lay up to 22 different egg masses in the fall.  They hatch in spring or early summer.  I’m a little trepidatious at the idea of coming home to find “30 to 300” juvenile mantises disporting themselves (and possibly eating one another) on my porch one day in May, but on the other hand, maybe they will grow up in time to eat the June bugs we tend to get in early summer. 

The search for signs of intelligent life in the universe

Wow.  I thought I’d cap off my day of working at home in my sloppy clothes and sheepskin slippers with a quick blog post about finally getting out a couple of job applications.  After I posted it, I idly clicked on the link to check my blog stats, and that’s when I realized that I’ve had a lot of new readers today: Inside Higher Education linked to my post about narrative grading.  If you’re coming here from IHE, welcome!  I’ll try to be more fascinating tomorrow; I’m a minute late for my phone conference right now.

In search of the perfect job, part one

[Note: the subtitle of the actual book In Search of the Perfect Job is “8 Steps to the $250,000 Executive Job That’s Right for You.”  Of course, if there were eight steps between me and such a job, the first two would be “1. Find a way to reverse time” and “2. Go back about fifteen years.”]

I’ve now sent out two job applications; I’m pretty sure I’ll send out at least three more, maybe four.  And since it’s only mid-October, there may yet be new openings of interest.  Whether this translates into any interviews, or, farther down the road, any jobs, no one knows.

The most productive thing I have done today is get one of those applications out.  I’ve also graded a few papers and sent some necessary emails.  I have a quick phone conference coming up and then I’m off to teach again.  This evening, I’ll attempt to complete a third job application and grade some more papers, but that may be too ambitious a plan. 

It’s a bit disorienting to spend an hour revising one of your standard job letters to apply for a job, convincing yourself in the process that you are the perfect person for that position and happily envisioning yourself doing it, and then look up to realize you still have to do the job(s) you have now.

Wookiee cookies

A few words about the title of this post: I just happened to run across it; it’s the title of a Star Wars cookbook; it seemed like a perfectly good title for a random-bullets-o’-crap kind of post; not everyone realizes there are two ee’s in “Wookiee”; and I can’t wait to see what kind of search-engine hits I get from this one.  (So far, the post titled “The big orange splot” is the winner in terms of search engine traffic; I also get a lot of people searching for “Snork maiden costume.”)

So here are a few Wookiee cookies for my dear readers as I make my way through Monday and Tuesday, which are the most challenging days of the week this fall (Tuesday in particular; I leave the house no later than 7 A.M., return for perhaps an hour in the afternoon, and stagger back in the door at 10:30 P.M., having been at three different institutions of higher learning.  But then I have one class each on Wednesday and Thursday, leaving me some writing time):

  • Seen on a 2YC memo about a noon meeting: “Please feel free to bring your lunch.  We will provide water.”  Obligatory snark: “Do you think they’ll spring for air, too?”
  • An overheard cell phone conversation today at 2YC suggests that “beeyotch” is now an affectionate term of address among very young women (as in “Hi, beeyotch! Whatcha doin’?”). 
  • I’m planning to attend a public event involving poetry.  It’s cosponsored by a couple of different entities and I’ve gotten emailed announcements about it from a couple of different mailing lists.  I’ve seen three different start times announced, spanning an hour, and several different prices for admission.  (Most poetry events are free, unless there’s a Nobel or Poet Laureate involved–not the case here–or funds are being raised for something, also not the case here.)  I can’t wait to see how many people show up for this 1) not-free, 2) who-knows-when-it-is, 3) poetry event.  It features some excellent writers and deserves a decent-sized audience, but who knows whether it will get one. 

Enormous changes at the last minute

Those who teach creative writing may be aware that this year’s AWP Conference is in New York at the end of January (shiver).  The early registration deadline is October 31.  I registered online this week in order to get the presenter rate (unlike many conferences, there’s a substantial discount if you’re presenting).  In a burst of efficiency back in July, I also reserved a hotel room at the conference hotel.  I still can’t quite believe I did this; it seems as though someone more efficient must have temporarily occupied my body.  The hotel has been sold out for a couple of months now. 

A few things have changed, though, since we proposed the panel back in May.  I got the spring semester class at New RU; I’ll have to miss one meeting of it for AWP.  I also started teaching at NCC, and was offered a short-term, intensive January-term class there, which I accepted without, I’m afraid, thinking much about the consequences for AWP.  Now my question is, how much of AWP will I be able to attend?  I guess I need to talk to my NCC chair and mentor about how to handle this in the context of the intensive term.  And I should do it soon, so that I can pull off a hat trick by getting the third piece of advance planning done: making low-budget travel arrangements for the trip to NYC. 

It’s funny; the AWP website avers that the NYC conference “will be our most popular conference ever.”  I suppose that’s because a lot of writers live either in or near New York, and those who don’t will be eager to go there.  But since it’s New York, the hotel is going to be expensive (thank goodness I am sharing with a friend), as will everything else, compared to the last couple of AWPs (Atlanta and Austin; in Austin, in particular, I had a couple of really excellent and very reasonable dinners).  Also, my experience is that what with seeing friends, attending a couple of the big events, trolling the bookfair (where you inevitably run into dozens of people you know), and possibly taking in a panel or two–not to mention the drinking!–you don’t end up seeing much of the city you’re in.  And since I’m much more likely to be in New York again within a twelvemonth than I am to be in Austin or Atlanta, I probably won’t do much outside the convention hotel.  Especially considering that it will be the end of January.  So I have a feeling that while it will cost more to attend this AWP than the last one or the next one (Chicago), it’s not actually going to be any more interesting. 

Except for our panel, of course!  That will make it all worthwhile.  Anyone going to be at AWP?