Archive | October 2015

Risk

No, not the board game! When I was 16, maybe. We used to have these endurance Risk games of about 5 hours, my brothers and I. They were excruciating! At any rate, left those suckers behind in the dark, dark eons of time past.

No, I want to talk about taking a risk. It is one of the common themes wending through my life right now.

There have been points in my life where I have taken a risk and it paid off. The first important risk that I took was asking Bryon if he wanted to get serious. Sadly, he said no. He messed everything up, because my plan was to have our dating anniversary be Valentine's Day. Cliche, right? Yes, but easy to remember. So, disappointed though I was, I persevered through days of classes until he knocked shyly on my door on February 17th, 1984, and told me he'd changed his mind. As of February this year, we'll have been Catherine and Bryon for 32 years. So, I'm glad I asked.

***

In 1992, I quit my high school teaching job in Audubon. I wasn't a happy high school teacher, and I didn't want my potential children growing up in a town where they couldn't read books like Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War. I began studying at the University of Iowa in 1994, because it took us a couple of years to get things around to move. Bryon and I both had no jobs, the PhD program being our only draw. Happily, Bryon started working at Jefferson High School before the school year began, quite by accident, as he was choice number 2. And the connections I made in grad school ultimately led to my job at Kirkwood. Also, I believe we escaped cancer, living in a narrow-minded environment, and eating Alpo in our retirement. You would not have believed our salaries.

***

So, now I have been living with three kinds of risk. One is the great uncertainty of a health situation. Another is the long and arduous road to publication, paved with ambiguity. The final one is I want to continue to transition in my career. I'm ready for a new challenge. As I've been telling friends lately, I love my work here at Kirkwood, but I've gone as far as I can here, and I want to build a new thing. Let's focus in on these risks.

The health situation: in this case, we've decided that this will always be in the background, the ultimate case of living with uncertainty and ambiguity. We have decided to negotiate changes as they come, and not worry about uncertainty and risk. But we are ready to negotiate changes if they come. We're already used to the new situation, even though we were pretty shell-shocked a month ago. So, once we transition to the new state, we'll work with those odds. This is not a risk we take; this is a risk that will come to us. Or not.

The publishing situation: Publication would be lovely. It's not my primary goal. I risk myself by putting myself out there for rejection, but that's a pretty minor risk. You get so used to it after a certain point, and you get some really nice rejections after a certain point. Yes, you do get tired sometimes of the unending stream of no, but if you don't send things out, there is no chance of yes.

There is another kind of risk here--that of pushing yourself artistically. And these risks you take to move forward as an artist. The Pawn of Isis is the first book I have decided to write from one third person POV. This is challenging for me. In my first draft, I am writing from multiple POVs, but only so I know what people might reveal to Carlo, or what Carlo might see. Then I'll work my way into the third person. I want this to work. It'll be a good artistic stretch.

Regarding this risk, then, it comes down to the old adage of control what you can, let the rest slide away. Recently I decided to have a writing practice, rather than a writing career, and I will take artistic risks, including the possibility that my work might be acknowledged publically.

The career situation: The professorship is where I make my money. I am very happy with my nice stable job and all its benefits, and I could be here until I retire. But I am hungry to do something new and challenging, and here I maintain the status quo. With that in mind, and with our retirement goal of living in Florida, I have begun searching for new jobs in that region. Unlike last year, when this was a slip into having something to prove, I realize that this is because I feel I've done what I can here.

Now, I have a job interview at the University of Central Florida to really make an English Language Institute into something that fits that dynamic school. They already have a great set up, but I'd like to be part of that growth and shift. It's a risk. I go from the stable to the new. I put myself out there. What if it doesn't work out? What if I'm not a good fit? But what if I am? What if we build something amazing and special together? I have decided the positive outcome is worth the risk of the negative one. I hope, honestly, that all the deets fall into place with this one. Bryon and I will have a rough two years transition, but it will make life a lot easier for us when we move.

So, risk. You may not always get what you hope for, but when you don't, you dust yourself off and try something new. That's why we hope for continued good health, that's why we send out stories as soon as they come home, and that's why we try to move toward the life we want, a rewarding life living where you want to live.

Existence can be more stable without risk. But it is also less fulfilling to me.

The Monster that Ate October

I think, based on my last post of length, you know that is my job. We are coming up on Halloween, and here's what's going down.

1. The new bathroom. My bathroom is now torn down to the studs. There is some spoooooky insulation still in the wall, and the builders ambitiously (and accidentally) knocked a whole through the wall into one of the spare bedrooms. Guess that's a hint about expanding the bathroom, but we aren't going to. I am sure that you will receive exciting updates, like when the new plumbing works, or when the house is remasted, stuff like that. I can feel you out there, barely breathing, on the edge of your seats.

Right now I'm showering at the Kirkwood Rec Center. Yeah. My life in a gym bag.

2. People keep rejecting me after almost accepting me. And encouraging me to write and send more. And all the stuff, good and bad that goes with that. But mostly good.

3. Halloween! The big bin of ripped out bathroom has disappeared from the yard after three days, and so Skeleton Wedding will go off as planned. Bryon has made the cake, bought the rats, and the bride is dangling from the rafters in our garage. There will be pictures.

4. I...have a job interview with the University of Central Florida. Yes, Tomorrowland has asked my to Lync in next Tuesday. It's an English Language Institute/Faculty Supervisory job that would place us right in the heart of Orlando, and would be an excellent position to be in while I finish the second half of my career. I don't know. See number 2 above. I think it might apply, but believe me, I'll let you all know if I end up moving to Orlando. And yes, Bryon and I would have loads of wrinkles to iron out, so either way is both good and bad.

5. NaNoWriMo begins very, very soon. I am signed up and ready for my fingers to fly. We are hiring a new teacher at work, so next week I get a lot of time off to write, so it'll be almost like a little mini-vacation, and I am going to crank out that first draft of Pawn of Isis, as we discussed before.

6. There are a couple of open calls for manuscripts that I will be taking advantage of, one in November, and one in the new year.

7. Bryon's mom is having more memory issues. This is Not Good (TM). He is concerned, which doesn't help his condition at all, which is also Not Good (TM). I'm still working on getting him to relax, and I'm working on him to get to a counselor. I think we're getting closer there. Of course he's going to feel bad and stressed. I know, as someone who is often anxious, that sometimes it's got to be a conscious decision to detach, even though it is hard. He is just learning that. At any rate, reporting for supportive spouse duty.

So, are you ready for Halloween? Thanksgiving? The fake and real holiday seasons? All that good stuff? Because I am so ready. Holiday cards, costumes, the smell of turkey at Granite City, hiring actors to be my family over the holidays? What? You know I don't talk to my real family. Besides, you envy me. I know you want to replace your own family at those get togethers. Yeah, really.

In all seriousness, if you have a good family, enjoy them for me this holiday season. I'll weigh in with some hot tips for those of us in recovery, as I often do in this season.

And I'm out of here for now.

The Next Things

Hey folks.

I had hoped that this year would be better for blogging, but now not only does my job have teeth, it has three rows of teeth, like a shark. In protecting my psychological self, I need to have creative time, and I spend that in the more creative realms of writing fiction. I need to exercise and maintain my physical health, so I walk at lunch, and I try to exercise at other times. I actually take time to rest and do nothing at all.

What this means is that I really can't do it all, and I have to manage my time even more carefully. Throw Bryon's medical uncertainty in this mix, and what that means is a priority list that looks like this:

1. Bryon
2. Those I love in other ways
3. Creativity
4. Taking care of my body
5. Work

And that's not bad. This kind of thing, though, the journal, falls somewhere closer to number 8 now, which is altogether too bad, because I used to have a higher readership and it was a good way to build publicity and an audience. But hey, can't part the Red Sea either. Actually, I'm not sure about that. I've never given that a whirl.

***

Of course, I'm not necessarily convinced that I'm going to get a audience. I'm just glad I have a pension in my future, that's all I'm saying. As I've often said, publication would be lovely, but the creativity is why I'm in it, and the rest would be a lovely side effect. I was rejected by another agent who had a full today and I hardly even feel it. She said some very nice things which feels good. If I am destined to get this far, fine. I would do publicity and writing with the cool skill that I tackle my professorship with, but hey, you know, right now I can still write what I want when I want. I am my own mistress to experiment and enjoy, without the pressure of deadlines. There's some part of that journey I can appreciate and enjoy.

***

Let me tell you what's happening next.

This weekend is Paradise Icon. I'll get to see my Hugo winning friends Jim and Ann and bask in their reflected glory. I'll hang out most of the weekend with my pre-published friends critiquing stories. We have a reading 8-10 Saturday night, so I'll get to hear what they're up to. I'll get to see my best friends in the entire world and make plans for us to spend more time together, because I don't want anyone to have any regrets about the future, and while the future looks fine right now, it also looks uncertain.

I'm going to see David. The suicidal thoughts of which I spoke a couple of entries ago did NOT recur, thank goodness. That's a depression med danger, and when they came out of nowhere, that was frightening. However, I have spent some days nervous and jittery and I am doing really well giving Bryon the good, good wife love, but I probably need to talk through some of my fears, rational and irrational with a smarter guy than me. As with the medical system in the US, I can't get in for a month after the inciting instance, but it was already two weeks ago, so there's that.

I'm writing NaNoWriMo. I am needing some words on The Pawn of Isis, so I am getting them, a great sloppy inchoate mass of words that I can work with. After November, I'll let them cool off and return to the brothers troll from Decorah. I'll rescue about a third of that book, change the focus, and resurrect in true Wonderbook style. I need a new title, since the devil will no longer be in the story. Nope, it'll be a book about sibling rivalry.

My main writing goals for 2016 are to get out of it with two new books--a YA and another Klaereon stand alone. Then we'll go pitching again, as well as mailing. Meanwhile, I'll spend this year sending out Vessel, finishing up the last query vestiges of Abby Rath and The Ground is Full of Teeth, and keep at least 10 shorts making the rounds. The only thing I don't have time for right now is that serial I'd like to do. But you know. Three rows of teeth. Shredded fish. Fake paranoid cancer threat. Honestly, given my parameters, I'm kicking butt.

All this could change if I were to... I don't know...get an agent and sell a book. It's not a totally remote possibility. Like Bryon's stomach though, we're going to play along with what is current now and only modify when we have to.

***

Okay. So the other experiment is the great eating right experiment. Exercise? Check. Walking and ballet, although ballet ends in two weeks. HOWEVER, I believe I'll pick up Wii Yoga and Strength training again in November, as well as the walking. Here's a thing though--I am tired of trying to be a mover at 210 or so pounds. That ain't easy. So I gotta really eat veggies, drink water, all that. It would really help if you looked forward to veggies more than you did a piece of artisan bread. Just sayin'. More importantly, if I can adopt the idea that if I'm exercising and eating right, weight is not as important as all that, well, that would be healthier for my happiness. I still think if I'm exercising and eating right, certain things will just happen.

Okay. So that's a lot of writing. It's been a while since we talked. It could be a while again, but I'll try to get back to you and let you know how the weekend goes.

Peace, love, understanding, etc.

Favorite Recent Rejection

Yes, it's a cheater entry, because I don't want to write about direct and indirect speech, or why ELA tutors should make a particular wage here.

A recent rejection for my cat poem, in the style of Beowulf. I really appreciate the nice reviews, as I think all writers do.

Our new poetry staff has reviewed "Cat Emperor." We enjoyed its playful portrayal of the royalty of felines, and found it entirely fitting with our own understanding of the species.

It goes without saying that these fine people are right about cats. 🙂

Paging Frank Capra

I have some revision to do on the Oni Press proposal. The surprise short story was pretty much an Aphrodite in the shell moment, and as such it has already begun its journey into the world. To wit, Chris Cornell thinks I should write an anthology of Midwestern lycanthropy stories. Never would have seen lycanthropy as a metaphor for my life, but here we are. 🙂

Had my physical on Wednesday and everything looked good. Yes, my cholesterol is a tiny bit high at 108. Diet and lose weight and be active. You know the drill. The doctor said, "Is there anything that you want to know?" I said no. Well, it was true at the time.

Thursday morning was a low day. It was my mother's birthday. Now, I've missed many of my mother's birthdays, so I'm still trying to figure out why this one hit me so hard. I think that it's because it was her 75th birthday, a landmark birthday. Bryon had been a bit upset with me the night before after a conversation about his mother, in which he thought I was trying to undermine his happiness about her living arrangements, and in which I was nerding out about modals of certainty. Go figure. So I was low going to bed and I woke up lower.

The next morning I woke up desolate and jittery. And I drove to work and entered the Depressed Zone (TM). I thought about things like how the world would be better if I didn't exist. I did not visualize suicide exactly. I made no plans. I was ripe for a George Bailey moment. My existence didn't matter and I wasn't doing any good. Clarence? Of course, at the end of the day, I did bring it up to the spouse, because that's what you do when you are on depression meds. Hey, I watch pharmaceutical commercials!

The following two days I have been just fine. JUST FINE. I think I had a moment of depression and feeling like a worthless daughter. I still feel that the decision to leave my family behind is the best one. I am grieving, not guilting. But there will always be some part of me that makes me feel like I am failing, and I am less worthwhile because I am not being a good daughter to bad parents. Should that have made me feel that I didn't want to exist?

Well, no. Of course not.

There are other mitigating factors. Harsh news, busy work, tiredness. Maybe even medication at a certain level. Taking one less Xanax now. Feeling jittery with two and a Wellbutrin. We are monitoring my psychological thoughts, and I'll see David at the end of the month, the soonest I could get in. Depression and anxiety are going to be a constant negotiation. We don't get better. It's sort of like we just go into remission.

And it's goofy. I look at all the wonderful friends I have, and all the ways in which I make a difference and enjoy my life. I have no idea why this happened. It was truly kind of a scary thing.

***

I would really, really like to credit teaching for bringing me back from the depression edge. Part of me wanted to stay home and stew in my juices, but work made me work and reach out, and I did some great teaching and some students even thanked me for it. Even though I was low, I kept moving and talking and I grew back into it, leaving the bad thoughts behind. I love my work.

That said, how strange would it be for me to say that I can now see myself doing something different? Because my thoughts are really elsewhere these days. I'm not phoning it in, but you know I would like for Bryon and I to be spending more time together, doing things that matter.

Okay. I'll keep you posted, guys. I'm on it. I'm not thinking I don't matter and shouldn't exist. I just did for about 3 hours on Thursday, and it passed.

***

The new short story is circulating, so I have 11 making the rounds. Several are close to trunking, EXCEPT I keep finding ONE MORE MARKET. I am back to Pawn of Isis.