Monday, August 22, 2011

Perhaps I Am Thinking Too Much of My Own Personal Experience Here

One thing about being home-based is that one spends a lot of time alone and not having to do the whole Girly Presentation for strangers. I used to really like the Presentation. I pored over fashion magazines for style and makeup tips. I'd go through periods and fads ("We're Mod this week!") and generally just see beauty and fashion as a facet of self expression.

These days, showering is an accomplishment. I wear mismatched pants and tops and don torn sandals with everything. I cannot remember the last time I wore makeup. And on more than one occasion, I have sauntered down to the nearby market with a giant smear of something across my nose: sunscreen, dirt, bicycle grease. Since the checkout people know me, they will gently point it out.

If I cared what I looked like, I'd check a mirror more frequently; but as it is, I mostly don't bother. So the thought of this project baffles me more than anything. It just seems impractical. You could be parading about with spinach in your teeth or your shirt on backwards or inside out. Your eyebrows could be merging above your nose. Your lipstick could be escaping to Baby Jane territory. You could have those tiny goopy things in the corners of your eyes. How would you possibly be able to present as a normal human being in the professional world?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Motoring On, Motoring On, Motoring On . . .

I'm starting to get discouraged. Okay, not so much "starting to get" discouraged, since an ebbing and flowing level of discouragement has been my constant friend since I took this bold leap into the future and decided to shred my job security in the worst economy since the great depression while amassing loads of student debt. It's more like getting re-discouraged. We're reaching peak discouragement.

My latest phone interview, after some hoops and paper work, did not turn into even an in-person interview. Which is fair enough; I get that it's a matter of fit for both sides. When the unemployment rate guarantees a flood of good candidates, it behooves a smart hiring manager to pick and choose, keeping options open. It's just kind of a drag for those of us in limbo while all this weighing of options is going on. And okay, I'll be honest: I'd hoped my spectacular writing samples would seal the deal. Even if I didn't in past produce the exact type of writing desired, surely, surely my innate flexibility would be apparent? Persuasive skills, I get. Not everyone can polish some really beguiling copy. Descriptive text, though: what are the variables in that? Grammar? Decent word choice? Good flow? Is there some sort of corporate syntax? Are brevity and simple sentences the mainstays of business documents? It's kind of sad that I've been an office monkey my entire adult life, and I don't even know. My letters, emails, and whatnot all seemed to cover the bases well enough.

It comes back to the abundance of people in the market, I know. Why train people when you can find the exact thing that you're looking for? Generalists, as they say, are passe. Specialization, specialization, specialization is the rage. Working in a small office where you're a jack of all trades doesn't translate well into a specialized niche. It's quite maddening and hard to finesse. Nonprofit leaves you asea in corporate, because why take on someone who doesn't immediately know the culture, when you can hire someone who does? No longer working in publishing proper means that you're off a standard track, and there's no publishing here to speak of, anyway. It's not DC, so the nonprofit and interest groups aren't thick on the ground, and the ones that are here are working with no money. Communications and PR, which are relatively thick on the ground here and which I've done in teeny tiny doses, naturally want people experienced in same. I could do it, but again, why train when you can get the exact thing? I've done some development work, and I write, so: grant writer! Except I've never written grants. It's making me rethink my field study, I tell you what.

But it does no good to get bummed out and feel judged. (But, dude, I thought if there was anywhere I could sell myself, it was with a bit of writing. That's what hurts.) So all I can do is stay focused and try to keep thinking and planning, networking and communicating.

And now that I've got the freelance portfolio up and running, I can start hitting the ground hard to gin up new clients. All of this was not unexpected, but damn. I really hoped I'd be instantly recognizable as spectacular and be employed accordingly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Things I'm Discovering (Maybe I Should Write a Book?)

This job-hunt process has been . . . illuminating. For one thing, it's brought into sharp relief the differences between people who have their career paths mapped out and those who thought they did, lost it, and now find themselves struggling to resell or reinvent themselves. Personally, I don't think there's much separating the two apart from luck. But if you're from a certain socioeconomic strata and have accumulated a lifetime of being taken seriously and given opportunities, it's easy to rationalize that you'll always be okay. I know, I was there! After a relatively easy post-graduation transition into the job market in a down economy (nothing compared to today, but I did have to take a temp job that turned into a permanent one), I have motored every onward in the world of the gainfully employed. Not reaching great heights like some of my friends, mind you, but employed, in a gainful fashion.

Now it's a different world, and I'm in a different age and stage in my career. As such, I'm accumulating an assortment of blazing insights that I'm bestowing, in volume, on a friend of mine who is looking to change jobs. But I would like for her to save herself a lot of time that I wasted finding this stuff out.

Blazing insight #1: Sending in resumes to online job lists is like submitting to literary magazines. The competition is fierce, you're one of hundreds. The odds are, you're not going to get to the top of that anonymous stack.

Blazing insight #2: Like in the world of dating, hiring managers can smell desperation. They don't want desperation. They want confident, competent professionals who make their lives easier.

Blazing insight #3: If you don't know what you want to do and/or you're not able to communicate it, two things will happen (a) your network will have no idea how to help you and (b) employers will pass you over, because their priority is not to help you with your self-fulfillment journey, it is to hire people who will do the job well and who want to be there.

Blazing insight #4: Network, network, network. I've always hated it and avoided it like the plague. It's such an imposition! I don't know how to pay folks back! But the thing is, other people are networking too. And if a conversation can result in a trade that helps everybody, excellent! If the networking involves friends, your friends care what happens to you. If they had a magic wand, they would wave it for you, with fierceness, in order to materialize the perfect position. And because they are your friends, the time may indeed come when they need to rely on your knowledge/expertise/network/ability to toss them freelance work. So it's not something to get hung up about. Treat people with respect, reciprocate, be a good friend.

Blazing insight #5: Together with projecting confidence and avoiding desperation, know your worth. For instance, you know what? I'm mighty awesome at organizing things. I edit with care and detail. I'm a pretty decent writer. I'm an extremely hard worker. And any place that hires me will be lucky to have me in the mix.

Blazing insight #6: Social media, investigate it. LinkedIn groups, twitter. Resources abound.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Pin: Or, How Can We Spin Bunny-hood as Empowering!

There's a new series coming out about the Playboy Club! But it's tricky, trying to market it, I guess. It's a soap-opera, you see, and not just fun and amusement for the dudes. Women like soap operas. They also no doubt will really want to see ladies who were blazing a path! Living life on their own terms! Making money on the sexxxxay-ness, as god meant them to do!

The panel struggled mightily to fit Bunnyhood into a modern vision of independence. On the one hand, stars Leah Renee and Jenna Dewan Tatum talked about how Bunnies were empowered in the sense that they were able to be financially independent "at a time when jobs for women were pretty limited." But on the other hand, they argued that anything is empowering if you're doing it by your own free choice. But if your options are limited, how free is that choice, really?

Hodge argued, in the end, that the interaction between a Bunny and a customer at a table was all about "buoying women up and giving them the power," because the men weren't allowed to touch the Bunnies. Now, remember — these women are waitresses. They're not prostitutes. They're strangers, unknown to the men, who are serving drinks. And he is arguing, in effect, that they have been buoyed up and given the power because they are granted the right, while tottering around in painful costumes and high heels for the gratification of their customers, not to be physically touched. They have all the power because the club tells patrons that they're not supposed to touch them. They don't really have the power of doing anything; just the power of withholding. Essentially, the argument is that for these women, the highest power they can possibly hold, and what truly elevates them, is the power to deny men the opportunity to touch them.

Do you touch waitresses, typically? Do you assume it's your right to touch waitresses? Or strangers? Or people in service occupations? What baseline assumptions have to be in place about who is otherwise naturally entitled to do what to whom for a "please don't touch this person" rule to grant anyone power over you? I'm just asking.

Ahh hahh hahh haahh hahhh. Sob. It's like those arguments where you get backed into a corner, and instead of just admitting that, okay, you were wrong, you double down and go for broke. But it is kind of funny that the concept of how to market this thing to women didn't get some thought in advance. Surely there was a less ridiculous way to spin it. Unless the goal is to slap a superficial label on it, in the way that Sarah Palin is "feminist." People who care will never watch in the first place, but people who don't want to feel too "un-PC" might just think: "Well, I read somewhere that the women were really independent and empowered and stuff."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This Is the Thing I Mock in Other People

We're winding up day four in my quest to put together a freelance writing/editing portfolio, and I'm completely flummoxed, overwhelmed, technology-overloaded. I cannot decide what I'm doing. I do wild swings from certainty back to uncertainty, weighing options and coming down to a different solution and direction each time.

Oh my god. The technology is too much. I don't know how to upload clips, I don't know how to do "widgets" or "plug-ins." I get one decision made, try to implement it, and find I have a half-dozen more that just leave me at a loss.

And this doesn't even involve decisions about the content. What the hell am I going to blog about, pray tell? I have no idea. What clips do I use that don't look too sad and pathetic? Beats me.

So I sit here, googling, signing up for sites, starting profiles, then becoming paralyzed with indecision. Lather, rinse, repeat.

When do my student loans come due, again?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pet Peeves: Clearly, Only the Ladies Dress Inappropriately in Professional Settings

I don't know why I'm surprised to click links in search of some really shame-worthy wardrobe malfunctions (do I hear baseball caps? torn jeans? sneakers? really saggy, ugly chinos?), only to find . . . how the ladies are forever dressing ever-so slutty. The personal stories are especially touching. One "young lady" "pranced"! I was also unaware that black high heels are verboten. Damn it. They're pretty much a staple of my professional wardrobe. But I like the French HR rep who had the nerve to wear one of those "clingy wrap dresses." No wonder the "guys definitely had their minds on something aside from the presentation that day." Who can blame them with that kind of trollop running freely about?!

Clearly, we're airheads who can't quite manage to blend in, professionally speaking. And it's the same old problem since grade school, am I right, what with the girls and their short skirts screwing up productivity?

But at least I can learn these valuable lessons for my next job interview, right?

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Which I Create a PRESENCE for Myself

I'm trying to ramp up my presence in the online world so that I may:

1. Create a portfolio and website for freelance purposes
2. Interact with job chats via the twitter
3. Support my various claims of social media experience by showing myself engaged in social media

The portfolio site will have a public blog component too, so that my writing may be out there, in real, concrete terms.

I take issue, however, with the woman with my same name, who has hit the interwebs hard and gotten everywhere before me. Searches for user names come up as already taken! She has a website too, which, I'm sorry to say, is riddled with typos. I fear the confusion, people.

LATER. Seriously, the website for this person is for a writing class. She couldn't be a quilter, or a beekeeper, or a stamp enthusiast?

Friday, July 29, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering, No Word on That Job

We are apparently in a world where a person can go through a second-round interview--after they reject you once, then call you back in--then hear absolutely nothing. I get that folks are busy, but if I'm covering all of my thank-you note bases and you are, presumably, down to your final candidates, can you not at least notify me? Just seems like courtesy to me. Sigh.

That's the job market today, though, apparently. I'm in the process of signing up for a temp agency (with two more on the horizon once I get my portfolio together). Dude told me that they don't have much, and, uh, where are my administrative skills, again? Seriously. I found myself doing what I hoped was a persuasive hard sell on the fact that I have administrative skills. After working in an office of some sort for a gazillion years, doing letters, mail merges, excel sheets, and overseeing publications dissemination and mailing house details, I'm apparently not qualified for low-pay, low-level administrative work.

I can't decide whether I'm naive or just deluded, but my experience of lower-level administrative positions is that when you're looking to fill them, you long for the folks who can think independently, follow instructions, and be smart about things. This has been the case for every person I've ever hired to help me, anyway. It was by no means a common trait.

I could manage plugging ever onward if I knew that it was just a matter of patience and targeting. But what's really getting me down are all the implicit judgments: idiots on facebook yammering about all the shiftless, money-sucking unemployed people taking all their hard-earned money; well-meaning folks wondering why shiftless money-sucking unemployed people don't just take any job (do you know how it's not a simple tier, at least for employers, and that you're competing with people with retail experience, restaurant experience, ahem, administrative experience?).

You'd think that it would be easier to find a job when you're focusing on your writing and just need income. Flexibility! I'll do whatever, I'm not picky. But why should any employer who has their pick of really dedicated, career-oriented people pick this person who--seemingly, but not in actual fact--has one foot out the door. And all of the career mistakes I've made up until this point really get hammered home. Yes, I stayed too long for the secure paycheck, and if I were really so smart, savvy, and talented, wouldn't someone else have hired me on? In a perfect universe, signs point to yes. And we loop back around to: "well, why are you XYZ? Clearly you weren't the very tippy top, so we don't have any interest in you."

This is all starting to get to me, big time. In some ways, it was easier out of the undergrad gate. I had a spiffy degree from a decent university and could write a persuasive letter. No tea-leaf dregs of my entire work history to scrutinize.

Clearly I just need to hit it big with my novel.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

One Partial Fulfillment Component Down!

I am, as we speak, formatting my long critical paper according to official specifications. Two days before my deadline for initial draft, I sent it off to my mentor, who turned it around in mere hours and called it good. My working theory is that, since he is not a human, he doesn't sleep. If I'm feeling like sprucing, I can make my opening a bit more compelling (I agree, that was something I intended to do once I got initial input), but the thing covers all appropriate bases. Woo! But . . . unexpectedly easy. On the basis of classmate horror stories, I hadn't anticipated this process to be wrapped up so quickly.

Thanks, alma mater! Apart from teaching me the hard lesson that I--former perfect student and class-superlative proclaimed Smartest Girl--could get a D, you taught me how to look at works of fiction. Here in MFA-land, I'm continually reminded how important that is.

I tell you, this English major stuff is like riding a bike.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Making Me Hopeful But Also Full of Despair

This article. It's just a little close to where I am, at the present, what with the job picture. I also plug away at the novel and fear failure. But you can't really bitch if you're not doing the work in full faith, right?

So I plug away.

Here's What Not To Do When You're Keyed Up and Anxious

Drink lots of coffee. Seriously, that does nothing to help.

I hate it when a seemingly normal day takes a turn for the stressful. First, the cat appears to be veering uncomfortably close to her colitis-like experience again. I do not fancy an emergency vet trip or worries about dehydration (these kidney failin' kitties live life in a precarious balance). And oh my god, I do not have that in the budget right now.

Then, the hot-water tap on the shower--which has taken power-tool levels of effort to prevent from dripping at a constant stream--finally stopped turning off at all. So we did an emergency workaround that means we are sans hot water until the plumber can show up.

I want to focus and get stuff done, but it seems my day will involve worriedly hawkish observance of a cat.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ready to Steam Ahead!

I was so afraid of this project period, containing as it does the bulk of my field study and my long critical paper. In addition to which, my new mentor is THE guy for folks working on longer projects, so I'm wading into novel territory.

So a lot on my schoolwork plate right now. Happily, however, I did the heavy lifting of outlining my critical paper: topic, examples, references. And I just got the thumbs up from mentor that I may proceed. Woohoo! I'm not too unnerved by analytical papers, but I have some PTSD from undergrad that makes me cringe a bit. I wasn't the most diligent organizer of a paper, you might say. In the days when one had to sit in a computer lab to power through on 10-pager on Villette, for example, I tended to want to lackadaisically follow a mental thread and not spend too much time on revision. Stop oppressing my free thought and spontaneous creation!

But I managed to pull together a coherent proposal, so yay me. The novel I'm discussing is a mere 500 pages (!!) and currently stuffed with post-it notes. My goal is to bang this out in two weeks.

And this morning during my run, I had some good thoughts on what I want to do for my longer fiction project this term. I'm anxious to get the critical paper out of the way so I can start sketching it out.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Am the Master of My Destiny

According to the director of my program, writing is a "vocation." We do these things because we have to, we don't have a choice. Of course, the fact that one makes no money at this unless they have the good fortune to be a Stephen King means that there needs to be balance and gap-filling to live a life above poverty level.

So. Creative people come up with creative solutions, right? We are portable workers, this is a flexible economy, you see, where the 40-hour work week is becoming a thing of the past. (If you put any stock into the newsfeeds on yahoo, which seem to trend toward: "Economy on Rebound! Corporate Profits Up!" and "Good News! That Advanced Degree Won't Hurt You Anymore, Because Employers Can Aim High and Know You've Got No Better Jobs To Jump Ship To.")

I interviewed yesterday for a part-time job at a nonprofit. It would be 15-20 hours a week, with a eye-glazing commute. I think that it went well, and I really hope they offer it to me. I'm thinking of this in Holly Golightly terms: "I'll always keep the candy store; Sally Tomato, he's my candy store. I'll always have Sal, and that's why I'll be richer than she is." One solid segment, augmented with some freelancing (built up) and, if I can find it, some restaurant or evening retail work.

And, if this job pans out, it will give me a great opportunity to develop skills in grantwriting, which you may or may not know, are in very high demand. Good grantwriters can do decent freelance business.

Fingers crossed for me, peeps.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Things That Piss Me Off

Forgive me, I'm coming off a 10-day stint of nonstop on-campus immersion. But I am in a literary state of mind and thinking in general about some of my favorite authors.

Jane Austen. Some love her, others hate her. Some adore swooning to film adaptations depicting handsome men and beautiful women finding their happy ending. Others think it's all drivel and pre-chick-lit. Fluffy, these people (often dudes) say! Completely trivial novels about marriage-obsessed women. Why bother reading this shit, when there's important Literature (with a capital "L") to read! This Literature, not incidentally, will very likely be written by men.

The thing, however, is that Austen wrote some exceedingly clever books exposing the hypocrisies and injustice of her society. All of these happy frothy weddings and marriage-obsessed ladies? Note, if you will, that if you were a lady of a certain station living at that time, it really wasn't an option to forge your own career path. A Jane Austen could become a governess, if she were very lucky. Or she could hope her male relatives or kind friends were generous in supporting her, her like-wise unmarried sister, and their mother (as was the case). Or, she could marry an appropriate man, of suitable birth and some means. Marriage, very frequently, was a matter of economic survival.

Through the lens of Pride and Prejudice, you could say that Elizabeth's exceedingly silly and vapid mother is the only one with some apprehension of consequence and a semblance of a plan. Mr. Bennet, amiable as he is, doesn't really see the totality of his mistakes and squandered opportunities until Lydia runs away. (Thus endangering the family's reputation and threatening the other four girls' chances of getting married--how are they supposed to live, exactly, when their father dies?)

Austen is enjoyable and fun to read, but no one should miss that she knew the stakes for the women she wrote about.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Still Living in Dude Nation

Anthony Weiner is really just a scamp who wants to be able to be his own man, find willing partners to enjoy some harmless online flirting, and generally enjoy his dudeness without all the moral scolds harshing his buzz. Let the person who has not accidentally emailed a picture of their dude bits or lady bits to the wrong business clients be the judge! Next, they'll be telling me that it's inappropriate to surf porn at work or something.

For my part, I find it more than a bit depressing that, should I be moved to do some political ranting or chatting with congress via their official communication channels, I can expect that potential for sexxyfun (only if I'm into it, of course! we're all adults here!) just by virtue of the fact that I'm a lady. Complaining to my representative, looking cute on a miniskirt on the bus, hanging out in a singles bar, it's all the same.

Also, can you identify which of these two images fails to adequately illustrate the concept being advertised?

A bad night of sleep always leaves me extra busty. I don't know about you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Project Has Officially Launched

As part of my MFA program, I have to do a project of my own design. What kind of project, you ask? Does it seem odd, you may further inquire, that someone getting a degree in writing has to do more than just, um, write, and maybe read?

I'm glad you asked! In point of fact, I have to design and execute a project in which I engage in a community, develop/nurture/work with artists, and work toward social justice. It has to last for about 4 months. I am starting later than most people and later than I should. I have heard horror stories in which folks had their projects fall apart or completely fail the parameters of the timeframe, thus they had to start over the next term. That in itself wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that I am now merely two terms away from completing the whole program. Do I want to be attempting round 2 of my field study when I am working on polishing my final manuscript? I do not.

It was scary getting this thing off the ground. I waited forever to get feedback and approval from the powers that be in the program. Then I got a vague thumbs up and was left to ponder how to make this unformed idea a concrete reality.

Somehow, though, and without realizing it, I've made incremental progress. It was amazingly easy to get the pieces in place: my IT friend offered up her website hosting and tech skills; another friend busily tapped her entire network for participants. And the initial response and enthusiasm for it has been stellar. My mentors have all been enthusiastic and responsive, eager to pay it forward and work with teens. I had hoped that I would draw in aspiring writers who would be excited to be mentored, and I did!

In the back of my head, I always think of myself, growing up in that cornfield and pondering all the things I could do with my life. If I had gotten some prodding earlier from an actual writer, I wonder how much I would have done sooner. I don't regret not having that, mind you. I'm happy with my more roundabout path; I think sometimes people need to be in the right head state/maturity level to do good work. But I sincerely hope that at least one of these kids is inspired and empowered to further pursue writing as a result of this program.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Because We Love Some Good Navel Gazing on Process

Daily routines of writers and other creative sorts. I'm partial to Collette's approach of physical fitness and blood transfusions via a young donor (one step removed from Helen Mirren's bathing in the blood of virgins).

But, oh! Am I feeling Kafka's pain:
It is rare that writers of fiction sit behind their desks, actually writing, for more than a few hours a day. Had Kafka been able to use his time efficiently, the work schedule at the Institute would have left him with enough free time for writing. As he recognized, the truth was that he wasted time.

The truth was that he wasted time! The writer's equivalent of the dater's revelation: He's just not that into you. "Having the Institute and the conditions at his parents' apartment to blame for the long fallow periods when he couldn't write gave Kafka cover: it enabled him to preserve some of his self-esteem."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Well, That Was Actually Kind of Genius

I left two-and-a-half hours before my networking event . . . and got there five minutes before the shindig started. Dear god, that was the most horrifying commute ever (by contrast: the ride home took 45 minutes).

But it was worth it, I think. It's actually kind of brilliant to set up an event whose sole purpose is professional networking. We all hit the ground running, equally new to one another, and passed out a flurry of business cards. The only down side for me was that, although I thought I had registered, I actually hadn't. So my experience was way more random than everyone else's (who got placed at tables, by courses, according to their industries, undergrad majors, and graduation year). It would have been helpful to corral all the publications-related people in one location.

The amusing thing was, the other accidentally unregistered person was also a writer, freelance. So he had some good tips as we bounced, randomly, from table to table and begged and bartered for meal tickets. I'll be following up.

Meanwhile, I've got a sense of the county's job market (13 percent unemployment!!), thanks to the speaker. I've also got a stack of cards, some vaguely promised work, and new Facebook and Linked In contacts.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I'm a Networking Fool

I'm heading out in a bit to go mingle with some fellow undergrad alums at a dinner geared toward NETWORKING! It should be all kinds of fun (she said, while gnawing her fingernails down to the quick). I'm especially looking forward to the 2-hour drive, north of the city, in rush-hour traffic. I told B where it was, and what time, and his eyes got huge. That's not a good sign.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Beauty of the Weekend Project

We have accomplished the following in home renovations/updates:

1. Replaced the cracked, stained, and old plastic panels covering the kitchen lights. In conjunction, the dead light has been replaced, and while the kitchen isn't something that you want to see in the full glare of light, you really have that full glare, from which nothing--animal, vegetable, or dirt-related--can hide. Incremental steps. And now I can really see what I'm cooking.

2. Actually chosen paint colors for a bathroom redo and conceived some easy updates to tone some of the seventies fabulousness of it all and get incrementally more storage.

I'm kind of psyched to get painting.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Here's a Dude Who's a Keeper

Quick, snap him up before someone else does:

If you’re reasonably tall (5’6-6’, no more than that because, while I don’t mind being eye to eye with you, I won’t ever be looking up to you), you’re passionate and intelligent so as to be good company, sexually liberated, and attractive - really attractive, fat chics need not apply (hehe, I’m so self-amusing). Capable of holding a steady job but without making it your #1 priority - since it could interfere with our sexual activities. Family oriented but not anytime soon, rather when you are 30+ at least, open to spontaneous sexual activities (you know, outdoors sex, the odd 3-some with a cutie we pick up somewhere or one of your girlfriends), likes the outdoors (nudity optional), and doesn’t complain when I go fishing with the guys.
And it goes on from there. In case he didn't mention it four or five times, no fatties need apply.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm Here To Tell You, We Get Spring Here Too

Let me go on record to say how amazed I am that there are actual weather fluctuations here in paradise. I expected it to be an even seventy degrees all year round. That's somewhat the case, but also in the mix are stretches of HOT (summer) and stretches of cold, overcast, and rainy (winter, with "cold" being redefined here to resemble the cusp of Midwestern winter, where you haven't quite turned on your heater but you probably should since you're running out of blankets).

So now it is gorgeous, sunny, and warm. And I and the other eighty billion people discovering that it's spring are out on the path, running like maniacs in our t-shirts and shorts. Nice.

Friday, April 1, 2011

It's Awesome That I Made It to the Final Four, Right?

Got the official notice that I did not, in fact, get the job I interviewed for last weekend. Sigh. The good news is, I made it to the last round of 4 candidates, out of 200. And the other good news is that it seems like a recipe for failure for whoever does have the job.

I tell you what, it is a crazy competitive market out there. You can be sure that for every job you're tossing your hat in for, there are--I'm just estimating here--approximately one zillion others in the mix who are more qualified than you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering (And Maybe You Were and Maybe You Weren't)

So, I managed to make it through the second-round interview on Saturday. How did it go, you ask? I felt pretty confident once I left that I really nailed it. Strangely (for me), I was in a good conversational groove and teeing off questions and observations. I even had them laughing at one point as I told them the gripping tale of errant authors and a process I had to mediate and problem solve. And it ended happily, on time, and on budget! In short, I think I had a narrative that I reinforced and that was compelling.

I'm not sure I had good answers to specific questions, though. I wish I could go back and re-do/re-frame/re-address. I think I missed a couple of really easy lobs that would have underscored my broader skill set. It's much easier to give a litany of accomplishments that directly transfer to the job in question, rather than having to elide gaps and contextualize things in ways not immediately obvious. I think it will come down to the mix of skills and traits that they value for this--I have a sneaking suspicion that all the candidates involve trade-offs and that none of us are an exact 100 percent fit.

It's funny. I went into it fairly ambivalent. It seemed, in many ways, like a recipe for failure for the person in the job (you better show concrete results), as well as for the organization (hey! we'll save money by getting a person who will learn as they go!). But I got really excited after meeting the people and thinking about the challenges involved in such a new direction. God help me if I'm not a wee bit energized by people, sometimes. It could be a fascinating to have to be persuasive.

We'll see. The decision is out of my hands.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pssst. You're Not Supposed to Notice These Things, People

On Saturday, I have a second-round job interview (horrifyingly, I have to give a presentation on my development plans for this nonprofit; yes, they are clearly trying to ensure minimal salary requirements by getting candidates who don't have much experience in development).

And, allegedly, I will be volunteering this week for a couple of PR events. It's a quasi-internship, you see, wherein I will work, observe, see how things are done, and ascertain whether PR is something I might want to do. (Preliminary thought: I think I can do it; I have spent most of my professional career cajoling, soothing, and otherwise dealing with people, but the very thought of having my entire job be about being friendly friendly friendly makes me exhausted). There are connections to be made, and for that, I am very grateful.

Since all of this came up suddenly, I started panicking about my presentation; that is, one who spends lots of time alone and/or shuffling to various errands in workout gear tends to be in a constant state of, um, un-poshness. Of course the degree to which one has gone to seed can be rationalized: "Well, the first event is no big deal, I'll just wear my hair back. Who notices gray roots except me?"

Alas, having a random dork on your run shout out how you're Rogue will puncture any rationalizations. I should learn from the restaurant guy, who kindly offered up, unsolicited, that I was too young to be gray. Or from my classmate: "Oh, you're letting your gray grow out too?" Yeah. Clearly, I'm past the point of fooling anyone.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Too Much Reality Television

Cordelia: "You're really campaigning for bitch-of-the-year, aren't you?"
Buffy: "As defending champion, you nervous?"
Cordelia: "I can hold my own. You know, we've never really been close, which is nice 'cause I don't really like you that much, but you have on occasion saved the world and stuff, so I'm gonna do you a favor."
Buffy: "And this great favor is?"
Cordelia: "I'm gonna give you some advice. Get over it."
Buffy: "Excuse me?"
Cordelia: "Whatever is causing the Joan Collins 'tude, deal with it. Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever, but get over it.'Cause pretty soon you're not even gonna have the loser friends you've got now."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

How Did I Miss This?

I guess I haven't been cynical and paranoid enough. Shock doctrine, indeed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Risotto: Very Tasty. That Is All.

I made this stuff. And it was delicious and, if I do say so myself, perfectly done. The tougher vegetable critics in the place even gave the asparagus a thumbs up.

Tonight, however, we have reservations at our favorite splurgy restaurant. Accordingly, we have been scouring their wine list, feverishly refreshing their online menu, and calling for the daily specials.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Where We Tenderly Worry About the Children, Until They're Born

Fetuses are sacred. But once the kidlets are sturdy and able to work, they should work, damnit. None of this mollycoddling. We look toward Missouri to lead the way in repealing those ridiculous child labor laws.

I don't know about you, but I personally know some elementary schoolers with a little too much time on their hands.

I sometimes wonder if folks are sincerely mistaken about the past, or if they are hellbent on repeating it, secure in the knowledge that they, personally, will be among the haves, as opposed to the have nots. I guess if your worldview is that what you have is directly a result of virtue (as opposed to luck and the privilege of being born where, when, and to whom you were born), it's all cool. People get what they deserve, see.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Well. This Discussion Could Be Awkward

I've read my novels for this month! I'm prepped and ready for discussion, notes, and everything else I need to document to show that I'm on top of things, synthesizing, and doing the work.

This month, however, the novel that we're reading and discussing is . . . by our teacher. AWKward. Further awkwardness: Said novel stars a Mary Sue. Yes, friends, a Mary Sue. By the end of the book, I was smacking my head against the back of the couch (in lieu of smacking the character) and thinking to myself, "Of course she won the Grammy and started a fund for children! She's just that perfect. Her only flaw is being loved too much."

I love me my female characters: I write them all the time. Mine are generally flawed specimens, but I like heroic: Buffy rocks! And it is entirely possible that my perceptions of commercial fiction are skewed. I'm a pretty omnivorous reader, but it's been a while since I've read your basic plot-driven page turner. I realize it's all about what happens and getting bogged down with the finer notes of character development on this locomotive is somewhat beside the point.

But I submit that when your central character is beloved by all--even by violent people who have reason to be pissed off by said character--and all your other characters exist to revolve around, tend to, talk about, and rescue your central character, you have a Mary Sue on your hands.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Today's Story Moment

Brought to you by Aimee Bender, "Fell This Girl" (in the Girl in the Flammable Skirt):

I remember, especially in high school, I was so good at this kind of fake-out. I rehearsed thoughtfulness, I appeared carefree--and how many guys did I trick? As I sat there, hair tucked behind my ear, supposedly lost in a book, thinking this exact monologue, rereading and rereading the same paragraph, waiting for them to see me and want me, caught in this image of myself as a reader. What about staring at ants, wanting to see close to nature and whimsical? What about staring into space, wanting to seem expansive, trying to find the thoughts that would fit my self-portrait? I fooled so many guys! I was found mysterious so many times, oh that girl, we don't know what that Susie thinks, and all I'm thinking is what do I look like, and all I'm thinking is that I own their thoughts.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oh Fox News. At Least You Keep in Interesting

Crazy and wild protests in Wisconsin! Shouty demonstrators! Out-of-control teachers!

This, of course, is my favorite part of Wisconsin: The Mediterranean Coast. Warm breezes, swaying palm trees. I'm planning on retiring there.

Note: DRAMATIC REENACTMENT. Stock video for illustration purposes only.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Critical Paper Wisdom

The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you’re supposed to go up and down when you’re supposed to go down. when you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. when you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there’s no flow, stay still. if you resist the flow, everything dries up.
— Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bread, The Next Frontier

The rye bread was mostly successful, apart from some tomfoolery with the second rising. There's no need to point fingers or try to assess blame over who did or didn't properly cover the loaves with the right kind of plastic.

Whole-wheat is the new frontier. Intriguingly, it requires additives and techniques, since whole grain flours lack the proper gluten to make this whole rising thing happen. (See, this is what's so fascinating about the whole bread-making process: It's science!)

It's probably overly ambitious, given how I haven't mastered the half-white/half-wheat loaves I've tried in past, but I am undaunted. And I have lots and lots of backup yeast and flour.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What We Have

A new kitchen faucet that looks lovely and modern and no longer leaks.

Bikes, on a bike path, here in warm weather. Did we kick some butt this weekend, zipping past all those wee young tots on skateboards and Huffys? Did we leave those four-seater surrey-type deals in the dust? Yes, yes, we did. To the accompaniment of our own Jackie Stewart-style commentary ("She's coming around the motor track. . .")

Soon-to-be-painted kitchen walls.

A writing nook for me, with hummingbird feeder and ocean view.

Tax refunds! (This one is huge, since next year for me will likely not be pretty vis-a-vis freelancing income.)

More wine than most normal humans can drink, with my own special supply of my favorite $9 Spanish red.

A cat who is admittedly in her dotage, with predictable symptoms on the horizon, but doing her thing. This thing involves actually being cuddly and purring nonstop.

Once you stop freaking out about what might happen or all the scary uncertainty, it's possible to see and enjoy the good stuff. It's also possible to put your own productivity into perspective and see how much you've done.

I swear, I can see the movie made from my memoir already.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

These Are the Accommodations One Gets in One's Dotage

It's not quite shuffleboard in Boca Raton or golf-course-adjacent living in Arizona, but it is the best $5 ever spent.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Is It a Mode We Shift Into?

I don't know what it is, but I seem to be in Pontificating Know-It-All phase on my writing. Which is a good thing, since I'm doing some freelance writing and working on a critical paper for school.

The bullshit's flowing, people. I actually wrote a piece authoritatively laying out how to make money off of facebook. HAH HAH HAH HAH!

Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm Not Saying I'm Betty Draper, Exactly. Just That I Feel Her Pain. A Bit.

You know what sounds like all kinds of fantastic? Quitting a job that you've been stagnant in for a while, but that was safe, moving across the country, enrolling in an MFA program, and generally getting to have an interlude of intense writing focus. Many people dream of that, let me tell you. Many more dream of living in a gorgeous locale and not having to worry about how one will be feeding the cat or figuring out how one would set up a vinyl tarp next to the woman on the beach-walk bench. (Should I, god forbid, become homeless, that's where I'm heading. Mild weather, close bathrooms.)

I'm so fortunate! I realize that, truly. And I didn't think my stagnant job was any great shakes. Enhancing my future job prospects? Hah! More like sending me toward mental breakdown.

But, but. Dropping out of the "what do you do," even for a moment, even to be a student, is a bit of an identity void at my age and stage in life. I've never been one deeply invested in my career, such as it's been. But I've taken great pride in being a hard worker, a good thinker, one who contributes. And I've also taken great pride in having supported myself successfully since graduating college. There was a brief moment back in the day when I was terrified that I would fail, and that any moment, I would have to move into my parents' basement. Or find kind relatives who wanted to take me in. It took me years to get past that primal fear of failure and dependency.

Instead, I've been taking care of myself for a long, long time. I've been able to take vacations, buy a house, and keep the cat in premium chow. Not that I've been awash in the money, just that I've been okay. And able to save, choose, and spend on--for example--organic produce, if I want to.

Losing that thing you've been doing every day for years is hard. Waking up and knowing it's all on you to write, do your homework, or hammer out that freelance job is hard. No longer being that person who can cover her own bases, take care of herself, keep the cat in premium chow, is really hard.

You don't realize how much your identity is tied up in what you do and what you present to the world until you drop off that standard grid. And the world motors on while you fight your own inertia and attempt to instill structure and meaning into your day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Christmas Present Ever?

The Dyson vacuum, my friends, is a lovely bit of technology, which fosters geeky exploration of all its bells and whistles. We have vacuumed: the refrigerator coils, behind the refrigerator, the bathroom vents, under the couch, under the bed, in nooks and crannies in the kitchen, ad infinitum. It is quite likely that we have extracted from the carpet all the cat's shedded fur, along with the fur of the previous owner's cat.

We have also wish-listed attachments such as this.

It's sad, but if it brings joy, it can't be wrong, right?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

DIY, Biking, Returning to Research, and Contemplating Novels

Well do I remember back when I thought working at home would be a grand adventure. Never having to change out of pajamas! Makeup a distant memory! Deciding to break up the monotony with a run on the beach!

Of course, the flip side to all of that is never changing out of your pajamas, never wearing makeup or real-person clothes, and, um, spending your time on the bike trail or various other procrastinating activities rather than on the fiction or the billable tasks or the job letters. It's a strange and difficult balance, and whereas I was once dying for this interim time, I'm now longing for the prospect of a normal nine-to-five gig, with structured days--and not just for the steady money, although that's a huge benefit too.

Of course, say that I hit the jackpot and was able to write for a living, publishing novels people wanted to read, or elegant short stories and essays published in well-respected magazines. I would have to face down my days and attempt to manage some structure! I would have to work toward deadlines in a way that didn't involve spending the three days beforehand frantically finishing up something new before resorting to a further-along draft of something else.

But I want to take full advantage of this interim time, scary as it is to be floating out and space and not knowing where the next check is coming from. So I'm contemplating the novel I want to write. That is, I know I want to write one, but what is it? What will it be about? I should perhaps take a poll. But I have been noodling around with a character from an older story, whom I felt had more going on in her life than just the one story I wrote. I don't know. I can't seem to figure out what I want to do, even though I want to be chipping away on that big picture.

I'm also, in small ways, returning to my roots as a researcher of facts. Yes, I'm writing a critical paper. But I'm also tapping into my experience looking up congressional activities (for genealogical research). Exciting! Well do I remember that satisfaction of a job well done, an elusive fact sussed out.

And to balance all the thinking, thinking, baking continues apace (moving on to rye bread this time, at the behest of others who are declaring an intent to help with the process). And this weekend, B joins me in biking fun. Or, we hope he does, if the ordered and arrived bike lives up to expectations. Why, yes, it's 75 degrees here. Perfect weather for biking!

Oh, and I'm also trying my hand with home repair. If you read about the tragic flooding incident online, please know that I tried my best.

Monday, January 10, 2011

You Know Those Squirrels Trying to Get to the Nuts?

I may or may not have mentioned that I'm on a mission to bake my own yeast bread from scratch. It seems economical! I've had The Bread Bible for ages and never ventured out of the quick breads. When you're being student frugal, are awaiting the arrival of the next freelance job, and have access to the whole new world of food processors, it seems like there's no time like the present. So I jumped in! This is how it went.

Friday, first attempt.
Mixed ingredients, per directed, in food processor. Extracted powdery unmixed blob that I proceeded to try to knead/mix by hand. Set it on the counter in a bowl to rise for the directed "at least 2 hours." Realized after 3 hours of nonrising that I forgot to add the sugar. Ditched dough.

Friday, second attempt.
Got new ingredients. Mixed ingredients, exactly as directed, in same order as specified, in food processor. Dough was proper consistency. Trying to account for potential temperature variables (i.e., cold condo), put dough in unheated oven for rising. Waited approximately 3 hours. No rising whatsoever. Ditched dough. Tested remaining yeast packets. Results inconclusive.

Saturday, third attempt.
Got new ingredients. Mixed ingredients, this time with white flour (whole wheat combo takes much longer to rise). Pretty dough ball. Put in unheated oven to rise. Again, after 3-4 hours, nothing. Read yeast packet. Realized yeast isn't "instant," as called for in recipe, but "fast rising" and requires procedure I didn't follow. Left loaf in unheated oven, figuring I'd throw the damn thing out later.

But lo! I came back hours later to discover . . . risen bread dough!!! It's a post-Christmas miracle!!! So I started at 9:30 pm with the "second rise," and after much waiting, shaping (FUN!), and baking, I had a loaf of very tasty bread. Which I triumphantly tucked into at 1 a.m.

I want to rush right out and do it again. Food processor plus squishy dough is absurdly compelling.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It Occurs to Me That Everything I'm Doing These Days Is The Hard Slog

Not to be a whiner, but it requires a certain amount of fortitude to power through the long haul, eschewing the immediate reward and working toward the ultimate payoff. Job hunt? Check. Writing? Double and triple check. Particularly if I veer toward the longer work that I'm contemplating (how in the world do people do these things??). All other school components, such as research papers and field studies? Oh, yes. These aren't things I can check off quickly and be done with. Even exercise is something that you have to power through the unpleasantness on to get to where it's actually fun (yes, illness plus holidays means that I'm an asthmatic wheezy mess and starting from scratch).

Obviously, I need to balance all this out with immediate gratification that doesn't cost me a fortune and/or set me back on personal goals. I need a low-stress hobby. I hear crossword puzzles are relaxing.