In May 2013, I will graduate with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore (U.B.). That means I have just over a year (1.25 of a year) to do the following and to take stock of my life and my career:
- revise any pre-2012 stories that I have written in the program and would like to consider for my thesis (to be done by the end of summer 2012),
- revise my fall 2011 personal essays and decide if I should submit any of them or any of my stories (the ones I ultimately decide to take out of the running for my thesis) to literary magazines (to be done and potentially submitted by fall 2012),
- write some new stories to consider for my thesis (during an advanced workshop in fall 2012),
- compile—and then edit, workshop a final time, edit again, and copyedit—my thesis manuscript (over Christmas break and into early spring semester 2013: so, that’s mid-December 2012 to late February 2013),
- apply for graduation (to be done by early 2013),
- come up with a title for my thesis book (to be done by February 2013),
- revise and finalize a cover letter (thanks to my Publishing Process class in spring 2011, I’ve already drafted a stock cover letter; to be done by January 2013),
- design my book cover and lay out my book in InDesign (to be done by early spring 2013),
- find a printer and have the book printed and bound (to be done, completely, by May 2013),
- decide if I want to handmake some copies and what the design would be (to be done, and acted upon, by May 2013),
- figure out if there’s a way I can (and if I want to) offer an e-version as well, perhaps offered as a package with the real book (to be done, completely, by May 2013),
- decide on a pricing structure (to be done by May 2013),
- implement a marketing/advertising strategy, or i.e., a nice setup for my 3×3 or so table space on the night of the final M.F.A. reading and book presentation (in May 2013),
- choose an excerpt or a very short story to read in public, and then practice it (to be done by the final M.F.A. reading and book presentation in May 2013), and
- do all my other homework, and try to live some sort of life, on top of all of this.
As you can see, it’s going to be a busy year+. But this is one of the most exciting and important times of my life thus far. Although this is self-publishing, I think the U.B. process is valid and valuable. I will be working with peers, and under the supervision of professors (all together, two for writing and another for design), so it’s not your typical self-publishing or vanity or subsidy press publication. I’ll have backup. I’ll have editors, to a degree, and design input. And at the end of it all, I’ll have a tangible (and possibly digital?) published book of short stories.
I didn’t realize how long I’ve wanted that until just now. Coming to U.B., I thought this program was a way of getting creative writing instruction and experience so I could do what I really wanted to do (write for television without wasting money on a highly specialized, limited, screenwriting degree), not necessarily so I could publish a book. But I’ve realized that I want it all. I do want to write for TV, but I also want to be an author. I want movies and novels and books of short stories and maybe even a memoir or two. I never knew, until I came here, how many ways I could write. Looking back, I know I should have realized my publishing aspirations much sooner. I used to make books as a kid, whether for school or fun. Now I’m doing it for both.
Part of my plan, outlined above in numbers 1 and 2, is getting some things into print that are not self-published (i.e., in literary magazines). This is part of an overall effort to get a “real”/traditional publisher’s attention one day, to get my writing career started—or try to anyway. And though I won’t be scheduling any time specifically for screenwriting in the next year, that will be on my mind as well.
After all of this, the hard part will be deciding what I want to do outside the dream world I’ve created for myself. While I try to make things happen, I need a day job. On that front, I’ve actually been lucky. Last year, almost a year ago exactly, in fact, I got a full-time position at an educational content development/publishing company. I’m a Project Administrator at Words & Numbers in Baltimore. I’m technically housed in the math department, but that’s a formality; I’ve worked in all kinds of areas, from math to science to Mandarin to social studies and more. I had an informal review in November. It went well and showed me what my future at Words & Numbers might look like. As was foreshadowed in this informal review, recently, I have taken more of an editorial role. For all intents and purposes, I am a Project-Administrator-Slash-Assistant-Editor and perhaps, over the next few weeks and months, will do away with the administration part, more or less.
So I’m enjoying what I do more and more, finally getting to edit and, thus, shape the educational content of the future, but how long will that sustain me? With this shift in focus, toward editorial, I can finally, honestly say that I love my job right now because I love to edit. I’m a grammar geek and a cogency king, enjoying all manner of writerly palaver, but when I think about where my heart lies, I have to say, it’s fiction, not education. For now, I enjoy my job; I could see doing it for several years, if everything went right. But there’s always that nagging feeling in the back of my head telling me to find a job in “real” publishing or get started as a screenwriter. Although I may just have to do that one day—may have to move to New York or Boston or (wince) L.A.—it’s nice to know that I can probably still maintain a relationship with Words & Numbers (the best job I’ve ever had), as a freelancer. And—thank you facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—through social media.
This is a different world than the one I imagined as a kid. And a different life. For the most part, I’m okay with that.