A long time ago, somewhere around December 2015, I applied to the Professional Writing and Editing (PWE) graduate program at West Virginia University. From the beginning I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to study professional writing and editing, but I was looking forward to teaching English 101/102 in exchange for getting the tuition fee waived. The assumption is that English graduate students are going to teach, so the acceptance rate is based on how much funding the various English programs get. I was rejected, not because I sucked (although knowing my luck…) but because the pool of applicants was “very competitive” this year and the English department just didn’t have the funding for everyone.
I’m not sure how to feel about this. Certainly the program deserves students that are dedicated to PWE in addition to teaching and I would have a hard time finding dedication. PWE is for people who want to go into technical writing and serious real-world writing. I blog and sometimes attempt fiction. I do have an interest in the editing part of things, but that’s a small part of the program. The student that is already excited about all aspects of PWE deserves a slot. Me…Maybe one day, but not right now.
On the other hand, I am getting sick and tired of being rejected by everything I apply to! Whether it’s work or school, it hurts. I feel like I am never going to hear a “Yes” and it’s not worth trying. I feel like no matter how good I look on my application, the person who’s 1% better is going to get the prize and I’ll be standing there trying to be congratulatory for them while seething about yet another failure.
I’m trying to think positive about this rejection, like maybe I was rejected from PWE so I can be accepted to the Master’s in Literacy program that I really want. Stranger things have happened, you know? It still hurts because I was an undergraduate English major at WVU and I thought that would give me a boost. I just don’t know how to handle this. Any ideas?
I have been on a mini-hiatus after promising my readers that I would be devoting my time to blogging and interaction, but I have a good reason for taking said mini-hiatus. Instead of blogging, I have been researching and applying to a graduate Master’s in Literacy program at West Virginia University.
You would be surprised to learn that research can take more time than the application and all its components, but I wanted to be sure that I knew what I was getting into if/when I applied to the Master’s in Literacy program. West Virginia’s program is so much easier to apply to than other college literacy programs I looked into, but I wanted to know 100% that I could get everything ready for the application and not worry about getting error messages from the Graduate Admissions department. I read the official description of the program on the College of Education and Human Services website, I read the description of the program on the online course catalog, I read the PDF file about helpful graduate student resources, and I read up on careers that a graduate of a literacy program can do. I want to work with college students/adults and there’s not a lot of useful information about that, but if I’m accepted to the program I plan on asking my advisor for information. After realizing that there was nothing new for me to read for WVU’s Master’s in Literacy program, it was time to apply.
The application was relatively straightforward, which probably means I missed something. Self-deprecating humor aside, the biggest thing I had to do was write a one-page statement of purpose. The way I handled it was writing about how my work as a Writing Studio tutor would help me when I have to work at the university Reading Clinic and sharing that I started an essay about how boys prefer reading and if they are being discouraged in K-12 classrooms and would like to do further research on it. I know that my English classes are not equivalent to education classes, but I wanted to show that there are transferrable skills and interests. I attached my essay about boys and reading as a writing sample and the copy of my resume shows my time at the Writing Studio. I hope I look appealing because on my end, I’m so excited about this major.
Now I’ll be playing the waiting game. I have time to hear back since the application due date is in April, the last day of the month. I hope they like me and say yes way before that though.
My dad and I were sparring about English teaching again yesterday afternoon. I am getting so tired of it, I really am. He is a STEM person, an alumni of an electrical engineering program, and he does not know that English goes way beyond reading the classics and beating them to death. Well, we were discussing classic literature (a spin-off topic of talking about good storytelling methods and how good storytelling is an art form) and eventually the conversation became circular and immature. I kept saying I didn’t believe classic literature is actually good literature and the only reason it’s always taught in schools (all levels) is it’s always been taught. My dad kept saying I was wrong because if it has survived hundreds of years, obviously it’s meaningful to humanity. He said if I want to be an English instructor at a university, even if it’s for composition and rhetoric, I need to resprect and know classic literature.
The only thing my dad’s lecture has inspired me to do is consider building substantial arguments against English teachers/instructors limiting their currculum to the classics and turning all my work into a thesis-type project. Every higher education faculty member is expected to conduct research and publish books on topics on interest that further academic discourse. Since I intend on working in higher education, I should be developing ideas for my areas of research. In addition to censorship in higher education, I see the potential for reporting on why classic literature is not the only good literature and in general may not be as good as people say.
My initial research ideas are:
- Is classic literature taught because it’s really good or because there are so many academic articles on all of the books and pre-made lesson plans (just in case…)?
- How often are titles added to the list of classic literature? Is classic literature an exclusive club meaning that nothing published after a certain time period gets considered “classic”?
- There’s a term called “new classics” which are books that have been published closer to the present and have more modern situations. Who came up with this term and was it a way to open classic literature to more modern work?
When my dad and I were arguing, he attempted to make the point that classic literature is such because it’s taught in various educational institutions and therefore will be remembered forever. I think that’s part of the problem. Maybe these are genuinely good stories. Then again, like any literature, maybe they are not. The problem is that because they have been taught again and again, people assume it’s because they’re good. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. I could see myself looking more in-depth on this.
The year before I became a Writing Studio undergraduate consultant (formerly tutor), the way that people could meet the tutors was through weekly Q&As about some sort of topic. The topic that stuck with me was “Writing is like…” and every tutor had to create a simile to describe writing more creatively than putting pen or fingers to paper or keyboard. I knew that once I became a consultant there would be other activities, but I couldn’t get that question out of my mind. It took me some time before I realized why I was so focused on answering that question. How do you describe an activity that is not like anything else because-at the risk of sounding pretentious-it is unique and special? Oh, and of course since my mind doesn’t work in similes, metaphors, and other abstract thinking…That’s such an irony because people who are committed writers live and breathe “sonic effects” as such, although that is another story for another time. I was compelled to come up with an answer in spite of thinking an answer doesn’t exist.
I still don’t have the kind of simile-based answer the question intended, but I changed my way of thinking about the question. What if you allowed your inner teenager to come out and thought of it as such “Writing is, like,…”? Prescriptive English teachers (those that believe there are certain acceptable ways to speak and write English and god help you if you deviate) are going to cry, but Suddenly it was like I had too many answers to list. In the end, my favorite answer was “Writing is, like, writing.”
Well, it’s true. When people think about writing, no two people are going to think of the same thing. Some people think of writing as published authors who are under contract to produce novel after novel until they’re dropped. Other people think that anyone who picks up a pencil or types away on a keyboard is writing. One of the never-ending debates on writing communities is what a person must do to be called a writer. “Real writers” are equivalent to published writers and everyone else writes but is not allowed to call themselves a writer. What is not considered is that many people submit their manuscripts for agent and editor review but somewhere along the line can be rejected. Sometimes even getting interest from a publishing company doesn’t mean the writer gets published. Does that mean that everyone who wrote something but didn’t get accepted can’t call themselves writers? The only thing that is ever a general consensus is that to be a writer, you have to have some sort of product that you have written.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching, both the education I need to become a quality higher education instructor and the portfolio of stuff I need to show my strengths and progress. This “portfolio of stuff” is more academically known as an instructor portfolio. I’m not sure what it contains, but that’s one reason I can’t wait to be accepted into graduate school for English (Professional Writing and Editing) and and a program for teaching certification for higher education. Right now I would guess that it is a collection of essays, lesson plans, and instructor feedback.
Even before I create this professional instructor portfolio, I want to create a more casual scrapbook of my accomplishments. I’ve been criticizing myself for everything I should’ve, could’ve, but didn’t do throughout my life, whether personal or educational, and it’s weighing heavily on me right now. I have been blogging about overcoming those feelings of self-doubt and self-hatred and it’s been helpful getting it out there, but I would be lying if I said I had regained all confidence in myself. I need a visual, tangible representation of everything good I ‘ve done. It doesn’t hurt that I have a collection of scrapbook paper that needs used.
The projects that I’m already kicking around include:
- An image of the literary magazine I helped create in high school. I know that a teaching portfolio would only focus on accomplishments from adulthood, starting with college work, but for a general scrapbook of accomplishments this is okay. It’ll show that I’ve had an interest in literary magazines relatively early on and that it didn’t come from nowhere.
- An image of a program from my college celebrating me making the Dean’s List. That was the last year my university stopped doing mini-celebrations, so that’s pretty special.
- Clippings of essays I’d written from my undergraduate English and Criminology majors. I save all of my major essays just in case, so I can easily do this and still keep my pristine, full essays.
- Clippings of the conclusion of my undergraduate senior thesis with notes on the ways I can expand it. Clippings of new articles on trigger warnings, because this is an ongoing controversy in higher education and I’m actively following it.
- Clippings from the MindMural 2016 literary magazine, such as my Editor Bio. I might also find the email I sent to my head editors to apply for the position.
Last evening I was stressed out to the point that I could’ve cried. I mentioned the background information in a blog post entitled “Shut Up, Just Shut Up!” and unfortunately the emotions from that post still hold true. For those of you not in the know, the story is that I told my dad how stressed I was trying to figure out graduate school (mainly what I wanted to major in for my Master’s) and my future career(s) and that was huge mistake. He lectured me on how I needed to get a job any job right now and work for a few years before officially deciding on whether grad school is worth it or if in the end I just like working. He didn’t want to listen when I explained that I want to work at my local university because I love the atmosphere but in order to get a position I think I’d enjoy and be pretty amazing at in time, I would need education and experience that only graduate school could provide. I have done my research and am speaking from a place of knowledge when I talk about what qualifications I need but currently don’t have. He kept saying “Just get a job now and worry about graduate school later.” He mentioned that since I like to write, I should do freelancing for magazines and such during the night and get a job during the day. The irony of that is that when I suggested doing such a thing every semester during my undergraduate year, he shot it down because freelance writing wouldn’t pay my bills. Of course, we are in agreement that if this is the way to go, I would need a steady income before worrying about the writing aspect. Still, he didn’t like my excitement about the potential of freelance writing so for him to suggest it now is beyond frustrating and downright hypocritical. In the end of the conversation he attempted to smooth things over by saying that he didn’t want to see me make the same financial mistakes he made when he was younger and he didn’t mean any of it to say that I didn’t do everything wrong and in fact I did many things right. I was seething about it, and I still am.
The one productive thing that seething does is it makes me more determined to make decisions. Never mind that often those decisions are because “I’ll show you!” rather than a well thought out, reasoned decision. This time I think I made a good decision. As any of you who follow me know, I genuinely love writing and I felt really good overall about the work I did as an undergraduate writing tutor at the Writing Studio. I had been debating about whether I could translate my tutoring experiences to teaching on the college level and I decided that while I would make many mistakes (because if I make the same mistake many times I do learn from it) I could see myself enjoying it and maybe even helping someone in the process. I decided that for my Master’s I would do Professional Writing and Editing, a major that could get me some writing experience and then help me get into a Ph.D. program for Composition and Rhetoric, which would be a perfect fit. I don’t have an interest in literature decades (Ex: Medieval, British, American, Post-Modern) but I love writing. I also have an interest in getting certified for teaching at the higher education level, and I have the perfect opportunity to get teaching experience if I accept the offer to be a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA). I believe every GTA is given three sections of English 101 or English 102. In exchange for being a teacher, the GTA gets their tuition fees waived. I would have so many opportunities to collect information for a teaching portfolio and it would be excellent pre-job experience. In addition to the teaching opportunities attached to being a GTA, every grad student that is interested in going into academia can take a major that leads to certification for teaching in higher education. It’s for current graduate students that are in good standing, and I will do whatever I can to be in good standing.
To recap, I do want acceptance into grad school for English: Professional Writing and Editing plus the Graduate Teaching Assistantship for teaching English 101/English 102. In addition to that, I will eventually get acceptance into the higher education teaching certification program for obvious reasons. Of course, I can’t ignore that during graduate school I need a steady paycheck. I know that I can return to my sporadic job working at the textbook store, but if I can find more solid employment then I’ll see what I can do for that. Freelance writing (such as what I do for BlogJob plus other opportunities if they exist) is always there for me; I will not give up on that. Unlike my dad’s path for me, I know I can do a little bit of everything.
Earlier I posted an article about an unpaid position for voting on submissions and then editing some of the final selections with the author(s) for MindMurals, a Sigma Tau Delta (International English Society) eastern region literary magazine. Whew, that was a mouthful! The conclusion to the first article is that I was selected to be the non-fiction editor. In the end our head editors had so many poetry and non-fiction submissions but not as many short fiction stories that some of us were editing in categories outside of the original plan. I don’t believe I was impacted by this, but some of my fellow editors were.
The first part of the job was to read the collected submissions and vote “Yes” or “No” on them via a spreadsheet. Once we all submitted our spreadsheets, our head editors tallied the results and picked our final works. I enjoyed the reading submissions part. My dream job would be to work at a publishing company as a slush pile reader because, well, I love to read and I have many opinions about what I read. This dream is not happening at the moment, but having influence over what will make it into the literary magazine is still a pretty big honor for me. The voting part was more difficult because I made sure to vote “Yes” or “No” and provide a reason for why. I have no shortage of opinions, but it’s hard to put into print words why I liked or didn’t like a certain piece. Another thing: I didn’t want to use the word “pretentious” but some of the pieces were, well, pretentious. I decided before reading anything that I would use more concise language to describe whatever I was reading. There were many pieces that I marked as “?” because I was so torn on how to vote. I was proud of the spreadsheet I sent to my head editors but I was wondering (still am!) if I could’ve created it in a better way.
The second part of the job was our head editors assigning us pieces to edit and facilitating email communication with our authors. I have two people I’m working with, but I haven’t heard anything back from the second. I did, however, finish working with my first person. He seems really nice and he was so easy to work with. We exchanged emails about the magazine publication date and what format it’ll be in, and honestly his work was solid. I will be keeping him up-to-date about the magazine but that’ll be easy. I hope my second person gets back to me, but if not then we’ll go with her current work. Our deadline for submitting the final copy of the author’s work is February 11th, so she still has time.
The finished product does not currently have a publication date, but my head editors want to get it published online before the big Sigma Tau Delta convention on March 2nd. I imagine I’ll be sharing a follow-up blog about the final product. For the meantime, I’m waiting for my second person to get back to me and waiting for additional magazine news.
I don’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned that during my fifth-year semester I was invited to join the International English Honors Society-official name Sigma Tau Delta-but I was and I accepted. I now have a very snazzy Sigma Tau Delta pin and I can do all sorts of cool stuff for the organization. I’m considered an Eastern Sigma Tau Delta member so all of the emails I receive from the organization headquarters relates to that, and while there haven’t been many emails sent out yet, just last evening I got an email for one of the coolest opportunities ever! I’m currently in the process of getting more information and hoping it comes through for me.
I’m excited because I have had two semesters of actively working with Calliope, my university’s literary magazine and it was a very cool experience. I was only a staff fiction editor, which was less editing and more reading all of the submissions and commenting on them, but it was such a big thing for me. My job involved waiting around until all the submissions came in and then reading each one carefully and commenting on its strong or weak points via a spreadsheet document sent by our genre editor. We would look for “literary magazine-quality” submissions, or at least fiction that had some strong writing. I learned that Calliope has won awards for its appearance and content, so as fiction editors we had to offer the best of the best. While I admit that I hate having to judge work by standards that are not related to entertainment value, I still enjoyed getting to share my thoughts about everything. There were some really neat stories that weren’t “literary magazine-quality” but were just fun to read, and I was so honored to get to read them.
Since I am no longer a student at the university, I don’t get to participate with Calliope. That makes me sad because it really was a positive experience for me. I love that as a Sigma Tau Delta member I still have a chance at assisting with a region-wide literary magazine.
I didn’t have any trouble creating my profile for this application of sorts because I’ve always loved working as a staff editor at my university’s literary magazine and explaining why I want to continue came so easy to me. As I said in this very small screencap, I feel qualified to serve as a fiction editor because I have experience with it. Of course, it’s not enough to just say that “Well, I worked on the literary magazine and it was awesome” because that’s great but it’s not really a qualification in itself. Therefore, I shared the story of how I convinced the literary magazine head editors to let in a piece of horror/fantasy.
It’s a nifty story, well worth re-sharing here even though I have it listed in the very tiny screencap. To begin with, Calliope is not known for genre fiction. Once I had to move on, it went back to being very realistic/literary fiction. My influence only goes so far. I appreciate that realistic/literary fiction is the backbone of its success, but I also felt like genre fiction can be just as good and there was one story that touched me so much I knew I could defend and advocate for it. During our meeting for reviewing submissions as a group, I made the case that we had already selected many well-written and deep stories for the magazine, but they were also heavy and not entertaining. That’s not to say that they were bad because in fact it’s the opposite, but I felt like the magazine would be depressing without a lighter piece of fiction. That story made it in and of course I give myself credit for that.
I know that if I get this role as an editor of Mind Murals (the Eastern Sigma Tau Delta literary magazine) I would have to work within their standards. Even if it’s going to be a challenge for a speculative fiction buff, I am up to it. Now the decision is up to the editors of Mind Murals, so now I’m waiting and hoping for good news.
The evening before 2016 I created a list of blogging promises for the new year. All of them boil down to “I’m going to be a better, more serious blogger.” I would like to add an additional promise now that I have gone through some of my more interesting or real-world significant blogs and took note of how useful or not they could be when the event or product is no longer fresh in the reader’s (and my) mind.
I noticed this yesterday in my The Creepy Reading Corner blog as one that I have to change considerably, not the blog itself but the way I create blog posts. I was reading through some of my later book reviews and they were decent in how they gave the reader key plot points without being over-the-top spoilery, but I realized that maybe I need to give more spoilers. For example, I would say something vague like “…It ended in a blood bath” instead of giving an overview of the ending and how it was a blood bath. I was torn on how to handle this because review readers want to know enough about the book before purchasing it to make an informed decision but they don’t want the book spoiled. It’s a balancing act, it really is. As a sometimes-consumer of book reviews myself, I can tell you that there is no easy answer. In 2016 I am going to resolve this problem by providing spoilers as necessary but making 100% sure that readers know that they will meet spoilers in the review and it’s on them to decide whether to read or avoid my reviews. I am using book reviews as an example of the blog style that I need to change because it was most noticeable there, but this is relevant for any type of media. If you want to see an example of how I’m going to review products, you can check out my review of Paranormal Witness: “The Dark Pond” on my The Creepy Viewing Corner (formerly The Creepy Movie Corner) blog. Bear in mind that different forms of media are better suited to spoilery reviews than others; books can be spoiled without being truly spoiled while movies and TV shows can be spoiled even by mentioning the overarching plot. In any case, I have decided that for 2016 I will use spoilers in my media reviews and I will warn for them, leaving the rest in my readers’ hands.
As I see my BlogJob friends make New Year’s resolutions, I realized that I don’t do the resolution thing. What I do instead is I check in with myself every so often to see if I’m accomplishing the things I say I will and then I make resolutions whenever I need to make a change. I have never been able to say “In *insert year* I will do this laundry list of things” and then stick to it, which is why I don’t do this. As I read through my BlogJob friends’ lists of resolutions, I also realized that it’s not a bad idea to look to the future even if they aren’t resolutions in the traditional way. My 2016 writing promises (which, now that I think of it, are resolutions with a name I prefer) are realistic writing-related activities that I know I can complete.
First, I promise that I will get back into using BlogJob as a serious freelance writing website. Not all of my posts will be serious in content, although I also promise that I will do more of those hard-hitting news blog posts because people respond well to them and they have reportedly helped people make smart choices just by being informative. I can’t promise that I will give up writing personal reflections to work out emotions and baggage or venting about the latest irritation because a writer needs to enjoy some of what they write and talking subjectively about stuff is what I enjoy. I can promise that I will be more present on BlogJob and contribute useful content without taking month-long hiatuses.
Second, I promise that I will spell-check my writing. I have noticed that I often make typos that make little difference by themselves but add up in the questioning my credibility department. I will show my commitment to serious freelance writing by going through my posts to make sure the majority of words are spelled correctly.
Third, I promise that I will get better at promoting my blog posts. Let’s be honest, promotion is the worst part. I will not promise that I will love promotion, but I promise that I will at least promote every blog in three major locations.
Fourth, I promise to revive my dead blogs. Dream Headquarters, Once Upon a Time…, and Must Love Tortitude are three blogs that have been neglected and abandoned. If reviving these blogs means deleting old posts and losing points in order to change the theme of the blog to be more reader-friendly and writer-friendly, that will be a necessary evil. Blog upkeep is so important so I’m beginning to think that if I continue to neglect certain blogs, clearly they are serving no purpose and should not exist.
For 2016, I am going to make a commitment to my blogging. When I say that I am going to use BlogJob as a serious freelance writing website, I am going to put my actions behind it as well.