I’m currently taking a fiction course that requires we write three stories: one was a maximum of 750 words and was to be written like Jamaica Kinkaid’s Girl, a piece where a woman is giving advice to a young woman. The second was a max of about 1500 words, and had to be a scene of conflict similar to a short-short by Hemingway called Hills Like White Elephants. The third piece, due tonight when I go to class at 6pm, has to be no less than about 15 pages, no more than around 20. The professor said we could write about anything we wanted.
I don’t do well with that kind of freedom. In fact, I’ve known for a month that this was due, that there were no limitations in terms of subject matter, and how long it was supposed to be. Yet I didn’t sit down and begin writing until late last week. I tried to formulate a story in my head, develop some characters, get a plot going and climax going.
After reading a great number of short stories by some pretty amazing writers, I’ve realized that I don’t think I’m cut out for fiction. For one thing, I’m not that creative. I don’t have enough time to sit down and revise, revise, revise, until I get things in a language that suits me.
What I ended up writing was much more like nonfiction that fiction. I changed parts, added details, gave people different names. I went back after about 18 pages and reworded scenes, cut out things that seemed unnecessary. But after years of writing creative nonfiction, literary journalism, essays, articles, and analyses for undergraduate courses, I just don’t know how to write like Stuart Dybek or Flannery O’Connor. Especially when the professor just says: “Write about whatever you want.”
Grad school has been a real roller coaster. Some days I’m feeling great about it. Other days, I want to cry. There are ups and downs, just like with anything, I know, so I try to focus on the positive aspects and not worry, but I am a worrier.
I’ve gotten all As (two regular As, two A-minuses) so far and have worked as hard as I can, but I received my conflict scene last week with zero feedback from the professor other than “This is NOT SUBTLE” written on the last page. She gave almost everyone the same comments, and almost all of us got Bs. I’ve received no feedback or grade or comments on the short-short piece.
But I have gotten two scholarships. Except, to get a grade high enough for the last one, I was in tears over a course on language and style for writers the entire 10 weeks we were in class. It left me confused and ambivalent about my decision to pursue this degree. I pulled it together in the end, but not without sweating, tears, headaches, teeth-gritting.
I just turned in my application materials for two internships starting in the fall, but I have no idea if I’m qualified for them. There’s so much competition and there are so few opportunities that people are clawing over one another to get them. I haven’t had the same prof twice, so asking for a letter of recommendation has been a struggle. But then I did get one and the prof said she’d be thrilled to recommend me.
I’m taking an editing course right now that’s knocked the wind out of me. My second quiz, I received a C. A C. I felt like I was going to throw up when he handed it back. It was so many stupid mistakes. I was all, “Oh, I got this,” when I took it, flying through that fucker in about 7 minutes because I knew the 15th edition inside and out. Except the quiz was over the differences between the 15th and the 16th editions of the Chicago Manual of Style. Putting in spaces and closing up spaces is now required for everything and . . . well, guess who didn’t do it once?
That prof hosts a really expensive, for-credit, early-December trip overseas that one of my classmates has signed up for. That classmate also applied for the same two-year college teaching internship as me. The City Colleges of Chicago schools go on semesters, while we are on quarters. He can’t do both–even though our classes would be finished before he left, the City Colleges would go through mid-December. And for a brief moment, when I saw his name on the email sent to applicants for the teaching gig, I wanted to write the director and rat him out. I don’t want him getting a position over me, especially if he’s going to take off at the end of their semester to go to Berlin or Istanbul or whatever it is. Of course, I would not tattle, but the idea of him going for both things kind of pisses me off.
The second app was a tutor in the writing center. I think I would prefer to do this in the fall, and the teaching internship in the winter, because I can get paid for it. Teaching is unpaid, and Bea will be starting preschool August 7th, so we really need to figure out a way to pay for it.
Slight problem there. She’s still not potty trained, but has to be to start. She wanted to go to school so badly–crying in front of the playground out in front, begging me to take her inside after our first tour–until she realized she would be going by herself. Like, sans Mommy and Daddy. Now she kicks and screams when we take her to the bathroom, shouting that she doesn’t want to go to school, and put a diaper on me!
Tomorrow I’m supposed to be inducted in the honors society I was admitted to last quarter, but I probably can’t make it. Charlie has started training downtown for the next 6-8 weeks. Although I’m glad he’ll get weekends off, we have to meet up at the train to pass off Bea so I can make it to class on time Mondays and Wednesdays by 6pm. This starts at 4:30 (all of my program’s classes are in the evening to “accommodate working adults” so I don’t understand why the ceremony starts so early), which is the exact time Charlie gets out of class on South Riverside Place. It’s at least 15-20 minutes on the train from there to my stop for school. This stresses me out a little bit. But (she says, trying to focus on the positive), we really only have to do it until the first week of June since my quarter ends then.
I’ve also recently found out I have uterine fibroids. On top of polycystic ovarian syndrome. May 10th I go in to see the head of the gynecology to find out just how big, where they are, what course of action needs to be taken. I know it’s not a guarantee of infertility, but I have a feeling my body is going to go ahead and say, “Nope. No more.” I don’t think there’s any chance of needing a hysterectomy (my uterus wasn’t even abnormally large, so that’s a good thing), but the idea of having any sort of invasive procedure in that area bothers me.
I guess that’s the last few months in a rather large nutshell.