Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Overachievers

So, Rob and I have both decided we're going to apply for another master's program, because we're both overachievers like that. The one we're looking at is the HUX Humanities distance education program at CSU Dominguez Hills. It's a job security thing, too. With an emphasis in the art area, Rob will be qualified to also teach art history-related humanities classes--a useful competency to have, just in case the cuts to the California community college system get REALLY bad and there aren't as many art classes available. It makes him more useful.

As for me, it also makes it possible for me to teach basic art classes at the CC level, should that ever become necessary. And it might. Right now, with a BA in Art and one additional year of graduate study (a Post-Baccalaureate certificate), I'm just slightly underqualified. I do have an MFA--but it's not in art. In less lean times, that would probably be enough for me to teach part-time--basic drawing, for instance. These days--not so much. But with the Humanities MA and an emphasis in art, I would be a much more qualified candidate.

Not only that, it just looks like a damn cool program. I mean, the likelihood of me teaching ANY class is low, unless there seems to be no other option for work. But I'd be jealous of Rob, just watching him do it. There's a class on Frank Lloyd Wright, for cripes sake. A class on female coming-of-age in world literature. (Yeah, obviously I'd be taking a few lit classes, too...) AND, you have the option of doing a creative thesis rather than an academic one.

So we've got all our transcripts ordered, and we'll be working on our essays soon and filling in our applications. I'm looking forward to it. I like learning stuff, and school is one of the things I can equivocally say I'm very good at. Not exactly a marketable skill, though, since nobody's going to pay me to do it. It's one of those things that, as a child or teenager, makes you a high achiever with great potential and possibly even a prodigy/genius type, depending on your level of success. As an adult, nobody cares if you're good at school. (Sad, but true.) Still, it's going to be a lot of fun.

Plus, as Rob pointed out, we're actually applying to a program where GRADES MATTER--very refreshing, after going through the whole art school/MFA program thing where the only thing that really matters is whether or not they see potential in your creative work.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

There Are Books, and Then There Are BOOKS


Some books, when I sit down to read them, are so impressive or intimidating or amazing that they make me never want to write again. They make me question my entire career decisionmaking process (not that that's too difficult). Obviously, that's my problem, though, not the books' problem. It's not the author's fault that they're so awesome—in fact, I'm sure they put a ton of work into it and deserve it. Anyway. There are other books, though, that, when I sit down and start reading them, make me excited in a different way—make me want to open my notebook or my word-processing program and start writing, too. They make me eager. They make me gleeful. I'm reading one of those now: Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors. I'm only a few pages in, but I'm getting that I-want-to-write-right-now feeling.

I'm not sure what the difference is, or even if there IS one—it could be as simple as a difference in mood on my own part. Or maybe it's that the writing resonates with me in some underlying way—the style? The tone? It's hard to say. It's not as though those books that make me want to give up entirely DON'T resonate; they do. But they usually, in some way, make me feel like they're "up there" at the top of some pinnacle of awesomeness, and I'm "down here" just trying to muddle along, and when such incredible works exist, why should I bother when I could never do half as well?

And of COURSE it isn't the case that the books which make me want to eagerly start writing are not also awesome books. They're great books, too. It's very hard to put my finger on what the difference is, which is why I guess I have to assume that it's me and not the books. Does this happen to anyone else? I can't help thinking that if I could figure out what the difference is, what it is that makes some books spark that need to write, maybe I'd realize something important (or at least interesting) about my own writing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Catching Up

I can't believe I've been so neglectful as to not blog here for nearly a month. Not only that, I'm sorry to report that so far I have made zero progress on any of my New Year's resolutions as delineated in my previous post. Not that I've been lazy. Nope. Just exhausted, and busy.

Fortunately, I have high hopes that, from now on, I'll be not only blogging more but perhaps even reincorporating things like artwork and exercise and hobbies and (gasp!) FUN. Rob's art exhibit went up in the MJC campus gallery last week (see photo at right), which means he doesn't have to spend every waking non-teaching hour out in the studio, which means I get more help around the house again and get to see him more (although, time-management-wise, those might cancel each other out). And, after this week, I won't have such a conglomeration of book-related activities keeping me occupied.

One of those book-related activities was my first ever school visit yesterday, to Oakdale Junior High. I read parts of my book to two groups of kids in the library, talked a little about how I got published and the writing process, and answered questions. My favorite question might have been "what's a good first step to take if I want to be a writer?" And, I loved the girl who came up to me and said she's writing a novel, too. That's some ambition.

I was at least 15 or 16 before I tried to start writing a novel, and I certainly never finished any of those "early works" (well, all 2 of them). I think the first one was the ill-fated cyberpunk reinterpretation of The Nutcracker--entitled, of course, NetCracker. Or possibly it was the other untitled cyberthriller about the guy with the cyber-hand who is assigned to infiltrate a high-tech corporation, who meets and teams up with a teenage punk girl with a genius for gadgets and a penchant for running away from home. I even outlined most of that one in great detail, and wrote at least 30 or 40 pages. It starts with the rather cringe-worthy line "The sweat ran down Ian's body in rivulets as he staggered out of the room where he had just passed his physical endurance test." Eww.

Still, I suppose those are probably better than my other attempts at the time--the one-act play about a waiting room that was a metaphor for death; the SOOOOPER lame vampire-lust short story that nobody, I repeat NOBODY should ever read; or the one simply titled "MYSTERY" that seems to be a pseudo-Victorian tale set in Drury Lane, London and riddled with Dickensian stereotype characters like the former street waif Tommy and the unfortunately-named Jenny Robinthwaite. I might have been 13 or 14 when I wrote that one. It boasts such great lines as "Ask me not why" and "Sleep now, you scalawag" and "I've never seen a better fight in my life!"

Amusing as my early writings seem to me now, I wonder what would have happened if I'd had a chance to meet an author when I was younger, to ask questions about what it was like to be a writer and how to get there. Probably nothing, since I was pretty darn focused on being an artist, but still. Maybe I would have spent more time on it. Or, on the other hand, maybe I wouldn't have taken so many risks with my writing, tried so many odd (some might say ridiculous) ideas. I mean, there's nothing like education to make you suddenly wonder what you're doing wrong. So maybe it worked out for the best after all, eh?