A funny thing happens to college instructors when July turns into August: we start to panic.
With so many college instructors and professors on my social media, it’s funny watching us all begin the scramble to get ready for the new semester. I’ve spent much of this week planning my schedule for my English composition classes, figuring out my physical schedule, picking up textbooks, looking up the new Required Syllabus Language at both universities, and so on.
I moved into my new office at The Jesuit School last month, but my computer wasn’t installed until this week. It’s a shiny shiny Mac Pro, so I’m looking forward to playing with it as soon as I can get over there. At Ye Olde University, I’m still in my cubicle in the Hall o’ TAs, hopefully with actual company this year, though most of the fellow grad students I’ve worked with have graduated by now. Because how many idiots deliberately choose to be in grad school for five years doing two degrees?
For those playing the home game, that’s three (3) offices for me including the home office, which is where I’ll be working three days a week when I’m not bouncing all over the world two days a week this fall. When I say “physical schedule,” I mean days I’m driving across the river or I’m on the local campus or I’m driving all over the universe to union meetings or I’m ensconced in my home Tower. There’s a spreadsheet and two color-coordinated calendars.
With regret, I have dropped the class in Black speculative fiction I intended to take this semester. It’s absolutely killing me, because come on – to spend a semester reading Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemison and exploring Afrofuturism and horror and get credit for it?
Indeed, my one regret as I approach my final year of MFA Land is the number of classes I won’t get to take. Just this semester alone, my department is offering the above class in Black speculative fiction, young adult literature, African-American rhetoric and oratory, quest fiction, Black music as literature, Black women’s writing, as well as the usual lit classes.
In previous semesters I’ve seen classes on heroes and villains in fiction, an entire semester on Toni Morrison, “inventing America through writing,” American literature and social change, dystopian/apocalyptic fiction, semester-long comparisons of Poe and Hawthorne or Whitman and Dickinson, the American dream as represented in literature, “nasty women” in fiction, and so on.
I think I could happily sit back and take these classes till doomsday. I’ve been so delighted that the reputation of MFA programs as a) relentlessly white/male, b) abusively cruel to their students, and c) stultifyingly resistant to genre and popular fiction have been absolutely untrue. I’m sure some programs deserve the reputation, but if anything, my experience and my observations at AWP indicate that the current-day programs are well ahead of the industry itself in diversification and openness for writers and writing styles.
But I digress, unhappily, back to abandoning a class I really wanted to take. At least I still get to take slipstream fiction, which should be a lot of fun, and I will begin my planning and research for my community project – Writer in the World, required of all MFAs, and buckle in because it’s going to be my whole year.
Meanwhile, I am teaching two completely full sections of English composition at Ye Olde University and commuting into the city two mornings a week to teach newswriting at the Jesuit College. That’s approximately 75 students to wrangle. In addition to the Writer in the World practicum, I’ll be working on my MFA thesis novel, and my non-MFA fiction writing (more on that soooooon).
Then there’s Donald Media, which includes my freelance work for various news publications including McClatchy, the Labor Tribune, Feast Magazine, etc. There’s keeping up with the four (4) blogs I manage, this Patreon, the Literary Underworld, attending two cons and a journalism conference, the ethics committee, St. Louis SPJ and its fall boot camp, not to mention being president of the Sigma Tau Delta honors society and gearing up to take over the quarterly charity book sale in my town that I’ll start running in 2023.
Something had to give. I mean, I have a family. I hear they’re nice.
At least one thing will be off my plate, one way or the other: this Friday is the final defense for my media studies masters thesis. So far none of my committee have emailed me to yell that it’s a worthless piece of garbage and I have to go back to the drawing board because I’m a looooooooser. Who’s nervous? Hopefully their suggestions will be quickly feasible, as next week is my last of the summer “vacation” and my ability to give the bloody thing my undivided attention before the fall chaos descends.
Assuming nothing goes sideways, technically I am done with that degree, and would have the right to walk in the December graduation except that feels silly when I’m allegedly graduating for good in May!
Then whatever will I do with all my spare time?