Update

When you know you're ready to start nesting...

When you know you're ready to start nesting...

When I left my job and the transient lifestyle, a lot of people were excited for me, albeit curious to see if I might get restless or bored in one place. I wondered the same but was convinced it was my time to test this settled life regardless.

Because for years, I struggled to leave my friends and family behind with every flight, even though I knew how lucky I was to be boarding those flights. Even though I liked where I was headed. And it was tiring—physically and emotionally—to pack up possessions that felt increasingly worthless and sleep in one more IKEA bed. Apparently all that movement, all those time zone changes, and many awkward nights of sleep gave me adrenal fatigue, amongst the effects of constant travel that could be measured or pinpointed.

Read More

"Are you published yet?" and other thoughts on success in the writing profession

A former student messaged me the other day asking: “Is your book out in the market yet?”

I last saw this student in early June, and yes, part of my explanation for leaving my teaching job was wanting to get my manuscript published. By then, I was carrying around a three-ring binder of what appeared to be a complete and printed manuscript (is any manuscript ever complete?). I can imagine some students thought I was a hop, skip, and jump away from the digital shelves of Amazon.

That dear student is not the only one who has asked me if bookstores now carry my narrative from Fiji, just two months after they watched me submit a second draft for grad school.

IMG_0077.PNG

I interpret these as supportive and encouraging questions—from people who have been cheering me on through the gestation of this book. But these questions also relate to the self-study of the publishing world that has consumed the “gap year” I just began, an industry and a process that surprises me regularly in its opacity and complexity.

It’s as if I spent years learning to make cheese, and now that I’ve almost decided on my formula, I must learn about an entire industry that produces, packages, markets, and delivers my beloved cheese to consumers. And by “learn” I mean ask others who’ve done it before, scour the internet for sources, for people who can help me navigate this process. Because the process is not clear and not taught to writers.

The barrier of entry for hopeful writers requires knowledge, personal connections, time, and money. It appears, most unfortunately, that entry can also be afforded to some demographics over others, simply because publishing professionals are commonly white females. I doubt any two writers’ paths toward this knowledge are the same.

Most of us are outsiders looking in on the publishing industry. Perhaps you’re a reader, maybe you fancy yourself a potential writer, or you love a good bookstore for its free wifi and coffee shop vibes. I dare say, for most of us, the process of getting a book published appears simultaneously straightforward and mysterious. Ba da bing ba da boom...somehow.

These questions about my own book remind me of one of my own questions I still regret asking at the start of my MFAW. “What happens to our theses when we finish? Do they get published?” I was 30 years-old. I thought the fruit of my grad school labor went straight into the book machine after graduation. Over time I think I managed to gain back a little respect from that advisor, but on that same day I commenced my education of the publishing industry, mainly in relation to the writer’s experience.

Because, I soon learned, the sole objective of writing is not to be published.

There were many moments while at Goddard when the relationship between writing and publishing was identified to me, made distinct from each other. “Writing and publishing are separate things,” my first advisor mentioned casually in a keynote speech. That simple sentence was epiphanic to me. I scribbled it down on my notepad and reviewed it often to the same effect.

Many of my classmates had already submitted to journals and magazines and contests, all while completing our required work and sometimes holding full-time jobs unrelated to their writing lives. It was an outlet they pursued in overtime hours, often with little external or material compensation for days of hard work but a byline. Goddard College brought literary agents and publishing representatives to residency, to let us peek behind the curtain and glimpse how that publishing world worked. And they always made it sound like a foreign country with its own system of government and unique language you’re expected to learn on your own before you go. The manuscript, a hard-earned passport. The proposal, a complicated visa.

I could go on. I love a good analogy.

I would sit in those lectures and wonder: Does everyone else know there are five main publishing houses in America? Was I supposed to as an MFAW candidate? Is everyone else clear on the options of 1.) literary agents → editors → publishing houses or 2.) self-representation → editors → publishing houses or 3.) skipping the refinement process by professionals to self-publish at your own expense? How are we supposed to learn in advance of trial and error that book proposals are what they are, that they require chapter breakdowns and beta reader feedback and genre/demographic specification and competitive title analyses?

I continue to wonder today… How did people ever get books published before the internet? Am I such a millenial for asking that question?

IMG_0076.PNG

It’s taken me the last two and a half years to better understand not just that publishing operates the way it does (and I’m still learning) but that publishing should not to be the destination. As writers, so much could be lost or overshadowed if getting published becomes the focal point of one’s tunnel vision. For both writers and those who know and love writers, publishing should not be considered the mark of success of a writer.

I’ve learned that publishing doesn’t pay much, unless your last name is King or Rowling or Cussler. It seems publishing is the commodification of writing, the business side of a creative format, inherently political, in addition to the major way in which writers can make a desired impact on their readers.

And for publishing professionals, books are investments, books are gambles.

As a writer, I find gratification in using words to assemble something that didn’t exist before. And when that assemblage feels like an apt translation of the blips and swirls in my mind, I am satiated as if departing a Michelin-starred restaurant.

And those blips and swirls don't feel trivial. They tend to focus on the things that keep me up at night. Getting them on paper is a success in and of itself.

And as a writer, I have to engage in trickery of the mind in order to produce the story in need of coming out, though it is insistent. It’s more akin to meditation or shedding the ego or staring into the gut of a flame to find its deep, dark core. Publishing is not the carrot at the end of that stick. It’s getting the story right, even though it’s rightness is as specific and elusive as a once-vivid dream.

“Success” can be seen from many perspectives: a writer’s, their readers, anyone invested in the numbers their writing generates (page views, clicks, followers, products sold, dollars earned), former teachers, fellow writers, family members and friends. I guess I’m trying to maintain focus on the only perspective that should matter to me.

IMG_0078.PNG

As adults, we don’t often receive the constant validation that makes us feel confident we’re doing good work. Not like we used to as students with grades or percentages (my old students used to lament this silver lining from quantitative assessment, much to my surprise). Often that validation for adults comes in the form of job promotions, pay raises, awards (which could vary greatly depending on your profession). But do these always or often commend the work we are most proud of? Are third party “carrots” more effective than the ones we can create for ourselves?

In this “gap year” of mine, in which I do hope to finish my manuscript, find a literary agent, and make progress toward publishing, I also hope I can maintain a clarity of purpose. To define success in my own terms, through the satisfaction of making words mean something worth saying, worth changing, worth being.

Yes, a simple request for a status update sparks all this inside me every time. Feel free to ask...I appreciate the interest and support :)

But no, I haven’t been published yet, even though every Friday is “Submission Day!” and I have yet to send one query.

No, I haven’t gotten my book published yet because I don’t have an agent.

And no agent, sadly, because I’m deep in the weeds with a machete, shaving down my manuscript to its core. And I’m just starting to get the hang of this world.

Why I'm leaving "the best job in the world" to be "unemployed"

Why I'm leaving "the best job in the world" to be "unemployed"

My choice to stop traveling with TGS comes with a big implication: I will no longer be nomadic. Perhaps you might call it "settling down." I've always hated this concept because of what it implied: that I'm accepting a less desirable fate, pausing the whirlwind of my twenties and letting the dust settle in my thirties, that I'm hanging up my backpack and passport for good. I don't think any of these are the case.

Cover image by Ina B.

Read More

I think I'm doing "summer break" wrong... ah, who cares.

I think I'm doing "summer break" wrong... ah, who cares.

So I read, adrenal fatigue appears to be a 21st century issue, in that the diminishment of real physical danger in our daily lives has manifested itself into a constant stress that treats all threats as equals. If this is the case, take me back to the days of subsistence farming, jumps in the swimming hole, and dinner by candlelight. I guess I want to be Amish! Or better yet, Fijian!

But obviously I've gained a tremendous amount from this active, dynamic life bouncing around the world. I'm trying to take it easy, give myself a break before Botswana amps up, but as my previous list indicates, I treat "breaks" like stolen time. I will fill the time I have, a compulsive little worker pumped with caffeine to complement a puny trickle of cortisol.

Parkinson's Law, they call it. Well, C.N. Parkinson has officially taken over my wet, hot, American summer break. And even if that means more of this compulsive, fight or flight mode, as long as I have a finished book by next February, I'm fine with that.

Read More

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

I'm watching the Vancouver Marathon from my apartment window and giggling as seagulls drift by at eye-level. Canada represents my final destination of this academic year, and though it was an exciting year and an important one for my own growth, I am glad it's behind me.

Traveling with a math expert this year introduced me to the beauty of slow data. With every car ride or room change, she plugged miles traversed or beds switched into a spreadsheet. By the end of 220 days "on the road," she presented to us the impressive numbers of our #cdtravels:

  • 110,745 kilometers of transit = 2.76 times around the world
  • Total hours on planes, trains & automobiles (not layovers or wait time): 246 hours / 6 work weeks
  • 50 beds roughly, averaging 4.4 nights per bed

If you're wondering why I spent the last year making an epic carbon footprint (not proud of that), take a peek at the TGS Changemaker Program and read my post on this curriculum development mission. If you're not sure how I went from travel media to writing curriculum documents for a high school, I understand your confusion. It surprised me, too. Here's something on my evolution.

Last year at this time, I was living in Florence, Italy with THINK Global School, plugging away at graduate school and enjoying as stable a lifestyle as I've achieved in the last decade. Between then and now, I changed jobs, visited ten countries, and wrote two years of projects with three colleagues.

Here's what it was like...

Read More

Thoughts on a post-election media detox

Thoughts on a post-election media detox

Two months have passed, and I still don't know how I feel about America's new leadership, about the media outlets that edit and influence, about all the subsequent rhetoric and activism, about what constitutes a responsible citizen or, better yet, a content human being.

No answers came to me in that hiatus from informative networks for how I care to deal with differences of opinion that assume the guise—and sometimes form—of an attack. Walking away from a piece of writing seems to provide clarity of thought upon one's return, so why not this? In fact, I feel I distanced myself from dialogue to the point where I've lost sight of my convictions, especially as they continue to face the steady deluge of challenges brought on by world travel, by trying to be open to new and sometimes contradicting perspectives.

Read More

Around the world (twice) in 250 days: my new job begins!

Around the world (twice) in 250 days: my new job begins!

On August 1st, I started my new job, and I could use your help, if you're interested.

After five years of living in thirteen countries, I'm saying goodbye to the Media Specialist position at THINK Global School. I'm 90% energized to move forward and 10% nostalgic for the sweetest job on the planet.

Featured photo courtesy of Liisa Toomus

Read More

A refreshing update on Nomadderwhere for 2016

A refreshing update on Nomadderwhere for 2016

I keep erasing the opening sentence of this blog because I don't know who I'm addressing. You, my audience, are unknown to me, but I know I have something to tell you. I know it's time to update you on what has changed since I last applied the necessary time and effort on Nomadderwhere this summer, and now is as good a time as any, here in the Air France lounge at Washington Dulles airport. I have three more hours until my plane departs for Vermont.

Read More

I booked a ticket to step back into a dream. I'm Nakavika-bound.

I booked a ticket to step back into a dream. I'm Nakavika-bound.

I've been living in Auckland, New Zealand for the past two months, continuing my work with THINK Global School. New developments at work have incorporated leisure time for employees to travel within the school term. I haven't had the opportunity to visit since February 2010, but thanks to the proximity, cost, and flexibility with work, that return to Nakavika is finally possible.

Read More

Pretending to be a senior and prepping for a new phase of travel

Pretending to be a senior and prepping for a new phase of travel

Just like my seniors, I feel it essential to start looking back at my time here, to gather my thoughts and understand the shift in my world view. I think I’ve grown exponentially here, not just through learning how to teach and communicate but learning how to think from the students and staff that make this a priority.

Read More

A patchwork quilt of my days in Japan

A patchwork quilt of my days in Japan

For the last two years, I've used these little collages as a way to quickly chronicle a chapter of my work life. While this says "Hiro" (a.k.a Hiroshima) and some of the images are from elsewhere in Japan, this represents some of my favorite moments this term, the ones I continue to savor even months later.

Read More

And then I became a teacher...

And then I became a teacher...

I started writing this blog post in February of 2012. Nearly two years later, I am able to look clearly at the progression of my job and see it within the larger context of my career and life. After applying for a job as a "Videographer," I am now a teacher, producer, and temporarily wearing the shoes of an ed tech coordinator. I've always believed that travel expedites growth and maturation, and if that wasn't clear to me in a professional sense before, it definitely is now.

Read More

Attending my first opening night via the interwebs

Attending my first opening night via the interwebs

Thought it wasn't my first choice to attend virtually, it was my only realistic option, as I was deeply embedded in school on May 1st, the day of the event. But this was a big moment for me, a first exhibition for an art major and with deep significance in location at that. I wanted to be able to absorb these factors viscerally and emerge from the experience enriched and with the sense that I had exhibited work always meant for others' eyes.

Read More

Tweeting up a storm at an innovation conference

Tweeting up a storm at an innovation conference

Sometimes working at a school that boasts innovation as its middle name leaves me feeling stale and inadequate for my role. "I haven't done anything new and exciting lately! I'm not ahead of the curve!" This conference looked to be the remedy and something that would benefit all facets of my job, from looking at teaching and learning differently to spreading our name like wildfire.

The conference failed to disappoint. They provided a printed, wire-bound agenda for note-taking, but I was simultaneously shooting great quotes from the speakers up onto Twitter. The hashtag #IUNY13 was lively and often revealed comments I missed or didn't quite wrap my mind around the first time. In this instance, I think my experience was heightened by this digital engagement.

Read More