In which Beth finally figures out what she wants to do with her life??

I had a sort of revelation at work last week. There have been several threads of thought regarding my professional like that have been spinning and weaving and untangling themselves for a while now. The main two are:

1. Yes, I’m going to try to become a published novelist, but what am I going to do for money? No one becomes a successful novelist overnight and I need a career that I find meaningful and satisfying and that will also pay my bills. I’m 29 now and I need to get that shit figured out.

2. I love my job. (I’m a peer tutor at the Writing Center of my college. I’m also now serving on the editorial board for Inkwell, the publication that the tutors at the Writing Center write and publish once a year.) But I’ve known from the beginning that it’s temporary—only students get to be tutors.

And yesterday it all kind of coalesced. It was a particularly inspiring day and I thought, “My job is just about perfect.” I work with a small, close-knit community. I genuinely like, as a person, every single coworker and boss I have (and I recognize how magically rare that is in a workplace). Having a successful tutoring session with a writer, where they walk out feeling more confident, inspired, and purposefulthat’s amazing. Doing the same thing now with Inkwell, where the writer is not a stranger but a friend and coworker, is even better. My work is so important to me. It’s deeply meaningful and soul-satisfying.

The one thing that I feel is missing? Kids. I love and miss working with kids. The years at the beginning of adolescence are intense in every way, and if I could somehow do what I do now, but with young folkshelping them find their voice and use it to make art and meaning in their own lifethat would be perfect.

So what would that look like, in terms of an actual career? I have two ideas.

1. Taking the basic structure and principle of the Writing Center where I work and applying it elsewhere. Whether it’s connected to the public libraries, a school, or an independent organizationcreating a place where young people can come to learn about writing (preferably for free, since class/ability/racial/cultural inclusivity is crucial).

2. Staying at the college where I am now, finding a way to stay employed after I graduate, and creating an after-school and/or summer program for young folks. I recently reread The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy, about two 12-year-old girls who write a prize-winning short story and then enroll in a summer writing program at Berkeley (all while dealing with their dysfunctional families). The first time I read it, I identified more with the protagonist, Joan/Newt. This time, I found myself thinking, “I want to be her” when reading about Verla Volante, the Berkeley student, snappy dresser, inspiring teacher of their creative writing class, and mysterious “good witch or bad witch?” So why can’t I be Verla Volante, and create such a program at Evergreen like they had at Berkeley?

Plus, in my wonderings about “Is an MFA program the right choice for me?” it turns out that Evergreen is planning to roll out its own MFA program sometime in the next few years. “Oh, great,” I thought, “then I’ll never want to leave.” Well, why should I have to, anyway?

Old Stuff

Defensive Acdemia (10/23/14)

All right, Mr. Professor Man. Skeptical about my proposal for my research paper? Don’t think it fits with the themes of the class? Want me to prove it? You want sources? I’LL GIVE YOU SOURCES.

Validation (10/22/14)

YOU GUYS. My coworker just told me that he was program-tutoring earlier and the professor told the whole class that they should read my article in Inkwell.

Inkfest (10/15/14)

I now have an article in Inkwell, and a poem and a short story in Vanishing Point.
Resume-building like a BOWSS.

“God’s Thumbs!” (10/9/14)

I got an idea to write about an undertea (like undersea, but tea) world, and Catherine Valente has already done it. I’m in the midst of writing a dark, twisted Snow White story, and Neil Gaiman has already done it. And I think that I will never be as good as either of these writers whom I adore.
Then I remember the quote in Catherine, Called Birdy: “Remember, Little Bird, in the world to come, you will not be asked ‘Why were you not George?’ or ‘Why were you not Perkin?’ but ‘Why were you not Catherine?’”
I will not be asked “Why were you not Neil Gaiman?” or “Why were you not Catherine Valente?” I will be asked “Why were you not Beth Cook?”

Inkwell, Vol. 9 (9/26/14)

What’s that? Oh, nothin. I’m just a PUBLISHED AUTHOR.
OK, so it’s just a small article in Inkwell: a student guide to writing, which the tutors of The Writing Center at Evergreen write each year. It’s not like I’ve gotten one of my novels published (YET).

But I’m darn proud of it and honored to be featured beside such amazing colleagues, and I’m gonna wear this like a big ol’ peacock feather in my cap. (Oh, and did I mention I’m on the Inkwell editorial board this year? *strut*)

7 Strange Questions (9/?/14)

I read this article a week or two ago, thinking it would be pretty typical for something with a title like that. But I’ve been having a breakout of WhatamIgonnadowithmylife-itis, so what the hell. I found it surprisingly insightful and funny. Read it, don’t just read my answers.
What’s your favorite kind of shit sandwich? (What struggles, sacrifices, and unpleasantries are you able to handle?) 
-I can handle disorganization because I’m good at organization.
-I’m decent at improvising and going with the flow when things change.
-Unless I work from home, I can not handle much more than a 40-hour work week. I’m good at planning and multi-tasking, to make the most of my time, but too much work = too much stress.
-As long as it doesn’t abscond with my personal life, I can handle having lots of Things To Do since I’m good at prioritizing.
-I think I can handle rejection (from publishers) just fine, since that’s more anonymous and distant, and the people in my life who say “Yes!” to my work have real faces to smile at me, real voices to encourage me, and real arms to hug me.
-I’m definitely OK with never being rich, since I have a strong foundation in what really matters in life and a lot of practice in simplifying, which I hope to get better at (more DIY!).
What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?
This, I think, is where I excel. There are plenty of things about me now that would make 18-year-old Me cry, but she’s angry and confused.
8-year-old Me was dramatic and colorful and creative and intense and detail-oriented and happy and interested in everything and smart and bookish and friendly.
Nearly-29-year-old Me is still all of those things. Good job, Me.
What makes you forget to eat and poop? (What makes you get obsessive?)
I don’t think I’ve ever in my life forgotten to eat, but I can definitely get obsessive.
-That huge supply closet at SCDspending hours and hours pulling out the chaos, wiping everything clean, and putting it all back onto shelves and into boxes and baskets and drawers with neat little labels.
-Putting the performance order togethertaking eight or nine twisty factors into consideration and color-coding accordingly.
-CDI, and my beloved spreadsheet of oh-so-perfectly organized SOs.
-Computer games with puzzles to solve: The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, Yipe, Amazon Trail, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain, The Time Warp of Dr. Brain. It was about taking all the necessary steps to get to the satisfying end goal of achievement.
How can you better embarrass yourself? (What are you OK with failing at, over and over, until you get it right?)
This one is tough for me because it’s all about vulnerability, and I’ve always been intensely vulnerable anyway.
I fear letting other people down more than I fear letting myself down. If I’m only accountable to myself, then no one but me gets hurt if I fail. But if people I like and trust and respect are counting on me and I let them down, that’s hell.
I think it all comes down to people. I don’t just want coworkers, I want a work community. If the people I work with see me as a worker bee, if I can’t connect with them on what’s important, if they make me feel pressured, then the experience is going to suck. If, however, the people I work with are united by a common purpose and a common vision, if they’re all dedicated to fostering an atmosphere of support and collaboration, then I am happy to embarrass myself for those people. I will fail for them, over and over, until I learn how to get it right.
How are you going to save the world?
Another tough one for me. How can I possibly “pick a problem you care about and start solving it” when I care about all of it? OK, I may not care about a specific South American beetle I’ve never heard of going extinct, but I care about the factors that caused it and I care about saving the planet. Besides, it’s damn near impossible to separate one problem from the others.
Global climate change. Sustainability. Animal rights. Poverty. Corruption. War. Disease. Education. Gender equity. Racial equity. Mass incarceration. Big Agriculture. Corporate monopolies. Government bureaucracy. And on and on and on…

IT’S ALL CONNECTED. Touch one thread and the spider can feel it clear on the other side of the web. So how can I possibly “pick one” unless it’s going to send ripples of goodness into all the others? (Is that what teaching is?)
Gun to your head, if you had to leave the house all day, every day, where would you go and what would you do?
-I’d sit in the children’s section of a library or bookstore and read YA novels. (It’s kind of ridiculous how at home and happy I feel there.)
-I’d find a tea shop with comfy chairs and gluten-free pastries, and write.
-I’d explore odd and beautiful landscapes (leisurely).
-I’d browse antique shops and thrift shops for strange and magical curiosities.
-I’d go to an arts and crafts studio with good music and good company and we’d Make Things.
-I’d do more yoga and take up blues again and even resurrect my tap dancing.
-I’d make sure I spend time with people I enjoy.
If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?
-I’d make an ongoing vlog for my future niblings [genderless plural for nieces and/or nephews], chronicling my journey and talking about the Big Important Things (and the Little Important Things) so they know who I was and what I would have shared with them.
-I’d visit all the really bizarre and beautiful spots in the world.
-I’d write furiously.
-I’d bequeath any unfinished stories to writer friends so they could finish them.
-I’d dress fabulous-but-comfy.
-I’d eat whatever the fuck I want. (Not gluten, since I don’t want to spend my last year as a fart machine. Maybe my last day I’d gorge myself on croissants.)
-I’d visit the Henson Creature Shop and the set of the Fraggle Rock movie.
-I’d dance and sing whenever the hell I felt like it.