09 January 2014

A Reflection on Ignorance

They say ignorance is bliss. What you don't know can't hurt you. Wrong.

For the past several years, I've considered myself a seasoned writer. After all my novella had the approval of a published, totally cooky, amazing author. I took her course and got an A. I passed advanced exams and placed out of all general English requirements. I even *gasp* basically skipped my Technical Reports class on a regular basis because I got my assignments right the first time. Every week, I showed up to pick up the graded assignment. Everyone else was required to stay and listen to the professor rant about how pathetic their writing was. I was given my paper and told, "Good job, see you next week." I received an A in that class as well. Even though, I only attended one full lecture that I can remember and that was the final presentation. Of course, that was undergrad. I haven't kept up with my writing skills all that much.

But, I know how to pretty up a resume. I can write a decent cover letter. I have an academic article published and another stuck somewhere out there in "accepted but not yet published" land. I wrote a 80 page honors thesis based on my undergraduate research. I've had poetry published in a literary magazine. I've written two short stories in vastly different genres. I've done essays and term papers, grant proposals and magazine articles, college application essays (which are by far the weirdest writing I've ever done). I think I've even gotten down how to write a decent email. And with the assistance of Swype, I can almost write a coherent text message.

I've written a 61,000 word novel.

In fact, I finished it this week. I've been running this particular race for well over two years. I'm grateful and relieved and somewhat annoyed by the fact that I'm finally done. Or so I thought. Sometime during the race, I pulled out my handy tablet and started doing some research. After all, what good is a novel, if it's not going to be published? This leads to the task at hand.

I need to write a query letter.

Oh, ho ho. A letter that sounds easy. I've been writing letters since back in the good old days before email became the primary form of business communications. Ha. I thought I was knowledgeable. I thought I knew what I was doing. I looked up how to write a query letter. What format do I need? What information should I include? How do I really get an agent to grab onto my letter and never let go? According to various sources, query letters are commonly emailed to a bucket list of agents, glanced at by each, and quite possibly thrown into the internet void of Deleted Emails. Not just by one or two of them. Not even by just half or most of them. Commonly, by ALL of them.

So, I subscribed to the single most useful blog in the history of the internet. Well, at least it is for me and for this purpose. QueryShark. I've read archives and comments. Poured over FAQs and detailed instructions. And yet I sit here with my half-written query sitting on my desktop and I'm writing a blog about it instead of just doing it. Well, actually, I'm writing a blog about it because I decided that growling and waving my hands at my computer like some sort of deranged conductor waiting for it to orchestrate itself was not working. No surprise there.

So, I guess I don't know everything and the extent of my lack of knowledge must extend to more than just querying. I'm sure it extends to lots of things in lots of places. Some of these places, I will never wish to travel. Others, I will venture into.

08 January 2014

The Catch Up Game

Hi there!

If you've never read my blog before, which is highly probable, I mostly write on here as a form of stress relief. Call it a way to organize my thoughts on "paper" without actually keeping one of those ridiculous lock-and-key diaries. Sad fact, I don't really publish anything secret on here. Sorry, no scandalous info for you! Plus, the only scandalous info I have in my possession would be funny cat pictures.

So, I have recently went over my latest posts. Uhm, not much I can say other than: "Wow. Was I a whiny undergrad or what?" So, a lot has changed in the year or two since I've blogged. I am now happily married. After RPI denied my graduate school application (I think that was the last blog I posted), I was accepted at Washington University in St. Louis and Drexel University. Based on my current location, you can probably tell that I chose Washington University. It was a hard decision: move half-way across the country away from my family to go to a lofty private school or stay close to home to go to a small university where I could probably receive much more one-on-one attention from caring professors. I chose the lofty private school because of the economy.

If the economy still stinks when I've graduated with my PhD, then the least I can do is make my PhD look more flashy by getting it at "the Harvard of the West." Honestly, I feel like all the hype about WashU is just silly. It's a nice college, it's well funded, and it's got a lot of good professors and programs. But just like every other college out there, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. Luckily, I'm NOT putting in the massive tuition money.

But that's enough about school for now. I've had a run of weird circumstances that I've never had the chance to blog out recently. After accepting my acceptance at WashU, I found an apartment here in St. Louis. Within hours of finding an apartment that let me keep my cats, I lost my dad to heart disease. It was a real shock and threw me for a loop my last semester of undergrad. I love my dad and I still miss him. I wish he could have gone to my graduation. Two weeks after graduation, I left my recently widowed mom to move here. My husband started a new job and I started grad school orientation.

Grad school is scary hard. Like the hardest thing I've ever done. I've seen at least one peer quit and I know of others who are unhappy. After my first semester, I was on academic probation. That meant my second semester was all stress. Oh, and on top of dragging my grades up, I taught introductory physics labs to freshman. I did that again my third semester. By the way the fact that I had a third semester, means I got off academic probation (with a lot of sweat and tears of course).

Somewhere in between all of that, I got married (Nov 11, 2012) and I went home to move my mom out here to be with us. My best friend moved here to be our roommate in November of 2012! It is currently winter break before my fourth semester. If I get everything done right this semester, then I will have my Master's degree and will have qualified to start my PhD research. Today I finished writing the novel that I mentioned in previous posts and am excited to start the search for a literary agent.

That's about it. Obviously other stuff occurred (a lot of it) but nothing I'm willing to post publicly on the internet. Hopefully, if anyone ever reads this, I've entertained you for a moment or two.