Farewell, Wayward Sister!

Cover illustration, textbook


I handed in my MFA thesis yesterday. In one week I’ll meet with my committee to defend it.

I’m not going to paint you a picture of a bloodsport, nor of nail-biting suspense. The defense will pretty much go like this: for one hour, I will be workshopped by three tough readers. Since my thesis is a novel, and since the novel is not finished (it currently sits at around 200 pages), most of their questions will revolve around how I see it ending. Which is a bit like asking someone new to chess to describe their endgame strategy. I can’t see that many moves ahead.

But I do have a good idea for the bulk of the second and even much of the third acts. And I know my characters pretty well at this point, so I know how what kinds of choices they might make and how others might respond.

Also, I’ve been immersed in this forest, and all the trees are starting to look mighty fuzzy. My committee—which consists of advisor Wilton Barnhardt and Jill McCorkle and John Kessel—will likely (hopefully) have input and advice that they will kindly share. And they’ll do their due diligence by wagging their fingers at me for some of my more grievous errors, which hopefully are few. The novel is about a homeless man in Orange County, California, who believes he is a cowboy, and the troubled young man and woman who fall into his orbit.

This coming weekend I also have a 20-page essay exam to write, based on a combination of assigned and personally selected readings from the past couple of years. Once that’s done, I’ll just have some projects left to grade for the ENG 101 class I teach, and then I’ll be done with graduate school. Time flies.

Now that the obligatory update is out of the way, allow me to toot my own horn for a moment. This is, after all, my blog—and it is, after all, job search season.

As it turns out, I’ll be leaving here with not one, but two books well underway. I’ve been studying memoir under Dr. Elaine Orr, and have the first third of a book-length memoir completed, much to my surprise. Whether it gets finished and/or published before the novel is anyone’s guess. It’s mostly about my family on my father’s side, using my father as the focal point.

Oh yeah, and I illustrated a textbook cover, in all that spare time I had.

Also, I completed the Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching (CoAT), a program for graduate students at NCSU. I am one of three people in the English department to cross that finish line and be honored, and the only MFA student to do so this year. I had to attend at least half a dozen workshops, write two synthesis essays, a teaching philosophy, have two teaching observations and write reflections for each, and compile a 40-page teaching portfolio. All so that I can make myself appealing not just to marketing & communications positions, but teaching as well. What can I say, I’m a man of varied interests and skills.

I have to leave it at that, for now. I still have a workshop to go to, and miles to go before I sleep. More later.

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