Five University Jobs You Can Get with Your MFA (That Aren’t Adjuncting)

You have your MFA in hand and you’re looking for a job. For whatever reason – money, lack of class availability, the desire to try something new – you find that you aren’t looking for adjunct work. But you love the university setting and you don’t want to leave.

When you’re checking out the staff postings for your local university, here are some jobs to look for.

1. Academic Success Coordinator
Keep your eyes open for jobs in the student success center on your local university’s campus. They will be the best bet for finding positions that still involve teaching or advising students if the English department doesn’t have any positions available. There might be positions with career coaching, success advising, or even managing student tutors. This position has opportunities to give presentations on learning skills to classes when teachers are absent and to teach First Year Experience courses to Freshmen. The biggest downside to this position is that students can view their mandatory time spent with a success coach as punishment for poor grades.

2. Writing Center Teaching Assistant
At some community colleges and universities, there is a designated teaching assistant in the writing center. This position acts as a tutor to students, but also gives supplemental presentations on writing topics. For some teachers, this is a dream job. You get to have one-on-one interaction with students, helping them with their writing with no time constraints, and you don’t have to grade papers. You won’t have your own lesson plans, and you’ll need to interpret the assignments made by English faculty, but you’ll be at the heart and center of the kind of teaching that makes drastic improvements in students’ writing.

3. Administrative Assistant
Working as an administrative assistant at a university can actually be a lot of fun. If  you work in the graduate studies office, you might have the opportunity to work with theses/ dissertations or schedule fun events, like the Three Minute Thesis competition. There are downsides to this type of work. You may have to work with budgets, take minutes at meetings, etc. And you will have to make peace with the ennui of office life and learn how to prevent ego damage: dealing with being called a secretary/ sometimes treated as if you’re inferior. With this type of job, your co-workers can make or break your chance of happiness. So ask around to see which departments have good reputations for staff satisfaction. If a job comes open because someone has retired (instead of applied for a transfer to another department), then that’s usually a good sign you’ll like working there for as long as you want.

4. Contracts and Grants Coordinator
The professors you studied with during your graduate career probably spent at least some of their time preparing and submitting grants so that they could have more opportunities to do research and outreach. In any university, there is an office that manages these grant applications to make sure the professor has the best chance to receive funding. This job will help you learn about the proposal development and submission process and can be a way to get your foot in the door for grant writing. However, this type of work is stepping farther away from your roots as an academic, and comes with some high costs. You’ll have little contact with students, as your primary contact is with faculty submitting grants. You will have to deal regularly with high stress deadlines, brush off your math skills to develop budgets, and there will be little if any writing.

5. Academic Writer
If you have any courses in communications, or any history in professional writing, then you’re more likely to be able to find a job that has writing in the job description. At my university, the academic writer composes short articles on recent campus events, alumni who have received awards, and students who are participating in interesting projects. There aren’t many of these positions, but they exist. So keep your eyes open.

Two additional points to note: 

1. Don’t be afraid to put your creative publications on your resume. They were a great conversation starter at all of my interviews during my job search, and it shows potential employers that you have goals and aspirations outside of the 9 to 5. You’re a hard worker and imaginative. Both bonus points that set you apart from other applicants.

2. Temp if you can. Universities love to hire from within. If you’re offered a temporary position, it is a good way to start making contacts that can recommend you for permanent jobs later on. Most of the people I have met at the university started as a temp and then were hired on as permanent staff after a year. Keep checking the job board – you might have to apply to a job in a different department in order to make that leap. (Thanks to Amy for this tip!)

Writing Goals for 2014: Building a Sustainable Writing Life

My goals for 2014 keep me company at work

Each January I try to set goals for myself for the coming year. Writing down my goals helps me visualize the smaller steps I need to take to meet those targets. As suggested by countless other writers, I try to keep my goals focused on actions I can control – numbers of submissions instead of acceptances.

So! Before I set my goals for 2014, I checked in on my goals for 2013 to see which ones I met and where I might have fallen a little short.

Goals for 2013 Check-in

  • Complete the first draft of one novel
    • I did not meet this goal, so I’m carrying it over to 2014.
  • Attend a residential writing workshop
    • Check! I attended the Beginning Novel Writers Workshop held at the University of Kansas, hosted by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, taught by the amazing Kij Johnson and Barbara Webb. It was a great experience, and helped me find the right path for my novel.
  • Keep my current stories in the submission/ revision queue until they sell or I run out of suitable markets.
    • Check! My stories have been on a steady submission regimen. I’ve been pretty good at sticking with the “send it out to a new market as soon as you receive a rejection” strategy.
  • Write 3 new stories and submit them. 
    • I’ve not stuck with this one as closely as I should have. However, I have done serious revisions on a few stories I have faith in and have submitted them. I’m going to carry this goal on to 2014 and try to write fresh stories and work less on the revisions.
  • Experiment with storytelling in different genres (like visual narratives and non-fiction). 
    • I didn’t meet this goal either. I’d still like to write a graphic narrative and write non-fiction, but I’m not adding them to my goal list for 2014 at the moment. I want to wait until I have a specific idea for each of these projects so that I can have a more concrete goal.

Goals for 2014

Looking at the goals I set for myself in 2013, I think I need to hold myself accountable for more writerly development, interactions with other writers, and set hard goals for activities I’ve had on my idea back burner for a while.

I’ve divided my goals for 2014 into different categories. My big idea, right at the top of my goal list, is to build a sustainable writing life. I’m not sure what this means yet. Ultimately, I’d like for it to mean a pleasant, steady job that gives me enough money and time to work on my writing life, which includes writing, attending workshops and conventions, and teaching writing to others. Until I can find a job that fulfills all of those needs, I’ll try building sustainability daily in small ways.

What are your goals for 2014? How are you stretching yourself from last year?

Apply to Clarion West by March 1st!

Clarion West Logo

If you’re a writer of short fiction looking to spend six weeks making friends with your peers, meeting amazing authors, and receiving invaluable feedback on your writing, then I cannot encourage you enough to submit your stories to the Clarion West Writers Workshop.
Here’s this summer’s awesome instructor line-up
Paul Park was one of my instructors at Clarion West in 2011, and he is the perfect week one instructor. After lunch he read to us, and it helped me transition from the Outside World, full of work and not much love for literature, to Clarion Space, where your brain is steeped so long in words that you begin to see your stories differently. 
I also studied with Kij Johnson last summer at her Beginning Novel Workshop at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas (which you should apply to if you’re writing a novel!). Kij is not only amazingly fun to be around, but she also has a way of teasing out the heart of your writing and helping you knit that heart back into a more solid whole.  
And though I haven’t studied with the other instructors, I know they are just as wonderful, because the workshop administrators know how to put together just the right combination of instructors to push you to write your hardest and cajole you into having fun. 
Go here for more information on how to apply to this year’s workshop. The deadline is March 1st. Good luck! 

Booth 5 in The Review Review

Over at The Review Review, Josh Magill gives an overview of Booth in “A Midwestern Journal Goes Beyond Our Failings to Bring Amazement.

My story “Libration” gets a paragraph, and the review gives a good sense of the experience of reading the issue.

Running across the review in the weekly newsletter was a nice bump to get me through Wednesday. And hey, if you sub to literary magazines and haven’t subscribed to their newsletter yet, you’re missing out on a really lovely, funny missive full of lit mag news. Go! Sign-up!

Mason’s Road Summer 2013 Literary Award

Many thanks to the lovely writers and editors at Mason’s Road for choosing my short story, “Helpline,” as the winner of their Summer 2013 Literary Award.

The staff at Mason’s Road have been a pleasure to work with, and I’m honored to have my work appear in this publication.

I’m pretty fond of this story. It has a Star Trek enthusiast as the protagonist, characters who make it their life’s work to help others, and a more satisfying ending than some of my other stories.

One of the best parts of winning a contest is that you get really wonderful feedback from the contest judge. This year Michael C. White judged the contest, and these were his kind comments:

As the story went on, it assumed a striking depth of both feeling and gravitas. The simple voice of the narrator became complex, and the story’s narrative pivoted at the precise moment it had to, so that the heft of the story and of the narrator’s voice and past unified to create a really compelling story. The narrator does, in the truest sense, become sagely, and he offers that hard-won wisdom both to this client and to his colleague. The story ends as both revelation and reaffirmation, of what humans can learn and can affirm. A really fine story!

If you’d like to read the full story, it’s up on the Mason’s Road website here.

And if you have a short story that is looking for a home, consider sending your work to Mason’s Road. They’re open for submissions from August 26th – October 20th, 2013. There’s no fee for submissions unless you’d like to enter your story for consideration for their Winter 2013 Literary Award. They have a very modest contest entry fee of $10 and the winner receives publication and a $500 prize. I’ve had a wonderful experience with the editors and wholeheartedly recommend the journal.

Trek Club at the Movies

It has been a few months since the movie came out, but I wanted to share some photographs from my local screenings. Here’s a short peek at what it’s like to be part of a Star Trek group when a new movie opens.  
My local Star Trek group, the USS Wernher von Braun, had tables at two different theaters on the Friday and Saturday of the opening weekend of Star Trek Into Darkness. Two members of my group went above and beyond your usual movie promotional table, and made hundreds of gift bags with a comic, action figure, or tribble in each. Our group helped out a little with stuffing and sewing the tribbles at a few get togethers, but truthfully, Michael and Joanna and their family made the gift bags almost entirely on their own.
Tribbles in the making

They gave the gift bags away for free to anyone attending the movie. But that’s not where the awesomeness ends. They also donated a ton of amazing Star Trek memorabilia for free drawings at every movie screening. And we are talking about some super cool items.

Gorgeous plates
Lovely TOS action figures
The movie events were really fun. It was interesting, though, how many people couldn’t believe that we were giving away items for free. No fee to enter. No catch. Not even requiring that you sign up for an email list first.

It was fun to stand behind the table and have short, enthusiastic conversations about Star Trek with movie goers. I didn’t get to see the movie until Sunday of the opening weekend, but in the end, meeting so many old and new Trek fans was my favorite part of the movie experience. 

Sponsor Gifts for the Clarion West Write-a-thon

Right now there’s a sorority house in Seattle filled with eighteen amazing science fiction and fantasy writers. They’re studying with some of the best writers and editors in the field, forming lifelong friendships, and learning so much about their writing that will shape and propel their stories for years to come. 

Two years ago I was lucky enough to be in that house. And a scholarship from Clarion West donors helped me get there. 
The 2013 Clarion West class is about to enter their last week of the workshop, and it will also be the last week of this year’s write-a-thon. 
I signed up for the write-a-thon and have been working on my first novel, Recovery. It’s a story about a young woman and her two ravens living in Fairbanks. She’s a former activist, suffering from care fatigue, and slowly gaining the power to enact change from an unsuspected source. 
In June I went to the Center for the Study of Science Fiction beginning novel writing workshop, which was a wonderful experience and gave me a much clearer vision of where my novel is headed. I wouldn’t have even applied to this workshop, however, if it were not for the encouragement of my Clarion West classmate (and amazing writer) Alisa Alering
I’m hoping to get a few sponsors for the Clarion West Write-a-thon, and in return I will mail each donor a broadside with an excerpt from my novel in progress and an image to inspire you to write a new short story.
Interested? Here’s how it works:
  1. Go to my Write-a-thon profile and click on the donate button  
  2. Donate any amount to support Clarion West ($1, $5 – every bit helps) 
  3. At the end of the week I’ll receive an email from Clarion West listing my donors and their addresses. At this point I’ll send the goodies off to you in the mail. 
  4. Goodies will arrive in your mail! Hooray! 
Clarion West made such an amazing difference in my life, and from stories I’ve heard from others, I know I’m not alone. Please join me in supporting the amazing stories of tomorrow. 

Publication in Booth

Last week I received my contributor’s copies for Booth Journal, Issue 5. It is a gorgeous publication, with amazing artwork inside and out. 

The interior flaps list the contributors, and I’m in some wonderful company.

Throughout the issue there are comics by Kelly Clancy. I love the way she tells stories through sequential art,  and look forward to reading her Xeric Award winning book Soldiers of God

If you’re looking for a good literary journal to submit to, the staff of Booth are professional and communicate throughout the publication process. I always felt like my story was in caring hands, and that the journal would be a good home for my work.

I just didn’t realize how damn beautiful the final product would be, or how much I would love the rest of the writing in the issue.

CSSF Novel Workshop

Earlier this month, I spent two weeks on the University of Kansas campus attending the beginning novel writing workshop at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.

Lawrence is a lovely town, full of brightly painted houses and big trees.

There are also many brick sidewalks in various states of disrepair. Some stretches have all of the bricks in place, their interstices smoothed with grass. Others are buckled, bricks missing, with holes ready to suck in your foot and twist your ankle. 
Kij Johnson and Barbara J. Webb run the workshop, and they are amazingly welcoming, kind, and supportive. They made the transition into workshopping easy, and our group meeting room quickly became a safe place to brainstorm ideas and ask for help. 
From one to four each day we workshopped, with Kij and Barbara asking the author what they wanted from the story, calling on the group to offer up ideas and responses to help move the novel along. At six we met to walk down to dinner on Massachusetts Avenue, the main road at the bottom of the campus full of restaurants and shops. By eight or so we were back in the workshop room fishbowling. Sometimes fishbowling is talking out your characters to the room, or writing a bunch of ideas on Post-Its and rearranging them until the glue wears off. Sometimes it’s staring at your sticky notes in despair until someone comes up and asks you one question about your story that makes the whole project make sense. 

Mainly, fishbowling is a way of figuring out your story so that you can write a better draft of your novel. One of my classmates had an amazingly detailed outline by the end of the workshop, others had clear sets of action through the first turn, and it seemed as though everyone walked away with a better sense of clarity in regards to their project. I finally met my protagonist and discovered her story and her core need that will push my story forward. It was fascinating to watch novels expand with ideas, try out different possibilities, and finally find their solid paths – friendly sidewalks with not quite so many bricks missing.

We shared the dorm with the short story writers workshop. In the evenings they watched movies on the 3rd floor of the dorm, with novel writers invited as well. Throughout the workshops there are also people in the dorm who are on retreat – they just come to be around other writers and write. There’s an atmosphere of love for science fiction and fantasy, of engagement in the larger writing community, and of creative play. It’s lovely.

At the end of the second week we attended the Campbell Conference, held in the swanky Oread Hotel, just down the street from the KU Student Union where we ate lunch everyday.

Campbell and Sturgeon Awards

Saturday was rainy and I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed in. But I wish I had pushed myself to go to the panels and signings. I heard that Andy Duncan’s reading was fantastic, and from the very short reading he gave during the student readings on Thursday I have no doubt it was entertaining and lovely. If I’m ever lucky enough to attend the workshop again, I’m not going to miss the Saturday events of the Campbell Conference.

The beginning novel writer’s workshop gave me the confidence and stubbornness I’ll need to finish a full draft of my novel. My fellow workshoppers are writing so many amazing, beautifully told stories that I hope I will get to read as they grow into novels.

Origami flowers by Brooke Wonders

The best part of the workshop is that, unlike Clarion and Clarion West, you can go back. If you want to make the transition to writing novels, go to Lawrence for the summer. Take more clothes than you think you’ll need (it is hot, you will walk everywhere, you will sweat), be ready to make big changes to your novel, and bring your favorite sticky notes and sharpies to grow and rearrange your story. 
Kij Johnson and Barbara J. Webb’s
Class of 2013
The Marmosets
Tail twist!