There have been a lot of changes over the last few months, seemingly for the better. I graduated with my PhD in English, and I moved out of Missouri. Both of these changes have been very invigorating. Mizzou was a terrible school (which I’ll get into in a few essays soon), and it was really grinding me down much more than I thought at the time. When your environment is toxic, your writing can’t go well. I moved to Atlanta, Georgia and started work with CDC as a Health Communications Specialist. I miss the act of teaching but not how I was treated as a teacher by the school/department. One day, I’m sure I’ll return to teaching, but until I get a book out, I think the “good” teaching jobs are out of reach.
So my focus has been on my writing (and getting back into shape after gaining a few pounds during this quarantine). I finished three comics (gun, On Fucking, and Our Boots Caked in this Mud) that are being sent out to journals now. Hopefully, they’ll place, but this is actually the first fall that I haven’t had nonfiction prose to send out. In some ways, it’s demoralizing after being at Mizzou in an environment that was not at all helpful (which is the nicest way I can put it). But it’s also nice to not have to worry about building my CV. I hadn’t realized, or maybe realized but didn’t accept, that I wanted publications so bad I was sending out work too soon. Pretty much every essay I have ever published changed between being first sent out (and getting rejections) and finally being accepted. Last month, I wanted these two essays I had been working on to go out for publication, but I felt there wasn’t harm in putting them aside. I’ve been able to concentrate on the writing, not on the publishing. Those essays will be much stronger, and I’ve already been thinking of ideas for them. These ideas are about exploring the essays, not “getting them ready.” It’s been helpful.
Mostly, which means every day, I’m back to working on my book, As Many Roast Bones As You Need. I won’t be sending out more chapters until I get an agent who can advise me. Eight out of twenty-one have been published already, so I want to be careful moving forward. This has also helped me focus on the messier chapters, instead of getting the stronger ones complete for publication. Out of the twenty-one, about sixteen are strong. The other five need work, at least that’s how I feel about it. Others have said they’re done, but not I know that’s not true. I went at it hard on the opening chapter, “Reconsolidation,” introducing greek mythology to help bolster the theme. I’m pretty happy with it. Now I’m on to the second chapter, which needs a lot of work. Going back to the drawing board on it and taking it all the way back to notecard stage, which the notecards are currently being organized on the floor. It’s messy and a lot of work, but the essay will be stronger in the end because right now it’s not about publication–it’s about exploring that essay to the fullest.
In two weeks, I’ll be doing the Gotham Writer’s Conference and sitting at a table (well, a Zoom meeting) with two agents. Some people hope to land an agent this way, and if that happens, great. I’m mostly looking to get feedback and advice on my query letter and the opening ten pages. I have spent the last month or so making a list of about 250 agents that might be interested in my book. I’m starting to divide it into groups of 10. Once I get that feedback at the conference, I’ll make whatever changes need to be made, and then I’m querying. And I’m not stopping until I land an agent.