In May 2013, I will graduate with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore (U.B.). That means I have just over a year (1.25 of a year) to do the following and to take stock of my life and my career:

  1. revise any pre-2012 stories that I have written in the program and would like to consider for my thesis (to be done by the end of summer 2012),
  2. revise my fall 2011 personal essays and decide if I should submit any of them or any of my stories (the ones I ultimately decide to take out of the running for my thesis) to literary magazines (to be done and potentially submitted by fall 2012),
  3. write some new stories to consider for my thesis (during an advanced workshop in fall 2012),
  4. compile—and then edit, workshop a final time, edit again, and copyedit—my thesis manuscript (over Christmas break and into early spring semester 2013: so, that’s mid-December 2012 to late February 2013),
  5. apply for graduation (to be done by early 2013),
  6. come up with a title for my thesis book (to be done by February 2013),
  7. revise and finalize a cover letter (thanks to my Publishing Process class in spring 2011, I’ve already drafted a stock cover letter; to be done by January 2013),
  8. design my book cover and lay out my book in InDesign (to be done by early spring 2013),
  9. find a printer and have the book printed and bound (to be done, completely, by May 2013),
  10. decide if I want to handmake some copies and what the design would be (to be done, and acted upon, by May 2013),
  11. figure out if there’s a way I can (and if I want to) offer an e-version as well, perhaps offered as a package with the real book (to be done, completely, by May 2013),
  12. decide on a pricing structure (to be done by May 2013),
  13. implement a marketing/advertising strategy, or i.e., a nice setup for my 3×3 or so table space on the night of the final M.F.A. reading and book presentation (in May 2013),
  14. choose an excerpt or a very short story to read in public, and then practice it (to be done by the final M.F.A. reading and book presentation in May 2013), and
  15. do all my other homework, and try to live some sort of life, on top of all of this.

As you can see, it’s going to be a busy year+. But this is one of the most exciting and important times of my life thus far. Although this is self-publishing, I think the U.B. process is valid and valuable. I will be working with peers, and under the supervision of professors (all together, two for writing and another for design), so it’s not your typical self-publishing or vanity or subsidy press publication. I’ll have backup. I’ll have editors, to a degree, and design input. And at the end of it all, I’ll have a tangible (and possibly digital?) published book of short stories.

I didn’t realize how long I’ve wanted that until just now. Coming to U.B., I thought this program was a way of getting creative writing instruction and experience so I could do what I really wanted to do (write for television without wasting money on a highly specialized, limited, screenwriting degree), not necessarily so I could publish a book. But I’ve realized that I want it all. I do want to write for TV, but I also want to be an author. I want movies and novels and books of short stories and maybe even a memoir or two. I never knew, until I came here, how many ways I could write. Looking back, I know I should have realized my publishing aspirations much sooner. I used to make books as a kid, whether for school or fun. Now I’m doing it for both.

Part of my plan, outlined above in numbers 1 and 2, is getting some things into print that are not self-published (i.e., in literary magazines). This is part of an overall effort to get a “real”/traditional publisher’s attention one day, to get my writing career started—or try to anyway. And though I won’t be scheduling any time specifically for screenwriting in the next year, that will be on my mind as well.

After all of this, the hard part will be deciding what I want to do outside the dream world I’ve created for myself. While I try to make things happen, I need a day job. On that front, I’ve actually been lucky. Last year, almost a year ago exactly, in fact, I got a full-time position at an educational content development/publishing company. I’m a Project Administrator at Words & Numbers in Baltimore. I’m technically housed in the math department, but that’s a formality; I’ve worked in all kinds of areas, from math to science to Mandarin to social studies and more. I had an informal review in November. It went well and showed me what my future at Words & Numbers might look like. As was foreshadowed in this informal review, recently, I have taken more of an editorial role. For all intents and purposes, I am a Project-Administrator-Slash-Assistant-Editor and perhaps, over the next few weeks and months, will do away with the administration part, more or less.

So I’m enjoying what I do more and more, finally getting to edit and, thus, shape the educational content of the future, but how long will that sustain me? With this shift in focus, toward editorial, I can finally, honestly say that I love my job right now because I love to edit. I’m a grammar geek and a cogency king, enjoying all manner of writerly palaver, but when I think about where my heart lies, I have to say, it’s fiction, not education. For now, I enjoy my job; I could see doing it for several years, if everything went right. But there’s always that nagging feeling in the back of my head telling me to find a job in “real” publishing or get started as a screenwriter. Although I may just have to do that one day—may have to move to New York or Boston or (wince) L.A.—it’s nice to know that I can probably still maintain a relationship with Words & Numbers (the best job I’ve ever had), as a freelancer. And—thank you facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—through social media.

This is a different world than the one I imagined as a kid. And a different life. For the most part, I’m okay with that.

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