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My Professional Forties Part I: Graduate School . . .

Posted by CW64 on December 23, 2009

My forties marked my time in graduate school and an advance in my professional career as a writer, editor and translator. Interestingly, it transformed me into more of a family man as well.

The two wouldn’t be exclusive to one another.

During the summer of 2000, I entered an MAT at a major university in Detroit. This was, in my opinion, an exceptional graduate program, and I looked forward to getting started. The MAT (Masters of Art in Teaching) balanced education with foreign languages and computer technology, so I knew I would become more well-rounded. The field training portion was year long, too, instead of only a single semester, so that was another plus. All in all, I was on my way to obtaining my teaching certification and my Masters at one time, which is what I had wanted in the first place .

That doesn’t mean that I had given up on my writing—not by a long shot. No, but teaching would have allowed me to get a job and survive (Yes, I realized even then that earning a living while writing, though possible, was difficult to reach and usually takes years, and I’d turn out to be right). I figured I’d write and teach at the same time. This was a simple, if not commonly sought, objective, and I knew it wouldn’t take as long.

As far as writing goes, this route would also provide plenty of unique experiences about which I could write. I liked exchanging knowledge and insight, so teaching would be ideal and rewarding.

It wasn’t until a year-and-a-half later, when I was in my first semester of field training, that I had a turning point, and I got right back on track. I was an assistant at a middle school with extremely energetic students (what middle school student isn’t energetic?). The teacher seemed open, but, being a bit older and set into her routine, she was irritated with any deviation or innovation on my part. Because of that, she and I never formed a professional relationship. Her evaluation of me, I knew, wouldn’t be totally positive. My supervisor, who was very easygoing and turned out to be a great listener, sensed from my writing that I placed myself as a writer before teacher, which had always been the case. We talked. He told me that teachers must be dedicated enough to make that their priority. “You would be a great college teacher,” he said, “but you are a writer and should be in the English department. That didn’t take much thought. After spending time in the teaching program, I had been thinking to myself “What the hell am I doing here?” but only then did I listen to that voice gnawing away inside of me. Then it made perfect sense. I was overcome with a wave of excitement and anticipation. I knew I had to be a writer, employment difficulties or not!

I was on my way once again. Now I could focus solely on my writing. Not only would I develop my skills, but I would meet other writers, expand my network and, perhaps, even discover the range of employment possibilities available and how and where to find them.

The joy of writing and gaining inspiration from others had always been my utmost priority (under eating and paying my bills, however; without these two, I wouldn’t be in a position to write).

The year was 2002, and I had already integrated myself into the writing community online, which is where I enhanced my translation skills as a moderator for a Spanish-oriented site. I had been chosen selectively by the webmaster who had seen me interact fluently in Spanish at another site and was impressed. I had also served as a moderator at a music site, so I was familiar with Internet forums. I looked forward to it, not only to strengthen myself as a leader, but also hone my skills and gain experience as a translator on active duty. That prepared me for what was to come: become a founding editor for a new literary journal and the chief entertainment editor for an international publication based in Estonia, both of which would be instrumental in establishing me as an editor and copy-editor and provide with the insight and objectivity to edit my own work effectively, which I knew was necessary in order for me to be an effective and successful writer. And this all started as I was easing myself into the English department at the university. My education and experience were proceeding in sync. That was the way I liked and wanted it. I felt ready for the transition.

My Creative Writing professor was well-established and constantly offered very thoughtful insight. So did several of the other graduate students, many of whom I got to know quite well, some of whom had been writing for years. Interestingly, I learned from reading their works as well; the variety of styles and insights led me to try different things, including the use of Onomatopoeia in unusual ways for creating sound dynamics, the effectiveness to writing with a minimum of descriptive modifiers, condensation and organization, and realism in dialogue. The latter had always been a strength of mine, as I have always listened to how people talk. That really brings out character distinction. Chris, my professor, who had taught at more than one ivy league university, including Harvard and Bennington, always encouraged me without deception, always made me feel special. With him, I established a friendship rather immediately. He has been a major driving force in my life as a person, mentor and writer, and he always will be.

He and our class would routinely go out and eat after class each night. Our ongoing bull sessions were happy and exhilarating, and I always looked forward to them, not only for the chance to explore a flow of ongoing ideas about writing and wonderful and engaging personal experiences, but also for the chance to socialize; this was a great way of networking, and so I never passed it up, even when I was exhausted.

“You never cease to amaze me,” awed Chris in overhearing the conversation I was having with another student regarding music theory one night. “I learn something new about you all the time. You are a virtual encyclopedia of Classic 60s Rock music.” When I subsequently told him about my experiences during the late-60s/early-70s hippie generation (see the first two posts of this series), he shook his head, excitedly enthusiastic, and said, “Why aren’t you writing this stuff down?” My response to this, in part, would be the short story Born to Be Wild, which I have already mentioned and described in this blog.

Under him, I have written and shaped other works, including the novel The Monkey Cage, the first three chapters of which would serve as my thesis. This story deals with a teen in the 1980s who spends time coming to terms with the suicide of his girlfriend—an incident he had witnessed—and is set in the teen ward of a state mental facility. Chris pushed it, saying it was brilliant—vivid, realistic, engrossing. I would continue working on this with pride and joy.

By the way, he hadn’t said that about everything I had written; some efforts he had found questionable, especially those works I had spewed out on the spur of the moment to meet a tight class deadline. That showed me that the more one develops a piece before presenting it (revisions! revisions! revisions!),  the better chance that work has for a positive reception. That is why revisions are important and why revisions are the essence of writing.

During this time, too, I honed other stories that were of a ghostly nature, influenced by paranormal encounters I had had when I was younger. Bond Beyond the Grave, revolving around a World War II mystery, and the tentatively titled  The Mystery of Alahantaga Island, about a decades- old massacre on a remote island, came into fruition and inspired by other students’ works of a similar nature; yet my pieces were unique in that they were ghosts stories. These works, too, full of imagination and imagery, would propel me forward to create others that would eventually comprise a collection of ghost stories. Ongoing research in the paranormal, with resources such as, for example, this site, offers background information that has helped keep me grounded, real and focused. My ghosts, unlike those of many other writers, reflect what they really are—disembodied humans who are trapped and have lost their way, or who are around to help loved ones. Despite what many people think, ghosts are not the “scary green-eyed ghouls” out to kill; most spirits are generally harmless and seek communication with those in the realm of the physically living, or simply wish to be left alone.

At this point, I was totally absorbed in my writing, and I loved it (I had loans and didn’t have to work at this point). My other classes simply reinforced and fed my desire to write. Linguistics added that dimension of language origin and how the different parts of speech work together. Dialects brought some depth to my dialogue resources. Medieval Literature (one of my favorites) complemented both language origin and imaginative generation. I was nothing but writing.

This was where I wanted and needed to stay; this, to me, was home.

(End of Part I)

Next: My Professional Forties Part II: Freelance and the Family Man . . . .

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6 Responses to “My Professional Forties Part I: Graduate School . . .”

  1. Colby Hudy said

    Blogging can give me opportunity to speak about anythingI quite like it.

    • CW64 said

      Colby,

      I feel the same way. In addition, one can meet others of similar mindsets, interests and/or career goals. For writers like myself, blogs serve a means of developing writing skills and submitting one’s ideas into a public forum for others to read and discuss. I am still learning how blogs work, but I am definitely enjoying the experience.

  2. I appreciate your website greatly. Will read more. Keep up to great posting on it. Gracias

    • CW64 said

      Don’t be stranger, Danuta, and thank you for the vote of confidence. I look forward to hearing from you again.

      Gracias a usted tambien. 🙂

  3. Very informative article, I have saved it and showed to to some of my friends already.

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