Sunday, September 27, 2015

two writers fellowships

As detailed in the last blog, everything's in place.  I'm enjoying the predictability - even when it gets a wee boring - and I am excited about autumn with its apples, sweaters, hibernating under blankets.

There is only one thing I'd let disturb my workaholism + domesticity, and that is a writing fellowship.

BuzzFeed Emerging Writers Fellowship  >  I started BuzzFeed's application on 1 June 2015 and, while I blogged almost constantly about Pittsburgh over the summer months, this Fellowship was my second and silent focus.  I submitted my writing resume which, honestly, is pitiful as I've been published only once.  For samples representing my work, I directed the editor(s) overseeing this Fellowship to read through our Broke Bridget blog.  On and on...  You know, any substantial application takes forever to complete but, earlier this month on 18 September, I received an email confirming that all my materials had been successfully submitted and received.

BuzzFeed Fellows are expected to live in New York City for four months, from January to April 2016, and they would receive a stipend of $12000.  If I were offered this Fellowship, I would only accept it if I could secure FREE housing in New York City for the four months.  The only reason I do not reside in New York City right now is because real estate there is a sham.  I love home too much to live in a closet for $1500 per month - no way - and this is the only reason that I don't live in New York City right now.  So if this Fellowship came thru, I'd require three things before accepting it:

[1] a bedroom of my own in a clean and maturely furnished apartment
[2] a shared apartment where everyone is already in their 30s or older
[3] free rent.  i could contribute to utilities, but definitely not NYC rent.

If I couldn't get those three things, then I couldn't do this Fellowship.

But that is jumping the proverbial gun.  While the folks over at BuzzFeed deliberate, I have turned my attention toward another Writers Fellowship with an application that seems deceptively simple.

Wallace Stegner Fellowship  >  I found the Stegner Fellowship while silently panicking in a Pittsburgh cafe, after the internship had fallen apart and triggered massive anxiety about my vagabond future.  ("Oh shit.  Oh shit.  Okay so, 2015 is the year it all might end for me.  Oh shit.  Oh shit.")  I made a note on my google agenda to start the app this weekend and, sticking to schedule, I began filling it out yesterday.  The democracy behind the Stegner Fellowship is intriguing as well as hard to believe.  It is housed within Stanford University's Creative Writing Program, yet applicants are not required to hold any degrees.  Stanford.  No required degrees?  Stanford.  Applicants' chronological age are not considered?  Stanford...  I am not going to think about it too much.  I'm just going to apply and, because images illustrating my fiction manuscript make my 9000-word sample too large to submit online, I have to print and send in a hard copy application.  So over the course of October, at my typical turtle place, I will print out two copies of the Stegner application.  Cajole two people into being recommenders.  Print out two copies of my Statement of Plans, and on and on...  Making this application as perfect as possible until I send it off October 30th.

I emailed my friend Jim a pic of my writing desk, and last month I was describing to my buddy Becca that the biggest lesson after the fast failure of Pittsburgh is how bound I am to my writing studio.  I couldn't function in PA without the horse that's my writing desk.  There was nothing for me to do in PA, because there's nothing I really do with my life but write and eat.  I just wasn't myself without my writing studio.  So I push and push and apply and apply, and hopefully one day I will land a fellowship and/or job that makes my writing (studio) my primary means of income.

voila, the writing space by night.  that picture on my computer is
of the super gorgeous filmmaker Louis Garrel ... uff, so gorgeous!

a girlie postscript:  Part of Garrel's magnetism is his self-expression as an artist.  Watch this video. I have a hard time not ... slightly sweating ... irregularly breathing ... (gulp) ... as he talks about appreciating presence.  For me, Garrel is what Brad Pitt used to be for swoony Americans.  I think Louis Garrel is SOOO beautiful!  Hence his half-nudey portrait haunts my desktop background, haha.

And on that embarrassing note, I'll say au revoir.  Thank you so much for being part of the goodness infusing my life.  I totally heart YOU - YOU beings in Boston, Brooklyn, Istanbul, Iceland, the Midwest, the UK, Paris, and other parts of our world.  I appreciate you and hope you enjoy today's sunshine.

wink + smile!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

cautiously approaching happyness

Everything is in place.

#1  full-time job
As mentioned, I'm working at a high school.  I like it a lot.  I'd even say - cautiously - I'm happy there. I have not felt that way at a job for a long time, because I've been in the crappy ESOL industry.  As an isolated job description, teaching English was fun!  Being a writer of the English language, I really love knowing our language from a surgical perspective - "there are noun modifiers everywhere.  in fact the term 'noun modifier' itself contains a modifying noun." - so I learned as much as my amazing students but, in the United States, the ESOL industry tends to be exploitative.  This full-time job may be my goodbye to the ESOL world, which definitely counts as a step forward in my professional life.
the high school

#2  part-time intership
With an energetic high-five, I was warmly welcomed by the Executive Director of Resilient Coders to research and then write a few grants for this youth program.  (I won't go into how this was a refreshing difference from the welcome in Pittsburgh.)  Resilient Coders is a program for Boston's inner city youth, promoting student leadership and preparing these youth to eventually work in companies as coders.  The internship schedule is loose:  I'm going to work on grants for Resilient Coders at home, and then once a week I'll go into the office to share my progress.  I want to work at home so bad that this internship counts as a second step forward in my professional life, woo!

#3  fiction manuscript
My creative life was slowing down, which makes no sense because I've a bagillion ideas I could be working on.  I'd like to graffiti literature passages around the city.  I'd like to adapt Fellini's 8-1/2 to novel format.  I'd like to know French so well I can fluently write in this language...  On and on. There was no reason for a lull in the area of my life that brings me the most joy and fulfillment.  I settled on dedicating this academic year to completing my six-year-old fiction manuscript.  (It might be seven years old.  I can't remember exactly.  Whichever summer it was that I spent in Berkeley, California, where I started writing it...?)  Anyway, the story is entitled In The Name of Your Baby Jesus and, in a hopefully-captivating postmodernist fashion, it whimsically meditates on the accepted racism permeating the queer community.  There is violence.  There is cannibalism - with recipes. There are angels and, after all these years, I am so bonded with my characters that it's felt like returning to complicated friendships.  ...It'd also be nice to snag an agent by the end of this year?

#4  food in my kitchen
At the moment, food isn't a problem for me.  (knocking on my wooden desk)  I have munchies in the kitch and, after writing this morning's blog, I'm going to walk to the supermarket for bananas and other fruits.  The new job pays wkly, so I should be able to grocery shop more regularly - stocking up on seeds, beans, grains, vegetables, coffee grounds - all the staples I survive on.  THANKS again to my friends Pamela and David, who gave me a gift card to Whole Foods when food was a problem.

So this is my 2015-2016 school year agenda.

After spending June, July and August reshaping parts of my life, the new routine I'm moving into has felt like the calm after a thrilling storm.  This agenda has given me peace of mind.  After the very frenzied summer, September's been a long exhalation.  A decompression plus a few steps forward.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

finally, a full-time job

Morning, pretty person!  The sun's shining, and I think we should continue with the Pittsburgh tale.  Let's hit it:

I notified the internship coordinator that I decided not to grant writing for her nonprofit organization, but I wanted to remain in Pittsburgh and to continue creating a positive experience.  I spent a few days contacting schools and organizations that were in need of fundraisers.

I really like Pittsburgh.  I like how friendly everyone is, which is different from Boston.  I was talking to a coworker, who also appreciates the Burgh, and we feel Pittsburgh is in line to become another Portland Oregon - super popular within the next decade.  However, at the moment, Pittsburgh is confident in a lowbrow and grassrootsy way.  There aren't the wine caskets you find in the South End of Massachusetts or Manhattan Borough of NYC.  Alcohol stores and pizza joints smoosh together (which I found to be convenient).  Lots of discount grocery stores close to dollar stores, and countless dive bars.  Should I ever return, I will probably plan to spend each night at a different dive bar.  The same atmosphere extends to the arts and nonprofit sectors: Groups of activists and green business people proudly work to make Pittsburgh pulse with ventures that are stalwartly community-oriented, and these groups need money. They need people to do research and write the grants that get them the money.  On a city-wide level, infrastructure and operations are in an exciting upswing of development.  With that business climate, it was a fateful misstep that I stopped through Pittsburgh during my career change toward philanthropic grant writing.

While exploring Pittsburgh's grant writing scene, I was also busy going thru tedious orientation with the city's Board of Education for my teaching job.  I was making friends, as it is unbelievably easy for a chat to start with someone at a cafe.  Serious conversation about siblings, thoroughly appreciating the 30s Club, creative lifestyles, personal histories, future dreams.  Email addresses were swapped.  And I was visiting the movie sites of my favorite Pittsburgh-based film, Wonder Boys.

One morning while sitting in the sublet's cozy kitchen, I got an email from a coordinator who was offering an interview for a full-time job at a high school in Boston.  Nobody but me and cat were up, so it was safe to spend the next few minutes verbalizing my immediate reaction to this surprise:  "Bugger, horseshit, bullocks.  I don't know!  Suggestions, Jimmy Cat?"  Jimmy Cat is twenty yrs old, on death's doorstep, and just continued to lie curled up the kitchen floor.  I appreciated his company, though.

I can only say this employment prospect FELT promising.  Also felt like it'd happen more quickly than the Pittsburgh teaching job that was taking forever and requiring everyone's background info, even my deceased / estranged parents.  Within the next hour I had a plane ticket back to Boston, Massachusetts and, on the first morning back home, I had a full-time benefited job at a high school.

I'm a paraprofessional in a Special Ed English class, where mostly I've assisted the students with their writing skills.  It's alright.  Very low stress, largely because the Brookline school system supports its employees really well.  I'm here right now, actually; here Monday through Friday, from 8 until 3pm.

A few days back home, I got a grant writing internship, and those details will be spilled next time!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

no more bitchy bosses

SO - the Pittsburgh grant writing internship.

You ready?  Here's the lowdown, m'dearest:

It's seemingly simple but, warning, very crass.

(drum roll)  My direct supervisor was a bitch.

Upon arriving in Pittsburgh, first thing I did was settle into my sublet.  I spent time chatting with my friendly hosts in their livingroom.  Getting acquainted and just resting after hours of traveling, which was promising.  The house was a fifteen minute walk to the internship, so pretty quickly I was on my way to my new work place, and I was very excited!  ...  Until I sat down across from my new supervisor whose first question was, "Why are you here again?" asked without a smile; head cocked to the side; and a slight furrow scrunching her eyebrows.  I was completely baffled, and I think my jaw probably dropped.  Eventually I responded, "For the grant writing internship ... right?"

Twenty minutes of unpleasantness ensued; twenty minutes I ended because I didn't want to hear this battle-axe whine again about how busy she was that afternoon.  (Hadn't she prepped for my training?)  I suggested it might be better timing to really start, really dig in when she had more time - perhaps tomorrow or the following day!  I was trying to remedy this shitty start with carebear blasts of positivity.  She agreed, because she thought I should come back when I could have an intelligent conversation with her...  You can imagine the frustrated grimace now on my face.

There was no winning with this woman, and I knew - because I've suffered other sadistic bosses just like her - that there would be no winning at a future date.  In fact, I knew I would end up losing...

I've had SOOO many inconsiderate bosses that I could write my own screenplay.

Part of this quest to improve my professional life is be HAPPY in my place of work.  I wanna go to work and to be happy the entire 7 or 8 hours I'm there.  It's no longer only about the check for me.

In PA, I felt confused.  In silence I strolled strange streets, unsure if I should have turn down the internship and, without purpose, for a few days I felt robotic:  Moving about without understanding the reason for my immediate actions; without a compass to direct my abundance of high energy.  I'm not an aimless person, and I enjoy organization.  I'll organize your shoes if you ask me nicely enough. But it was when I arrived home to Boston, that the trip began to morph into a dream-ish memory, and distance made it lots easier to appreciate the lesson learned during my romp through Pittsburgh:

I never have to work under a bitchy, condescending, hostile, insulting, unsupportive supervisor - ever again.

Never again. I've put up with inhumane management teams. Demands I now know are unacceptable.  (One perk of the 30s Club is hindsight!)  So this new stance is the start of something much healthier.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"deciding what is right is much trickier."

Hi, darling.  I have missed you - sincerely so.  (big cuddle)

It has been exactly two weeks, and it's been a whirlwind.

Fittingly, I am currently engrossed in Lemony Snicket's A Slippery Slope.  In the practice of critical thinking, a slippery slope is defined as the logic of assuming that Event A is inevitably followed by Event B.  The slippery aspect is an absence of demonstrative rationale.  In short, you have a fallacy; the antithesis of actively thinking.  You have what would have occurred, should I have stayed in PA.

In his book A Slippery Slope, Lemony has once again provided an ethical lesson summarily describing my recent whirlwind  >  "Deciding on the right thing to do in a situation is a bit like deciding on the right thing to wear to a party. It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier. It might seem right to wear a navy blue suit, for instance, but when you arrive there could be several other people wearing the same thing, and you could end up being handcuffed due to a case of mistaken identity. It might seem right to wear your favorite pair of shoes, but there could be a sudden flood at the party, and your shoes would be ruined. And it might seem right to wear a suit of armor to the party, but there could be several other people wearing the same thing, and you could end up being caught in a flood due to a case of mistaken identity, and find yourself drifting out to sea wishing that you were wearing deep-sea diving equipment after all. The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until the party is over, and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind, which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things and wearing ugly clothing, and so few volunteers who are able to stop them."

Seems to be a greater degree of flexibility in my life, or perhaps I'm learning to juggle poverty with grace.  I suspect it's both, but I've had options presented over the past half-month, and at moments I have felt uncertain as to whether or not I was "deciding on the right thing to do in a situation..."??

Pittsburgh turned out to be a short vacation, as my housemate Ellen has been mocking it.  There were more lucrative (and comfortable) options being offered to me by friendly New Englanders (in some cases, friendlier than the yinzes...)  Specifically options in Boston, from where I write tonight.

so fucking priceless.  dying from giggles.
Wait.  Hold that heap of disappointment, because - oh my gawd - I couldn't believe the level of frustrated confusion when I notified some close friends.  A few of the responses were "WHAT!" with a Larry David you-moron look.  Or the funnier stutter of "Ah wha why whe what ... WHY are you here in Boston?!!?"

As always, I appreciate your readership and investment; I appreciate you for being you. This blog isn't going to veer off on a tangent like when a sitcom character behaves bizarrely for no reason.  Every adventure out of my comfort zone teaches me lots - about myself, about the chapter of life I'm in, about other humans, and about other cities.  I unpacked more than clothes from my Pittsburgh luggage, figuratively speaking.  The next few blog posts will reflect on opportunities I have turned down, opportunities I've accepted, and my continued growth as a striving artist-writer.

In the next few posts, I will describe / demonstrate the rationale of my hopping to Events L, S, and Y - rather than the predicted Event B - and now we've looped back to the beginning of our blog, as a way to blow you a kiss and wish you good night.  If all of this seems absurd, then just blame Lemony and his genre of literary nonsense.  Bridget, who is still broke, must end to put on "a blue navy suit."

PS:  How awesome is Google's updated Roboto font.  My eyes are really appreciating it, very much!  Kilos of kudos to their type team (electronic applause). 

PPS:  Did you know that Larry David and Barack Obama are golf buddies?  I'd love to hang with them!!