About Me, If You Must Know...

This page could easily be filed under the heading TMI. 

But what the hell. 

In my experience, writers my age get a bum deal. Publishers are looking for the next 20 year-old wunderkind. The stories accepted in many literary journals are first read by grad-school students (also in their 20s, usually.) Unestablished writers over 40 have to work hard at not being invisible. We may have strong, individual, even beautiful voices, but our subject matter, our stories, may not resonate with agents and slush pile readers. But, that's ok. I want you to know that's truly ok. For me, at this age, after all this life I've had, all I want to do is write stuff. I want people to read what I’ve written, but, as Michael Martone in a workshop I took recently said, does it matter if 20 people read it? Does it have to be 1000s? Does it have to be a bestseller?

I’ve decided it does not, and, even though sometimes I find myself wildly jealous of writers much, much younger than I am with enormous readerships,  and best selling books and great reviews, 
in the end, I have to tell myself to snap out of it.

Because, I love to write. I love the way my eyes glaze over when I’ve got something good going, the way I suddenly don’t know where I am or what I’m thinking about, the way writing something is like stepping into one of those hallucinatory dreams. Those are the dreams where you don’t actually know you’re dreaming, you’re pretty darn sure it’s real even though your cat might be wearing a top hat and smoking a Cuban cigar.

In the 1990s I went to NYU. First the Gallatin School for an MA, then the Masters In Creative Writing Program through the College of Arts and Sciences. I should have applied to Columbia's MFA program but I was too chicken. 

This is a move I now regret, not because the NYU Creative Writing Program wasn't great (it was great and I loved it) but because back then, you didn't come out of there with an MFA, just an MA. (If you go there today you'll graduate with an MFA, the college wised up a year or two after I finished the program.)

Back then, in the 1990s era of big hair and NYC muggings, I didn't care, because writing was the thing. I was going to be – maybe not famous – a novelist, at the very least, published. But back then I didn't know I was about to get married, have babies, go a couple of rounds with breast cancer, struggle with a daughter with severe depression and, while devoting my life to those things, stop writing almost entirely. For years.

That's not completely true. What I stopped doing was obsessing over writing and getting published. What I did instead was start a blog about making dinner. (kath-whatsfordinnertonight.blogspot.com).  I stopped sending stories out to journals, I started writing funny posts about children, dogs, husbands and cooking from what ever I happened to have in the cupboard. (I don't have a pantry. I have a cupboard. I'm not fancy.)

I also decided that I needed a job, and I got one. I teach writing at a few universities around here – which is good – I love teaching, I love college freshmen with their acne and their hangovers and their beautiful sincerity. They are just so uncynical and serious. And smart. And all sorts of things that people my age think are passé, are new and interesting to college freshmen. And through the eyes of a college freshman, those passé things suddenly are new and shiny to me too. It’s nifty. It makes me happy. Plus it helps me keep up with popular culture.

However, I don’t have an MFA which means I don’t have a terminal degree, which means I can’t get a full-time professorship anywhere, which is frustrating because I don’t make much money for all the work I put in. Which kind of sucks. Still, there’s always an upside, and the upside in this case is that I have time to write. If I was working full time, I’d have to teach a full load each semester, and I wouldn’t be able to take a semester off to herd my daughter into college (as I’m doing this fall), so, to use a phrase that makes my husband clench his teeth, it’s all good.

I’m gonna let you go now. I think I've divulged enough. 

Turn off the internet. Pick up a book, read a little, write a little.

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