A brave new world

Last month, I quit my job at the library and dropped out of library school. I want to talk about what happened, and I want to talk about it honestly and fairly, without malice.

I’m not sure I can do that yet, because frankly what happened is shitty and unfair, and because I don’t want my words or actions to harm anyone who still works at the library. And I don’t want you, potential library-user, to feel any sort of weird bad feelings toward the library, because you should absolutely not (which reminds me that a few of my books are a day late…)

So instead of detailing the events that led up to me quitting my job, let me talk about what I’m doing now.

First, I am teaching fiction writing classes at the Community College of Allegheny County, in the community education (non-credit) program. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, but got scared away by endless adjunct tales of woe and the need for affordable health insurance. Thankfully, I’m in a position now where I don’t have to worry about health insurance quite as much, making part-time teaching a possibility.

And I have to say, it feels good to be sharing the thing I most love doing (writing fiction) with people who are excited to learn. My students range in age from around my age to retirees, from judges to hydro geologists, and I am learning as much from them as they are from me, I’m sure. I’m going to give teaching a trial run for a year, and if I find at the end of the year that I still love it, I’m probably going to apply for PhD programs (creative writing PhD in Hawaii? Yes, please) to up my chances of getting a “real” teaching job (and also because I want to write an ecofeminist dissertation on Star Wars, but that’s a tale for another time).

Second, I am working part-time at Riverstone Books, a new bookstore in the North Hills that will open later this week. In addition to working the floor, I’ll be working on the store’s social media as well. Right now the main focus is on getting the store up and running for the grand opening tomorrow, but I’ve got lots of content ideas percolating, and I’m really excited about the store and this opportunity.

Third, I am freelancing, which is something that had to fall by the wayside while I was working full-time and taking classes. So far I’ve had work published in The Millions, Health.com, and Next Pittsburgh. Where will my name pop up next? Who knows! I missed writing nonfiction, so it feels good to dip my toes back into the business of facts.

Journalism has always felt like an odd side appendage I don’t know what to do with—I know I’m not really interested in hardcore investigative reporting, but getting to write about topics I’m passionate about (food! writing! migraines!) for more than my blog is only a good thing.

Fourth, and most importantly, I’m writing more. My writing sessions don’t have to be limited to fifteen- or thirty-minute sprints before I head into the library. My mornings are open, so I can write for one hour. Two hours. Even three hours. I am still giddy with delight at this bounty of time. So I am shopping my short story collection, revising a small collection of flash fiction, and plotting a serial novel for NaNoWriMo next month.

What’s more, my partner’s fears that I would just play Pokemon Go for eight hours a day if I quit my job have not come true! I still only play for a very moderate average of one hour a day!

This is all still new, and still a little scary, but ultimately, I’m hopeful that good things will come of this brave new world.

Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up

On Saturday, I wore a tiger striped hot pink pussy hat, held a sign that said, “This Pussy Grabs Back,” and marched.

It’s a long story that I’ll save for another time, but I didn’t make it to DC, and instead marched in Pittsburgh. I am sad and disappointed I couldn’t make it to DC, but marching in Pittsburgh was also important. It was inspiring and empowering to march alongside 25,000 kindred spirits.

Five million women, men and children marched on Saturday—in most major US cities, and on every continent.

“This is not a moment, it’s the movement.”

Women's March Pittsburgh

The work doesn’t stop here. We will keep fighting (here’s something you can do today). We will keep marching. You can try to silence us, but as we proved this weekend, we are legion. We are everywhere. And we are pissed the fuck off.

I am all for peaceful protest, but if the worst comes to pass I am not afraid to take up arms, to fight with my fists and my feet and my nails.

This pussy grabs back.

Boiling

Whenever I finish a big writing project, like a book, I feel completely spent and empty. The only things I can write for months afterward are flash fiction, (bad) poems, or blog posts. Sometimes only blog posts, and sometimes not even that.

I have heard other writers describe this feeling of being empty and raw, scraped clean from the inside, as if you are a carcass whose organs are feeding vultures and coyotes.

The sense of relief and accomplishment at having completed a project I’ve been working on for years soon devolves into panic that I will never, ever, be able to write another word again.

I know now, from experience, that this isn’t true. I will write again, always. It’s not a process that can be rushed. That only leads to frustration and unnecessary struggle. It’s better to wait. To think. Read. Play board games. Take the dogs on walks.

And eventually, I will wake up in the morning, and feel that urgency again. That burning need to get it all down on the page before it evaporates like smoke. Because I’ve always got something on the back burner, heat turned down to low.

But even on low, eventually the water boils.