Monday, May 19, 2014

Little Steps

This isn't what you think it is. Trust me.

This past weekend was, for many colleges and universities, graduation. Which, aside from the fact that it made me realize I've been a year since my own trip across the proverbial stage to get my BA, is a time for new graduates to just bask in their potential. And there's a lot of potential in almost all of those pictures currently flooding my Facebook feed of caps, gowns, and shiny new diplomas.

I'd like to know when I got quite as cynical as I have because my response - and congratulatory status update - included mention of getting slapped in the face by reality.

Because it is coming. Whether you, as a new graduate, want to believe it or not, it is coming.

Unless you're one of the few that have been hired back by the place you did your unpaid internship at, it's a tough as shit job market out there. I have a degree in chemistry, and it took me roughly a year and a half to get a job. My friend, who's a teacher at an all girls Catholic high school in Rochester, took about year after her masters degree to find a position. My other friend is currently still jobless, and she's been out two years.

Nobody is going to hand you a job when you hand them a resume with your credentials on it. You have to apply. You have to get rejected. You quite possibly have to go all the way to Chicago, IL, take two civil service exams, and then come all the way back home to realize, yeah, that might not happen either though you're more than qualified.

It sucks, it really does. It feels like a never-ending uphill battle. In some cases, it really is. But you have to keep trying. Even getting a first interview is a big step. But it's also a little step. And the important thing to remember is that what you might end up doing is not something you would have dreamed you'd do in the first place.

Case in point: I never thought I would work with hot mix asphalt cement for the same employer my father has worked at for thirty years. (Does this mean my father was the one to get me my current job? No. He suggested I put in an application, and he sent it in for me, but the rest of it was my doing. We also do very different things for the same company.)

But it's a job. I enjoy going to work every afternoon (hooray for second shift! Seriously, I love it.) and I find it interesting. Did I also swear to myself as an undergrad that I wouldn't ever work in a lab? Yeah, I did. I also swore I'd never willingly look through scientific literature articles and materials post-graduation, and hey, I do that on a regular basis, too. With excitement.

Times change. Situations change. And you, yourself, will need to be a little flexible at first. It's not going to be perfect, but it's going to be something. You just have to keep trying, and take it one little step at a time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Striking Out (In a Good Way)

[Hi. I'm going to be utterly shameless and pretend that the past however many months of inactivity haven't happened. I hope you'll indulge me. If you won't, well, there's always bribery by baked goods, so maybe that'll work.]

I'd like to start off by saying, in an answer to the last post on my lovely blog, I didn't make it into Pitch Wars. I did, however, make it into Pitch Madness, and had both some success and some failure there. Overall I was pleased.

Except for when I thought I might actually get a contract with an agent and then got the email that dashed that for the moment. But hey, you win some, you lose some, and you spend more time in life doing an abbreviated cha-cha than probably walking in a straight line.

I have no idea if that made any sense, but I've already put in an hour and a half of overtime this week, and it's only Tuesday.

Good news! I got a job in my degree field (chemistry) and moved out of my parents' house. This is the start of my second full week in my little apartment and, coincidentally, the beginning of the second full week of my new job.

I am a performance grade (PG) binder technician. This has to do with asphalt, and what I do is that I look at the binder, or the stuff that holds what crews later put on the road together. I run lab tests on it (I get to use a blowtorch on a regular basis, how cool is that?) and I ensure that product meets certain specifics. So, if we have a batch of something the guys at the tank farm have made up, I get to certify that it meets certain requirements and can actually be used.

It's pretty cool. It's fun, it's definitely different, and I do enough different tests to where my days are probably not going to devolve into the pattern of "same shit, different shift."

Also, said job pays more than minimum wage (not that there's anything wrong with minimum wage, but let's be honest, minimum wage isn't a living wage, not in today's world), and has a full benefits package. I have my own health insurance. I'm twenty-four years old, a recent college graduate, and I have a job that's got benefits and a 401(k).

With all that good stuff comes the other side of it - I pay my own rent, and my own utilities. I caved in today (because Mother Nature has seen fit to dump snow on CNY like it's still January) and turned up my heat (because I don't need pneumonia), and I'll also pay my gas bill, too. However, I don't have cable, with no real intentions of getting it, either, but I did go get a MyFi from AT&T, because the whole living without internet thing? Yeah, not a big fan of that. I lasted a week, and then realized that I would probably burn through all of my data and going over that wouldn't make my mother happy.

So this is really the first time I've been out and about in such a way on my own. Yes, there was that little apartment my ninth semester of college, but it wasn't really mine. I had to give it back. Granted, if I move out of here I have to basically do the same thing, but it feels different. And that's the important part.

Do I feel like an adult? Eh, sometimes. Usually more so in the morning when I put coffee in a to-go mug, fight rush hour traffic, and park my little Buick between the massive pickup trucks everyone else in my building seems to drive.

I'm quite happy where I'm at, and content to take it a day at a time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Haul and Wait

Monday, December 2, 2013 was the submission day for the fabulous Brenda Drake's PitchWars. (To find out more information on what PitchWars is, feel free to click the link - it'll take you to her blog and she can explain things a hell of a lot better than I can at the moment.)

Bottom line, if you have a finished manuscript that you're ready to query with, you apply for a mentor. They'll read your query and your sample pages - sometimes even ask for more - and then they'll give you feedback on why they did or didn't accept it on December 11. I know that's only five days away, but it's going to feel more like a month away, really.

I'm not very good at waiting.

The last time I entered a contest like this was during my semester from hell (I think) and I entered Sage, and I totally botched my applications, in all honesty. It was awful. Last year I chose not to enter, because I didn't have anything that I really, really thought would be worth it.

This time I offered up Matt & Topher like proverbial lambs. I've had some success with them in pitch contests on twitter, and I've gotten plenty of rejections with them doing e-queries, so I'm really curious to see how they'll do. It will also be an opportunity to find out what I need to work on - because there's always something that can be improved - and that advice will prove valuable even if, ultimately, the boys and I go nowhere but back to the drawing board.

In the mean time, so I don't freak myself out totally while waiting and obsessively checking the Pitch Wars hashtag, I work at the hotel (for a rather funny picture from Wednesday, check out my Instagram feed for the chalk outline from the kitchen) and I work on getting a little further in Frost, my re-working of Jack Frost that I started three years ago. In other words, I keep busy so I won't go nuts. So far it's working. Hopefully the next five days will go much the same.

Happy Friday and have a good weekend.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Something to Be Thankful For

Last week was Thanksgiving. We had, as per usual, a boatload of people in the house. We also had a boatload of people staying in our hours for the week, too. My aunt and uncle from Maine, my two cousins and their dog from South Carolina, stayed at our bed and breakfast (what we jokingly call our house in the summer because it's like a permanently revolving door twenty-four hours a day with who is getting up for work, leaving for work, and coming home from work...but that's a different story for another time) and we had something like sixteen or seventeen people for dinner Thursday.

I had to work. It was an utter madhouse at the hotel: we did 685 for our buffet dinner, ran out of turkey, and had fun with each other so we didn't go absolutely batshit crazy. Well, we went batshit crazy anyway, but the highlight of having to work on a day when we were supposed to be with our families - which people continually thanked us for - was sitting down at the end after all the customers had left and the dishes had been taken back to the kitchen, and having our own sort of family dinner from the left overs. We were all tired and punchy and it was one of those things that I'll hang onto for a long time.

What I'll also hang onto is that a week ago Monday was my twenty-fourth birthday. With all that happened this year - and it's been a rough year - I honestly, at some points, didn't think I would see it. But I did. And to be able to celebrate it, and look forward to another year patched up and ready to take on the world is something that will make this birthday the most special that I will ever have. I will always remember this one. Not because of the food or the presents, but simply because I am still alive.

My family, the jokers they are, have hinted they're going to get me a cow tag - like you can buy at Tractor Supply - with the number 23 on it. I have to say I really like this idea, and I'm hoping to find it in my stocking on Christmas morning. And if anybody asks me about it, well, I have a story that's stranger than fiction. But they say the truth usually is.

Hope you all had a happy holiday, and oh, hey, it's December. When the hell did that happen?

Friday, November 15, 2013


I've written four novels. I'm not saying this just to toot my own horn, but you need to know this for this post to make sense. There's been three contemporary romance, and one urban fantasy. But never have any of them made me feel the way the one I'm currently working on for NaNo does.

There is an emotional depth to this story that scares the hell out of me.

Whether it has to do with the underlying theme of being human, or a focus more on relationships and how they can change depending on circumstances, the story going on between Jack, Mari, and Drew is terrifying. I can't adequately explain it, and considering how much better I communicate with written word than spoken, that should say a lot.

It also makes me wonder how many other writers out there are scared shitless by their own stories. I can't be the first or only person to have this thought. And thankfully I won't be the last, either.

On the bright side, the writing seems to be going smoothly, and that is most definitely a good thing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Throwback Thursday

(Try to ignore the fact that I haven't posted in a week...)

Spring semester 2010. This is my friend J who lived across the hall and around the corner my sophomore year. Yes, the wall is most likely holding me upright. I'm not the most graceful person on the planet on solid ground, and even less so on skates. But it was fun, and that's all that counts.

I still ice skate at least once a winter.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Throwback Thursday

November/December 2010. It's the view from my room - ABN 3, 4F - at the University of Wales Trinity St. David Carmarthen campus. The empty space is from a car that had only recently left. Those who live in the UK aren't accustomed to driving in snow, whereas the New Yorker who was being a creeper and watching the mayhem as someone tried to leave their parking space and up the hill is used to it. (I told him to put his foot on the gas and not let up until he was on the flat past the hedge. He finally made it.)

This is also from the same time frame and was one of the cork boards on the wall of my room. I like to send and receive funny cards - getting mail is fun - and I pin them up after I get them so I can always have a quick chuckle if I need it. It became a tradition while I was at college that sort of died when everything went to hell my senior fall. 

There's so much about this picture. It's when I discovered the timer on my camera. The stack of books by the curtain were supplemental materials for my two papers due for Living in an Old Country: The History and Heritage of Wales. Newcastle Brown Ale (my absolute favorite beer and my preference) comes in cans (it's also a domestic instead of an import). My traveling orange winter hat is there, too. That hat has been everywhere since I first bought it in Belgium in 2008 while overseas to play soccer for a week. 

This was also the place where the idea for Jack and Mari was born, where I worked on Sage and made sporadic updates for Murphy and Me. 

I miss it and I can't wait to go back January of 2015 for graduate school. It won't be Wales, but ARU is only an hour from London, and Carmarthen is only another four hours by train.

"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz