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Friday, August 17, 2018

The Return of Professor Staff

"Hello, I am Professor Staff," is one of my favorite ice breakers when starting off a new academic year. Some students get it, and some don't, but that's not the point. The point is you have to start with something, and it's often best to start with trying to get nervous people to laugh. At times, I've worked that into an entire stand-up routine. "What is this, a classroom or a yearbook picture?" or "Come on, I know you're out there, I can hear you withdrawing" are two of my other favorites (and there's always extra credit for anyone who knows anything about Henny Youngman).

Next week I go back into the classroom to teach college freshmen English composition courses. I enjoy my job immensely. I am only adjunct faculty, however, so that makes pay short, and pay periods awkward, but I'm not here to talk about that today. I enjoy helping students express themselves with words in ways they never thought they were capable. So after a few icebreakers, of course we start going over the syllabus, and talking about college expectations.

I've enjoyed my time off for the summer too. I'm nearly done with my honey-do list, like painting the living room. I also used a lot of time to write and submit. I also taught two summer courses, but that is a far cry from the 7 courses I am about to teach during the fall semester. I am always a bit nervous this time of year. Each new class has its own personality. I think I will continue to be nervous if I'm doing this 20 years from now. It's one of those things where if you're not nervous you're probably not doing something right.

So wish me luck, and if you didn't get the joke, adjunct faculty often appear in course catalogs as "Staff." Here's to (hopefully) another great semester for Professor Staff.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Getting Paid to Write Fiction (and Poetry)

I sold a poem a few weeks ago. I sold it to Teach. Write. which is the publication I sold a short story earlier this year. It is a small literary publication that pays token payments to its contributors. It is a very small payment, but the amount isn't the point. The point is that I found someone willing to pay me to write: fiction and poetry.

Perhaps then today's blog is a good time to talk about getting paid for writing fiction and poetry.

literary magazines, whether they cater to any particular genre or not, fall into four different categories: non-paying markets, token paying markets, semi-pro rates, and professional paying markets. I'll look at each going from lowest to highest paying markets.

The lowest is of course, zero. the non-paying markets will agree to publish your work, but will not pay you. There is some debate about whether markets that pay in copies of the publication should be lumped here or if they should be added to token paying markets, but I believe there is a majority who believe they belong in the non-paying category. This is becoming a moot point because the majority of these markets are now websites or some other online form these days. I do not submit my work to non-paying markets. It's not that the money is the issue, but the prestige. I just need someone to say this piece that I wrote is worth something, even if it is some small amount. For me, there has to be some acknowledgment that what I wrote was "good." (A subjective statement at any level).

Then we get to the token paying markets. These generally pay some small, flat rate for contributors. While many would debate where the defining line is, most would say the lowest rates are around $5 and go as high as $25. However, I think most would say they really end when you get paid by the word, a penny per word or so. This is where I am as a writer currently, although I have submitted to higher paying markets in the past and received rejection slips from them. I do have a few stories out in consideration at higher paying markets at the present time, and I feel they have a better chance this time around, I have not made any of these sales yet.

Then we get to semi-pro rates. According to Duotrope's Glossary of Terms, semi-pro rates go from 1 penny per word to 5 cents per word. If you don't know, Duotrope is an online listing of publications for, mainly, short stories and poetry. They used to be free, but now charge for their service. If curious, Write Good Books uses the same payment scale, so I would say it is likely very accurate.

Finally, there are the professional payment rates, which is essentially anything over 5 cents per word. Some may even pay royalties, but I believe those are anthology books only, and even then it is pretty rare, unless you are a big name in your genre.

One thing to keep in mind is that money should always flow to the writer. Many people have gone broke in the pursuit of becoming an author, and many others have gotten rich by taking their money for very little service in return. Be careful, but that doesn't mean isn't always to your best advantage to spend money to make money. This is another reason I don't submit to non-paying markets, but if you are desperate to get published, and have been turned down numerous times, sure go ahead and submit to them. Also remember that non-paying does not mean they are scammers. A scam will ask you for money for the "privilege" of publishing your work. Good luck and stay safe out there. And remember:

Friday, June 22, 2018

My Writing Life Lately

Every once in a while, I should do a post about what I've been working on, and that will be today's post. First off, my house is finally calming down after my dad's passing. We emptied out some of the house and toted it back to Virginia. I finally got the last of those boxes put away today. I've done a little writing and submitting, so this is what I've been working on.

I finally finished my latest short story, "The Gargoyle Chair", and submitted it to a horror magazine and anthology last night. It's a weird fiction story. This publication pays pro rates, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I also submitted a poem to a publication that published me before. I received an email confirmation today, and apparently the lady running the publication remembered me. That's a good feeling, but certainly not any sort of guarantee. More fingers crossed.

I also pitched an article idea to a newsletter. I heard back, but have not received a green light yet. I'm hoping it pans out because it will involve some horror research. I don't want to name any of these publications in a public forum like this unless they green light my stories for obvious reasons. running out of fingers, so toes crossed on this one.

I submitted my current novel, The Sorcerer, to another agent. We'll see how that goes.

I contacted the Horror Writers Association about getting me into their mentoring program for some research I did a while back. I'm trying to do more research, so I can get into a PhD program next year.

Finally, I managed to find a slew of literary journals that cater to horror fiction and films, thanks to the Horror Writers Association. I've been researching each one of them, and going through papers I wrote back in college to see what can be shaped up to send to some of these, but I haven't pulled the trigger yet.

I guess that's about it for now. Here's a shot of the desk I used to use. I'll get a shot of my current writing space once I get my room straightened out.

Friday, June 1, 2018

How to write a Eulogy

I wrote my first eulogy recently. My father passed away, and I felt obligated as the family writer to write one for him. That's him pictured with me in the late 1970s at my grandparents' house. I'm not sure I'm really over it yet, as I've found it very hard to do any writing since he passed almost two weeks ago. His eulogy was the last thing I wrote until this blog post.

I feel I did really well on the eulogy and received several positive comments, so I thought I would post today about how I went about writing it.

First off, I approached the eulogy as a college essay, with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. I even included a thesis statement. Basically, mine was that my father had a rough upbringing but fought to become a very good person in the end. There was a lot more to it than that, but for the purposes of a how to blog post, I think that suffices.

Then I went through the various stages of his life. His upbringing, how his father built their house (and my father and his brother continued working on it until it finally sold in the early 2000s). Something about his time in the army, and then of course how he met my mother. A little something about when my sister was born and then when I was born, and finally the end concluded that portion.

But to ensure things do not become too sappy or depressing, it is good to put in a few humorous stories. I had one that everyone commented on afterward. It was about how my father used to teach me things, such as when he would play board games with me when I was a child, he would never let me win. When I asked if he could let me win, he would tell me that's not how life works, you have to work for everything. Later, when I married and we had a child, my daughter would play board games with my father (her grandfather), and he would ALWAYS let her win.

I finished up with a positive note, which I think is also important in writing a eulogy. I talked about how my dad didn't like to look back but forward to the future. To keep growing, and advancing, and moving forward. So here's to you dad, I finally put down a few words since your eulogy. Here's hoping I get down a lot more.

Friday, April 27, 2018

I Joined Another Professional Organization

Part of the purpose of this blog, like many other blogs out there, to share information, right? So when I figure something out I should share it with the world, or least with the few people who click on my blog (and yes, I do watch you guys, and appreciate the traffic). So not too long ago, I was sharing my Curriculum Vitae with a colleague at one of the schools I work at and she suggested I join the National Council of Teachers of English, another professional organization for English teachers, including those teaching at the college level.

I've often hesitated joining these types of organizations, partially because I don't make much money. But also because at times I ask myself if this is really "pay for play." I really try to avoid such things, even the ones that are legitimate. I don't want to give them a bad name here, especially because I just joined some. And perhaps this apprehension was just me being green about the topic.

So I have changed my tune, as I now belong to not one but two professional organizations, the Horror Writers Association, and now this, the NCTE. These organizations do provide access to needed resources, such as places to submit work for publication. They show you are a serious writer, researcher, or educator. They also provide access to other professional development resources, such as conventions, symposiums, and calls for submissions.

So it looks like this is the next step in my journey of writing and publishing. Meanwhile, it's almost the end of the semester and I'm trying to get through grading stacks of papers and exams that look like this:

Friday, April 20, 2018

Researching the Research

It's been a while since I posted here, partially because it's getting to be the end of the semester, and I'm up to my elbows in papers to grade. This will continue until the end of the semester when all grades have to be turned in on May 8. Therefore, my posts here may be a little sparse until then.

Anyway, since it looks like I need to try and bulk up my nonfiction credits to get into a terminal degree program (which I sometimes refer to lovingly as a terminal illness), I've decided to start looking over a few items I wrote during my previous two master's programs (yes, I have two master's degrees). I'm updating a few items, including links, as some of them are now dead. Even some of the citation styles have changed slightly since then.

In other words, I've been researching the research. I have several items I feel may be good enough to publish, if I can find the right market for them. It takes a bit of a brain shift to move from fiction to nonfiction writing, especially nonfiction writing that requires research. I've also been making lists of new articles I want to write this summer. As adjunct faculty, I have a lighter schedule over the summer, so I will have more time to write.

The hard part was coming to the conclusion that to get into a PhD program you have to have already published research, even though avenues to publish are fewer and farther between when not in a graduate program. It's that age-old question, how do you research outside of a PhD program, and how do you get into a PhD program without having conducted research.

Meanwhile, I've also been researching not only other PhD programs, so I don't make the same mistake of only applying to one, and being screwed if I don't get in, but I'm also researching MFA programs. It was my original plan when I graduated with my bachelor's and moved out of my parents' house to get a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Like a PhD, it is also considered a terminal illness, er, I mean terminal degree. I settled on a regular master's degree in English instead. I'd like to say I should have gone for the MFA all along, but looking back, I'm not so sure I would have gotten in then anyway.

Wish me luck on publishing and getting back into school, and I'll wish you luck in all you do too. Meanwhile, here's shot of me presenting my (in)famous Ed Wood paper I wrote in my master's program at last year's Monster Fest.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Good News and Bad News

It's been a few weeks, and I have good news a bad news. I also have a LOT of personal strife going on which I will not get into here.

Anyway, the good news is that one of my stories was published recently. This was "An Unlucky Day" and I'll post the link in a minute. I first wrote the story in a Creative Writing class as an undergraduate in the 1990s. I always liked the story, and it was one of the first items I ever sent to a literary journal. Although it was rejected, even in its first submission, I was given encouragement to the send the publication more of my work. I sent it out about another half dozen times to various publications, and never heard a peep until it sold in February.

I also changed the ending about five hundred times. Ok, it was probably more like 5, but it felt like a lot more. The trouble was part of the assignment was NOT to write an ending, something I was unsure of at first, but the professor explained that it was because students often concentrate too much on the endings of their stories. It did help me concentrate more on developing the characters and the story itself, which is why I believe he wanted us to do it that way. But then I graduated, and if that story was ever going to be published, it needed an ending. I was trying to come up with a more literary ending, but it was a bit of a dark comedy. Finally, I decided to just give it the ending people would expect out of it, and finally it sold.

So without further ado, here's "An Unlucky Day" at Page and Spine.

Then there's the bad news: I did not get into the graduate school PhD in English program I wanted. :-(

Such is life I suppose. I'm not exactly sure why I was not accepted because I only received a form letter. I have two theories though. One is because I don't have any research credits (although I do have a few fiction credits). But then the question becomes, how do you get research credits outside of a PhD program, and how do you get into a PhD program without research credits. My other theory is that academia is beginning to think I'm too old. I hope it was the former and not the latter. Tata for now.