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Tag: fiction

January linkspam!

If you’re like me, you’re entering this brand new year with hopes that it will not suck as much as the previous two years. So far we don’t have a lot of indicators in that direction, as my email is crammed full of nervous announcements about classes going online, cons and festivals being canceled, and7 other things that complicate my life and pocketbook. 

My good friend John Hartness, author and publisher at Falstaff Books, is never one to mince words. He posted this week, “Y’all get your damn shots. This damn plague is starting to fuck with my business again, and getting between a redneck and his money is not a good move. So get your shit straight, get your shots, and maybe we can finally put this fucking disease behind us.” He went on at extensive, profane detail, and if you are friends with John on Facebook, you should really go read it. It’s a thing of beauty.

As of this moment, my classes are all still intended to be face-to-face with the exception of my fiction workshop, and I’ll be teaching and tutoring face-to-face as well. Other events are starting to look questionable, so while I’m listing them here, please keep an eye on ElizabethDonald.com to ensure that an event is going forward as planned. 

And get yer dang shots. I want you alive, healthy and able to buy my books.
 

Publicity/Appearances

Who does a book signing outdoors in December in Illinois? This woman! The Edwardsville Winter Market took place Dec. 4, and was treated to fairly reasonable weather, which means I was only half frozen to death by the time the family showed up to collect me. (What? They were not dumb enough to actually stay with me all day.) 

This was followed by the Collinsville Author and Artist Fair, which was blissfully indoors and oddly had a much lower turnout. That’s maybe not as surprising when you realize it was the day after the tornado struck Edwardsville. It’s obvious that my family and I were unharmed, as I am writing this newsletter, but thank you to all who reached out to us in concern. We were lucky; the workers in the Amazon warehouse on the Edwardsville-Pontoon Beach border were not. The Edwardsville Community Foundation continues to raise funds to help those impacted by the tornado, and you can donate here.

Coming this month: the Millstadt Library Author Fair, which kindly did a terrific write-up of my novel trilogy Nocturne Infernum in advance of the event. “Unique, modern, intelligent, and feisty, Donald’s stories are more than entertainment – they are political statements about civil and sexual rights, independence, privilege, agency, and STILL MADE ME BAWL at the sad romance of it all,” they wrote, and that’s going on the website! Funny thing: through their post I discovered that their library system has several of my books available, including some that are seriously out of print. 

I’ve also been informed that Conflation is moving to a mostly-online format in late February. Awaiting details, but however the Goddesses decide to run the show, I’ll be there in any way I can. 

On the publicity side, Cuppa Words is kindly featuring me for the month of January! Here is my introduction, and all month they’ll be talking about my work. I’ve been happy and proud to be associated with Cuppa Words for the last few years, and look forward to another great year with them. 

Coming up:
• Millstadt (Ill.) Library Author Fest, Jan. 15
• Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 25-27 
• Midsouthcon, Memphis. March 23-26 (tent.)
• AWP, Philadelphia. March 25-27 (tent.)
• AuthorCon, Williamsburg, Va. April 1-3 (tent.)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 8-10
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Oct. 7-9 
• SPJ National Conference, Washington, D.C. Oct. 26-29 (tent.)
• ContraCon, Kansas City. Nov. 11-13 (tent.)

Journalism/Essays

• Elon Musk is a bad Person of the Year… but not for the reasons you think (Medium with intro on Patreon)
• Brewpub closes only weeks after opening (Highland News-Leader)
• A kidney for Christmas (Metro-East Living)
• Schools on alert after violence threat (Belleville News-Democrat)
• Council approves gas station over residents’ complaints (Highland News-Leader)
• Highland Police move into new station (Highland News-Leader)
• Local contractor gets $113 million Air Force base contract (Highland News-Leader)
• Highland voters to decide school construction referendum (Highland News-Leader)
 

Fiction

I’m happy to announce that Spine Bookstore is now featuring my work, along with that of many independent and small-press authors in the bi-state area. I’m delighted to be part of this new concept and look forward to events beginning soon at the shop and cafe. Spine is located on Arsenal in St. Louis near Benton Park, and is definitely worth a stop. 

In addition, River Bluff Review went live early, including my short story “Fever.” It’s available online for free here.

Patreon/Blogs

• ‘Fever’ is published! (ElizabethDonald.com)
• A blessed season (Patreon)
• New story published! (Patreon)
• A Second Life (Patreon)

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Nifty review and upcoming event at Millstadt Library

I’m looking forward to the first event of 2022, which is the Millstadt Library Author Fair. Millstadt is in the process of expanding and will be running a referendum to build a new library soon, and I’m happy to be one of more than 20 authors who will be signing and speaking at the author fair on Jan. 15.

In advance of the event, Millstadt’s library blog wrote this lovely introduction to me and my work. I’d seen a previous write-up on their blog and saw they were still circulating the original Nocturne, which was from the first publisher and did not include the third novel of the Nocturnal Urges series, Abaddon. I donated a copy of Nocturne Infernum so that they’d have the most updated version, and they said this: “Unique, modern, intelligent, and feisty, Donald’s stories are more than entertainment – they are political statements about civil and sexual rights, independence, privilege, agency, and STILL MADE ME BAWL at the sad romance of it all.”

Well, that’s the kind of comment that makes a writer’s day.

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll consider joining us in Millstadt on Jan. 15!

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“Fever” is published!

I wasn’t expecting the annual publication of the River Bluff Review until early spring, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that it’s already live on the interwebs!

River Bluff Review is a student-edited literary magazine, and only recently made the transition from print to all-digital. I was honored that they selected my short story “Fever” for this year’s edition. It’s a weird little piece, one that reads like a COVID story but was written the month before the pandemic began.

I remember it well, because I had been very ill that February – a flu that simply knocked me on my ass.* I recovered in time to go for a weekend getaway at Valentine’s Day with my husband, at a hotel we adore called the Cheshire Inn. Each room at the Cheshire is named and themed after a famous British writer – the suites are for the big boys like Robert Louis Stevenson and William Shakespeare, and the smaller rooms get the lesser-known authors. We were booked in the Romeo & Juliet suite, and after Jim fell asleep I was restless.

So I sat at the little desk in our suite and considered myself lucky to have kicked that nasty flu in time for this trip… and started writing. I wrote the tale of a woman so ill with fever that she hallucinates a monster in her house… or does she?

The entire first draft was written in the wee hours of the night in that hotel room, refined over several weeks and workshopped in my MFA program before submitting to magazines. I’m delighted that it was picked up so quickly, and I hope you enjoy it and the other fine stories included in this year’s River Bluff Review.

 

 

* Yes, it has occurred to me that it might actually have been COVID Original Flavor, before we knew much about it. My doctor said that “we may not have seen COVID before, but it’s probably seen us.” No real way of knowing, except I’m still alive and kicking.

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December linkspam

Happy holidays! I am delighted to announce that I will be an adjunct instructor at St. Louis University beginning in the spring semester. Yes, probably the last thing I needed was a fifth job, but I’m very excited to be teaching journalism again. Never fear, I am continuing in my assistantship at SIUE teaching English composition in addition to my MFA classes, editing work at the student newspaper, my freelance writing and reporting work, my volunteer activities… I think I forgot a job in there somewhere. 

Only one week left until the semester is over and the signings end for a little while, at which point I will… do more writing. And probably bake some stuff, seeing as how the holidays have enveloped us. I appreciate the patience of the Patreon people in particular, as pickings have been slim while I trundle through to the end of the semester. The Literary Underworld and Elizabeth Donald shops are bustling with the holiday orders, and please see the infobox at the end of this newsletter for deadlines to order in time for Christmas. 

That said, we just finished Thanksgiving, and if I haven’t done so up until now: Thank you. Yes, you, particularly. You stick with me and this newsletter, you support my work and many of you subscribe to the Patreon and/or buy the books. That keeps the lights on in my house and feeds my family, and I am always humbled by your continued support. As every year, I give thanks for you. 
 

Publicity/Appearances

November kicked off with ContraCon in Kansas City, which was the last Literary Underworld event for the year and at which we won Best Booze! This is an honor we have received before, and I can only assume it is our staggering array of bottom-shelf liquor and menu of geek-themed cocktails that wins us these accolades. Seriously, I am so pleased that the Traveling Bar brings so much joy to our guests at the cons, and it absolutely makes it worth hauling all those boxes of booze around the country.

Jim and I took a long weekend to Galena, Ill., which is a lovely little town with an old-fashioned Main Street and plenty of ghost lore that we’ve intended to visit since our first anniversary. On the drive up, I was pondering: when was the last time Jim and I traveled anywhere outside the St. Louis region that did not involve books, signings, public appearances or the kids? We’ve had family vacations and a few overnights in St. Louis and St. Charles, Mo., plenty of solo travel, sadly a few funerals, and more cons than we care to admit. But honestly, to meet those parameters, we’d have to go back to our honeymoon in Jamaica. It was a delightful weekend even if the ghosts were a bit of a disappointment, and soooo much food. 

I was delighted to return to Writers of the Riverbend in Alton, Ill., which is partly a sale and partly a networking opportunity for writers of the Alton-Edwardsville-St. Louis region. As always, there were familiar faces and new acquaintances, and I had a great time. Also, the charcoal mocha at adjacent Maeva’s Coffee cannot be beat. 

I was also happy to host write-ins all month long for the Eville Writers’ Nanowrimo, and the first-ever write-in for Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society at SIUE. (See, I opened my big mouth and suggested it and thus I was put in charge. This happens a lot.) Two more holiday markets coming up in December, and then I’m staying home for whole weeks. 

On the publicity side, I (briefly) contributed to another author roundup for Sean Taylor’s Bad Girls Good Guys blog, on “The End.”

Coming up:
• Collinsville (Ill.) Winter Market, Dec. 11 – last of the year!
• Millstadt (Ill.) Library Author Fest, Jan. 15
• St. Louis SPJ Journalist Boot Camp, Feb. 15 (tent.)
• Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 25-27
• Midsouthcon, Memphis. March 23-26 (tent.)
• AWP, Philadelphia. March 25-27 (tent.)
• AuthorCon, Williamsburg, Va. April 1-3 (very tent.)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 8-10
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Oct. 7-9 
• SPJ National Conference, Washington, D.C. Oct. 26-29 (tent.)
• ContraCon, Kansas City. Nov. 11-13 (tent.)

Journalism/Essays

• Substitute shortage forces Highland schools to cancel class (Highland News-Leader)
• New police chief sworn in (Highland News-Leader)
• Alhambra, Grantfork schools renovating for security (Highland News-Leader)
• SIUE investigates reports of frat racism (Alestle)
• Highland residents to vote on school referendum (Highland News-Leader)
 

Fiction

I’m delighted to report that my short story “Fever” will appear in the River Bluff Review literary magazine next spring. While ostensibly it seems like a COVID story, I swear I wrote it just before the Voldevirus hit, so the fact that it refers to a terrible illness is entirely coincidental.
 

Patreon/Blogs

• Writing the Adventure (Patreon)
• Body horror in MFA Land (Patreon)
• The Dance (poem) (Patreon)
• Job No. 5! (Elizabeth Donald and Donald Media)

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October Linkspam

Happy Halloween season! This newsletter is late! And that’s because we had such a spectacular time at Archon that we are still recovering three days later. Folks, I’m getting too old for these shenanigans. Archon is our hometown con, and it was a delight to be back after last year’s cancellation and see so many familiar faces. Attendance was about half the usual throng, and yet we sold just as well as we did the year before the world fell apart! I think they missed us, and I know we missed them. Many thanks to everyone who came by the booth, who dropped by the Traveling Bar, and who came to my reading to hear me read happy stories about bunnies and unicorns*. It was fun! Official write-ups are pending on my various blogs, with plenty of pictures. I’ve always said that if you’re a horror author in October, you’re working nonstop or you’re not working. That’s certainly the case this year, even if things are still a bit muted. I’m booked basically every weekend from now to November, though I’ve worked in a couple of moments to spend with my family. I hear they’re nice. Don’t worry – we’re being very safe with masks and sanitizer and weekly COVID screenings to make sure we’re not contributing to this mess we’re in. The Traveling Bar had more precautions than we’ve ever had – not just badge and ID checks at the door, but a required hit with the hand sanitizer upon entry, masks and gloves for the staff (i.e. me) and masks on throughout the evening. Pull down the mask, take a sip, push it back up. It’s really not that hard, folks. It was also our first outing for Frodo the Bookmobile! After eight looooong years as a one-car family, Jim and I finally purchased a new-to-us Honda Odyssey with an enormous space for hauling the booth. It was such a delight not to have to play car Jenga to get the booth into the Honda Fit. We are delighted with our new toy, and plan to put it to good use on the tour. I hope to see you out on the road!

Publicity/Appearances

This weekend is the Edwardsville Book Fair! Again! This led off last month’s newsletter, but it was canceled due to cats, dogs and small barnyard animals falling from the sky. I am looking forward to finally attending this event in person, as it is usually cross-scheduled with other events to which I am committed or virtual. Spied in the wild: Nocturne Infernum, a preferred recommendation at the Smithton Public Library! Apparently the earlier edition was recommended in their blog some months before. And hey! I was in the news from the other side of the notebook! You’d think as many times as I have interviewed people, I wouldn’t feel awkward or weird when someone is interviewing me. Here’s a piece about Archon, with quotes from yours truly and a brief mention of the Literary Underworld, which gets press even more rarely than I do. Coming up: • Edwardsville Book Fair, Oct. 9 • ContraKC, Kansas City, Mo. Nov. 5-7 • Writers of the Riverbend, Alton, Ill. Nov. 20 • Edwardsville Winter Market, Dec. 4 • Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 25-27 (tent.) • AWP, Philadelphia March 23-26 (tent.)

Journalism/Essays

• Highland schools navigate politics, law and staff’s health (Highland News-Leader) • ‘Difficult decision’ looming for Highland dispatchers (Highland News-Leader) • ‘Heroic’ police officer saves two lives at Silver Lake (Highland News-Leader) • Artist at work creating new mural in Highland (Highland News-Leader)  • More students test positive for COVID in Highland (Highland News-Leader)

Fiction

• Flashback: Sanctuary (Patreon) • Not (Patreon)

Patreon/Blogs

• Archon ahoy! (Patreon and blog and DM) • Wheels (Patreon) • MFA: What the fractal (Patreon) – with fiction  • Freedom for women, sexual and otherwise (Patreon) • Hello from totally not New Orleans! (Patreon)

*not really

 

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Farewell, old friend.

This wasn’t exactly how I’d intended to christen my new website, but here we go: as of July 31, my oldest title Setting Suns will be going out of print.

Setting Suns wasn’t my first book, but it was the first to appear in paperback. Way back in the dawn of the ebook era, my first novel Nocturnal Urges came out from Ellora’s Cave Publishing, but they only published in ebook (two years before there was even such a thing as a Kindle!). If the ebook did well, they released it in paperback later. 

Nocturnal Urges came out and it sold well, won awards and the publisher demanded a sequel despite all the people insisting, “I’ll wait until the real book comes out.” I kept yelling, “It IS a real book! Ebooks are real books!” Now people look at my paperbacks and say, “I’ll get the ebook,” and I want to yell, “Where were you in 2005??” 

I was working on that sequel when Frank Fradella, founder of New Babel Books, came to me with the idea of putting my short stories into a collection. I’d published a handful of short stories in horror and science fiction magazines that had a disturbing habit of going out of business right after they published me. I was the Typhoid Mary of the small press in the early 2000s. Frank suggested collecting those stories and writing another half-dozen or so just for the collection, and thus Setting Suns was born.

It wasn’t my first book. But it was the first time I opened a box of books and saw my name on the cover. Ask any writer about that moment, and see the look in their eyes when they remember. 

Setting Suns has been in print for 15 years, give or take, and that’s one hell of a good run for a small press collection. It won the Darrell Award for best short story for “Wonderland,” a weird little Frankenstein riff told entirely in emails and online chats that gave Frank apoplexy in layout, and contains two of my most popular short stories: “Sisyphus,” a tragedy exploring toxic grief and lost love; and “Jesus Loves Me,” known as the Evil Teddy Bear story.

The Evil Teddy Bear still exists, here in my office. And there were T-shirts. 

But there are other stories that didn’t get as much attention. There’s “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” a literal funhouse horror piece that looks at the different kinds of love a person can have for the people in her life, plus crazy man with gun. 

There’s “Silent,” which was one of my very first short stories to be published for money, that smacks of a haunted house as told by The Twilight Zone. There’s “Deep Breathing,” a future-world submarine scarefest involving a monster several readers have referred to as “Cthulu-esque” which was funny because I’d never read Lovecraft at that point. 

There’s “Memory Lane,” another escapee from Twilight Zone about a husband’s desperate search to find his missing wife, and the dark secrets that come to light. That one began as my first attempt at a short-film screenplay, rewritten as a short story for Setting Suns.

There’s “Gauntlet,” an action-flick of a science fiction story set in my Sanctuary universe that only reaaaaally dedicated readers know about, since it’s had a couple of stories published but the novels remain in the trunk until I get them to not suck. Three of the Setting Suns stories are set in Sanctuary, but “Gauntlet” is my favorite.

There are even two stories that would qualify as “literary” with no SFFH elements whatsoever, though entering an MFA program and exploring literary fiction was the absolute last thought on my mind in the waning years of my twenties. 

After 15 years, Setting Suns is still the “entry drug” for Elizabeth Donald fiction. Long-time readers sometimes tell me it’s their favorite of my titles (which is a little humbling since I’ve published maybe thirteen books and novellas since then, give or take a few). 

I’m gonna miss the old girl.

I want to thank Shane Moore, publisher of New Babel Books, for working with me to put Setting Suns out of print with grace. It will be available through July 31 if you haven’t snagged the ebook yet, and we still have a few in stock if you want the print edition

I also want to thank Frank Fradella, who is no longer with New Babel Books, for his contributions to making Setting Suns what it was. The book was Frank’s idea, and his editing, layout and design coupled with the cover art from Darren Holmes made a wonderful book that I was proud to call my first. 

Thanks also go to Jason R. Tippitt, who co-authored one of the stories with me (“I Live With It Every Day”) and served as sounding board and inspiration through much of the book’s development. I very rarely work in partnerships – I don’t play well with others – and it is a testament to Jason’s patience and skill that our story turned out well. The book was dedicated to Jason, who is a fine writer and I hope you’ll hear more from him in times to come. 

It’s been a terrific run for my first “real” book, at least as far as I’m concerned. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

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And the winner is…

Me!

I’m pleased (almost) beyond words to announce I have been honored with the Mimi Zanger Award for fiction writing. This is an award granted by the English Department at Southern Illinois University, where I have begun my coursework for an MFA in creative writing (in case you’ve missed all the other references to my MFA here and on my Patreon …. somehow).

The story I submitted for the contest’s consideration was written in workshop last semester. My first inclination was to share it, of course. However, it is currently under submission to a literary magazine, and thus it would be inappropriate to publish. I sincerely hope I will be able to share it with you soon.

Near as I can tell, the award is named after the wife of Dr. Jules Zanger, a professor at SIUE before it even became the university we know it today. Dr. Zanger grew up in Brooklyn and fought in World War II, as did many of his generation. After the war, he earned his degrees and met Mary Proctor – known as Mimi – while finishing his PhD at Washington University in St. Louis. Like many academics, the Zangers bounced around from Ohio to Chicago and so on before moving to Alton, Ill. and settling at SIUE. Dr. Zanger taught at SIUE for 35 years, retiring as professor emeritus after receiving Fulbright grants to study in Brazil, France and Czechoslovakia.

Mimi died in 1991. Dr. Zanger continued with his research and extensive travels, eventually remarrying and relocating to Frankfurt, Germany, where he died in 2014. His obituary states that he was “a great lover of good books, good food, good wine, good music, and good conversation. He loved fine restaurants, but was also a skilled home chef, preparing many memorable meals for friends and family. He loved and frequently attended the opera, never understanding why everyone didn’t.”

When Dr. Zanger died, his survivors indicated that memorials should be made to the Mimi Zanger Award endowment, so that it could continue to support students like me who seek to explore the joys of the written word. It sounds like the Zangers would have been terrific people to know.

As I write this, I am playing Don Giovanni, in honor of the opera lovers, and hope that I can be worthy of their legacy. I am humbled and grateful for the honor and support of my mentors in the writing program, and look forward to all I have to learn from them.

Crossposted from DonaldMedia.com.
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Book birthday!

I’m happy to announce that my new Blackfire novella, Yanaguana, is now unleashed on the world courtesy of Crone Girls Press.

It walks along the San Antonio river, and it carries all your fears in its grasp.

Paul Vaughn and the Blackfire team have been summoned after several mysterious deaths, because that’s what they do. They face the things that lurk in shadows, and they save unknowing civilians from their grasp. 

But this one will challenge Blackfire more than any they have yet faced, as they must fight not only the demon that lurks along the Riverwalk… but the things they fear the most.

A standalone novella preceding the events of The Cold Ones, Yanaguana adds another chapter to the Blackfire series and will hopefully introduce new readers to this world of ghouls and beasties. Paired with two other novellas under the Crone Girls Press collection Foul Womb of Night, Yanaguana is now available for $2.99 from Amazon or FREE for Kindle Unlimited readers. 

While I’ve got you… I have a few people to thank. Because nobody writes a book alone, as much as we like to pretend.

Many thanks to David Szucs, officer and gentleman, who provided a sanity check for military parlance; to David Tyler, who answers my rambling messages at two in the morning; to Ian Smith, who helped me devise what’s going on with new characters Juliet and Tommy; and to my husband Jim Gillentine, who always cheerleads.

As usual, many thanks to the real Parish Roberts, Jim Bell, and the late Vic Milan, who let me steal their names for characters more than a decade ago.

Thanks to the good people of the Alamo Trust, who kindly gave me permission for a photo shoot and visit to the historic site, and the staff there who answered my many questions. San Antonio is a wonderful city, and I always show my love to the places I visit by infesting them with monsters.

Special thanks to Rachel Brune, editor extraordinaire who is blessed (or burdened) with indomitable patience and grace.

Finally, thanks to the real Sara Harvey, who couldn’t be more different than her fictional counterpart, except that they both kick ass.

Crossposted from DonaldMedia.com.

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Elizabeth, what are you going to do when you grow up?

Since I let it slip on the radio last week, I might as well go public. Shenanigans are afoot.

Recap for those playing along at home: I left daily journalism in 2018 to pursue my masters degree in media studies while launching a freelance career.

This turned out to be quite a few eggs in the baskets I was balancing on both arms, my head and the tip of my nose. I learned quickly why I got sad smiles and headshakes from fellow freelance journalists when I said I’d be launching while doing grad school. The freelance career definitely brings in what I put into it, which I can track on my bookkeeping sheet: when I was crunching hard at school, the balance fell to a minimum; in the summer, it was soaring. Well, soaring to “subsistence living,” at least.

Still, as I’ve said several times, my worst day in Career 2.0 still has not involved calling the family of a dead child and asking for comment. My barometer for stress is scaled differently.

And to be honest, working freelance suits my personality much better than working in a newsroom ever did. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility and the right to choose my own projects, even if it isn’t as lucrative as a steady paycheck. I’m still doing some local reporting as well as magazine work on a more-or-less regular basis, and writing about the things that interest me. One week I might write about balancing motherhood and an MBA program; the next about camping options along the great river road. And let’s not forget how many stories I could write about legalization of pot here in sunny Illinois.

Now as I approach the end of my masters program, I have to figure out what I’m going to do next. Originally I wrote a long and really boring explanation of all the options I considered before settling on my next step, and I have deleted it because if it bores me, I can’t imagine how stultifying it would be for you, Gentle Reader.

But something else has happened while I’ve been trundling my way through cultivation theory and media content analysis and many cans of Starbucks TripleShot: I’ve been able to take some writing classes. What are you talking about, Elizabeth? You’ve been a professional writer since the mid-nineties! True, but with the exception of a poetry workshop in high school, I had never taken a creative writing class in my life. I always meant to do so – I must have signed up for fiction workshops at the University of Memphis three times, and always had to drop it because it conflicted with some other requirement for my major. I went to untold numbers of author panels at conventions, read writing books and memoirs obsessively… but never took a creative writing class. I have had plenty of training in newswriting: undergrad included classes in story structure and investigative and feature reporting, etc. But never fiction or creative writing.

Last spring, I took a class in creative nonfiction from the English department, figuring it would help with the essays and long-form journalism I was trying to develop for my freelance work. I found it immensely enjoyable, and more importantly, my writing improved significantly.

When this last semester began, I enrolled in a graduate-level fiction workshop as kind of a trial run: could my ghosties and creepies and long-leggedy beasties translate in a literary environment? I’ve always had a taste for things that go chomp in the night, but the key to those critters and their ability to scare lies in characterization: characters with whom we can identify and language that evokes emotion. At its fundamental basis, writing of any genre must meet those needs to be truly impactful. So far, the workshop has been going very well, and I find I am viewing my own work and works of others in a new light.

So after long discussion with Jim, and a lot of personal contemplation, I rolled the dice and filled out the applications over the winter break.

Thus I am pleased to announce that I have been accepted into the MFA program for creative writing at SIUE, and will begin in the fall. This program involves intensive fiction workshopping and classes in literature as well as craft, along with a mid-program project involving writing and literacy in the community. In academia, the masters of fine arts is considered a terminal degree – which sounds frighteningly fatal – and thus is given equal weight to a doctorate in most situations. I have also been offered another teaching assistantship, so I will learn how to teach English composition at the freshman level. While I expect this will be the biggest challenge of my immediate future, it will also give me a much wider area of experience as an instructor. After I finish, I will be qualified to teach English comp, creative writing or journalism at the collegiate level, and if I cannot land a full professorship right away, it will at least give me a much wider variety of adjunct opportunities than solely teaching newswriting.

So it’s practical, and practicality always has to come first in my head. As I told Jim, the worst possible outcome of this insanity is that I’ll come out the other side with enough material for 1-2 more story collections, and that works fine for me.

But I am also very excited about this new venture. I’ve been given a warm welcome by my fellows in the MFA program and in the English department, and my short stories have already gained a good bit of success in literary magazines and anthologies after a looong dry spell. It’s odd that although my primary work for the past two years has been research-based rather than creative, I feel more creatively inspired than I have in at least a decade. And when I look at the array of classes I get to take, it feels like an amazing privilege to be allowed to study there. Buckle in for a lot of discussion on sociopolitical allegory in the writings of African-American women or comparing the works of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson or comparing and contrasting dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. Squee. (Oh, like it’s a shock to you at this point that I’m a book nerd. I mean, have you SEEN my house? We need more walls.)

The funny part of this process has been explaining to my cohort in media studies that yes, I am voluntarily and enthusiastically signing up for three more years of grad school. They think I’ve lost my mind (they might not be wrong). Three more years of stress and term papers, of wrangling being a student and a fledgling teacher at the same time, of wacky hours and too much caffeine and poverty – don’t forget the poverty.

And that’s where I really need to throw the bouquet to Jim, who is not only supportive of my insanity, but strongly encouraged me to apply for the MFA in the first place. This is not going to be easy on him, folks. Teaching two classes and taking three means that my time for freelancing will be even more limited than it is now, and that means he has to keep his second job for the foreseeable future to keep our family in milk and toilet paper (hot commodities, man). He’s about to graduate with his bachelor’s degree, which was supposed to be the time that he gets to relax a bit.

I hear from so many women writers who have husbands or partners far less supportive of their work, who resent the time away, who make them justify the hours and expense of developing a writing career, who dismiss their work because it doesn’t bring in as much money as a “real job.” I have been there before, and it kills the creative spark to such an enormous degree when your partner isn’t committed to supporting your success, however you might define that. It fills me with gratitude to have a partner who so completely stands with me and cheers on my successes (and pours the drinks for my failures).

Perhaps he understands because he is a writer himself, or perhaps he’s just that wonderful. I haven’t dedicated a book to him yet. But really, they’re all dedicated to him. It’s pretty much a given that without Jim’s unwavering support, sounding board, sanity check and P.S. health insurance, I could not do any of the things I’ve done or will do.

So this is what I’m doing for the next three years, and I thank all of you for your continued support, Gentle Readers – with extra-special thanks to my Patreon subscribers, who help make all this craziness possible by funding the water bill each month. Of course, if anyone’s about to reap the benefits of my new venture, it’s going to be them! You can feel free to join them, by the way, and get first looks at the stories I’ll be creating in my journey through the MFA. I might also share more writing craft essays, on Patreon and on Medium, and don’t forget the photos. It’s going to be a grand new adventure.

As to what I’m going to be when I grow up? Who says I have to?

Crossposted from DonaldMedia.com.

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