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November 17, 2014: The Writing Life: A Grim Day

Two years ago, almost to the day, I began working on a proposal for the University of Alaska Press. The book title was in the final stages of the drafting process, entitled Writing Sustainably. In my usual fashion, I wrote dozens of drafts all the while working closely with James Engelhardt, the acquisitions editor. The proposal process for the University of Alaska Press goes like this: you write a proposal, Engelhardt then ayes or nays it. You make the required changes, if needed, and then the proposal is reviewed by the University of Alaska Press editorial board. This is called being refereed. This makes it more credible in the eyes of academic

institutions. Good, I guess, for those seeking work in the hallowed halls of academe. You put in the review committee changes, and then the proposal goes before the board. If the board says aye, you get a contact. Yippy Skippy.

Today I got the final word from Engelhardt. I knew what was coming before I opened his email message because the header read “Sad News.” It’s always seemed to me that bad news should either be face-to-face or phone-based. However, it’s never that way anymore. I was hoping that James’s very old cat died, but no, it was that the board had given my proposal the grand old 86. He said that the board members wanted me to better strike a balance between the sustainable writing and so-called agricultural life. I thought that this was what I was doing. Apparently not.

A dear friend of mine once said that the closer one gets to having something accepted, the more it hurts to get rejected. Marvin was a wise friend who was hit by a car one night and the next morning found dead by the roadside. I wish he was still around because I’d have liked to tell him just how right he was in making this statement.

So what now? This is the question that seems to loom before me quite often. Seems like more doors close than open. Well, for now I’m going to keep working on Lessons Twice Learned. This is because I don’t feel like abandoning it. I’m also going to get serious about applying for out of state teaching jobs. I need to find a decent job. No job, no pay, it makes one feel powerless when their significant other hands you an occasional allowance. Plus I now have to have $6,000.00 worth of dental work done. Ouch.

Plus, things aren’t going to change on the local teaching front. Those in the English Department at Mat Su College are, with good reason, hanging on tight to their jobs.

My problem is that there are very few jobs in my field – creative writing – and there are too many people scrambling to get them. It’s as hard right now to find such a job as it is to get published. So I have postponed putting together applications because it feels like a colossal waste of time. (I like that word colossal – I think that I’m going to use it more often).

And, the prospect of a coal mine (located less than two miles from our place) beginning operation is now starting to seem quite real. There was a report about this tonight on Alaska News Nightly. It seemed for a while like the mine site owners, that is, the Usibelli Coal Company, might call it good. But no, they want to go ahead and open up the site – even though right now coal prices are low. To add to our woes, we have a borough assembly that’s supportive of Usibelli’s efforts – so an infrastructure for moving the coal out of here is also being put in place. Mine responsibly. This is an oxymoronic term if I ever heard one.

So I’m at an impasse right now. Clichés are cannon fodder. The best I can do is just do. Better, I guess, than doing nothing at all.

Next: 307. 11/18/14: The Writing Life: Rebound Material