This Month of Grad School Was Brought to You By…

So I had an idea to get me posting on this blog again. Something that might not take the normal amount of effort, but might end up being something fun for you guys to read and for me to look back on.

So the grand idea is this: at the end of every month of grad school (starting in February 2019), I’ll post a list of what’s been getting me through the grind–the writing, the reading, the research, the prepping to teach, the teaching, the grading, the tutoring, all the “ings.” Grad school, so far, is one of the hardest, weirdest, most joyful things I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so unsure of myself. I’ve never felt so confident in my abilities as a writer. I’ve never felt smarter. I’ve never felt so…not smart. I’ve never felt more inexperienced. I’ve never felt surer of my career.

You get the idea.

In short, grad school is a hot mess, but it’s the best hot mess I’ve ever stumbled into. I want to start documenting it properly, and what better way to document my life at this moment than with a list of the things I’m loving right now?

Let’s start! This should be fun.

My Desk At School 

My office/desk at school is the best. I’ve dubbed the space my Little Corner of Happiness, and my Little Corner of Happiness is growing and growing with trinkets from friends, postcards from travels, and piles of readings and sticky notes. Here’s a picture:

I look forward to getting my life together in this office every morning before I teach. I also love when students come to my office for conferences or to chat. We almost always have a conversation about Chip, my pencil mug, and the conversation sets a great tone for the meeting.

I love you, Little Corner of Happiness.

Maggie Rogers

Oh my word, I’m loving Maggie Rogers’ music. I “discovered” her this month when her newest album came out and it was all over my Twitter/Instagram feed. I gave the album a listen and I was hooked. The album, Heard it in a Past Life, is so, so good. She’s got a folksy quality to her voice, but the music she sings to is so upbeat and “dancey.” It’s perfect running music, perfect writing music.

Here’s a link to my favorite song, “Fallingwater.”

Exploring

A friend recently came to visit (hi, Allyssa!), and when company comes to town, you take ’em places! Exploring for a weekend made me realize how much my region has to offer–and how much I haven’t seen of it. So–exploring renewed my soul, exhausted my body/mind in the best way, and made me hungry for more.

Also, I got a new mug during our travels; I’m always pumped about a new mug. I got it from an art museum, and it has a quote by Mary Cassatt, an impressionist painter, printed on the side. The quote reads, “A woman should be someone, not something.”

Heck yes. Sipping my morning cup of coffee from that mug feels like consuming a warm cup of empowerment.

Sparkly Folders

I’m all about cute school supplies. I know plain stuff works just as well–often better–but, heck, I need some sparkle in my life, so I picked up two sparkly folders at Walmart on a shopping trip last month. One of the best decisions of my MFA, let me tell ya.

I love how the sparkles catch the light when I pull them out for class. I love how they glitter under the yellow glow of my lightbulbs in my apartment, in my living room as they sit on my desk. Can they hold a lot? No. Do they hold what I need? Yes.

Do they enrich my life? One hundred percent.

Astrology Chats & Charts

One of my friends (hi, Courtney!) and I have been into chatting about our astrology charts (is that the terminology?) lately, and I’m having so much fun with it. She’s my personal astrologer (AKA, she knows a lot more than me so she helps me out when it comes to figuring out what means what), and we have learned so much. I’m a Taurus sun, an Aquarius moon, and a Scorpio rising. Neat stuff.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

I recently bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick to convert an old TV into a smart TV, and holy cow it’s one of the best investments I’ve made. I love, love, love, love how I can play Spotify on my TV now. With that nifty little Fire Stick, I can transform my living room into the ideal writing space soundtracked by a perfect playlist–usually instrumental music, Broadway playlists, a few country artists (really just Kacey Musgraves or the Dixie Chicks at the moment), or the Waitress musical soundtrack, because I’m forever and ever obsessed.

Also, the Fire Stick is Alexa-enabled. I’ve recently discovered I’m obsessed with having conversations with Alexa, and that’s probably a bad thing. We’re pals. We like to catch up.

I promise I’m not crazy.

Ellie, My Dog, Especially When She’s Sleepy & Super Cute

Ellie’s always getting me through, but lately she’s been super extra cute, especially when it’s late-ish at night and I’m still reading or typing away and she curls up beside me on the couch and sleeps and smells all sleepy. That sounds weird–“smells all sleepy.” Ellie has a sleepy smell, and I love her sleepy smell.

Ok, I promise I’m not super weird. I’m just weird enough to go to grad school…

😉

I also love Ellie when she first wakes up in the morning. We’re kindred spirits–we don’t dislike mornings, but we’re definitely slow starters, a little pokey when it comes to attacking the day. She waddles (her gait’s naturally waddle-y) to eat her food, and then she cuddles up and sleeps in her bed for the rest of the morning while I get ready.

I could write a whole lot more about the other cute things Ellie does, but I’ll stop before I write an entire book.

That’s all for now, friends. Maybe I’ll be back next month! We’ll see.

I hope you’re finding fun stuff to get you through the grind. I hope you have a happy March–let’s hope spring will soon be bloomin’.

My Ellie.


I’m a Pushcart Prize Nominee (!?!)

So. My first published short story (“When the World Goes Dark” published by Glassworks literary magazine in their Spring 2018 issue) was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize

WHAT?! 

To say I’m excited is an understatement. I’m so grateful for the editors at Glassworks for giving my words a home, and for choosing my story for the nomination. I know a lot of writers receive a Pushcart nomination, but this feels special to me personally. (And to other writers who have been nominated: be proud, gosh darn it!) “When the World Goes Dark” was the first story I was truly proud of, my first publication, and now it will always be my first prize nomination. I’m so happy. 

Again, thank you Glassworks editors! I’m so thrilled and honored. 

Manifesto-of-Sorts

The semester starts in a week! THANK GOODNESS! I LOVE GRAD SCHOOL!

(I really, really do.)

I’ve been lesson planning, writing, reading recreationally, and getting my life together. It’s always a fun time when “getting your life together” is on the agenda.

Getting my life together involves errand-running and goal-setting. In this post, I’d thought I’d write down a few goals, even though some aren’t really concrete. Some are super vague, and most you can’t check off a list.

So this reads more like a little manifesto, I think. Unless I’m getting the definition of “manifesto” confused with something else. Oh well.

So. During this school year, this semester, and this life, I vow to…

  1. Stand taller, speak louder, and cut I’m sorry and I don’t know from my vocabulary. Or at least limit those phrases to situations that actually call for them.
  2. Take failure as it comes and handle it with grace. Accept that it’s a part of the ‘biz and life and everything.
  3. Celebrate every victory, big or small. Maybe with some cake (but not too much).
  4. Work my you-know-what off every single day.
  5. Rest and relax and do what I love every single day.
  6. Read for my craft.
  7. Read for my enjoyment.
  8. Send snail mail to people, because I’ve realized I love writing letters and I want to spread more ink-smeared magic.
  9. Smile more.
  10. Say, “Yes!” more.
  11. Say, “No!” when it’s best for me.
  12. Find so much joy in the opportunity I’ve been given to learn and teach and write.
  13. Go to [restaurant that is famous in college town], because I feel like it’s essential to the whole experience of living in [college town].
  14. Maybe exercise some. (Really, Kaila. EXERCISE SOME.)
  15. Take pride in my work, take pride in the process, and take pride in the ideas that pop into my head. Because sometimes I have some good ones.

I hope everyone is having a happy day. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Kids Baking Championship. Baked goods and cute kids = a winning combo for television.

Ha. Okay. Goodbye now.

When I Think of Summer 2018…

My summer’s almost come to an end–it’s almost time for workshops, writing, lesson planning, grading, meetings, readings, etc. It’s almost time for my second year of grad school to commence.

Oh man. I’m so excited for the upcoming semester.

And while I’m excited for what’s ahead, I wanted to write a little post about this summer, about the little moments that have become memories.

So. When I think of the summer of 2018–

I’ll think of purchasing bubbles for a dollar and sitting in the backyard nightly, blowing bubbles for Ellie (my pup) to chase.

I’ll think of reading so much and learning so much for my craft. This summer I truly discovered the complex joy that is literary fiction.

I’ll think of large Diet Cokes with vanilla from Sonic, purchased almost every single day during happy hour.

I’ll think of the week I spent with my best friend up in South Dakota and Iowa, in which we talked and drove and talked and bid on pies and ate s’mores and went on a wagon ride to which I said, “It’s like Kilimanjaro Safaris of South Dakota!”

I’ll also think of the soundtrack Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and miles and miles of corn fields.

I’ll think of finally seeing Waitress after more than a year of obsessing over the soundtrack and the story. Sweet smells (that lobby, though!), sweet pie, sweet experience.

Side note: when can I see another musical?!

I’ll think of trekking to the local library almost every day to write fiction (hopefully the start of my thesis…ahh!) among the books, huge wireless pink headphones spitting the newest Carousel revival soundtrack into my ears, the songs “Mister Snow” and “If I Loved You” always on repeat. So soothing. So nuanced. So great.

I’ll think of finally writing more for this blog after months of being stuck.

I’ll think of The Handmaid’s Tale and Mad Men, the two shows I watched religiously over the summer. Elisabeth Moss is a master, and the characters she portrays are incredible.

Side note: from now on, whenever I’m feeling a little glum/not confident when it comes to my work, I’ll ask myself, “What would Peggy Olson do?” She’s amazing. 

I’ll think of the sleep I lost because I stayed up late watching The Handmaid’s Tale and Mad Men. 

(Ha. I love television, don’t you?)

I’ll think of my re-discovering the gloriousness that is Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food (is that how you spell it?!) ice cream.

I’ll think of barn swallow nests and bird watching.

And, finally, I’ll think of spending time with the people I love most.

It was a good summer, indeed.

Writer

I recently changed a few bullet points under the “about me” category.

First: “recent college graduate” transformed to “graduate student in creative writing.” Yes, you read that right! I’ll be heading back to school in the fall, and I am thrilled to continue my education. Who knows? Perhaps a doctorate is in my [distant] future?

I like school, okay? Let me stay forever.

Second: I changed “aspiring writer” to simply read “writer.”

Because I realized something.

I don’t have to wait until I’m a “grown-up” to fully realize my “grown-up” dream. And heck, I am a grown-up! Painfully so. I’ll be 24 in less than a month, and that’s scary. And kind of cool. But mostly terrifying.

You see, reader, I’m a writer because I write. I am not published in the sense that I have novels under my belt, but I write. A lot. At least I try to.

I do have a few articles published in a local magazine, and that’s cool. I’m so grateful for  the opportunity to contribute to a wonderful publication. But I still have a hard time considering myself a full-fledged writer.

But I am. And now that I’m realizing it, I’m so excited about my future and all the possibilities yet to be.

I write stories before bed! Fiction! And I love doing it! I’m using exclamation points because I think I found what I love to do! Making up stories to fill our dark little world with hero[ines] and characters that came to be because I used my brain muscles and created them out of nothing!

Now, yes, eventually I’d like to be semi-successful in this writing endeavor. But I can’t become successful or good at anything without a little elbow grease and a whole lot of doing.

And the doing–the writing, the doing the writing–makes me a writer. It’s the same concept as running. I’m currently training for a half marathon, and the act of running makes me a runner.

I’m slow as dirt, and it’s hard to wake up early before work to “pound the pavement.” (That’s runner’s speak.) But I run, so I am a runner.

I’m a writer, I’m a runner, I’m a dreamer. And I love and cherish all of those titles.

Have a magical day, my friends.