Microcosm of Hurt

Now that I got my rejection letter today from the excellent liberal arts college Hamilton College, I can finally admit that I applied there in the first place for a tenure track position teaching 20th Century American Fiction + (Ethnic) Literature, specializing in Asian American literature.  There's this weird rule when applying to academic jobs (I think it applies equally to CW jobs too, but I have no proof) that you never tell other people where you're applying for academic jobs.  For one thing, you, your other academic and creative writing friends, a random acquaintance you met at that Upper West Side party two years ago or in a bookstore in Burlington or someone in your cohort, any of those peeps, may have applied to the same job.  In fact, of course they did because all of you want to avoid the ASC (adjunct sweatshop complex).  That means everyone is your competition until you either get the job or the rejection letter.

A second, more obviously strategic reason not to tell people where you applied for an academic job is because there's always a chance---even in the digital information flow---that they don't know about that specific job + if you tell them, you're just increasing the competition for yourself (because most of your academic + creative writing friends are at least as brilliant and talented as you are), which is the last thing you want to do.

On no level do you want your friends, colleagues or talented classmates from your cohort to fail.  You just want to succeed really badly + not advertising academic jobs to other people places the burden of researching academic jobs + multitasking dissertations and job searches on other people, where it belongs.  Still, it feels kinda shady sometimes because normally, I'd tell everyone everything (as I pretty much do on this website) because I want all my friends to be enormously successful because they're good people.

Anyway, the rejection letter I got today addressed to "Dear Candidate," which is never a good sign, said that Hamilton College received 350 applications for this one single position!  Let that sink in for a second.  350 applications.  That's fucking insane.  But from what I'm gathering from reading articles in the Chronicle, among other places, is that as universities hire less + less tenure track faculty (employing more adjuncts to cut costs now that universities are being run more like corporations), the competition for the few tenure track positions that pop up has become unwieldy, overwhelming + even bloodthirsty.

Obviously I don't know shit about what's gonna happen for me in the near future.  All I know is that I've applied to 36 academic jobs + fellowships so far in 14 different states (both tenure track + visiting assistant professorships), which does not include all the query emails I sent to every single CW department at every single Chicago university two years ago. I still have 3 more fellowships to apply to in addition to every new CW academic I can find between now + May of 2014.  Of those 36 jobs I've applied to so far, I'm still waiting to hear from 26 of them.  I'm also waiting to hear back from 3 literary agents + 4 indie presses reading my first two novels in addition to something like 75 literary journals.

In other words, I don't have a damn clue what's gonna happen with my academic or literary career, but barring some statistical anomaly, the exit polls show that this is gonna be a tight race, ladies + gentlemen.  I'm an eternal optimist.  I believe that something amazing can happen in a blink of an eye.  But it's good I guess that I ground my expectations on data + fully understand how brutal this fight is gonna be.  Hamilton's rejection might be a microcosm of hurt, so I may need to build my weight up.