On Track At Last

Here we are now, in a strange & beautiful galaxy for the first time. After negotiating my job offer for a long & grueling week (where I constantly doubted myself & worried about tenure track horror stories of rescinded offers by small religious liberal arts colleges) & then waiting a long & torturous month for my contract to finally arrive via express mail, I can now finally say that I’ve accepted an offer to be the new assistant professor of English & creative writing at Bowling Green State University, starting in August.

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Final Revisions Before Sending Manuscript to Publisher for Evaluation

Even though I'm leaving Chicago in less than two weeks, I'm trying to pack my whole life into cardboard boxes, see Chicago as much as humanly possible with my gimpy ankle, and also finish a third and final master revision of my debut novel, The Amnesia of Junebugs, before I send it to Kaya Press.  Sunyoung, the publisher, who I've been working with for the past year, will then read my completely revamped manuscript, and then pass it on to the editorial board for a second evaluation if she likes it (I sent them a very different version of this novel a year ago after which, they asked for a rewrite).  Anyway, I know this may sound like a sure thing, but the reality is, the editorial board at Kaya Press is really tough and I don't get the impression they agree on novel manuscripts very often.  Either way, I can only hope they love this newest version as much as I do.  If they do, this could finally be it.  Could being the operative word here.  Stay tuned, people . . .

Scoring an Awesome Teaching Job!

After applying to a gazillion tenure track jobs, visiting assistant professor jobs, writer in residence positions + creative writing fellowships in the East Coast, the Midwest and the North, eventually reality kicked in and I realized I needed more teaching experience (and a published book or two) before I started getting serious attention from hiring committees.  At least in the cities that I want to live in.  I'm close, mind you, but not there yet.  So, then I started applying to lecturer positions and (to quote Morrissey) I was shocked and ashamed to discover  that it was as hard, if not harder scoring a lecturer position because 97% of the recent PhD's, MA's and MFA's that weren't hired this year for tenure track jobs still had to pay their rent, so now they were all applying to lecturer positions instead.  So, committees for lecturer positions are getting ten, twenty, even thirty times as many applications as they did for tenure track jobs.  And while in some cases, universities definitely prefer candidates with a PhD, others (like UIC where I applied and was basically told that I was still not going to get a teaching position for unspecified reasons even though I was clearly qualified for the job) don't want the credential inflation because it means they have to pay you more.

Anyway, I won't belabor this point anymore except to point out that the academic market right now is fucking horrendous.  There's just too many smart, published and qualified people with degrees and simply not enough academic positions for all of them.  That's the statistical reality, grim as it sounds.  Ultimately, for the past month or so it's come down to academic positions in California.  A week ago, I finally got "the call," and I almost started crying.  Crying!  Anyway, I'll now be a full-time lecturer at UC Irvine, which has a dope English department and an equally dope MFA program, so it'll be an honor to teach composition/rhetoric there and be part of UCI's English department.  On top of everything else, I get bennies, one of the best salaries I've seen for any lecturer position in the states, and some degree of job security (all thanks to a unionized adjunct labor force).  And I get to move back to LA too!  I totally lucked out, man. 

I'm thrilled about this opportunity.  Thrilled to be teaching again.  Thrilled to be back in the West Coast.  And thrilled to teach writing while I make it in LA as a fiction writer. 

Warren Frazier Asks for Partial of NINJAS

Less than eleven hours after I sent him a query letter, Warren Frazier emailed me back and asked for a partial, which is of course both appreciated and shocking, to be honest.  I'm not sure I've ever had an agent ask for a partial of NINJAS in such a short amount of time, but I'm definitely not complaining.

I won't get my hopes up at this point because it's just a partial.  Additionally, NINJAS is very voice-driven and stylized, so it's not for everyone.  I give agents fair warning in the query, but seeing voice-driven stylization on the page is always different.  Also, Warren Frazier represents some motherfucking heavy-hitters in the literary world:  Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Adam Johnson, and Jess Walter, among others, which includes three Pulitzer-Prize winners ("Bob," as Julianna Baggott called him back when we talked long-distance on the phone from Argentina to Florida in 2008, Adam Johnson and also Frederik Lovegall, who won a Pulitzer in history for his book, Embers of War).  So, I'm nothing if not realistic.  Still, when an awesome agent is reading one of your novels, there's always a little room for hope.   

The Two Sentence Rejection

I almost never take rejections personally because they're a part of my profession, shitty and depressing as that is.  And I wasn't offended by this lame rejection either because like I said, that's what I signed up for.  But when applicants drop $25 that they submit on submishmash for a book contest in the tiny hope that their collection of short stories will be published, I don't think it's asking a lot for the rejection letter to be:

1.  Gracious or sincere in a way that doesn't feel rushed
2.  Longer than two sentences
3.  Addressed to me.

The long and short is, I'm absolutely not gonna enter this contest again.  I could have used that money to take LB out for dinner at The Loving Hut or bought 25 songs or three ebooks on iTunes or ordered new boxer briefs at Hugo Boss.com!  Something's gotta give, and it's not gonna be dinner, music, books or underwear, I'll tell you that.

Thank you for entering our Juniper Prize competition. I am sorry that your entry was not chosen. I hope you will enter again in August 2014.

Sending Out Query Letters for Dream Pop Origami

I've been working on my awesome (totally sui generis), innovative memoir, Dream Pop Origami, off and on for the past year.  Some of the essays I wrote back in 2002 when I was living in Portland but most of this memoir was written in the past year.  The basic concept, though, has been marinating for at least a decade inside my noodle.  Anyway, I can't give any specific details about my memoir--top secret shit--but I can admit that I'm finally sending out a few query letters to literary agents now that Dream Pop Origami is ready for public consumption.  I've finally reached that stage for this manuscript.  Stay tuned for the deetz, man.

Good Rejection from Upstreet

Dear Jackson Bliss:

I'm sorry to tell you that we won't be using the work you submitted to the tenth issue of Upstreet. This issue has not been easy to get into. Out of almost three hundred submitted essays, we will be publishing fewer than ten.

I hope you won't let this deter you from submitting to Upstreet again. We will always be glad to read and consider your work. Best of luck with your writing, and thank you for letting us read " . . ." which has been on our short list since we received it.


V***** D*****

Editor/Publisher, upstreet
P.O. Box 105
Richmond, MA 01254-0105


Melissa Flashman Requests Full Manuscript of Dream Pop Origami

Less than 24 hours after I sent her a query letter for my conceptual memoir, Dream Pop Origami, Melissa Flashman wrote back requesting the full manuscript.  In many ways, this is really awesome considering that she was one of the first agents I queried, in part because she's very forward thinking and is always looking for something that's bold, fresh and also deals with what it means to be human--all things I also care about deeply in my own writing.  Anyway, I won't get my hopes up at this point but I'm happy to see her interest in my manuscript.  She's exactly the agent, or the type of agent, I'd want interested in my memoir.

New Essay Published in the Huffington Post

My cultural essay about why Americans need to drive less is now up at the Huffington Post UK.  In case you're interested (and how couldn't you be with such a snappy title?), this essay briefly examines the flaws of American exceptionalism, the sociopathology of drivers, and the cultural narcissism of driving culture.  It's a must-read for anyone who thinks there are way too many drivers in the world and/or that drivers have become entitled, impatient, reckless assholes and/or that driving (and fossil-fuel consumption) is slowly destroying the planet from the inside. Anyway, no strong opinions here . . .

Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Creative Nonfiction

I learned yesterday that my lyrical essay, "The Transfusion of Yukiyo Kanahashi," my piece about memory, dementia, nostalgia + love, written about the last seven days of my obāsan's life, was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Jennifer Derilo, the creative nonfiction editor at The Kartika Review.

Anyway, I know that thousands of people get nominated every year + only a select few actually win, but this makes me feel good.  Of course, I'd love it if the reading committee selected my essay for their anthology, but for the time being, I'm extremely grateful to have been nominated for such a prestigious prize.

Anyway, if you're interested in reading my pushcart-nominated lyrical essay (for bragging rights, posterity, sleep aid, escapism), you can find it in the 2012-2013 anthology of Asian Pacific Islander American Literature.

Lyrical Essay about Love Republished in the Huffington Post UK

Different writers have different milestones.  For me, (re)publishing an essay about love in the Huffington Post is pretty seminal.  Considering how many people read the HuffPo, I see this moment as another step in my slow trajectory as an emerging (non)fiction writer, slowly getting his writing out there to the world, slowly building a readership.  So for that, I say many thanks and cheers.

Good Rejection from The Southern Review

I know the slip is crooked (I know I know), but I appreciate the brevity of this good rejection.  I only wish I could make out the hieroglyphic editorial signature.  Either way, this short story has gotten a shitload of positive responses, so I think it's only a matter of time before it gets picked up.  This shit is gonna happen, whether people like it or not.

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.

Article about the Irrationality of Love Published in the Good Men Project

Two of my fave things to write about (in fiction + nonfiction) are love + the limitations of reasoning.  In this article, you get both.  Read this piece + you'll understand the strange visual juxtaposition of phallic rockets + a bunch of hearts.

The Double Meaning of Tweets

Really, you can interpret this tweet as both a description of the blustery weather outside + an unconscious desire for publication.  But maybe I'm just overintellectualizing again . . .