This summer, I have several things on my to-do list: do academic research and hopefully draft a scholarly article by the end of the summer, continue completing work for my website job, and resist the urge to hang a large banner that says "SHUT UP" off the small balcony outside my apartment as a "subtle" hint to my loud, inconsiderate, and obnoxious neighbors that hang out in the yard below.
I saved money from my tax refund this year, and it was just enough to buy me a round-trip ticket to New York City and make reservations at a small hotel in Chinatown for a few days in July. I went to New York City four years ago, and I loved it so much that I've always wanted to go back. I want to watch another play, visit Central Park, and yell at rude people in public. (No one blinks an eye if you yell at strangers in large cities like New York and Chicago because everyone yells there. In college towns like the one I currently live in, on the other hand, there are plenty of rude people but people think it's weird to yell at them, which is why I often have to scream into my pillow and listen to grunge music from the nineties when I come home.)
Another thing I plan to do throughout the summer is write. During the school year, I didn't get to do half as much writing as I would have liked. Instead, I spent more time writing lesson plans, comments on students' papers, and e-mails that said stuff like, "It's not okay to wear your headphones and listen to music during my lectures, or any other part of class, even if your claim that you can read lips really is true."
I already submitted a story to a short story contest hosted by Creative Nonfiction magazine. The theme of the contest was "Home". Last year, I took a one-day writing workshop at the Porch, a writer's collective in Nashville, and "home" was one of the instructor's writing prompts for us. I jotted down memories of my life in Chicago, and even after the workshop, I kept adding more to the story, until I ended up with dozens of pages. I cut and revised the story to adhere to the contest's 4,000 word limit, and I submitted it.
It felt good to put my writing out there again. Even if I don't win the contest, it's okay. Just putting it out there makes me feel like a real writer. Also, if I don't win the contest, I can send it out to other literary magazines. I bought a copy of Poets and Writers magazine, and I also did some online research; I made a list of a bunch of literary magazines that publish creative nonfiction.
Even though I still want to publish fiction, I am also interested in writing creative nonfiction. Many of the books in my bookcase are memoirs, and I especially admire writers like Jen Lancaster, Dave Barry, and David Sedaris. I like how they often write about ordinary things in totally neurotic, funny, and entertaining ways. Jen Lancaster, for example, can make a trip to Target sound hilarious. And that kind of writing style is something I've tried to follow in my own writing. I wish I had the imagination and ability to write stories about extraordinary things, like Margaret Atwood did in The Handmaid's Tale, but I'd rather write about everyday life in a more realistic (and also neurotic) way instead.
I went to a coffee shop last week and wrote out a rough draft of a new nonfiction piece about what it was like when my so-called best friend cut me out of their life several years ago. It was something I'd written about before in my journal because the loss had affected me deeply, so when I sat down to write it out in the form of a story, the words came easily to me and I was able to draft the entire story in one sitting. I plan on revising the story and sending it out to another literary magazine; I might try a new one called True Story. I also have ideas for other stories, including ones about teaching.
One thing that sucks is that most literary magazines refuse to publish anything that's already been posted on a blog like this one because they consider it "previously published", even though I'm lucky if more than a few dozen people actually read my blog every week. It's too bad because there's a lot of stuff that I could have used as material for stories. But that's why I've also continued working on my memoir (which will be a full-length book rather than a short story) about online dating because I don't think there are any rules about using revised versions of blog posts for a book. After all, the writers Julie Powell and Jen Lancaster started out as bloggers, and they turned their blogs into books.
It's been a long, challenging year, and after everything I've been through this year, it will be good to devote my summer to writing things that I want to write, not things that I get paid to write.
What about you? What are your plans for the summer?
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