.journal 2012.11.11

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.org.12: Friendship is Magic

Now listening to: George Winston, Autumn
Now reading: Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
Now playing: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (Android)

Even twelve years after I quit the bad situations I was involved with online, I still find myself thinking back to those circumstances. After all, that was what led to the creation of the .org, a place online where I could set all the rules and not have to concern myself so much with audience. (I’m having to concern myself with audience again now that I’m promoting The Prostitutes of Lake Wobegon and trying to get it sold, but for a time there I could just put stuff up here without any worries.) I was right to have extracted myself from what was making me so crazy back then, but I didn’t go about that extraction process in the best possible way due to lack of maturity on my part. I lost a lot of friends as a result of that, and although I eventually gained a handful of them back, I still feel bad that I didn’t go about things in a better manner than I did.

A lot has happened in the year that’s passed since my last anniversary .journal entry, which came in the aftermath of a tremendous betrayal. About two years ago I was starting to plan my move out of Toledo to be on my own, and when my primary plan failed on me, the woman who promised to help me with my backup plans just completely stabbed me in the back, leaving me with both my personal and professional lives in shambles. Things did improve, and I will get to that here shortly, but the important thing I want to get to now is that not only did I lose a number of friends for calling this person out, but I am still, to this day, losing friends over this whole episode. Unlike what happened over a decade, though, I doubt I will ever feel sorry for how I handled things. I always question my own beliefs and assumptions because I know I have a tendency to be gobsmackingly wrong about things, but after the way the past year and a half is gone, I can say with absolute certainty (or as close to it as I’ll ever get) that I was not in the wrong in this instance.

The full story of what happened there will have to wait for another time, probably not in the immediate future. For now let me just say that a few months after I wrote here about what happened to me, I found out that the same woman had done something millions of times worse to one of my friends. Again, I have to apologize for not going into details, but discretion is the better course for me at this moment. Although some people who’d been fooled by this woman came around after these most recent revelations came out, others have not, and there’s still so much drama surrounding everything that happened over the past couple of years that I don’t know if it will ever be fully resolved. I can’t say that I’ve gotten over what happened since I’m still writing about it — I don’t know if I will ever get over it completely — but enough good things have begun to happen in my life this past year that I am able to focus on the good most of the time.

My recovery was facilitated in large part by my friend Traeonna. Even though she’s quite possibly the most overbooked person I’ve ever met in my life, she made time this past winter and spring to talk with me and help me get back to some sense of personal normalcy. I’d uprooted so much of my life in preparation for leaving Toledo that I didn’t have much of anything left, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not still having trust issues, but at this time last year I was almost catatonic in terms of how my mind and my heart just locked up after what happened to me. Even though I knew I could count on Traeonna, it still took me a long time to get hold of her just because I was hurting so much. Once she started to help me through things, I wished I’d had the courage to contact her sooner. To this day she is still helping me recover from what I went through, for which I owe her a debt of gratitude I doubt I’ll ever be able to repay.

A few months ago my life really began to stabilize after I began teaching again following more than a year’s hiatus brought about because of my mistaken belief that I’d be moving out of Toledo in the spring or summer of last year. This time I’m teaching at a community college where my father taught CAD briefly in the early eighties, which is nice, although the events of the past couple of years have really made me wonder about teaching. I love to teach, but six years ago when I finished graduate school I was in a much different frame of mind than I’m in now. After grad school I wanted to make a career out of teaching, and for years I pursued that goal, but then, kind of like when I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for the first time twelve years ago and I realized I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, I began to realize a few years ago that I’d been neglecting my art yet again. I’d gotten burnt out on writing when I made it my undergraduate major, and once again I found myself dealing with some maturity issues in terms of my writing education, but in 2010 I began to really write again, writing a number of short stories, the first draft of a non-fiction book, and most importantly the rough draft of The Prostitutes of Lake Wobegon.

Part of me wondered if I should even go back into teaching because I don’t have the same mindset when it comes to my career that I once had. When I got my first teaching position after finishing grad school, my goal at that point was to work my way up to a tenure-track position and make that my life’s work. Now, though, teaching seems like it’s just an interesting path to take as I work my way towards another goal. I still love my work, and I try to give my all for my students, and there’s no question that the additional revenue I’m getting from teaching — I’m basically one course shy of what would be a full-time teaching load right now — has really helped me out, but there’s still a very big part of me that hopes that come next term I’ll have a healthy advance to live on while I finish the revisions to The Prostitutes of Lake Wobegon in preparation for its release by a major publisher. I may be done with teaching after this term, but then again I may still be teaching ten or twenty years from now; I harbour no illusions about the difficulties of making a career out of writing fiction. Still, I derive a great deal of pleasure and fulfillment out of educating others, and it’s good to be back in the classroom again.

The biggest thing that happened this past year, of course, was to have The Prostitutes of Lake Wobegon shortlisted for this year’s Dundee International Book Prize. Being shortlisted for the Dundee would be a major accomplishment any year, but with the competition so difficult this year with the additional publicity that came with Stephen Fry being one of this year’s judges, it was almost unbelievable. When I first got the e-mail telling me I’d been shortlisted, it took a good three to five minutes for me to believe what I was reading. At a time when my spirits were still pretty low, this was a dearly-needed affirmation of not just my writing, but of myself as well. Next to getting a new teaching job, the Dundee may have been the most stabilizing influence on my life, to say nothing of the tremendous lift it gave me at a time when I needed one the most.

Getting shortlisted for the Dundee didn’t exactly punch my ticket to success, nor did I think it would. In fact, my efforts to sell The Prostitutes of Lake Wobegon had to stop for a while since the Dundee is for unpublished authors, so getting a publishing deal while the contest was still going on would have pulled that accolade right out from under me. In one of the great ironies of my life, a work of bondage erotica, the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, took the world by storm during that interregnum, and now my novel, which may have been considered too risqué for publication by some, may now be seen as too tame. My teaching schedule this term hasn’t exactly left me with much time to promote the novel, and with so many agencies headquartered in the New York metropolitan area I’m guessing that most of them are still too busy recovering from Sandy to pay me too much mind if I tried to get hold of them, but I am still working on the process, fine-tuning my pitch and doing what I can to generate buzz about the novel so that, when it finally gets published, it will be as successful as I can possibly make it.

I get three days off of teaching these next two weeks thanks to Armistice Day this week and Thanksgiving next week, and I am taking some time here to contemplate and relax and recharge my batteries from getting used to a heavier teaching schedule than I’ve ever had before. As soon as I get done posting this entry, though, I’m getting right back to work on The Prostitutes of Lake Wobegon. I have to take advantage of this time while I have it to work on stuff, as I know all too well from previous experience how difficult the end-of-term crunch can be when I get all those final papers in. Looking back at the past year, though, I find myself encouraged to keep pushing forward here. As bleak as things looked at this time last year, a lot went right for me in the months that followed. I’m not out of the woods yet, and I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but I feel more capable of doing that work now than I ever have before. For all the bad things that plagued me last year, I’m in the middle of a pretty solid recovery, and as long as I keep working at getting better, the chances that something really special will happen to me soon will keep going up. It’s been interesting to write this and take a look back at how far I’ve come this past year, but now I have to get back to work.

Everyone take care and be well. I will see you all soon.

— Sean

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