Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's been quite a year

I started this blog thinking that I could be a blogger and that I would have something interesting to say on a regular basis. That has clearly not been the case. What I discovered about myself is that I need time to reflect on something before I share it. When I hit a creative dry spell in 2010, I gave my poor neglected blog a reboot by posting short stories of my life. I posted the stories that I easily remembered and thought that readers would find entertaining.

After several posts, I decided to capture those stories in a memoir. My fiction was not flowing so I wasn’t sacrificing yet I had no idea how much if anything there was to say. I wanted to only select memorable stories that had some impact on me, whether it was positive or negative.

I’m not sure how many of you know your parents. I mean really know them, not just as they are now but also as they were as children, young adults and early parents. My parents didn’t volunteer a lot of information beyond a few choice family stories, but I’m persistent and over the years I got what I consider about a 30% insight into who they were and perhaps 75% insight into who they are as adults. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to leave that gift for my girls. For better or worse, I wanted them to know not just who I was and who I’ve become, but perhaps why.

I ended up with 110,000 words. Twice as long as any fiction I’ve ever written. It wasn’t a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account, I assure you. I hit only the highlights and some of the stories were years apart. Years where I plugged along and little happened of note. When I was done, I thought that I should publish it. The draw back is that I’m not famous. I’ve also never used drugs or alcohol. Many of the memoirs that get published are either coming of age stories or rehabilitation stories. I’m not sure mine qualifies for either. I only submitted to one publisher, so it isn’t like I gave it a serious go, but the more I thought about it the stranger it felt.

One thing that it did do for me was to break the logjam in my mind. I was writing again and I turned my eyes back to fiction. I got my short story collection, Hunter’s Moon: Visceral Tales of Terror, published by Omnium Gatherum. Then something odd happened. I got laid off from ATK.

I knew it was possible after five consecutive years of cutbacks and in a moment of clarity in 2011, I even predicted it. Yet the reality was too unpleasant to focus on and I believed in the company and the importance of the job to the point that I kept my blinders on. Five years after leaving Xcel Energy for a new opportunity, I was out on the street with 5 weeks severance and no clue what to do next.

The next five months were unpleasant. For those that have been through it, you know. For those that haven’t, it isn’t something you can imagine and I hope you never find out. That same month the Masters program I taught at St Mary’s was redesigned and a new program manager was hired. I was not officially informed that my services were no longer required, but I was also not contacted to write up a new lesson plan.

For those of you that were fans of Necrotic Tissue, you know I had to shut the magazine down for financial reasons in 2011. In less than a year I lost my magazine, the part time job I used to help fund my magazine and my full time job that pays all my bills. Good times.

On the plus side, I did get to spend the summer with my family. Job hunting takes persistence and patients, but there was rarely more than two hours of work needed per day unless I had an interview. You’d think that I would have been able to write at least one full-length novel in those five months, but the reality is that I felt guilty doing anything besides job hunt and family time. No writing and no Xbox and not that much TV.

August 2012 started out rough. I’d been short listed for two jobs that hadn’t panned out and I’d had five interviews at Thomson Reuters. It was starting to feel like the last two short list situations, but I kept being called back for more. Then I got not one, but two very special birthday presents.

The first was a great job offer from Thomson Reuters, which I took, and the other was a blog post by AJ Brown. I’ve never met Mr. Brown, but I did publish him in Necrotic Tissue. His blog post can be found here. It was posted just two days before my 46th birthday and one week after I started my new job. Despite being incredibly relieved to have such a great new job, I was far from “whole”. Mr. Brown’s unexpected post did more for me than he will ever know and I thank him for taking the time.

Since then, it’s been a very busy year. I didn’t get to spend as much time with my family this summer, but we also didn’t lose the house. I began a project with a good friend of mine, Jimmy Pudge. We just completed the first draft of a novel, a first collaboration for us both. We plan to have it ready to submit to unsuspecting publishers in September. Regardless what happens it was a great experience. I may even dust off the memoir and get serious about submitting it to unfamiliar memoir markets.

After all, it hasn’t just been quite a year, it’s been quite a life and I hope there is plenty of track left on this roller coaster.