Tag: grad school

Spring 2018 goal review

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this spring.

1. Better time management.

I’ve been tracking my activities every day, so I can easily tell what I accomplish (lots of crocheting and Duolingo) and what I don’t (all my writing stuff). That said, I’ve been pretty good at keeping up with school work this semester and not leaving it all to the last minute. Well, mostly.

2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.

I’ve published 15 stories on Medium in 2018, which averages out to just slightly under weekly. My publishing frequency is more sporadic than I’d like, and the stuff I’m putting up is a mix of old and new, but overall I’m doing pretty good with this one.

3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.

I haven’t done this yet. I have about a week left of classes and then this (and my dissertation proposal) is my priority for the summer. I have a bunch of stuff started and outlined; I just need to sit down and write.

4. Grow my reader base, whether on social media, my newsletter, or Medium, by at least double. So, 600 followers on Facebook, 1500 followers on Twitter, 200 followers on Medium, and 3000 mailing list subscribers.

Facebook: 308 (pretty sure FB is cleaning house, because as soon as I get a new follow it drops back down)

Twitter: I’ve been hovering around 864-868 for the past six months. Ugh.

Medium: 203! Looks like I need a stretch goal here.

Mailing list: 2 new subscribers this year (I’m too lazy to look up the number).

I’m hoping to get some gains when I release something.

5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.

This post is #14 for 2018, which averages a bit under once a week. I intended to do the A to Z challenge, but life and school got in the way and I fizzled out.

6. Read 100 books.

I’m at 38 for the year, which is 5 ahead of schedule. I tend to read a TON on long flights – the flights to and from India in January pushed me ahead – and I’ll be flying to Thailand in a month, so I expect to stay ahead with this one for awhile.

Overall

I’m doing decently right now, by which I mean I’m only slightly behind instead of way behind like I usually am. I need to up my writing output by a ton, but with summer break right around the corner, I don’t really have an excuse not to start meeting my goals. Although I’m sure I’ll find one.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

The world is falling apart – be a pessoptimist

fistI was at a talk today about race in education, specifically focused on the role that white teachers play in regard to black boys, and the presenter ended by urging us to be “pessoptimistic.”

It’s like optimism, but you don’t just hope things get better – you’re out there doing something and demanding results.

According to the Urban Dictionary, it’s

A philosophy that encourages forward-thinking optimism with an educated acceptance of a basic level of pessimism. Optimism’s fault is it’s naivete, pessimism’s it’s blind jadedness. We live on Earth and are human. There is, was and will be good and bad. Shit happens, dreams come true.

As I write this, American headlines are detailing our 18th school shooting this year, with at least 16 dead. As an educator, as a parent, as a human being – this breaks my heart, especially because it’ll happen tomorrow, or next week, and we’ll see the same response: handwringing, thoughts and prayers, and nothing.

When I go to my job, I work with kids who have been beaten and raped and witnessed attempted murders and all kinds of horrible things that no one, not even adults but especially not kids, should endure.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when everywhere you look there’s negativity and it seems like people with power are going out of their way to be cruel to the least among us, only to protect and enrich themselves.

Today, however, was a reminder that we CAN do something.

We can become pessoptimists, and demand accountability from our leaders.

We can become pessoptimists, and step up as community leaders that will be accountable to our communities.

We can become pessoptimists, and talk to the people who are most affected and learn what they want us and need us to do.

I’m not saying bad things won’t still happen. They will. There will always be apathy and greed and a million other reasons why someone can walk into a school and kill 16 people, or beat their children, or systemically deny others basic human rights.

Change won’t happen overnight, but it also won’t happen at all if we don’t make an effort to do something, anything, to speak up and fix the problems around us.

Will you join me in being a pessoptimist? What will you do to make things better, not worse?

Resolutions: 2017 review and 2018 goals

gnome

Another form of self-care: crocheting random stuff, which I then list on Etsy because who needs a handful of tiny gnomes?

Every year I set goals for myself.

Let me preface this by saying 2017 sucked. I took on too much academically, especially in light of getting a part-time job that was more stressful than I’d anticipated (emergency shelter residential youth services direct care counselor), and having to revise my comprehensive exam twice set me back too. Throw in a health scare (I’m okay though!) and some personal issues that’ll make for a great book, tentatively called Every Day Is the Worst Day of My Life, and maybe I should be proud about how much I actually did manage to accomplish, rather than frustrated about how many goals I didn’t reach.

Either way, here’s how I did over the past year.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

I finished a handful of new stuff, but nowhere near something every month.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything.

I DID THIS!!!!!! I published THIRTEEN stories on Medium, nine of which were previously unpublished works.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

I outlined the book and started the draft, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I had to revise my comprehensive exam twice, which set me back and took away from this project, as has working on my dissertation.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc.

I did several events this year: a local lit fest, a book fair, and a solo reading. I sold an average of one book per event and didn’t give away enough swag to even say I got my name out there. My time is pretty damn valuable right now, so I’m going to hold off on local stuff for awhile because it’s just not worth it.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

Other than a couple weeks in India last January, I unfortunately only made it out of the country to Canada – and even then, it was only once (okay, maybe twice because we drove from Seattle to Banff to Glacier National Park back up to Alberta and over to Winnipeg, but it was all the same trip). I got a part-time job starting in the summer, so now I have the money to travel but not the time. I did manage to get several trips in though: Georgia and the Carolinas over spring break, a week solo in a secluded cabin in northern Michigan, that trip to the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies, plus some day trips and weekend trips around the Midwest. And on a happier note, I leave for India again in about a week (spending two weeks there with my kid), then it’s on to Iceland for spring break and a month in Thailand in June, which hopefully will also include some time in Singapore and Bali. And a summer trip to the southwest, that may include a jaunt down to Mexico.

6. Read 100 books.

I started out doing pretty well at staying on pace, but really fell off this fall due to a grueling schedule that left little time for reading. I read a bunch of stories on Medium, but those aren’t trackable or books. I ended up reading 56 books total in 2017.

Overall in 2017

As Armando Christian Pérez says, “Reach for the stars, and if you don’t grab them at least you’ll fall on top of the world.” Every year I set myself some Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs), knowing full well that I probably won’t reach them but at least they’ll move me closer to my overarching, long-term goals of becoming a more successful author, expanding my horizons, and achieving within my career field. This year, despite not really doing everything I’d planned, I’m still further along the path than I was a year ago. And next year’s BHAGs will get me further along as well.

2018 goals

  1. Better time management. I’m generally pretty busy with work and school and life, so when I get a moment to breathe I spend it on something like cat videos. While self-care is important, I have a long list of goals with many parts, and I need to focus if I’m going to accomplish everything on my lists. To that end, I’ve made a checklist of 13 things I want to get done every day, including writing tasks, school and career projects, and self-enrichment activities. I plan to track what I do every day, at least until it becomes an ingrained habit.
  2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.
  3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.
  4. Grow my reader base, whether on social media, my newsletter, or Medium, by at least double. So, 600 followers on Facebook, 1500 followers on Twitter, 200 followers on Medium, and 3000 mailing list subscribers.
  5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.
  6. Read 100 books.

Can I do it? Probably not. But I can at least try!

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How do you plan to accomplish them?

Fall 2017 goal review

Mr. McNutterpants, from my short story “A Lesser Man” on Medium

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this fall.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

I have several chapters done on a novel, and I’ve finished a couple shorts. I’m hoping NaNoWriMo will spur me into action next month.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.

I’ve started posting stuff on Medium. Three things are up so far – two are stories that have been published elsewhere, and one’s a new story, “A Lesser Man,” that’s pretty damn hilarious. You should read it.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

My academic timeline is about a semester behind where I want to be. But, most importantly, I passed my comprehensive exam and am now officially a PhD candidate! All I have left is my dissertation (and several classes for a master’s I just tacked on), which is my focus right now. My timeline right now is to have my proposal mostly done by Christmas break, so I can still theoretically crank out this nonfiction book over break.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.

As I mentioned last time, events are turning into a major waste of time. I’m doing a solo reading tonight, and then I’m done with live events for awhile unless they have a proven track record for women’s fiction book sales.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

Sadly, this isn’t happening – this year. I’m headed to India for 2 weeks in January and Thailand with my kid for a month next summer – but for the rest of this year, it looks like I’ll be staying more domestic, with upcoming trips to Boston in November and hopefully Duluth in December (weather-dependent).

Sadly, now that I’m working again I have money to travel but no time for it.

6. Read 100 books.

I’m at 52 right now – 25 behind schedule. I don’t think I’ll be able to make this goal this year, but I should be able to get closer once a couple approaching academic deadlines pass and I have time to read again.

Overall

I think I’m in denial about achieving my goals. I’m going to keep trying, but it seems there’s a lot popping up that’s taking up my time (unexpected overtime at work due to kiddos in crisis, opportunities for academic projects that I don’t want to pass up, etc). Things are settling down, I hope, so I should be able to focus on writing more.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Summer 2017 goal review

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this summer.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

I’ve finished several chapters of a novel, plus a short story. So, about halfway there.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.

I’m two behind now on this.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

My academic timeline was pushed back a couple months, but I’m still planning on writing this book this fall.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.

This will never be a goal again because live events, at least the ones around here, are a waste of time. The only people who came to the last event were friends and family of the writers. And as much as I appreciate my grandma stopping by to say hi, she can buy books from me any time. That said, I’m doing a presentation in a couple weeks at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (okay, so not THE Iowa Writer’s Workshop, just a writing workshop at the University of Iowa, but whatever) that may be interesting. Then a couple local-ish events in August, a reading in October, and nothing else unless it’s free to participate and I don’t have anything else going on.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

A research assistantship position ended this spring, so I recently got a part-time job as a youth residential counselor. While I’m enjoying it so far, it doesn’t leave much time for travel. I went to Michigan a couple times in June, and I’m heading to the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Rockies in a couple weeks. No international travel other than Canada, though.

However, I did book tickets just this week to go back to India in January! I’m taking my kid with me, and we’re hitting the Taj Mahal before heading south to work on a project. I’m super excited about this trip.

6. Read 100 books.

I’m at 43 right now – 7 behind schedule. I caught up a bit earlier this summer, but I’m falling behind again. Still, I think I can still catch up and make this goal this year.

Overall

I’m still in the game. This past semester kicked my butt, and while I’m pretty much recovered, my new job is consuming a lot of my time – plus (fingers crossed!) I’ll be starting my dissertation in the next couple weeks. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing, but on the plus side, my new job has given me a lot of story ideas that I really need to write to help me process working with this particular population. Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll come pretty close to meeting my goals this year.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Types of trauma – which does your character have?

facesI’m currently in that fun part of the doctoral student process where I’m writing my comprehensive exam – a big 75-page paper that demonstrates I’m an expert in my field and deserve to stay in the program. My focus is on trauma-informed care and education.

Trauma-informed care basically boils down to 2 things: realizing people have experienced crappy things in life, and then giving them the benefit of the doubt. It is NOT about making excuses for behavior, but rather finding an alternative way to get the same results you expect for everyone else.

There are quite a few types of trauma. Each one has a different cause, although they can all have similar results.

BIG CAVEAT: Not everyone who experiences trauma will react to it the same way. Some people are affected and some aren’t. It basically comes down to resiliency (although my argument is that if so many students have experienced – or are experiencing – trauma, why don’t we just change how the education system reacts to it, rather than telling kids to suck it up or get over it – which is kinda what teaching resiliency comes down to).

Anyway….

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration focuses on “three E’s” of trauma: event, experience of the event, and effect. Specifically, “Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”

Within that definition, there’s a lot of room for variability.

  • Acute trauma – one single event. A house burning down, getting mugged or raped, witnessing your parents’ murder in an alley when you’re supposed to be enjoying the theater.
  • Chromic trauma – exposure to multiple events. Interesting fact: chronic poverty has the same neurological effect on kids as combat does on military personnel.
  • Complex trauma – exposure to multiple events over time, but of an interpersonal nature. Domestic violence and child abuse falls into this category.
  • Identity trauma – trauma that effects an entire group, because of how they identify (also known as historical or collective trauma). The Holocaust falls into this group, as does genocide against the Native Americans. It often manifests in cultural stories, practices, and beliefs.
  • Continuous or ongoing traumatic stress – chronic or complex or identity trauma, but it’s still happening and there’s no way to escape it. For example, people trapped in a war zone with no way to escape it.
  • Secondary trauma – the response to witnessing or hearing about someone else’s trauma. A huge issue for caregivers and teachers, especially if they’re not prepared for it.

Writers love to throw trauma at their characters, and readers seem to love it too. What types of trauma do your characters face? What types do you prefer to read about?

Spring 2017 goal review

sand castle

Much needed self-care at Coronado Beach, CA

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this spring.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

If you count chapters, I’ve almost done this! I finished the first two chapters of a novel I’ll really excited about, tentatively titled Waylaid on the Road to Nowhere.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.

I’m not there yet, but I have several longer short stories that are in the pipeline, and I hope to have at least one done by May for an event I’m doing.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

I have to take a dissertation class next fall but since my dissertation proposal will (fingers crossed!) be done by then, I plan to work on a draft of a research how-to book for the course instead. Don’t expect updates on this for awhile.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.

I’m on fire here! Kind of. I’m signed up for the Rock Town Lit Fest in early May, the I.O.W.A. book fair in August, and a Read Local event in October. I’ll try to add more events as I hear about them.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

Due to some stupid international relations stuff, I’m not sure how feasible this’ll be. I’m in the planning stages for a trip back to India around Christmas. I was in San Diego a couple weeks ago and wanted to hop the border to Tijuana, but we didn’t have enough time – although if Canada doesn’t count (I’m planning a trip to Banff over the summer), then maybe Mexico doesn’t count either?

At the very least, I’ve been able to travel a lot recently. Three weeks in India at the beginning of the year, a road trip to Savannah and Raleigh-Durham over spring break, and a week-long conference in San Diego. That comes out to a trip a month, so I’m doing pretty good.

6. Read 100 books.

So far, I’ve read 21 books this year, which leaves me only 4 behind schedule. I had a lot of time to read in India (I’m not looking forward to the ereader ban on flights through Abu Dhabi or Doha, the two airports I’ve flown through in the past – what else do you do on a 28-hour trip??), plus I’ve been sneaking in books as a break from my overwhelming schedule this semester.

Overall

I’m actually in a good place regarding my year’s goals. Part of it, I think, is because I’m so busy, not in spite of it. When I don’t have projects and deadlines, I tend to procrastinate, but when I have to be careful about my time management, I get more done.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Why I get political on social media

protest picOne of the strongest suggestions for authors is to avoid politics on social media so you don’t offend your readers. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll notice that I do not follow this advice. Here’s why, in no particular order (as well as why I won’t stop):

  1. Professional obligations. I’m currently in a social work PhD program. Although I’m not currently a licensed social worker (hopefully I’ll have time to take the test and get my LMSW this summer), I still follow the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics, which calls on us to advocate on the behalf of our clients. When crappy things happen that adversely affect my clients, I’ll speak out about it.
  2. Personal impact. This goes along with #1. A lot of politics affects me personally – like when the Iowa House did away with collective bargaining for state employees (including graduate students), which means that there’s a good chance I’ll lose my tuition scholarship and healthcare for next year. Politicians listen to their constituents, at least at a local/state level. Speak out for me and I’ll speak out for you.
  3. Client, friends, and family impact. Here’s another anecdote – a Sudanese woman in my grad program went back to Sudan to visit her dying mom over Christmas break. She made it back to the States two days before the travel ban went into effect. Had she not been allowed into the country where she’d lived for the past ten years, she would’ve been separated from her husband and three kids. I share issues that effect the people in my life, because chances are they’re affecting the people in your life too.
  4. Setting an example. My son loves politics and history. By speaking out, I’m showing him that it’s possible to change the course of history through your actions.
  5. Lack of awareness. Lots of people aren’t aware of what policies are being enacted and repealed, as well as how those policies are being followed. By letting people know what the issues are, hopefully they can help find a solution.
  6. My book content. I write about a lot of social issues. The Futility of Loving a Soldier is about veterans’ issues. Yours to Keep or Throw Aside deals with domestic violence. “A Place to Die” focuses on end-of-life care. “Us, Together” touches on the impact of poverty on children. If you’re offended by my posts, chances are you wouldn’t like my books either.

These are just a few brief reasons I’m political. And until the bad hombres in charge get their acts together and stop taking away needed programs and infringing upon our rights, I’m going to keep posting. And writing about it too.

* * * * * * *

What are your thoughts on authors getting political?

Using stuck points to build your characters

guy in bottleI write a lot of character-driven stories, and so I’m always on the lookout for ways to focus on characters’ motivation and thought processes. I’ve recently come across a term, stuck points, that really fits with my works.

My research focus in my PhD program is trauma’s role in education. As such, I’m taking a lot of classes and workshops focusing on a trauma-informed perspective – realizing that there’s a good chance anyone you meet and work with has experienced some kind of trauma that affects their perceptions and behaviors, and therefore changing your own perceptions and behaviors to meet them where they are.

One of the methods used to treat trauma is cognitive processing therapy (CPT), which focuses on reframing people’s perceptions of what they experienced. And a major component of this is stuck points.

Stuck point = a thought that keeps someone from recovering from a bad/traumatic experience.

Often times, stuck points develop because someone’s old way of thinking doesn’t fit with what happened to them. It builds on the just world theory that bad things only happen to bad people – so if something bad happens to you, you must be a bad person.

Stuck points are often a black and white exaggeration, using terms like “everyone” or “no one,” “always” or “never.”

Stuck points can focus on the past – “If I’d done X, then Y would’ve happened instead of Z” – or they can focus on the present – “No one will ever love me” or “I’ll never be able to trust again.”

My novel Yours to Keep or Throw Away is driven by MC Andrew Adam’s stuck points:

  • “My parents split up because I was a bad kid.” – focusing on his crappy childhood
  • “If I’d been a better partner, my relationships wouldn’t have ended badly.” – focusing on past relationships
  • “If I’d trained my soldiers better, they wouldn’t have been killed.” – focusing on his military experience
  • “I don’t deserve to have a happily ever after.” – the summation of all his other stuck points.

Sometimes there’s truth in stuck points. For example, if Andrew had been a better partner, maybe his relationships wouldn’t have ended – but maybe they still would have. What happened wasn’t entirely his fault, and he shouldn’t keep beating himself up over it.

As characters grow over the course of the story, they can move past these stuck points to become a healthy character (or go from a healthy character to having stuck points). Either way, it makes for a great, character-driven story.

What stuck points do your characters have? Are they able to resolve them?

Fall 2016 goal review

After All cover

Hey look, a shiny new project!

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how I’m not making progress on them. Here’s the update for this fall.

1. Write at least 30 minutes a day.

I’ve been averaging about 30 minutes per week, not per day – unless you count writing for school stuff, in which case I’m hitting my goal. But we’re not counting that, so I’m not doing so well at this goal.

2. Finish something every month.

I would probably do a lot better at finishing something if I’d stop starting new things. I have at least 50 stories started at this point – if I could just sit down and write, I could probably finish some of them.

3. Publish at least 4 of those finished things.

So far, all I’ve published this year is “A Place to Die” in January (which you can get for $.99 at Amazon or free if you join my mailing list). I have several things mostly done, just gotta sit down and write and I could probably still meet this goal for this year.

4. Continue the focus on increased marketing.

I’ve fallen behind on this lately, but my publisher will be running Amazon ads soon so that should give me a boost. And as soon as I have something new published, I’ll be promoting that like crazy.

5. Read 100 books.

I’m currently at 58, which Goodreads informs me is 18 behind. I’m holding pretty steady on this one.

6. Continue the focus on being healthy.

I discovered the cambus (campus bus) at school, so I’ve been taking that instead of riding my bike. But I also discovered a really nice local farmers’ market and have been buying a lot of fruits and veggies, so there’s that. Which will win out? Stay tuned!

Overall

Basically, it comes down to one thing – making myself sit down and write. Fortunately I’ve taken on a bunch of new projects this year, plus gotten permission to take my comprehensive exams a semester yearly so I can start on my dissertation in the spring and graduate a year early. The way my mind works is that the more I have to do, the more I want to work on other stuff (ie, writing). So I should be writing a lot coming up, instead of doing what I need to for school.

(This TED talk is a great look at my life.)

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

The Musings of E.D. Martin © 2011-2018 Privacy Policy Frontier Theme