life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch


the call to write

courtesy of Jeff |

It was announced to the world yesterday that my friend John just won the Norman Mailer College Writing Award. For those of you that are thinking "that's cool," no. It's not cool. It's absolutely incredible. It's possibly the biggest writing award in the country for a college student, and it comes with $10,000, a summer fellowship to the Norman Mailer Writers' Colony in Massachusetts, and a presentation in New York with a number of the world's best writers, including Toni Morrison. And he gets a trophy, as I understand. So not only are he and his wife tremendously better off financially for a while, he's basically going to be able to write his ticket to any MFA program in the country. Beyond that, he could veritably have publishers lined up at his door for years. Basically, he's got it made.

I hope it doesn't look like I'm hitching a ride on his glory, or embarrassing him, as he is a frequent reader of this here blog, but I'm just really excited about this--possibly more so than is necessary. So in order to assuage that awkward over-excitedness, I'll just start talking about me instead. Once I found this out yesterday, my own writing career has taken a slight turn--hopefully, anyway. I've been woefully negligent about my own creative writings since graduation. I submitted a couple things for publication at the beginning of the summer, but I've done very little since. Yes, creative writing is a huge part of my job, but that's completely different.

When I found out about John's good fortune, though, it really hit me all at once how lazy I've been lately. In fact, I became so obsessed with such thoughts that I made an excuse and left work (at about 10:30) and came home and spent the entire rest of the day polishing up an old essay and doing massive research on a few possible target publications for it.

I was happy to discover that, while I'm naturally envious of my friend's life-changing opportunity, the wonderful news has served mostly as a swift kick to the pants of hope. If he can do it, so can I. That's not to say I'm as good of a writer as he is (though we do share a number of similarities and tastes), and I've certainly never written anything as profoundly beautiful as his winning essay "Final Cascade," but let's just say I'm optimistic. Local boy makes good. I guess this is why we need those stories, to remind us that it could happen.

And at the very least, maybe he can put a good word in for me with Norman Mailer. Oh, that's right--he's dead. Thanks for nothing.

(Most of all, congratulations.)


lessons from on high

courtesy of Jeff |

You might have guessed that part of the reason I haven't written for a while is the U.S. Open, and you wouldn't be wrong. During Wimbledon, I tried to combine my loves of writing and tennis, but when I penned a piece about the thinly veiled arrogance that characterizes Roger Federer, I got a bunch of hits worldwide, and a few good reviews, which bolstered me up until I realized that the best one by far was from a Nadal fan site. Sigh. So anyway, it's either tennis or writing from now on--not both. Right now, it's writing.

I'm on the job hunt again. True, I have a couple of jobs already, but I want more. I hope that you, dear reader, have a job of your own, because I'd feel bad going about jealously trying to amass jobs like acorns for the winter, if you didn't have any at all. The problem is that my principal employment is only 20 hours per week. My other one, the freelance writing and editing, gives me work here and there, but it's not consistent. Though I'll be spending a serious amount of time this season on grad school application preparation, I certainly feel that I have the capacity to provide my little family with a few more bucks per week. And if I have the capacity, I have the responsibility.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been working, in my role as a freelance writer, with a good gentleman from New Jersey, helping to build content for his website. The site is (don't look at it yet--it's not up), which is his job search consulting business. The man, with whom I'm working rather closely, is a professional job search consultant with a wealth of knowledge and over 20 years of impressive experience. He, the very Hire Angel himself, imparts this knowledge upon me, and I gather it up and make it sound pretty, for that is my calling. This past two weeks, I have literally spent hours upon hours of time staring at, and even writing, expert job search advice so perfect and simple, it's almost as if poured in from beyond the veil.

You know where this is going, don't you? I'm not using the advice myself--at least not well. Me, the very writer of said advice. I know what to do, and I don't do it. I think I'm somehow an exception, just like everybody else. Despite the angelic presence of an expert on my shoulder, I persist in making only cursory attempts at getting another job. Why do I do this? All the resources one could ever want, and instead I elect to fall back on the same shotgun approach that's never won me anything. I suspect this isn't such a rare tendency, but it is baffling.

Remarkably, I have two interviews next week, and they're both pretty decent jobs, at least as far as I can tell. How I landed these interviews, I'll never know. It's almost as if I've been granted mercy that I don't necessarily deserve. Man, I'm the best...

All I'm saying is, maybe we should use our resources.