A Crossroads, Part Two

*You ought to read “A Crossroads, Part One” first.

Besides the matter of media being so confusing, the other aspect of this crossroads deals with where I might go from here. This is the part of my nonconformity that doesn’t serve me so well.

The older I get, the more I recognize the spirit of the Southern working-class in me. I find myself getting more and more unorthodox and more stubborn all the time. Giving up just isn’t in my nature, and even when a task seems impossible the only thing to do is get to work and make it work, even if the final solution is a hodge-podge never before seen. Just like those rural people who can grow and preserve their own food, fix their own machinery, build their own house, etc., I was always taught to be open and versatile: my dad taught us that every skill we could gain would come in handy sometime.

And I’ve been no different in this book and writing business. I started out in publishing by using my carpentry skills to understand how to print and bind books, and using my conservative views on finances to help save the company money. I had stubbornly gotten an English degree years before, even though I was told it was useless for getting a job, and when the editor’s job came open, I said I wanted out of the bookbindery; I took over being an editor and bookstore manager without knowing anything about how to do either one. But I took it on myself to learn.

Teaching has been the same way. When I started, I was hired five weeks late into the school year, with no teaching experience and no training. I didn’t begin my teaching certificate classes until the summer after my first year. I must have done something right, since I was named Teacher of the Year twice in 2006-2007, by both the county PTA and the county Board of Education, even before I had finished my certification and before I had received tenure. As of today, I have been teaching creative writing for seven years, and I have never taken a creative writing class in my life. Rather than hearing about the job and saying that I can’t do it, I taught myself how.

From 2005-2008, I completed at Master of Liberal Arts degree, with a master’s thesis that was contracted for book publication before I graduated. AUM’s interdisciplinary program combines English, History, Sociology, and other humanities grad students all together. In that program, I studied everything from Plato’s Dialogues to Jose Saramago’s Blindness. But one thing I graduated without was the 18 hours of English credits to qualify me to teach on the college level.

But adding all of this up doesn’t amount to much. I’m a creative writing teacher without an MFA in creative writing, so no upper-level programs will ever consider hiring me. I don’t intend to ever get an MFA so that route is pretty much shut off. I’m also an award-winning teacher in a state where education is underfunded, de-emphasized or undervalued. I have two degrees (BA and MLA) that would lead me down the path of an academic, but I don’t want to get a PhD and be a lit professor. I want to write and talk about writing. At this point, I have written and contracted or published one creative nonfiction book, one academic book, one edited collection, and two curriculum guides. The projects I have created and led have almost all centered on giving voice to neglected people whose stories have not yet been shared. In terms of career, I’m a man without a country, somewhat qualified for any route, but not totally qualified for anything. So where does that leave me? I don’t know the answer to this question either.

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