The Longest School Year Ever

Why has this been the longest school year?

A full year with COVID. Teaching live and on Zoom simultaneously. Being constrained in teaching because I’m tethered to a camera. Students going on quarantine or isolation. Disinfecting all surfaces in the classroom. No Spring Break. Distance. Just so much distance. Constant stress — Am I the next victim? Is my husband? Will we survive COVID?

What are my summer plans?

Interns and writing. And probably some research setup. Hopefully a writing retreat or two. It’s going to be one of the more relaxing summers I’ve had because I won’t be taking a summer class toward my certificate in disaster mental health. I may not know what to do with all my free time. I have a short story collection to finish (not knowing how many more episodes to write) and I may play more with short story ideas. I have too many novels sitting in my lap to write another one for a while. (Gaia’s Hands, Apocalypse, Reclaiming the Balance, Whose Hearts are Mountains, Prodigies, The Kringle Conspiracy, and Kringle in the Night — I guess that’s 7.) Maybe try to get more published.

Photo by Maria Orlova on

What do you think I should do this summer?

I need some ideas — weird or no — of what I should be doing this summer. Please make suggestions in comments!

Days Pass Slowly

One day feels much like another lately; the heat keeps me from doing much outside and nothing’s going on inside. I’m waiting to hear from an agent, a publisher, and a journal, and that status doesn’t seem like it will ever change. I don’t feel very inspired or very optimistic, so I feel little drive to write or revise. 

Times like these, I try to cling onto the belief that I’m a writer. I dream of being published, at least in part because I fantasize about being able to say “Hey, I’m a published author!” The likely reaction from people will be an anticlimactic, “That’s nice.” But it’s a little kid fantasy, an “I’ll show you!” Not very impressive.

Maybe this lapse in writing is good for me, although it does feel like an eroding of my identity. (Why my identity as a professor is not enough puzzles me, but there it is.) 

So I wait for something to happen.

Summer’s End

My summer’s winding down. This might be the reason I feel so lazy right now, knowing that in less than a month I will be back to work. 

I work as an associate professor at Northwest Missouri State University. I don’t know how professors are regarded in Europe (where some of my more regular readers reside), but in the US they’re widely regarded as suspicious characters who subject their students to arcane knowledge such as how to think critically and use unbiased data to draw conclusions from. 

I have one last hurrah before I go back to work (which has the added bonus of keeping me out of beginning of semester meetings) — my annual gig at New York Hope moulaging. This also includes train travel with a sleeper car and hanging out to write in the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago’s Union Station (waiting for my connector train). 

But I have a couple weeks before then, working on classes before the semester starts and writing (I need motivation!) and resting before things get crazy.

My Brain is FULL!

I need to get back to regular journaling. It’s been tough lately, what with planting the garden (Asian vegetables! Weeding! Cherokee purple tomato and lots of basil!), editing Apocalypse to make my dev editor proud (and to be ready for another edit), taking my online class (with a 187-page reading for the first assignment), getting ready for professional conference travel, fielding emails from interns …

My brain has been quite full. And it’s summer! It’s not supposed to be this full!

It’s a good thing. I don’t like sitting still. I like making things happen. And I have time to do it. Do I have the energy? Not so sure, but …

I have edited Apocalypse down to 70k words. Not that I want it to have fewer words, but I did have to cut out things that meandered (and as this document had been written five-six years ago and squished together from two different novels and — you get it. I will try to add some back.

I go from feeling really good about the document to wallowing in despair. I wish I could get more words in it, but I (and my dev editor) would rather it be tight than verbose (and I excel at verbose, my friends.)

So today’s tasks: I’ve already written a response to Assignment #1 (#2 is due Thursday) and written this blog entry; other tasks include writing for a while (starting at 11) and a little planting (this evening). 


Summer productivity

My school year officially ended at noon yesterday, after I finalized my grades and finished my office hours. Now I’m officially in summer mode. 

That means I have some uninterrupted blocks for writing. This doesn’t mean I’ll only be writing this summer. I have a class I’m taking in administration of disaster mental health programs, I have at least twenty interns to supervise, I have research I should do, I have classes to put together for the summer, I have my gardening …

Professors don’t really have the summer off, we just have more freedom to schedule things as we need them.

So, writing. I’m celebrating the end of the semester with a writing retreat in a cabin at Mozingo Lake next week for two nights. I’m hoping the change of scenery will help me get ahead on the rewrite for Apocalypse.  

I’m talking this all out loud because the concept of planning out this summer productivity is new to me. Before my bipolar diagnosis, I pushed myself hard at the end of the semester, usually swinging between hypomanic and depressed, then collapsed on the finish line and slept for two weeks. Or longer. A lot of summers went by when I could barely function to do my summer work. 

Being able to enjoy productivity on my own terms is a very new concept for me. And I plan to enjoy it.

The Semester Winds Down

Tomorrow is the last regular day of the semester; then we will go into finals week here at the college. The semester is winding down; the rhythm of my life will change with summer session. I’ll still be busy with an online class and 25 interns and putting fall classes together, but I will have much more flexible time.

I’ll have more time for writing — well, maybe not, but I will be able to devote longer blocks to it, which is a good thing. The summer projects writing-wise are: 1) rewrite Apocalypse; 2) Send Whose Hearts are Mountains to dev edit (if #1 gets to a good place). No new books. Also keep pushing Prodigies and start pushing Voyageurs.

I don’t sound like someone who’s ready to quit, do I ? 


The high temperature today will be 100 degrees, with a 105 heat index. This means I’m likely not going anywhere today — no coffee shop stop, no morning walk, no visiting with people. I’m sentenced to involuntary indolence for the day

Here’s an (old) poem for your viewing pleasure:
Heat Wave in Rural Missouri
The sun burns sagging porches,
bleaching petunias and salvia.
The afternoon gasps its last.
From my window, nothing stirs –
I alone live, breathe.
I spy you strolling through a deluge of rain,
bearing me pansies and muguet,
your bowler and grey linen suit still crisp,
the last mirage before I fade –
Knowing I exaggerate, and my demise
is not imminent in this air-cooled room
does not detract from my reverie.

A Pattern to my Days

As a professor, summer has a different pattern than the rest of the school year. The belief is that professors are “off for the summer”, and that’s generally not true for the faculty I know. The focus of our work changes, and we teach more concentrated courses and hold our office hours in Starbucks. We do research projects and revamp classes and write, and we may supervise internships and field experiences.

I’m currently splitting my days into three parts. Early in the morning, instead of writing this blog, I work on the next week in my drastic revision of People, Money, and Psychology. Instead of running it as a cognitive psychology class about money, I’m creating a class about poverty and all the ways it’s not just about lack of money. I’m two-thirds the way through the lesson plans. The rest is easier once I have a shape to the class. 
After that, I write the blog. Not that I don’t love all twenty-something of you, but I have to give my freshest coffee-fueled brain cells to the classwork first. I haven’t felt too inspired lately on the blog front, and I apologize.
Finally, my day is split between getting some sort of walk in, editing Voyageurs, and planting plants in my soon-to-be amazing garden. 
So what are you up to today? 

Another detour

Note — this is finals week at Northwest Missouri State University, where I finish out the school year by giving final exams and hearing last-minute entreaties from students who forgot to turn in 50% of the assignments.  I feel for the students — there were classes I missed 40% of when I was a student, but I didn’t ignore due dates in a class and ask for mercy on the last day of class.

Poor Prodigies — it may be the novel that never gets written at this rate. After editing Gaia’s Hands into a novella — the best decision I’ve made thus far — I’m doing what needs to be done with Mythos and Apocalypse given the time frames and moods — splitting them up into a novella and one novel.  I think my instincts are right here.

I’ll get back to Prodigies. And Whose Hearts are Mountains.  Sometime this summer.  In-between intern visits, writing on one of two non-fiction books, working in the garden, and maybe some sleep somewhere. Oh, and exercise. I promised myself some exercise.