Academic Black

I was doing random searches online and ran across an academic jobs wiki list for creative writing that listed all sorts of jobs for creative writers with MFA’s trying to hustle around their resume’s and get tenure track teaching jobs. In case you have morbid curiosity the website is here. This is a different avenue from community college jobs, which normally are in Composition or English or Basic Skills. These are the coveted University type jobs in Creative Writing. The cut above.

Just a few more minutes, I told myself in the post-midnight glare of internet search reverie/addiction and I had to read on.  Then it got kind of strange. I started to feel a kind of fascination for all the candidates sort of akin to the way one feels fascination for cat ladies who live alone in their apartment and sip tea on their mildewed slip-covered sofas and wear strange, dusty hats.  I read on.

Here is my take on things.

The fiction writers didn’t identify themselves, or perhaps cloaked their identity by posing as other genres. People with both PhD’s and MFA’s seemed disappointed that nobody would hire them.   One guy sent out 15 applications to 15 schools and got rejected from all 15 schools. Other people got partial interviews but no takers yet. Some people were looking for jobs with 6 published books and an MFA.  The creative non-fiction writers seemed to be whining in places and the poets kept talking about “professionalism” and this place called MLA where they kept talking about their interviews. I assume this means that they are all going to the Modern Language Association conference and interviewing?  This is something you’d think they’d have explained to us in my MFA program, or maybe they did and I was so busy working 3 jobs that I didn’t pay attention.  Or maybe they didn’t think we were really good enough to get these kinds of jobs, or they were fatalistic and believed there were no jobs, so they saved us the heartache. Who knows.

Then I surfed into  a conversation about the proper attire for a job interview for a creative writing position. The consensus among the professional poets was that one should wear a suit and that it should be black, and a have a briefcase, which should also be black and made of leather, and that one should also have shoes that were not considered “grad-studenty.”  Academic black, somebody chimed in. Then a single objector claimed that he went to this proverbial MLA interview place and the people in the suits all seemed nervous and kept to themselves. Somebody also said that women should wear black pants suits unless that you are fat, in which case you could get away with a skirt and cardigan. Then some lady who claims to have served on several hiring committees proclaimed that it didn’t matter what kind of shoes people wore and that all this talk was shameful, but she added that nice black wool slacks would of course be acceptable.  I could understand this kind of speculation going on about so many things, banking jobs, maybe even other academic jobs but with poets?  And self-proclaimed “professional poets”? What the hell?

I can’t imagine myself in a suit, playing this gig. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I CAN imagine myself in a suit–and I have two of them hanging in my closet–but I can’t imagine myself in a suit trying to do this. Maybe I would change my mind down the road, but I feel damn lucky to have my job now at a community college and I feel very grateful to hear the writing of the students in my basic writing class write about their dreams, real joys and disappointments and  struggles that come from the depths of their souls, than the sniveling drivel of grad students with no jobs who consider themselves to be artists and try to hide the fact that they drive a jag from the world–who I could get if I were to land a creative writing gig. How much more draining. I suppose I would rather teach at community college where I belong in order to stave off entering this horrid little world of academic fiefdoms for as long as I can. The people on this wiki kind of scare me.

I will always be the latchkey kid who walked home from school with the boys and stopped at the burger joint to play street fighter II and eat french fries and go hang out and look at black light posters in my friend’s garage.  When I was 15, I wanted to be a writer, and now I am one. I have a body of work that I have been crafting and honing in quasi-secret. My close friend from high school, M, wanted to be a wrestler and a professional fighter, and now he is one and he has the cut body to prove it. But he’s on the semi-pro circuit, always on the verge of big time, still striving, still trying, still fighting his way up. Funny how we become what we say we will. All these years later. Funny how we don’t see how difficult it is until we’ve already invested so much.  But that’s us: still fighting, charging, climbing, earnest and deserving, but possibly in a glutted market of strivers. Will we make the big time? Hope so.


  1. Learn through Schooling Some online colleges and universities offer creative writing courses. Look for ones that offer creative writing courses that cover the plot and structure of short stories.

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