An Ode to the Halcyon Days, Or, Farewell, Summer!: an Epistolery Novel by a Full Time Faculty Member

Dear members of the committee:

The days of summer dwindle and the dark hours of the fall semester encroach. I would therefore like to take this time to submit to you a full report of the work I accomplished this summer with the goal of obtaining your approval for research leave beginning on the first day of the fall semester—which is next week—and extending through the end of finals’ week. I am sure you will agree, after hearing evidence of my extraordinary work this summer, that I could certainly use a break this fall.

First, I would like to reference the conference I attended for the glory of my academic institution. It happened to be in Australia.

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The location was incidental of course. I would have presented in the Hellmouth itself if necessary for the glory of the institution.

Second, I wrote very, very many words this summer. I was practically chained to my desk. In fact, do you remember the galley ship scene in Ben Hur? That would be a good image to have in your mind. It was just me, a chain, my laptop, and possibly a few lattes, just to keep my strength up. It requires a great deal of strength and possibly that almond mocha with shavings of bittersweet dark chocolate on top to write as much as I did this summer.

In addition to all of my writing and arduous travels, I endured trial by combat. I am sure you are wondering if such things still occur today. They do. A dragon came and I had to fight it. I fought with all the strength given me by my great love for my academic institution and, I am pleased to report, I triumphed over the dragon. Good bye, dragon.

ERRATA: On proofreading this letter I realize that I might have been misleading when I said that I “fought a dragon.” It appears after a quick Google search that “dragons” are not as real as the television programs I watched this summer would have me believe. Consequently, I beg the committee to permit me to submit a correction.

What I meant to convey was that the intensity of the work felt like fighting dragons so that it is nearly accurate to say that I fought them off.

I worked a lot, is what I am trying to say. And maybe there were some TV shows in the middle of the research, and possibly a few short (very short!) trips to locations where research was not as easy, like, say, a beach. It is very difficult to take archived manuscripts to beaches. Librarians can be shockingly inflexible on the matter! I doubt that the committee could possibly hold that against me. Nor is it unreasonable to assume that all of my labor could possibly be completed in the span of a few weeks (okay, fine) a few months.

It is therefore with some confidence that I request permission for another vacation research leave beginning next week. While this would mean that I would, sadly, miss the start of school and my obligations to work a full day without the six hour brief breaks to which I am now accustomed, I am willing to shoulder that burden for the sake of the institution.

Thank you for your consideration of my request. I will miss you all.

Sincerely,

L——– C——–

P.S.

It has recently come to my attention that I accidentally checked my bank account balance and so I am very much looking forward to returning to campus next week and to the paycheck fulfilling work of teaching that awaits me once I return. See you next week!

Yours, etc.

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How to Tell if You are a Literary or a “Genre” Writer

As a teacher of literature and a creative writer, I frequently get questions from students—who are usually also scholars of literature and/or creative writers—about the difference between “literature” and, well, the fun stuff.

The debate about the difference between literature and genre writing is very old and has already been answered by some of the best writers in history, writers like Jane Austen and Herman Melville who answered with a resounding: What? There’s a difference?

Basically, the problem is that the only real difference between literary and “genre” writing is that literary writing is often genre writing done superbly well. So the question that people are really asking is, Do I have what it takes to be a literary writer?

To help you answer that question, I have composed this helpful quiz.

The easiest way to tell if you are a literary writer, of course, is to determine whether or not you are currently living in your parents’ basement. If the answer is yes, there is at least a 98.4% chance that you are in fact a literary writer. But let’s break it down a bit more clearly.

THE THRILLER:
If you just love writing about evil people and things blowing up and high stakes, odds are good you’re a thriller writer. But are you a literary thriller writer? To answer that question, pick the Baddie who sounds best to you:

A. An ordinary man in a business suit who just so happens to be a serial killer. He is friendly and a good neighbor and no one suspects a thing about his hidden proclivity!
B. An enormous giant of a man who is as hairless as a boiled egg who enjoys nudity, theology, making gun powder, and murdering children.

If you answered B., congratulations! You’re the next Cormac McCarthy.

THE HORROR:
Answer the following questions to determine whether you are more suited to be the next R.L. Stine or the next Edgar Allan Poe:

A. You enjoy a nice glass of absinthe when the delirium is at an ebb. WHAT IS THAT SOUND? IS IT THE DEVIL? Oh, no, it’s just the sound of your own heart beat. You also enjoy the ladies a little bit…deader than usual. Such a pretty young corpse! WHO IS THAT? WHO JUST KNOCK—Oh, that’s just your landlord. Money. Bah, who needs it? And where is your absinthe? WHO DRANK ALL YOUR ABSINTHE?
B. You have an orderly writing schedule. Five hours a day of productivity, and three hours for revision. Your editor appreciates your ability to keep to a quick and efficient schedule.

If you answered B., so sorry: It looks like you’re destined to be a gabillionaire pop writer.

THE “LITERARY POTBOILER”:
If you enjoy writing about sexy, hairy-chested werewolves and/or sexy, chest-waxed firefighters, you may be a “potboiler author.” But are you a literary potboiler author? There is one test to determine whether or not you are an author of literary potboilers. Take the following quiz to determine which you are!

The test: Circle the sentence that sounds best to you.
A. Sheila, with her heaving breasts, threw her arms around the Cannibal King.
B. Sheila, with her undulating bosoms, threw her arms around the Cannibal King.

If you circled “A” you are a potboiler author. If you circled “B,” congratulations! You are still just a potboiler author. But you have literary pretensions! You do you!

The point is, literary writers tend to do all the things they say you really shouldn’t do: they write terribly overblown badguys, they write while high as a kite and they’re not afraid to bring the kink. The trick is that they just write what they want to write, and they do it awfully well.

And that’s the real problem right there. To determine whether you’re a literary writer or a genre writer, you’ve got to answer this question honestly: So you’re a writer, and you’re a good writer. But are you a damn good writer?

Why did I start blogging? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really want to know. To the best of my knowledge, my decision making process went something like this:

July 28, 2014
04:23 a.m.

Reading friends’ blogs while stuck in LAX. Blogs. That’s a fun word to say. Blogs. Did I sleep last night? Is this last night still or is it tomorrow? I don’t know how the international date line works. Bloggy. Blog.

July 29, 2014
08:43 a.m.

I should start a blog.

July 29, 2014
10:23 a.m.

People write blogs about amazing things! People go ice camping in Patagonia and take amazing photos and blog about it. Or they cook these cordon bleu-type creations and such. Blog live from conflict zones. I am getting so many ideas!

Aug. 1, 2014
12:34 a.m.

I have decided to blog about working as a chef in combat zones where I only create edible ice sculptures. It will be called: KILLER EATS!

Aug. 1, 2014
03:14 a.m.

It is now occurring to me that I do not cook, I don’t even own an ice cube tray, and I have never been in a combat zone. Also, that’s rather offensive.

Aug. 2, 2014
01:23 p.m.

I have searched for other blog ideas. I have discovered that blogs are the diaries of people who have decided that their lives are not worth proofreading.

Aug. 2, 2014
02:00 p.m.

Just ate a peanut butter sandwich. Hangry no longer.

Aug. 4, 2014
02:14 p.m.

My sister’s new blog is fascinating. And she can punctuate. Maybe I should blog like her!

Aug. 4, 2014
02:15 p.m.

Wait, what is this? An empty blog post? Why did I decide to do this? What am I going to say???