Saturday, September 1, 2012

Define Creative Non-Fiction Please

My dad always told us that we should keep our resumes circulating, even if we liked our current jobs.  He said we'd be sure to have a current resume if we always kept one in circulation, and besides, you just never know what might happen. 

I've seen enough people of various generations laid off to know that's good advice.  I've kept my job search materials up to date, and when I'm bored, I'll peruse the job ads.

I found this one yesterday for an assistant professor at Towson University in Maryland:

"Position: Creative Non-Fiction Writing specialist. Sub-fields may include lyric essay, free-lance writing, editing, prose style, memoir, and/or rhetoric. Candidates must possess a demonstrated commitment to teaching and evidence of an active creative agenda, generally shown by a book or several significant journal publications."

If this position sounds interesting to you, here's the full posting:

Here's an interesting question for me:  what constitutes a non-fiction writing specialist these days?  I'm assuming that it's a much broader field than it used to be, back when only a handful of journals that published creative non-fiction essays existed.  But would someone like me fit their idea?

I'm a paid blogger, after all; I've had 26 blog posts at Living Lutheran.  I've had 4 essays that were published in The Lutheran, a magazine with a circulation of 280,000.  Would those publications count as "evidence of an active creative agenda"?  I think so.  Would the job search committee?

I've also written prayers for Bread for the Day for two years in a row.  In my mind, prayers are a whole different category, but they go with the other devotional material I've written.

Once upon a time, I wouldn't have dared mention anything religious in a job search.  Lately, however, it's impossible to ignore that religious writing still has quite a market, unlike other kinds of writing.  I've written all sorts of stuff:  poetry, essays, fiction, all sorts of short pieces--but the religious writing has paid much more than the others.

All that other material might count in my favor, I'd think.  And of course, it's easy to show I possess a demonstrated commitment to teaching.

I have a friend who would read this ad, or any ad for an assistant professor position, and she'd assume they would rather have someone straight out of grad school.  I'd ask her how a recent grad student shows a commitment to teaching.  She'd say that most grad students do some teaching while in grad school.  She may be right.  I taught at my university and at the local community college while I was in grad school.  I'd have told you that I possessed a demonstrated commitment to teaching.  

But now, 20 years after completing my Ph.D., I'd say that I have an even deeper commitment.  I've taught a wide variety of classes:  writing classes of all sorts, literature classes from the beginning to the upper level classes for majors, creative writing classes of all kinds.  I've not only taught, but I've created curriculum.  I've created whole programs.

I look at these ads and think, maybe they'd like someone who knows what she's doing and who has had a lot of unique experiences.

It's interesting to daydream about the future with people, to see how we react.  The idea of going back to school thrills some, but not others.  I have friends who have multiple small businesses they'd love to try, while other friends want to make sure they keep their health insurance.  Some of us still hold out hope for a dream job yet others are hoping to limp along until retirement on whatever they can piece together.

I'm the one who dreams of returning to school as a student in a different program while also holding out hope for that dream job.  But which dream job?  I have more than one . . .

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