Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dzanc and the GRE and Other Stuff

I'm busy as ever, but when I think about wishing I had more down time, I figure if I did I'd be lonely and bored and get depressed thinking too much.  It's Friday, and it has become a weird day.  When I planned for today I looked at Monday's schedule.  There was no good reason for it, I just do that sometimes, accidentally.  I looked at the wrong day.  So instead of having a class 6th period with one teacher, I had class 2nd period with a teacher that I have uncomfortable classes with.  It was just a little off putting to suddenly realize that I had to get up that second and go to a class I didn't realize I had with a teacher who... well... the situation with that teacher is pretty serious, but I shouldn't talk about it here. 

I have to be more careful when I look at my schedule.  I was so lucky that my copies were ready.  I was only 4 short in class and those students shared.  I have realized this about myself since having this job:  I think about the day ahead of me and really set my self up, mentally.  I had mentally prepared myself for a certain schedule today, and now it's different.  It's fine, cause now I am done for the day, but it's got my head weird. 

As for the thinking ahead and preparing for the next day, one other time it was late on a Wednesday night when I was reminded that the next day was a holiday and I didn't have to work.  I cried.  I was so upset that I had forgotten, and I had worked really hard all day getting ready for Thursday.  I cried because I had lost a whole day of happy anticipation.  I don't really enjoy surprises.  I enjoy anticipation a lot more.

I'm sure that having a child has changed the way I set up for my days, but I also think that moving to this country made me more focused on my plans as a support of some kind; my life is so different now, in Japanese culture, and so many diurnal activities became challenges.  Now, just paying for something electronically requires knowledge of some kanji.  Last night at the grocery store I needed flour, but I basically gave up before I began cause I couldn't read the packages and I just didn't have the time or motivation to go through the rigmarole of finding someone, then trying to get them to understand what I was looking for.   

I've been studying for the GRE.  I think I'll do ok.  Like everything else in life here, it's more work taking the GRE from Japan.  I can't just go down the street and do it any day.  I have to figure everything out in a tangle of English and Japanese, and travel over two hours to the closest city that administers the test.  Its time and money.  And I'm not even really sure... I might have to spend around 3 or 4 hundred dollars and at least one day of work to go to a farther city.  Hopefully the closer city has it, but I'll probably still have to take a day off of work.   

I got my critique back from a writers website that I paid to read my work.  The company is called Dzanc Books, and it was a terrible experience.  I was very disappointed with the whole thing.  I paid for a DZANC session on August 18th, 2011.  I never heard from them, and finally wrote them an e-mail in November.  They apologized for the oversight, gave me a refund, and offered to still provide the service.  I made my submission, paying a little extra so that I could submit more pages.  The refund was great, except that on the website they claim that a critique will be returned to you within two weeks, and I didn't get my critique back for almost 6 times that estimate-- it took DZANC eleven weeks to fulfill their end of the bargain, and that was after more than 10 e-mails requesting updates and me practically begging for my work and critique back.  I submitted my work on December 6th and got my Critique back on February 15th.  Not even the holidays can excuse such negligent business practices.  And on top of all this, they did not give me a critique from the author I chose from their list.  Who knows who this guy is that I got a critique from.  After all of this frustration, I haven't bothered to investigate him.

And after all of this effort and time waiting, I was pretty disappointed with the result.  One e-mail of about 40 lines from an author telling me what he thought of my pages.  I paid for a service described like this: 

"The Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions is an online program designed to allow writers to work one-on-one with published authors and editors to shape their short story, novel, poem, or essay."

I certainly didn't "work with" an author.  He read my stuff and wrote me an e-mail about it.  Great. 

I think I got a little bit of constructive criticism that I'll be able to use to improve my work so I can submit it as part of my application to grad school.  It's the most important part of my application, so I'm nervous about it.  I don't know if it'll be good enough.  I'm going to try to improve it from the advice I just got from that terrible company, then submit it to another critique company I know of that should be much better.  I'm also concerned because my story is fantasy, and schools seem to get nervous about these specific genres for which they have no designated staff.  I think writing is writing, and whatever I learn can be applied to whatever I write.  Maybe in one novel the guy is wearing a suit and his friend is a lawyer, and in another the girl is wearing a cape and her friend is a fairy.  What's the difference, really?  Relationships are relationships and locations are locations, no matter who they are with or what world they are in.

I'm scared I won't get into grad school. 

I'm scared of going back to the United states. 

Next year, in January 2013, I would have to decide if I'm staying in Japan again before I would find out if I got accepted to grad school.  If I declined a 4th year and went home, and then found out that I did not get accepted to school, I would just die.  No health insurance, no financial plan, and a vast alteration in the progress I'd like to make in my life.  Plus, in the US, my stuff gets stolen and I don't have a juicy paycheck.  I guess I don't have to worry about next January just yet, but it's scary to think what little time there is between now and December, when I will want to submit my applications.  In that time I have to bone up on my GRE math skills, take the GRE, and improve my story drastically.  The rest is pretty easy- gathering transcripts and recommendation letters.  I also want to complete a Japanese proficiency test, to get better at Japanese, and so I can put it on applications in the future.  You'll probably think this is a little crazy, but I think about maybe going to Law school after grad school.  But, like always, I am probably getting a little ahead of myself.  I can't very well say that I'm afraid I won't get into grad school and in the next breath say that I want to go to law school when I'm done.

Oh, boy, friends... Thanks for putting up with my perspective today.  I'm focused on the what-if negatives instead of on my goals.  That's one benefit of writing, though; to illuminate things.  I didn't see how I was looking at it before I wrote this... now I can get better.  After lunch I am going to write down my goals, and write an action plan for the year.  I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm just going to start writing.  Good things happen when you just... begin.

From Japan,

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