Final Girl is Out!

Cover of Final Girl.

Today, Valentine’s Day of all days, is the day that my super secret project finally is no longer a secret. I can finally let the cat out of the bag, though I wasn’t great at keeping the cat in the bag anyway. (Oh, well.)

My super secret project was another book, and it was published today!

It’s from Snowraven Books, and it’s called Final Girl: And Other Essays on Grief, Trauma, and Mental Illness.

I am proud of this book, and I hope you’ll consider reading it. Here’s the book description:

When the people who are supposed to nurture you hurt you the most, how do you reckon with the story of your own survival? Final Girl shows that you can grow stronger from circumstances that could break anyone.

This striking essay collection is not about brokenness, but rather about the slow realization of what the author survived and how she grew stronger from a place of vulnerability. Kelly J. Baker writes, “Survival was the story that I kept writing toward; it was the story that I kept trying to tell. It was the story I had to tell, often without quite noticing. It was story about abuse, brokenness, and what it might mean to mend.” 

These stark, haunting essays reckon with what it means to be shattered by those you love and trust and what it takes to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. Baker tackles family trauma, parental abuse, grief and her own mental illness. By facing the things she would like to forget, she shows us how some trauma sticks with us no matter how we try to move past it. What does it take to learn to live with the trauma we experience? You survive it, and you mend yourself, and you surround yourself with love.

If you want to see what the collection is like, check out the excerpt, Failing Perfection, over at Disability Acts.

The 16 Stages of Writing Books

Open book in black and white.

I am currently working on an expansion and revision to one of my previous books. As with any of the other books I’ve written, the writing process has its ups and downs. (Currently, I am in the downs phase, which is frustrating and makes me want to bang my head into my desk. Repeatedly.)

Writing each book is always hard. It is never not hard. But, the hardness shows up in different ways depending on the book. You only figure out how to write the book you are currently writing, which means each new book requires figuring out how to write the darn thing. (Why, why, why?!)

However, I have come to realize that writing a book, at least for me, has a familiar pattern, and it requires a certain number of stages. At least 16.

So, here are the stages* of my writing process, the good, the bad, the in-between: (more…)

Succeeding Outside the Academy Shines a Light on Failure, Too: A Conversation between Kelly J. Baker and Katie Pryal

Close-up of railroad tracks.

Hi readers, this interview appears not only here at my site, but also over at Katie Rose Guest Pryal’s site. I hope y’all enjoy our discussion of careers, shifting out of academia, and the important role of failure.

***

From 2013 to 2015, Kelly J. Baker wrote a monthly column for Chronicle Vitae (an arm of The Chronicle of Higher Education) called “Grace Period,” detailing her experience leaving the academy for a career that she made for herself. In 2017, Grace Period became a well-regarded book.

Oftentimes, when we see academics who’ve left higher education and made new careers for themselves, we wonder how they’ve done it. Baker has done more than just talked about her new career: in Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces, she shared the good, the bad, and the ugly of the transition from the work she knew to the unknown. As readers, we learn about not only the new career, but also the pain and mistakes that it took to get there.

During the same time period as “Grace Period,” Katie Rose Guest Pryal wrote a monthly column for Chronicle Vitae called “The Freelance Academic”—now the basis of a book to be published in June of 2019. Although it is a different kind of book than Grace Period, The Freelance Academic does share one important characteristic: Pryal doesn’t shy away from her pain and mistakes, either.

Last year, Baker published a new book, Succeeding Outside The Academy: Career Paths beyond the Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM (co-edited with Joseph Fruscione, University of Kansas 2018). Pryal is also a contributor to the book, and Baker was her editor. What follows is a conversation between Pryal and Baker about Succeeding, and failure, and about what it means to leave behind academic life.

(more…)

Not So Graceful Period: My Alt-Ac Story

Railroad tracks in different directions.

Last year, I went to the American Academy of Religion (AAR) annual meeting, the first time I’ve attended in years (and the first time that I really didn’t care about what people thought of me).

I wasn’t on the academic job market. I have a job that I love, as editor of Women in Higher Education. My goal was to present on white supremacy and American religions, talk about how to become a public scholar, and yell at the AAR about #MeToo and the need for an anti-harassment policy.

What I wasn’t entirely prepared for—but should have been—was all the people that wanted to talk about my current career, how I accomplished it and my “successes.”

I have, what many people call, an alt-ac (alternative academic) job, a job adjacent to higher ed but not quite in it. And folks wanted to know how I transitioned into one of those jobs outside of the academy—what my mom calls “a job.” Advisors, departments, and institutions have finally (maybe?) decided to pay attention to how their students can get these jobs out in the world, especially considering the dire job market in the humanities.

When I go to conferences, like the AAR, I get asked about my career path, as if it was actually a clear path from my not-so-graceful exit to my current gig. The path was never clear or guaranteed, even it it appears, to some, now. (The future is never fixed; we just like to tell ourselves it is.)

These questions happen not only because I wrote so publicly about my transition for Chronicle Vitae but also because I have been deemed a “success” without really knowing it. (more…)

New Newsletter for the New Year

Hello, readers,

As 2018 comes to a close, a dumpster fire of a year, I am re-evaluating a lot of things, including my newsletter (and this blog) as well as reconsidering how how I’ve been reaching out and writing to all of y’all.

You might have noticed I sent less newsletters and wrote less blog posts this year. There were lots of reasons for this. I was finishing and then promoting a book (Sexism Ed!). I was working to get a handle on my mental health (anxiety and depression), which remains a work in progress. I helped launch and now edit a new magazine, Disability Acts. I was working on other books (zombies! zombies! zombies!) and book proposals (endings! apocalypses!). And this year, I needed to keep my attention and energy on my family.

All of this to say, 2018 was a lot.

(more…)