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Posts Tagged ‘academia’

Release Day!

This morning at 5:15 am, I looked at my phone with bleary eyes. I wanted to check my email before I left my house to catch a plane. And resting in my inbox was an email from my press letting me know that Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces was released. I blinked a few times to make sure that my overactive imagination wasn’t playing a trick on me. I looked at my phone again, and the email was real. What a lovely thing to happen on a regular Tuesday in June.

So, today is release day for my third book, and I’m having a hard time containing my excitement. No one at the Atlanta airport seems to appreciate my inability to stop smiling. Grace Period is a different book than my previous ones because it’s memoir, not monograph. But, it’s also not a traditional memoir. The story of my transition out of academia appears in fragments, or pieces, rather than a story with a clear beginning or end. I wanted to document how it felt for my life to veer off the path I expected and onto different paths that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine four years ago.

Here’s the description:

How do you build a life after failed dreams and missed opportunities? Kelly J. Baker finished her PhD in religion and imagined that she would end up in the tenure-track job for which she trained. She had done everything right: written a provocative and well-researched book, given presentations at national conferences, published articles, and created and taught a number of popular classes. Doing everything right, however, doesn’t guarantee anything if the career you trained for is no longer sustainable. The economic depression in 2008 gutted the job market for tenure-track jobs in the humanities, so she couldn’t find her dream job and worked instead as an adjunct and later a full-time lecturer.

But after five years of job rejections and a new baby on the way, she decided to take a year off to figure out if the career she trained for was actually the life she wanted. Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces are the essays that she wrote to make sense of how her life went off-track. Expanding on her popular Chronicle Vitae column of the same name, she documents her transition out of academia and the emotional turmoil of rebuilding a life beyond what she had prepared for. Instead of telling an easy story about her exit from the academy into a brand-new post-academic career, Baker resists smoothing over the hard reality of transitions, the importance of waiting and anticipation, and the realization that the lives we imagine for ourselves are tenuous at best and often are impossible to achieve.

I hope you all enjoy it. And please let me know what you think as you read it.

Cover Reveal for Grace Period!

For those of you who didn’t know, I wrote another book. It’s an essay collection, but also a memoir, about my transition out of academia and all the transitions that followed. Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces is coming soon from killing the buddha e-books. (It will be available from Amazon and Apple, and I’ll let you know as soon as it is released).

Today, I wanted to share with you the lovely cover that Gordon Haber created. The photo is one that Chris took of my favorite water tower in our hometown of Marianna, Florida. You might recognize the image as it is featured here at Cold Takes in black and white, and I’m so happy it was incorporated into the cover. So, check it out and let me know what you think!

On Quitting

It all started with a parenting newsletter in my inbox. This particular newsletter focused upon what to do when your kids want to quit an activity, sport, or extracurricular. Like much of the advice on quitting, the newsletter cheerfully suggested that you shouldn’t let your child quit, even when their misery appeared in slumped shoulders and frowns on face. Instead, parents, you should encourage your child to stick around, in spite of their misery. Quitting, it seemed from the newsletter, could only be read as failure. And the implication was that parents surely don’t want their kids to be quitters or failures.

As I read the newsletter’s parenting advice, I got angrier and angrier. I promptly deleted the email and almost unsubscribed (is that quitting?). I couldn’t quite pinpoint what made me so angry. Then, it occurred to me that the assumptions about quitting and failure bothered me. The newsletter assumed that quitting was somehow bad and sticking around was somehow good. Sticking around signaled success, but quitting could only be failure. This is a terrible way to imagine quitting, but it’s a remarkably common one.

People equate failure with quitting all the time, and I really hate when they do because quitting isn’t inherently a failure. Quitting is but one choice out of many. We make many, many choices about our lives each day, but quitting is one choice that is consistently presented as a type of failure.

Claiming that quitting is only failure misses the fact that quitting can be so much more. Quitting has many possibilities. (more…)

My Favorite Essays of 2016

Last year, I pulled together my favorite essays that I wrote in 2015. This year I thought I would do the same.

While some writers like to direct readers to their most popular essays of the year, I like to remind you of the essays that proved to be my favorites. Some of the essays listed are essays that I still can’t believe that I wrote. I read them and wonder how those sentences landed in that particular paragraph in that particular essay. They make me proud because they show how far I’ve come as a writer. Other essays are the ones that I’m proud to have written because they felt impossible to write. They required me to step outside of my comfort zone, required new skills, or were hard to write because of the vulnerability and emotion that they required.

What’s striking to me is how much things have changed for me in 2016, this dumpster fire of a year. I thought 2015 was bad, but 2016 proved to be both worst and better. Last year, I had applied to an MFA program. Hannah, our 15-year-old dog, died in March. She missed 16 by a little more than a month. She witnessed my life, so I witnessed the end of hers. Some day, I’ll write about what she meant to me, to us, but not yet, I can’t.

By mid-year, I received a rejection. Over the summer, I curated a series of essays on albums and our feelings, which was pretty damn amazing. By fall, I became editor of Women in Higher Education.  In November, Tr*mp became president, and suddenly, my work on white supremacists seemed relevant. After Thanksgiving, I even had an op-ed published in The New York Times, which led to white supremacist trolls calling me a race traitor (and much worse) on Twitter and in email. (more…)

Track 9: Give Em Enough Rope

Give Em Enough Rope

Robin James

 

I started running in college. I was a resolutely un-athletic nerd in high school. But when I stopped marching and joined band staff, I needed some physical activity in my life…,preferably physical activity that allowed me to have that same embodied connection to music that playing in the marching band did. So, running it was. But what music to run to? Well, I started out with early punk records. Duh, music by angry 19 year olds on tons of speed is gonna be great for running, I thought. And I was right: The Clash’s “White Riot” and the Dead Kennedys “MTV Get Off The Air” come in around 190bpm, which is fast. I copied my Clash, Sex Pistols, and Dead Kennedys CDs onto tape–this is pre shock-free Discman–and took them with me on my runs around Oxford, Ohio.

Of those albums (most of which I bought at the now-closed Oxford record shop, Looney T-Bird’s), my favorite was The Clash’s second album, Give Em Enough Rope. (I know, I know, it’s supposedly overproduced and not punk and whatever…don’t @ me with trite rockist banalities about this album.) I still run to the album, and it evokes specific places for me, places I lived and studied and, above all, ran. And it doesn’t just evoke images, but gestures and ways of being a body in a place. (more…)