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Posts Tagged ‘grace period’

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.

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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.

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Not So Graceful Period: My Alt-Ac Story

Railroad tracks in different directions.

Often, I get asked to talk about how I have the career I have now as editor of Women in Higher Education. Folks often want an easy story of point A (Religious studies PhD) to point B (editor and writer). They expect it to be linear and simple to follow. One thing lead to another and suddenly I have a new career that pays a fairly decent wage. I just shifted from one career to another. Easy peasy, right? Um, no.

I tend to subvert those easy stories that folks like to tell about their transitions outside of the academy. Rather than telling a story that wipes out my failures and focuses on my successes, I talk about how I struggled. Struggle is the one word that I would use to describe my career transition. I struggled for years to figure out what kind of career I wanted to have, how to get to that career, and then find my way to a semi-permanent gig.

My career is a hodge podge of gigs that I have pulled together after years of effort and the luck of the draw. The gigs change each year. Some gigs disappear. Others I let go. Then, I find something to replace them. Sometimes, I don’t.

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Sexism Ed Redux

*The academy has a gender problem. And it’s not new.*

So, Sexism Ed has been out for 28 days. (Who’s counting? I am clearly.) And there are few things that I want to direct your attention to.

First, The Revealer published an excerpt recently, which is one of my favorite essays on all the men who pretend to be allies, but really aren’t. Here’s a glimpse:

A man, who claims to be an ally and/or a feminist, has become a red flag for me. Especially if he loudly proclaims to be an ally. Especially if he looks around to see if everyone is paying attention to him. Especially if he insists on telling me about his feminism in detail while ignoring my arched eyebrow.

Second, David Perry was kind enough to interview me about the book and sexism in higher education more broadly at The Pacific Standard.  We talked about the push back I received for even bringing up sexism in academic circles:

I received emails, comments, tweets, and messages from academic men, who wanted me to know that sexism wasn’t a problem in academia. They told me about how their universities (or colleges) had women presidents. Or how their departments had a lot of women. Or how there were women in their grad programs. Or how they knew a women academic once. They sent me anecdote after anecdote about how women were doing fine in the academy to tell me that I was wrong. It was bewildering to see so many men try to shout me down for mere mention of a gender problem, which really just seemed to prove my point.

Previously, David also hosted my cover reveal, in which I wrote a whole essay (of course!) about how I came to write the columns for Chronicle Vitae that eventually became the foundation for the book:

What I found instead was that I would write about sexism, and later contingent labor, in the academy for the rest of my life. The limits that I thought I would encounter were not there. The academy has a gender problem. And it’s not new. This shouldn’t have surprised me. We live in a patriarchy, but I had hoped that academia was somehow better than the culture surrounding it.

Third, I am guest hosting this week at Nonfiction Fans: Illuminating Fabulous Nonfiction over on Facebook. I’ll be giving away a copy of Sexism Ed and a copy of Grace Period later in the week. So, make sure to pop by and ask me questions. Here’s part of my interview that started off the week:

You’ve written books on very different subjects. How did that happen?

Oh, boy, I do *write* on very different topics from white supremacists to zombies to sexism, which tends to surprise people, who, I guess, think writers stick to one topic or two. I write about what interests and fascinates me but also I write about topics that make me nervous and uncomfortable. It’s kind of like, “What’s keeping me from sleeping at night? Yes, I’ll write about that.” But, I also like to write about topics, in which we already assume we know the shape (narrative) of the story, so that I can show how the topic is always more complicated than the popular assumptions about it.

Check out the full interview here.

And finally, I wrote about my very complicated feelings about this particular book in my most recent TinyLetter:

An author is supposed to be elated when her book is published. She’s supposed to shout from the rooftops (or tweet or email or message) about her accomplishment. She’s supposed to be beaming with pride. She’s not supposed to look weary when you congratulate her about her new book. She’s not supposed to seem bummed.

(If you haven’t signed up for my sporadic newsletter, you can here.)

Lovely readers, I have a small request for you. If you pick up Sexism Ed (or any of my books), please let me know. It is the best feeling in the world to know that someone is reading my book or books.

 

No Silver Lining

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Grace Period is now a paperback!

As most you likely know, Raven Books, an imprint of Blue Crow Publishing specializing in non-fiction, decided to publish Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces as a PAPERBACK. If the shouty caps weren’t enough to clue you in, I am so, so, so excited that my memoir is now a physical book that you can read or hug or use as a coaster for your coffee mug. I’m equally glad that all of you who don’t read on Kindles or iPads will get a chance to read it. I can attest that Blue Crow did a fabulous job with the cover and book design. I pretty much happy-cried my way through checking page proofs because everything was so beautiful.

So, I’ll hope y’all will do me a favor: If you get a copy, please tweet me a photo, so I can see the book out in the wild. I promise that I will be sharing photos of my two adorable children with their copies as soon as my author copies arrive. (Hurry, please, postperson!)

Additionally, Blue Crow is giving away TWO copies of the uncorrected proofs of Grace Period. The details of the contest are here. Please note that the the winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, October 4th.

And finally, I’m hosting an Amazon giveaway right now to celebrate my book’s paperback publication. I’m giving away 10 eBooks of Joan Didion’s After Henry: Essays because I adore Joan Didion and I love excellent essays.  The giveaway ends October 10 at midnight PDT, so check it out!