Jack of All Trades: A Case for Studying and Composing in Multiple Genres

I wrote an alumni guest post on reading and writing in multiple genres and mediums for my MFA program’s blog. Check it out!

Creative Writing MFA

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While there is certainly value in immersing yourself in the study of a particular style or genre of writing, as the old saying goes,

Jack of all trades, master of none,
though oftentimes better than master of one.

The second half of this couplet rings true especially for writers. As someone who has presented on a multi-genre pedagogical approach to writing at local and national writing conferences such as those held by the Florida College English Association and the Association for Writers & Writing Programs, I’d like to share how you may benefit from studying and composing in “all trades.”

You’ll best set yourself up for success if you’re able to devote a chunk of your time being exposed to literature in a variety of genres and mediums. While pursuing my MFA at UCF, I was especially lucky to be able to…

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Special Edition: So You Want to Write a Sex Scene? by Leslie Salas

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of considerations to craft the perfect sex scene for your writing. Enjoy this guest post featured on 5writers!

Five Writers

5Writers.com welcomes guest blogger Leslie Salas to the site!

Leslie Salas

Leslie Salas holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is a graduate of a Publishing Institute. By day, she helps students in higher education master the art of effective communication and storytelling at an entertainment, media, and arts university. On nights and weekends, she writes in multiple genres, including poetry, prose, screenwriting, and comics. Her work has appeared in The Southeast Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Burrow Press’ 15 Views, Volume II: Corridor, and more. She also serves as graphic nonfiction editor for Sweet: A Literary Confection, and frequently contributes to The Gloria Sirens. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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So You Want to Write a Sex Scene? 

Whether you’re writing a plot-driven or character-driven narrative (be it fiction or creative nonfiction), poetry, scripts, comics, video games, or any combination of the above, chances…

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Reading Resolutions: Our Shared Shelf, a Feminist Book Club by Emma Watson

I know how I’ll be spending my cardio days at the gym from now on–while reading a book from Emma Watson’s Book Club, Our Shared Shelf!

The Gloria Sirens

Most of us try to start a new year by beginning (or maintaining) a healthy habit that will last the whole year long. Usually it’s fitness, nutrition, self-care, or productivity-related. Those are all great goals, if that’s something you’re working toward. But if you haven’t quite decided on what project you’d like to start in the new year, consider this: Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf, a Goodreads feminist book club hosted by Hermione herself as part of her UN Women Goodwill Ambassador  HeForShe campaign.

As Watson states:

Emma's welcome in Our Shared Shelf

The first book is My Life on the Road, by The Sirens’ namesake, Gloria Steinem! Here’s what Steinem’s said about Our Shared Shelf:

Here’s to making a difference by reading, learning, and sharing ideas through intellectual…

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[Not] Looking Like a Professor

The Gloria Sirens

The #ILookLikeAProfessor hashtag has been floating around the interwebs just in time for back-to-school season, and serves as a fresh breath for those of us in academia who might not look like we “belong.”

Photo Credit: Miller_Center . Edits by Leslie Salas. Photo Credit: Miller_Center . Edits by Leslie Salas.

As Kelly J. Baker states in her article of the same title as the hashtag, “In popular culture and Google searches, professors are most often middle-aged, bespectacled, and bearded white men with a penchant for tweed.” But so many of us don’t fit that description.

The stories Baker tells about how she doesn’t get taken seriously at her workplace resonate strongly with me. I look a decade younger than I am, so fighting for authority and respect in the classroom and in the workplace are real struggles. When I first started teaching in graduate school, I found myself shopping in the “old lady” department and sporting a…

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On Gender Bias in Student Evaluations

The Gloria Sirens

Photo Credit: quinn.anya Photo Credit: quinn.anya

To continue our conversation about anonymous online professor rating systems, here’s a study on the massive sexist bias female academics must contend with. From the article “Female Academics Face Huge Sexist Bias – No Wonder There are So Few of Them” by Laura Bates (founder of The Everyday Sexism Project):

Reviews of male professors are more likely to include the words “brilliant”, “intelligent” or “smart”, and far more likely to contain the word “genius”. Meanwhile, women are more likely to be described as “mean”, “harsh”, “unfair” or “strict”, and a lot more likely to be called “annoying”.

Immediately recognisable societal stereotypes emerge – the words “disorganized” or “unorganized” [sic] come up much more frequently in women’s evaluations, while men are far more likely to be described as “cool” or “funny”, with one of the widest gender splits of all on the word “hilarious”…

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Hot Teachers, Gaslighting, and Sexual Abuse in Academia: Reflecting on Essays by Shaindel Beers

The Gloria Sirens

Author & Poet Shaindel Beers

Shaindel Beers shares a story much too common for female faculty members. Her essay, “Hundreds of Dollars,” covers the uncomfortable manipulation of men in power who feel entitled to women’s bodies in exchange for doing them a favor. In this case, one of Beers’ former students argues that by having his university pay “hundreds of dollars” to fly her, an up-and-coming poet with a great deal of promise, out for a guest reading, he should be able to have sex with her.

The morning after the reading and the manipulation, the former student gaslights Beers, confusing her into thinking nothing actually went wrong that night. Thirteen years after the incident, Beers states,

It wasn’t until after reading my students’ personal essays about rape and the very public cases of Steubenville and Maryville that I even realized what had happened to me was the…

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Photo Credit: mikecogh via Compfight cc

Learning Balance

Photo Credit: mikecogh via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mikecogh

Things have been pretty quiet here on the LeslieLearnsLines blog, despite some recent interest in my list of literary journals that also publish comics. (Welcome, new readers!)

While I’ve been updating my Twitter feed regularly with content relating to education and writing (it’s the best way to get a hold of me!) and will be posting more over at The Gloria Sirens this month, lately most of my extra energy has focused on three manuscripts (in three different genres). One manuscript has already been accepted by a publisher and I’m working on editing it so that it will be ready for a 2016 release. The other two are well in the works and I’m super excited about them, they but aren’t quite ready for unveiling. Hang tight–info is coming soon.

Juggling the manuscripts and my load of 50 to 75 new students every single month and helping plan a massive writers conference and planning a wedding and still finding time to work out regularly and spend time with friends and family has proven to be a challenge. However, it’s an invigorating challenge. The past few weeks are the first time since early graduate school that I am feeling truly productive in terms of engaging with teaching, scholarship, and service while still keeping my sanity. Here’s some of what I’ve been doing to make it all happen:

  • Make personal fitness a priority. Eat healthy every day and work out for at least 45 minutes at least three times a week. (Studies say you need to exercise for an hour every single day to maximize your longevity, so that’s what I’m aiming for.) I’m confident that making time for my health may be the single most important lifestyle change I’ve made, and while it took a few weeks for it to catch, I’m definitely feeling the benefits. More energy, more focus, more drive, more happiness.
  • Schedule time for everything. This seems pretty obvious, but logging everything on a calendar can help you stick to your obligations. Every two weeks I have a standing meeting with the co-writers of one of the second manuscript. We always work on the book at that time, and it has helped us gain a lot of headway. I also schedule time for fun events, appointments with others, and important deadlines on my phone calendar, and keep a giant color-coded calendar in my kitchen to keep me (and my partner) updated on what is happening when.
  • Make procrastination productive. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a Facebook addition. However, I’ve found out how to channel that tired/bored energy into something creative. I’ll still surf social media, but now, instead of engaging in conversation when someone posts something I agree or disagree with, I hang on to that thought and channel it into a piece of creative writing instead. That’s how the first full draft of the third manuscript was written
  • Take a zen approach. Be mindful. Be conscious of your choices and your strategies for completing tasks. Be good to yourself. If you’re not writing, that’s okay. If you are writing, it’s okay if it isn’t a perfect first draft. You don’t have to do everything. It’s okay to say no or separate from commitments if the cost-benefit analysis no longer falls in your favor. Be honest with yourself and what you want. Trust yourself and your work and be patient. It will be okay.

These are just some of the things that I’ve found to work for me as I move past post-MFA burnout and into full-time writing (on top of full-time teaching).

What life-balance tips have worked for you?