“So, you’ll be applying for a job, then?” my friend says to me.
I cough up a little beer as I process his words. I’m heading into the last year of my M.F.A., and have a few things to show for it: teaching experience, a handful of connections, a few publications here and there, an annoying sense there’s another thousand folks in the same position as me, researching the same jobs and fellowships.
“Sure, maybe. I don’t know,” I tell him and change the conversation, to something about the glossy beach volleyball pulsing on the TV.
“I thought you wanted to be a professor,” he says, a wry smile appearing on his face.
Draining the last of my Sam Adams, I consider the previous two years: multiple workshops, pedagogy classes, twice serving as Fiction Editor for The Minnesota Review, a journal with deep Marxist roots.
“Something like that,” I confess, “a writer really.”
He emits a skeptical huff and stares blankly into his pint glass. “So, how’s your book going?”
“Yeah, O.K., I guess.”
I’ve spent the summer editing my thesis—a collection of twenty-two stories, ranging in length from a single page to twenty-five—wondering how I’d let slip all those weak verbs (put, took, placed, looked) and nondescript nouns (food, car, tree) get by me. Even though some of the stories have been published, I’ve since detected gaping holes in some of the plots, and been transfixed at a couple of clichéd endings, and then late at night slapped my own forehead due to several “dramatic” conversations. For months, I’ve re-fashioned the stories, and recently I’ve been thinking Hey, this is pretty good. I like this. I’d buy this collection. Snap it up! Some days, though, I fear I’ve just been sticking Band-Aids over the vapid themes and the fudged lyrical sentences. In the next couple of weeks I have to hand in a draft to my advisor. Secretly, I hope she’s going to rip it apart, slap down the botched characterizations, and draw interrobangs next to the wooden dialogue. God knows it needs a reality check.
“Another?” I say to my friend, and try to catch the eye of the barman.
“Sure,” he says, grinning, “and then we can toast to your future success.”
Christopher Linforth is the previous fiction editor of the minnesota review and a fiction candidate in Virginia Tech’s MFA program. He has work published in Denver Quarterly, Chicago Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, and other literary journals.