I continue to be ahead of schedule in my book production (though there are a number of what I'd call related administrative tasks which I need to take care of before November 1 that I keep forgetting about) -- and now I think I know the reason why.
I've worked hard, that's why!
I discovered last night that there's an academic job on the east coast that I want to apply for, and the date for preliminary application materials is late November. Because I'm ahead of schedule, I have the bandwidth to keep working on my book and apply for that job at the same time.
My husband and I discussed the opportunity last night, and in theory he's up for such a move if things were ever to get to that point.
Now, there tend to be 100-150 applicants for such positions, so logically speaking, the odds are not in my favor, though as far as the basic job description goes, I match the criteria very well. So in other words, I'm not getting my hopes up, particularly, but simply seeing that job announcement last night, realizing there's at least an initial match, and that I would be genuinely competitive for it (at least in my own mind!) cheered me immensely right when I needed it.
Why did I need it?
I was down in the dumps last night after retrieving a letter of support from my former boss who oversaw me in my 2011-2012 university administrative role -- a letter I'd been trying to get from him for the past year and a half.
I know he likes me, I know he thinks I did a good job, but the man is notoriously difficult to pin down and get anything out of -- so yes, it took me a year and a half to get that letter of support from him. Also, that year was a really difficult, fraught one, and I think we both have bad memories of it; I suspect he didn't want to revisit it in any way.
Why was I down in the dumps? The letter was excellent: specific, complimentary, and spoke to my leadership and administrative skills. It's exactly what I need for my dossier for when I go up for full professor here in a couple of years.
But it brought back that really difficult year -- and I suddenly realized last night that 2011-2012 was a time during which I became really disillusioned with my department, my university, the larger state system of which they're a part, and their complete dysfunctionality -- to the point that I was genuinely shell-shocked and decided that I never wanted to fill another administrative role again.
And yet, I was a good administrator. And yet, again, I can't imagine wanting to take on even the role of department chair -- let alone anything higher -- within my current context. This, despite the fact that I'm someone who believes in service, believes in contributing one's skills to the system in which one works.
It was a depressing conclusion to come to.
In the past two years since that academic year, I've developed a coping strategy for myself: my intention is to go up for full professor in 2015 and then??? Focus on writing and publishing genre fiction and only the occasional academic article. There's no incentive at my university for maintaining a scholarly writing career past making full professor: no incentives, no merit pay, etc., as there are at Research 1 universities. So ... I figured I'd turn a disadvantage of the system in which I work into an advantage and devote my writing energies to genre fiction, doing so under a pen name. I've always wanted to; I think I can do it and be successful at it; I'd still retain my day job of college professor, of course, but focus on teaching, genre fiction, and the occasional academic article, and that's it. I'm a writer. I need to write.
What if I could get a job at a Research 1 university? One in which the overall quality of students would be better, the teaching load would be halved, there would be greater funds available for research, and incentives for continuing to produce and write research, theory, and criticism after I make full professor? What if it were a place where a certain amount of administrative work might actually be rewarding?
It's been my intention all along to search for jobs during fall 2015 when I go up for full professor, if only to see if I can get a nibble of interest from another university to increase my bargaining power when it comes time to negotiate full professor pay at my own university (the only times you can effectively negotiate pay at my university are when you're hired, when you change rank, and/or when you're the object of another university's interest).
Now is not the ideal time for me to apply for other jobs, because I'm still mid-career, and if I were to get a job at a Research 1, I'd have to earn full professor under that system, and the demands for scholarship production would be greater there than where I am now.
On the other hand? If I could make the jump to a Research 1 -- even a second-tier system -- I'd be willing to invest more time and energy in scholarship: the pay would be better, the teaching load would be better, the students would be better, the formal incentives would be greater ... and so on.
So we'll see what happens. The significance of all of this for me right now is simply that I need to feel as if I might have options and choice, now or later.
The pluses for me -- on paper, at least -- of this particular job listing are that the position is on the east coast (it was a dream of mine when I was younger to teach at an east coast college or university), within easy distance of major east coast cities that I love, and the school, while large, is private. Those three things really appeal to me right now.
So ... all of this is a long-winded way of observing that I'll send in the preliminary materials by late November, and we'll see what happens, if anything. Even if nothing does, though, which frankly is the most likely outcome, my spirits have lifted because I see that I may have additional options down the road in the next few years, and that feels good.
Wouldn't this be a pretty view to live near?