Kristina Elyse Butke: Witness to “The Great Work”

We’ve been moving into our new house for the past four days, but I wanted to take a moment to share this. Kristina was my grad school critique partner and is a wonderful writer in her own right. She helped make Those of My Kind what it is. Kristina Elyse Butke: Witness to “The Great Work”.

Winds of Change

I’m in a weird transitional head space right now. On June 30 I finally graduated from grad school with an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, after two and a half years. The day before I left for my final week of school, I said goodbye to my job of six years. I’d been feeling for a while that this year was going to herald some major life changes, and to that extent it hasn’t disappointed.

Now what? Well, I’m doing some freelance/contract work that isn’t paying the bills, so I’m still looking for something full time and hopefully related to my field in some way. I’m also beginning my second novel, which is going to be huge and ambitious and a little terrifying to write, while hoping for some good news about the first one that I can’t discuss yet. I’ve submitted two novellas and a novelette to major spec-fic markets. Meanwhile, household medical issues continue; my braces came off this year as well (in April), bringing with it the unfortunate fallout of gum disease, periodontal treatment, and trips to the dentist every three months instead of six.

Yesterday we looked at a house for the first time. It was right next door so why not, and although it was a bit too much house for us (4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, a patio and a balcony) and about $250k out of our price range, I felt that much closer to our buying a house becoming a reality. It did have a great space for an office/library, which is on my must-have list. And exposed brick. And a Jacuzzi tub in the on-suite. Yeah, I probably would’ve bought it if I had the money. We’d just fill it with dogs.

Time Enough

I am counting the days until June 30. That’s the day I graduate from grad school with a shiny MFA and begin the rest of my life. It’s been a mostly enjoyable couple of years, and I’ve learned a lot, but this term is especially labor-intensive despite having finished my thesis (still needs edits). I’m ready to move on, both from the book and from school. I suppose I wouldn’t feel this way quite so much if the process hadn’t led to the unavoidable neglecting of so many other projects. Since completing my thesis, however, I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to finish up a novella I began over 2 years ago, and to indulge in pleasure reading again.

But there is one thing I really, really miss and haven’t been able to fit back into my schedule yet. Art. You probably know by now that I have a BA in studio art. I draw, paint, photograph, collage… While I never pursued art as a career, it has always maintained an important role in my life. (And, since getting into the craftier side of things, I’ve become a junkie for Tim Holtz’s Idea-ology stuff.) I’m taking a leave of absence from work April 8 to May 6 in order to concentrate on my final project for school, but that will be the entire focus of my life during that time–as well as allow me to regain some of the sanity I’ve lost after spending 11 or more hours a day juggling school, writing, and my day job. In the interim between the end of class on May 6 and my final residency starting June 25 (with a 3-day jaunt to World Horror Con in between), however, getting back to art will be a major priority. I’ve got two collages-to-be sitting on my worktable already! And I want to get back into making music, which I started over 10 years ago. Maybe give my stuff a proper release on Bandcamp and probably for free.

I do have some good news–I’ve sold another short story. So, as of right now, I’ll have four stories out this year, three of them in anthologies. It’s pretty exciting, and since that leaves me with very few unsold stories left, I’m excited to get back to short fiction. I think short stories will always be my first love.

What about you? What are your passions, and how do you fit them into your life?

Updates!

One of the things I plan to do this year is update the blog more frequently. So here we go!

I’ve just begun my final semester of grad school. It’s a really strange feeling, after two years, to be so close to the end. However, I’m looking forward to a return of normalcy (such as it is) to my life, and to working on new projects. That said, getting my MFA has always been a big goal, and I’m proud of myself for finally achieving it. I’ve also met a ton of amazing people in the process, which is a reward in itself. And I get to hang out with some of those people at my first World Horror Con in June!

Writing projects… New article for HorrorNews should be up soon, with another on the way in the next couple of weeks. I’ve got at least two short stories coming out in the near future. One is the story I blogged about here. I did indeed take my own advice and go there. And sold it. The other is an Alice In Wonderland-inspired, slightly steampunk horror story set in a Victorian asylum. I realize the more genres you blend, the more difficult it becomes to market, but I’ve been really enjoying the exploration of cross-genres in my own work lately. Will it make my novels a hard sell, or will it help me cement my own brand? We shall see.

And on the novel front, my thesis is 8,000 words from completion (not including the edits I need to do). I can usually get in 1,000 words a day, so that’s only 8 more days of writing. Very exciting. Of course, I’ve still got to revise my synopsis and query letter, make a list of agents, and write a pitch. And as much as I want to start a new novel, I’m going to focus on getting the novelettes and novella finished first. One of the things that sucks about me is how many projects I start and then have to put on the back burner because I overextend myself. Once I graduate in June, that should become easier to manage.

In the near future, I may add some other fun stuff to this blog, like my artwork/photography and my musical exploits. Check back soon!

Insert Witty Title Here.

So, because I suck at keeping this blog current, I should mention that I recently appeared over at Mary DeSantis’ blog, Out of the Lockbox.

My thesis is due, in a way that resembles a completed novel enough for me to pass, in April, which despite my attempts to avoid it now demands my attention. I have a ton of work to do on it. Like add 19,000 words. That, of course, is competing with the demands of my teaching class. I do not love my teaching class. This is in no way a reflection on my teacher, who is wonderful, but on my piss-poor time management skills and 900 other commitments. I have an essay due a week from tomorrow and no idea where I’m going with that. BLAAAHHHH.

To maintain some semblance of sanity, I’ve been working on non-MFA projects as time permits. One is a short story for an asylum-themed anthology, and it’s a story I’ve been wanting to write for many years. The others are a ghost story novella heavily influenced by the Fatal Frame series, and a post-apocalyptic science fantasy novel inspired by Greek mythology and “Beauty and the Beast.” Still awaiting responses on four short stories, too.

And on that note, off to write a new chapter of my thesis.

Summer break, I hardly knew ye.

In a couple of weeks I will be starting my second term of grad school. I’m looking forward to it, but damn, I need a vacation. On that note, Zach and I have tentative plans to go somewhere in the fall. I’ve started saving up for it, wherever “it” may turn out to be. We’ve tossed around San Francisco and New Orleans as possibilities. I’ve been to NOLA 6 times already but never to San Fran. I wouldn’t mind a trip back to Seattle, either. My other idea was to take cruise either to Mexico to see the Mayan ruins, or up to Alaska for some whale-watching. All I care about is getting away from work and school for a few days. Mostly work.

Break, though brief, has been fairly productive. I don’t love the story I submitted for residency, but I had no new material. That will be remedied for January residency, as I cranked out two pages of a new story last night. Thanks to “The Universe,” Phil Plait, Ph.D and my obsession with the Degenerate Era of the universe, I’ve started work on a science fiction story about a synthetic human witnessing the beginning of the end. It’s the first thing not influenced by fairy tales (even my thesis uses “Donkeyskin” as the antagonist’s back story) that I’ve written in a very long time.

Tomorrow I begin working on my synopsis, which my mentor advised me to do during break so I could focus on my thesis once the term starts. I’d rather crawl naked through a pit of fire ants, but it’s due at the end of July either way, so I don’t have much choice but to get the thing done. I read a fairly decent book about synopses as my reading component for last term, which did give me a bit more confidence than I have had in the past when faced with this task.

I’m also working on a series of 15×20″ illustrations of Looney Tunes characters. Zach loves Looney Tunes and I thought it would be a cute gift. Marvin the Martian is already hanging on our wall; Wile E. Coyote and Michigan J. Frog are next. I still have a pile of drawings for which I need to do color studies, a 14×17″ Iron Man that needs color, Invisible Woman and Phantom Lady sketches that need to be finished… It is perhaps obvious now that illustration was my intended career once upon a time. 🙂 I will be posting examples on the Art page in the future (I just got the Photography page up, so bear with me).

We have the new turtle tank and will be moving the little green monsters in shortly. The new filter should be arriving tomorrow, at which point Zach needs to build a basking platform and we need to fill the thing (75 gallons, argh). On the bright side, they will have all the space they need to grow to full size, and I will have my living room shelves back so I can put out the rest of my toy collection.

On a final note, I’m hoping to get a new episode of my podcast up by tonight. It’s going to be a good one, so check it out!