Excerpt from Dress For the Job You Want
After the brain surgeries, though, journalism lost its appeal. The task of seeking a story, talking to new people, day after day, was the last thing she wanted to do. She needed to find a way of life where she could exist, if not escape, inside her head, and not have to confront strangers for a living. So she chose to go back to graduate school and get an MFA in creative writing. Her brain surgeries were easy fodder: crawling on the hospital floor with her physical therapist, learning to walk again after the surgeries; being too self-conscious about her eyes to take the trash out at her apartment building without sunglasses. At first, in workshops, she disguised herself in fictional characters, but soon she moved into memoir.
Teaching, the part of grad school that paid her tuition, was entirely different from writing, however. Teaching was nothing but interacting with people, nothing but allowing yourself to be scrutinized and quite possibly disliked. Her students, usually first-year undergraduates, eighteen and nineteen years old, had been involved with the teacher-versus-student dynamic most of their lives. No, teaching didn’t make sense for Louise, because it meant opening herself up to so many critiques, so many chances for meanness, or if not meanness, then simply to examination. None of her students had ever said anything to her about her eye or face, but Louise was always waiting for it. Fortunately, even when she was sitting one-on-one with a student in her office, laughing at something together, that invisible buffer of the word “teacher” seemed to always stop the hanging question, “What happened to your face?” Maybe being a teacher, someone who was always supposed to be separate from her students, different, was the best job she could hope for, in terms of always keeping a little bit of protective distance, always being able to turn away. Louise felt best when she was teaching a writing workshop. She knew how to be encouraging, how to talk about point of view, or dialogue, or setting. She knew how to steer an unproductive discussion (“but it really happened like this!”) onto some sort of productive path. She felt especially lucky when choosing which books the class would read during the semester— what better life than this?
She felt the worst when teaching a composition class and trying to convince the students that writing a paper about ethos, pathos, and logos was crucial to their career path, or, say, explaining the relevance of a passage in their textbooks from the 1980s. It was hard to get excited about showing the class a pristine Works Cited page on the overhead projector or reading the umpteenth paper aimed at persuading her that marijuana was not a gateway drug.
This selection comes from Louise Krug’s book Tilted: The Post-Brain Surgery Journals, coming soon from 99: The Press.
Louise Krug is also the author of Louise: Amended (2012), which was named one of the Top 20 Nonfiction Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly. She is an Assistant Professor of Nonfiction Writing at Washburn University, in Topeka, Kansas. Some of her recent work has appeared in River Teeth, Word Riot, Parcel and Huffington Post. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her husband and children.
Noh Anothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation (Fulbright Thailand) between 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. Winner of Lunch Ticket‘s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts (2014) and OUTspoken’s poetry prize in 2015, Anothai’s original poems and translations of Thai poetry have appeared both online and in-print, most recently in Ecotone and The Berkeley Poetry Review. A reader for River Styx’s annual poetry contest, Anothai teaches for the online MFA program at Lindenwood University.
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