my first allegheny commencement & other thoughts

So this. This has been quite a year. ūüôā

I have a book contract with Press 53, a publisher in my home state, and a first collection of short stories that will be coming out this October. I have now taught two semesters of fiction at Allegheny, getting to know some of the most earnest, dedicated, and talented students I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. For the first time, I’ll be attending a commencement ceremony as an educator in full regalia, fancy tam and everything. I’ll get to see students, some of them my students, cross a stage and achieve a milestone, just as I did at my own graduation ten years ago.

I’ve also been doing some looping, some slipping-out-of-the-present, as I typically do when big things are happening.¬†My graduation year was actually kind of rough. I had just had an exceptionally painful falling out with a high school friend, what had been the most intense relationship of my adolescence (not romantic, but still intense). A lot of old teenage comforts had become stifling, and though I’d done my part to discard them, in some cases even abuse them, it was still an experience that, at the time, felt like an exile. That fall, I entered my MFA at UNC Greensboro, anxious and adrift, not really knowing what kind of person I was and carrying around the nagging insecurity that I should’ve figured that out already.

That hasn’t exactly changed. Not really. If you’re like me, you live, sometimes excruciatingly, with a need to make sense of things. It’s most definitely why I’m a writer. Everything in the world is loops and links and metaphors and symbols. Every small thing is connected precariously to every huge thing. This is useful when you’re an educator. But sometimes it’s exhausting.

So tomorrow at commencement, I want to try to turn that introverted energy outward. Out to the students and their families and their future lives. I want to wish them great things, that they should have all the love and support and lucky breaks that I’ve had, that they should know themselves and make themselves while avoiding the paralysis of self-doubt. Cheers, students! Cheers, Allegheny seniors! I know it’s cliche, but this is just the beginning.

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Happy dreaming,

JJ

 

job market joys / woes

Dearest friends and readers,

I have a story to tell with a (temporary) happy ending. After another year and an exceptionally depressing academic job market, I’ve been offered a full-time two-year position here at Allegheny College. I feel lucky and relieved and so thrilled to continue teaching creative writing workshops. It’s true that I’ll complain to anyone who will listen about the snow here in Meadville (there’s too much of it), but Allegheny is a special school filled with supportive faculty and many eager, talented students. I’m already looking forward to a busy fall semester, plus two new classes I’ll be designing over the summer (one of them a sci-fi lit class !!! ).

Of course, my experiences with the market aren’t over, and in time, I’ll once again start rolling the boulder back up the hill. Word to the wise: nobody is their best self while going through an academic job search. The process is impersonal and demoralizing and masochistic and anxiety-inducing, and to my academic friends who are still searching or will begin searching in the years to come, you are all brilliant and deserve better than this meat grinder.

In the meantime, I’m thankful for the chance to keep teaching young people and instilling in them the love of writing and fiction. More updates to come this spring as I prep for my new classes.

stay strange,

JJ

 

 

 

steampunk tarot cards are BACK

Happy Saturday dear friends and readers,

My Steampunk Major Arcana cards are back in time for the holidays! If you aren’t sure what to give that cool witchy friend celebrating the Winter Solstice, or that friend who still can’t stop talking about the 2001 Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire, then this is a good gift for them, I promise you. Or you could buy a pack for yourself. Or you could by two packs and keep one and gift the other.

And what else makes a good gift? Original artwork. Do I still have original artwork for sale? Yes I do. Again, jenjiwarrior is the name of my shop in case the links don’t work. Art trades still optional, just DM me.

stay strange,

JJ

fall updates: new art, tarot cards returning

Kindest friends and dear readers,

My first semester at Allegheny College has been an absolute blast so far. These students are so eager and talented, and in between teaching fiction workshops, I’ve been able to work on a new project of my own, a dystopian novel that I feel pretty excited about. Meadville is a tiny town, filled with mossy old cemeteries and dusty antique shops — ¬†the kind of place that really leans into¬†the fall season. I am not, however, looking forward to the apocalyptic snow dump that we’re supposedly in for this year. For a Southerner like myself, the novelty of snow wears off pretty fast.

More news: for the upcoming¬†holidays, I’m ¬†selling some witchy new art through my Etsy store, and have placed a new larger order for the Steam Tarot Cards, in case anyone is on the hunt for gifts. I’m also interested in commissions and art exchanges, so please feel free to DM me if you are too. Here is a link, and if that doesn’t work for whatever reason (interntetting is hard), my shop name is jenjiwarrior.

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(Deliver yourself some love! <3)

Lastly, in case you missed it, check out my newest published story, “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy,” in Beecher’s Magazine Issue 7. It’s all about magic portals and magpies and such, and was selected by Carmen Machado as Beecher’s 2017 Fiction Prize WINNER! Since I have been embarking on the uncertain process of re-kindling and re-embracing my teenage love for the occult and the folkloric, this was some nice validation. Onward!!

More to come. Stay strange, my friends.

J

 

 

sea changes + steampunk tarot

Dearest friends and readers,

For me, this has been a blistering summer of small projects and big changes. At the end of the month, I’ll be packing up everything I own (including one extremely anxious cat) and moving to Meadville, PA, where I will teach workshop and begin work on a novel as Allegheny College’s Fiction¬†Writer-in-Residence. It’ll be sad to leave CoMo. I am (will have been) a Regular at a Local Bar, and that has been a long and cherished relationship.¬†Still, it’s time to move on. Exciting opportunities await on the other side.

In the meantime, I’ve set up this website to showcase my work and post updates about¬†publications and other projects. Most recently, my Steampunk Major Arcana Tarot Deck is available for purchase. The deck consists of 22 cards, each with an original design meant to respond to an archetype from the major arcana.

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If you or someone you know enjoys steampunk, tarot cards, or both, I will be happy to sell this to you through my Etsy shop. This is a trial run, friends, so act fast — there are only six decks available right now.

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More items may arrive at the shop in the weeks to come — original prints, greeting cards and other delights, so keep an eye out.

In the meantime — Happy summer.

J