Kathy Flann

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On the Tenure Clock: A Cautionary Tale

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image via mycollegesandcareers.com
image via mycollegesandcareers.com

As Goucher writing prof Kathy Flann endured five years of tenure-track hell, her health fell apart and she began to question her own creative work–you won’t guess what happened next.

When I landed what’s known as a “tenure-track” job teaching creative writing at Goucher College, it was the culmination of long and arduous quest. There were so many fiction writers clambering for university teaching positions that several hundred people would sometimes apply for an opening.

Cherry Blossoms, Labradoodles, Each Other: Is Joy a Daily Choice?

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image courtesy of winsomecottagelabradoodles.com
image courtesy of winsomecottagelabradoodles.com

Goucher fiction prof Kathy Flann reflects on the final “deadline” we all face, the fact of our society’s deep denial of it, and what we can do along the way to find more meaning and more meaningful fun.

This chunk of rock on which we live will die. Everyone we know will die. Most will go painfully. It is unlikely that many of us, at age ninety-five, will slip away while we sleep. The few that do win a lottery that spares discomfort and the burden of awareness. The fact that this is our best-case scenario seems impossible. As children, none of us says, “When I grow up, I want to be a policeman and I want to die in my sleep.”

    “Run for Your Life…” – Baltimore Writers Talk Roth’s Retirement

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    roth

    Goucher fiction prof Kathy Flann considers the implications of Philip Roth’s decision to quit writing. Writer friends weigh in.

    One of the things about being a fiction writer who teaches creative writing – perhaps both a good thing and a bad one  – is that I grapple again and again with the advice I would give to my younger self.  Each time a student expresses interest in a writing career, I wonder if I would have made the same choices if I’d known then what I know now – just how hard writing is and how much rejection is involved.  What’s the responsible thing to do? Should I warn these fledgling writers – Run for your life while you still can! – or should I insulate them for as long as possible against the realities of “the business”?

    Letter to America (from Mouth-Breathing Idiot)

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    image courtesy of The Rumpus

    Goucher prof Kathy Flann describes what it’s like — for her and her “family” of local writer friends — to be wrapped up in the dream of writing the Great American Novel in the age of Kindle, Twitter, and Twilight.

    In the past year, my writerly self-loathing has reached new lows. Or should that be highs? If I weren’t such a total mouth-breathing idiot, I’d know.

    My agent has been trying to sell my first novel. These efforts yield a steady stream of rejections to my inbox. Editors have explained their decisions in a variety of ways. The plot/setting/character (circle one) is fascinating, but the plot/setting/character (circle one) isn’t quite believable.

    Hi, Ho the Derry-O

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    In honor of Mother’s Day — which falls on May 13th this year — Baltimore-based fiction writer and Goucher prof Kathy Flann shares creative nonfiction that radically redefines the term soccer mom.

    My mom bought me a toolkit and a train set, which, in the early 70’s, were pretty weird toys for a girl. It was a pre-plastic era, and all of the toys had the metal heft of the real article. They were miniature, yes, but didn’t have the garish colors or distorted proportions of today’s Fisher Price. I can still feel the boxcar wheels click onto the steel tracks and the serrated dial adjust the jaws of the wrench. “I wanted her to know she could be anything she wanted,” my mother likes to tell people. But when she asked me one day, in our avocado kitchen, what I thought that might be, I revealed a narrow concept of the word anything. “I want to be a farmer’s wife,” I told her.

    When my mom tells this story at dinner parties, it always kills.

    If I happen to be there, I protest, “But wait, you don’t understand–” I am drowned out by the laughter. And I taper off. I don’t really want to be the person to dim the white afterglow of a well-delivered joke. Plus, it would be impossible to explain the But feeling in my chest with same cha-ching as my mother tells that story.

    If I did explain it, though, the first thing I would say is that, at five years old, I believed that farmer’s wife was a job. I developed this impression from my picture books and probably just from the air I breathed in 1974. Boys were farmers. Girls were farmers’ wives. Just like boys were pilots and girls were stewardesses. Boys were firemen and policemen. Girls were, well, missing from those parts of the books.

    Most People Are Other People

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    Tamu_and_child
    A little girl holds her Tamu doll, circa 1970.

    Baltimore-based fiction writer and Goucher prof Kathy Flann reflects on her first significant relationship with a baby doll.

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    When I was four, my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas.

    “A black doll,” I told her.

    She flashed a bemused smile. “Well, okay,” she said with a shrug. We didn’t know any black people. Maybe I had seen “Fat Albert” by this point, but I can’t be sure.

    In my mind’s eye, this doll had long luxurious hair that I could comb. It had cheekbones and breasts. “Charlie’s Angels” had not hit the airwaves yet, and so I did not yet know that sexiness was so powerful that it could solve crimes. But the doll I imagined was not unlike a 
Charlie’s Angel or a Miss Breck girl — if any of them had been black.

    I was a white kid from a whiter than white Midwestern family – a cocktail of Scandinavian, northern German, Irish, English, and French Canadian. There wasn’t a drop of Eastern European or Italian to add interest to the gene pool. We couldn’t claim, like everyone else did in the ’70s, to be one sixteenth Cherokee.

    And I was the whitest of the “Flann clan.”

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