College Update: Done with General Ed!

Between transfer credits, what I’ve done at my current school so far, and a few creatively-worded waivers, I’m done with the General Education portion of my degrees. From here on out, it’s all Writing Program courses.

I’ve got two semesters until I graduate with an AA in Creative Writing in 2017, and then I can transfer for two or three semesters at SUNY to get my BA in English/Professional Writing. That’s the dream, folks. A Bachelors degree is my ticket to getting dependable work at a pay rate that covers a reasonable cost of living for this area. It’s the culmination of my educational efforts so far, all the time and energy I’ve put into community college in California, and my time at the University of Pennsylvania and the setback from having to leave school when I got divorced and was suddenly a single parent, and now going back to college here…

I feel like I’ve passed a milestone. Caught up with myself. Everything I’m learning from this point forward is useful and not only relevant to my freelance work, but whatever job I’m going to have after I graduate. I’m no longer retaking classes that didn’t transfer or fulfilling requirements that should have been filled but because of bureaucracy, weren’t. I’m no longer “wasting” time and money.

If you’ve been following along with my fundraising efforts to pay for school, I’m still about halfway from my goal, and could still use your help. (I need to register for my Fall classes to ensure I get the ones only offered once a year!) Plus, you get fiction and other goodies from me.

You can contribute in the following ways:

 

Mythos Collection Fundraiser Update: Podcasts!

GoFundMe Page Here

I’ve raised almost 1/3 of my goal, but still need $1100 to pay off my two college classes. In addition to the collection of Lovecraft-inspired fiction I’m offering up in exchange, I’ve also got reward levels for backers: beta read for short fiction, original art, even a chance to name a body in one of these stories.

Now I’ve added another perk, and everyone who’s contributed $5 or more gets it! I’ll be recording me reading at least one story from the collection – the closer we get to the goal, the more I’ll commit to doing. If we meet the entire goal of $1500, through GoFundMe or through PayPal donations (which I’ve been adding to the GFM page so everyone can see the total raised), I’ll read the entire set of stories.

You can contribute at higher levels to get those rewards and still get the podcasts, too. It’s my gift to everyone who so generously gave to me.

As I said in my original post, you can contribute because I’m a good person going through a hard time. You can contribute because you like my writing and want to see more of it. You can contribute because you haven’t had to roll a SAN check recently. No matter why you lend a hand, I appreciate you.

Thank you.

Carrie Cuinn

PS. If you’d rather contribute by PayPal, which doesn’t charge as much as GoFundMe, you can send money using this link . If you do, I’ll add it manually here, so the total amount needed goes down.

WILL WRITE MYTHOS FOR SCHOOL (Buy my new fiction, help me pay for college!)

Pre-order my new Mythos mini-collection through GoFundMe

Some of you know that the last few years, life has been extra difficult. I’ve had a bad landlord, a car crash, medical problems, lost my day job… with each new issue, I’ve struggled to keep my bills paid and care for my son, who has a severe speech disorder and special needs.

The overarching theme lately has been money: I don’t have enough of it. We’re officially living in poverty, my son and I, so when something happens, we can’t pay to fix it. I need a bigger income; I need to be more employable. Rather than continuing to need help over and over again, I went back to college in hope of finally getting my BA, and finding solid work.

tuition

Behold, my tuition bill!

Right now, I’m paying for it myself. I currently owe for one of my Spring classes (I paid for the rest) and one class this Summer. Together, that’s almost $1300. I’ve set the fundraiser for $1500 to cover the fees GoFundMe will charge, and to pay for one textbook this summer.

Paying for school is something I have to do on top of rent and food and basic utilities. It’s a cost above what I have to pay for my medical expenses. With thyroid surgery in two weeks, I don’t see any way to do it all. Plus, if I can’t pay for my classes by May 31, I won’t be able to register for Fall in time to get into classes only availble one time a year. My goal is to graduate with my AA in May 2017, before transferring for my BA, so this should be my one chance at Fall-only classes. I need to get into them.

As a reward, when I’ve met my goal, I’ll release an ebook of five Mythos fiction short stories to all of my backers, no matter how much you contribute. This will include two pieces previously published by Chaosium, that aren’t available anywhere else, and three new stories no one has laid eyes (or tentacles) on. I’m creating original interior art for the project, and the ebook package will include .epub, .mobi (for Kindle), and .PDF. There’s even reward levels if you want to get extra stuff back.

You can contribute because I’m a good person going through a hard time. You can contribute because you like my writing and want to see more of it. You can contribute because you haven’t had to roll a SAN check recently. No matter why you lend a hand, I appreciate you.

Thank you.

Carrie Cuinn

PS. If you’d rather contribute by PayPal, which doesn’t charge quite as much as GoFundMe, you can send money using this link . If you do, I’ll add it manually, so the total amount needed goes down.

#SFWAPro

Patreon Update: 5 poems in 5 months, and more

Since starting my Patreon page in November 2015, I have consistently posted new content each month. I work better on a deadline, with structure, and this ongoing project gives me both of those things. To date, I’ve shared:

  1. 5 complete poems
  2. 4 excerpts from short stories in progress
  3. assorted other notes for my patrons

Three of the story excerpts are science fiction (two are definitely “hard sf”; the other is more subtle). One is modern fantasy, bordering on magic realism. All of the excerpts are several paragraphs long.

One poem is about witches, one is about a goddess. Two are science fiction. One has robots, one is set in space. Four have a loose style; one is a sonnet. The sonnet, at 14 lines, is the shortest one.

In all, not bad for 5 months of work.

I’m currently only at the first patron tier – but in another $20 a month, I’ll switch from poetry to posting complete flash fiction each month. Only subscribers to my Patreon get to see this work right now, and the other things I share in addition to the monthly original fiction. If I can get more supporters, to allow me to spend more time creating this work, I’ll keep adding more of the “extra bits”: more notes, and at least one excerpt from a wip each month.

My subscribers are only charged once per month, no matter how much I share, so whatever you commit to is all you’ll have to pay. Since your support gives me an opportunity to make a little extra money while I’m in college, it also frees me up to do a little more work for everyone – like the mini movie reviews I’ve started posting once a week.

So if you can, and you want to see writing from me that’s not yet available anywhere else, please go to my Patreon page and throw a few bucks my way. I appreciate it.

On Failing, Fear, And Learning to Learn Better

I’m halfway through my first semester back in college. So far, I’ve:

  • borrowed, begged, and asked for help to pay my bills without a dayjob.
  • come down with a cold that turned into bronchitis, which meant I…
    • couldn’t go to a doctor because I no longer have health insurance.
    • spent 3+ weeks sleeping.
    • got behind in some of my online classes and had to drop my traditional (in-person) classes, because I couldn’t manage the 35 mile drive EACH WAY to campus while sick.
  • added new online classes to keep my status above full-time.
  • took quizzes, tests in all of my classes; did homework; participated in discussions – basically, all the parts of a class, with a mix of grades from As to Cs.
  • figured out how much I didn’t know about going to college with my life the way it is now.

Or to put it another way: I struggled. I set goals I didn’t meet. I was sick and exhausted, I fell behind, I left myself down (and probably some other people, too), and I felt like a failure.

Because, to be honest, in some ways I am failing. I am not doing as well as I had hoped, making this transition back to college. That’s just a fact.

Yesterday, I wanted to give up. It wasn’t the first time, but it hit me hard. I took a huge risk, going back to college now, doing without a dayjob. I’d hoped to do more freelancing, but being sick meant I haven’t pursued any new work for weeks, so I haven’t even had that income. I’ve gotten a surprising amount of support – thank you! – and with that comes the internal pressure of not wanting to let anyone down. If I don’t do well this semester, I’ve wasted this time, this opportunity. Put my son through this for nothing. Leaned on people who were there for me without anything to show for their faith in me.

It’s tempting to quit. Scrap this whole semester. Recover from being ill. Catch up on everything I’m behind on. Start fresh next semester.

Yesterday, I told my person how awful I was feeling. His response was perfect: that it sucked to feel that way, but I wasn’t a failure, I wasn’t alone, and we’d sit down and talk about where I’m at, and what I need. Just it’s okay to feel defeated and let’s sort out where you really are vs what you’re feeling and you’re not giving up, so make a plan based on your options now.

That’s what I’ve been trying to do all along, and what I needed to be reminded of. I’m not giving up. I’m not running away. Just because it’s harder than I expected or no fun or I’m not succeeding as easily as I want – those aren’t reasons to quit. That’s not who I am.

Instead, I reconsidered the goal posts. (It might be three semesters at community college before I can transfer, instead of two. Would that really be so bad? No, I guess not.) I thought about why I’m struggling. (I definitely need to study more, and research beyond the textbook, to find the information the class assumes I know but I actually don’t.) I thought about why I had certain expectations of myself, and why I judge myself as harshly as I do. (As my friend Mary told me, “You’re not failing. You’re tired. And that’s okay.” Until she said it, I wouldn’t have seen myself that way.)

As much as I hate to feel like a failure at this moment, I think I can learn from all of this. The lessons for me will be: don’t give up, and learn how to be a better student.

Going to school now is not like when I was in college before, and assuming I could easily pick up where I left off is part of what threw me off course. Another part of falling behind was that some of my classes are second or third classes in a series I started when I was in college six or so years ago… I’d thought that because I’d aced those courses before, I’d be okay now. It turns out, I’d forgotten things I didn’t know I was missing.

In some cases, like my International Business class, the work is mainly conceptual. I can read the textbooks and consider the ideas presented, and I’m able to access the information when I take the test. Easy. No problem. In other classes, Accounting and Econ, it’s more terms and formulas that I haven’t been using. Like taking Spanish 2 a decade after you got an A in Spanish one, without so much as having asked “donde es la Bibliotheca?” one time in between.

As of late last night, I’ve caught up on all of my schoolwork. There are things I can’t make up, which will affect my final grades, but going forward I can stay on top of my assignments. I’ve looked at how I study, how I plan my work, and figured out what I need to change. I’ve had to create a new system of tracking what’s due, and what I need to study for. I print out study guides and watch instructional videos. I stay up late to take online tests after my son’s asleep. I examine every wrong answer, every mistake, every failure.

We’re not always going to immediately succeed. Not at college, or writing a novel, or anything in life. Mostly, when we fail, we want to stop trying and do something else. Some people, that’s all they do: run from one thing to the next to the next, looking for that instant and easy success, followed by the admiration of others, and if they don’t get it, they move on again. I can’t do that, not if I ever really want to change my life.

I am tired of failing. I have so done much of it the last couple of years. But when I stop trying to sweep my mistakes under the rug, I start learning from them. Learning to accept that I’d screwed up. (Everyone does.) Learning how to fix my problems. Learning to be brave, to try new things, take bold chances. Learning how to learn better.

I may not get all As this semester, and I may feel dumb a lot of the time as I try to learn this stuff, but I’m not alone, and I’m not quitting.