A Rough Semester Comes to an End

Wednesday, January 18, 2017, was the day I realized I had made a mistake. It was 9 p.m., and my third class of the evening had just ended. I was exhausted, and I still hadn’t eaten dinner. That day, and every Wednesday for the next four months, I woke up at 5 a.m., started work at 6 a.m., worked eight hours, left work and drove directly to Norman, ran to make my 3 p.m. class, sat through three back-to-back-to-back classes until 9 p.m., and then made the hour-long drive back home. As I stepped out into the cold January wind that Wednesday evening, I decided two things — that ten hours of graduate school is too many for an old man with a full-time job to take, and that on Wednesdays, I should start bringing a protein bar with me to school.

Mondays were easier — I only had two classes on Mondays — but boy did I grow to loathe Wednesdays. And Thursday mornings, for that matter.

Yesterday, with the click of a button, I turned in my final assignment for the semester. (It would have been more dramatic had I dropped a thick stack of papers on someone’s desk, but almost everything is electronic these days.) I’m a free man, until the fall. I’ve got eight credit hours left to complete, and I can’t imagine them being as grueling as these ten were.

As I neared the end of the semester, I ran out of steam — not just for school, but in life. Last month, I collected a milk crate full of electronics from upstairs that need to go out to the garage. It made it to the front hallway, where it’s been for weeks. My home office is a disaster. I need a haircut, and probably a shower. My blog, ,y podcast, and all of my writing projects outside of school, have been neglected. Tonight, with a beer in my hand, I let the stress of a long semester flow out of my body and look forward to having a few months away from school.

Below is a list and brief summary of the classes I took last semester. I did the math earlier. I was writing in journals outside of class 5 hours a week, watching 1 movie per week, and read approximately 16 books (9 fiction, 7 non-fiction). Add in the work spent on assignments, and I’d say I was approaching that golden number of spending approximately 2x the amount of time outside of class working on projects, which meant 10 hours a week spent in class and 20 hours a week spent outside of class working. (The 4 hours a week spent driving to/from Norman is not included in the equation.)

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Writing Young Adult Fiction (3 p.m. – 4:15 p.m., M/W)

In this class, we read and learned about Young Adult (YA) fiction. In YA stories, the protagonist(s) are teenagers, and the stories are told from their point of view. Modern examples of YA franchises include Twilight, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. Here were the major assignments from YA class:

  • Read seven YA novels
  • Maintain a reading/watching journal (1 hr/week)
  • Maintain a writing journal (3 hrs/week)
  • Write and revise a YA short story
  • Write 1/3 of a YA novel

    This was my first class of the evening, and a warning of what was to come. We only ended up reading six of the seven novels, which were Six of Crows, Three Dark Crowns, The Thousandth Floor, This is How it Ends, Salt to the Sea, and The Sun is Also a Star. I moderately enjoyed a couple of them. For each book we had to write two pages worth of notes, and come up with writing examples for the class.

    I enjoyed the writing assignments more. The writing journal became a chore after a few months; the reading/watching one was more fun. Writing the short story and the final project (the first act of a novel) were quite enjoyable.

    Writing the Screenplay (4:30 p.m. – 6:20 p.m., M/W)

    The title of this course pretty much says it all. Here were our major assignments:

  • Write the “story of your story” (about your screenplay)
  • Script Outline
  • Writing Journal
  • Annotated Filmography
  • Act I
  • Act II (with Act I revisions)
  • Act III (with Act I and II revisions)

    When a syllabus contains the underlined phrase “This is a work-intensive class” you should believe it. Unlike some classes where there are little assignments and big assignments, this class mostly consisted of big assignments. For the Annotated Filmography we were required to watch 10-15 films, provide detailed ploy analysis for three of the films, and discuss the rest. The original outline of my script took a while to complete, which I might as well have thrown away as my final script barely resembles it. The final version of my script came in at exactly 100 pages. Even though there are less words per page on a script as compared to a novel, I found it took just as much time to write. I had never written (or even read) a script before enrolling in this class, so it was fun to try something new.

    Theories of Professional Writing (6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Wed)

    The goal of this class was to familiarize students with professional writing from multiple eras. The class started with a section on Shakespeare’s Hamlet before before moving into modern genre fiction.

  • Three reading response papers
  • Three analytical papers
  • Two presentations
  • Four articles submitted for publication

    When I imagined what college would be like, this is the kind of class I imagined. In “Theories,” we watched The Lion King, Star Wars and two episodes of the original Star Trek. We discussed Hamlet. We read excerpts from Stephen King’s book about the horror genre, Danse Macabre. During the semester I read and wrote papers over Alas, Babylon, The Amityville Horror, and Rosemary’s Baby. It was the kind of class that gets your creative juices flowing.

    In addition to all the other in-class assignments, we were required to write articles outside of class and submit them for publication. This shouldn’t be limited to students in a single class; everyone in the professional writing program should be required to do this every semester, in my opinion.

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  • 3 comments to A Rough Semester Comes to an End

    • Oh man, that is a crazy schedule. Even just one of those classes would have been a lot to do. It was like you went to the Shaolin Temple to become a ninja warrior for writing. Congratulations where you are at now! You are an inspiration on how much a person can do.

      I ran across Rosemary’s Baby, the book, a few weeks ago and read a few chapters. Ira Levin was a good writer. It was easy to visualize what he was writing which probably why his books were so popular to become films. “The Boys from Brazil” was also great. The first paragraph from that book alone pulled you into the story.

    • Mom

      Welcome back Son. I’ve missed you. LOL

    • You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I love writing in the screenplay format. So much easier than prose. At least in my head.

      Rest easy, young but very tired padawan.

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