Like many folks nowadays, I work a few different jobs to make ends meet. Freelancing for this fabulous publication is one and, if you read my column regularly, you know that bartending at the Beacon Pub is another. The reason for this can be found in my byline: I’m a novelist. I consider that my primary career, even though it doesn’t provide me with a steady income.
When my first book came out, I left a full-time, salaried position with good benefits because the 8:30-to-5, administrative-assistant work made me miserable and I thought bartending would leave me more time to write.
It did, at first, but with my books coming out when our economy deteriorated, and bars not being as recession-proof as people think, I had to take on more work to keep up with the mortgage and other bills.
This fall I took on an additional freelance gig at Rookie, an online magazine that was founded by an amazingly talented Oak Park teenager named Tavi Gevinson, and I started teaching a weekly, four-hour Young Adult Fiction course at Columbia College Chicago. On top of that, I finished up my third novel. From there, I dove straight into writing a fourth for National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, which encourages crazy writers to produce 50,000 words in the family-visit-filled month of November.
Without a doubt, this fall has been way more stressful than the fall of 2007, when I was balancing my full-time office job and my first real novel deadline. But despite all this chaos, I am incredibly thankful.
First and foremost, given our economy, I’m thankful to be employed.
Secondly, I’m thankful to be doing work that I truly enjoy. My schedule may be hectic, health insurance for the self-employed may cost a lot for the little it covers, and I don’t get paid vacation like I did when working full-time, but it’s alright.
Unlike my old job, I have a boss (at the Beacon) who appreciates me, and my editors (Nick, here at the Review; and, Tavi and Anaheed, at Rookie) are helping me grow as a writer. I also have great colleagues, like Tom Holmes, who wrote an extra Review column when I was too overworked to submit one last month. Or, Dan and Haley, at the Beacon: I count them among my best friends.
Thirdly, though I may be busier than I was when I worked full-time, I make up for lost sleep with the good energy my jobs provide. Sometimes that comes from laughing with the regulars at the Beacon, hearing from a fellow Forest Parker who enjoyed my column, or getting inspired by my Columbia students as they make breakthroughs in their writing.
Perhaps the biggest boost of energy I got this fall came last Tuesday when I brought my students to the Forest Park Public Library to read their young-adult-novels-in-progress to a group of 16 teenagers.
The teens shared their space, their pizza and listened to my students, applauding them and asking questions. At the end of the event – which Youth Services Outreach Librarian Regina Townsend helped me put together, and I’m grateful for that – one brave Forest Park teen, Leonard Gist read from the opening pages of his novel-in-progress, “Batmike.”
As my students, in turn, showered him with praise, I thought about what I do: How awesome is it that part of my work entails encouraging bright young people to be creative? Despite a stressful fall, I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and I hope you do, too.
Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.