On Cheryl Strayed Talks Money

Yes but ... she says. Cautionary tale. Went 40k in debt for a Creative Writing Phd -- did finish my first novel, and sold it, but advance was $7500 hardcover, $3000 paperback, and $3000 (twice) for the movie option. Probably made another 2-3 grand on royalties. Strayed's 100k advance on her first book is a real outlier ... especially in the current publishing realm. So. Yes, you might need to take on some debt, but be sure you can pay it off. The PhD was not a bad investment in itself -- taught one year, and came in at a higher salary level at my corporate job because I had it ... but I did not pay it off with the book.

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 12:13 pm 1

On What Do You Do With a Ph.D. in Literature?

I finished mine out of spite and a determination not to let my unpleasant program defeat me (Creative Writing). Then went off and got a job editing tech docs, found an agent, sold my novel, kept editing tech docs since I made about 12 bucks on the novel. Went on the market once, and when I realized the only school who was interested was offering half my then-salary to teach 4-4 in a place I didn't want to live, I pulled my application. Took 14 years but I paid off the loans 2 years ago. Still working in high tech, about to start pitching book #2 (there were other roadblocks besides having a day job).

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm 0

On What Did You Bring For Lunch as a Kid, And How Are We Still Alive?

My mother had gone k-12 to a private school where everyone ate lunch together, so the whole concept of school lunch was a mystery to her. Also, not a morning person. Elementary school she bought a year's worth of hot lunch at the beginning of the year (or one school there might have been monthly punch cards?). Middle school I started packing my own, or walking home, which was better and then I'd skip school in the afternoon and read books and watch soaps (got straight A's, it was a crappy school). In high school we went to live with my Dad and stepmother -- I think she made lunches? Or bought sandwich stuff and we made lunches? Sandwich, some chips in a baggie, a cookie, an apple? Sometimes I'd buy hot lunch, which was cheap and still pretty good because I am old and come from a time when schools still had real kitchens and lunch ladies. High school we were not allowed off campus for lunch either, but once in a while we'd sneak into town for a cheesedog. Mostly I remember in a couple of schools being one of the only non-poor kids eating hot lunch, because my mother's attitude was what? make lunch? why? they serve it at school, right?

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 8:31 pm 0

On Whatcha Been Cookin'?

@rosaline Mine was my mothers -- from 1971. Still using it. Love it although one of these days I'm going to have to actually follow through on that online tutorial about taking it apart and re-greasing it.

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm 0

On Hate Your Job? Wait Until You're 50

Turning 50 in December here. Let's see. I don't love my job, but I don't hate it either. Seems to me there's two components to this -- 1) everyone my age is just bloody fucking grateful to have a job at all, and is hoping to hang on long enough to save up for retirement and 2) by this age, you know who you are and you're generally okay with it. Same reason my 30th high school reunion was great, while the 20th sucked -- at the 20th everyone was still all posing and trying to impress, by the 30th, we'd all been through the trenches.

Posted on October 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm 0

On Helping Your Parents in Their Retirement

I've already had to do this -- spent enough money to pay off my house on my mother, then when her tiny inheritance came in, she wouldn't let me manage it for her, and is rapidly spending her capital. So I've had to wash my hands of her. Whether I can stick to it when she's looking at a terrible, Medicaid nursing home, well, I've asked the people who actually love me to lash me to the mast in that instance.

Posted on October 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm 0

On When Families Fail

Great story -- for generations, boarding schools and summer camps (like the one that saved my life) have been providing this kind of supportive environment for children of the wealthy. A solid, stable institution has to be better than a parade of foster homes ...

Posted on September 17, 2013 at 11:51 am 0

On Bittman Says Bring Your Lunch to Work, But What About People Who Find It a Chore?

@allison You don't need to truss. Just poke a few holes in a lemon, stuff it in the cavity, put the bird in a pan in a hot oven (425) and cook for an hour, hour and a half. I like to start it breast side down for 45 minutes, then flip and cook another 45 minutes (keeps the breast moist) but that's just being fancy.

Posted on August 28, 2013 at 3:13 pm 0

On Six Lessons I Learned After Becoming a Full-time Freelancer

I've been perma-lancing for the past 4 years, so my deal is a little different because I have an income I can pretty much figure out (works for me, but should be illegal, whole tech writing industry seems to be going this way) -- I sock 40% of every paycheck away, since that leaves me a little wiggle room for emergencies. I do quarterlies, and still always wind up wrangling with my accountant over whether I have enough cash to stash it in my HSA and IRA or whether I have to give it to Uncle Sam. Here's the IRS calculator to figure out your quarterlies: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040es.pdf As for health insurance -- I have a high-deductible basic plan, and I'm waiting for Montana to roll out the new website to see whether Obamacare is going to help me out. I make too much to qualify for the subsidies, but my sweetheart, who is a builder, will benefit. Seeing as how we're both over 50, and in the most expensive demographic for health insurance, anything helps. I don't have dental, but the dental I did have when I was a "real" employee was so crappy that it doesn't seem to make a difference -- also, I have good teeth, which helps. But the key is to sock 40% away if you possibly can. That's been my magic number -- less than that and I ran into trouble in emergencies.

Posted on August 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm 0

On Helaine Olen on "Leaning Into the Past"

I got an advance copy, and one part of Matchar's argument that's not being picked up in the reviews is her analysis of how crappy workplace policies for women (lack of meaningful maternity leave, lack of flextime, expensive day care) in conjunction with erosion of middle-class wages and jobs, are in large part responsible for the flight-to-home. She's pretty careful not to just blame the phenomena on "unrealistic" women who "opt out" -- And like a lot of commenters on this thread -- I like the DIY stuff myself (writing this from my new greenhouse/3-season room my partner and I built from repurposed materials this past week) but I support it all with a corporate job.

Posted on May 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm 0