Thinking as a Hobby
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2003-01-11 10:47 AM
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Somebody asked me in a recent post who I am. I don't have a user profile listed on the main page (hey, Kenny...get crackin' on a user profile page!), so this will do. I'll post an "About Me" link on my links page. And if you haven't ever visited any of the links on my links page...have a look.
My real name is Derek James (I generally despise any sort of pseudonyms), and I'm 35 years-old and unmarried (and reasonably satisfied that way).
I was born in Austin, Tx, but my family moved to Lockhart, Tx when I was about eight, and I grew up there (please note that the Chisolm Trail Roundup was the biggest local social event).
When I graduated, I first went to Baylor University (yes, the Baptist university in Waco, Texas). I was initially Pre-Med (how so very many of us were...), but it was about this time I first began to mull over the idea of being a writer (though I didn't really act on it). Because of waning finances, I moved back to Austin to finish up my college education at The University of Texas.
There I received a B.A. in English, and passed the Texas Teacher Certification exams for Secondary Mathematics, Physical Science, and English. The idea was to teach high school while I wrote great works of literature.
Hasn't quite worked out that way. My first job out of college was teaching math at Waelder High School, a tiny 1A school about an hour from Lockhart. At this point I started writing fiction, and I joined a writers group in Austin. But I wasn't very happy, and the job was extremely difficult and frustrating.
My friend Philip finished graduate school in computer science at Baylor and got a job in Dallas. I moved up, and we roomed together for a couple of years. I got another job teaching at West Mesquite High school, Math again, and I was twice as miserable. I didn't get along with my peers or the administration, and I was stressed and exhausted. I wasn't getting any writing done.
At the end of my second year of teaching, I got a job taking helpdesk calls for voice mail users. I was even more depressed.
Then one day I just decided to go to Japan. There were a number of factors, but the main one was pure old disillusionment and unhappiness. I figured I needed an adventure. And I figured I could parlay my English degree and teacher certification into an English as a Second Language job overseas.
I bought a plane ticket, packed my bags, and left for Japan in 1997. I had a tourist visa good for three months, and about enough money for two. I arrived in Osaka, and after several failed interviews, I took the shinkansen up to Tokyo. Finally, after about three weeks in Japan, I landed a job with the Kensington English School (by the way, I designed and built this web page...my first) in Gifu.
Kensington had a second school in Kakamigahara, a smaller town about thirty miles away. I was the sole teacher at the Kakamigahara school. Now, I was an American, teaching at a British school, in Japan. I taught English to all age groups: my youngest students were three and my oldest were in their eighties. I enjoyed living in Japan, and I still miss it sometimes. I was writing pretty steadily by now, and I started submitting stories to magazines, even with the monstrous air mail rates. I started getting my first rejections.
I hadn't intended to live my whole life in Japan...two years was just right. So I moved back to America in 1999. That first year back I was miserable. I couldn't find a steady job, and I was tutoring part-time and teaching part-time at a community college, but it wasn't paying the bills.
Finally, in the fall of 2000 I landed a tech writing job with a company called ObjectSpace. I was making good money, writing, and was reasonably happy. For three months. They laid me off at the end of 2000, and the company folded pretty soon after. I moved into someone's spare room, wasn't able to pay the rent, wrecked Philip's car on an icy day, and generally life sucked. Even so, around this time I had begun to start my own local writers group, though Bill was the only stable member besides myself at that time.
That was a pretty dark time. I was at the end of my rope financially and pschologically. I started substitute teaching, and hated it. I very nearly though, went back into teaching. Instead, I was offered a job as a trainer/tech writer for a company called ClubCorp. I worked there for 4 years, doing on-line training and documentation. And though it's not all that exciting, it pays well, and gives me stress-free evenings to pursue writing.
I made my first fiction sale in the summer of 2001, a story called "A Piece of Bamboo", which appeared on-line in Strange Horizons. My second published story, "Carving" appeared in the first issue of Flytrap in 2003.
In 2005, I decided to go back to school. I'm now enrolled in a Cognitive Science PhD program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. My research focuses on neuroevolution, applying concepts from genetics and real populations to artificial neural networks.
That's pretty much my life.
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