Supporting the Adjunct Addiction

I don’t want to call it an addiction; because honestly, I can walk away whenever I want.  But I realized that to support my predilection for adjuncting full time, I’ve assembled a range of jobs that help me keep doing what I enjoy.  In other words, I have jobs that help support my full-time job.  Granted, I’m not in the stuck in the situation of those full-time Wal-Mart employees who still qualify discounted state-funded healthcare, but I do find that in order to keep everything flowing smoothly, I hold onto several other jobs and am constantly keeping an eye on potential jobs to fill the gaps (for both current teaching and non-teaching gigs).  But really, I can walk away whenever I want.  

In total, I am employed by 10 places (5 colleges; 1 residential program, 4 publications).  Over several years, I’ve synergized my various skills, interests, and goals so that my jobs overlap or help one another.  For instance, some of my writing includes reviewing audiobooks.  The reviews themselves aren’t necessarily taxing but listening to 6-12 hour audiobooks could be.  Therefore, I often listen while commuting to the various colleges I teach at or when doing chores around the house and usually cover 2-3 audiobooks a week.  I work overnight at the residential program 2 nights a week, which may sound crazy, but the situation allows me to grade papers, prep and correspond with students via email since I have to stay awake and keep myself entertained for some 7 hours.  Ok, I can be a little sleep deprived at times, but I can still perfectly function and nobody notices…mostly. 

External jobs can offer a variety of things that can help and support your primary goals as a full-time adjunct.  They can provide you with benefits; the overnight job gives me my health insurance.  They can provide one with more diverse experience to further expand one’s CV and other opportunities.  Along those lines, they also provide “real world” experience to temper one’s pedagogical experience.  They can serve as financial padding when the course load is a bit too light.   They can provide a larger network of people including potential guest lecturers to bring into the classroom.  They can be a much needed source of relief and distraction from the demands of adjuncting.    So frankly, it’s better that I keep doing what I’m doing.  I’m better that way. 

The key is to blend interests, opportunities for double-dipping, and maximizing unused time to make it all fit.   In the short run, one may have to take a few jobs that were less desirable, stressful, and taxing, but in taking the long view, one can strategically shift into those positions that not only help to support the full-time adjuncting, but also, can be enjoyable in their own right.  That’s right; I make it look easy and enjoyable so that no one knows about my predilection.

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Interview with Gareth Hinds

I encountered Gareth Hinds several years back when I first started doing graphic novel reviews.  A graphic rendition of King Lear by Hinds came across my desk and I rather enjoyed it.  Shortly thereafter, I learned that Hinds was a local artist in the greater Boston area.  At the time, I was creating a roundtable discussion of several people involved in the comics industry for an even at North Shore Community College and his name instantly popped into mind.  Since then, Hinds has gone on to publish Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice as well as most recently, a wonderful graphic adaptation of The Odyssey.  He has been kind enough to be interviewed for this blog. 

EATON:  So you’ve done Beowulf, King Lear, Merchant of Venice and now The Odyssey.  What pulls you to do the classics?  What do you feel you can add to them by putting them in comic form?
Gareth Hinds at work

HINDS:  This question could cover a lot of ground, but let's just say that I want to work with the best writers around, and in my opinion those are Shakespeare, Homer, and the anonymous composer of Beowulf. The major benefit of turning them into graphic novels is that they become more exciting to young people (as well as anyone who feels the originals are too long, dense, or difficult).

EATON:  What are the major challenges in adapting classic literature into comics?

HINDS:  They tend to be long. They don't lend themselves very well to being broken into short chunks of dialog (which is usually better than long chunks in terms of story flow in the comics medium.) They are very sophisticated, and if you dumb them down to fit in the world of standard superhero fare,... well, then they're dumb. This is the mistake I see made most often.

EATON:  Conceptually, what challenges did you find with The Odyssey?  Technically, what challenges did you find with The Odyssey? What editorial decisions needed to be made with adapting The Odyssey?

HINDS:  I'm going to answer these three all together, because the distinctions between them are a bit blurry.

Because the Odyssey is so long, I had to think about how I was going to shorten it. There were certain sections that lent themselves well to compression, such as the Land of the Dead, and the period after Odysseus' return when he's scoping out the situation and telling people a lot of elaborate lies about who he is and where he's from. Also there was the question of which translation to use, and how to edit down the dialog. After looking at that for a while, I decided that I needed to re-write everything in order to get it short enough, and that let me more or less dodge the translation issue.

I feel that each book I do demands its own visual style, so the next challenge was figuring out a style that captured the feel of this time and place, the ancient Mediterranean, that made it feel real -- that I could do quickly, since it's such a long book. I tried quite a few things, and ultimately the simple pencil and watercolor direction was the one which worked best. There were also technical details to work out with my designer at Candlewick, such as the width of the margins and gutters, the type face, how to make the sound effects integrated but editable,and so on.
Book cover to Gareth Hind's The Odyssey

Once I was into the actual execution of the book, there were challenges with specific scenes. I try to be very faithful to the original source material, but when you are going from one medium to another, you really are translating, and sometimes details have to change in order to achieve the same overall effect. Especially with the more emotionally-charged moments, it can be difficult to convey the thoughts and feelings of the characters without using thought bubbles or third-person narration (devices which I don't particularly like, especially  when I'm trying to maintain a classical feeling). Some scenes that especially gave me trouble: the recognition scenes with Argos and Eurycleia, the Land of the Dead, Odysseus and Penelope's night together after their reunion, and the very end (which is quite abrupt in the original).

EATON:  One thing I’ve grown to enjoy about your work is the coloring and color schemes used throughout different sections of the book.  Can you speak to the coloring choices?

HINDS:  The jumping-off point is whatever I think is realistic for the scene -- firelight, sunrise, bright noonday sun, and so on. Then I will adjust it based on the mood I'm looking for. So the Cyclops' firelit cave becomes an angry bright orange, while Odysseus' firelit palace at night, when he's in disguise talking to Penelope, is more subdued and mysterious. Also the watercolor has its own ideas sometimes!

In this book especially, I do a lot of day-night transitions to show how time is passing, especially in the traveling sequences.

EATON:  Do you do any kind of research when adapting a classic?  Do you read academic material or anything along those lines for further insight?

HINDS:  I don't read much critical material about the work I'm adapting, because that stuff is usually pretty dense and boring, and I prefer to stick to my own impressions of the work. I do quite a lot of visual and contextual research on the period, especially things like architecture, clothing, weapons, furniture, etc. Basically I want to get a solid feeling for how everything would look realistically. Then I may depart from that historically accurate vision a little (or a lot) -- perhaps by simplifying it, stylizing it, making it more grandiose or more fantastic, or perhaps even changing the setting completely -- but doing so with a confidence that I know what I'm departing from, and I'm making those choices consciously and for a reason.

EATON:  What is your favorite part of the Odyssey?  (Both in terms of the story and in terms of the work that you did)

HINDS:  In the original story my favorite part is when Odysseus' dog Argos recognizes him. Ultimately I'm very happy with the way I was able to (I think) preserve the power of that scene, although it was also the scene I wrestled with the most. The scenes that really just came together easily and beautifully were the ones where Odysseus is out on the sea alone, sailing, swimming, being shipwrecked, etc.

EATON:  What is your next project?

HINDS:  I've just finished up a book for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, called Gifts from the Gods, that is a kind of hybrid between a picture book and a graphic novel. The text is by Lise Lunge-Larsen, and it's about Greek and Roman mythology, so in subject it's very much in keeping with The Odyssey, but it's also very novel for me in terms of working with a new format, publisher, editor,... and a living writer!

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For more information, please check out Gareth Hind's website and his blog.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.