Teaching Failure and Recording My Own Failures

One of my classes this semester focuses on helping peer writing center consultants frame their tutoring experience in job and grad school application materials and interviews. With COVID-19 looming over everything this semester, making job markets and grad school prospects even more uncertain than usual, and my students extremely anxious about the future, I ended up changing the plan for the last class meeting. Normally, students deliver Pecha Kucha talks about how their writing center experience helped prepare them for the future. This semester, that seemed like a fantastical exercise, so we focused on failure instead.

That may sound really grim, but in fact, students and I left class feeling much lighter. Talking about our failures and what we learned from them, admitting that some failures aren’t really learning experiences, and acknowledging failure as a normal part of any person’s life felt very affirming for us.

I’ve been a fan of normalizing failure for years, including failure as a topic in the textbook I co-authored with Amy Braziller and posting on social media about rejections. I’ve had students read and write CVs of failure (also called shadow CVs). But I’ve never gotten around to writing my own CV of failure, and at this point, I’ve had so many failures that I can’t remember them all.

So I’ll do the next best thing. I’ll start recording my failures here today. Expect this page to be updated regularly.

Failures since May 2020

  • 6/17/22: prose poem rejected by Unbroken
  • 5/6/22: flash memoir piece rejected by Brevity 
  • August 2021: turned in a revision for an edited collection three months late
  • August 2020: turned in a draft for an edited collection three months late
  • July 2020: withdrew piece from an edited collection because I realized I wouldn’t be able to finish it by the deadline after my husband’s stroke
  • June 2020 – May 2022: Did not participate in Naylor Workshop on Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies in 2021 or 2022 and did not present at International Writing Centers Association Conference in 2021.