On this episode of A Day in the Life we Spring 2017 grad Jill Cox- Cordova. She is a fiction writer with a background in journalism, and an interest in nonfiction. Jill lives near Atlanta and works as an English Comp. teacher when she’s not writing. It was great to hear from Jill and learn more about her daily routine and writing process.
Now let’s hear from Jill.
When did you graduate?
Spring 2017. Woohoo!
What genre do you write?
Fiction, but occasionally I return to my journalistic roots and dabble in nonfiction.
Where do you live?
Kennesaw, Georgia, which is part of metro Atlanta.
What are your favorite books?
I have so many, but the ones that continue to linger in my mind are An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Body and Soul by Frank Conroy, Jazz and God Help the Child by Toni Morrison, Roots by Alex Haley and This Side of Providence by Spalding’s own Rachel Harper.
Do you hold a full-time job other than writing? What do you do?
Yes, I teach English Composition I and II to students at Kennesaw State University here in Georgia. This semester, I have five classes on two campuses, but I am truly enjoying it. I also met and love a fellow Spalding alum, JoAnn Loverde-Dropp, who also teaches in the same department as me.
What part of writing do you like the most?
The revision process. Mr. First Draft and I aren’t friends yet.
Do you work with an outline or just wing it?
I just wing it with short stories because…well, they’re short. I initially tried doing that when I wrote the first draft of my novel, but that confused me, of course. Even now, my outline is somewhat loose with my listing only the external and internal conflicts and the stakes for each chapter.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes, if someone tells me I have several weeks to write something. No, if someone tells me my deadline is in a few days. My journalism days conditioned me to thrive under deadline pressure.
Do you listen to music while writing- if so, what kind?
Yes, I must have music to write anything, especially since it often makes its way into my stories. I’m listening to Prince right now, but I find a way to listen to him everyday. When I’m creating fiction, I listen to either what my narrator would like or what era the story takes place. Lately, that translates into my listening to everything from Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” to some Thelonious Monk.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read or watch Netflix or “This is Us.”
Can you tell us about an upcoming project?
My graduate residency, I took the book-length manuscript workshop, led by Nancy McCabe. I gained valuable feedback and have been revising it ever since. I am a fan of the novel-in-stories structure, so that is the format. It has multiple narrators, who all respond and react to themes of racial disparity and identity issues. My goal is to have a polished draft by the end of the year.
I’m also looking forward to returning as an alum to Spalding in November. I feel blessed to be on a panel with fellow alum and moderator Scott O’Connor and faculty, Rachel Harper, Rebecca Walker, and Sam Zalutsky. That weekend will also be extra special since I will get to witness my best friend, Troy Wilderson, graduate from the program.
Where can we find your work?
My website: jillcoxcordova.com.
I just launched a Facebook Page too.
What does your daily schedule look like?
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I get up at 5:30 a.m. I don’t have a class until 8:00 a.m., but in Atlanta, leaving 15 minutes later than usual can double your commute time. So, I leave my house at 6:30 a.m.; arrive at work by 7:00 a.m., and work on revising my novel until it’s time to head to my classroom.
I used to think I needed to wear workout clothes or something comfortable like that to write. Now that my only time to write is at work, but before my work day begins, I see that was just in my head. One thing I cannot do without, however, are my earbuds and music.
I don’t set a word or page count goal, so I am consistently successful at meeting my goal of utilizing the time to write. Typically, I am able to revise 2000-3500 words a day, depending on what all needs to change.
I am consistently unsuccessful with my plans to exercise. I think about it often, especially since there is an elliptical next to my writing area at home. I talk myself out of it by telling myself that I should write, grade papers, or relax instead. A recent meeting with friends, though, inspired me to do better this week.
I have three classes, back-to-back-to-back, so I finish teaching at 11:00 a.m. I have office hours until 1:00 p.m. If no students visit me, I grade papers or prepare for classes later in the week. Then I return home.
Once I’m home, I usually finish work for my classes. I’m also taking a course offered by my workplace that teaches faculty how to develop and execute online courses. We have a week to do the work assigned each week, and I have developed a tendency to wait until a couple of days before it’s due. Unnecessary pressure, I know.
Then I watch a little TV with my husband.
I’ve been known to fall asleep during mid-sentence, so my bedtime may come earlier than I planned. That’s good, though, considering that I cannot seem to go to bed before 11:00 most nights.
Thursdays, I work at the campus that is within walking distance of my house. I don’t have to be at work until 11 a.m. on Thursdays, so I get up around 8:00 a.m., work on my novel as much as I can, and then walk to campus. I have two classes, and I end my day at 6 p.m.
Tuesdays, I don’t have any classes, so I get up whenever and do whatever .
What advice would you give someone looking for a more productive routine?
I became more productive after I realized I was putting too many things on my daily to-do list. Now I just list five things. Somehow seeing a shorter list helps me believe it’s all feasible.
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Mackenzie Jervis is a Summer 2016 Graduate. She lives in Texas with her husband, two cats, puppy, and son. She’s traveled to 65 countries solo, now taking the baby along. She blogs about family travel at A Wandering Scribbler while writing novels and binge-watching British TV.