NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

English professor takes sabbatical

NECC English professor Tom Greene has taken the spring semester of 2016 off for sabbatical. During this time, he is working on producing a manuscript for a novel and seeking to publish it.

A sabbatical may be granted to a professor every seven years, where he or she can ask for time off to do their own research or their own work and get paid for the time off.

Greene wrote a proposal for what he wanted to do. Since the school approved his project, they gave him some paid time off from teaching.

“It varies from one college to another. You don’t teach, but you do the other work that you agreed to do. Then at the end of the semester, you show them the work that you have done,” Greene said.

English professors who take time off usually write a book, and if they teach fiction writing, they may take the time off to write a novel.

Greene has been teaching at NECC since 2008. The sabbatical was a good way to get the extra time to work on his novel. It is a science fiction novel with a subgenre of space opera.

He described space opera as “large scale mythic stories that happen in space.” The original term, soap opera, was changed for shows like Star Trek which are essentially soap operas that happen in space.

Star Wars is another example of “big events and large political movements and spaceships,” he said.

Right now he has a manuscript of about 76,000 words. The outlining took about a month and the first draft took about five weeks. Rewriting took another four weeks.

Since then, he has been rewriting for about four or five months.

“The original writing is only about 1 percent of the work and then most of it is revision after that,” he said.

“It’s different every day. Some days it goes well and some days it goes really poorly, but it’s just about persistence.”

This semester, in order to completely devote himself to his book, he has not been on campus at all.

He has never attempted to write a novel before, which is why this was important for him.

He has published some short stories in science fiction, and in the past he has taught the Fiction Writing class at NECC.

A few of his students would ask him what he knew about writing a novel, and he would have to answer

“Well, I haven’t done one myself,” and then would share information about what other authors have said from their experience.

“In order to be a better Fiction Writing teacher, especially for those students who want to write novels, I thought it was important to have some firsthand experience,” he said.

He has been reading science fiction since he was a kid and trying to write science fiction since he was 16.

He has an MFA in Fiction Writing from UMass Amherst. He wrote continuously for about 27 years before he ever got published.

His first published work in a professional publication was in a fiction magazine called Strange Horizons with a story titled “Zero Bar,” like the candy bar.

In professional publications, he’s gotten four published and is getting another one published next year.

“I constantly yell at people when they don’t take a sabbatical every sevem years,” he said, laughing.

“I mean, why wouldn’t you take one? The most you can ever take is one every seven years and if you don’t apply, you don’t get it back. Plus, it really is a good way to recharge for another seven years of teaching.”

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