Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writing Group, Week 4: Look at this neat stuff I found!

Welcome back, everyone! Thanks for checking in last week, and a special shout-out to those who checked in more than once so they could offer their fellows comments and encouragement.

Week four's check-in is upon us. I note that last week there were a large number of absences. The same thing seemed to befall my classes last week, so perhaps it's something in the air. Or maybe gettin' it done, week in and week out, has started to weigh on some people. But since that's what we're about here, I thought that maybe it's time for a little pick-me-up to revive the flagging motivation. So here's what I'd like to suggest for a discussion topic: What's one cool thing that you discovered this week? One thing that made you go: Oooh! Neat-o!, and got you excited about your project, even if only momentarily. Feel free to geek out -- we're all a bit weird here, after all.

Here's my story: This week saw me reading about... pirates! Arrr! Pirates! And I'm finding the reading amazing and cool. Here's one nifty thing: when we think about pirates, we think of two ships at sea, firing cannon at each other until one sinks or is boarded, after which much swash is buckled, booty is taken, legs are pegged, etc.

But this is about medieval pirates.

So: No cannons.

It was a small revelation, and one that was totally obvious once I looked at it for even half a second, but it totally rearranged my mental picture of pirates, who were now firing mounted crossbows instead of cannons, and ordering their prey to take down their sails by shouting at them, of all things.

I thought that was cool.

All right, now to the goals. My goal was to read at least 3 articles and one book, take notes daily, and write at least 500 good words towards the paper draft. Well, I did all that... except for that daily note-taking. If I'm not writing daily, I'd like to be note-taking daily, just to keep engaged (as we discussed last week). And let me tell you, sitting down to write that summary work without the daily journaling was harder than it should have been. So this week my goal is the same thing (let's call it "4 bibliography items", since I'm not sure how long it will take for the actual books to arrive), but to be much more conscientious about the journaling.

How about you? Check out your goals from last week -- did you accomplish what you wanted to? And don't forget to tell us what you plan to do next week.

Finally, if you're on the absence list, remember that you need to check in this week or lose your spot. And if you're on the absence list but you did check in, but under a different name, let me know, and I'll correct the post. I think we've got almost all of the double-names sorted out, but there may be one or two more lingering out there.

Writers... Report!

Goals for week 4:
  • ABDMama [Complete an article draft]: 1) Write out a take on the topic with the new work; 2) Write an abstract.
  • Adelaide [write a conference paper]: finish organizing notes and start writing SOMETHING towards the paper…
  • Amcalm25 [finish an article]: continue with at least 20 minutes of writing for at least 5 days and thoroughly read 1 main text
  • Amstr [revise and resubmit an article]: 1) write argument statement, note where argument is in article, and revise to make argument clear and prominent; 2) outline article, review WYJA on “solving structural problems,” and revise for structure; 3) “read,” annotate, and incorporate 10 sources
  • Another Damned Medievalist [write/revise a close-to-final draft of an article]: One or both of the following two: 1) Read the initial papers again, making clear notes about awkward issues, and consult with the editor; 2) Work on an outline and plan for how to restructure the article
  • Antikate [revise a conference paper into an article & submit]: Write 1000 words, and read at least two articles from potential target journals
  • Belledamesansmerci/Elizabeth [transform a conference paper into a journal article]: Continue the half-hour a day; decide whether the paper is long enough for article and scout out further examples if necessary
  • Bitterandjaded/Bittergrrl [finishing a dissertation chapter]: 1) finish integrating the second theoretical work into the introduction; 2) Edit everything into a cohesive narrative; 3) Add a total of 2000 words to the chapter/intro.
  • Britomart [completing a draft of dissertation introduction]: Work on the dissertation intro for 2 hours per day.
  • Cly(temnestra) [write a book chapter]: (not sure what the goal is: is it to try again to get daily writing in? -- NPhD)
  • Contingent Cassandra [complete a full draft of a journal article]: Continue the working rhythm on three days
  • Dame Eleanor Hull [complete a chapter of the article-turned-book]: revise the most complete chapter for the recommender
  • Digger [write two book chapters]: 1) work on chapters 5/7 days; 2) Start writing background of Why Wheels chapter; outline State Sponsored Wheels chapter
  • Dr. Crazy [Finish a chapter draft begun this summer]: Write 3 pages and reread Giddens
  • Dr. Virago [draft a 7500-word essay for a contracted publication]: write each of my writing days this week, and aim for another 750 words
  • Erika [write a complete & final draft of an article already underway]: Pull together all the thoughts and jots; reach out to possible peer-reviewer
  • Evan [write a conference paper]: read up about the rise of the New Right and make a list of stuff to ILL for when I get back
  • Forthright [write two article-length pieces]: put the skeleton together for at least one of the articles
  • Frogprincess [Final draft of the dissertation]: finish another draft of the introduction and send it to the advisor; continue working through chapter 1 revisions; start outlining the conclusion; work on the diss on M/W 12-2 and Saturday/Sunday
  • Good Enough Woman [write a solid draft of a dissertation chapter]: 1) read 50 more pages of primary text, 2) read two more chapters of Descartes, 3) read one chapter of another book (secondary source), 4) and read one article (realizing that this could be overly optimistic)
  • Heu Mihi [write paper for a faculty colloquium]: Work on translating the Latin (a 2-week project); go through 2 books and incorporate notes into Part 3 outline
  • Highlyeccentric [Draft two thesis chapters]: work on the thesis every day, incorporating 2000 words from another chapter, and writing a new introduction
  • Inafuturelife [transform seminar paper into a conference paper]: reread my primary text and start working on focusing the scope.
  • Jamilajamison [finish writing the M.A. thesis]: complete 1 of 4 sections, and do my best to follow the writing schedule
  • Janice/Jleidl [write a first draft of a chapter]: get to a total of 1500 words by next Friday
  • Jennifer [finish writing a neglected article]: (excused absence to take a week with family and packing office)
  • Katrin/StichInTime [Do we have an overall goal for you?]: Finish reading the paper; read yet another Norwegian thesis; check, reformat, and update/extend the catalogue section
  • Kris [write up a “full” paper and cut it down to a 15-minute conference presenation]: finish reading collected papers and craft a front section of the paper to contextualizes the current problem
  • Luolin [finish and submit an article]: Read through my draft and outline where it is and where I want it to be
  • Marie [finish turning paper into journal article]: finish the Intro and create an outline that makes sense
  • Matilda [revise a paper into a journal article]: finish constructing the main argument
  • Merryweather [write conference paper]: a) work at least 4 hours on the article in total between Monday to Thursday and all day on Friday; b) read the items from ILL; c) use the completed reading to write a short, argument-focused, literature review
  • Monks and Bones [turn a seminar paper into an article]: 1) complete last week’s goals (identifying relevant subset of sources, figuring out how to best approach data, reading some effective English-language articles for their structure); and 2) work on the project five days this week
  • Notorious Ph.D. [write a conference paper]: Read at least 3 articles and one book, take notes daily, and write at least 500 good words towards the paper draft
  • NWGirl [Revise one dissertation chapter into a book chapter]: 1) Work on list of sources for chapter; 2). Work on outline; 3) Write 500 words x 4 days.
  • Salimata [write a conference paper]: work every day on *this* particular project, specifically reading three more books
  • Scatterwriter [revise three chapters of book]: make the revisions to my Introduction that I identified this past week. Re-read and begin revising the first 20 pages of Chapter 1
  • Sisyphus [polish the rough draft of my article and send it out]: clean up all the bolded stuff in section 4 and put in all the correct transitions and topic sentences and conclusions and stuff (this may be a two-week project
  • Stemi [Complete and send off a review article ]: 1) Identify sections that need more references; 2) Add 500 words to outline file (including rough draft writing)
  • Susan [write a 7000 word commissioned essay]: read some of the grounding theory, and then draft perhaps 500 words of the next section on theoretical and conceptual territory
  • Synecdoche [Finish conference paper]: get back to work on this project (any specific goal toward that end? -- NPhD)
  • Trapped in Canadia [draft two chapters of the dissertation]: write 500 words a day on the abuses chapter and still manage an outline for my next chapter
  • Undine/Notofgeneralinterest [Finish nearly done chapter and complete another]: (1) get the article off the desk and (2) finish the 2,000 words that promised last week
  • Viola [writing an introduction and a chapter for thesis]: get the central argument squared away
  • Zcat abroad/Kiwimedievalist [write an article]: fix the issues with article A

Absences from week 3:
  • Firstmute [Revise and submit a journal article]
  • Lucie [Complete a full draft of my PhD thesis]
  • Mike [write ch. 2 of dissertation]
  • Nvrwhere42 [finish a dissertation chapter]
  • Opsimathphd [turning a dissertation chapter into an article]
  • Scholasticamama [Transform a conference paper into an article]
  • Su Real Alteza [finish textbook manuscript]

The Verbal Tip

In waitressing, we called it "the verbal tip." Here's the rule: when someone on their way out the restaurant door makes a point of catching you and telling you what a great job you've done, 9 out of 10 times they've left an awful tip, or none at all.

This morning, all faculty got a message from our chancellor, talking about the "many challenges" we face, the prospect of disappearing programs, larger class sizes, and delayed building repairs and equipment purchases (the staff and faculty cuts, and three-plus years of salary freezes, plus a year of furloughs, plus and the prospect of a big and permanent pay cut looming on the horizon are left unspoken).

The rest of the very long e-mail goes on about how we will remain committed to students, and how it's all down to our fantastic faculty and staff who helps students succeed, and how we are "mak[ing] high-quality, affordable education accessible to all citizens." The message seems to be that people who are really dedicated to students don't let something as petty as filthy lucre get to them.

So yay, us, for being awesome folks who provide excellence without money.

But on the whole, I would have preferred a tip.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

From the "Bad Professor" Files

Over a week after receiving them, I determined that today would be the day that I sat down with the first papers from one of my classes. Kind of has to be, because Tuesday I'm getting a batch from another class, and I want to be out from under one stack for at least a couple hours before getting buried under the next one. So I got up early, went to the farmers' market, and then went home intending to put away the groceries and grab the stack of papers.

Except that they weren't on the table.

Ah, of course not. Because I was cleaning stuff this weekend. So they must be over here...

Nope. Not there either.

Well, how about the two other places that they could possibly be in my tiny apartment. No, and... no.

There is no other place in my apartment they could be. They are definitively Not Here. But neither do I remember taking them Elsewhere. It's just a largish, binder-clipped stack of papers that has somehow mysteriously vanished.

This would worry the crap out of me, except that I have made a conscious decision to tell myself that I took them up to the office for no good reason. Or maybe I'm confusing this binder-clipped stack of papers with one for a different class that I did bring home, grade, and take back to the office, and the ones for this class never made it home in the first place. Either way, I tell myself, I will see them sitting on my desk when I go up Monday. Right?

::sigh:: I am supposed to be cultivating attentiveness. Instead, I usually feel like this:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Stew to Welcome In the Fall

Fall is here. It is my very favorite time of year. And I like to welcome it in every year with a batch of Kabocha squash soup.* It's delicious, full of all sorts of good vitamins, and freezes well.** As an added bonus, it gives you an opportunity to use one (or perhaps more than one, depending on your familiarity with fennel and/or kale) of those vegetables that are always in the grocery store, but that you've never known what to do with.

You start with a kabocha squash. It looks like this:

It's somewhere between pumpkin and butternut on the squash flavor scale, so if you can't get kabocha, you can use one of those. Pick one that's about 3 ½ pounds, and gut and trim it. In fact, this is the hardest part of the recipe, because a kabocha has a rind about as thick as a pumpkin, but the shape and size make it difficult to cut open. Seriously, the first time I tried to cut into one of these, there was a point where I was there with two knives, a hammer, and a screwdriver, wondering if I knew anyone with a table saw. Eventually, I hit upon the method stabbing down from the top several times until I had succeeded in removing a small jack o' lantern-style "lid," then cutting wedges down from the edges of the opening. After that, you trim off the rind and cube the flesh. You should end up with about 6 cups of cubed squash, give or take a cup.

There. The hard part is over. Now you're going to be needing three large cooking pots or something. One of them needs to be a really big stockpot. And you'll need them all at the same time. Got 'em? Good. Here we go.

First pan: this is your giant stockpot. You're gonna heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then two bulbs of fennel (trimmed, washed, quartered, then sliced), two medium onions (same thing), and the squash. Add them mostly all at once, but in small enough batches so you can coat them with the oil. Put the lid on, and cook over medium, stirring frequently, until things are softened and start to amalgamate. This should take about 20 minutes. Now, while you're waiting, start the…

Second pan: this is a good-sized cooking pot. In it, you're going to boil two chopped, peeled (or well-scrubbed), diced potatoes in two cups of vegetable stock and one cup of cooking wine. Once you've got it at a low boil, keep it going for about 10 minutes. Once you've got it started, start the…

Third pan: a skillet or a wok. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil, add one to two chopped garlic cloves, and a pound (yes, a full pound) of sliced or chopped crimini mushrooms, then add about a teaspoon of dried thyme, and ¼ tsp. (or less, adjusted to balance out the level of sweetness in the particular squash you buy) of cayenne pepper. You're going to cook this down stirring frequently, until the mushrooms give up their juice, then keep cooking until that juice is gone. This will really concentrate the flavors.

This is what it looks like once you've got it all going:

Now, this should all finish up around the same time – about half an hour after you started chopping the fennel and onions (and god only knows how long after beginning your battle with the wily kabocha). Hopefully that first pot has cooked down so you've got a bit of room. Stir in one large can of diced tomatoes (drained).*** Then the mushrooms, and the potatoes in their stock (though you can hold back bit of this stock to use to deglaze the mushroom pan so you don't lose any of that yummy concentrated flavor). Toss in a bit of salt & pepper, but not too much, because next you're gonna add this stuff:

That's a teaspoon of soy sauce, a tablespoon or so of honey (though I use agave nectar, and I suppose brown sugar would do in a pinch), and 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Stir it in, then carefully add one bunch of kale (rinsed, de-veined, and torn into manageable pieces) – I say "carefully" because, in my experience, by now the pot is so full that I end up having to sprinkle a layer on top, then gently push it down into the stew with the back of the cooking spoon, then keep doing this until it's all in.**** Cover the pot tightly and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring only often enough to prevent sticking.

What you get is about eight 1 1/2-cup servings of this:

Happy fall, everyone!

*Recipe is adapted ever so slightly from the New Vegetarian Epicure's "Winter Vegetable Stew." Versatility note: a scoop of the less liquid portion of this stew also makes a great burrito or enchilada filling (no cheese required -- the squash is rich enough), especially if mixed with a bit of black beans and brown rice.

**You may also notice that, if you go with agave or brown sugar rather than honey, the recipe is totally vegan – in case that matters to you.

***Yes, I said "canned." I find that by the time it's right to make this soup, fresh tomatoes are at least a month out of season. And better a canned tomato than a fresh one that tastes like nothing at all.

****The better method Рthe one the cookbook actually recommends Рis to toss another teaspoon of olive oil into the pan the mushrooms were in, along with a clove of garlic, then quickly saut̩e the kale until it just wilts, but it still very! bright! green!, then add it dead last, after the final simmer. This is nice, because it keeps the kale's bright, vivid color. But by this time, you will have already been in the kitchen for over an hour since starting to cut the fennel and onions, and maybe 90 minutes since beginning with the kabocha, so maybe you don't want to add another step. Still, it's an option, and the result is, I think, worth it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Orientation (plus a toss to week 3)

Tomorrow, Week 3 of the writing group post will be is up at ADM's place!

Today, I direct you to read Female Science Professor's modest proposal for extending those useful orientation sessions for junior faculty to include all faculty, along with some discussion of content of said sessions.

Here's a picture:

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Caffeine Conundrum

I was sitting at home this morning writing, and I looked down at my cup and thought, "My latte is almost gone." And then I realized that when you run out of the latte you made, you can't just top it off; you have to make a whole new one. This is a time-consuming break in whatever work you're doing. Furthermore, it would require one to admit that one was the kind of person who would make and drink Two Whole Lattes in a single hour. Which, of course, I am. I'm not sure I even aspire not to be. But the act of actually making that second latte (as distinct from the entirely reasonable act of drinking it) seems to say: "I am so coffee-addicted that I will take steps to procure it that would never cross most people's minds."

In Blerg City, the lattes are smallish, usually 6-8 ounces:

There are one or two places in which you can order a 10-ounce coffee beverage. But this is unusual. And the post-meal coffee of choice is barely three ounces: a shot of espresso cut with an equal amount of milk (or, if you're feeling like drinking your dessert, with a generous sploosh of sweetened condensed milk). Within a month, I've acclimated to the point where even a 12-ounce coffee from the first stateside airport seems gargantuan -- I once actually inquired, puzzled, whether they had given me a large by mistake. But within a week, I'm back, and 16 ounces seems like the normal size. 12 ounces, with a double shot, is me being abstemious. I could probably drink gallons of the stuff without realizing it if physics didn't require the space in coffee cups to be finite.

On the other hand, I still have enough shame not to order one of those now-ubiquitous 20-ounce lattes. It's not that I couldn't drink it. It's not that I wouldn't deeply enjoy drinking it (except that by the time I got to the bottom, it would probably be tepid). It's just that I feel that carrying around a 20-ounce cup of caffeine would be tantamount to publicly admitting that I had a serious problem. In the privacy of my own home, however, I fantasize about having a latte pot, in the same way I have a coffee pot -- something that enabled me to make about 40 ounces of soy latte at any given time, and leave it warm and happy on the burner so I could give myself a little warm-up at will. Or perhaps something more akin to a soda dispenser? On the other hand, that would bring my total coffee-making devices to four** -- five, if you count the burr grinder. And, of course, it would be dangerously enabling.

My name is Notorious, and I have no self-control.

**The current three are: regular drip coffee maker (above), old-school Italian stove-top "espresso" maker (way above), and a french press that I never use because, while I recognize the inherent goodness of coffee from a french press, it just. doesn't. make. enough.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

And the semester started out so promising...

I had a good, healthy exercise rhythm. Meditating every morning, keeping on top of the grading, and writing, too. Things seemed on track. I was pleased that, at 41, I was stronger and healthier than ever before.

And now... an old S-I joint injury has kicked up again, for no good reason. Seriously, yesterday morning I rode up to campus as usual, did some work, helped set up for a colleague's research talk, and then halfway into the presentation I realized that my back was a little sore, sore enough that I decided not to push it, and I put the bike on the bus and rode home that way. By the evening, the pain was radiating from hip to ankle. This morning I could barely get out of bed.

I remember this pain from 10 years ago. At that point, it was understandable: I was out of shape, and I moved in a way to throw everything off. This, however, seems to be a challenge that the fates are throwing at me: "So, you think you've got your shit together, do you? How 'bout an extra heaping dose of humility?"


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Writing Group Week 2: Pacing

Welcome to week two of Another Damned Notorious Writing Group! This week's topic is: Pacing.

No, I'm not talking about the kind of pacing that you do when you jump up from your chair when you ought to be writing. Nor is this the productive pacing that helps you think out an idea (yes, I actually do this. I have no idea why, but sometimes it helps).

What we're talking about here is establishing a good pace to keep you on track. Obviously, that's part of what the weekly check-ins are for: to make sure that you're making meaningful progress every week so you actually reach your goals. But there's another type of pacing we need to talk about, and that's the pace for each individual week. We need to make sure that we're not putting the week's goal off until two days before the end, then either trying to cram it all in, or realizing that we can't possibly cram it all in, and finish the week feeling too discouraged or embarrassed to check in the next week.

Why this topic? Because that's exactly where I found myself this week. I got absorbed in the day-to-day of the job, trying to keep up with the grading, and even doing non-work-related things (yes, those are important, too, and working on a project doesn't mean you should sacrifice them). Then, all of a sudden, it was Wednesday, and I realized that I had only barely touched the project all week. And there was panic, and a sense of impending doom.

Maybe you experienced something similar in your first "real" week on the project? Or maybe you had another kind of weekly pacing issue, in that you overestimated what you could take on in a given week? Or maybe, just maybe, you did it right, and established some good habits that you want to resolve to carry through for the following 11 weeks. Whatever it is, let's talk about how we are going to keep on track in a given week. If we take care of the individual weeks, the project will take care of itself.

So here's my report: I wrote that I would "develop a plan of attack," meaning that I would pull together all my materials, see what I had, develop a preliminary bibliography, order things up, and sketch out an outline. In a rush, I got everything but the last thing done. But my rush -- that is, my failure to pace myself this week -- meant that even the stuff that I did manage to finish was half-assed, and I don't feel as prepared as I want to going into this week.

Here's how I resolve to change it, with this week's goal: get that outline done, and write at least 300 words a day of notes on my secondary source material. Slow and steady wins the race.

How about you? Give us your report for the past week, and your goal for the week to come. Don't forget that the comments will close at the end of the weekend (that is, whenever I go to bed on Sunday). And if you're on our absences list, you need to make sure that you report in in order to maintain your status in the group.

[Note to everyone juggling projects: I have edited your weekly goals to reflect your declared project for this group only. No slight intended to the many things we've all got going on, but for the purposes of this group we're going to keep a tight focus.]

  • Adelaide: [write a conference paper]: finish reading two chapters that may have some bearing on the paper; do another double-check for related articles/chapters/etc.
  • ABDMama: [Complete an article draft]: re-read 100 pp previously written & free-write about 300 words
  • Amcalm25: [finish an article]: gather notes, original conference papers, and the start I made on my article in the spring, reread and regroup
  • Amstr: [revise and resubmit an article]: re-read article and editorial comments; list topics that need more research/citations; make (and limit) reading list; order items on reading list from ILL; read 2 articles, make entries on them in an annotated bib, and insert relevant stuff into draft
  • Another Damned Medievalist: [write/revise a close-to-final draft of an article]: re-read both papers ; identify books for first set of ILL requests; possibly start reading the review book breaking the two papers down into chunks on Scrivener
  • Antikate: [revise a conference paper into an article & submit]: reread the conference paper and all of the plays that the article will discuss and make notes
  • Belledamesansmerci: [transform a conference paper into a journal article]: read one new relevant article; change “I” conference speak for more academic language
  • Bitterandjaded (Bittergrrl?): [finishing a dissertation chapter]: Gather all notes that I have on the topic; Outline notes into something cohesive; Write at least 1000 words on the chapter introduction
  • Britomart: [completing a draft of dissertation introduction]: Write approx 1250-1500 words for “in person” writing group by Wednesday; try to get enough out of 4 books to return them to the library
  • Cly: [write a book chapter]: do index; review notes and sources
  • Contingent Cassandra: [complete a full draft of a journal article]: read key secondary article; re-read primary texts, taking marginal notes in both; ½ hour per day freewriting
  • Dame Eleanor Hull: [complete a chapter of the article-turned-book]: abstract for a conference version of this chapter
  • Digger: [write two book chapters]: Work on 2 chapters 5/7 days this week: WW chap -- Go through notes and outline basic arguments and structure, selecting a few supporting quotes; SSW chap -- pull references and set aside
  • Dr. Crazy: [Finish a chapter draft begun this summer]: reread current work (about 13 pages); write 3 solid additional pages; write in writing journal
  • Dr. Virago: [draft a 7500-word essay for a contracted publication]: write at least 500 words towards a draft
  • Erika: [write a complete & final draft of an article already underway]: Spend 30 minutes a day assembling the biblio for article
  • Evan: [write a conference paper]: get all relevant PDFs of Black Dwarf, review MIA’s list for relevant articles, pull relevant stuff from thesis
  • Firstmute: [Revise and submit a journal article]: come up with a specific list of revisions & strategies to complete the revisions; revise abstract based on reviewer’s feedback
  • Forthright: [write two article-length pieces]: a) Finish re-reading Major Theoretical Work for article #2 & write 1000 words free writing relating MTW to the article; b) Finish transcribing the most relevant data from 2011 field season.
  • Frogprincess: [Final draft of the dissertation]: think about part of c. 3; work on intro; think about conclusion
  • Heu Mihi: [write paper for a faculty colloquium]: Review preliminary outline and rough in details (outline-style) for Part 1
  • Highlyeccentric: [Draft two thesis chapters]: plan next chapter; re-do overeview of the entire thesis; talk to supervisor about timeline; draft about ¼ of a chapter
  • Gillian: [3 chapters of dissertation]: pull together all the different completed bits for each of the three chapters and assess how much and what kind of work needs doing on all of them
  • Good Enough Woman: [write a solid draft of a dissertation chapter]: develop bibliography; order sources from ILL; finish one primary text; read intro, skim chapter one of book of criticism
  • Inafuturelife: [transform seminar paper into a conference paper]: Reread secondary sources and notes, and make annotations on a few new ones just ordered
  • Luo Lin: [finish and submit an article]: Read through three articles to see if and how they are relevant
  • Janice: [write a first draft of a chapter]: Find notes for the first chapter, outline, order three or four resources, and make notes of the exact passages in the major source
  • Jennifer: [finish writing a neglected article]: Read through file of what’s done; Organize and digitize literature; Work on article for an hour a day - Bonus points for daily writing
  • Katrin: [revise and add to MA thesis to get it publishable]: write the “Materials” chapter
  • Kris: [write up a “full” paper and cut it down to a 15-minute conference presentation]: order ILL and documents for paper; write 500 words from current materials while waiting
  • Lucie: [Complete a full draft of PhD thesis]: expand conference paper into first draft of 5,000 words
  • Matilda: [revise a paper into a journal article]: make a revision plan
  • Marie: [finish turning paper into journal article]: re-read original paper, revisit bibliography and determine what is next. Start on Intro.
  • Merryweather: [write conference paper]: finish going through database primary material notes; figure out a short reading list of essential things for theoretical framework
  • Mike: [write ch. 2 of dissertation]: write a good solid page with a good working thesis
  • Monks and Bones: [turn a seminar paper into an article]: Reread seminar paper and take notes; Create 1-page outline of new version; Review historiography notes and write up a 2-page historiographical overview
  • Nvrwhere42: [finish a dissertation chapter]: re-outline the rest of the chapter; write at least 2000 words to get back into the writing groove
  • Notorious Ph.D.: [write a conference paper]: develop plan of attack
  • NWGirl: [Revise one dissertation chapter into a book chapter]: Re-read chapter, identify and pull out the relevant material and move that text into Scrivener; write up chapter outline & figure out what I need to add; make a list of any missing sources
  • Opsimathphd: [turning a dissertation chapter into an article]: Reread the dissertation chapter; Read one relevant article per day; Examine articles in the more technical journal; Freewrite at least 15 minutes per day; Outline argument
  • Salimata: [write a conference paper]: work on the paper for 1 hr on Monday, 2 hrs on Friday, and 15 minutes all other days; re-read abstract; identify the fieldnotes and recordings I want to use; put together a brief bibliography
  • Scatterwriter: [revise three chapters of book]: re-read the introduction and first chapter of the book MS draft
  • Scholasticamama: [Transform a conference paper into an article]: Read paper on Gender Binaries and Universals; Create 12 week outline
  • Sisyphus: [polish the rough draft of article and send it out]: separate middle section and reorganize into two that flow; fix all the bolded sentences and (awk) comments to myself in this (these) section(s)
  • Sophylou: [finish revisions on an article and prepare it for submission]: Rewrite and condense introduction. If time, assess Section 2 to identify areas for condensing/rewriting
  • Stemi: [Complete and send off a review article ]: Read and take notes on 6 articles; 500 words total in the manuscript outline/Revise outline organization
  • Susan: [write a 7000 word commissioned essay]: get through the first part of the historiographical review, adding about another thousand words
  • Synecdoche: [Finish conference paper]: put together the start of a working bibliography
  • Trapped in Canadia: [draft two chapters of the dissertation]: finish chapter on Presbyterian abuse of Episcopalians in Scotland post-1688 GR and finish outline of first WG chapter
  • Undine: [Finish nearly done chapter and complete another]: minimum 1000 new words, not counting revisions or editing, on the almost complete chapter
  • Viola: [writing an introduction and a chapter for thesis]: 1000-1500 words on the original part of chapter and tidy already-written 2,500 words on context; Go back over some sources and integrate their arguments
  • Z-Cat/Kiwimedievalist: [ write an article]: block out the full plan for the article, and create a book-list.

Last week's absences:

Diana: [finish incomplete paper]
Jamilajamison: [finish writing the M.A. thesis]
Mae: [write up a project prospectus?]
Su Real Alteza: [finish textbook manuscript]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Infinite Possibility of the New Notebook

Yesterday I bought a notebook. I am keeping a journal of my work. Hours, ideas, goals, that sort of shit. Also travel, for tax purposes.

It's nice -- black, with a strap. A Moleskine knockoff that my campus bookstore sold, made with recycled paper.

I love beautiful notebooks, in the same way that I loved buying school supplies when I was a child. A blank, crisp notebook represents promise and infinite possibility. But I get lazy about keeping them up. Still, all but one of the plants I purchased over a month ago are alive and actually beginning to flourish. So if this is the year that I keep the plants alive, maybe it will also be the year that I keep the journal thing going, too. Possibility fulfilled, maybe.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Another Damned Notorious Writing Group Begins!

First off: This post takes its title from a suggestion made by new participant Amstr for a group name. And after all that agonizing that ADM and I did, we saw this one, and we just knew. So that's who we are (at least, for now): Another Damned Notorious Writing Group.


We had an amazing sign-up period -- over 50 participants made commitments for this 12-week challenge. Just a reminder as to what you committed to:
  1. Completing a single project in a twelve-week period.
  2. Checking in every week on Fridays (and we will close comments on Sunday, so don't dilly-dally!) with: (a) your accomplishments from the past week; and (b) your specific goals for the next week. Remember: two consecutive missed check-ins gets you dropped -- there's your motivation to be consistent!
  3. The very bestest group members will also (a) read each others' comments and offer advice and encouragement and (b) respond to the themes that your humble moderators dream up to keep things interesting.
  4. Carving out writing time every single damn day is also helpful. It doesn't need to be beautiful prose, but building an every-day habit during these twelve weeks will serve you well.
Pretty simple, right? Anyway, the first check in is already up at ADM's place. So get on over and get checked in!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Committees, This Year

I have just signed up for my committee service for this year. I signed up for the same two I did last year, but with one big difference: This year, I'm not chairing either of them.

I figured out long ago that I'm not suited to leadership. I hate conflict. I fear putting my foot in my mouth. And the few times I made a "we're gonna do it this way" decision, the result was... not good.

So what I'm looking at here is more or less the same type of work, but my job is to be a worker among workers, and leave the planning to those more suited to it. Part of me feels badly for taking such a passive position. But a much bigger part of me feels a wonderful sense of calm.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Writing Group, Fall Term: Call for Projects

[IMPORTANT UPDATES in participation guidelines, due to overwhelming interest and our desire to take everyone with a clear project -- see below, guideline #2]

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!

After some delay, now is the time: Another Damned Medievalist and I are convening the fall session of the online writing group.
A digression: Week 12 of summer term, we invited participants to send in their suggestions for names for the as-yet-unnamed writing group. We got some good suggestions, but were unable to come to a consensus. Here were some of the front-runners:
  1. Authorial Intent: This one was popular and clever (okay, it took me a minute to get the joke), but I noted that it didn't really describe a group.
  2. Writers Anonymous: I liked this for its reference to both bloggy anonymity, plus the 12-step nature of our terms. ADM, however, pointed out that it sounded like a name for a group of people trying to QUIT writing.
  3. Scriverers' Guild: Another popular suggestion, likely spurred on by the heavy concentration of medievalists among our membership plus our many discussions of a Certain Writing Software. But it sounded a little too... ornate? Especially if you're not a medievalist (We are a bit strange). Still, we both liked it: A group for writers who Would Prefer Not To.
In any case, we liked all of these, but couldn't agree on any one, and finally we decided that putting off starting the group because we couldn't agree on what we should call ourselves was ridiculous. So, for now, we invite you to call this group whatever you like, until we think of something better.

Anyway, back to the main point...
For those of you who are just tuning in, this writing group was founded as a virtual alternative to those dissertation writing groups that many of us benefited from when we were grad students, but that seem to disappear as we move into jobs. Or maybe you're a grad student still, but with no writing group of your own (or maybe your writing group is too flaky). Or perhaps you're not an academic at all -- last term, we had at least one participant who was a novelist. In short, our participants are writers looking for some external motivation and someone to be accountable to.

We also dispense encouragement, advice, and weekly discussion topics. And if you're being wishy-washy about your goals ("Next week, I'm going to try to write something on sutopic X") or have a new excuse every week for not writing (bearing in mind, of course, that "reasons" are different from "excuses"), we'll hold your feet to the fire. The main commandment here is Thou Shalt Commit.

So, here's the deal:
  1. Propose and commit to a single project that you can reasonably complete in twelve weeks. You likely have more than one thing on your plate, but pick one to that will be your major focus for this twelve-week project. Keep in mind that you may be in the midst of a semester, so don't plan as ambitiously as you might have in the summer. Will you write a chapter of your dissertation? Revise a completed draft of a book manuscript? Turn a conference paper into an article and get it submitted? Write a conference paper from the ground up?
  2. Make a commitment to check in once a week, all twelve weeks, on Fridays (ADM and I will alternate weeks) with your progress for the past week, and a concrete goal for the next week. Your weekly goals need not be elaborate, but they should be specific. Participants who are AWOL for more than two weeks in a row will be dropped on the third second absence. New!: Comment/check-in threads will be opened Friday mornings, and closed Sunday night, in order to encourage timeliness, and to keep your humble moderators' work manageable.
  3. Commit as well to offering feedback to your fellow participants, now and then. This is a group project, after all.
  4. Optional: Some people last session found this book helpful in structuring a 12-week project.
So, that's the way this works. Week One will be hosted over at ADM's place this upcoming Friday (September 9th). But before that happens, we need a class roster. So this is the place you register your intent, and name your project. Make it a single project, and make it something you believe you can reasonably complete, given the other demands on your time during the semester. This CFP post will close at 4 p.m., PST, this Thursday (9/8), so get your proposals in right away. For the record, here's mine: I commit to writing a conference paper from scratch. I'm due to present it over winter break, so it's gotta get done.

That's it!

So... Whatcha got for us?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Two Announcements (and One of Them Is Real)

(unrelated photo, Puddletown, industrial area)

1. I dreamed last night that I got up to a microphone, in front of my department's assembled incoming students and a smattering of faculty and administrators, and introduced myself as "Notorious Ph.D.", then announced some sort of workshop that would be taking place on my blog. Which reminds me...

2. ADM & I are cooking up the next writing group. We're hammering out a few teensy details, so watch this space over the next couple of days for a Call for Projects. It'll be another 12-week term, so think about what you'll be realistically able to accomplish between, say, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.