Life and Other Matters

Most of my posts recently have been about books I’ve read or playlists I’ve created, and while those things are all awesome, it’s been a while since I’ve given just an everyday normal update about life. And I really should because life happens outside of the books I’m reading and the music I’m listening to.

You’ve seen a lot of mentions of my thesis in my blogs, if you’ve been following for awhile. Naturally, the thesis-writing eclipsed my life for a long time. I started writing on Monday, Jan. 25 and wrote the last chapter on Friday, March 9. In those six and a half weeks, I managed to write 96 pages with a 4-page bibliography.

I submitted my thesis, after several read-throughs, edits, and slight revisions, on Tuesday, March 20, and I finally heard at the end of April that I had officially passed. Then, I had to officially title that huge paper, check the formatting, print 5 copies on expensive paper, and attend a session to upload my thesis to the database. The hardest part may have actually been the naming. How does one summarize 96 pages of info in just a line or two? Here’s how:

Seeing that title page made it feel sort of real–as if I’d actually just spent years working on an M.A. and had managed to write extensive criticism of awesome books. Exciting!

The title quote comes from Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go, one of the three books on which I wrote my thesis. (The other two were Alan Moore & David Lloyd’s graphic novel V for Vendetta and China Mieville’s detective novel The City & the City.) “Heteroglossia” is an idea formulated by Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin; it’s the idea that the writers who are repressed manage to resist the dominant ideology of a political regime through becoming heteroglot, embracing a variety of languages and ideas instead of just blindly accepting the one hegemonic ideology they are being fed. I amended his theory and looked at ways that characters within these novels were able to salvage elements of language and culture in order to resist or overthrow a totalitarian governmental regime.

If I’ve lost you, I apologize. It’s hard to explain months of research and writing in a paragraph or two. Nonetheless, I have to say that writing my thesis was by far one of the coolest experiences I’ve had. Despite the long hours and exhaustion, I haven’t had nearly as much fun in a long time. I loved the books I was writing about, the theories I was reading, and the connections I found in three distinct literary works. And, honestly, in the few months following my thesis, I felt a deep loss that I was finished and didn’t have anything so huge to pour my life into.

Finishing the thesis was the last requirement for graduation, though. I am now an M.A. Here’s a picture of me in my regalia with my lovely thesis advisor, Dr. Shea Stuart:

Now, not only did I finish my thesis, I also won an award: the Gayle Bolt Price Award for Excellent in Graduate Student Writing. To celebrate, I went to dinner in Shelby with some of my professors and received the plaque then:

 From left to right:

Dr. June Hobbs was the English department chair during my time as a student at GWU. She taught a class on the American Renaissance in literature in Spring 2011. She is delightful, brilliant, and a woman of many varied interests. She’s also an expert on all things relating to death and cemeteries, a topic which I already found to be fascinating.

Dr. Shea Stuart: I never had the opportunity to take one of Dr. Stuart’s classes, but when I described my thesis idea to my academic advisor, she suggested I ask Dr. Stuart to advise my thesis. I sent an email describing my ideas, and from the moment I sat down in Dr. Stuart’s office during our first meeting, we were fast friends, bonding over our shared loves of China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Doctor Who, and all things British and sci-fi. I never expected to find a thesis topic that merged so many of my academic and “fun” interests, and Dr. Stuart fostered and encouraged those ideas (and still does!).

Finally, Dr. Theado is the current English department chair (GWU has a five-year rotation, and his turn has arrived). He is the only professor that I had the privilege of taking for two classes. In spring 2010, he taught a class on African-American literature, and in spring 2011, he taught an incredible class on Contemporary Trends in Literature. Both of those classes introduced me to a wide variety of authors I’d never studied before, and Dr. Theado’s chill, laid-back, discussion-style classes were a great fit for a fast-paced summer school course.

I’m blessed to have studied under these brilliant men and women at Gardner-Webb, and I can’t imagine a better experience for my M.A. than what I found there.

Beyond grad school, other cool things are happening. Since I have a Master’s degree now, NGU has added another course to my load. In the fall, in addition to the 2 sections of developmental writing that I normally teach, I’m also teaching a section of 1320, the second level of freshman writing, which focuses on argument and literature. I am both excited and nervous because it’s been a while since I’ve taught a class for the first time. In fact, in August, I begin my FOURTH year as a college instructor. I cannot believe that many years have passed.

But for now, it’s summer time, and I’ve been trying to relax although, honestly, that’s not working out so well. I’m filling up my time with activities and friends, but it’s a different kind of busyness, unlike the school year. I have friends getting married and having babies (not the same friends, to be clear). I’ve been going to the movie theater a lot; Harvin and I have a lengthy list of films to see this summer, and we’re racking up Regal Club points for our effort. I attended my first comic book convention this past weekend, and the Fourth of July is next week, during which I will spend most of the day with my small group.

August quickly approaches, and I will, for the first time in a long time, not have to balance work/teaching and my own schoolwork. But for now, there are books to read and films to watch and people to see. Happy summer!

Crazy without the Cat

A few years ago, I made a pact with my friend (and now roommate) Ticcoa that I wouldn’t get a cat. (I think the stipulation was that as long as I was single, I wouldn’t get a cat.) I think that, since I’m a librarian and English teacher and have been single for so long, the theory is that I could eventually morph into a crazy cat lady.

Guess what?

I don’t need the cat to be just plain crazy.

On Saturday, I went through the drive-thru at Taco Bell. Later, I read the label on one of the many snarky sauce packets I was using to spice up my Gordita. The caption? “I’m single. Are you?”

I poured the sauce on my Gordita and threw the empty packet back into the bag while saying, “Yes, I am, sauce packet. Thanks for the reminder.”

It wasn’t until relating this story to Ticcoa last night (during which she was laughing hysterically, I might add) that I realized that this isn’t exactly normative behavior. I was actually in the middle of saying, “It’s not like I actually talked to the pac—” when I realized that, in fact, I did talk to the sauce packet. In a likewise snarky, bordering-on-bitter voice. As if the sauce packet has some actually vested interested in my love life.

Good heavens. Has it come to this? Am I the kind of woman who talks to Taco Bell sauce packets? Yes. Yes, I am. The thing is that this is just one of many very odd quirks that I’m coming to recognize might just be not-so-subtle clues that I’m turning into a crazy lady, even without owning any cats. I won’t both mentioning any of those other quirks lest you decide to run screaming from your computer.

The good news? Ticcoa (almost in tears from laughing) said, “I didn’t laugh so hard this summer until you moved in.” At least my crazy is good for amusing others.

Reification

I’m reading Frederic Jameson, a Marxist critic, for a presentation for lit theory tonight. This guy is complicated and brilliant and fascinating, but I have to stop at the end of every sentence and break down what he says (and sometimes those sentences go on and on and on and on…).

As a result of his brilliance, I keep stumbling across words I’ve never seen before. Right now, I’m puzzling over the word “reification.”

The root word is “reify,” a verb meaning to make an abstract concept more concrete (something I’ve been doing with every sentence of Jameson’s that I’ve read).

But when I first read the word, I thought, “Who decided that we could ‘if’ again?” Yeah, that’s weird, I know, but Jameson is making up words, so maybe.

The word is actually derived from the Latin root re-, which means “thing.” So…”reify” essentially means to “thing-ify.”

And this is a scholarly word.  Who are these people who make these words? And how can I be one of them?

Musings

1. Just moments ago, I finished a complete, though unedited, draft of the final project for my Caribbean women’s writing class. At 5,052 words and 16+ pages, it’s the longest paper I’ve written in three years (though still quite short when compared to my lit theory paper and honors project). At the beginning of the semester, I felt overwhelmed looking at the syllabus. A 15-20 page essay due on the same night as a 5-7 page theory paper (which is actually 8.5 right now)? Plus a ton of reading–both primary works and secondary, critical essay. Overwhelming doesn’t actually come close to what I felt thinking about getting all this work done while working full-time and teaching. But I’ve done it! The end is here. The semester ends tomorrow night, after an informal 10-15 minute presentation on my final project and turning my essays in. Then…an almost two-week break before summer school begins. Once I push through that, I’ll have about six weeks of a summer break. And it’s gonna be awesome.

2. I bought the Doctor Who soundtrack. The theme song is epic, in case you didn’t realize. Epic music (without lyrics) is perfect for paper writing.

3. Speaking of Doctor Who, I found an awesome pick-up line/knock-knock joke on a Facebook group this afternoon:

Knock, knock?
Who’s there?
Doctor.
Doctor Who?
That’s right, baby.

It’s so cheesy, but I giggled. And I keep giggling (at least internally) every time I think about it. If a guy ever said that to me, I’m pretty sure I’d at least go to dinner with him. Maybe marry him. 🙂

That is all. Happy Wednesday!

Welcome to the Nerd Herd

This week, I started a new hobby.

I now collect comic books.

I mean, I’ve been reading them for awhile. First, the graphic novels. My first one was actually Dave Gibbons’ The Originals in a British Novels class in college. Then Watchmen and V for Vendetta. And the Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8 comics. And other Joss Whedon spin-offs.

Now, I own some. My collecting began the beginning of this week, when Dr. Washick delivered the 26 issues of various Doctor Who storylines. One of his friends was getting rid of much of his comic book collection, and I purchased those. I have since ordered another shipment from an online comic book distributor out of Texas. And…

Today was Free Comic Book Day. I visited Borderlands and Richard’s Comics and Collectables, and I have added to my collection. Also, Richard’s is AMAZING. They have a subscription service, so I’ll be able to save money and guarantee that I get the newest issues of the comics I want. And…I bought a Lego Angel doll from there. It’s seriously awesome.

When I was paying at Richard’s, the two guys working and I started talking about Buffy. And when I confessed that I had just begun collecting comic books this week, one of them (who was wearing a costume) said, “Welcome to the Nerd Herd.”

Indeed.

Newness

An update, of sorts. I realized that I haven’t updated my blog in 16 days. I don’t know that I’ve ever gone that long without blogging since I began a year and a half ago. My apologies.

I’m sitting in Coffee Underground. I never come here, but Laura asked me to join her, so I did. Coincidentally, Michele and Stephen called from Atlanta, asking me if I could potentially meet up with Kevin to give him a ride. He was at Coffee Underground. I have probably now fulfilled by CU quota for a year. Or not.

I’m typing on my new MacBook, and wow, there was no transition to that idea at all. Here’s how that event went down:

All afternoon/evening yesterday, I tried to open MS Word to begin drafting two essays that I will workshop on Thursday in class. Word would open long enough for me to type half of the MLA header before freezing. That’s no way to write an essay, I tell. I tried to repair the installation, and it gave me an error message, telling me I was not authorized to use it with my username. I uninstalled and reinstalled and got the same message. I tried to repair again. Nothing.

I called Dad. I was frustrating. Crying, even. I knew I wouldn’t have decent access to a computer until tonight, when I planned to head to NGU to work from there. Then, Dad says, “Why don’t you just go buy a new computer?” First of all, the fact that I live in a culture where it’s that easy kind of baffles me. Second, I had been considering buying a new computer with my refund anyway.

I went through all the options: I wanted a Mac, but I was hesitate because I know next to nothing about how computers operate. I had done little research, and I actually planned on purchasing one later in the summer. Instead, I grabbed my hoodie and headed out into the rain, frustrated at my ancient HP laptop and wondering if I was crazy for going to look at Macs.

Do you have any idea how popular Macs are? I honestly didn’t realize how extreme the cool factor is. At Best Buy, no one was looking at PCs or netbooks. But people were crowded around the Mac table, testing out the iPhone and iPad and MacBook. And it was obvious that none of them were serious shoppers. They were merely blinded by the glitter and, dare I say it, sexiness of the Mac.

Finally, space cleared, and I stepped up to the MacBook. I clicked around a little bit, but I’ve used Macs enough now that I’m familiar enough not to need the basic tutorial. What I wanted was someone to answer my serious questions: warranty info, compatibility of MS Office, that sort of thing. A Best Buy worker was standing at the end of the table, though, answering inane questions about his iPhone from people who had no intention of purchasing last night.

Then, a guy stepped up and asked, “Anything I can help you with?” And that’s when I met Jake, the super cute and helpful Best Buy salesman. He showed me really awesome features, things I didn’t even know about, and convinced me then and there to buy the new 13.3″ MacBook Pro with iWorks and the Advanced Geek Squad warranty plan.

Sadly, the MacBook Pro just came out with a new model, and though Best Buy had only sold a few of them, there were none left in stock. So I decided on the regular ole white MacBook, which is all I wanted anyway. And I walked out, called my dad, and said, “I now own a Macbook.”

I’m a convert. Of course. I love this machine. And I’m searching for reasons to visit Best Buy now. 🙂

Check it out!

So I posted a blog about Jane Yolen’s Young Merlin trilogy, and her website found it! I’m now quoted on the page for each of the three books under such reviewers as Booklist and School Library Journal.

Here’s the info page for Merlin, the last book in the trilogy. Scroll to the bottom and note my awesomeness:

http://janeyolen.com/works/young-merlin-trilogy-merlin/

Then I emailed Ms. Yolen, and she responded! Yay!