Red Tape = My 2020 is Looking a Lot Like My 2019

A Man bound up from head to toe in red tap.
Image Source: http://www.idioms4you.com/complete-idioms/red-tape.html

Sorry that I’ve not posted in a while. It isn’t that I’ve fallen away from blogging, but rather that, like always seems to be my lot in life, I’m too busy trying to solve problems and then find myself too exhausted to blog.

I’d hope this would be a “look at all the amazing things that I’ve accomplished/have happened to me” so far in 2020, but no, I’m stuck trying to solve an ever increasing list of problems. A while back I did a blog post entitled, “Sometimes the Bear Eats You,” and while it isn’t quite that bad, it is creepy closer and closer every day (esp. since the calendar turned to 2020). Here is a look at one of those problems:

A Tale of Two Offices: Financial Aid & College of Graduate Studies

So, I won’t go into excruciating detail about the problem (believe me, I could), but the basic crux of the problem is hours: Financial Aid Office says I don’t have enough while CGS says I have the appropriate amount.

Basically, it boils down to the fact that now that I’ve finished my course work and only have Dissertation hours left, I only need to use 3 of them a semester. This is fine for CGS as long as notify them with a form (which I’ve done) and get signatures from two relevant professors (which I’ve done) and then they’re supposed to notify the relevant offices and all is good.

However, that’s NOT what’s happening (of course not, otherwise my life my not be so hectic and stressful and I might actually get a chance to work on my blog–or the 50 other things that I want/need to do). When I went to “talk” with CGS yesterday, they assured me they talked to the “bursar’s office,” but apparently that is not the same as the Financial Aid office as my Financial Aid was NOT applied.

When I went to talk with the Fin. Aid office, I was told that I didn’t have enough hours–that 5 hours was the mandated federal limit for hours (even though I’m a PhD student working on my dissertation and am not taking “classes” per se–I STILL have to “honor” this stupid requirement if I want Federal Financial Aid).

Living Graduate Student Life as an Undergraduate Student

A similar, but slightly different problem caught me out last semester and put me on the backfoot that helped to keep me behind all semester (a significant contributing factor to me not getting work on the blog as much as normal last year) as I had to go down to the wire in order to get Financial Aid at the 11th hour. I like MTSU, I really do, but large colleges really need to do more in terms of either lobbying or engaging with their student population to lobby on their behalf about changing regulations that are detrimental to their student populations.

As a graduate student, it is assumed (in the university, at least) that I know how “do school.” I’m expected to know how to research, how to manage my time effectively, how to teach (a major part of my Graduate experience as I am a Graduate Teaching Assistant), and how to do all of the major “school” functions as necessary. Yet, the Financial Aid office (and the regulations they operate under) treat me like an “undergraduate.” Why, if I’m working on a dissertation, do I need the archaic “5 hour” rule? I’m not a neophyte who is taking federal money just to sit around and do nothing–I’m a neo-professional, who is trying to learn the craft of “being a professor” (being a GTA) while also producing something original at the same time (the dissertation). The only thing the 5 hour rule is doing is blocking me and keeping me from my goal. I have to have the financial aid in order to continue here, but I can’t get it unless sign up for an arbitrary number of hours just to prove to the “US government” that I’m not a “layabout” sponging money off the American Taxpayers (money that I will have to pay back, I might add as the only financial aid good ol’ Uncle Sam provides at my level are Federal loans). Sorry to break out an oldie, but it is one of those “things that make you go hmm.”

Not Happy

As I’m sure you might have noticed from my acerbic parentheticals, I’m not happy about the situation. I wasn’t thrilled the first time I was caught up in this morass, and I’m even less thrilled to be going through this a second time. Anyway, hopefully the year will get better so that the tone of the blog posts can improve. However, if the beginning of 2020 is any indication, it’s going to be a llllllllllllllllllllooooooonnnnnngggggggggggg year (and I had so many high hopes as Sealab 2020 was a fun show that I often watched as a child. I find it amazing how a year can go so wrong, so early in its tenure.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

I Passed My Test!!! And so, I’m Back to Working on the Blog!

Happy Minion with the caption Yes I Passed My Test
Image Source: https://makeameme.org/meme/yes-i-5b8570

Hi, everyone! Sorry that I’ve been away from the blog for most of the month of November (& quite a bit of October). However, I do have a reason for this: SCHOOL! Basically, between taking classes, teaching classes (and grading), and reading for my Prelims (slang for Preliminary Examinations–the last major checkpoint that I had to pass before I am allowed to start on my Dissertation). I’m usually pretty good about finding an hour a day to knock out a blog post, but this semester has been incredibly difficult to do. So sorry!

I Passed My Test!

So, I had to respond to the criticism of my Prelims through an oral portion of the exam to nail some of the specifics for the test. Prelims are a strange beast as the way to pass is to show breadth of knowledge and mastery of scholars and scholarship in your field, but also to be super-specific and answer the question. I’m really good at either one or the other–I can either be super-specific and detailed or I can go general and show a breadth and wide-range of different scholarship, but I don’t usually have to do both in essays. In other words, I went for the breadth option and left some elements a bit vague, so the readers (professors) asked me to do an oral exam to nail down some of the specifics. I did so a week ago and managed to really well (YAY!) and so I passed. Now, I get to work on the Prospectus (a plan for the Dissertation) and once that is signed off on, I can then start the Dissertation itself (officially)!

As the test itself was Oct. 25th, and the oral exam was just last Tuesday, it is easy to see where my time has gone and the reason why the blog has languished (suffered). While I’m currently in the process of catching up on grading and assignment sheets, hopefully I’ll be more regular in my blogging (the semester ends on Dec. 4th, with my last Final Exam day for my classes happening on Dec. 11th), so no matter what, I should be back to a (mostly) normal schedule in the very near future!

What’s Next?

So, while I’ve been ensconced in reading, grading, planning classes, etc., I have been trying to stay current with media and current events (mostly to keep my stress level reasonable and to STAY SANE!) In doing so, I’ve have quite a bit of material to blog about, so please start looking for blog entries to start appearing more frequently. I won’t promise a full 5 day a week schedule yet (though I might hit that at some point), but blog entries should pop up with more regularity now that I’m on the Dissertation path!

So, long story short, I’m back to blogging (for probably the 3rd time this year), so look for more blog entries and for the blog to make an end-of-the-year surge to finish 2019 out strong!

Oh, and did I mention? I PASSED MY TEST! 🙂

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

2 Fast 2 Read

Book Cover: The Art of Slow Reading by Thomas Newkirk.
Image Source: https://www.slideshare.net/ChristineMSchmitt/the-art-of-slow-reading-presentation

I struggled with today’s blog post because I have so much to do, but I also have so much to talk about considering how many posts I’ve missed over the past few weeks while trying to catch up with school.

Right now, what’s worrying me is my Preliminary Exam on Oct. 25. The reading List for it is massive (over 100 books, plus Award winning journal articles, a list of several important articles in the field, and reading over several issues of major Rhetoric journals in the field, just to name a few. Last time I took the test, I got sick the week before and wasn’t able to put my best foot forward in terms of doing what I needed to do and structuring the essays (3 in a five (5) hour period) well enough to do as well as I wanted.

2 Fast Reader = 2 Little Information

So, how do you combat this? By being a quick reader, or more accurately, by skimming a lot of the material and remembering key points from the text. There are even students who don’t read the entire book, but are able to “B.S.” their way through based on summaries, abstracts, etc. (and here I’m speaking more about class than the Prelims, but it essentially works the same way).

My problem, as I’ve said before, is that when I read slowly, I retain much more of it for a longer time. The more I skim, the quicker I lose what I’m actually able to comprehend. The Preliminary Exam is a necessary step in the PhD process, but considering that I’m teaching, grading, taking a class (which means reading for the class and watching movies for the class), and generally surviving–paying bills, running errands, etc., it makes it incredibly difficult to go through the myriad of works that are asked of me by the exam.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race (or at least They’re Supposed To)

I’m much better when I get to read slowly and deeply. Right now, I’ve finished rereading 5-6 of my favorite novels just by reading a section (or chapter) or two at night. It depends on my mood: how late it is, how tired I am, what I have to do the next day, how early I need to get up, etc., but I usually average anywhere from 2-3 pages (the usual length of a section) to 10 -15 pages (usual length of a chapter). Over time, this really adds up.

I’ve tried to do this over the summer, but it has been difficult because academic reading requires a whole new set of muscles. To read academically, you have to stop and look for key terms and key points, you have read and engage with the text (usually with a highlighter or by underlining) which adds additional time. Then you also have to untangle the turgid writing of many scholars–again, scholars are in love with the language and many scholars seem to subscribe to the idea that being obtuse is the mark of “smart” person. Many arguments are so dense and the writing so turgid, that it takes so much more effort to untangle their meaning than it does for popular work, so slow and steady means double (sometimes triple) the time and even getting up early to read means that it may take two or three days to unravel a 25-30 page journal article, much less a 250-300 page academic work.

All this means that while I’ve read and been attentive to reading, I’ve read far less than I’m comfortable with for the test given that I really need to pass the test.

The Prelims favor one of two people: 1) those who can read fast (skim) and retain it or 2) those who have massive amounts of time and far fewer responsibilities in order maximize their time for reading. Neither of those are me: in the past two weeks, I have researched and done a presentation and spent the time grading (daily work & Project Proposals). Arrgh!

I can only hope that I might be able to do well on the test by having read the “right” things, but I’m still concerned with 3 weeks to go that I’ve spent far too much time on grading and teaching and not enough on reading for the Prelims–which is not a situation that I wanted to find myself in. Again. Snarf!

Well, thanks for listening to my rambling on about school–have a great day!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

Back in (Summer) School

Image Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/disney/comments/41hgay/all_disney_movies_that_have_been_covered_in/

Sorry for not blogging over the past couple of days. I have to sign up for at least one class every summer in order to keep my Graduate Assistantship for my program. While we had a greater selection of classes during the Summer session, I chose the Children’s Film class which runs from July 8th to August 8th. However, I forgot to check over the long July 4th holiday to see if we had readings/viewings posted for the class (we did), so I’ve been working really hard to play catch-up with the readings for the movies. Luckily, we’re watching (& discussing) movies in class, so I’m only having to read scholarship outside of class, but still that takes time.

Disney and the Disney Formula

Since this is a Children’s Film course, Disney is a titan in the industry and we are devoting a week to Disney films. We started with the original film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and we have moved up into the Disney Renaissance with their more modern classics, such as The Little Mermaid, Frozen, and The Lion King. Next week we will be moving away from Disney, but right now, we’re investigating Disney and the Disney Formula, and we’re looking at how the movies’ messages and characterizations are changing, and have changed, over the years.

Deep Dive

As this is a graduate course, we are doing a “deep dive” into many facets of the movie and, so far, I’m really enjoying the class. I missed most of the “Disney Renaissance” movies, although I managed to see a great majority of Disney’s older movies (Disney Channel) and their newer movies (Pixar) through DVDs/BluRays. So, for me, this class is a great chance to catch-up on a segment of movies that is very much the foundation of the current generation.

Anyway, I have quite a few blog entries that I want to write (I’m in the middle of one now that I really need to finish), so even though it will be sporadic, I still to plan post as regularly as I can. Talk to you all later.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

4 Days = 4 Chapters (Reading)

Word Cloud for Multimodal texts: Multimodal, learn, student, texts, create, words, knowledge, language, ideas, develop
Image Source: http://scalar.usc.edu/works/digital-writing-portfolio1/concept-2

So, I don’t have lot of time today, so this post will be on the shorter side. I didn’t get a chance to blog yesterday because I don’t have internet at my apartment anymore and since it rained and downpoured most of yesterday, I decided not to get out in the mucky weather since I didn’t have to do so.

Multimodal Composition: A Sourcebook by Claire Lutkewitte

I’m reading/rereading a book that I was given to help me with my Prelim exam–more on that at another date. The book in question is Claire Lutkewitte’s Multimodal Composition. Some of you with eagle eyes or elephant’s memories may notice that this book has been in my “currently reading” section down on the side of the blog for a long while now. I haven’t forgotten about that “widget,” but since I rarely log in to Goodreads nowadays (I just don’t have the time), I don’t really get a chance to update it like I should. Well, I told myself that once summer started, I would read a chapter a day from the books on the reading lists in order to be ready for the next preliminary exam and dissertation and so far, I’ve stuck to that plan. I’ve read 4 chapters from the book and will start on Chapter 5 on Monday. As there are 29 chapters total, I will be reading this book through the most of May.

Reading and Writing: Summer Edition

There are, of course a number of things that I want to read/write over the summer. I won’t take the time to enumerate them here, but as I start on them (and most importantly, finish them), I will most definitely list them here and do a small blog post about them. There are a ton of things that I hope to accomplish over the summer, but I know that if I start talking about them, so how they won’t get done, so it will probably be better for me to wait and talk about them once I’m deep into them, like I am with Claire Lutkewitte’s book. I need to remember what works for me, which is starting small and then working my way up to bigger and more extensive projects. Finishing a book may seem hard, but at a chapter a day, well, that’s not quite as hard and who knows, if I have extra time on the weekend, I may be able to squeeze out an extra chapter or two, meaning that I can finish sooner, and if not, then I’m still on schedule to finish by the end of the month. So my goal for this summer = break down as many projects as I can into smaller chunks and get as much down as possible (while still enjoying the summer sun)!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

One Shoulder or Two?

Man carrying ac backpack on one shoulder walking next to some rails in a city on a cloudy day.
Image Source: https://www.filmsupply.com/clips/man-carrying-a-backpack-on-one-shoulder-walking-next-to-some-rails-in-a-city-on-a-cloudy-day/99647

Question . . . do you wear your backpack (if you actually wear a backpack) on one shoulder or two? This is something that I’ve noticed over my years at school. If you wear your backpack over one shoulder then you are (probably) of an older generation (Gen X or early Millennials), but if you wear it over two shoulders then you are (probably) are of a younger generation (late Millennials or Gen Z). Now, obviously this is a gross over-generalization, and not at all scientific but this is just something that I’ve picked up on lately.

One Shoulder

When I was in college, starting in 1991 (& early when I visited college campuses in the late 1980s), the standard placement of backpacks was slung over one shoulder. It really didn’t matter whether it was over the left shoulder or right (probably corresponding to the handedness of the person wearing it), but I found that this was pretty much the standard. I think, at the beginning, I experimented with wearing the backpack with both straps, but it felt so unnatural to me, at the time, that I pretty much slung it over my right shoulder and that was that. As long as I didn’t overload the pack with too many books for class, it wasn’t really an issue. This pretty much was standard all the way up through 2008 when I started my 2nd Masters Degree in Education at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (UTC). However, I think that began noticing that some students (maybe 40% or so), now wore their backpacks over both shoulders.

Two Shoulders

Fast forward to 2016 and then I came here to MTSU to study for a PhD in English. Now, pretty much EVERYONE wears their backpacks on both shoulders. The style of wearing the backpack on one shoulder is pretty much non-existent. I do see one or two people, every now and again, who wear their backpacks as I do–on one shoulder–but I would say this percentage is very, very small (sub 5% and probably closer to 1%), and (generally) consists of “older” students (students not in the 18-22 age range). Again, none of this is scientific, but as someone who remembers what a lock the style of “one shoulder” had on college campuses (the ones that I visited at least), I can say that the turn around is quite surprising and just shows that generational differences can be real.

What does it Matter?

In the great scheme of things, not much. However, it does have implications as it means that the style (norms) have changed and that differences that ascribed to different generations may have validity–that these differences are not necessarily made up. While actual research would have to be done on the attitudes and norms that people have in various states of their lives (and as they age), one can’t simply assume that one generation will think the same (act the same, do the same things) as another generation. Knowing what values, norms, and attitudes informs one generation could be helpful in ascertaining and predicting the ways in which another generation might act. For instance, I’ve tried the “two shoulders” regime when I first noticed this in 2016/2017, but it doesn’t work for me. Even though the weight is evenly distributed with two straps, because I didn’t get use to walking with this distributed weight, the bouncing of the book-bag actually throws off my stride and makes it uncomfortable to walk. Although all the weight is on one side with the “one shoulder” approach, I’ve learned how to walk so that it doesn’t affect my gait. As such, no matter how “uncool” it might look in today’s society, I will never move to the “two shoulder” approach. Such a difference marks me as “out of step” with my younger contemporaries, but so be it–I’ll put comfort over style any day.

This, I’m sure, isn’t an earth-shattering revelation, but it is interesting to note that generational differences are out there and may actually affect the way people of one generation may act in regards to other generations. Just something to be mindful of as we all try to coexist through this thing we call “life.”

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Weekend Round Up #15

Image Source: https://www.rocketcitymom.com/weekend-roundup-november-8-11/

This blog entry is me formalizing a format that I started earlier in the year of just giving a quick rundown of some of the highlights of my weekend. As I tend to do most of my writing, gaming, and media consumption on the weekends, it makes sense to give a brief summary/overview of some of the more important aspects of my weekend life, considering they all have relevance to my life in general, and the blog, in particular.

Gaming

Nothing major to note. I got closer to finishing the driving game Gravel. Actually, I’ve already finished it (seen the credits roll after completing the main campaign, but I’m hopeful that I can earn the ultimate reward for my dedication, a Platinum Trophy, in which I complete all the required conditions. I’m currently sitting at 97% complete on the game–needing only 2 online trophies to finish the game. However, that might be a hard task based on the fact that no one is really playing the game online anymore that I can see (on the PS4 anyway). We’ll continue to see, however.

Writing

Managed to send off a story (reprint–Faerie Knight) to a YA podcast looking for Halloween, Christmas, and Dinosaur stories (Faerie Knight falls firmly in the Halloween category). I’ve had very little luck (none at all, if I’m honest) in the reprint category–none of my stories have ever been reprinted in a different magazine from their original publication, but since FA was a Halloween story (it takes place on Halloween night), I thought I’d give it a try. In other news, I started planning a short-story “duology” over the weekend. I’ve actually already written the first story (I, Magi) and I now have a “sequel” for it in mind. I will be working with it over the week to get a “rough draft” down on paper and then put it on hold until I finish Project Dog, Project Skye, and Project Independent. I feel as if I have too many outstanding projects and I really need to finish some of them off before moving on to others.

Media

Not much to see here this week. Not into Game of Thrones. I hate the whole “Bad things happen to Good people” sub-genre, no matter the genre (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), so I refuse to be a part of the cultural conversation here. I did start the Amazon Prime show Hanna, but didn’t actually finish the first episode–although I will. I don’t think it would be right for me to give my impressions until I do, however.

School

So, this is where the bulk of my writing time went this weekend. I had a school assignment due at 11:00 pm Sunday night for my Victorian Literature class (on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol). I finished it right around that time (after working on it since approx. 7pm). I really feel the Sunday night time-frame is a good writing time (when I’m not writing until 11:00pm or 12:00am), so as soon as school’s out (i.e., I’m finished with my classes, I would like to use this time-frame to actually work on some of my (many) “Projects.”

Well, that’s my weekend for this week–hope this week is a good one for both you and me!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

The Big Squeeze

Bearded man with a Foot on his Face
Image Source: https://www.nojitter.com/big-squeeze

One of the most frustrating things about graduate school (well, there are many which I’ll probably do individual posts about for the next month or so) is the fact that it is my writing time that gets squeezed in the process of “becoming more educated.” I’m not very appreciative of the fact that, as writer, my time for writing every week gets slowly wittled away as I have to complete more and more assignments which touch on, ironically, writing and the theories and applications of the writing process. My Master’s Degree is in both Rhetoric and Writing and my Bachelor’s Degree was in English: American Language and Literature (with a Concentration in Writing), which just means that I took extra Writing courses on top of the required literature courses. Writing is instrumental to pretty much everything that I am and/or do as an individual and citizen.

We Want You To Write–Just Not What You Want To Write

One of my greatest sources of frustration with the educational process in general, and the way Rhetoric and Writing is treated in particular, is the fact that we privilege the teaching of writing as something that is both special and magical in terms of allowing students to find their own voices/means of expression, but also a craft and requires work through revisions, and yet, the program I’m in does not actively privilege my creative writing endeavors. Only a handful of people in my “community” know that I “Dragonhawk” was accepted for publication and not a ONE of them is a professor. Not to appear boastful or braggadocios, but this is a success that pretty much all my professors of writing should be happy about. I’m able, at a high level, to use the techniques that we teach our students (inspiration, brainstorming, drafting, revision, consideration of audience, and perseverance to see it through to publication) to create and shepherd a work to fruition.

No Conferences = No Credentials

No, I’m not talking about the conferences professors hold with their students. I’m talking about conferences that academics attend to present papers and the like. That’s really the only true measure of graduate student’s success. How many conferences did you attend? How many papers have you presented at a conferences. I both understand and am appalled at the process at the same time. Conferences, let’s be honest, are built for the extroverts who love being with other people. Sure, if you’re an introvert, you can (sorta’) get by just attending panels for the ideas and information. But, to use an old analogy–there’s as much noise (socializing) that occurs at a conference as there is signal (information/ideas). Conferences, while stimulating and fun, are not the end all and be all of an academic’s existence–which is what they are at the moment that I write this.

Value ALL Academic Expression

The main reason why this blog has been spotty this semester and that I’ve had very little time to concentrate on anything writing related, is because I’ve been fully committed to writing, reading, and working for class and for both of my jobs. I’m not really happy as the results for all my hard-work have not materialized the manner that I would have expected after giving so much of myself–and foregoing so much of my creative output in order to do all of this work. I think that if I felt that I could talk to (and get praise from) my professors for the creative work that I have done (and am doing), this would go a LONG way to assuaging the dissatisfaction I feel in that others are being treated better because they are playing the “academic” game, whereas others, who are not, seemed to be “looked down on” (and I’m not okay with this. I’m using the exact same techniques in my own writing life that are good practices (using brainstorming methods to come up with ideas, engaging with the material, drafting–including multiple drafts, getting feedback on my writing, incorporating feedback through revisions, and persevering through multiple rejections until I find a market who is willing to accept the story). The fact that I’m made to feel that my writing endeavors are not worthy in lieu of someone else who simply attends a conference is very distressing to me as a writer.

Hopefully, after this (very) disspiriting semester is over, I can get back to writing (and enjoying the things that I write) more frequently. Right now, I can say that irregularity of the blog is simply a symptom of a larger set of issues and hopefully, regularity will return when I can address the larger problem of being made to feel that my worth as a creative writer is less than someone who just enjoys playing the “academic game.”

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Preliminary Exams

Image Source: https://grad.ucdavis.edu/resources/graduate-student-resources/academic-information-and-services/degree-requirements/doctoral
(While this is from the UC Davis Grad School website, it is the closest thing that I could find that simply and accurately explains the process — just change Qualifying Exam to Preliminary Exam and you’ll have a pretty good idea of both where I am in the program and what is still left to be done.)

It seems as if I’m always apologizing for stepping away from the blog for various reasons (illness and the like). For the past two weeks, I’ve been in “crunch” mode for reading trying to prepare for my Preliminary Exams. So, what are preliminary exams? Well, they work differently at different schools, but essentially they are the “final exams” that one takes before moving on to the dissertation phase of graduate work.

PhD Student

So a PhD student is much the same as any other Master’s level student as we attend the same classes. The primary difference is the amount of work we have to produce for those classes. Generally speaking (with some few exceptions), PhD students are required to produce longer works and provide more in-depth analysis for scholarly materials. There are other things that we are supposed to do that is more than a Master’s student might have to be responsible for, but in general, we simply produce more volume and are required to use more sources and go into a topic in far greater depth. At the end (or close to the end) of one’s classes, there is some sort of “gateway” (usually in the form of some sort of test) that one has to pass. For me, this is the Preliminary Exam.

PhD Candidate

Once one passes the Preliminary Exam (again, this specific to my program, although it can be somewhat generalized to other programs), one moves from being a “student” to a “candidate.” This means that one either has passed all of the preliminary stages (or in my case, will soon pass) all remaining requirements. For me, I have a couple of more electives that I need to take as I am finishing the last of my “required” courses this semester. My next major responsibilities will be coming up with a Research Proposal/Prospectus for what I want to do my dissertation on and putting together a committee to direct my dissertation. I’m planning on locking this down over the summer.

ABD

ABD = All But Dissertation. Unlike the previous two headings which are official, there’s a third, unofficial heading. When one has completed everything (classes, submitting dissertation proposal, putting together committee, etc.) and all one has left is the actual writing of the dissertation, we informally call that person ABD (All But Dissertation). While technically still a PhD Candidate, ABD just communicates the fact that the dissertation is the last remaining hurdle to complete before that person can graduate.

Right now, I am still waiting to hear back my results from my two Preliminary Exams. I’m hoping to move from the first stage (PhD student) to the second stage (PhD Candidate). If successful, I will use the summer to put together a strong research proposal/prospectus and will try to have a committee in place before the middle of the Fall semester (Sept./Oct. 2019), so that I can spend the rest of the year and the first part of 2020 writing the dissertation.

I know that’s probably WAY more than you wanted to know about my school life, but I hope that it, in some small way, explains why the blog has had to take a backseat for the past two/three weeks due to these Preliminary exams and illness. Well, that’s all I have for right now. Have a good day!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

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