readingredhead: (Professor)
After deciding, totally on a whim (and with far less forethought than I should have invested in it) to follow a friend's challenge to create something every day for the month of March, I started thinking a lot about what it means, for me, to MAKE something, and how that's changed over the past few years. 

I'm pretty sure I always knew I wanted to be a writer. But I'm pretty sure that was mostly out of a sense that words, and the things we did with them when they left our mouths or our hands and made their way out into the world beyond us, mattered. I wanted to do something with those words. I wanted to show other people how they could matter. And being a writer seemed like the only option available to me: after all, no one was going to pay me to sit on my couch all day and read books.

I'm a stubborn person, and a critical one. I tend to be very critical of myself for giving up on projects I said I'd follow through on, even when those projects are no longer as central to my conception of who I am as they were when I first devised them. And so as a result, late in college when I realized I wanted to apply to grad school and that I felt so much more fulfilled in my English classes than my creative writing classes, I beat myself up over it. I was majoring in English so I could teach high school English and still have time to write on the side, until writing became the thing I did full-time. That was the plan. That had always been the plan. (I realize this sounds like exaggeration, but seriously I have documentary evidence of my desire to be a teacher and writer from as far back as an "About Me" survey I filled out in the second grade). Going against the plan wasn't just going against myself, in some fundamental way -- it was "giving in" to doing the thing that was "easy" and that I could know I was good at, rather than the thing that promised fewer tangible rewards in the near future but was "more worth it."

And you know, I'm really glad I stared down my anxiety about that plan I'd made for myself all those years ago, and let myself be okay with the fact that I'd changed, because I love what I do as a graduate student. Not all of it, no -- but a substantial portion of it, all of the parts of it that have to do with belonging to a community of people who care about the production of knowledge, whether those "products" are tangible or not. All the parts of it that have to do with how much words matter. (And lo and behold, I do get paid to sit on my couch all day and read books!) It is, in some ways, an easier life than the one that I used to want -- but part of that is because I think it's always easier to live the life you want to be living than the one you think you should be living. 

It's become easier for me to accept the fact that what I do (and love) now isn't the thing I thought I would never stop wanting to do (i.e. creative writing) as I've come to admit to myself that the same impulses that prompted me to that old plan are satisfied by the new one. It's hard to justify this to people other than myself -- the things that I "make" as an English grad student, when they are concrete, are also directed at a very specialized audience. I'm writing seminar papers and conference talks and lectures that may never have audiences beyond the people present in the room at the moment that I deliver them (and before long I'll be writing articles and a dissertation and scholarly monographs that won't gain a readership any larger than that).

But here's the thing: I care more about the continued life and health of the constantly-fluctuating community of people who gather together to consider and rejoice in the ways words matter than I care about having anything like a central role in that community. It's hard to tell people that the thing that you "make" for a living is something as intangible as "knowledge" or "a community" or "a spirit of rational inquiry" (god I am more of a student of the Enlightenment than I think I am). But these things need to be made. By which I mean both that humanity needs them, and that they don't just spring up on their own. They must be sustained by the ongoing contributions of effort and energy that community members/human beings make, one by one, day by day.

And I've gotten into some pretty abstract philosophizing here in the process of making what is, to me (but often not to others), a simple point: my work as a grad student, and the work I'll do someday as a professor, is essentially creative. Not just because I care about researching and writing papers whose arguments are inventive and unique and, in some ways, beautiful (though I do care about these things, and quite a lot!) -- not just because I produce tangible (if arcane) things -- but because I am part of the collective support system for something bigger than me, something that everyone who supports it is constantly involved in (re)creating. 

(As a side note, I feel like a lot of what we think about when we think about "making things" has to do with distinctly individual authorship -- this is certainly the case with books -- and this is increasingly a problem for me, because I really do want to emphasize the communal role of the work I do, the impossibility of doing this work or of this work having meaning outside of a community. And that means giving up some of my own authority as sole agent of creation. That also, however, lets me change my definition of what "counts" as creative in a way that has been incredibly rewarding for me personally.)

---

In other news: I also baked things today! I am basically working my way happily through the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and finally got around to making chocolate chip brioche pretzel rolls (yes, you heard me). Warning: if you attempt these yourself, watch your KitchenAid while it's mixing -- I think the dough is actually way too heavy to be properly mixed for 10 mins straight (as it's supposed to be at one point). My KitchenAid started massively overheating and some other people's actually broke. So do the 10 mins in shorter intervals, and be prepared to knead a bit with your hands. Still: totally deliciously worth it! [picture]
readingredhead: (Grin)
First and foremost, a major sigh of relief that I will continue to live in a country where my gender isn't considered a preexisting condition and where I'm allowed to make decisions about my own body. It's weirdly hard to be actively excited about this win simply because the terror of the "what could have been" is so strong that having won is about relief from terror more than excitement.

What I am massively excited about is all of the amazing women who have been voted into congress, and all of the amazing women who voted across the country and made this election possible. What was that about women having ways of shutting things down? Yeah, they shut MISOGYNY down.

In other news, houseguest extravaganza has finally come to a close...I seriously love all the people I've gotten to see in the last three weeks but NEVER AGAIN will I have guests on three consecutive weekends. Even if two of them are long weekends. It just messes with my productivity in ways I can't afford, especially going into November. November is always hell month, because it's when I have to actually start getting to work on seminar papers while still managing to keep up with reading. This year won't be so bad seminar paper-wise -- I already know what I'm writing on for both my seminars, now I just need to sit down and write it -- but that takes time and time is not a thing I've had the past few weeks.

Also on the topic of November, NaNoWriMo...yeah, about that. This is the hardest time I've ever had coming up with a concept for a story, and even now that I have (a bunch of people get trapped inside an uptown NYC apartment during Sandy) it's slow going. I haven't been able to write because of houseguest, and then because of reading catch-up in wake of houseguest, but I'm not going to give up, even if I'm not terribly inspired by what I'm writing. Any motivation would be very, very welcome. I'm going to need it in the next few weeks...
readingredhead: (Fear for Courage)
1. I have never much liked summers -- I like order and structure and school too much-- but this summer has been the best summer, and while it will not get me to reconsider my general hierarchy of the seasons, it will at least remind me that summer is not just that thing you do to fix your brain after semesters.

This summer has been a LONG one. I got out of classes in the end of April and had finished my last seminar paper more than a week before my birthday: I have had nearly four months of summer, and that is rather a lot. Thankfully, the time was punctuated by visitors, travel, summer school, good books, dinner parties, and falling in love. (Yes, love.) Visitors and travel are harder to integrate into the semester schedule, and I am so happy that I got to see so many people and places I love and care about this summer, because that's part of what keeps me going when things take a turn for the worst. But good books and dinner parties and being in love are not just summer things, they are LIFE things, and my life works in semesters and these things are only bound to make this upcoming semester even more worth it.

2. Today is the first day of my second year of graduate school. This semester's coursework will be particularly demanding -- I'm taking two seminars adjacent to my interests with professors who are fairly intense and with whom I want to work closely in the future, not to mention reading Ulysses for my third class and TAing for a fourth -- but I am looking forward to being back in a scheduled environment again. (See above regarding my general dislike of summers.) I am also looking forward to taking notes in the beautiful Moleskine notebooks I have acquired for this purpose, because I deserve nice things and the material conditions of my scholarship DO influence the quality of mental work I find myself capable of doing (or just motivated to do).

3. This is an awesome enough thing to get its own number on the list: sometime in October/November, I will be moving in with [personal profile] oliviacirce! In addition to being a generally wonderful person who cares about houses being homes, she happens to live in what may be the best apartment in all of Columbia's grad student housing. My new bedroom will have windows that get actual sunlight! The kitchen has counter space! There is a breakfast nook! And since she's in Columbia housing, I can do a simple room-to-room transfer and let Columbia sort out all the logistical details of transferring to another lease, etc. I'll still have to do a move in October, which I had wanted to avoid initially...but I will literally be moving AROUND THE CORNER from my current abode. You don't even have to cross a street to walk from my current apartment to my future apartment. I can easily put up with Gabi for 2 months if I know I get a home at the end of them.

4. So [personal profile] oliviacirce's habits are rubbing off on me a bit already, because the final item on today's post is a mixtape. I started pulling these songs together about a year ago, when I had just moved to New York and mostly knew no one and the work was hard (though it never stopped being worthwhile). I needed something to remind me that it was okay to be down sometimes if I knew how to pull myself back up, and so a lot of the tracks come from a place of doubt and uncertainty and hope that things will get better, rather than from a place of solid acceptance of this fact. The playlist kept growing and changing to suit my needs throughout the past academic year -- the first incarnation was titled "Don't Be Down," a later one was titled "Me vs. the Seminar Papers (Don't Give Up)." But in the end, "Anti-Entropy" is the title that stuck. This mix is for all the days I felt like the world just wasn't working right, but soldiered on and fought my way through, and came out on the other side knowing the things that I hadn't quite believed before, but wanted to believe: I am strong, I am loved, and as long as I don't give up, things will always get better.

Anti-Entropy - track list & download link )
readingredhead: (Professor)
"Don't apply to grad school," they said.

"It'll make you hate everything you think you love," they said.

"At least take a year off so you'll have something to look back on when you are mired in the abyss of your first year," they said.

"And if you do apply, it should be because nothing else can ever make you happy," they said. "Because you can't imagine any other career that would give you even the smallest margin of satisfaction. Because you know nothing else that will allow you to support your existence, at all, if you don't go."

I will never stop being proud of myself for not listening to them.

I am approximately twenty-four hours away from being done with my first year of grad school. In those twenty-four hours I have to write the last ten pages of a twenty-page paper and revise the whole thing so it's up to my standards, or at least so it doesn't attempt to argue via sentence fragments and bracketed colloquialisms and exclamation points. But you know what? I can do that while sitting in my bed in pajamas drinking hot cocoa, and without stressing overmuch. And this paper is showing me, more than ever, that there may not be anything other than grad school that could make me this happy. I'm only halfway done, but it already contains a section entitled "novels are people too" and a footnote about the use of "fan fiction" to describe eighteenth-century alternate endings to Clarissa and a lengthy diatribe against critics who disapprove of emotional responses to works of fiction as inherently anti-intellectual. Soon it will have paragraphs about emotional engagement with literary characters as an inspiration for personal literary production and the implications of marginalia for constructions of readerly authority and the validity of what Eve Sedgwick calls "reparative reading."

I can't wait.
readingredhead: (Write)
 That's it. That's the whole entry. Must save all words for seminar papers. Goodbye, internet; goodbye, sleep; hello, coffee!

(But like seriously who said this was okay I distinctly remember there being more days than this between now and when the first paper is due, I PROTEST.)
readingredhead: (London)
Life continues apace over in the world of academia. I turned in my MA essay today (I'm not overflowingly proud of it but I do think it's a solid, well-argued, potentially important piece of work), which means I only have three major assignments between now and May 9, and then FREEDOM. Two of those assignments are 18-20 pg seminar papers, both of which will be touching in one way or another on Clarissa, which I have ALSO finished. (In related news, I'm pretty sure I've told everyone I know that I want a t-shirt that says "I survived Clarissa -- not even she could manage that!" except I suspect if I actually got one Richardson would personally return from the dead to haunt me.)

Aside from school, I have had a surprisingly busy social calendar lately? I mean, apparently I have friends in this city?! Crazy talk. So there was that one time when Christina and I stalked Doctor Who filming and saw Matt Smith and Karen Gillan doing a lot of running (and they waved at us!), a birthday party for [personal profile] oliviacirce at which among other things I discovered that I may want a line from Milton's Lycidas tattooed on my foot ("But not the praise"), karaoke with friends at the bar with the TARDIS (and I actually sang in front of strangers!), and lunch plus Clarissa conversation with a fellow survivor today. And tonight there will be post-MA-essay drinks with cohort mates, followed by a birthday dinner tomorrow, and then Jordy is in town on Thursday! 

I'm also starting to realize how soon I'll be headed to London and Norway, and I am SO EXCITED. It's been too long since I traveled somewhere and had adventures (not that adventures cannot be had without travel, but travelling adventures have a different flavor, and it's one that I miss). In case you missed it the last time I listed dates, I'll be in London June 12-19 and Norway June 20-29 (not that anyone in Norway is on my flist, but in case you were curious!). At some future point I will send Londoners a humble plea for couch space, but I gather that there is moving and the like going on at present, and that life is stressful in general, and I would not want to add to that!

One month from today, I will have an MA in English. Two months from today, I will be in London (or you know potentially elsewhere in the United Kingdom if I do day-trippy things! like walking/hiking places!). It's just getting through the intervening time that will require some finessing, but thankfully it's actually all starting to look almost manageable. (There will be a post later about how, in one of my papers, I'm essentially arguing that the "participatory novel culture"--which is my fancy terminology for "fans and fanfic writers"--centered around Richardson's novels in the mid-eighteenth century ought to be read, not as unprofessional fannish effusion, but as a strand of novel theory in its own right which can teach us a great deal about how the novel as an evolving genre was perceived by its readers and its writers. Yes you heard me right. FANDOM. IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. And my professor is excited about me writing this! And rec'd a book about Janeites as potentially relevant to my methodological interests! ACADEMIA: YOU'RE DOING IT RIGHT.)

Now I should probably stop procrastinating and tackle the day's most difficult dilemma (which is, of course, what do I make for dinner?).
readingredhead: (Fear for Courage)
Can't tell if I am prematurely freaking out about the amount of work I have to do in the next six weeks, or if I really ought to be terrified of the MA essay, two seminar papers, short paper, and final exam I have to write between now and my birthday. Probably a little terror is healthy at this point.

It's good because I've given myself some time to relax, both over spring break and over this past week. I went to the midnight showing of The Hunger Games last night with a group of awesome friends, and it was so nice to chill and to talk about books with people who are not going to ask where your argument situates you within the critical tradition. (Though because we were near the front of the line for our 12:07 showing, and the earlier showing's lines were all inside, we actually got asked fairly intelligent questions by a Good Morning America camerawoman and I may have gone off on a bit of a spiel about dystopian fiction and the politics of visibility in an age where mass media /advertising is predominantly visual...and may also have mentioned the relevance of Jeremy Bentham's panopticon to the construction of the Hunger Games arena. Though that was in a different conversation.)

The film was also really good. I can't tell yet if it was good as a film in its own right (though I suspect it is), but it is without a doubt one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I've ever seen. I suspect part of this has to do with the fact that my attachment to the book is more to do with concept than execution -- I have some stylistic issues with Suzanne Collins' writing -- but the things that irked me (ex. the way she handled point of view, big info-dump at the beginning of the first novel, occasionally clunky exposition in general) are things that movies can actually do better than print. Or if not better than at least easier. 

My younger sister and her friend are going to be in town on their spring break and staying with me for the next four days -- their flight lands at 5:30am tomorrow! -- so although they can get along without me, I miss my sister and might not get to see her again until August so I want to spend as much time with her as I can, certainly to the detriment of my homework. And then right after she leaves, [livejournal.com profile] alexandria_skye is going to be in town and we are going to celebrate our mutual geekery with a night out at The Way Station! (For non-NY geeks, that's the steampunk bar with the TARDIS.) So I'm looking forward to all of this but also wary of how quickly my work will pile up and attempt to eat me. 

Speaking of which, I should probably get back to that whole "reading old books" thing, since it's plausible that I can make my way through more of Clarissa and also some early modern scientific writing before I go to sleep.

Thankful

Dec. 1st, 2011 03:32 pm
readingredhead: (Professor)
A year ago today, I submitted my first grad school application. I thought it was pretty terrible and consoled myself that I at least had a couple of days/weeks to work on my other applications before I submitted them.

Turns out, I could have stopped right there, because that "pretty terrible" application earned me (eventually) my place in Columbia's PhD program.

So while everyone else in my cohort is starting to complain about having to give presentations and write papers and take exams, I'm going to remember how grateful I am to even be here, how privileged I am to be allowed to give these presentations and write these papers and take these exams, and how even in the hardest times, this is something that I fought for, and merely being here at all is a victory.
readingredhead: (Grin)
There have been a lot of times in my life lately where I've worried that what I do for fun and what I want to do seriously with the rest of my life don't mach up. I spend a lot of "fun time" reading books written for teenagers, with magic and/or crossdressing and/or teenaged royalty and/or flying whales. I spend a lot of the same funtime not only analyzing those books, but turning that analysis into a lens for understanding and critiquing social inequalities and broad societal misconceptions and problematic assumptions about Big Issues like race and gender and religion and sexuality. 

And then what do I do with my "serious work"? I read things people were writing before flying whales were even on literature's imaginative horizon. (At least to my knowledge! If you or someone you know has encountered a flying whale in the eighteenth century, please direct me!) I read works by women, and I find myself drawn to works written specifically by those women to whom the traditional English canon tends to deny a voice, but my major subjects of analysis have themselves been rather canonical thus far -- I am somehow the white girl who got into grad school with a writing sample on Jane Austen -- and while I know this will shift as I read more under the direction of some awesome professors (male and female) who understand that the eighteenth century is a time when "literature" as a category is only just coming into existence, allowing for a great deal of space in the literary imagination that gets restricted as things like canonization and genre solidification begin to happen, I do occasionally wish that it was easier to connect the two halves of my life to each other.

But the thing is, they are connected. Intimately. Even when (especially when) I don't see it. Prime example of this being that I'm currently in a course on eighteenth century oriental tales which has got me reading lots of stories by and about women, and also stories with magic! That elusive combination which, before this semester, I would not have thought constituted a portion of the canon that was available for my analysis, or that I could speak about as a way of gaining any kind of scholarly authority. 

And I realized as I submitted the paper proposal for this class that without fandom-related conversations about the importance of representing women who are friends with other women, I would never have come to this paper topic. I am essentially writing a paper about how the collapse of society in one particularly violent early-ish gothic novel could have been averted if it wasn't in the interest of men and masculine organizations of power to pit women against each other, or if women realized that their animosity against each other only existed because routed through masculinist assumptions of women's social roles and decided to counteract this by being friends with each other anyway.

Seriously, I keep looking at my paper and thinking about fandom and smiling, because the wonderful female commentators of fandom have taught me just as much as the wonderful female writers of the eighteenth century. Ladies who are friends with other ladies and do not judge them for their way of being a lady are the happiest best ladies. That is all.
readingredhead: (Adventure)

I'm sitting in an airport Starbucks, looking like a hipster with my coffee and my iPad and my plaid flannel shirt, and pondering the fact that in a couple of hours I'll be getting on a plane and I'll wake up in New York City.

The summer went by fast, except for the parts that went by slow. I did a lot with my time -- almost as much as I hoped, perhaps more than I expected. I wrote and rewrote more of my novel-in-progress, The Printer's Daughter. I discovered exactly how exhausting it is to work something like full time on a novel project, especially in the revision stage, and a lot of the work I did was reworking and making note of the things I need to add or change, but in the end I know this is all valuable information, and I am dedicated to the process...I just know that it may take a while, and I accept that. It surprises me that my not-entirely-conscious realization that pursuing a career as a professor is more important to me than pursuing a career as a writer has actually made me more keen on (eventually) getting this novel written.

In addition to working on original fiction, I somehow got a weird fanfiction boost and wrote more fic over the past summer than I think I have in the past few years. I also made a semi-conscious decision not to be ashamed about fandom. I'm not even one of the crazier elements of it, and it seems silly to be ashamed of something that makes me happy. I've never been deeply enough involved in fandom for it to frustrate or anger me; I've never been caught up in fandom wank. It probably helps that my main fandom generally believes that being angry with people speeds up the heat death of the universe! (Young Wizards fandom, I love you, never change.)

I didn't read all the books on my list -- I didn't even read a significant portion of them -- but I did read a lot, and a lot of what I read was good. I especially loved stuff by Holly Black and Scott Westerfeld, suggesting that a) Twilight notwithstanding, YA is far from dead and b) I should probably read it more often...at least, the bits of it that Rebecca recommends!

Surprisingly (for me at least), I really got into yoga. My younger sister had taken a few classes and encouraged me to go with her, and I while it certainly isn't a replacement for other more intense forms of exercise, I really appreciate the way it focuses on linking your mind and your movements, so that you're more thoughtful about your workout. Even doing relatively intense yoga leaves me feeling refreshed and relaxed when I'm done, and i think some of the things I learned on the mat have an important place in the rest of my life. Yoga is about letting go of whatever isn't serving you, about honoring your body and its limitations. It's about coming from where you are, instead of where you wish you were or where you think you ought to be. When I get to New York, finding a place to do yoga is high on my list of things to do -- right after I get my New York Public Library card!

I set out with the intention of feeling an academic detox this summer, and it worked. I've done a lot of being lazy and I'm ready for what's next.

I oscillate between being overcome with the amount of work I know I have to do in the next weeks -- move into apartment, buy supplies, sign lease, etc. -- and being delighted by the idea of finally taking that next step in my career/life plan. For a girl who still believes that the world is so big and she is so small, I'm surprisingly ready to have a place to call "home" for the next six years. I don't know if anywhere other than New York would make me feel this way. I only hope that I'm right about the city that so many people dream about...especially since, until about March, it wasn't a place that I specifically dreamed about. But I feel, right now, like these hopes will be met and exceeded. I feel like I'm going somewhere new, but also somewhere that will one day be home.

So, while I'd rather be traveling by TARDIS, I suppose I'll make do with a plane, as long as it gets me there.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

readingredhead: (Muse)
I got into Columbia!!!

(more to be added once I come down from the clouds)
readingredhead: (Default)
Argh I seriously need to stop thinking about this but the internet is evil and provides me with all sorts of tools, which have allowed me to discern the following facts:

1. There are exactly 14 Fulbright grants to the UK available this year, which means that I am actually one of 21-28 students forwarded into the final round, which is a MUCH SMALLER NUMBER than I had previously assumed.

2. Fulbright UK has notified all students of their decisions on March 15 for the past few years.

3. All of the PhD programs I have applied to will notify on or before March 15, which means that when I go to New York and Cambridge this spring break, I'll already know which programs I've been accepted to.

4. UC Berkeley's English department has already started sending out PhD acceptances and I haven't received one yet.

Is there a way that I could just forget everything about grad school and Fulbright applications, only to remember it suddenly on March 15, by which point I will have received all of my notifications?

THIS MAY BE MORE STRESSFUL THAN UNDERGRAD.

I think I need some tea. Stat.
readingredhead: (London)
Applications to Masters programs at Queen Mary and Sussex University officially submitted. I'll find out about acceptances to those in a month or so, but I'm not too worried about that end -- my former professor from Queen Mary basically told me I'd get in, and he's part of the teaching staff for the MA I'm applying to. No, the only real worry (if that's the right word, which I mostly think it isn't) is about Fulbright, which I might not hear back about until graduation anyway. Because getting into QMUL or Sussex doesn't matter if I don't also get the Fulbright.

On another related note, apparently I'll start hearing back about PhD acceptances in the end of February instead of the end of March as I'd originally assumed. On the one hand, this is good, because it means I'll know whether I'm accepted when I go to visit schools on the east coast in March. On the other hand, GAH. The end of February is so soon. And now I can't stop thinking about it.

But at least it's all over now -- all of the applying at any rate -- and I get to just sit back and wait on the results.
readingredhead: (Cuppa)
Consider this a placeholder entry. There will be a LONG one later about my life this past week/month, but for now I just have a small-but-important thing to say, which is that grad school applications are DONE, and I can't quite believe it, but the minute I hit that last "submit" button I swear I felt like I could breathe again after three months spent holding my breath.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to cook dinner, open a bottle of wine, and watch Doctor Who until I fall asleep.
readingredhead: (Write)
Because they're almost over. And I hate them. And I want to die, and I'm never reading Jane Eyre again. (At least not for two years, and maybe not until I decide to use it as the set text for the coda to my PhD dissertation, which, yes, is taking shape in my mind at the moment and does need to end with a half-chapter on Jane Eyre in its current nebulous form. Yes, this means I am already thinking about the topic of my PhD dissertation/first published academic work. I'm a dork like that.)

ANYWAY, my actual point in this entry is to tell you about a really nifty online writing tool that someone else recommended to me and that I like thoroughly. It's called 750words.com and it pretty much is what it sounds like: a site where you can go to write 750 words each day, every day. What they're about is totally up to you, but you're encouraged to write them on a daily basis. What you write is itself entirely private, although the site does have some cool features that analyze what you write in an attempt to determine your mood, your prevailing concerns, etc. and you can decide to share that information with the public if you like. I really rarely recommend techy stuff, or writerly stuff, but I really like this.

Mostly, I like it because I can write 750 words of more-or-less stream-of-consciousness venting in 10 minutes, and doing this every day for the past 10 days has been something to look forward to. In the future I want to challenge myself to use this site in new ways -- pick a month and select a different theme for every day, or spend one month writing an ongoing story in 750-word daily increments, or even try to write in French one day a week (though trying to add the accents would probably be hellish) -- but even without these specific challenges, it's been really neat as a tool.

Also, I just really like the site design. Very simple writing interface, which I am currently in love with (instead of your words working down the page, the page scrolls up as you write...like a typewriter!), sleek design overall, and -- because no way would we be doing this without rewards of some kind -- there are BADGES! You get new badges depending upon how many days in a row you've managed to write, and for how many total words you've written once you get to a certain point. One of my friends and fellow interns at the Office of Letters and Light did a short blog post about it that gives you a preview of the nifty graphics (though, sadly, not very many badges -- she and I started at about the same time).
readingredhead: (Library)
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5. Procrastination/angst at procrastination. As in, "Jeez Candace, you're already stressed out about that presentation you have to give tomorrow, but instead of getting your ass in gear you're posting a stupid LJ entry? Not cool, self. Not cool."

4. My future. This is a broad heading, including career, place of residence, love life, economic standing, graduate school applications, ability to become a published writer, etc.

3. Writing. Technically this is part of both #4 and #1 but I think it deserves its own category since it's something I do so frequently.

2. My friends and family. I spend a lot of time hanging out with them, talking to them, worrying for them, hearing their drama, etc. and so they're a pretty loud and rowdy set of voice in my head.

1. Books. I suppose this counts as cheating because I'm including both books as read for school and books as read for fun under one heading, but considering that I spend most of my time (free or otherwise) with stories, it makes sense that they'd be high up there on the list.
readingredhead: (Talk)
It was great to be back in Berkeley, and terrible at the same time, because after five days I had to leave. I love the city, and I find out new things about it every time I visit (for example, this time I made my first visit to gourmet ice cream parlor Ici). It'll be good to leave it for a year -- but I have a feeling it'll be just as good to return.

*

The seventeenth gets closer and closer each day. It's almost officially September. That's crazy...but also good. I'm starting to prepare for London in earnest. It's so weird because it's like being a freshman all over again, but with the benefit of hindsight upon the whole college freshman experience. I think I'm going to like 'freshman' year 2.0 even better than I liked the first iteration.

*

Dinner tonight was definitely cinnamon pecan waffles with peanut butter and syrup and milk and bacon. Yum. Life rocks.

*

I'm teaching myself Italian (conversationally, using CDs borrowed from a neighbor) and finding it pretty easy. I've always wanted to learn more languages; the whole grad school language requirement thing is just the incentive I need to start picking them up! Frankly, the real list starts with refreshing my Spanish and then learning French, followed by Italian (and then Latin if I'm not dead yet), but I figure there's no harm in learning some conversational Italian even if I can't actually spell most of the words. Apparently I remember more Spanish than I thought -- sometimes when asked how to say a basic phrase in Italian, I can only remember it in Spanish! In my defense, the languages are remarkably similar. If Italian is spoken slowly enough, I can understand two out of three words.

*

While I'm studying abroad, I will be keeping up with this journal, though it's quite possible I'm (finally) going to make it friends-only. I'm also going to be keeping a public blog that will consist pretty much of condensed and edited LJ posts. I'll still post randomness and rants and hopes and fears on here...but the study abroad blog will be kept free of anything I wouldn't want to share with my distant relatives, parents, and former schoolteachers. Still, if you're itching for someone else to follow on tumblr, my journal is When In London.

*

I got my first check in the mail from DemiDec today! Yes, guys, they're legit, and I'm $700 richer -- and that's only the first of four checks that I'm due. Some of them may be for even larger installments (I confess I don't know exactly). Also, aside from making requested revisions on the three projects that haven't been completed yet (which takes little to no time compared to actually producing the content to begin with), I'm no longer working. This gives me ample and abundant free time. I hadn't realized how much I missed that. I'm looking forward to getting in some beach time, some reading time, some writing time, and some general time to relax.
readingredhead: (Default)
Today, I have slept in, talked with my sister about the new Star Trek movie in great detail, discovered that there are two different projects going on right now to try to make Paradise Lost into a movie (Milton would die if he weren't dead already), watched an old Star Trek episode while eating breakfast and folding laundry, e-mailed Queen Mary's study abroad people about housing information, looked up books about Milton, and sidetracked my attempt at studying for my Romantics final by instead looking up course descriptions for graduate English classes at Berkeley.

Finals? What finals? You mean it's not already summer?
readingredhead: (Talk)
All things considered, life is going well.

I only have three more classes before finals. Only one of those is an actual lecture. One is my last decal workshop, and the last one involves going down to my printing professor's studio to bind books and hang out and generally party with my fellow printing classmates. So not a bad deal, all things considered. I literally have four things due before the end of the semester (finals not included): three critiques for my decal due Monday, and my final Milton paper due Thursday.

Ah, the Milton paper. Where to begin? It captivated me when I should have been writing my paper for the Romantics. I began working on it and thinking through its terms at least a month ago. It helps that I almost obsessively attend Professor Picciotto's office hours, because I love talking with her about literature. So anyway, I knew what I was writing about for this paper long before I knew what I was writing about for my Romantics paper (which was of course due this Monday, and which was not nearly as pleasant as the Milton paper is being).

I had to struggle to make the Romantics paper long enough while still maintaining coherence. The Milton paper is the exact opposite. When I finally sat down and compiled all my notes and analyses, just writing, I ended up with a 16-page handwritten first draft. This translated to about 13 double-spaced pages in MLA format. The essay was supposed to be 6-8 pages long. But when I talked to Picciotto in office hours today -- for what I cannot believe was the last time until after I get back from the UK! -- and she told me that she doesn't want me to butcher this, she'd rather read a 15-page paper that covers all my points than an 8-page paper that cramps my observations. Am I crazy for being excited that I'm allowed to write a longer paper? I don't care. Seriously, hearing from her that I just have to keep it to 15 pages made my life a whole lot easier.

Since early on in the process of working over this topic with her, she's been suggesting that this is thesis material. Now, in the process of actually writing out everything that was in my head, I suspect she may be right. I keep finding more and more things I can say, more and more ways to expand into different passages in Paradise Lost, or into Milton's other works, or into new avenues of criticism. I have a suspicion that this Milton thesis might actually get written -- the inducement of working closely with Picciotto on an intellectual process is pretty strong.

The problem with this is the small voice in my head that wonders why in the world I'd write a thesis on Milton if he's not who I want to study in grad school. But then that same small voice admits that Milton's fun to work with, and although I'd get sick of no strong female characters and the inability to read novelistically after a while, in concentrated bursts there are things MUCH worse than Milton. And Milton and the Romantics are so integrally connected that maybe it isn't entire nonsense to write about Milton's poetry even if I decide that what I really want to focus on is romanticism and the novel.

(The craziest voice in my head thinks that I should write TWO theses -- this Milton one as an independent study with Picciotto during my first semester, along with one on the Romantics during the traditional English honors year-long course. You can understand why I have called this voice in my head the craziest one. I am endeavoring to ignore it for the sake of my personal health and sanity but it does not desire to be resisted.)

But anyways, in the aspects of my life which are not Milton, everything else is going well. I saw Star Trek last night with Natasha and her people and it was AWESOME. Seriously. How did I not understand the awesomeness that is Star Trek before this? But as a result of this I did not go to sleep last night until something around the order of 2am, and woke up (like usual) at about 8am...six hours of sleep is probably NOT the best plan. I'm just at that point of tiredness now where I don't want to do even the meager homework that I ought to do; I just want to lounge around for a little while more before sleeping. I figure I deserve it. I wrote more of my paper today, had my last day as an Office of Letters and Light intern until after I get back from the UK (*tears up*) and finished editing my notes on Romanticism. All in all, pretty good stuff.

Guys, I'm happy. I know what I want to do with my life, and the people that matter all believe that I'm going to get there. My cheek muscles hurt with smiling. Life is just so worth it.
readingredhead: (Light)
I want to go to Berkeley for grad school. Not just because in the new US News & World Report rankings they are the best English grad school in the country. Not just because, according to the same rankings, they are the 2nd best in the nation for 17th-20th century British literature, my general area of concentration. But because I love Berkeley. I love walking down Bancroft in the morning and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge arise out of a misty bay, the sunlight hitting it just right. I love the silence of Doe Library right before finals. I love the faux-Greco-Roman facade of Wheeler Hall, all columns and flourishes and pristine whiteness. I love the scattered coffee shops, the late winter rains, the late summer sunshine, the way that on a good day just walking onto campus makes me feel like part of something bigger, better, and more beautiful than any one person could be.

But I'm afraid. Because the last time I wanted something this much, I didn't get it. And although I'm glad I didn't, I can't bring myself to imagine that I'd be glad not getting this. This is not like Stanford. This is something that I've lived long enough to know that I want. And people think I'm silly for thinking about this so early but I'm just trying to do everything I can to get from where I am to where I want to be.

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