What AM I Working On? By Rachel Knowles

In truth, I’m not quite sure how to answer this question, though I’ve started and stopped many times. On the surface, it seems so simple, innocent even, but to me it’s just as daunting as all of the other tasks I’ve yet to complete before the semester ends. I’ve often heard people say that “talking about it” – whatever “it” is – is supposed to help, but my anxiety ridden body thinks otherwise. At the risk of sounding negative, the truth is that I don’t want to talk about it, let alone think about that long list— I just want it to be done.

Instead, I think I should talk about some of the things that I’m really excited to start working on this summer, and that includes investing some long overdue time in myself, serving the English department and my fellow graduate students as EGO co-president, and really just figuring out what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Treat yo’ self

Treat

In this day and age, I don’t think anyone really spends enough time on themselves, least of all graduate students. Balancing work, class, homework, and scholarship can seem impossible, but I’ve discovered that finding an hour for myself can make things just a little bit easier and much more productive. Everyone needs a moment to reset their brain and re-energize. For me, it’s watching an episode of Vampire Diaries, reading a chapter or two of something “fun” (like Vampire Diaries) or updating my Spotify playlist…with music from the Vampire Diaries. Anyway, you get the point.

EGO Presidency

prez

I want to preface this by thanking current co-presidents Michael Baumann and Ashanka Kumari for all of the amazing work they have done this and last year. The EGO board is currently a small group, so Ashanka and Michael have often had to step up and serve beyond their official leadership capacities to ensure the success of the organization— I can only hope that as co-presidents next year, Reid Elsea and I will be able to demonstrate equal levels of dedication, efficiency, and teamwork. But until then, I’ve got some things to think about.

As this semester and my first year as a graduate student draw to a close, I feel more passionate than ever about this position. I have been very active in EGO for the past year and this has allowed me to be able to reflect on both its weaknesses and strengths. I have come up with some primary goals for next year, which include increasing MA-student participation and inclusion in department affairs, increasing overall graduate student engagement in EGO, and using graduate student feedback on EGO’s direction and purpose to reconsider how the organization can better serve its academic community. I know this is all easier said than done, so hopefully I can work with Reid to get some plans in place over the summer. Fingers crossed!

Future..?

me

Throughout this past year, I have swayed back and forth between deciding to pursue a PhD and entering the workforce. While I still haven’t figured out exactly which of these I will be doing after next year, I know I want to work in Communications or Public Relations, so I would like to spend this summer exploring my options. I have nearly 3 years of professional experience in these realms from internships I held in Chicago, but I would love the additional guidance that can be provided by experts in these fields. I am especially interested in learning more about the applications of media (including social media) in business, since this technology is constantly evolving. And thanks to the University of Louisville’s Celebration of Student Writing, I’ve got a ton of great books on professional and technical writing and digital and new media to study up on this summer. There’s nothing like some light poolside reading, after all!

So, what am I working on?

giphy

Well, everything and nothing. It seems confusing, I know, but what I mean by this is that there is a ton of things I am doing – final papers, meetings, extra curriculars – and of course plenty that I would rather be doing – cooking and baking, reading, writing what I actually want to write about, and not thinking about all that is still left to do.

I suppose this is a typical description for any graduate student’s end-of-the-semester experience, so hopefully you can find comfort in knowing that I’m right there with you. I too am counting down to summer with that High School Musical 2 scene playing in my head. And we’re almost there.

22050104_10212053902675408_1715267931404784971_n
Rachel Knowles graduated with a B.A. in English and minor in Communications from the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a first-year English M.A. student at the University of Louisville, she is studying rhetoric and composition while tutoring at the Writing Center. Her academic interests include the intersections of digital and new media, technical and professional writing, and communications.

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Weekly Round Up: April 16-22

View the Minutes from EGO’s most recent meeting (4/8/2018) here!

Have suggestions for EGO? Submit them anonymously to our Virtual Suggestion Box.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  • Check out the latest EGO blog “What AM I Working On?” by first-year MA student, Rachel Knowles!
  • Reminder: As a result of one of the English Graduate Student / Faculty Forums, a newly designated Graduate Student Lounge Space is now available in HUM333 for graduate students looking for a place to hang out or study. Feel free to use it as you wish!

COMING UP THIS WEEK

EGO BOOK SALE!!
April 16 through 19:
The EGO Book Sale will be taking place this week between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. in Bingham Humanities, first floor lobby. This annual sale provides most of the organization’s income for the year, impacting how many events, workshops, awards, and other contributions that EGO will be able to make. Also, 10 percent of the proceeds go to benefiting Family Scholar House, so please stop by, get a great deal on a book, and make a difference!

Monday, April 16
Porter Talk: Mental Health
, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Cultural Center (120 East Brandeis Avenue)

  • Aesha, the director of counseling at UofL, will discuss mental health awareness in the black community. Food will be provided. For more information, visit the event page.

Tuesday, April 17
Faculty & Graduate Student Writing Group
, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Ekstrom Library, University Writing Center

  • The University Writing Center organizes and facilitates writing groups for faculty and graduate students at UofL. The goal is to provide support, community, accountability, and feedback for graduate students working on research writing. Students can work on any project during the writing groups – seminar papers, journal articles, grant proposals, conference presentations, job letters, etc. Students from all disciplines and programs are welcome at the writing groups. If you are interested in participating, please follow this link and fill out a brief registration form. You are also welcome to join our Facebook group. For more information, go to the event page.

Wednesday, April 18
LGBTQ Writing Group
, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., Ekstrom Library, University Writing Center

  • Are you a creative writer who identifies as LGBTQ or as an ally? Are you interested in practicing your writing in a safe, supportive space and getting feedback from fellow writers? This group is open to all student writers working in any genre (nonfiction, fiction, poetry, blended-genre, etc.). It is a great space to get started on some creative writing, work on an existing writing project, and ask for constructive and nonjudgmental feedback from other LGBTQ and allied writers. For more information, go to the event page.

Friday, April 20
Stress Resilience Yoga for Women
, 5 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., SAC East Gym

SELF CARE ON CAMPUS:

Group Fitness Classes – Free at SRC – Classes include Yoga, Zumba, Cycling, Quick-Fit, HipHop Cardio and Step. Complete schedule online.

Check out the Writing Center Events Calendar for upcoming writing events.

Check out the PLAN Workshop series through the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies for professional development workshop opportunities.

Check out the UofL Events Calendar for upcoming events in the UofL community.

APPLICATIONS

Assistant Editor for WPA: Writing Program Administration – The editors of WPA: Writing Program Administration seek an advanced graduate student to serve as an assistant editor for a one-year term beginning in August 2018. The assistant editor will assist the editorial team with preliminary copyediting, correspondence, and other editing duties as needed. Applicants should be advanced doctoral students who have completed coursework in composition-rhetoric. Preference will be given to applicants whose coursework, research, or experience engages with writing program administration. Please send a letter of application outlining your interest in and qualifications for the position, a CV, and the contact information for one reference to wpaeditors@gmail.com. The deadline for applications is May 1, 2018. Qualified applicants may be asked to copyedit a sample text. Applicants will be notified by July 15, and the position will begin on August 1, 2018.

 

Instructional Designer and Digital Content Specialist position: view the job posting here. This is an exciting new position at Transylvania University, a small liberal arts university in the heart of downtown Lexington Kentucky. Part of the reason this position is so exciting is because it will be a very important part of the campus-wide Digital Liberal Arts initiative Transylvania recently began, an initiative which is heavily supported by our President and administration and has been given significant funding by the Bingham Board of Trust to support faculty development. Please feel free to send questions to khauman@transy.edu

CALLS FOR PAPERS

Call for in-process writing and research projects for roundtable discussions at the 18th Annual Computer & Writing Graduate Research Network on May 24, 2018 at George Mason University in Fairfax VA. Deadline for submissions (and to apply for Travel Grant funding) is April 24, 2018. More information here

CCCC 2019 – “Performance-Composition, Performance-Rhetoric” – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 13-16, 2019. Read the Call for Program Proposals here! Submissions due May 7, 2018.

Regularly updated CFP calendar with topics including rhetoric, composition, technology, and technical writing.

Weekly Round Up: April 9 – 15

View the Minutes from EGO’s most recent meeting (4/8/2018) here
Have suggestions for EGO? Submit them anonymously to our Virtual Suggestion Box.

Check out the latest EGO blogs!
What I [Wish I Had] Learned] in Year One by Laura Sceniak Matravers

Know a Phenomenal Graduate Student? We all do!
Nominate them, or yourself, for the EGO Outstanding MA & PhD Awards. Nominations due April 13th; you can submit multiple nominations. Click here!

Save the Date!
April 16-19th – EGO Book Sale and Spring Charity
9am – 4pm – Bingham Humanities Floor 1 Lobby
Stop by, get a great deal on a book, and make a difference!
We are still in search of volunteers! Sign up here.

April 24th – Graduate/Faculty Open Forum on Sustainability, Equity, and Inclusivity is taking place from 2-3pm in Ekstrom 117A.

COMING UP THIS WEEK

Tuesday, April 10th
11:30 – 12:30 – Science/Technical & Business Writing Workshop – Bingham 015 –
Several instructors (Tim Johnson, Patrick Danner, Chris Scheidler, & Caitlin Ray) will be hosting a roundtable discussion about their approaches to teaching ENGL 303: Scientific & Technical Writing and ENGL 306: Business Writing. Given that textbook orders are due to the bookstore by April 16 and there are several instructors who will be teaching 303 or 306 for the first time in the fall, the panelists will also talk about which textbooks they’ve elected to use for these courses and why. EGO will be providing lunch through Jimmy John’s for all attendees. If you know you’re coming, please add your name and any information about allergies/food preferences to the sign-up sheet available at the link below. If you can sign up by Monday, April 9 at 12:00pm, that would be helpful. https://cardmaillouisville-my.sharepoint.com/:w:/g/personal/c0asmu01_louisville_edu/EUE54pSG29lLnEDxX8gjTYQBHBKiLJ0tdz3DKAGhl7WqbA?e=u4viac

2pm – 3pm SIGS Workshop on Transitioning into Faculty Life – Houchens 105 – Congratulations! You’re soon to finish school and move on to your professional life – but the learning doesn’t stop here. In this casual discussion, come find out how to best leverage your work in graduate school to be successful in your next stage of life. Come to this workshop led by Dr. Beth Boehm and learn what to consider about your transition into a professional career.

5:30-7:30 – Graduate Student and Faculty Writing Group – University Writing Center – Our writing groups provide a regular setting in which graduate students and faculty can have a focused time and space for writing and to discuss writing issues with peers. Each meeting will begin with writing time, followed by a conversation about the progress of projects and questions and concerns that have come up about writing. Meetings will be facilitated by a member of the University Writing Center staff who will coordinate workshop time, facilitate group conversations about writing, or respond to individual questions.

Wednesday, April 11
10am – 2pm – Celebration of Student Writing – Ekstrom Library
http://louisville.edu/english/composition/celebration-of-student-writing.html
To volunteer to work at the event (free pizza!) https://goo.gl/EhFt2z
To sign up your class to participate: https://goo.gl/45up3x .
Individual students can sign up here: https://goo.gl/forms/yooO8zeddxHyiZTy1

12 noon – Robert Sternberg Talk – Middleton Auditorium, Strickler Hall, Belknap – Robert Sternberg, winner of the Grawemeyer Award for Psychology, will present his work related to “successful intelligence”—the ability to set and accomplish meaningful goals in life.

5pm – 7pm – Creative Writing Group – The Creative Writing Group is open to all UofL faculty, staff and students. The group meets to discuss all genres of creative writing and share feedback.  No sign-up is necessary. The group meets in the University Writing Center.

Thursday, April 12
4:30pm – 7pm – “Talking Black in America” – Chao Auditorium – “Talking Black in America”, screening and Q&A with executive producer Dr. Walt Wolfram (NC State). This screening is sponsored by the Henry Heuser Endowed Chair in Urban Partnerships. This workshop series is sponsored by Commonwealth Center for Humanities and Society, the Department of English, and the Department of Comparative Humanities.

Friday, April 13th
Watch out for black cats and ladders!

2pm – 3:30pm – SIGS Presents Mentoring Women Graduate Students – Shumaker 139 – Join us for a discussion panel for current and recent women graduate students and their faculty mentors. Panelists will share their experiences establishing and developing successful mentoring relationships. The event will give graduate students and faculty at UofL a chance to discuss their own questions about forming effective mentoring relationships between graduate students and faculty, and the opportunity to see how others have developed successful mentoring relationships. It will also offer women a supportive and informative forum to openly discuss the unique experiences and choices they face in their own mentoring relationships.Panelists include Shanice Hudson and Dr. Gavin Arteel (Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology); Dr. Tara Schapmire (School of Medicine and Kent School of Social Work) and Dr. Anna Faul (Kent School of Social Work); and Keri Mathis, Dr. Beth Boehm, and Dr. Debra Journet (Department of English).

5pm – 6:30pm – Ann Cvetkovich Keynote Lecture: “After Depression: Feeling Bad Now” – Speed Museum of Art Cinema – Ann Cvetkovich is the Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at UT Austin. She is the author of numerous books including Depression: A Public Feeling. Her current work focuses on how artists make use of LGBTQ archives to create counterarchives and make interventions into public history. This is the opening event of the inaugural CCHS Faculty Fellows Symposium. Join us also on Saturday, from 9am-5pm in HUM300, for a day of discussion around this year’s annual theme – Affect, Emotion, and Sensation.

Upcoming Self-Care Events on Campus
Friday, April 20th – Stress Resilience Yoga for Women – 5pm – 6pm – SAC East Gym

Tuesday, April 24th – Calm Cafe – 11am – 4pm – SAC W309K – Quiet Study Space, Free Food, Coffee, and Tea, Free 15-minute Chair Massage, Nap Zone, Stress Resilience Resources.

Check out the Writing Center Events Calendar for upcoming writing events.
Check out the PLAN Workshop series through the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies for professional development workshop opportunities.
Check out the UofL Events Calendar for upcoming events in the UofL community.

APPLICATIONS

Assistant Editor for WPA: Writing Program AdministrationThe editors of WPA: Writing Program Administration seek an advanced graduate student to serve as an assistant editor for a one-year term beginning in August 2018. The assistant editor will assist the editorial team with preliminary copyediting, correspondence, and other editing duties as needed. Applicants should be advanced doctoral students who have completed coursework in composition-rhetoric. Preference will be given to applicants whose coursework, research, or experience engages with writing program administration. Please send a letter of application outlining your interest in and qualifications for the position, a CV, and the contact information for one reference to wpaeditors@gmail.com. The deadline for applications is May 1, 2018. Qualified applicants may be asked to copyedit a sample text. Applicants will be notified by July 15, and the position will begin on August 1, 2018.

Please see the job description below for details about an exciting new position at Transylvania University, a small liberal arts university in the heart of downtown Lexington Kentucky. Part of the reason this position is so exciting is because it will be a very important part of the campus-wide Digital Liberal Arts initiative Transylvania recently began, an initiative which is heavily supported by our President and administration and has been given significant funding by the Bingham Board of Trust to support faculty development. Please feel free to send questions to khauman@transy.edu
Position: Instructional Designer and Digital Content Specialist
Job Posting: https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__goo.gl_MUkTCw&d=DwIFaQ&c=OAG1LQNACBDguGvBeNj18Swhr9TMTjS-x4O_KuapPgY&r=hKUkDLpoYx7WKdsDSvTZeyuDqQ9CU8SFQadmA8_Qwy0&m=_coywUfaFawBn8MqR3Ri9Xay1IcvNqe0NoUopeYLxg0&s=ELrglCHoOCNWriI4zs2FeJr1HXxcehGPY-MvRk13Z2E&e=

Call for in-process writing and research projects for roundtable discussions at the 18th Annual Computer & Writing Graduate Research Network on May 24, 2018 at George Mason University in Fairfax VA. Deadline for submissions (and to apply for Travel Grant funding) is April 24, 2018. More information here

CCCC 2019 – “Performance-Composition, Performance-Rhetoric” – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 13-16, 2019. Read the Call for Program Proposals here! Submissions due May 7, 2018.

 

Meeting Minutes: 4/3/18

  • EGO congratulated its new co-presidents for next year
  • Discussed plans and logistics for upcoming Book Sale
  • Discussed end-of-year MA and PhD Graduate student awards as well as gifts for DGS, Department Chair and administrative staff
  • Discussed a potential going-away celebration drop-by event for graduating MA and PhD students
  • Upcoming workshop on business and science writing
  • Potential new themes and ideas for spring blog next spring
  • Volunteered our availability/wishes for EGO board positions next year

What I [Wish I Had] Learned in Year One by Laura Sceniak Matravers

Pic for EGO BlogWhat I learned in Year One was that I’m an imposter, that my acceptance into this doctoral program was an obvious fluke, or perhaps an insane stroke of luck.

Or so my brain suggested. It wasn’t until much later that I began to un-learn it.

And so, instead of writing about what I learned in Year One, I’ve written about what I didn’t learn then, and have learned in the years since—things I have learned, re-learned, and/or am learning still.

They are all things I wish I had learned in Year One.

You are not an imposter. I want (very badly) to write that this idea dislodged itself from my brain after Year One. Or after I progressed through Year Two. Or even after I made it through Year Three. But it has held firm. Only recently—and by “recently,” I mean probably sometime around last week—did this idea begin to loosen its grip, and I began to see my accomplishments, not as sheer luck, but as the result of my own hard work and dedication, and an incredible network of support (see below). Instead of seeing this program as a mad dash to prove myself, I wish I had learned, early on, to view it as a marathon that I was capable of finishing, if only I trusted (and paced) myself. Which reminds me—

Self-care is nonnegotiable. I spent Year One dedicating every waking moment either to work, or guilt about not working. I wish I had understood then that there will always be something that feels like too immense a challenge, but that you are here and you are capable of handling each, piece by piece. After every big milestone in this program, many of which must be balanced simultaneously, there is another one just around the corner. Simply put, my initial approach was unsustainable. I have since learned that it is not only “okay” to take a break, but that, in fact, doing so makes you more productive. But even if it didn’t make you more productive, even if taking a break was simply about taking care of yourself, that would be just as valid a reason to come up for air every once in a while. Because self-care is nonnegotiable. Which brings me to my last two points—

You are more than your work/your dissertation topic. You are a human being who is doing a thing. The thing you are doing does not have to define you; you have and will do other things in your life, as well. The experience of earning this degree is just one small piece.

You are surrounded by people who support you—friends, family, pets, colleagues, teachers, mentors, campus/other support services, even kind strangers. Wherever you find it, lean in to that support. Learn to rely on it, because you we cannot do this alone.

Laura Sceniak Matravers is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in rhetoric and composition.

Weekly Round-Up: April 2 – 8

View the Minutes from EGO’s most recent meeting (3/6/2018) here!

Have suggestions for EGO? Submit them anonymously to our Virtual Suggestion Box.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  • Submit to the EGO Blog! Writing for the blog is a great way to share your unique experience as part of the UofL English department with peers and prospective students. For more information, view the sign-up sheet.
  • Reminder: As a result of one of the Faculty/Graduate Student Forums, a newly designated Graduate Student Lounge Space is now available in HUM333 for graduate students looking for a place to hang out or study. Feel free to use it as you wish!

SAVE THE DATES!

Sunday, April 8: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention presents its 3rd Annual “Walk to Save Lives: Out of the Darkness” Campus Walk. Check in at 2:30 p.m. before the walk begins at 4 p.m. starting in the UofL Humanities Quad. Walkers who register before noon on Friday 4/6/18 will be eligible for prize drawings. Register online here. For additional information contact Tracie Meyer at (501)852-5787 or visit the website and Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 11: Celebration of Student Writing in Ekstrom Library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit the website. To volunteer to work at the event (free pizza!) sign up here. To sign up your class to participate, go here. To sign up as an individual student, sign up here.

April 16 through 19: EGO Book Sale with 10 percent of the proceeds benefitting Family Scholar House. The sale will take place on these days between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. in Bingham Humanities, first floor lobby. Stop by, get a great deal on a book, and make a difference! EGO is still recruiting volunteers here and seeking book donations, which can be brought to the English department office.

COMING UP THIS WEEK

Tuesday, April 3
EGO Board Meeting
, 10 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., Bingham Humanities Building, Basement MAC Lab

  • Meeting to talk about EGO things, like the upcoming book sale. All are welcome!

Faculty & Graduate Student Writing Group, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Ekstrom Library, University Writing Center

  • The University Writing Center organizes and facilitates writing groups for faculty and graduate students at UofL. The goal is to provide support, community, accountability, and feedback for graduate students working on research writing. Students can work on any project during the writing groups – seminar papers, journal articles, grant proposals, conference presentations, job letters, etc. Students from all disciplines and programs are welcome at the writing groups. If you are interested in participating, please follow this link and fill out a brief registration form. You are also welcome to join our Facebook group. For more information, go to the event page.

Wednesday, April 4
LGBTQ Writing Group
, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., Ekstrom Library, University Writing Center

  • Are you a creative writer who identifies as LGBTQ or as an ally? Are you interested in practicing your writing in a safe, supportive space and getting feedback from fellow writers? This group is open to all student writers working in any genre (nonfiction, fiction, poetry, blended-genre, etc.). It is a great space to get started on some creative writing, work on an existing writing project, and ask for constructive and nonjudgmental feedback from other LGBTQ and allied writers. For more information, go to the event page.

Thursday, April 5
Minx Auerbach Annual Lecture Featuring Brittney Cooper
, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., Strickler Hall, Middleton Auditorium

  • Join us for a lecture by Brittney Cooper, a writer, teacher, and public speaker of black feminism. To learn more about Cooper, visit the website. For more information about Copper, go here. For more information about the event, go to the event page.

Friday, April 6
Lecture by Nancy Potter to Celebrate her Retirement
, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Bingham Humanities Building, Rm. 300

  • Join us for a lecture by Nancy Potter, a writer and lecturer of feminist ethics and philosophy at UofL, to celebrate her retirement. For more information about Potter, visit her webpage. For more information on the event, go here.

SELF CARE ON CAMPUS:

Group Fitness Classes – Free at SRC – Classes include Yoga, Zumba, Cycling, Quick-Fit, HipHop Cardio and Step. Complete schedule online.

Check out the Writing Center Events Calendar for upcoming writing events.

Check out the PLAN Workshop series through the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies for professional development workshop opportunities.

Check out the UofL Events Calendar for upcoming events in the UofL community.

APPLICATIONS

Applications for the May 2018 University Writing Center Dissertation Writing Retreat are due April 1. This will be the 7th Annual Dissertation Writing Retreat, taking place from May 14-18, 8am to 4pm. We encourage all writers currently working on their dissertations to apply. In past retreats, we have worked with writers representing a range of disciplines from Public Health to Engineering to Social Work to Humanities. The retreat will take place in the University Writing Center in the Ekstrom Library and will include lunch and snacks. There is no fee for participating. Applications must include a letter written by the writer stating his or her reasons for applying for the retreat and goals for the week, a letter of support written by the writer’s advisor/director, and any documents related to the dissertation (drafts, proposals, etc). Submit application materials to writing@louisville.edu

Nominations for the 2018 Harold Adams Award are being sought for a current UofL faculty or staff member that has demonstrated extraordinary achievement and distinction—fostering the spirit of Harold Adams. This award recognizes excellence in contribution to a diverse and vibrant student life experience on campus by demonstrating a unique commitment to students through their attitudes, behaviors, and extraordinary involvement in the lives of students. Deadline April 6, 2018. More information and the nomination form.

CALLS FOR PAPERS

IWCA 2018 – “The Citizen Center” – Atlanta, Georgia, October 10-13, 2018. Read the Call for Proposals here! Submissions due April 6, 2018.

Call for in-process writing and research projects for roundtable discussions at the 18th Annual Computer & Writing Graduate Research Network on May 24, 2018 at George Mason University in Fairfax VA. Deadline for submissions (and to apply for Travel Grant funding) is April 24, 2018. More information here

CCCC 2019 – “Performance-Composition, Performance-Rhetoric” – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 13-16, 2019. Read the Call for Program Proposals here! Submissions due May 7, 2018.

Regularly updated CFP calendar with topics including rhetoric, composition, technology, and technical writing.

What I Wish I’d Known in Graduate School by Frances McDonald

open with an anecdoteScreen Shot 2018-03-29 at 11.57.41 AM
It was my fourth year of graduate school and I was deep in the throes of dissertation-writing. The semester was a particularly difficult and isolating one. My cohort had never been close (had never used the word cohort), and somewhere at the top of our third year we’d made a tacit agreement to each eke out our dissertations in private. I wrote alone in fits and starts, and slowly. As the semester drew to a close, the (intimidating, famous, full) professor for whom I was TAing took me to lunch where she asked me, to my horror, if I was close to completing my dissertation. As I mumbled something about fits and starts and slowly, she leaned across the table with a conspiratorial air and said, “Writer’s block isn’t real, you know.” With hindsight, I can see that this piece of advice was well-intentioned. I suspect that it was meant to comfort me, or motivate me. The effect at the time, though, was absolute, abject paralysis. Does everyone else simply write, unimpeded?
At least my lunch order was large, and the leftover box robust.

find the many-gendered mothers of your heart
Paralysis was a relatively common experience for me during graduate school. Writer’s block, of course, is one type of paralysis—a scholarly impasse that Ann Cvetkovich, in her book Depression, describes beautifully as a “standstill drama.” Other forms of scholarly paralysis include the moment before you don’t quite raise your hand in a seminar, the fitful slowness with which you write a relatively unimportant email to your dissertation committee, and those fluorescent-lit scenes in which a simple question about your research causes all language to drain from you.

It was after that disastrous lunch in my fourth year that I began to actively develop strategies for coping with these types of paralysis. Hearing that “writer’s block isn’t a thing” certainly did not help me, and so I reverse-engineered the sentiment and began a search for scholars that would dare testify to the laboriousness of their writing processes and their personal battles with imposter syndrome. These meditations on writing range in size, but most often they are scraps—a line pulled from a preface, a detour buried in a footnote, or a prolonged answer to an interview question. I collected them all, arranged them in a gigantic, life-giving document that I titled SCRAPBOOK. One afternoon, I read the whole thing through and realized that my testimonies of paralysis were in actuality testimonies of love. I expanded my rubric, allowing into the fold any fragment that spurred in me my love for writing and my desire to write.

I see now that what I was doing was building my cohort. Those compiled voices are what Ann Cvetkovich would call her “fellow travelers,” or what Maggie Nelson in The Argonauts describes as “the many gendered-mothers of my heart.” They are the people that give you life and language when you are at an impasse, because they love writing and ideas and you do too, remember? You’re certainly not in this for the money.

a note on the karass
Much of the plot of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 book Cat’s Cradle hinges on the tenets of Bokononism, an invented religion that thumbs its nose at Western ideals of progress and rationalism. According to the Book of Bokonon, there are two ways in which human beings self-organize. The first is as a granfalloon, a structure that looks like a team but is actually, in Vonnegut’s words, “a proud and meaningless association of human beings.” Examples include Hoosiers, the Communist Party, the General Electric Company, and “any nation, any time, anywhere.” The second is as a karass, which is a spontaneously forming team of people that work toward a shared spiritual goal “without ever discovering what they are doing.”

I love the idea of the karass in the context of academia because it requires that you believe in an expansive network of affiliation and support that extends far beyond party lines. My cohort is composed of people both within and very much outside of my department, my discipline, and academia itself. I experience my scrapbook’s ranginess as a salve for the isolation and loneliness that academia sometimes inspires in me—it reminds me of the ways in which the work I do connects me not only to fellow scholars, but to the world.

Vitally, too, a karass never closes—it perpetually draws in new members in unpredictable and life-giving ways, and in so doing asks you to conceive of the world as infinite, open, and incalculable. My scrapbook sustains me, but my scrapbooking propels me. I am always on the lookout for a new contributor, a new mother of my heart. This process has taught me how to feel joy at the incompleteness of every intellectual project. To be an academic is to commit yourself to encountering new territories and new voices, ad infinitum. If you’re doing it right, I think, you’ll never feel like you are on permanently solid ground. And so, in the words of Donna Haraway, one sure member of my karass, we have to learn ways to “stay with the trouble.” Scrapbooking is mine.

Ann Cvetkovich will be delivering the keynote address to the CCHS Symposium on Affect, Emotion, and Sensation on Friday April 13, 5:00pm – 6:30pm, at the Speed Cinema. Her talk is titled “After Depression: Feeling Bad Now.” Event details can be found here

Frances McDonald received her doctorate from Duke University and holds a Master’s in English and American Studies from the University of Oxford. Her research and teaching focus on twentieth-century American literature and film, critical theory, and digital humanities. Abiding scholarly interests include avant-garde literature and cinema, science fiction, horror, affect theory, media studies, visual culture, and the relation between theory and practice.