What I’m Working On by Students of “Writing For Publication”

What I’m Working On
Joseph Franklin

Right now I am swirling in the mess of memories from the work I did just before beginning my PhD here at UofL. That swirl would be hard enough to make sense of, but on top of that, I am trying to turn it into an article with a very uncertain audience. Let me explain.

So, I used to work at the University of Southampton in England, and my job was to start-up and run a writing center. This was a pretty exciting and complicated project, because the presence of other writing support for students was very different, and very minimal, compared to U.S. context. It was very confusing, too, because the project was a really strong success, and yet it ultimately didn’t move past its initial funding. So, all the layers of experience with running such a project, like any new project, offered SO MUCH LEARNING that it’s really hard to distill that into a piece of writing. On top of that, this is possibly a really niche type of story, although to me it feels really relevant to everything…

IMG_2707So, I’ve been working in this Writing for Publication course towards an understanding of potential audiences outside of my field of Composition. I try to listen for connections to other conversations in this interdisciplinary setting. Also, I am trying to find a way to let this article reflect the very-much-in-process understanding I have of certain aspects of the story. I want to tell the story of this writing center project and give a glimpse of what I’ve learned as a result, but I need to keep searching for the ways to connect that for a particular field/audience. I feel, still, like I am in charge of a project heading into uncharted waters. If that’s not a feeling that can connect with readers in academia, then I don’t know what else will.

Joe Franklin is a first year PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric. He rides bikes and reads books, but mostly he prefers to listen to music.


What I’m Working On
Leah Halliday

My best writing has always happened in the margins of what I’m reading. Little scrawled notes explaining the highlights and arrows that mark up the once pristine page. I feel that I am at my best when I am having these amazing conversations with authors who can’t hear me at all.  I am making connections, finding inspiration, and co-constructing insights that get me excited about that paper of my own. And then I turn on my computer, and I’m paralyzed by the blank screen.  I tell myself that this is my process.

hallidaySo, right now I’m immersed in Geneva Smitherman, Carol Lee, Valerie Kinloch, Shirley Brice Heath, Terry Meier, and others, exploring the relationships between African American English, identity development, and teaching and learning in the classroom and beyond. But what I’m working on is essentially what I am always working on as a writer: turning the marginalia into fully realized ideas on a page of my own. Because while the desperate desire to read every word will likely never let me go, I know that this is the time to start trying to earn a spot up on the shoulders of the giants whose words and ideas I so admire.

Leah Halliday is a first year doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction. She teaches English and English Education at Kentucky State University, and her research interests include the interactions involved in literacy and identity development.


What I’m Working On
Jonathan Baize

“What you are working on?” is a question I always feel like I need to answer in updates every few minutes, like a Twitter storm, for the sake of accuracy.

“Explaining how due dates on Google Classroom coincide with dates in the real world. #freshmen #latework”

“Researching for a friend. If you place ENOUGH journal articles on your head, will the relevant quotes seep into your head through osmosis? #itsnotforafriend #Ihavenotimeforfriends”

Baize Picture for blogIn truth what I am working on is much the same as it has been for years: balancing waging a war for progressivist practices as a full-time public high school English teacher while completing PhD work in curriculum and instruction, so I can be better equipped for battle and better able to train others for the fight.

My current mission finds me completing an article for journal submission as part of EDAP 691 “Writing for Professional Publication”. This article concerns the essential progressivist element of valuing students’ language and interests as a means of creating a shared classroom discourse space. There exists a rift in my classes between old literacies and new digital literacies.  These pose significant challenges for many of my students. Recognizing this,  I began to ask the question: could changing my students’ mode of response from an analytic essay to a multimodal composition (i.e. “book trailer”) mirror the prevalent modes they use to interact with information in their daily lives and provide an effective bridge from traditional books to my students’ native digital worlds? The article will relate my experience using my students’ multimodal texts to as a means to generate new connections within texts and intensify their meaning-making.


The Children’s Lit of It All
Christie Angleton

I’m a PhD student from the Early Childhood and Elementary Education department and one thing we all agree on over there is the value of high quality children’s literature. I myself am of the belief that children’s literature is a field that deserves a lot more study and a lot more respect as a field. I fancy myself a developing children’s lit scholar and I’m working with this amazing body of literature in a brand new way.


I’m currently exploring the way different language varieties – specifically, African American English – are represented in books for young readers and listeners. One thing I definitely excel at in this work is lingering in beautiful, artfully crafted picture books. This is a skill that takes a bit of practice, and one that I really work to impress upon the students in my undergraduate children’s lit course. Typically students are nothing short of amazed when they are invited to linger in books that are literally portable works of art.


Discovering scholarship about a topic you love is the moment when all of the late night study sessions and stressful days seem really worth it. Figuring out a way to contribute to that body of scholarship is seriously next level. When you figure out what you want to say, raise your voice – enthusiasm is catching…and inspiring. Introducing kids to the joys of reading is one of the main reasons I love this work – and introducing fellow students to my passion is a lovely kind of joy.

Christie Angleton is a second year PhD student in the department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She teaches undergraduate children’s literature, as well as serving as an Early Childhood research assistant. In addition to children’s literature, her research interests include gender, teacher education, and early literacy.


What I Wish I’d Known in my MA by Charlotte Asmuth

1st day of teachingI know: I’m still in grad school. But this post is meant to capture some of what I learned while working toward my Master’s degree. To that end, this one is for all the current MA students out there who are beginning or finishing their time in an MA program, especially if they’re considering moving onto a PhD program.

Academic work is not *just* intellectual labor; it involves physical, mental, and emotional labor. Although I couldn’t quite put it in these words at the time, I realized this during about week 5 of my first semester in my MA program. My then-partner was slowly completing a cross-country road trip to get to Maine and still wouldn’t arrive for another couple of weeks. Without a car, I had been biking to the grocery store and attempting to carry back bags of groceries on my bike with mixed success. I was finding, as most first-year TAs do, that commenting on student work and planning for a 50-minute class takes hours, which sometimes meant I didn’t get to my own coursework until later in the week or on the weekend. In short, I was exhausted and lonely. (The picture attached to this blog post was taken on my first day as a teacher, so the exhaustion isn’t yet visible.)

Faculty want to work with graduate students (i.e., you). Start reaching out to faculty who seem to have similar research interests or have had experiences that you want to have, too. You’re here to learn how to think and be in a particular discipline, and faculty can offer valuable advice on this front. Graduate students don’t tend to figure out until later in their careers that faculty want to be approached outside of class.

Invest 110% of yourself into at least one of your classes per semester. For me, this meant I bought a sturdy binder, printed all of the readings (instead of reading them onscreen) because I can absorb the material better that way, and kept the readings and all of the work for the course organized in this binder. I’ve revisited these binders at least once a semester since then, to dig up an article that still resonates with me, or to look over an especially well-put-together syllabus to get ideas for my own teaching.

Take the opportunity to conduct research in your MA program. I’ve heard faculty who work with MA students (including faculty here at UofL) say that this is not necessarily an important thing for MA students to do, but I would make a special point of making this part of your MA experience. Conducting original research is a central part of the PhD milestone and, even if you don’t continue on to a doctoral program, you’ll walk away from your MA having had the experience of doing something hard and of getting a sense of what it means to participate in the ongoing scholarly conversations that make research writing exciting. So do a capstone project or find a mentor to shepherd you through setting up and completing a research thesis, especially if you’re not sure about whether you want to go on to get a PhD.

And, finally, speaking of doing difficult things: Faculty and other experienced professional writers still struggle with their writing projects. I tell my students (and myself) that the big difference between these writers and less experienced writers is that the first group has simply developed more strategies for coping with that difficulty (and I’m sure I’m paraphrasing one of my mentors here).

Charlotte Asmuth is a first-year PhD student who has been teaching college writing courses for 3.5 years. Ongoing interests include writing program administration, rhetorical genre studies, and research writing across the disciplines.


Weekly Round-Up: March 5 – 11

View the Minutes from EGO’s most recent meeting (2/6/2018) here
Have suggestions for EGO? Submit them anonymously to our Virtual Suggestion Box.

Check out the latest EGO blogs!
What’s I’m Working on by Michael Baumann
What I Wish I’d Known in Graduate School by Frank Kelderman
What I’m Working on by Michelle Day

The Butterfly Effect Prom Drive
Do you have a new or gently used prom dress, tuxedo, or other prom-related item hiding in the back of your closet? These items are being collected at 2 Belknap Campus locations through 3/23. More Info

Save the Date
The next graduate student discussion with faculty re: sustainability, inclusivity, and equitability will be March 23rd at 2pm (location TBD).


Monday, March 5th
1pm – EGO Meeting – All English graduate students are welcome!

Tuesday, March 6th
3pm – Pedagogy Workshop with Joan D’Antoni in Bingham 106 – Joan will be talking about various strategies she’s developed for scaffolding students’ collaborative work in the classroom.

4pm – Scholars at Risk Talk on Journey from Native Afghanistan – details here

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, March 7th
7pm – ISIS on the Run – The Future of the Middle East – details here

5pm – 7pm – Creative Writing Groupthe 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, March 8th
6pm – International Women’s Day – Bigelow Hall – Free international food, cultural performances, student speakers, and tabling by cultural and community organization. Join us as we bring focus to the cultural diversity of the campus and the community. All gender identities welcome! Register on Eventbrite!

Friday, March 9th
PhD Visit Day with Prospective Students
12noon – Lunch (provided) with department faculty members in Bingham Humanities Building room 300 (visitors, mentors, DGS, PhD students, MA students, office staff, and faculty invited)
5:30-8:30pm – Evening reception and dinner with English Department faculty. Home of Bronwyn Williams (check email for address – visitors, mentors, faculty, current PhD students invited)

Saturday March 10th and Sunday March 11th
Spring break begins! 🙌
Note: Daylight Savings Time is taking place in the wee hours of Saturday, March 11th. Spring forward an hour!

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.


Postdoctoral Fellowship Application from the Scholars Strategic Network – young scholars who wish to engage in research and public scholarship to improve policy.  Due March 16. More info here

The School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies (SIGS) is pleased to request nominations for faculty awards (Outstanding Mentor of a Doctoral Student, Outstanding Mentor of a Master’s Student, Provost’s Award for an Exemplary Director of Graduate Studies) to be presented at the May commencement. Winners will be presented with a plaque and honorarium at the Doctoral Hooding and Graduation Ceremony on Friday, May 11, 2018. All nominations must be submitted by Monday, March 5, 2018, through the online nomination form: https://louisville.edu/graduate/forms/faculty-mentor-awards

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

UofL has a limited number of free spaces for the 2018 Student Success Summit, sponsored by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Apply for a spot now as we continue to look for ways to increase student success at the University of Louisville.

Graduate Teaching Assistants at the University of Louisville are invited to submit nominations for the Barbara Plattus Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching. Nominees must be teaching at least one course in SP18. Self nomination is encouraged. Applicants should submit a statement of teaching philosophy (no more than 750 words), selected teaching materials (syllabi, assignments, etc.), and your two more recent sets of numerical student evaluations as well as additional supporting materials (letters from colleagues, faculty, students, writing center activities). Entire file cannot exceed 25 pages. The winner will be announced at the Graduate Program Luncheon. The award comes with a small sum of money, a plaque, and is always a great CV line. Direct questions to Stephen Schneider. Files due in hard copy to Annelise by March 12 by 4pm.

What I’m Working On by Michael Baumann

MU headshot
“What I’m Working On: Poems”

Yo, I’m writing a dissertation (analyzing data from a national interview-based study on whether, why, and how LGBTQ-identified writing professors “come out of the closet” or “pass” as straight/cisgender in their classrooms), teaching online (ENGL 102–my students rock more than I do, which is saying something, if I do say so myself), teaching at Marian University, Indianapolis (I direct new media writing studies for their Communication Department), and Coaching Marian’s Speech and Debate Team (JUST became Indiana’s 2018 State Champion Runners Up)… But I don’t really want to talk about that (bc too often we talk about what we’re doing for Academé). What I do really want to talk about is a recurring, Indianapolis-based poetry performance show in Indy that I’m co-producing called Poetry on the Fringe. Y’all it’s so cool:

Poetry on the Fringe brings performance poetry and theatre arts into concert with one another. Every other Sunday at 7 p.m., we drop jaws with a 20-minute open mic for emerging artists, followed by a never-before-seen theatrical production, and finally a NPS-certified poetry slam competition ($60 to the champ–with a grand slam prize at the end of our season somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 bones).

My co-producers Gabrielle Patterson, Sylvia Thomas, and I are all poets, writers, and performers in Indianapolis. Gabby is a national poetry slam champion and playwright; well-versed in performance poetry and theatre, poetry is in her blood. Sylvia is a local poet with international recognition; she cares about people finding empowerment in their story and their art. As a team of producers, we each strive to bring performance poetry and theatre arts to the hearts of Indy.

We believe that poetry is magic and performance is healing. We each plug into the community from different outlets in order to reach out to our communities, discover emerging artists, honor legendary performers, celebrate diverse voices, and engage our audiences by welcoming them into our storytelling performances that bridge poetry and theatre. And we wish to divide our rewards equitably amongst ourselves, ultimately folding them back into the community.

We’ve designed the limited open mic to bring diverse voices to our poetry scene and to invite new artists to share. Our open mic, free for all, is safe, inclusive, invitational, supportive: a space to take your first steps as a poet.

The theatrical production samples a kaleidoscope of performers (including, sometimes, our own audiences) from drag queens to actors to musicians to comedians–storytellers of all kind. We invite our youth, our elders, our queers, our students, our teachers, our veterans–our voices of all colors, histories, shapes, sizes, and abilities–to perform with us.

The slam is the only certified venue in Indianapolis where poets can compete for substantial prize money every other week and vie for membership on a team that we hope will compete both regionally and nationally. We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the cred. We’ve got it all. We just need YOU.

Michael Baumann is a doctoral candidate at the University of Louisville’s Department of English. He’s also a college professor, book editor, speech coach, and performance poet.


Weekly Round-Up: February 26 – March 4

View the Minutes from EGO’s most recent meeting (2/6/2018) here!

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

Check out this week’s blog posts: What I’m Working On by Michelle Day & What I Wish I’d Known in Graduate School by Frank Kelderman.


  • 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!



Tuesday, February 27
Creating Effective Conference Presentations Workshop
, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m., Ekstrom Library, 117A

  • Writing Center Director Dr. Bronwyn Williams will host a workshop addressing the process of creating effective conference presentations. We will talk about preparing for your presentation through strategies for analyzing your audience, organizing your material, and incorporating technology effectively. We will also discuss advice about the presentation itself, including how to lower feelings of stress and anxiety. View the flyer for more information. Register for this event via this online form.

Career-ish hosted by the Multi-Cultural Association of Graduate Students (MAGS), 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m., The Cultural Center, Belknap Campus (120 E. Brandeis Ave)

  • Unsure about your career plans after graduation?  Interested in Post-Doc opportunities? Seeking alternative-career tracks? Come learn about the spectrum of possibilities as a graduate student from presenters Dr. Latrica Best, Dr. Adrienne Bratcher, and Dr. Latonia Craig. Food will be provided. Register for this event via this online form. View the MAGS Career_ish.

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, February 28
PLAN Workshop: An Introduction to Data Sources for Graduate Student Researchers
, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m., Ekstrom Library, W102

  • Locating relevant and usable data for a dissertation, thesis, or other large-scale project can be a challenging endeavor, even for the most experienced researcher. How do you know where to locate specific data sources? How do you know who produces relevant datasets? This workshop will focus on identifying and accessing data on topics that are highly relevant to researchers in the Social Sciences. Attention will be given to searching and accessing data within the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) data archive to which the library subscribes. We will also broadly cover navigating and accessing data within free web resources provided by government agencies and various organizations. Participants will leave the session with a foundation for how to locate and access data for their research and will be provided with a web-based data sources library guide to refer to after the workshop. Register for this event here. For more information, go to the event page.

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, March 1
Axton Reading by Tess Taylor
, 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Ekstrom Library, Bingham Poetry Room

  • The San Francisco Chronicle called Tess Taylor’s first book, The Forage House, “stunning”. Her second book, Work & Days, was called “our moment’s Georgic” by critic Stephanie Burt and was named one of the 10 best books of poetry of 2016 by the New York Times. Taylor currently chairs the poetry committee of the National Book Critics Circle, and is on-air poetry reviewer for NPR’s All Things Considered. She was most recently a Distinguished Fulbright US Scholar at the Seamus Heaney Centre in Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. For more information, go to the event page.

Friday, March 2
Graduate Student Regional Research Conference
, University of Louisville

  • Research conference that allows graduate students to present their research via oral talks and poster presentations.  In addition, there will be a keynote speaker, Rebecca Heiss, and the 3-minute thesis competition will be held. UofL undergraduate students and faculty/staff encouraged to attend. More dates through March 3. For more information, go to the conference page.

Saturday, March 3
Graduate Student Regional Research Conference
, University of Louisville

  • Research conference that allows graduate students to present their research via oral talks and poster presentations.  In addition, there will be a keynote speaker, Rebecca Heiss, and the 3-minute thesis competition will be held. UofL undergraduate students and faculty/staff encouraged to attend. For more information, go to the conference page.

Family Scholar House Service, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., meet at Kurz Hall

  • Students’ success starts before they even begin kindergarten. Having a solid pre-school foundation is important. Family Scholar House’s Camp Chi Beta helps preschoolers prepare for kindergarten in a fun and pressure-free way. Join Honors Student Council each month as we volunteer with Camp Chi Beta. For more information, go to the event page.

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.


Miracle Monocle Award for Ambitious Student Writing

  • Miracle Monocle is on the hunt for one amazing student writer to win our inaugural Award for Ambitious Student Writing. Entry to the competition is 100% free and the prize, which includes $200 and publication in our 10th issue, is 100% awesome. Any currently enrolled graduate or undergraduate writer is eligible to submit here. For more information, visit the website and follow the Facebook

Post-Doctoral Fellowship Opportunity with the Scholars Strategic Network (SSN)

  • This opportunity is specifically aimed at young scholars who wish to engage in research and public scholarship to improve policy. For more information, visit the website.

Assistant Director of the Thomas R. Watson Conference

  • To apply, please send an updated CV and one-page letter detailing your interest and qualifications to Mary P. Sheridan (Mary P. Sheridan) no later than 5:00 pm on March 1st. Interviews may be scheduled for the first week of March. You will be notified by March 12, and acceptance is required by April 1 (and that’s no joke). For more information, view this document.

BizComm Positions – Assistant Director of the BizComm Coaching Lab & Instructor

  • To apply, please Please submit a single letter of application indicating your interest in one or both positions and a current CV by March 1 to Prof. Jenna Haugen and Prof. Stephen Schneider. For more information, view this document.

SIGS Faculty Awards

  • The School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies (SIGS) is pleased to request nominations for faculty awards (Outstanding Mentor of a Doctoral Student, Outstanding Mentor of a Master’s Student, Provost’s Award for an Exemplary Director of Graduate Studies) to be presented at the May commencement. Winners will be presented with a plaque and honorarium at the Doctoral Hooding and Graduation Ceremony on Friday, May 11, 2018. All nominations must be submitted by Monday, March 5, 2018, through the online nomination form.


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

What I’m Working On by Michelle Day

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 9.50.20 AMHaving finished coursework, exams, and my prospectus, I’ve entered a weird stage of the doctoral program that is both more freedom and more pressure. That is, the work feels harder, more draining, and higher stakes, but it’s also more mine, and I feel much more in control of my time. Here’s how I’ve been using that.


Like, obviously. My dissertation explores principles and practices that can help writing classrooms/instructors be more responsive to student trauma. Studies show that at least 68 percent (and that’s the most conservative measure) of students at public colleges have experienced trauma before arriving at college, and many of them will experience trauma during college. It’s a widely documented fact that trauma impacts (often, impedes) learning and classroom behaviors, as well as general ability to adjust to adulthood.

Since we’re in a unique position as writing teachers—smaller classrooms, more one-on-one and small group interactions with students, etc.—I am developing flexible strategies that college writing instructors can use to respond to the impact of trauma on their work and their students.

Celebration of Student Writing

This is my second year leading this annual event, and this year, with the help of Megen Boyett, we are working on ways to expand its reach. Students seem to enjoy this event, but express a desire to connect with more peers to share their work. So, we’ve added door prizes (including some Beats headphones), guest judges, and cool opportunities for students to make stuff, all in order to incentivize attendance and generate more excitement for the event. (Interested in participating? Email me or sign up here)

Competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

I just moved up to the second level (“blue belt”) in the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and I’m beginning to train more so that I can compete in some cool tournaments across the country. So far, I’ve medaled in every tournament I’ve competed in, and I am planning to compete in the World IBJJF Championship in May. I will almost certainly lose very quickly at World’s, but having grown up doing sports, it’s a blast to be competing again with teammates that I love in new areas of the country I haven’t been to before. And it’s really nice to have accomplishments outside work/school.


About two years ago, my sister started writing her own music as “Violet Moon,” and now, I get to play keyboard and sing back-up vocals for her. Over the last 8 months, we’ve recorded two songs and started playing live shows. I never thought I would ever have the courage to play and sing in front of an audience, and overcoming that fear was a personal victory for me. Now that I have more time to rehearse, I’m looking forward to playing in more shows and connecting with other musicians around town.

Michelle Day is a 3rd year doctoral student, an Assistant Director of Composition, and a graduate assistant for the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research.

What I Wish I’d Known in Graduate School by Frank Kelderman

Quick question: how do you write a Ph.D. dissertation when the last thing it seems you have time for in graduate school is writing a dissertation? I’m still not sure I can answer that all the way, but I’ll share a few bits of advice that I’ve mulled over since starting my graduate program—and gratefully attribute what follows to the mentors who helped me along the way.

Learn to make the BASST (The Bold Assertive Statement by the Scholar Thinking)
Attributed to Julie Ellison

When I was in the early stages of writing my dissertation, I had to practice making bold, assertive claims that move clearly from A to B. The instructions: go home, go to the mirror, stare yourself in the eye, and articulate a series of declarative sentences—with conviction! What’s fun is that you can practice with completely nonsensical statements: “In the early Republic, the water balloon was a crucial matrix for contesting modes of finger-painting.” Or: “Whether or not she co-authored Blood Meridian, Cyndi Lauper re-centered the American novel on questions of restrictive shoe-lacing.” It can get whackier than that, but it helped me to get a sense of what an argument sounds like, at a purely syntactic and stylistic level. Also, it taught me how to keep up a confident façade at a point when I wasn’t convinced that I was even in a position to make any claim at all!

Define your archive
Attributed to Mary C. Kelley

When you’re writing your prospectus and planning a sequence of chapters, think first about how you define your archive for each of them. Whether your archive is an actual collection in a library somewhere, a set of movies, or a series of interviews, it is important to map your chapters onto what exact texts you’re going to make claims about. This will help you to plan the actual work involved in the project (simply knowing roughly how many key text you’re going to have to grapple with), and it will establish common ground between you and your advisers as you’re starting a new scholarly conversation.

The donut and the hole
Attributed to Scott Richard Lyons and Philip J. Deloria

In my first year of coursework, I would often come to class ready to talk about how great the article or monograph was that we read, only to be surprised when my classmates found all kinds of critical flaws that I had somehow missed. What was I doing wrong? I thought that book was super-smart! I soon found that our class conversations typically focused on what was “missing” in the book—what the author was not doing and what critical questions they ignored. So I got into the habit of doing the same thing: focusing my reading on the possible critiques I could make in terms of what I thought other scholars had failed to do.

Now, it’s important to build our own claims partly on what we think is a “gap” in the existing discourse and on the productive critique of other scholars. But it’s also useful to remember that behind the books and articles we read are real people with lives, histories, families, and pets of their own, whose publications sometimes represent a decade of commitment to an intellectual project. This does not mean we should hold back our criticism—indeed, to do so would be unproductive and perhaps even academically dishonest. But as we make our critiques of other scholars, we might remind ourselves that we may meet that person someday on a conference panel, at a reception, or (yes!) during a job interview. And then we’re faced with the question of whether we’d make our critiques the same way we did from behind our word processor!

Thinking about this in relation to my own dissertation, I think I simply would have learned more had I focused my reading less on what I thought other scholars didn’t do, and more on questions that would have better empowered me to think about my own project: “What is this scholar contributing? What are the stakes of their project, and how do they define the scope of it? And how do they pull this off, as a thinker and a writer?” To paraphrase David Lynch, there’s the donut and the hole. Keep your eye on the donut, not the hole.

Bottlenecks and hoops
Ok, this one’s just from me.

A PhD program has many bottleneck moments; for me, these were the second-year review, the preliminary exams, the prospectus defense, and the dissertation defense. Moments like these can feel like you’re just being asked to jump through institutional hoops, and they can cause great stress because we know we have to do well. But by the time I got to my prospectus defense, I had learned to appreciate these bottleneck moments more positively: they are also opportunities to claim a little more ownership over your own project. A chance to generate some buzz and excitement among faculty about what you’re doing. To show off a little bit! And ultimately, taking these bottleneck moments and turning them into your own performance is a useful training ground for the job market, when you’ll spend much of your daily energy preparing for exactly such performances!

Frank Kelderman is an Assistant Professor who specializes in Native American literatures, with an emphasis on nineteenth-century writing and oratory. At the University of Louisville he teaches courses in Native American, early American, and multi-ethnic American literatures.