Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Tag: grad school (page 1 of 2)

ROW80: This is the Chapter That’ll Never End

I tried, you guys. Seriously, I did.

I gave myself a hard deadline of Sunday to wrap up the dissertation chapter I’ve been poking at for the last four months. Then I extended the deadline to late Monday/early Tuesday. But now it’s Wednesday, and the chapter is like 11,000 words long (is that too long? short? I HAVE NO IDEA). and it STILL ISN’T FINISHED.

Like I mentioned earlier on Facebook, I’m feeling stabby and violent and would like to burn this chapter with fire… but California’s in the middle of a drought and something like 12 million trees have already died from lack of water. I don’t want to add to the problem.

So, basically, I hate deadlines right now, because they never seem to be quite realistic enough. And trying to write after a full day of working, or before a full day of working, or somewhere squashed in-between my halfassed attempts at exercising and a full day of working, is SO. DARN. HARD.

*Whew*

That is my tirade for the day. Probably the only positive thing to come out of this is the fact that I have succeeded at writing for at least 45 minutes for the last five days, and sometimes (most of the time) much longer than 45 minutes. So… Huzzah?

For fun, here’s the first two paragraphs of this chapter, which discusses the “origin stories” of the 5 religious orders I’m studying for my dissertation: the Sisters of Mercy, the Presentation Sisters, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Sisters of the Holy Family, and the Daughters of Charity. The decision to follow one’s spiritual calling to serve God by serving others placed the founders of all 5 communities in challenging, difficult, and sometimes dangerous positions, but few of them faced the same stakes that Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of Mary, did.

 In 1609, Mary Ward, a highly educated Catholic woman whose family fled England for the European continent, succeeded in establishing the first order of religious women rooted in the Rule of St. Ignatius, the foundation of the famed Jesuit order. Ward was “related by blood or marriage to most of the Catholic aristocracy of England” (Burke-Sullivan 2009:177), many of whom joined her congregation, the Institute of Mary. Together, the community adopted an active life similar to the Jesuits, one that eschewed cloister for an active life of ministry. Ward and her religious sisters worked in education and healthcare, and even disguised themselves as domestic servants in England “to draw back into faith many who had fallen away” (ibid.). But in 1630, Ward was imprisoned by the Church, her order officially suppressed. She “was charged with (but never granted a trial or hearing for) heresy, schism, and rebellion” (pg. 178). Her crime? Stepping outside the tightly prescribed boundaries that existed for women in the seventeenth century and creating a religious institute that went beyond the approved tradition of cloister.

Ward’s example serves as a reminder of the deeply precarious position that women occupied when they sought to transgress the narrow rules that governed women’s lives, both religious and lay. However, she also demonstrates the incredible feats that women could accomplish if they had the faith, resilience, and strength to persevere. Despite her imprisonment and ongoing persecution that she faced for the remainder of her life, she continued to work throughout Europe, founding schools in countries like the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and Austria, traveling often on foot. When the persecution of Catholics in England ended, she returned, creating free schools for the poor, visiting the imprisoned, and working with the sick.

Mary Ward, and all of the other women in my study, are the ones who keep me going, even when I want to give up on this stupid dissertation. These women–ordinary individuals who managed to do extraordinary things–deserve to have their stories told.

And that’s my Wednesday! I’m going to be relaxing this evening with a cocktail for my weekly happy hour date night, and afterwards I’ll be back on the writing grind. Don’t forget to say hey to everyone else who’s checking in today.

ROW80: Starting Fresh With Strength, Courage & Wisdom

ROW80Logocopy

January 7th marks the start of a new round of A Round of Words in 80 Days, “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” For those of you looking for more information about the challenge, you can find it here.

I’m waving a wildly enthusiastic hello to all my old ROW80 friends, and offering the warmest of welcomes to all the new folks joining in on this round. This community is one of the most supportive and welcoming that I’ve found online, and is one of the reasons that I’m participating in my 7th (!!!!) round.

For anyone who may have missed my first post of the year, I’ve declared that 2013 will be my year to “stop the cray.” I’m pulling the plug on negative thinking, nasty energy, and all the habits that cause me to sabotage my own success.

To aid me on this journey, I’m blasting my anthem song for the year, “Strength, Courage, and Wisdom,” by India.Arie. As she sings,

It’s time to step out on faith, I’ve gotta show my face
It’s been elusive for so long but freedom is mine today
I’ve gotta step out on faith, it’s time to show my face
Procrastination had me down but look what I have found

With a little strength, courage, and wisdom in my life, I’m launching myself towards two giant goals for the year: (1) completing (at least) one novel and (2) finishing the first draft of my dissertation.

I won’t lie. Just typing those giant goals makes me want to do this:

supernatural-shockBut if there’s anything I’ve learned with ROW80, it’s that identifying small, achievable goals goes a long way to helping me conquer seemingly insurmountable tasks. With that in mind, here are my overall goals for Round 1:

DAY JOB:

  • Finish dissertation proposal and have quarterly meeting with committee
  • Complete preliminary archival research at 4 out of 6 locations
  • Continue to write rough sketches of research memos based on collected data

WRITING:

  • Write 2-3 poems each week
  • Revisit TELL ME NO LIES and THE PEACOCK QUEEN; identify what needs to be tweaked/fixed/written in order to finish first drafts
  • Figure out Ultimate Editing Battle Plan (and which novel I feel like hanging out with–or if the answer to this question is “both”)

SOCIAL MEDIA:

  • Write 1 ROW80 check-in post each Sunday, along with 2 non-ROW80 posts each week
  • Respond to all blog comments
  • Use weekends for catching up with Google Reader, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Visit 10 blogs each week to read, comment, and promote posts

SELF-CARE:

  • Journal daily
  • Read 1 novel each week
  • Unplug when necessary

So there you have it, folks! Is everyone feeling rested and ready to go? Anything special y’all are looking forward to this year?

Tell me all about it in the comments, and be sure to swing by and wave hello to everyone else participating this round.

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A Little Progress, and A Very Special Birthday

It’s Wednesday (or at least it was when I started writing this post), which means that it’s time for the mid-week ROW80 check-in. But before I get to that shiny list of goals and progress, I wanted to pause and say a big, fat HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the WANA1011 class!

The WANA1011 Hall of Fame (Image created by Rachel Funk Heller)

A little background: Back in October 2011, the awesome dipped-in-glitter Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone and writer/blogger extraordinaire, offered a two month course  called “Blogging to Build Your Brand.” 100 people signed up, and we made our way through social media bootcamp. Somewhere along the way, we also became a fantastic group of friends, staunch allies, and a warm and welcoming community to which I’m proud to belong.

I’m not exactly sure how a year has gone by so quickly, but we’re celebrating all over the web for the next few days (okay, okay, I say “few” because the birthday was technically October 3rd and I’m not going to get this posted till the 4th).

And now, onto the progress from the first few days of ROW80:

Day Job: I’m easing slowly into this. By the end of the week, I’d like to accomplish the following:

  • review notes from my “little conversation” and hammer out a rough outline for my revised dissertation proposal
  • create a preliminary reading list for my 2nd round of research
  • look at upcoming grant and scholarship applications, and figure out if applying for any of them is feasible
  • contact dissertation committee with plans for our next meeting, which will hopefully come in January 2013

Writing: #OctPoWriMo is going really well. I’ve written a poem each day (found here on tumblr), and I have a whole list of ideas and drabbles for future poems. For those of you who write poetry, or even who have been thinking about trying to write poetry, I encourage you to visit the website and get involved. This community of writers is supportive and nurturing, and Morgan and Julie have been posting some fantastic prompts.

By next check-in: I should have 4 more poems written. I’d also like to get a little more brainstorming on the #NaNoWriMo project done.

Exercise: Mom and I walked three days so far this week, 4 miles each day. I may have indulged in one too many sweets yesterday (mmm, pistachio-flavored French macaroons!), but I won’t be making that a habit.

By next check-in: 2 more walks, hopefully at 5 miles each, but it depends on the weather.

Social Media: I’m still pretty quiet on Twitter, but I’ve managed to comment/RT/like at least two blogs each day. I also posted about 20th century poet May Sarton on Monday, and included a couple of her poems.

By next check-in: Hopefully a Friday post, which is partly drafted but needs lots of polishing. Not sure if it’ll get done, as my Thursday is a little packed.

Self-Care: My 7 am wake-up sessions are still working. Taking time for free-writing and journaling has done a world of good for helping me to feel grounded, deliberate, and present in my life, instead of flailing around like a headless chicken, the way I usually do. 😛

Are you easing slowly into Round 4, or diving in headfirst? Be sure to swing by and visit the other ROWers checking-in this week!

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While I’ve Been Away: A ROW80 Goals and Update Post

Sometimes we all need to slow down and unplug.

As many of you may have noticed, I’ve been pretty silent on the blogging and social media front over the last few months.

This year has been an intense one as far as my academic career is concerned. There’s been lots of success (earning my long-overdue MA degree, changing my dissertation topic, starting dissertation research, advancing to doctoral candidacy), but it’s taken most of my mental and emotional energy to make that success happen. Add in a major move, settling in at my parents’ house, and lots of personal growth and change, and you have a sure-fire recipe for burnout.

Unplugging has also allowed me to enjoy some gorgeous San Francisco days.

Unplugging from social media and dropping my blog for a while was a huge help in giving me some space to hear myself think.

I have to admit, it felt good not to think about blog topics, or obsess over my site stats, or freak out about the ups and downs of my my Klout score.  I did a little writing, but it was full-fledged pantsing–no worries over story structure or plotlines or character arcs, just pure, unbridled creation.

While I’ve been away, I’ve read many books, cuddled with my cat, visited with old friends, and took lots of time to sit and think. Even more exciting, I’ve returned to my “roots”: writing by hand, complete with vintage dip pens and ink. Nothing makes me feel more whole than having ink-stained fingers and a cramp in my hand from furious scribbling, and nothing makes my ideas flow faster or more furiously than a good brainstorm-by-hand.

The product of my last “brainstorm-by-hand.”

My respite has been good, and it has definitely been necessary. But there’s a downside about disconnecting: losing touch with all of my amazing friends. I feel blessed to be part of a wonderful community, and I can’t wait until I can contribute once again.

With that said, I am delighted to take part in Round 4 of ROW80, a challenge and community that has a special place in my heart. Unlike Round 3, “the ROWnd that wasn’t,” I plan on being much more present this time around. 😀

ROUND 4 GOALS!

Day Job: Now that I’ve cleared all the administrative red tape, I’m officially “ABD,” or “all but dissertation.” The goal for this round is threefold: (1) continue my archival research, (2) keep reading and taking notes on secondary sources, and (3) start writing up short memos. By the end of the round, I will also need to complete a 25-page dissertation proposal based on the advice my committee provided in 2 hour grueling but enlightening meeting we had earlier this month.

Writing: There are a few things going on in the world of writing. October will be dominated by October Poetry Writing Month (or #OctPoWriMo), which I blogged about the other day. I’ll be posting 1 poem a day for a month over on my tumblr account, and linking to my favorites here on Flights of Fancy every Sunday.

October is also plotting and development time for NaNoWriMo, and I CANNOT contain my excitement. I’ve done a little work hammering out the beginning and ending of the novel (steampunk/fantasy), and all I want to do is play with it.

I’m breaking down my writing goals by month:

  • October: Write 1 poem each day, and brainstorm the NaNo novel for 1 hour each day.
  • November: Write 1667 each day or die trying.
  • December: Finish PATH TO THE PEACOCK THRONE.

Exercise: I’ll be walking 4-5 miles a day, 4-5 days each week. If I am feeling particularly ambitious, I may even throw in an at-home Pilates routine as well. Simple, but effective.

Social Media: Okay, this has been my Achilles heel for months, but I think if I start small, I can work my way up to being a social media powerhouse (in my dreams, maybe). I want to do the following:

  • Blog 2-3 days/week
  • Comment/like/retweet 2 blog posts each day
  • Visit 10 ROW80 blogs each week

Self-Care: If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that I can’t tackle any of my goals if I’m not taking care of myself. This means that I’m carving out 1 hour each day for myself to use for journaling, free-writing, and meditation. Having a little space will go a long way towards maintaining my mental, spiritual, and emotional health. (I think my Very Lazy Cat, Napoleon, approves of this plan.)

-oOo-

So that will (hopefully) be my Round 4! I’m looking forward to diving in and getting things done, and getting to know all of you. Swing by and wave a friendly hello to all of the other Round 4 participants here. 😀

ROW80: In Which Lena Vanquishes Her To-Do List

Yup, you read that right. My massive summer to-do list has been conquered. Given that it’s been almost a month since my last check-in, it’s really exciting to have good news to report. Here’s the Awesome List of Success:

This is what happens when I am stressed and trying to procrastinate, and the cat decides he wants to distract me.

Day Job: I wrote my Very Big Paper, which ended up being 45 pages on the history of Catholic sisters in the United States during the nineteenth century. Next, I finished the Paper From Hell, a 16 page paper on conduct literature that included lots of social theory and more big words than you can shake a stick at. And Tuesday night I hammered out a 3.5 page dissertation mini-proposal, complete with some preliminary research questions and a tentative chapter outline. Add in the 6 hours of archival research I’ve been doing each week, and you have one very, very vanquished to-do list.

Now that all the hard work is out of the way, I can head back to Santa Barbara and meet with my dissertation committee next week for my “little conversation,” the final requirement that I need to advance to doctoral candidacy. Accomplishing that means that I’ve jumped all the institutional loopholes — coursework, papers, and all that jazz. In other words, the only thing standing between me and my PhD is the dissertation.

Writing: I didn’t get a chance to talk about this, since I’ve been stuck in the writing cave for the last few weeks, but I did end up winning Camp NaNoWriMo. STRANGE BEDFELLOWS is the poster child for the zero draft, with plotholes wider than the Grand Canyon, inconsistent characterization, and a million other problems, but I think there’s a fairly strong skeletal structure underneath it all. And, you know, it’s like 66k long, and I can’t complain about that.

For fun, and to keep up my writing momentum, I thought I’d try out my first round of Fast Drafting with a nugget of an idea that’s been nagging at me for a few months. (Yes, I am an overachiever. And yes, I am quite clearly a glutton for punishment.) I’ve fallen off the Fast Draft train over the last couple of days, derailed by migraines, the Paper From Hell, and my dissertation mini-proposal, but I am going to try to get back on track over the next day or two. Right now this little project (tentatively titled SOMEWHERE IN THE WEST) has a little over 17k — nowhere near my original goal, but still pretty awesome.

Exercise: I really fell off the wagon in terms of eating well and exercising, but my mom and I have a new plan that we have been implementing for the last couple of weeks. We are now walking 5 days a week, a minimum of 2 miles each day, and we’ve eliminated all the sweet, sugary things from the grocery list. I’m seeing a tiny difference, which will hopefully become a much larger difference in the weeks to come.

Social Media: My blog reading and commenting has been sporadic, I’ve been pretty quiet on Twitter, but I’ve been hanging out on Facebook a little more often. I’ve got a few blog posts drafted, so I might be able to start blogging again in October. This, of course, depends on whether or not I can have some time to unwind and chill out.

-oOo-

At the moment, my most immediate goal is to deal with my “little conversation” next week, and then to spend the rest of September doing nothing but gorging myself on novels, naps, and video games. I will also be carving out time to blog-hop and respond to comments, something that has been next to impossible with my brain all messy and overwhelmed, and my internal settings set to so-anxious-can’t-even-breathe.

Once again, Napoleon is my mentor in the art of leisure.

So yay! How is everyone doing? I’ve missed you all a ton! This ROWnd is winding down, but I’m hoping to wave at all my fellow ROWers in the days to come.

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ROW80: Barely Squeaking By

Oh man, I cannot believe I have missed two ROW80 check-ins in a row. It’s definitely not my usual speed, but there’s a lot going on right now. Classes just ended this week, final exams are due next week, and I’m moving 300 miles back to my parents’ house at the very end of the month. So I am a bit distracted, shall we say, but I am here cheering on all my ROWing friends in spirit, if not “in the flesh.”

However, there has been *some* progress along the way. Here’s how things have gone over the last couple of weeks:

Day Job: So. Much. Work. I have been buried under books and journal articles for what feels like weeks, trying to finish a 25 page term paper on 19th century Catholic nuns for the course I’m taking on religion and gender.  However, the absolute best thing to happen to me is that I met with my dissertation advisor on Tuesday, and we decided that the topic  can be merged with my nascent dissertation topic.

This is a really, really, really good thing for a million reasons, not the least of which is that I have a direction at last. Better yet, it’s a direction that I enjoy, one that makes me happy, and kicks my little sociologist brain in gear.

I am going to have my work cut out for me this summer, honing and refining my central research questions, but I feel passionate about this project for the first time in a while. And where there’s passion, I’d like to think that we can do anything.

Writing: Yup, this is where I’m “barely squeaking by.” Work on my main novels has been stalled by the day job, though I have been trying to tweak little things here and there when I have a spare moment. So I don’t let myself get too rusty, I decided to sign up for my first flash fiction challenge in a few months: ‘Timony Souler’s June round of the “Dice Games.” I’ve been a little slow at posting my fills, but I’ve finished 2 out of 3:  “Liberty,” about a lady assassin, her trusty blade, and a final mission; and “Worthless?“, which involves a pair of supernatural hunters, zombies, and a lovers’ quarrel.

Exercise: I’ve been working out on an average of 4 times each week, so I’m not doing *too* terribly here. Listening to audiobooks while walking has definitely made exercising much more enjoyable.

Social Media: Er… what is social media again? *hangs head in shame*

And finally, here are the awesome things that have been on my reading and watching lists:

I had a blast with a little time travel romance by way of Susanna Kearsley’s THE ROSE GARDEN and fellow ROW-er Jennette Marie Powell‘s TIME’S FUGITIVE (the 2nd book in her Saturn Society series). Kearsley’s protagonist, Eva, is grappling with the death of her older sister and finds herself in Cornwall, reconnecting with old family friends. There, she learns that she can “slip through time,” and ends up falling in love with an eighteenth-century smuggler. It reminds me a bit of Diana Gabaldon‘s OUTLANDER — rich description, evocative prose, lots of romance (although nothing as explicit as Gabaldon’s work), and haunting. I wasn’t sure how things would be resolved

While TIME’S FUGITIVE is also involves romance and time-travel, it’s much heavier in the science-fiction elements than THE ROSE GARDEN. Powell does an amazing job exploring the “butterfly effect” conundrums that can accompany time travel. There’s lots of tension, lots of excitement, and lots of twists and turns that I loved. I was so enthralled with the plot that I devoured the book in a single sitting, which says a lot. 😀

Finally, I read Lindsay Buroker‘s ENCRYPTED. Like all of her other books, this one was funny, fast-paced, and hugely enjoyable. There was one question that ran through my mind as I read, and that was, “Why the hell did I wait so long to read it?”

The watching list is a long one, since my friends and I have been hitting the theaters like crazy over the past couple of weeks. Here’s what we’ve seen, in bullet form:

  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Blech. I was dragged to this against my will, and I thought it might maybe be terrible-funny, but no, it was just terrible. Pathetic writing, lame jokes, regressive notions of gender, fat-shaming, stupid “let’s-adopt-an-African-baby” subplot… the list goes on. Not even a bare-chested Joe Manganiello doing one-armed pull-ups could save this one for me.
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Also known as “that movie with all my favorite old British actors.” Despite the middling reviews, and the fact that my friends and I were the only people in the theater under 60, I loved this. The movie was a good blend of funny and heartfelt, with three-dimensional characters that I cared about (it’s always nice when characters, you know, grow and evolve). The entire cast is wonderful, but Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy really stood out to me.
  • Snow White and the Huntsman: I could devote an entire blog post (maybe two or three) to why I was so disappointed with this movie. Instead, I will link to Tor.com’s review, as it pretty much sums up everything that bugged me (Terrible writing! Poor worldbuilding! A protagonist that hardly freaking speaks!).
  • Dark Shadows: Yet another movie that I got dragged to, as my desire to see Battleship for all its terrible glory (and Alexander Skarsgard, and Taylor Kitsch, despite the horrid haircut) was overruled at the last minute. Even though the movie departs from television show, I mostly enjoyed it. Johnny Depp is, once again, absolutely fantastic, Eva Green is an amazing antagonist, and Michelle Pfieffer pretty much kicks ass. The last third of the movie, however, sorta goes off the rails. Not really sure what the writers were thinking, to be honest (Seth Grahame-Smith, I’m side-eyeing you).
  • Prometheus: Okay, so I’ll admit that my expectations for this movie might have been a tad too high, but I was disappointed. It is visually stunning — I would actually pay $10 just to look at the darn thing — but I’m not too sure what happened with the script. I found myself hating most of the characters, with the exception of Michael Fassbender’s delightfully creepy android, David, and the ship’s captain, played by Idris Elba (aka my new mancrush).

Next on my list: finishing Seth Grahame-Smith’s ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER before the film comes out, seeing Hysteria in theaters on Tuesday, and wrapping up season 1 of Jason Isaac’s miniseries, Case Histories.

…and that’s me for this week! I will be retreating back into the reading/writing/working cave, but hopefully I’ll be able to manage a check-in for the last week of Round 2. Hope everyone’s doing okay!

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ROW80: A Bloggy Birthday

Happy Sunday, ROWers! This weekend is a special one, as I’m celebrating my blog’s first birthday. I’m actually a week late — my very first post, a ROW80 check-in, was posted on May 15th — but better late than never, right?

In celebration, I’m bringing out Party Sloth…

…and you know that festivities would be incomplete without Hugh…

For fun, I thought I’d make a mini-vlog, just to wave and say hello. It’s nothing fancy, but I wanted a chance to thank all of you in “person.” Without this amazing, wonderful, phenomenal community, I think I would’ve abandoned both the blogging experiment and my writing attempts ages ago. 😀

I missed last week’s check-in due to grading, but here’s how things are going so far:

Day Job: The stack of midterms is never-ending, the reading is never-ending, the homework is never-ending. The quarter ends in three weeks, and till then, I will be furiously working my buns off to get things done. My brain is buzzing, I’m learning a ton, and I really am having fun… I just wish the pressure would ease off just a teeny bit. But grading will be done on Tuesday, and I’ll have a couple of weeks to take care of my work before it’s time to tackle the students’ final papers.

Writing: Okay, so, the week before last was my awesome writing week. The plot for STRANGE BEDFELLOWS dropped into my lap, completely unbidden, and I wrote about 4500 words between all 3 of my projects. Not much has happened this week, though, but I did raid the university library for books on 19th century San Francisco as part of my research for TELL ME NO LIES. Now, er, I just have to find time to read them. 😛

Exercise: I’ve been a little under the weather for the last few days, so I scaled back to a couple of short workouts instead of the usual 4 mile walk. But altogether I had 4 days of activity, which is pretty good.

Social Media: Ugh, a total bust. I’ve been unplugged for the last week because I can’t concentrate on grading otherwise. Operation KEEP TRYING is in progress.

Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching this week:

I finally got around to reading, CONSPIRACY, the fourth book in Lindsay Buroker‘s phenomenal EMPEROR’S EDGE series. The EE series is a blend of steampunk and fantasy, and features an unlikely band of outlaws striving to evade the law and do enough good deeds for the emperor to clear their names. Like the previous three, CONSPIRACY is a ton of fun — lots of tension, lots of action, lots of humor, and a great plot.

As far as movies go, I finished the last two episodes of the Zen miniseries, and I think it’s an absolute crime that it was cancelled after only one season (seriously, y’all, it’s soooo sad). I also caught The Raven, which I enjoyed, though not as much as other creepy period pieces, like Perfume or The Prestige. Next up is the miniseries Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs, which I’ve been dying to watch.

…And with that, I am crawling back into my reading/grading/working cave. Hope you’ve all had an awesome week!

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ROW80: Picking Up Steam, and a New Tattoo

Good grief, I can’t believe it’s Sunday already. The last week sort of sped on by, and I feel like I’ve got whiplash. Also, can someone tell me exactly when May happened? Time seems to be hurtling past me.

All in all, it hasn’t been too terrible of a week. Here’s the shakedown:

Day Job: Not much work done by way of research this week, though I took a couple of hours today to take some reading notes and write up a summary of what I’ve learned thus far. I still need to meet with committee members (I’ve been dragging my feet on making appointments), so this is going to be my goal for the week.

Writing: Things are getting a little better here. I’ve logged at least 5 or 6 hours this week on brainstorming, outlining, and world-building. Better yet, I’ve written close to 5k. Not sure how much will survive my next round of edits, but the good news is that Part 1 of PATH TO THE PEACOCK THRONE is finally coming together. Progress is slow, but if I can make sure that it’s steady, I’ll feel a lot better about things.

Exercise: Shockingly enough, I managed to get 6 days of exercise in. Morning walks are becoming second nature, and way too enjoyable to ignore. There’s nothing like listening to a swelling chorus of birdsong and basking in the sunlight to start my day off right.

Social Media: It was another off week for social media. Not much by way to blog hopping, and only 1 post written outside of my ROW80 check-in. I’ve got a few drafts that need to be fixed up and finalized, so hopefully I can get those posted in the week to come.

And once again, here’s what I’m reading and watching this week:

Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen

Films: I’m halfway through the BBC Mystery series, Zen, based on the series of novels by Michael Dibdin. The absolutely dishy Rufus Sewell plays the title character, Venetian detective Aurelio Zen, who is one of the few men of integrity, honor, and honesty working in the corrupt Roman police department. Zen reminds me a lot of my detective protag in TELL ME NO LIES, so I’ve been watching Zen with both my writing and “I’m-going-to-veg-out-and-enjoy-this” hats on.

Books: I just finished Jessica Grey‘s novel, AWAKE, which is a modern-day YA retelling of the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale. I absolutely adored it, so if you like fairy tale adaptations with romance and magic and lore, I recommend it.

In other news, I got my first tattoo on Friday! It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared (I worked myself up into such a tizzy over the potential pain that I lost sleep for about 2 weeks), though there were definitely moments when I wondered exactly what sort of torture I signed up for. However, I am in love with the final product, and that’s all that counts. The tattoo is on my right arm — my writing arm — and will hopefully remind me of my duty to myself as a writer.

The quote, “Words have been all my life,” comes from POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt, one of my favorite books of all time. The original passage, part of a letter that the fictional 19th century poet Christabel LaMotte writes to fellow poet Randolph Henry Ash, is as follows:

…Words have been all my life, all my life — this need is like the Spider’s need who carries before her a huge Burden of Silk which she must spin out — the silk is her life, her home, her safety — her food and drink too — and if it is attacked or pulled down, why, what can she do but make more, spin afresh, design anew…

Like the fictional Christabel, I am, have always been, and always will be, compelled to write, to create, to spin out words and myths and tales. Writing is something that I must do in order to remain whole, in order to survive. That lesson is one that I learned the hard way during my 2 year bout with writer’s block, when I thought that I could walk away from fiction and submerge myself completely in the world of academia.

So yay for tattoos, and for a bit of writing progress! I’m looking forward to finally seeing The Avengers on Sunday afternoon — I feel like I’ve been waiting forever. I actually had an Avengers-themed dream the other night, where I was some sort of hybrid X-Men/Avengers superhero flying around and solving crime… before I turned back into academic me, taking a midterm of Foucault. My grad school friends have termed this the “supertheoro” (super-theory-hero), and I think that is going to be my new alter ego. 😀

Don’t forget to swing by and wish the rest of the merry band of ROWers well! How’s everyone else doing?

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ROW80: Sunny Days Are Here!

Happy Sunday, folks! The sun is shining in my part of California, and that always leaves me feeling upbeat and excited. I feel like I’ve got a lot to look forward to. My parents will be in town for a couple of nights at the end of the week, as they’ll be moving my sister out of her apartment in LA for the summer. And I’m getting my 1st tattoo on Friday! I’m filled with all sorts of nervous anticipation (mostly about the pain, ugh), but I really can’t wait.

Before I get to my goals, I want to take a minute to hand out the fantabulous Sunshine award. I posted my response to the requisite 10 questions on Friday (you can find them here). I’m passing it on to the following bloggers:

Now, onto the check-in!

Day Job: The dissertation reading continues. Some days, the reading is hampered by anxiety: I am all too aware that my time in Santa Barbara, and therefore the time I have to figure out my research topic, is rapidly dwindling. I’ll hopefully be meeting with my committee members in the week to come. Their insights and suggestions are always valuable, and hopefully they’ll give me some ideas for wrangling my many ideas into something that makes sense.

Writing: Another slow week with writing. Most of the brainstorming I’ve been doing has taken place during undergrad lectures — lots of scrawled scribbles in the margins of my notebook. I really wanted to treat the first few weeks of this round like my own personal NaNoWriMo, and boy, am I failing miserably. I suppose the goal for the coming week will be the same as last week: to figure out exactly what I am capable of achieving in terms of fiction.

Slightly off-topic, I shared 7 random facts about my writing on Friday. For those of you who expressed an interest in Pierce, I will have you know that it has gone completely to his head, and he is almost too smug to bear at the moment. He would like me to thank you all, as he thinks that maybe now he’ll get bumped up in the in-progress queue (and he is quite compelling, so perhaps he will succeed in convincing me). And, yes, I realize how completely crazy this makes me sound, which is why I’m glad that I am not the only writer who admits to having conversations with make-believe characters.

Exercise: I’m still holding strong here, with 4 workout days this week. I wake up each morning looking forward to my walk, though I think my enthusiasm has been improved by the sunny weather and the fact that my clothes are fitting better. 😀

Social Media: I was only able to write 1 blog post last week, but I have 2 scheduled for the week to come.  I’m getting back into the groove to blog reading, which has been so much fun.  I think I made it to 12 ROWers last Sunday, and another 8 or 9 blogs during the week.

Finally, for fun, I thought I’d include a bit about what I’m watching and reading this week:

Films: I saw The Five-Year Engagement on Friday, starring Emily Blunt and Jason Segal on Friday, and it was absolutely brilliant… if you ignore the fact that it basically sums up my biggest fears about my professional life in academia: having to relocate somewhere very cold, dealing with “trailing spouse” syndrome, etc.

Outside of all that, I totally recommend the movie. There are lots of awesome shots of San Francisco (enough to make me crazy homesick, and very happy that I’m moving back in 2 months), many moments of hilarity, and a great ending.

Fiction: I finished His Good Opinion, Nancy Kelley’s lovely retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective. For those of you who ever wondered why Darcy falls for Elizabeth, and what’s going on in his head that leads him to make such a lovely transformation by the end of the novel, you should definitely check it out.

Non-Fiction: I’m working my way through Beyond Slavery: Overcoming Its Religious and Sexual Legacies for the course I’m taking on gender and religion. The book is a collection of wide-ranging essays that

examine why Roman Catholicism and other branches of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam accepted slavery for so many centuries, and they consider how slavery shaped gender and sexual ethics in these three religious traditions. They also consider how Jews, Christians, and Muslims can draw upon the compassionate values of their traditions to overcome the lingering effects of slavery.

The essays are incredibly thought-provoking and fascinating, and raise lots of important implications for modern-day issues like marriage, employment and labor, the criminal justice system, welfare, and many other social institutions.

So that’s my life at the moment! Be sure to swing by and cheer on the other ROWers this week.

How are things going for the rest of you? Anything fun to look forward to in the weeks to come?

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ROW80: Down the Rabbit Hole of Academe

As the title of this ROW80 check-in attests, this last week has been all about the day job and not much else. I spent my weekend doing lots of reading, lots of thinking, lots of note-taking, and in my downtime, lots of videogaming (I am simultaneously replaying Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, which really deserves a blog post all its own). Here’s how things played out:

Day Job: I’m all caught up with the work that piled up while I was sick, which is great. Better yet, I’ve embarked on all of the reading and thinking work associated with the dissertation. There’s now a lot of information in my head; I’ve spent the weekend reading a ridiculous array of books and articles. I can now tell you about the early modern period and the construction of the English “Christian gentleman,” the ways in which modern-day upper class white men in France and the United States conceptualize social status and morality, and the importance of French phenomenology in current feminist thought.

I am not only shocked that my brain hasn’t yet exploded, but that it seems to be hungry for more. We’ll see how long this productive mood lasts, but cross your fingers that it continues indefinitely, because I have so friggin’ much to do in the next 6 weeks. In the meantime, there will be lots of tea-drinking (as tea is essential for the production of scholarly knowledge, lol) and lots of thinking.

Writing: I wrote roughly 800 words this week, not nearly what I wanted to get done. My class schedule this quarter conflicts with the #ROW80 writing sprints 3 out of 5 days in the week, which means I am going to have to figure out where I can fit writing into my (semi-) daily routine. I am coming to the conclusion, however, that the day job is going to have to be my priority during this round. Not sure how/if that translates into changing my writing goals, but we’ll see.

Exercise: I worked out 5 days in the past week, which is absolutely fantastic. The daily walk/at-home Pilates session is starting to become a habit that I look forward to. My clothes are fitting slightly better, which is also a good thing.

Social Media: This is another fail, along with the writing this week. This is actually my first time touching my laptop in 3 or 4 days, which is crazy for me. So, yet again, I’ve got something to work on in the week to come.

-oOo-

So that’s my life right now: lots of books, and lots of unwinding through escapist fantasy of Mass Effect-land. Hopefully there will be more writing in the week to come, but in the meantime, I am retreating back into my wee rabbit hole. 😛

How’s everyone else doing?

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