Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Tag: thesis (page 1 of 3)

ROW80: We Are The Champions

First, a heads-up: I am doing my first guest post ever over at Nicole Basaraba’s blog. I’m chatting about the basics of the steampunk genre, so if you’ve ever been curious about the ins and outs of steampunk books, swing by and check it out.

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All right, all right, I know — Queen’s “We Are The Champions” is such an over-done anthem theme these days that it almost verges on cliche and corny, but it is still such an awesome song. Better yet, it captures the sentiment that I have as we close out Round 1 of A Round of Words in 80 Days.

This is the end of my 3rd round of ROW80, and I’m more grateful than ever for participating. I’ve faltered on a few of my goals here and there. The bottom line, though, is that I have done more writing — and more learning about writing — in the last few months than ever before.

What Went Well:

  • TELL ME NO LIES isn’t finished, but I’ve made a lot of progress in plotting and rewriting the first 1/4 of the novel. The new characters and subplots that I have introduced are going to make the book a lot stronger, and give it more depth.
  • For the most part, I’ve managed to integrate exercise into my weekly routine. I’ve had a few slip-ups here and there, and I’m trying to learn how to exercise when I’m feeling stressed out, but I still count this as a win.
  • The day job still saps most of my energy, but I did manage to defend my MA thesis, which means I can sign my name “Lena Corazon, MA.” Squeee!
  • I’ve succeeded in being social during this round, which is a huge shock. I was such a loner last round that I thought I would really have to work at reminding myself to go out and see people, but apparently not. 😀

What I Can Work On:

  • Ugh, blogging on a regular basis still seems to elude me. I have to be in a specific mood and frame of mind to write blog posts, and I still haven’t learned to summon it on a whim. I’m hoping to try and build up a cache of posts over spring break, but… we’ll see how that goes. Next round, I may try to set aside 1 writing sprint each week to work on blog posts.
  • I’d like to make time for reading. After my delicious book binge over Winter break, I’ve been reading in dribs and drabs, and it makes me cranky.

Things to Eagerly Anticipate:

  • Finishing my last class ever, and moving closer to narrowing down a dissertation topic.
  • Enjoying my last few months in Santa Barbara, and prepping for the big move back up to my parents’ house in San Francisco.
  • That tattoo I mentioned during the last check-in? It’s one step closer to becoming reality. I snagged an appointment for May 4th (the only opening the artist had before July), so now I’m just busy counting down the days. For those of you who have asked, I am getting my inner right forearm tattooed with my favorite quote from POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt: “Words have been all my life.” It will be accompanied by a peacock feather quill, similar to the one below.

So rock on, ROW-ers! From what I’ve seen over the last 80 days, you are all doing an amazing job, even if you have experienced some rough patches here and there.

Because we’ve all worked so hard, wouldn’t you say that it’s time for a PARTY? 

Our first ROCK THE ROW was simply epic (if you need a reminder, check out Jenny Hansen’s recap of the shenanigans and mayhem that occurred), but I think we can ratchet up the crazy even more for our next ROCKING celebration!

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Barbara McDowell and I are taking on hosting duties from our glitterific predecessors, Jenny Hansen and Nicole Basaraba. Plans for further madness are afoot, but for the moment, mark APRIL 4, 2012 into your calendars. More details to come!

ROW80: Another One Bites the Dust

Well, folks, somehow I did it: on Thursday, I successfully defended my MA thesis, and received a “high pass” in the process.

Can you hear my squealing screams of delight?

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has encouraged me through the long, lengthy process of writing and revising my thesis, and to everyone who told me that I would clear this hurdle in my grad school career. All of that encouragement has meant the world to me, and I think I walked into my defense all the stronger for it.

The experience itself was surprisingly pleasant. Really, it’s hard to go wrong when you have three really smart people who care about you and support you sit in one room and discuss the various implications of your work. They had so many wonderful things to say about my project, and a ton of ideas about what I can do with it in the future — a very, very good thing, since I only have a few months to churn out a dissertation proposal.

With this challenge completed, I feel like I can finally move forward. I’ve already made a reading list for the next month, and a list of research questions/concerns that I may want to address. This, really, is where I excel: wading through a vast world of research, mapping the scholarly and theoretical terrain, reading broadly and widely (something the committee commended me for doing) and pulling together various strands of thought in order to formulate my own theories.

I’ve learned so many things from this process, things like patience and dilligence. I’ve learned that it’s not the end of the world when projects change, and to follow my intuition, even if it contradicts all of my initial plans.

Even better, I’ve learned that I know more than I think I do. Really, it goes back to the goal I set for myself last week, to abandon self-doubt and tackle my goals with an increased sense of confidence. In the conversation that ensued during the defense, I let my knowledge flow, and it was a remarkable feeling, because I didn’t realize how many crazy facts I had stored in my head.

I have a lot to consider in the days and weeks to come, but I am looking forward to hopefully getting back to a less stressful state of mind. This last week was absolutely ridiculous — didn’t do any writing, barely worked out, ate lots of fast food — but I’m taking this weekend to rest up and recalibrate. I have watched lots of cartoons, taken naps, sat outside and stargazed, and just relaxed. It feels so darn good.

I am still on a Queen kick, as you can tell from this post’s title, which means I have to add a video clip. 😀

How’s everyone else holding up? Can you believe we’re already in the first week of March?

Don’t forget to swing by and visit the other ROW80 participants to see how they’re doing this week.

ROW80: Under Pressure

I was on top of the world when I checked in on Monday, and for good reason: I had enjoyed an absolutely fantastic weekend away, and I was buoyed up by all of the good vibes and happiness that had been sent my way. Everything was grand for a few days… and then around Wednesday, panic set in.

Source: Pinterest

Like so many of you, I have a vast to-do list of things that absolutely must get done, and what sucks is that my biggest priorities have nothing to do with writing. I have a conference paper proposal due next week, along with the oral defense for my thesis and the regular load of 60-70 papers to grade. Add on everything else that I’d rather be doing (writing flash fiction and blog posts, visiting everyone else’s blogs, working on my WIPs, tweeting, reading books, watching movies and eating Cheetoes), and I basically need, oh, an extra 24 hours in a day to accomplish everything.

The anxiety and panic are physically paralyzing, to the point where I end up with fierce migraines and nausea. I sit down to tackle something on the to-do list, and I get so overwhelmed at the thought of everything else that I should be doing that I can’t do anything at all.

The thing is, I know much of this is self-inflicted. I am capable of finishing everything that I have on my plate. As so many of you have pointed out, I’ve lived with this thesis long enough that I know it inside and out. A 5-10 minute presentation, and the conversation that will follow with my committee, really shouldn’t be challenging. The conference paper proposal is only a short abstract, again one that is based on the work that I’ve already been doing. And the blog posts and social media are fun, nothing that should be giving me heart palpitations and sweaty palms.

So much of my problems stem from self-doubt and fear — fear that I won’t be good enough, that I’ll crash and burn in a spectacular display of epic failure, that I’ll embarrass myself (and my advisor) with my sheer incompetence.

All of this has started me to thinking over the last few days, and the question that reoccurs in my mind is one that is startlingly simple, yet also challenging: How much would I get done if I just abandoned self-doubt? I’m not talking about embarking on projects armed with hubris and arrogance. Rather, I’m thinking about approaching all areas of my life with the confidence that I am equipped and prepared to tackle any challenges that come my way. In my heart of hearts, I feel like I know more than I give myself credit for, and those things that I don’t know can be learned.

Perhaps this is one of those overarching goals that I can try to adopt for the remainder of this round: Abandon self-doubt. It’s not something that can really be measured directly, unless we’re talking about potential decreases in panic attacks, but I’d like to strive towards it all the same.

Here’s the short list of what I did get done this week:

Writing: Not too much happened here. I have ideas that are demanding to be released, and I am dying to just sit down and allow them to run free. This will maybe-hopefully happen this weekend.

Day Job: Met with my advisor on Thursday and started hammering out the next year of my life, including the directed study I’ll be taking with her next quarter, a list of the grants and fellowships I plan to apply for this fall, and plans to work as her research assistant next school year. There was also chatter about co-writing an article based on my thesis, and brainstorming potential syllabi I’ll want to have under my belt when I hit the job market in a couple of years. Overwhelming, but exciting.

Exercise: I squeezed in 4 days this week, even though 3 of those days were 15 minute stints on the glider, rather than the 30 minutes that I usually do. But I figure it’s better for me to at least move a little instead of sit around for days at a time.

Social Time: Surprisingly, there is lots of this happening — an impromptu girls’ night out on Monday, a birthday celebration for a colleague Thursday night, and a mock bachelorette party on Saturday night (it’s for Science, people, a sociological study of whether or not one of my single friends can “pass” as an engaged woman — long story).

50/50 Challenge: I haven’t had a chance to do any reading, but I finally saw Midnight in Paris, and I am in LOVE. So many people told me to watch it, and I’m delighted that I finally got the chance. As someone who has always felt like I was born in the wrong era, the movie resonated with me, and made me miss Paris all the more. I highly recommend it.

For anyone else who is feeling ridiculously overwhelmed, I dedicate the following song. Turn up the volume and dance it out, ’cause there’s nothing like a little Queen and David Bowie to make the world a better place. 😀

Be sure to swing by and send warm fuzzies to all the other ROW80 participants!

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ROW80: Refreshed and Ready to Rock

As some of you know, I celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday by taking a road trip down to Los Angeles to visit my good friend and colleague, Nicki, along with my not-so-little sister, Jaymie, who will be turning twenty in May. I don’t think I realized how badly I needed a short get-away, but now that I’ve had a couple of days to do absolutely nothing but enjoy myself, I feel like I’m ready to get back to work.

I had a short work week and a long weekend, so the progress I’ve made towards my goals reflects that. Here’s how the last week turned out:

Writing: Last Monday was basically a day of writing: lots of brainstorming, lots of editing, and a couple of new scenes planned out for TELL ME NO LIES. I’m starting to wonder, though, if I am going to be able to have a complete draft by the end of this round, which was my ultimate goal. In the weeks to come, I’m going to need to figure out the game-plan for pulling things together, and trying to get it finished.

Day Job: Oh boy, people, things are moving as far as the day job is concerned. I’ve filled out all the paperwork and set the date for the oral defense for my MA thesis. The official date is Thursday, March 1st, and I will be freaking out prepping industriously for the next week and a half. I only need to make a 5-10 minute presentation on my findings and conclusions, and brave the Q&A segment, but I am trying to remind myself that I know this project inside and out, and that committees don’t schedule defenses for students who aren’t deemed ready.

In other news I’ve signed up for the last two courses I will ever take as a graduate student (thrilling, frightening, exciting). One of them will be a directed study with my advisor, which will hopefully help me to gear up for the dissertation proposal that I need to write and defend by the end of the summer. No pressure, right? 😉

Social Time: There were a lot of good times over the past week: a fantastically awesome Valentine’s celebration with two of my besties that involved a hilarious movie (This Means War), cocktails, and cheesecake; an overnight visit with Nicki, complete with gabbing and tasty cupcakes; and a couple of days worth of shopping and hanging out with this kid:

She is, of course, way older these days and approaching adulthood, but I’m really grateful that we got to spend some time together one-on-one. My sister and I are nothing alike, and because we’re 5 years apart in age, and 6 years apart in school, finding common ground is even harder (I think there’s a blog post in this). But the older she gets, the more we have to talk about. I’m looking forward to this becoming an ongoing trend.

Exercise: Exercise and nutrition are always a major challenge around my birthday, because I am very good at justifying excesses, like this cupcake. Just look at it, will you? It clearly was something that was just begging to be eaten.

I managed to work out 3 days last week, and tried to balance out all the tasty desserts and eating out I did with extra servings of veggies. My jeans still button and I don’t feel like I’m busting out of my clothes (yet?), so I suppose I haven’t failed too terribly.

50/50 Challenge: Okay, I basically took Thursday to do nothing but read, and I devoured DARK CURRENTS and DEADLY GAMES, books 2 and 3 in Lindsay Buroker‘s THE EMPEROR’S EDGE series. I pretty much love everything Lindsay has written, and these two weren’t any different. If you like steampunk and fantasy, check them out.

I also hit the movies twice this week and caught This Means War and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for a double dose of Tom Hardy. This Means War was a lot funnier than I thought it would be, and even though I was irked by the ending, I really enjoyed it. And wow, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was amazing… though I will say that it was definitely worth my $9.75 to watch Colin Firth ooze and smarm his way around in the background (Gary Oldman is pretty spectacular as well).

Zemanta is encouraging me to give you all a picture of the wondrous Tom Hardy, so who am I to disagree?

English: Tom Hardy

Image via Wikipedia

Thanks to everyone for all the fantastic birthday wishes! I have to say, twenty-five feels pretty darn good. 😀 I’ll be working through all the comments and posts that I’ve missed over the last few days, and hopefully I’ll get caught up on bloggy things sometime this week.

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ROW80: Is It Spring Break Yet?

Screen capture from The Avengers: Earth's Migh...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s a late afternoon ROW80 check-in for me, as I’ve spent the past few days feeling sort of brain-dead, and generally useless — lots of laying on the couch and binging on The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which is actually a pretty awesome cartoon series. However, it has inspired my latest life goal, which is to create and teach a course that explores the sociology of comic books and superheroes (!!!).

The theme of the past week? Small victories. Here’s how things went down:

Writing: Didn’t get as much done here as I’d like, but I did start some legitimate editing, instead of just writing up random scenes that may or may not end up in the final product. I’ve also been taking time out to “walk” my way through each scene, and to really start thinking about the wants, needs, and motivations of each character. All that background work is helping things to take shape.

Day Job: I finished my 2nd guest lecture this week, and it was lots of fun (the topic was film noir and post-World War II cinema). Even better, one of the students told me after class that I did a really great job, which saved me a whole weekend of self-doubt. The downside is that I’m still trying to adjust to the workload of grading 60-70 two page papers each week, so hopefully I pull that together soon.

I’ll be scheduling my MA thesis defense for sometime in the beginning of March, so prepping for that will be on my to-do list in the coming days. *bites nails* This is exciting and utterly terrifying all at once.

Social Time: I’ve been hunkered down at home all week, though I did get a chance to hit the beach last Sunday and hang out with friends. There have also been a couple of gossip-filled afternoons out to grab Indian food (always awesome), but I’m saving up my energy for next weekend, when I head to LA to spend my birthday with my little sister.

Exercise: Okay, I think I reached my goals… but it’s been one of those weeks when I can’t even remember what I had for dinner yesterday, let alone the number of times I worked out. I think it was 3 or 4 days, at any rate.

50/50 Challenge: No new movies, but I did get a chance to read fellow WANA-ite/ROW’er Jennette Marie Powell‘s Time’s Enemy, and wow — I was totally enthralled with it. If you’re into time travel, science-fiction novels, complete with romance, I highly recommend it. (Jen, is it March yet? Can I have book 2? I’m seriously dying to read it.)

-oOo-

If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend that you all swing by and check out August McLaughlin‘s Beauty of a Woman blogfest — there are some incredible stories that have been shared. Also, sign-ups for Rachael Harrie’s Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign end on February 15th, so if you’re interested in taking part, head over here.

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ROW80: Steady As She Goes

Hugh Jackman

A completely gratuitous picture, because I can. Hugh Jackman (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

It’s been a steady, solid week of productivity here at Flights of Fancy, though far less intense than last week. I write this week’s ROW80 update while in the midst of an impromptu Hugh Jackman mini-marathon. I am refreshing my memory of his filmography circa 2001: Someone Like You, Kate and Leopold, and if I can stay awake, X-Men. It is “research” for the Hugh-themed posts I have planned for my birthday month of February… or so I keep telling myself. 😀

I’ve hit just about all of my goals for the week, though I didn’t attack them with the same fervor from last week. That was partly due to the weather — Monday was super rainy and dark, and I stayed inside and had a “manflesh”-themed movie marathon (The Two Towers, 300, and Gladiator), and the last few days have been like summer in January, with absolutely perfect beach weather. Thursday was my work-at-the-beach day, yesterday was a grading-at-Starbucks day, and today was all about cleaning my apartment. Still, I managed to get things done.

Here’s my week in review:

Writing: I made it to all of this week’s ROW80 writing sprints, and while I had a few slow days, I wrote a handful of new scenes for my steampunk WIP. There’s still lots of work to be done with outlining and plotting and the like, so in the week to come, my goal is to make planning a priority. However, I can’t be too disappointed with my output for the week: 5705 words. Not too shabby!

Day Job: My thesis advisor gave me the green light on my draft, and I’ve sent it off to the other members of my committee. The early word is that I should be able to defend by the end of the quarter (early March). In addition, my advisor sent along her initial feedback. Overall, it’s positive, with observations of my “stunningly beautiful prose” and my intellectual contributions. However, she has a number of critiques for me to keep in mind for the future of the project, including any articles I may write.

I’ve been a little angsty about the critiques, if only because they remind me of all the work that still needs to be done in order for me to create scholarly work that is worthy of publication. I’ve also been more than a little stressed because I’m going to have to take over my advisor’s class for a couple of weeks, since she will be out of town on a family emergency. I’ve guest-lectured before, but this… this will require lots of planning and lecture-writing and whatnot. I have a few days to pull together the first class (on WWII-era cinema and women’s roles in the military), but I’m definitely a little nervous. Cross your fingers that I survive!

Social Time: I saw Underworld: Awakening with my friend Melissa last Sunday, and I was supposed to go to a birthday party last night, but it got canceled… until the cancellation was retracted a couple of hours later, when I was already in pjs with a stack of rented movies to watch. But I’m off to see Haywire tomorrow, which should be exciting, as I’m hearing lots of great things about it.

Exercise: I worked out 4 times this week, and I’ve been on track with my healthy meals and snacks. I treated myself to In-n-Out on Thursday, and grabbed an Its-It yesterday since it was hot, but the good news is that the taste of fast food hasn’t left me with crazy cravings for more. I’m still eating at least one salad a day, and my need for snacking has decreased big time. Better yet, the at-home Pilates is getting easier, and I can once again touch my toes without feeling too sore. Progress!

50/50 Challenge: I read Angela Wallace’s ELEMENTAL MAGIC this week, a lovely urban fantasy/paranormal romance that I really enjoyed. I also discovered Redbox and rented a whole bunch of movies, including Crazy, Stupid, Love (I think I FINALLY understand the Ryan Gosling obsession now), the 2011 Conan the Barbarian (Jason Momoa’s bare bottom is probably the only good thing about the film), and Real Steel (ohhhhh, so good, and Hugh has STILL got it. So.Damn.Hot.). I’m 10 books ahead of schedule, and a few movies ahead too, so that’s nice.

-oOo-

In case you missed it, our beloved #teamsprinty, the ROWers who sprint together on weekdays (11 am PST!), were featured in my “Wicked Wednesday” post, which was a battle between two of Orlando Bloom’s beloved characters, Legolas Greenleaf from The Lord of the Rings and Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean. At the moment, Team Elf is winning with 10 votes, followed by those of you unable to choose between (7 votes). Team Pirate is trailing with only 6 votes. If you’re inclined, head over and cast your vote today, or just pop over and check out the comments. They are probably the most entertaining and hilarious I’ve ever received on the blog.

Don’t forget to swing by and visit the rest of our wonderful ROW80 participants!

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ROW80: It’s Business Time

It’s my 3rd check-in for ROW80, and I seem to be making some progress with my goals! I’m still not completing everything that I’ve pledged to do, but this week was another strange, rather jumbled one. I spent all of Tuesday traveling (that 5.5 hour drive is no joke), Wednesday unpacking and prepping for class, and Thursday and Friday recovering.

One surprise that happened is that I had to drop the one class I was going to take, as it overlapped my TA-ship by 50 minutes and I wasn’t able to get permission to leave early. That means that I will now only be going to campus Wednesday nights for class, and 2 hours Tuesday mornings for office hours. I now have a lot of free time on my hands, and that makes buckling down to a regular routine all the more imperative. Starting this week, it will be Serious Business Time, and I will hold myself to my goals.

Here’s my week in review:

Writing: I’ve decided that for this round, I want to accomplish 2 things with writing: (1) finish a rough draft of TELL ME NO LIES and (2) figure out how PATH TO THE PEACOCK THRONE ends (I want to be able to finish my draft of PPT during Round 2). My goal is to rewrite and edit the first 4 scenes of TMNL, and I got started with that through the ROW80 wordsprints on Thursday and Friday. I wrote 1486 words on Thursday and 1631 words on Friday, which isn’t too shabby at all. I also spent a couple of hours brainstorming and reading more of THE BARBARY COAST for research purposes.

Day Job: I finished the first draft of my thesis last Sunday, and gave my advisor a hard copy on Wednesday, despite technology’s attempts to thwart my efforts (I had to deal with not one, but two, on-campus printers running out of paper, along with a paper jam and other ridiculousness). She’s promised to have it back to me ASAP, so I have more editing in my future (although she tells me that she thinks the changes will most likely be minimal).

I actually have a full plate when it comes to school, including brainstorming dissertation topics, working on a conference paper proposal, and preparing a grant proposal. I’m also a research assistant for my advisor, and so I need to set aside time to do some work for her. Not taking classes is actually a blessing in disguise, provided I can buckle down and get things done. In the week to come, my focus will be on my research assistantship and dissertation brainstorming.

Social Time: I’ve been really good at this! Monday I had a ‘farewell dinner’ of sorts with one of my high school besties, Tuesday I went to a ‘welcome back to town’ late-night happy hour with a couple of grad school friends, and this morning I had a brunch/work/shopping outing. I’m really proud of myself, though, because I invited a few friends out for drinks at my favorite bar tonight. Given that I rarely initiate things (I have been burned in the past by people who say they will come out and instead flake), this is progress.

Exercise: There’s been incremental improvement here. I went for a 2.5 mile walk on Wednesday, and a 4 mile walk on Thursday. I had wanted to throw in a couple of days of at-home Pilates, but going to bed late and not getting enough sleep meant that when I woke up Friday and Saturday, I was less than inclined to work out. The goals for next week: go to bed by midnight, wake up by 7:30, do some form of physical activity at 8 am.

50/50 Challenge: I finished three absolutely wonderful books: HER OWN DEVICES by Shelly Adina, STEAM & SORCERY by Cindy Spencer Pape, and HER DARK BARON by fellow ROWer, Nadja Notariani.

I also got started with a little movie-watching: The Peacemaker starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman (meh), Peter Pan starring Jason Isaacs and Jeremy Sumpter (cutesy, a little cheesy, but Jason Isaacs is really hot), and The Warrior’s Way, which is this absolutely amazing collision of ‘East-meets-West’ — it’s about a disgraced Asian assassin who flees to a tumble-down Wild West town to escape his vengeful clan, and ends up learning about love and life and things beyond murdering people. It’s bloody and gore-filled in a sort of comic book way, but I loved it. Geoffrey Rush has a small role as a drunken former outlaw.

-oOo-

Is everyone else getting down to business time, or are you flailing about like me? To encourage everyone pursuing Serious Business, I leave you with the New Zealand duo, Flight of the Conchords. Their song, “Business Time,” might be one of my favorites. 😀

*insert requisite ‘put-down-beverages’ warning*

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ROW80: The First Check-in of 2012

It’s my first check-in post of 2012! I’m at the end of my month-long winter vacation, and preparing to head back to school on Tuesday.  I’m reluctant to leave my parents’ house — I’ve had a wonderful break, and I hate saying goodbye to them — but I am trying to remember that I have slightly over six months remaining in Santa Barbara, and then I will be back here for at least another year, if not two.

The last week has been a bit of a muddle in terms of tackling goals; I imagine that once classes start up, it will be easier to maintain a normal schedule.  Here’s what I’ve managed to get done in the meantime:

Writing: Nothing new here, though I finally received my copy of THE BARBARY COAST, Herbert Asbury‘s 1933 “informal history of the San Francisco underworld” (Asbury is also the author of THE GANGS OF NEW YORK, which Martin Scorsese adapted into film). I’m excited to read through the book, as it’s much-needed research for my steampunk tale, TELL ME NO LIES.

Day Job: I had promised my advisor that I would have a complete draft of my thesis to her around December 15th, but between family, the holidays, friends, and getting sick last week, I fell behind in my work. I am happy to report, however, that I am roughly 2-3 paragraphs away from completing the dratted project. There are still holes that will need to be filled in before I defend the final version, but for the moment it is mostly done. It is just over 25k, which is about 75 pages long, and while I can’t help but glare at it (this is what happens when one has been dragging along the same project like a ball and chain for over 3 years), deep down I have an inkling that it is not altogether terrible work… and might actually be rather good.

Social Time: Ironically, this is the one area where I have excelled this week. On Monday my friends and I went out for a sing-along showing of West Side Story, followed by cocktails and sushi.  I’ve seen one of my other friends twice this week for study parties/marathons of Big Bang Theory, my new favorite television show. And my mom and I have gone out a few times for shopping and eating out.

Social Media: I fell behind here — no new blog posts besides Monday’s ROW80/Inspirations post, and not much by way of blog-hopping, except for the ROWers I was able to visit on Monday and Tuesday. This is another area I’m hoping will improve once I get back to school and fall into a routine.

Exercise: Another place for lots and lots of improvement. I haven’t gotten any exercise this week (my mom is currently yelling at me to get a move-on, so I really need to take her advice), but tomorrow I will hopefully pull it together and get started.

50/50 Challenge: This is actually a goal that I forgot to include during my first ROW80 post. I’m taking on the 50/50 Challenge, where participants pledge to read 50 books and watch 50 films during 2012. I haven’t watched any new movies yet (except for maybe half of Contagion, which was okay, but not nearly as good as  Outbreak), but my reading has shot through the roof in the last week, thanks to my brand-new Kindle. My progress can be found on my shiny new 50/50 Challenge Page.

I’ve read a total of 8 books since 2012 started, including Diane Capri’s wonderful CARLY’S CONSPIRACY (a must-read for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries and lady sleuths), Shelly Adina’s steampunk novel LADY OF DEVICES (I’m currently reading the sequel, HER OWN DEVICES and loving it), and Suzanne Collins‘s HUNGER GAMES trilogy. I am narrowly resisting the urge to write in caps about how obsessed I am with THE HUNGER GAMES, and Katniss, and Peeta (swoon), but suffice it to say that I have not been this taken with a series since I read Karen Marie Moning’s FEVER books last fall.

Next up on the TBR list is the 2nd-4th books in Diana Gabaldon’s LORD JOHN series (the spin-off from the OUTLANDER books), followed by a few novels by my WANA friends: AGAIN by Diana Murdock, DRAWING FREE by Elena Aitken, and ELEMENTAL MAGIC by Angela Wallace.

-oOo-

There’s definitely room for improvement, but in my defense, I am slowly easing my way into this round of ROW80 (thank goodness we have 80 days!). How’s everyone else doing so far?

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New Goals and A Bit of Inspiration

Today, I’m combining Monday Inspirations with my inaugural post for Round 1 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge “that knows you have a life.”

First up is a summary of my goals for this round, which runs from January 2nd – March 22nd, with a bit of inspiration in the form of the magnificent Neil Gaiman at the end.

THE GOALS

This is my third round of ROW80, and I’m so excited to get started. I’ve been missing all my wonderful ROW-ers (you guys rock so hard), and I’m also delighted to welcome a couple of great writers into the fold: Sony and Willowfaerie. They were two of my first writing friends when I got started last year, and Willowfaerie in particular has been instrumental in helping me to pull PATH TO THE PEACOCK THRONE together. Swing by and show them both a little love!

I’ve got a total of 5 goals in place for this round, a few of which look pretty similar to previous ones:

Writing: I’ve got two unfinished WIPs taking up space in my head, and countless ideas for shorter projects whirling around. I want to continue writing, editing, and polishing up PATH TO THE PEACOCK THRONE and TELL ME NO LIES, though at the moment I don’t have a concrete battleplan in place. My goal is to spend an average of one hour each day on writing-related tasks, including (1) a complete outline for PPT, (2) an overhauled outline for TMNL, and (3) world-building for both projects.

Day Job: I have a lot to accomplish in the remainder of the school year, chiefly defending my MA thesis and steaming forward on plans for the dissertation. I will need to spend two hours each day on research-related tasks, including reading and note-taking. I’ve found that I have gotten abominably lax at writing on a regular basis, so I am going to try to write 2-3 research memos each week, that way I can keep track of how my ideas are developing. If I’ve learned anything with ROW80, it’s that forcing myself to write something on a regular basis is better than waiting ages for inspiration to strike.

Social Time: I wasn’t going to add this in as an official goal until last week, when I was visiting with my best friend and her aunt looked at me and said, “You are too much alone.” I started to protest… and then I realized that she was right. I’ve been trying to go out every so often, but I haven’t really been making much of an effort to invite other people out. With that in mind, I am aiming for one social event each week. It can be as simple as grabbing tea with a friend, or hitting up the happy hour circuit on Friday nights, but I have to do something so I’m not wallowing away in solitude.

Social Media: I’m going to aim for four blog posts each week, along with 1 hour each day of author platform/blog-hopping fun.

Exercise: I integrated an exercise component into last round’s goals with mixed results. Over the holidays, I’ve come to some important conclusions: it’s imperative that I adopt better practices with both exercise and eating habits.

It’s not just about wanting to fit into my favorite pair of jeans, although that’s definitely an incentive. Over 10 years ago I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), an endocrinological disorder that affects somewhere between 15% and 20% of women. Its root cause is insulin resistance, which results in all sorts of yucky effects like infertility and excess weight, but studies have shown that the effects can be reversed by regular exercise and a healthy diet.

I’ll be writing more about my experiences living with PCOS over the next few months, but my goals for the moment are the same as last round: exercise 4-5 days each week. The addendum to that, of course, has to do with diet: I need to ease off the salts and sugars, and aim for lots more fruits and veggies. Training myself out of bad habits is going to be difficult, but it has to be done.

-oOo-

As always, I expect that my goals may fluctuate over the next 80 days, but I think these general benchmarks will be handy to help me move forward and make 2012 a wonderful year for success in all levels of my life.

And now, your weekly dose of inspiration…

Neil Gaiman’s “New Year’s Benediction” is from 2010, but his words continue to be powerful. I’ve reproduced the text below, for anyone who has problems with the embedded video.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. May your coming year be a wonderful thing in which you dream both dangerously and outrageously.

I hope you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and you will be liked and you will have people to love and to like in return. And most importantly, because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now – I hope that you will, when you need to be, be wise and that you will always be kind. And I hope that somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself.

– Neil Gaiman

Don’t forget to wave hello to the participants who have signed on for Round 1!

 

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Waving Goodbye to 2011

This is a bit of an unscheduled post, but I spent most of the week running myself ragged and fighting a cold (the cold, sadly, has won), and I haven’t had the chance to blog in a few days. I’m closing out 2011 much in the same way that I ushered it in: curled up in bed, pajama-clad and sneezing. This year, however, my  cold is waning, and I’ll hopefully make a full recovery by the beginning of the week. In an effort to feel a little less lame, I am blasting Britney Spears and quaffing glasses of sangria (a gal’s gotta find a way to feel a little festive, right?).

2011 In Review

Marking the turn of the year is always a time of introspection for me, and I know I’m not alone in that. In so many ways, though, 2011 has been a decidedly odd twelve months. Because of the academic trajectory that I’ve been on over the years, I’m used to feeling like I’m on an escalator flying upwards. Each year brings a set of challenges and benchmarks for me to tackle and to overcome, and at the end, I almost always have a list of successes to tally: important academic achievements, conference talks, and other such things. I won’t lie — I’m an overachiever, and I hoard those little accomplishments the way a miser collects coins.

This past year, though, has been different. I declared that this would be a non-conference year (I’ve presented on at least two panels over the last 3 years) so that I could have more time to focus on my research. At the same time, the thesis dragged on much longer than I anticipated. Without having the thesis finished, I haven’t been able to move forward in my grad program, and so I’ve felt a little like a plane circling around and around in an endless holding pattern, just waiting for the signal from the control tower to swoop down for a victorious landing.

On a personal level, I’ve had my share of ups and downs as well. I started the year with loss, as my boyfriend of almost two years and I broke up during Thanksgiving 2010. I don’t think I quite realized the emotional stress I would experience, especially given that he was, in essence, my first love and my first relationship. I spent six months fighting back unexpected waves of anger, which of course gave way to bitterness and sadness and grief and a whole host of other things that I’d rather not feel.

The highlight of the last year has been my writing. I began 2011 wringing my hands and lamenting that I would never find a good idea ever again, that I would be doomed to be without words for the rest of my days. Somehow, through a combination of hard work, unexpected strokes of inspiration, the support of some wonderful communities, words have returned to me. Between two NaNo events and ROW80, I’ve written well over 100k on various projects, which is more than I’ve written since maybe 2008 or 2009. I finally feel like I have a foundation for building work that is far more mature than anything I’ve tackled before, stories and tales that reflect who I am, and where I am, today.

Looking Forward to 2012

2012 is all about change.

With school, I’m on schedule to finish my coursework by June 2012, and to advance to PhD candidacy sometime during the summer, as I close out my 4th year of graduate school. This means that my chapter in Santa Barbara will be coming to an end. I’m fully-funded for my 5th year (huzzah for small miracles), and so I’ll be moving back in with my parents, where I’ll stay for a year or two to write and finish my dissertation. I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this, and it’s scary and exciting and wonderful all at once. I have six months left in SB, and I hope to make the most of it.

More immediately, I’m marking a major milestone in February — the big Quarter-Century Birthday. Given that I spent most of my teen years wishing that I was 35 years old with a husband, family, and a career, I’m not scared to get older… but twenty-five is kind of a big deal, and it’s the sort of birthday that gives me pause. I am mostly on track with the Life Schedule I made for myself in high school (yes, there really is a spreadsheet with my life goals between 18 and 30 sitting on my hard drive), though I feel a strange need to treat this birthday with some form of reverence, or something.

One of the things that has become clear to me during my holiday break is that I need to get back to being me. This is a quest I will be talking about at length over the next few months, but the bottom line is that I’ve dropped a lot of things that I’ve loved since I got to grad school. Writing was one, and I’m delighted to have that back, but there are a host of other things that I’ll be working to re-integrate into my life.

So with that in mind, here’s my somewhat-random list of things I want to tackle in 2012:

  • Get a tattoo (or three). I’ve been nursing the idea of getting inked for over a year now, since my break-up, but I wanted to hold off so that I was sure that I wasn’t going through a rebellious phase. But I’ve figured out what I want (an art nouveau-inspired peacock, plus a couple of quotes), where I want it (a quote on each forearm, and the peacock on the back of my left shoulder), and the artist (Siri, a former illustrator who works at Black and Blue Tattoo in San Francisco, and did this amazing peacock). My first will hopefully be a quote from A.S. Byatt’s POSSESSION: “Words have been all my life.” 
  • Finish a novel. I suck at finishing things, just for the record, and I want this to be the year when I finally stop sucking at it. I have 2 partly-finished WIPs that need some tender-loving-care, and I’m going to make sure that they get enough of it so that I can have at least one completed draft to my name.
  • Stop being so scared of love. I think I’ve healed up from my last break-up, but I have been reminded that I’ve sorta sealed myself off like some uber-fragile object, all encased in bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts and other forms of insulation. My best friend’s aunt, who is quite adept at reading people, has told me that I have been “too much alone,” and it’s true — living in my happy fantasy worlds with my lovely made-up characters is endlessly entertaining, and means that I don’t have to worry about getting my heart stomped on. So I’m not saying that I’m going to be hunting down a boyfriend, but I am saying that I am not averse to the possibility of one somehow landing… nearby.

Better yet, I’m thrilled to have another year of blogging, socializing, and supporting all of my online friends. I’m looking forward to another round of ROW80, which starts on Monday (get your engines revved, people!), to jumping into the 50/50 Challenge (reading 50 books and watching 50 films in 2012), and all the other magical, unexpected surprises that will crop up along the way.

Happy New Year, friends!

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