Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

ROW80: A Book Recommendation, and Awesome News

I’m pretty much on track with my goals, though I didn’t make my 8 hours of writing time this week. I’ve been falling asleep every time I try to outline, which either means that my story is just really boring (unlikely) or that I need to start working on it before 8:30 pm (more likely).

If anyone is interested, I have another book recommendation — Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches. I first saw the book on the shelves at Target over the summer, and it was love at first sight (or, at first glance at the blurb). I finally got it from the library last week, and read it in a single sitting on Friday. Here’s the description:

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries — and she is the only creature who can break it’s spell.

There are so many magical “everything-Lena-loves” keywords here, like “Oxford” and “scholar” and “bewitched alchemical manuscript.” I spent quite a bit of time studying in the Bodleian library while I was abroad in Oxford during my junior year of college, and Harkness does a wonderful job bringing the city to life in her book. What the blurb doesn’t mention, however, is the really sexy, ancient vampire who allies himself with Diana, or the romance that springs up between them (best part, IMO). It’s the first of a series, and I am now dying to know what’s coming next.

Reading was exciting, but the absolute best part of the last few days came on Friday, when I met with my advisor to go over the latest thesis chapter that I’ve written. Based on her feedback, it’s actually not as bad as I thought it was; there are some things to clean up, but for all intensive purposes, I’ve written almost everything that I need for the first draft.

My new goal, then, is to have the polished up first draft written by mid-December, so my advisor can read it over winter break. She’ll have her edits back to me by the start of the new year, I’ll tweak what needs to be fixed, then circulate it to the rest of the committee once she thinks its ready.

I can’t quite articulate how darn exciting this all is. I started grad school in 2008 and hit the ground running like the Type-A personality that I am, immersing myself in research for the project. I had expected to be finished at the end of my second year, in 2010, but so many things got in the way: schoolwork, my TA-ship, and the fact that the scope of my research shifted countless times as I refined my focus.

It’s been difficult, watching my classmates earn their degrees before me and move on. More than once I’ve felt like a failure for not being fast enough, quick enough, but the truth of the matter is that most of them decided to go “quick and dirty” with their MA projects, tackling something small so that they could move on to other topics for the dissertation. That was never my goal. From the start, I’ve wanted to write a MA thesis that would act as a launching pad for my dissertation and beyond. With this project, I think I have that.

Anyway! The really exciting bit about all of this is that I *might* be able to defend my thesis in February, depending on how long it takes the committee to read through and give me feedback… and that means that I just might have a MA degree in time for my 25th birthday! If that is the case, I am having the blowout party to end all parties, since there will be a ton to celebrate. 😀

Finally, I just want to remind everyone that Fun Not Fear!, the NaNoWriMo support group that I’m running with Em, has been launched. If you’re interested, check out our welcome post where you can introduce yourself and learn a bit more about what we’ve got planned. Also, be sure to check out the crazy-awesome mashup of links that we’ve pulled together. There’s everything from reflections and thoughts on NaNoWriMo to a host of resources on writing craft, plotting, and planning.

Be sure to check out this week’s updates from the rest of the ROW80 community. Swing by and show them some love!


  1. Way to go, ROWsista! Great job on the thesis chapter! I know what you mean about people leaving ahead of you, but you have made the better choice–you will be ahead of the pack headng into the dissertation, and that is no small thing.

    I’ll have to check out the book–totally up my alley, too.

    It’s really great that you and Em have set up the support group–is it only for participants, or can pom-pom wavers visit too?

    All in all, great accomplishments, Lena! Woo-hoo!

    • Thanks, ROWsista! I was reminded today by a former PhD student in my department that “failure” is something that we need to excise from our vocabularies — we’re all operating at our own pace, etc. But I have ideas all of a sudden about the dissertation, along with a preliminary list of books and articles to draw upon for my preliminary reading list (crazy how much knowledge is sitting in my head that I’ve forgotten aobut), so this is a very good sign.

      I was actually thinking about you with this book, because Harkness definitely skews towards the historical. She’s actually a professor who studies history of science, and works at University of Southern California. This, of course, gives me hope as a scholar-novelist. If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think.

      And yes! Please, please stop by and wave your pom-poms for all of us at Fun Not Fear! There should be many familiar faces there as well, and it would be wonderful to have your support. 😀

  2. Sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job! I did what I said I wouldn’t and joined NaNo this year Oy! I do actually have the first 7 of 14 chapters outlined and have been working on back story and outlines which is a lot more than I ever go into NaNo with before.

    I have that book but HATE waiting so I got it when it was cheap and am saving it for when they’re all out. 🙂

    • Oooh, I can’t wait to hear the topic of your NaNo project! And so awesome that you’ve got half of it already outlined. I have roughly 1/4 of mine outlined, but I’m hoping I can make it to 1/2 by the end of the week. If I can have 30-40 scenes laid out, I’ll hopefully be able to score 50k (or something along the lines) that way.

      I don’t blame you for waiting for the sequels to A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES to come out — I’m sorta regretting reading it already, because I REALLY want to know what’s going to come next. 😉

      Have a lovely week, Crystal!

  3. I’ve actually signed up for Nano now, so there’s no turning back 🙂

    And great news about your thesis. You know you’re doing the right thing for you. You’ve marked your path and that’s the only thing that matters. You go girl!

  4. It seemed to take forever for me to finally get my M.A. (back in the day!). But I was attending classes at night and working by day, plus I had four kids.

    It takes what it takes.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog with the encouraging words. And good luck on all your projects.

    • Laurel-Rain, I am always so impressed by people who manage to navigate graduate school while juggling multiple commitments, especially to children, families, and full-time jobs. But you are right — “It takes what it takes.” I’m trying to remember that I can’t hold myself to anyone else’s timeline (except, perhaps, Graduate Division’s guidelines for when grad students can no longer qualify for funding), and to translate the energy I spent worrying about that sort of thing into finishing my work. It’s hard to retrain myself, but I know it’ll pay off in the long run.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. That’s fantastic! Don’t ever let anyone make you think you’re a failure for going this route. Integrity is never easy, and our society is all about instant gratification (I struggle with it sometimes too). But you know the quality of your work, and it will show in building your future. You will stand out. 🙂 Good luck this week. We all support you!

    • Angela, this is so true. So frequently I find myself wanting to go with the “I want it now!” mentality, but if grad school has taught me anything, it’s how to be patient. For me, the academic writing and fiction writing process are similar in this way: I need time to think and brew on ideas, and it can be very easy to dismiss this thinking time as laziness. However, this actually is very intense mental work, and I’m trying to give it the importance that it deserves.

      Thank you so much for the support. I appreciate it more than you’ll know. 😀

  6. You rocked your week, congrats! And thanks for the book recommendation. Fantastic news about your thesis, too. Good luck with the upcoming week!

  7. Congratulations on all your hard work this week. You’ve been wise to choose the more difficult projects to lay the groundwork for your thesis. This says a lot about your character. In the long run, character is what will win out.

    • Thanks, Liz! Suddenly I have all these ideas for my dissertation, and ways to build onto the MA, so it doesn’t seem like quite a loss after all. 😀

      Have a great week!

  8. Congrats on your progress. Sounds like you are doing very well. And way to go with the thesis. For as much work and concentration as you’ve put into it, I’m sure it’s great. Looks like your goals are coming along just fine. And thank you for the NaNo fun. That is very encouraging. It’s nice to see so many familiar faces involved with NaNo.

    • Wendy, I’m also excited to see the number of ROWers who are tackling NaNo this year. I have no delusions about being able to reach 50k this year; I’ll be happy just to add a few chapters to my WIP, to be honest. But I’ve learned so much from this community, particularly about the importance of talking about my progress/challenges with others, so I’m really excited to apart of this NaNo support group. 😀

  9. Wow! That’s great news. You must be on top of the world. Time to knuckle down and pull it out — and then you’ll be done!! February is right around the corner!

    What will you do when you’re done with grad school?

    • Yes, you’re right — I am totally on top of the world. Suddenly I’m brimming with ideas for rewrites, which is more than I can say for the past couple of months, when it’s felt like pulling teeth just to get a few sentences written down.

      I won’t actually finish with grad school for a couple of years — I’m in a joint MA/PhD program, so I estimate that I’ll need another 2 years to finish my dissertation and earn my final degree. After that, I’ll (hopefully) get a job as a professor and spend the rest of my days teaching and doing research, but we’ll see. The job market has been incredibly challenging of late, and higher education is shifting in lots of ways that don’t quite bode well for the old system of tenure-track faculty positions.

  10. Well done on this week.
    Also, the support group for NANO sounds great. Will check it out. 🙂 x

  11. Oh good luck on your ultimate goal of your Master’s Degree! How exciting that is! May this week be even more satisfying than last week was!

    • Thank you, Marji! It feels like such a huge accomplishment to make it to this point after feeling like I was sort of swimming about without any direction. Everything’s fallen into place rather quickly, and now all I want to do is edit and write so that I can reach the finish line.

      Hope your week is going well!

  12. Way to go on the thesis!! I’m sure it must be a relief that it’s moving along. Love the Fun Not Fear site!! It will be a great place to gather for November. Hope you’re enjoying your Sunday of Nano preparations. I’m plugging away over here as well. Best of luck for this coming week!

    • Lauren, it is a HUGE relief, and I am prancing around in delight. 😉 So glad that you find Fun Not Fear! useful — I can’t wait till November starts so that we can start chatting about our experiences. 😀

  13. All you have and are accomplishing, you do not need to worry a bit that you have failed. You set your goal and you are working towards it. The time you put in now will be reflected favorably at the end, I am sure.

    Good luck with the new goals.

    • Kevin, I really appreciate the support. I’ve been trying really hard to remember that I have to work at my own pace. Now that I can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, it’s much easier to do. 😀

      Have a wonderful week!

  14. Ah, I spent a ton of time at the Bodleian when I studied at Oxford too (though just for a summer program). It is such an ultimate library, and the perfect setting for a book.

    I was at Trinity College – how about you?

    • So glad to hear that there’s another ‘Oxonian’ in the bunch! I attended an independent program that catered to American students, the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, but at the time, we were affiliated with St Peter’s Hall. It’s been almost 5 years since my time there, and I am dying to go back. 😀

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting!

  15. You seem really driven. This is what you need to make it to the finish line! Good luck with your thesis! That’s awesome!

  16. Excellent news re: your thesis!!! I’m dancing around with glee. I also like that you stuck with your goal and have a more substantial project that you can work from in the future. That will serve you well. As for the timing, once you are out in the world, no one will question or care how long it took. They’ll just value the fact that you have the degree. 🙂 Great work!

    • Barbara, thank you so much! I’m starting to feel really good about things, which is a welcome change for the down-in-the-dumps pseudo-depression I’ve been grappling with over the past few months. Super appreciate all the warm fuzzies and feedback!

  17. Glad that the thesis is going so well….and I definately agree with the people about that it is good you stuck to your guns and didn’t take an easier route just to be done quicker. When you finish the victory will be so much sweeter!

    Keep up the good work and this time next week we will be starting the NaNo crazyness tomorrow!

    • Em, thank you so much! I’m trying to hard to stay positive and to remember all of these things.

      I am ridiculously excited about NaNo (though we’ll see how I feel next weekend, when I am trying to finish up my outlines!). Can’t wait to get started next week!

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