Nothing Like Affirmation

So this week’s been an interesting one. There’s been more good than bad, but the bad was, admittedly, threatening to pull me underneath a wave and drown me. However… let’s discuss the good 🙂

I had my first meeting with my supervisors this week. I submitted pages before the meeting — over 2000 words of my novel’s beginning, and a page on how I think the critical and creative portions of my thesis will fit together. My supervisors are great, not least because they seem genuinely excited about what I’m working on. It was such a pleasure to watch them bounce ideas off of one another, and to participate in a discussion with both of them at once. They’re both incredibly knowledgeable and I just know I’m going to come out of this loaded down with the things I’ve learned from both of them.

My primary supervisor is a published fiction writer, my secondary is a scholar of the Gothic in the English Literature department. Both were very encouraging and offered a number of suggestions regarding literature I should check out and ideas I should consider. I was particularly happy with my primary supervisor because the things he pointed out in my manuscript that needed fixing were things that I felt funny about myself — so I know I can count on him to catch the things that aren’t quite right in my pages. When I first sent him my work, I was beyond anxious. Ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? It essentially amounts to a feeling that you don’t deserve whatever it is you’ve accomplished, and that you’ve somehow bamboozled everyone into believing you’re smarter than you actually are. Camila over at The Things I Am Crazy For wrote a great post on it (check it out!). I attended a workshop this week called “Welcome to Your PhD” and the woman running it included a slide on the condition in her PowerPoint presentation. She said it’s a common feeling among grad students, and I’ve definitely been feeling the symptoms since I’ve been here. But after I met with my supervisors, it finally started to fade. My primary said a few things that made me feel like I’m undoubtedly on the right path with what I’m doing. One of my favorite soundbites from the meeting was when he said he wanted new pages from me because “he wants to know what happens next” in the story 🙂

One of the students who studied in this program before me, Liam Murray Bell, actually had interest in his manuscript for publication before he even graduated. He’s now published two novels, the first of which was his thesis for this program. His first novel is called So It Is, and it follows a young girl who grew up during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The narration is split between close 3rd and 1st person, covering her childhood into adolescence & her adulthood as a paramilitary respectively.

The 3rd person narrative voice is thoroughly Irish, naturally incorporating the colloquialisms of the culture. It’s an interesting read. His second novel, The Busker, was released in May of this year. It’s about a folk singer hoping to follow in the footsteps of Bob Dylan, but who ends up stalling out on the road to success. I haven’t read it yet, but I intend to.

I’m going to work hard with his success in mind; if I stay focused, maybe I can accomplish the same. There’s an event here called the New Writers Festival, which includes panel discussions by writers, literary agents, and publishers. I’m really excited about all of the opportunities to network and get your work heard here. I’m going to a vintage fair today, and one of my friends & I are planning a trip to the Tate Modern (which I’ve wanted to go to forEVARRRR) next Friday. I can’t wait! I’m loving what’s available to me now that I’m here, including the possibility of getting a new tattoo by a crazy-talented artist.

Stay tuned 😉

Advertisements

Photo Dump & Update

Hey, y’all! (I wrote this on October 1st, but didn’t finish with it until October 2nd)

While I have yet to meet anyone in my department, today I met a bunch of new PhDs and attended an introductory Postgrad Research talk. I met PGRs studying Chemistry, Electronic Engineering, Environmental Science, and a few other subjects I can’t recall at the moment. Folks from Cyprus, Vietnam, Austria, Africa, and good ole England, too. Guess what? Our campus has a space center! I met two PhDs who will be researching there (and who will eventually be presenting their work to hundreds of NASA employees — Yowza o.0)! The talk this morning was led by a member of the Engineering faculty, and supplemented by current student researchers (in departments that include Translation, Medical Science, and Engineering) & program directors who sat in a panel up front and fielded questions from us n00bs. It was super encouraging to hear about their experiences on the road to receiving their doctorates. They advised us to set our own goals (because you can’t always rely on your supervisor to give you anything concrete to work toward), start writing our ideas down as soon as possible, but also not to let our research bog us down and keep us from living. I really appreciated their advice and was bolstered by everyone’s enthusiasm. Tomorrow is the day I get introduced to the faculty and students in my department. I am so ready to get started 🙂

I had lunch in the library with an Engineering student from Cyprus I met during the welcome talk. I poked around the library afterwards and left with 6 books (they told us to get started early!). I also bought one book at the campus bookstore titled, How Novels Work (hoping for some nuggets of wisdom). I found like 80 books at the bookstore (including graphic novels!!!!) that I really, REALLY wanted…but I was good. I will be back though, oh yes…::insertmaniacallaughter[here]::

Tonight I went to my first quiz! I sat at a table by myself and eventually amassed some teammates. I was the only girl and the only Arts & Humanities kid at the table. We ate some curry, drank some booze, and threw ourselves into the competition headfirst. We ended up coming in 7th (oof) but I had a great time joking around with the guys on my team. Besides, I don’t feel too bad about our score b/c it wasn’t far below the teams above us — a few of them actually ended up tying and only placed much higher than us in sequence b/c their answers to the tie-breaker question (“How many rooms are in Buckingham Palace?”) were closer to correct than ours. We ended up with 37 points and 2 or 3 teams above us scored 42 points. Not a huge gap.

I have my appointment to open a bank account at Barclays next Monday, and hopefully my loan money will be put in immediately b/c I am running lowwww on funds (shout-out to the airlines I had to cancel and re-book with… 😡 ). I’m enjoying myself already, but I know I’ll have even more fun once I’m able to spread my wings (read: wallet) and do some traveling. One of my flatmates and I are dead set on seeing The Book of Mormon, so that will probably be my first show in London this time around (I saw Wicked in London in 2008… amazing). I look forward to every day here. I know this year is going to be a good one.

P.S.
I binge-watched seasons 1 and 2 of Orphan Black. If you haven’t seen it yet, drop (or utilize) your computer and go watch it. NOW! Cosima is my favorite 😀

Now, photos! (Disclaimer: these photos are NOT good. A proper camera is on my list of future buys.)

A quiet spot on campus.

A quiet spot on campus.

A bit of sculpture.

A bit of sculpture.

The Rik Medlik Building (with Alan Turing taking a permanent stroll in front of it, and another abstract sculture).

The Rik Medlik Building (with Alan Turing taking a permanent stroll in front of it, and another abstract sculture).

A tile mural on the OAK House building.

A tile mural on the OAK House building.

My sweet set-up.

My sweet set-up.

Thinking about getting in on this...

Thinking about getting in on this…

Neatly laid grave markers at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Neatly laid grave markers at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Brookwood Military Cemetery. The inscription reads "Perpetual light upon them shines"

Brookwood Military Cemetery. The inscription reads “Perpetual light upon them shines”

Brookwood Military Cemetery. Giant trees.

Brookwood Military Cemetery. Giant trees.

BMC. North Carolina soldier.

BMC. North Carolina soldier.

Querying a Potential Advisor

When I first started looking into PhD programs in the UK, I was a bit intimidated by the expectation that applicants for research degrees contact professors they’re interested in having as dissertation advisors before they apply to the program. I combed the interwebz for tips on how to approach the task, and managed to come across one very helpful page. The professor to whom this blog belongs gives an example of a bad email (which she says would be “instantly deleted”), and a good one. These are the points I came away with after reading each example:

1) Be specific.
Give the person you’re contacting every detail pertinent to their decision, like: what you’re majoring in, your research interests/focus, your GPA (if it’ll help), what work (if any) of theirs you’ve read, and any related credentials (internships, special projects, etc).  Sharing this info will show them you’re serious about pursuing this particular line of research, and give them an idea of your current knowledge of the subject.

2) Ask questions.
Not only do questions invite response, they also give the person you’re asking a chance to show off their expertise. Posing an intelligent question is just as valuable as giving an intelligent answer because it gets people thinking in ways they hadn’t before, which is the crux of great research. Asking the “right” questions will demonstrate your viability as a research student. In fact, I tend to think of the relationship between research student and advisor as more of a partnership, despite the obvious hierarchy, because (hopefully) you will be brainstorming and working together to make strides in your field.

3) Be thorough.
Check every nook and cranny of the program’s website for any relevant information about your subject and the prof you’re contacting. See what they’ve published, check the publication’s availability in your area and, if you can, get your hands on it. Boning up on the necessary info will add to your base of knowledge, and guide your brainstorming so you’ll know what questions to ask (which helps you out with points 1 AND 2 — Booyah). If nothing of theirs is handy, ask them to recommend some titles to you.

4) Be courteous.
To quote the page I linked to, “show that you respect the professor’s time.” Mention that you’re aware of how busy they are and how many questions they must field on a daily basis, then emphasize how vital their guidance is to you.

After taking quite a while to ensure I’d crafted an acceptable email, I got a more than acceptable response… and now I’m headed to my 1st choice school to work with my 1st choice advisor! My area is Creative Writing, but these tips apply no matter what your subject. If you are applying for a CW Phd, don’t forget to include a short synopsis of the creative part of your dissertation (e.g. your novel, short story/poetry collection).

Good luck! 🙂