Writing Wednesday: The Return?

Hey hey hey, y’all!

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I know I haven’t been here for quite a while but I got some requests for Writing Wednesday to be brought back (OK…I got one, but that still counts!) and after some consideration, I thought why not see how it feels to dip my toe back into the blogging world? I enjoyed connecting with people here. In fact, I really missed it. πŸ™‚ So how has everybody been?

As far as writing news, I’ve got some…(wait for it…): I FINISHED MY BOOK!

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I actually finished it on August 30th around 7:30 pm BST. I thought for sure I’d be rolling around on the floor in tears as soon as I typed the last punctuation mark, but I actually didn’t know how to feel to be honest. I’ve given so much time to writing, developing, and thinking about those characters, their voices, and that world that when it was over, I felt spent and a little sad. The sadness was actually due in large part to the story not ending the way I thought it would. After I wrote what turned out to be the final words, I started to write more, towards the ending I’d had in mind for so long. But it felt wrong. I hit delete until I was back at what became the true ending, and I said (out loud) “This is how it ends?”

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Just like many milestones reached by normal folk, there’s no fanfare. No party-hat-wearing weirdo jumps out of a closet to shower you in confetti and hand you a golden statuette to commemorate your achievement. It’s a day like any other. Except it’s not. You exist in a liminal space between triumph and disbelief because you’ve accomplished your goal but…how can it possibly be over? (And of course this process is nowhere near over. There’s still edits and revisions to make, agents to query, and lots more waiting to be done even after a publisher agrees to take on your project. But finishing the book is the most important step in the process. Without a finished product, none of that other stuff can happen. So this first step is momentous.)

Certain passages keep popping into my mind, sections I know I’ll choose to read if the novel is picked up and I’m invited to share it with others. In the meantime, though, I’ve put the novel away in order to focus on the critical part of my thesis (for any newbies, I’m currently in a Creative Writing PhD program, which my novel will be submitted as part of). I’ve been reading and rereading literary criticism having to do with the horror genre (which is where my novel fits). I’ll return to the novel in December to make my second pass, and in January I’ll (hopefully) be ready to start querying agents. This is all tentative, by the way. I also work in retail and we’re getting closer and closer to the worst time of the year so it’s only gonna get harder to stay on schedule, and I’ve missed all my self-imposed deadlines up to this point so I’m not exactly optimistic… But I’m gonna try!

In other not-news, I’m pumped for season 2 of Stranger Things and I’ve gotten waaaayyy into Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency in the last week (just in time for its season 2 premiere last weekend!). It’s so. Good. Please watch it if you’re into crazy sci-fi stories starring weirdos who have no idea what they’re doing. It’s the best ever. Really.

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I hope you’re well! See you back here next week!

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Writing Academically vs. Creatively

Happy Writing Wednesday!
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If you haven’t already, check out the post that should’ve gone up yesterday but didn’t b/c EVILTHESISISEVIL. **said post is now the “most recent” on my page b/c WordPress problems**
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OK, maybe not completely evil. But it’s stressful as f%!#. The main thing working my nerves is the critical bit.

Writing the novel is fun. That’s why I’m here. But lately, the novel’s been put on hold so I can make progress on the critical analysis. I absolutely get the importance of understanding where your creative work fits within the larger framework of literature that already exists. Fully grasping not only what you’re doing but why you’re doing it (and why you’ve chosen to do it in a particular way) is key and it’s harder to do without first learning the precedents already in place, and deciding which ones to keep and which to cast aside. I haven’t met a writer who does not also champion the act of reading. There are many tropes, clichΓ©s, and ideas that have been recycled so often that no one even remembers where they came from anymore. Included in those ideas I’m referring to (if we’re talking about writing specifically) are literary techniques that work well or terribly depending on how they’re used. For a writer, being able to discuss what works in a piece of writing and why it does is as important as being able to read the work in the first place, and doing so is the essence of literary criticism. Writing the analytic portion of a Creative Writing thesis (or dissertation depending on what country you’re in) basically means becoming a literary critic for a while.

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It’s my opinion that having the lit critic’s ability to locate writing historically and generically is important for any fiction writer, whether they plan to dabble in criticism or not. And writing a critical piece alongside your creative work can be incredibly helpful because it allows you to see parallels between your work and existing work, and to make discoveries, like where a turn of phrase or idea was first coined as well as the context surrounding it. Personally, through working on this critical analysis, I’ve realized that my creative work was not taking some pretty crucial stuff into account. But as eye-opening as this process has been, it’s also been kinda soul-crushing.

Academic writing is SO DIFFERENT from creative writing. I haven’t had to write this way since I was an undergraduate. During my MFA program, all of the written work we submitted was creative. Whenever critical analysis was required, we gave oral reports. Since it’s been a while since I’ve had to do this, I feel like everything I produce comes off like it was written by a preschooler. Reading scholarly texts can be really intimidating. Some of them use about 5 gazillion words to express the simplest ideas. And of those 5 gazillion words, 4.5 gazillion are words you’ve never heard a normal person use in a sentence.
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And I’m no moron. But I do suffer from Imposter Syndrome (or as I like to call it, Bridget Jones Disease).
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Creative Writing is my element. It has no set requirements. There’s no need to cite sources (though if you include some clever allusions, good for you). You’re allowed to be as nonsensical and ridiculous as you like, following no rules but those you’ve set for yourself. But knowing existing rules and seeing which ones fit your goals for your work is a pretty good idea.

In the end, both styles of writing have their place, and can be very helpful when done together. There’s an exchange that happens between them which allows both realms to keep progressing. In other words, one or the other might be hell to do, but the world needs both. Damnit.

Hiatus

Hey, everybody!

You’ve probably noticed that my posting has slowed down significantly. I think I mentioned it in my last post, but I’ve been thesis-ing pretty hard and not doing much else lately, so I haven’t had a lot to write about here. And since I’d rather not fill this space with fluff just for the sake of posting something, I decided to make my little hiatus official and let you guys know that I’ll be back with fresh, exciting (hopefully), and interesting things to tell you next month when I have more time and moolah to do things I’ve really been looking forward to. I have plans in the works that I’m super pumped about and can’t wait to share them with you πŸ˜€ In the meantime, I hope you all are enjoying the last days of summer (in places where it doesn’t rain constantly, like the UK πŸ˜› ) and I will see you back here in October/the fall (my FAVORITE season — YAAAAY!!!!)!!!

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Later!

GO, GO, GOOOOO!

My first words, according to my parents, were “Go, go, go!” and I’ve been on the move ever since. Lately though, the globe-trotting’s been put on pause. I’ve been working on my thesis, being the absolute, lazy worst, screaming (so much screaming), and generally trying not to go insane. To make up for the ass-shaped dent in my couch, I’m planning on lots of going and doing in the Fall. In addition to alllll the theatre, restaurants, and chilling with cool people, I want to get LOTS more travel under my belt, both in and out of England. Here are some places I plan on exploring in the coming months (fingers crossed!).

Prague

All I have ever heard about Prague is how gorgeous it is, from tourists and natives alike. I’ve also read about some pretty amazing food on offer (and food is, like, THE reason to go anywhere, right?), especially on food tours, which may in fact take up 98% of my visit. Don’t judge me.

Ireland

First things first — IS THAT SCULPTURE NOT THE COOLEST THING EVER?! Ok…I’m calm now. Promise. Ireland’s been on my list for ages, and I finally plan on taking the plunge this fall. It’s full of nerd things, like the library at Trinity College Dublin (which has loads of interesting exhibitions and rare manuscripts on show) and historical sites a-plenty, but also beer, whisky, live music, and bee-yoo-ti-full scenery. The above photo was snapped at the Indian Sculpture Park in County Wicklow, which is unfortunately only open this year until September 20th 😑 — I’ll just have to go back during the warmer months.

Rye

I’ve been reading about Rye recently, and it seems like such a charming town. Some of the buildings actually look like they might fall over on you, they’ve been standing for so long. It’s the storybook version of England lots of people imagine before coming here, and I’d like to see it with my own eyes.

Derbyshire

Y’all, I can finally make my greatest Pride & Prejudice fantasies come true! Derbyshire is not only home to the spectacular Chatsworth House (aka Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s home in Joe Wright’s P&P), but ALSO Stanage Edge (pictured above) where Keira Knightley Lizzie has a sublime moment of introspection among the “rocks and mountains” as the music swells gloriously in the background. Yeah… this is kind of a big deal for me.

Brussels

Much like Prague, Brussels is one of those cities whose reputation for beauty precedes it. What I know about Belgium can be summed up in four words: beauty, beer, waffles, and chocolate. Do any of those things sound bad to you? Yeah, me neither.

Romania

I know next to nothing about Romania, except that it was home to Vlad III (aka Vlad the Impaler), Prince of Wallachia, whom Bram Stoker’s Dracula is supposedly inspired by. Romania is one of those mysterious places that people rarely talk about. I haven’t spoken to a single person who has named Romania as a place they’re dying (heh heh…) to go. But I’m sure it has more to recommend it than a dark history and vampire tourism. In fact, the photos I’ve seen have been pretty stellar. I’d like to see it in person. Despite not wanting to buy into the “scary” stuff, it would be pretty cool to be there on Halloween, amirite?

Chances are, I won’t make it to all of these places within the next few months, but that’s OK. Goals, people!

Have you been to any of these places? Any recommendations?

Could’ve Been.

Last Thursday, I had some free time and a travel card. So I decided to head over to New Cross and check out the life I might’ve had if I’d gone ahead and applied to Goldsmiths (like I originally planned before finding an expert in my research subject at Surrey Uni).

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As soon as I alighted, I picked out a couple of commuters who looked like they probably went to school there. Turns out I was right. I followed them (in a totally UN-creepy way) to the campus. On the way I had a look around. Unlike Guildford, New Cross feels like a college town in a way that I recognize.

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UNC Chapel Hill’s campus is full of old buildings and green space and looks nothing like New Cross or the Goldsmiths campus, but it does have Franklin street — a strip of shops and restaurants that is almost exclusively populated by students (and the odd visiting relative). Franklin Street is what New Cross reminded me of. Unlike Goldsmiths, UNC is not an art school. I did attend an art school for my MFA, but that “campus” only consisted of three buildings, a parking deck, and a patch of grass, all surrounded by the concrete indifference of Los Angeles.

At Deptford Town Hall, there were a bunch of handmade signs sporting messages like the one above and others that said “Occupy Goldsmiths.” While I was researching Creative Writing PhD programs in the UK, I found a few articles and blog posts written by folks who either study/studied at Goldsmiths or were familiar with the school. From what I gathered, Goldsmiths has a reputation for extreme liberalism and students who are very outspoken on “the issues,” something else that reminds me of my alma mater.

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While I was an undergraduate, there were loads of protests about everything from politics and the rights of various minority groups to the decisions made by school officials. When members of our student body were hurt or killed by unthinkable acts, we came together to support and celebrate those students. It was like a family. I don’t know what the general vibe at Goldsmiths is like — I visited when the campus was basically locked down for Easter — but if it’s anything like UNC, I’m glad for the students there. I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have while I was there (I’d wanted to go to college up North because that’s where I came from and thought I belonged), but UNC was a great place to learn. I’ve taken something positive from every place I’ve lived and learned since then, but I always end up comparing each subsequent school experience to how it was for me at Carolina.

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Me, circa 2005. Photo credit to my college bud Ryan Jones.

This post tooootally didn’t turn out the way I expected. I was planning to talk to you about New Cross and Goldsmiths and how easy it is to point out a Goldsmiths student (which I’m still not sure is a good or bad thing). Anyhoo…I ended up reminiscing instead. Don’t you love/hate it when that happens? In any case, I don’t regret not applying to Goldsmiths. My experiences at each school I’ve attended have been wildly different from one another, and I’m truly enjoying the progress I’ve made on my novel and my meetings with my supervisor. I’ve learned a great deal in only 6 months time, and I can feel myself growing here. And while I certainly didn’t get an all-inclusive insight into Goldsmiths student life (not even close), I sensed that I’ve probably outgrown the sort of student experience I suspect they have. It seems perfect for the time in your life when you’re emerging from adolescence into adulthood. You can learn about various issues and decide where you stand. You know how when you were a teenager (and even sometimes now, as an adult) you wondered whether or not you were moving in the right direction? I’m starting to feel like as long as I’m moving forward, I’m always moving in the right direction. So while it’s fun to reflect and to see what life could’ve been like for me here — with the possibility of reliving a bygone time in my life at Goldsmiths — I’m glad things turned out the way they did.

Have a wonderful week, y’all! πŸ™‚

Writer’s Block.

Writing can be extremely cathartic. The moment after I’ve been in the zone for a while and finish the section I’ve been working on, and my brain is still humming — not knowing whether to write more or rest with the images still swishing around in my mind — is one of the best sensations I’ve ever felt. Writing can also be harsh. The holidays were fantastic for having fun with new and old friends, but I still had pages due on Saturday. It wasn’t that I had no idea what to write; I knew what came next, just not how to get there. Those are the moments when it feels like I’m taking a running leap into a brick wall. I bounce back, fall on my ass, and look up at this insurmountable hulk of a thing. I can see the footholds chipped away, the places to put my feet and fingers to make the climb. But each time I start pulling myself up, I slip and tumble back to the ground, scraping my nails all the way down. I wanted to bash my head against a wall this weekend. I didn’t quite reach my wordcount in the end, though I didn’t miss it by a horrendous amount. I sent the work off feeling equal parts excited, stunned, and worn out.

Writer’s block, for me, has almost nothing to do with writing. It happens when I have a million other things (or one huge thing) on my mind. Those other thoughts jam together and stop me moving forward on anything, not just my writing. Tension, looming worries, feeling isolated — all of these things and more take me down completely unproductive paths. What I’m talking about happens to everyone, whether you write or not. “Writer’s block” is just another term for stuckness. During my stop-and-start weekend of work, I tried pretty much everything that tends to help when I’m in a rut. So for all you folks out there trying to get unstuck, here are some methods you can try:

1) Music.

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Whether you love singing along (or harmonizing, like me), or you just like to get lost in the sounds you’re hearing, listening to music can work wonders in the unlocking-your-brain department. Close your eyes and picture yourself elsewhere. Play some solitaire with your playlist blaring in your ears. Dance around in footie pajamas with a shampoo bottle microphone! Set your life to music for a while and see how you feel.

2) Record your thoughts.

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Sometimes the most helpful thing to do is to put your worries into words. Writing down the challenges weighing on your mind and seeing them there in front of you gives you a measure of control when you feel like you’re just a helpless speck of nothing in the giant universe. I don’t know about you, but simply proving to myself that I’m aware of what’s troubling me gives me a small sense of triumph because it’s the first step to making things better.

3) Write a poem (or draw a picture).

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The way you feel isn’t always expressible in complete sentences. If you’re bogged down inside but can’t or don’t want to put your feelings into concrete terms, the abstract environment of a poem (or drawing) could be just right for you. Try writing down your feelings as they are, then substituting each factual phrase for a metaphor. It’s a nice way of turning what you know about yourself into a bit of a riddle. **Bonus Round**: give the finished product to someone who knows you well and see how they interpret it. Interesting times ahead for sure…

4) Watch something you know by heart.

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So this is one of my FAVORITE things to do. When I want to do nothing but escape and laugh, I go for Friends or Futurama. I know nearly every word of Every. Single. Episode. When I’m tired of trying to figure out what comes next in my writing (or my life) it’s insanely comforting to watch something where I know exactly what’s going to happen and when, and let my brain run on autopilot.

5) Get up and get out!

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I am looooong overdue for a hike, a journey down a river, a spelunking adventure, someΒ kind of outdoor escapade. After sitting in front of a computer screen for hours, my brain is in a constant state of deep-fry. I tend to favor walks, but you can do anything! Kayak around a lake; do cartwheels in your living room; start a random mosh pit with strangers while you’re waiting for the bus. Anything. Just do something that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen until your eyeballs melt.

6) Read.

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This one is particularly helpful for me when I don’t want to stop thinking about the writing I need to do. It’s good to see how other people handle certain writing challenges (and if the book is good, it’s just plain fun to read). Honestly, reading is a good idea for anyone who enjoys it. It can be nice to take a break from your own life and follow someone else’s.

7) Give yourself a break.

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Aren’t all of these about giving yourself a break? Nah, dude. When I say give yourself a break I mean don’t be so hard on yourself. I am the absolute worst when it comes to this (see what I mean?). It is SO easy, once you’ve fallen into a rut, to compound that difficulty by berating yourself for getting stuck in the first place. But don’t worry — it happens to everyone. You’ll make it through. And in the meantime, be proud of yourself for making it this far πŸ™‚

What’s your favorite way to get unstuck?

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰

Getting Comfortable

During the awkward, post-info-session lunch with the other members of the English Department at Surrey (which our refreshingly blunt Program Director warned us would be awkward), I met one accomplished academic after another and, despite our PD saying we shouldn’t, did in fact feel unequal to the other scholars in the room. I came here with a clear idea of what I want to research and the story I want to tell…yet I felt silly talking about it. My supervisor took me aside before leaving and said something like “It wasn’t until the very end of my PhD that I got comfortable discussing my work. Don’t worry, it’ll get easier,” which made me feel simultaneously grateful and self-conscious. How do I sound talking about this? I thought. I actually think he may have overheard me at a point when I’d decided to change tack and, rather than give my scripted answer to the “what are you writing about?” question, distilled it down to the bare essentials: violence, murder, and insanity (the Big Three, amirite?). The same feeling of ineptitude crept in the other day when a flatmate asked me about my writing.

Creating anything is extremely personal. Add to that the fact that the mere thought of reading is extremely boring to some people, and that my writing occupies a somewhat small niche. All of this amounts to me deciding for the person I’m talking to ahead of time that they won’t be interested in what I have to say anyway — by all accounts a terrible habit. There’s no need to be apologetic when discussing your interests (unless your interests involve poking other people with sticks. Then you should definitely apologize). Especially since one of my favorite things about being in England so far has been the reaction I get when I answer the question, “What are you studying?” People have actually been excited when I’ve said, “creative writing” (and, incidentally, have made me feel like I could fly to the moon and back fueled only by awesomeness and the occasional Irn Bru). So, in addition to having amazing adventures here, my goal is to get much more comfortable discussing what I’m working on. Because if people didn’t really want to know, they wouldn’t ask, right? (Unless the question is, “You alright?” in which case they really don’t want to know.)

Monday, I opened a UK bank account (yay!) with Barclays. I’d heard so many good things, and so far everyone is right! The service there is fantastic, and…::drumroll::…NO FEES! I have never said (or typed) this before in my life but, YAAAAAAAAS!!! The only fee I’d have to pay is a flat rate to transfer funds in or out of a foreign account (Β£15 for EU accounts; Β£25 for non-EU accounts). But no monthly “maintenance” fees, no (in-country) transfer fees, and I do not owe them my first-born. ‘Tis glorious.

Before my bank appointment, I wandered around Guildford town centre. I found places I knew (like Waterstones, Pret A Manger, & Primark), and ton(ne)s more shops and restaurants to try. I’ve already eaten at Nando’s and Jamie’s Italian (both delicious).

I joined the mailing lists for a few organizations including the Postgrad Society, International Friends, No Wave Alt Music Club, and the Harry Potter club (RVNCLW4EVR), all of which have had some sort of welcome event that I’ve missed because I’ve either been in my room or in the library, reading. Didn’t the veteran PhDs say something about having a life outside of school…? Yeah, I should probably work on that. There are some pub crawls and quizzes happening in the near future that I’d like to do. I also reconnected with a friend in Oxford, and another working as an au pair in Spain, so I’ll be making my way to both places eventually (and around to as many other parts of the world as humanly possible), and I will blog about it here. LOAN MONIES, WHERE ART THOU? Srsly tho… where my money at.

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Now all I need is a UK mobile, a bus pass for ’round these here parts, and a railcard and I’ll be all set! I also think I’ve zeroed in on a good estate agency. Anyone out there work with Foxtons before or know someone who has? I’m itching to start seeing/doing things other than words/reading (though I will be buying more books because I can’t help myself. Don’t judge).

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Happy Wednesday, y’all!

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜€

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).Β  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! πŸ™‚