Category Archives: Misc

On Writing – Otherwise Known as “Showing Up”

Regular writing, as we all know, is important. One of my favorite quotes goes like this: “Write first. Write regularly and unemotionally” (from the fabulous Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success, by Wendy Laura Belcher).

However. Even as I open up this Word document and begin pecking away, I hear a little creak on the stairs and my six-year-old appears, rubbing her sleepy eyes. For those of us lucky enough to have little kids at home (this is only partially a joke), writing first is a heck of a lot more difficult than it sounds.

I’ve toyed with the importance and significance of this blog in my head. Should I axe the whole thing? It’s obvious to myself and to my one viewer at this point that blogging is just not my thing. I’m a private person in many ways (although you wouldn’t know this to meet me; my gregariousness will bowl you over), and I prefer to keep my thoughts on myself and my life TO myself, in my paper journal that resides in my bedside table. And yet, I maintain that it is important to have a place online for academic folks like myself to find me, to find out a little about me away from the umbrella of the academic institution I currently work for.

So all of this being said, I’m going to attempt to keep this website up to date. I’m going to attempt to blog once a quarter, or four times a year. I welcome any of my readers to contact me at any time with any questions, especially the undergraduate and graduate students. I primarily exist to help others; this is my life and professional goal. If you are working on your comps, your dissertation, or attempting the job market and would like to chat, please shoot me an email! Let me know how I can help! If you are a fellow emerging scholar like myself, let’s meet up at an upcoming conference. Let’s be friends!

It also feels good (wickedly good) to indulge in some low-stakes writing of my own that is centered around my “professional” life and not my emotional and personal life as much. Writing that is not meant to be submitted to any journal but is just for me to walk around in my head a bit, to air out all the dusty rugs I have up there. It’s worth it as a practice, I think.

So here I am.

My next post will update you about what I’ve been up to (hint: not much), and what is next for me in 2015. Cue bated breath. Happy new year, all!


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On Milestones

This coming week my daughter turns five.

Erin and Sylvia May 2008

Erin and Sylvia, May 2008


As I’ve mentioned before, I got pregnant with her during my first few weeks as a PhD student (oh, the tears!) and had her during the summer break between my first and second year. So, now I look back on the last five years and celebrate (or acknowledge, as the case may be), the many milestones in my academic life:

  • I have five solid years of the PhD program under my belt—well, six, actually (as I started fall 2007).
  • My student ID has expired, as it automatically does this five years after it has been issued. Why? Who made this crazy rule? Now I have to hike across campus to some crazy building and jump through a gazillion hoops to get an ID for two measly semesters.
  • I have taught approx. 20 courses as an Instructor of Record, both face-to-face and online, designing them and implementing them all myself. What I have learned in this capacity could fill an entire blogosphere. Stay tuned for more pedagogy posts.
  • I have learned how to speak up in intimidating situations, and what’s more, I’ve learned that I enjoy doing so. My brain doesn’t always cooperate with the words I want to speak (thanks, forever post-pregnant and frazzled mind), but I have learned oral expression and assertion techniques.
  • I have read something like 1000 books and articles. Maybe more. I’ve lost count.
  • I have learned the tremendously complex navigational techniques of the CU library system, Norlin, the online database system, and a myriad of research institutions in between. Most importantly, living an hour away from campus, I’ve learned that I can order in all the books I need through the fabulous Arapahoe Library District, where they will appear, magically, on a shelf for me, five miles from my home. Oh, blessed technology!
  • I’ve learned the best places to park in Boulder, for free.
  • I’ve learned where most of the buildings are on the expansive CU campus.
  • I’ve learned lots of really fabulous big words.
  • I’ve learned how best I learn: lots of repetition, and writing things down, and then doing it myself.
  • I’ve taken over 1000 pages of single-spaced notes on the texts I’ve read, workshops I’ve attended, etc.
  • I’ve learned how to teach—when I entered the program in 2007, I had never taught at the college level, and had only ever taught Sunday School, and technology classes at the law firm where I used to work.
  • I’ve learned how to teach online using Blackboard, Desire2Learn, and MyCampus Learning Management Systems (LMS).
  • I’ve learned how to judiciously incorporate technology into my classroom: HootCourse, Facebook, Twitter, digital texts and projects (digital humanities), etc.
  • I’ve learned how to write a darn good conference proposal, and then I’ve learned how to show up and give a non-deadly conference presentation.
  • I’ve learned how to revise my own work without getting overwhelmed or bitter, or dissolving into tears.
  • I’ve learned that I love academia, and that being a teacher is my dream job. So while I know the job market is murky at best, I hold out hope that I can find a teaching position somewhere, anywhere. While I also love to research and am very good at it, my heart is in teaching.

I could go on. But one of the things I love about academia is its endless opportunities for personal and professional growth, how you can hit the “reset” button every six months and head off into an entirely new and uncharted direction, if you’d like. I’ve learned that I thrive on this untrammeled and uncharted growth, this limitless body of knowledge lying out there ripe for the picking. This life as an academic is sometimes heavy and often frustrating (as are all good things in life), but it feels clean, crisp, and forever remade, always becoming, never stagnant or stale. And for that I’m so very, very grateful.

Erin and Sylvia, May 2013

Erin and Sylvia, May 2013

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Retreat, or Tearing Myself Off of Twitter

This weekend, I have the pleasure (?) of attending a women’s retreat in the mountains with the ladies from my church. This concept of retreat has got me thinking about retreat in all its forms.

The etymology and definition of retreat.

According to the OED, the first use of “retreat” was in an Anglo-Norman and Old French text in 1330 and meant a “backhanded blow” (all info from, “retreat, n.”). An act of leaving or of escape. Falling back. Moved or drawn back. Moving backward. A fall in value, esp. stock or monetary. A place providing shelter or refuge, privacy or seclusion, meditation or rest. A lavatory. A hiding place. A den or lair. An establishment for the treatment of mental illness or addiction. A signal played to announce the end of day. Recovery of an inheritance.

It looks like the first Christian use, “a period of seclusion devoted to prayer, study, or meditation,” was 1740 in a letter from the Countess of Pomfret: “The sacred cells, and all the managery Of holy nuns in their retreats, I see.”

There’s a prevalent sense of retreat occurring after a disaster, or defeat. Retreat is what happens when all else fails. Retreat is for the weary.

My academic brain is now a-hum with literary questions: what characters in novels retreat, and do they do so successfully or not? One immediately thinks of Chopin’s The Awakening, in which a woman is on an extended beach vacation and, well, meets with a not-too-savory end (unless your idea of peace is drowning in the ocean). What other texts prominently feature retreat, and how is this concept different from travel (Kerouac’s On the Road), vacation (Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises), exploration (Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), relocation (Forster’s A Passage to India)? What happens to the human or literary character when she is unmoored, ripped from her normative embodied state and placed in unfamiliar situations? Well, transformation is the short and easy answer, but I don’t think it’s always that. Disaster sometimes; quite often, love; sometimes, malaise; sometimes, nothing much.

The cultural deployment of, exploitation of, and ramification of retreat.

This topic is much too large and overwhelming for me to tackle on my Blog Fridays. But a quick Google search brings up countless retreat books, most with the words “spiritual” on them, or with pictures of rustic cabins on their covers. “Every book can take you somewhere,” Random House insists.

The use of (dream of?) retreat in our daily lives.

See above Random House quote.

Retreat in academia.

This is something I have, sadly, not experienced. While I was able to take off two semesters of graduate school when my children were born using CU’s “Time Out” program, it was hardly retreat. The first semester I applied for a break, after my daughter was born, I was a new parent; and the second semester of “break,” after my son was born, I won a Digital Pedagogy Grant and opted to rescind my Time Out status so that I could teach online, and thus lock in the opportunity to teach solely online for two solid years. The semester of hardship in teaching and preparing my online courses with a newborn (I was literally back to work the day I came home from the hospital) was worth the payoff of being home with my kids for two solid years.

I applied for dissertation fellowships, of course, but the competition is fierce (especially in a year of increased budget cuts), and I was not among the lucky recipients.

My friend, Jenny (mentioned in the above post) reports that her school in Chicago offers a mandatory, automatic semester of sabbatical to all third-year students in the PhD program. Every three years, you get one semester of fully-funded time off. She spent her semester in Hawaii. Doesn’t that just sound too good to be true? And why aren’t more schools doing this?

I guess the moral of this story is that retreat is exceptionally difficult to achieve or maintain, yet the idea of retreat is pervasive in our society. Media is particularly and oxymoronically calling us spectators/consumers to unwind, unplug, destress, decompress. Open up that glossy new Target ad, and you’ll see a picture of perfect people reclining in their perfect backyard on their perfect new patio set. Retreat! But this zen-like state is not for the faint of heart—or for the financially-strapped graduate student—to easily obtain.

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Hi, world!

I’m going to be using this blog to document my foray into the academic job market in Fall 2013, my final steps towards graduating with my PhD in literature in December 2013, teaching and researching modern literature and the non-normative body (which incorporates body theory and disability theory), the conferences I attend, my Twitter feed, and my consuming interest in all things having to do with gestation and parturition. Whew! Let’s get started!

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