Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CFP: A New Sense of Place: Travel and Alterity in Southern Literature

CFP: A New Sense of Place: Travel and Alterity in Southern Literature

In her 2011 Southscapes: Geographies of Race, Region, and Literature, scholar Thadious Davis revivifies the idea of place in southern literature.  It is such reconsiderations of southern places as dynamic spaces that this panel will explore.  The 2013 Mardi Gras Conference theme is “In Momentum: Literature, Travel, and Alterity.” (See http://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/node/47987 for the conference-wide CFP.) This timely theme asks for a discussion of notions of place and space, for considerations of how travel and movement, boundedness and freedom, can be considered in terms of literature, art, science, thought. Under that larger umbrella of movement and travel, this panel will explore the broad themes of travel, the related discourses of globalization, migration, space, and place, and connected issues regarding alterity in the literature of the American South.  Suggested topics include (but are certainly not limited to) the traumatic histories of travel in the South, including African slavery and Native American removal; migrant work; southern expatriate writing; the post-Katrina New Orleans diaspora; the Appalachian diaspora; and the effect of tourism on southern identity.  Submit abstract for a 15-20 minute paper to mmil132@lsu.edu by Saturday, December 1, 2012.

On Productivity and Inspiration

It's 2:45pm and I'm still wearing my pajamas and dressing gown.  I slept until 11 this morning, and have been working on and off since then; I'll continue until about 3:45, when I'll leave for the library and jazzercise.  It's a very nice break, after a couple of weeks of being full-press on, with a gazillion meetings and a weekend-long exhausting (although quite enjoyable and productive) conference. 

I've read a couple of things recently on productivity and the pressure to be productive.  I definitely take Planned Obsolescence's point that busy-ness and stress are points of pride among many, as well as No Matter. Fail Better's and The Thesis Whisperer's discussions of the usefulness of the #acwrimo month  Like them, I've been less interested in the competitive word count aspect of #acwrimo than in the commitment to writing--as well as the feeling of community that comes with such campaigns.  Such commitment and community are what I most enjoyed from being part of the 14 Day Writing Challenge earlier this month; I'm hoping to continue this with the new writing group I've joined.  Our first meeting was yesterday, and I have high hopes.

What I've gained most from these visible academic writing campaigns was the beginnings of the discipline of daily writing--I've started getting up at 9 during the week and spending the first two hours of the day working.  And although part of this work is answering emails and scheduling things and other non-writing work, the quiet of the morning has also got me writing every day.  While I realize that 9 is not early morning for most people, given that I don't teach until 2:30 in the afternoon this semester, it's grown quite easy for me to adapt to later and later days, not going to sleep until 2 or 3am.  And though I used to think of the work I did at night as productive, I've been a bit surprised to realize that when I get up and work in the morning, I'm much quicker and more efficient in the morning.  I get much more bang for my working buck in the morning, much to my inner 20 year old's chagrin.

So many people I know--my students especially--are so worn out and burnt out right now.  In academia, it's really November that's the cruelest month.  With exams behind me, I'm feeling a bit less stressed than those around me, and I'm trying to use this energy to propel my writing.  To check in for #acwrimo--I finished and presented a conference paper, and I wrote and submitted the first draft of my prospectus.  Next up is an article which I would like to make a 12/1 deadline with, and I've had a conference proposal accepted for the Appalachian Studies conference in March, which I've started making notes for as ideas occur to me.  Word count?  Who knows.  My biggest accomplishment is starting the discipline of writing every day and starting to figure out how I work best--so that when I start dissertating in earnest, I'll already have some traction.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brief writing update

I sent my conference paper to my writing buddy, who gave me some fantastic feedback.  I'm so fortunate to have some really insightful, smart colleagues to work with.  I've revised based on the questions she asked and the suggestions she made--I still want to tighten up my thesis statement, but it's close to done.  Now to start thinking really hard about my prospectus.  These accountability groups I'm in are really, really helping me stay on task!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Writing Update

I took the afternoon off (as all of the football nonsense in my neighborhood was making it difficult to concentrate anyway) and went to see Cloud Atlas--what a wonderful movie!  Yay for intelligent film-making!

I spent the rest of the evening revising my conference paper in a leisurely fashion.  I started off with 12 pages, and have now got about 9-2/3, which is a good length, I think.  I've sent it off to my writing group buddy, who's offered to read through it for me.  The hard part for me in this paper was (1) trying to say something I haven't really said before, and (2) saying it in the limited space of a conference paper.  It took a lot of organization work--what happens if I put these ideas together like this?  Or maybe this has more in common with this other thing?  I think I finally found an organization that makes sense now, and makes sense in less than ten pages.

I am having so much trouble reading.  It's as though my brain decided that once exams were over, it's not reading anything more challenging than rock star memoir. (I will say that John Taylor's memoir is not disappointing--so good!)  I really would like to regain some reading concentration, though, as I really do need to get through some reading in order to write my prospectus the way I think I should write it.  I read through a friend's prospectus this week--which was fantastic--and I feel like I've got a better idea of what it should look like now.  But I know what I need to read, and what I need to figure out, and my brain is being less than cooperative.

I will say that this 14-day writing challenge website has continued to be helpful.  I'm having to admit that dedicated, concentrated writing time during the day really does get me to accomplish in much less time what it would take me much longer at the end of the day, when I'm used to writing. I sometimes don't realize that I'm actually tired at the end of the day.  Maybe I should try dedicated reading time, too.  Urgh, do I have to admit that the books are right, that scheduling writing and reading time actually works for me?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

#AcWriMo Update

I've been participating in the 14 Day Challenge since Monday, and am a bit surprised at how much of a difference it's making.  Committing to writing at least 30 minutes straight has made me aware of just how easily I back off of my writing--I get to a hard place, and will go play a round of Bejeweled Blitz to try to process the block.  Sometimes this works, and after a game I'll have figured whatever it is out.  However, this week during my blocked off writing time I don't back off, and instead push through the block--or if I really don't know, put something in brackets and keep going.  I can feel physically when I'm moving through an uncomfortable part of writing, through a part I'm less sure about, but several times this pushing through has led me to make the connections perhaps sooner than I would have had I gone and had some time sucked online.

I'm still writing in my usual, casual way at night, and that's still a good way for me to get things like revisions done, because they're often boring and pushing through would just be mean.  I am begrudgingly admitting, though, that this scheduled writing is really useful.  I've got seven pages of my prospectus done, and my conference paper is now a full draft--12 pages, which means I've got some cutting to do, but I feel like I'm in  good place to meet my original goals of having both of these things done by next week.  After that, my next #acwrimo goal is to craft an abstract for PCA.  That's a whole new topic that I haven't done before, so that will probably be slower going.