Things are moving, plodding along surely and steadily.
Thesis officially accepted by the grad college, meaning I’m guaranteed to be allowed to wear a robe and shake someone’s hand awkwardly in a few weeks. Also means I don’t want to think about that project again for quite a while.
Another book review published, this time Shane Jones’s Crystal Eaters. Good, weird book. Cool publisher. One of the most entertaining author Twitter accounts around (hey, we can’t all be Elizabeth McCracken).
I’ve found gainful part-time employment for the summer (continuing work in the writing center) and for the fall (teaching two sections of first-year composition). The latter is vaguely terrifying. Not the actual teaching; I’m comfortable and confident with that. However, the fact that someone would entrust me with a room full of people expecting me to be able to impart some kind of knowledge to them is fairly disconcerting. I’m kind of pumped up about it. After all, the primary reason I went into graduate school was because I knew I wanted to teach writing as I tried to make it as a writer. It’s exciting to see a plan come together/fruition.
Also this fall, I begin the MFA program at Texas State. I’ll be taking Ben Fountain‘s workshop, which I’m amazingly pumped about. It’s crazy that the guy got called a late blooming genius by Malcolm Gladwell and ended up living up to that reputation with his book (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). I went ahead and read his novel and will go through his short stories soon. I don’t think reading someone you’re going to be taking a class from is really that important (I definitely don’t think it made a difference when I took a workshop from David Lipsky [who is about to be played by Jesse Eisenberg, what the hell?]), but to me it’s the equivalent of Googling
everyone you interact with people on your panel at a conference or something. A combination of curiosity and wanting to know what to expect. I’ll also be taking a lit class about James Joyce and a Form and Theory class from the fantastic Debra Monroe, who is pretty much the reason Texas State made it onto my radar in the first place. I’ve read every book she’s published; you should too (especially her memoir).
New tangent. It’s kind of funny: I feel pretty guilty about this blog entry being so unfocused, but the guilt of not having updated in a month has outweighed the crime of not having much to say. When I started this blog, I told myself that in order to be successful and garner readers I needed to focus on things outside of myself. Doesn’t quite seem like I’m ready for that. Sometimes there’s a lot of external stimuli that give me things to ramble on about, sometimes there’s not. Most weeks I write a little bit, read a little bit, submit a little bit, get rejected a little bit. Figuring out the balance of what interesting things to keep in the work I hope to get published versus this blog is not easy.
Current projects: A recurring column pitch about writing mixtapes for literary characters. An essay about the unbelievable integration of advertising into NASCAR. A journalistic look at “get paid to” sites like Swagbucks and using it as a launching point to talk about our relationship with free stuff in the digital world. I’m not sure about anything.
I was really disappointed in the Latin Times for throwing up two prewritten clickbait articles with Gabo’s writings within a half hour of the announcement of his death. I don’t have a link to go with that besides the link to the clickbait, and that would kind of defeat the point of whining about it.
Real life often steals good plot ideas from fiction. See rival college A&M planting maroon flowers in Austin and a professor getting suspended over his daughter’s Game of Thrones t-shirt,
To go on about Shane Jones and workshops for a minute, I loved his essay about taking a workshop with Lydia Davis.
With summer drawing to a close, it’s time to get back into the mindset of school and projects and whatnot. I’ll be graduating next May, assuming I can complete a THESIS. As such, I’d like to do a little description as to what I have planned so far, but first I wanted to get some meta-blog stuff (or blog meta-stuff?) off my mind.
I’ve been hesitant to update my blog lately because the subject constraints I’ve laid out for myself here are based on the confluence of gifted education and my academic subject matter, Rhetoric and Composition, along with the idea that connects them: storytelling as persuasion/informer. However, over the summer, I’ve strayed quite a bit in my work and interests, and I wasn’t sure if I should write about that or not. I think, given the fact that most readers come here not because of the subject matter but because of their social (media or otherwise) connection to me, that it would be fine, but we’ll see how the future goes. Lots of people say the biggest pitfall for a new blogger is to jump around in topics. Although, it’s definitely possible my recent work projects are connected slightly more than tangentially. For one, I’ve been wanting to talk a lot about Infinite Jest, which I just finished, and which might be the greatest book I’ve ever read. There’s a lot of “gifted” youth content in that book, and I think there’s room for a discussion there. Additionally, I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about the South, for several reasons. I’ve been semi-obsessed with genealogy in the past year, and am writing a good deal about it, both in terms of legacy, family connections, and the impact of the neo-digital world on what the aforementioned things will look like going forward. I spent some time this summer taking pictures of graveyards in Kentucky. I also played the new indie video game Kentucky Route Zero and am pitching an article on it to a few places (it’s a great storytelling experience, very southern-inspired, and not at all like a typical video game). There’s storytelling and rhetoric and composition all over the place, really, now that I’m sounding it out. Maybe I had no reason to be scared? A handful of possible topics: Video games as a composed text, and separation of storytelling-experience-based games like Kentucky Route Zero from the typical video game text. Kentucky Route Zero as a simultaneous narrative/counternarrative about the Southern experience. Storytelling as part of genealogy, and the relationship between the two (check out the argument on Wikipedia about whether genealogy and family history are the same thing, for more on that). The rhetoric of legacy, in terms of previous/old-fashioned memorials and digital/future memorials.
SO, maybe more on that later?
Back to my thesis. As this blog shows, I’m interested in the power of narrative, whether personal or otherwise, within argument/persuasion. As someone in the academic+composition world, I know that this is a popular topic for discussion. Lots of scholars argue that students should be allowed to use their own experience in academic papers (despite lots of professors still insisting on “No first person!”). In addition, there are a good deal of scholarly texts that include personal experience, including Victor Villanueva’s Bootstraps and Joseph Trimmer’s collection Narration as Knowledge which were assigned in one of my classes last semester, but even more iconic omni-discipline texts like Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera use authorial experience to make their case. So, given this scholarly atmosphere where we approve of and supposedly encourage this implementation of personal narrative as rhetoric, the question my thesis asks is whether this approval/expectation carries over to “novice” writers, specifically those sitting in a freshman-level composition class. I’ll do this by conducting a small experiment looking at the reactions of freshman composition instructors to texts which use personal experience versus those which do not. Don’t worry – I have no intention of making an argument one way or another as to how we should value personal experience in relation to “academic research.” Instead, I’ll allude vaguely to it and let my reader project themselves onto the page.
Outside content: A few things. Below is a track listing for a mix CD I made entitled Home(Sick) which grew out of my mind being so focused around home/the South lately. In addition, here are a few YouTube videos with music from Kentucky Route Zero: 1, 2. Compare them with their more “traditional” counterparts: 1, 2.
1. Long Journey Home – The Bedquilt Ramblers
2. God’s Country – Ani Difranco
3. Feather Lungs – Laura Gibson
4. Classic Cars – Bright Eyes
5. Paradise – John Prine
6. Fire It Up – Modest Mouse
7. Drifting – Pearl JAm
8. Whiskey in My Whiskey – The Felice Brothers
9. Merry Go ‘Round – Kacey Musgraves
10. Laundry Room – The Avett Brothers
11. Rockin’ Chair – The Band
12. Dear Believer – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
13. History of Lovers – Iron & Wine w/ Calexico
14. Giving Up – Ingrid Michaelson
15. To Just Grow Away – The Tallest Man On Earth
16. I Can’t Take It – Tegan & Sara
17. Mother, I’m Here – Darren Korb
18. 24 Hours A Day – Todd Snider
19. Sunday Morning Sidewalk – Johnny Cash