Central research questions

When most people think of history, they think of a story.  They think of time passing, people acting, events happening, and the record of such things. Certainly, that is part of what history is–the narrative.  And certainly you can write this sort of history, filling in gaps in the timeline, discussing new archival materials, and broadening scope. But, to be perfectly honest, I usually find this kind of history rather boring.  Unless I’m already keenly interested in a time period or a person, reading a basic narrative doesn’t hold my attention.  And it definitely won’t win my attention if the subject is new to me. For that, I have to see that the author is answering a unique question, trying a new method of analysis, or issuing a challenge.  Whether or not it’s narrative doesn’t really matter to me–I like a collection of stories or unexpected asides as much as I can dig on a strong central story. And so,

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Holloway project accountability

The beta copy of my novel is officially in the hands of my readers.  My first tea industry event is under my belt. Now to the non-fiction project. I’m going to be honest.  This is not going to be easy for me.  I love the life I’ve built free of academic rigamarole and full of Magic, tea, and forests. But I know if I don’t finish this project now, I never will.  And I know I would regret leaving it incomplete, not only because I hate backing down from a challenge, but also because I am curious what this non-fiction piece will become post-defense–what kind of animal it’ll morph into outside of the confines of tenure-track requirements and academic presses. I am.  I’m curious.  There, that’s a spark.  Easier already… To make it even easier on myself, though, I’ve set some completion benchmarks, and I want to share them here in the name of accountability *   *   * BEST CASE

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Fiction editing: lessons from the read-aloud, continued

It took me a month away from this site, all of my mornings, most of my evenings, and lunch hour scribble time, but the Beta copy is finished.  I’ve voiced every character, looked at every scene, solved final plot points, and slammed out a finish. The next thing on my list: Send this version to beta readers for comments on continuity, consistent character, plot holes, pace, and whatever else they feel needs said. Terrifying and exhilarating.  My characters out in the world! But before I do that, I want to share just a few last lessons from this portion of the editing process, in the hopes they will be helpful to other writers, as always. Lesson eighteen: Know thyself (and thy tics) As you go about your read-aloud, you will probably notice that there are certain words or syntactical tics that you encounter all. the. damn. time.  Your job will be to recognize this and pare the hell down. For

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Coping with Delays

Neil Gaiman says that a successful writer must maintain at least two of the following three attributes: they must be good at what they do; they must be a nice person; they must be punctual about deadlines. My original plan was to be good and punctual, so I wouldn’t have to be nice… Then I took part-time work. Granted, I took awesome part-time work.  I receive real, actual dollars in exchange for drinking, selling, and learning about tea.  It’s a writers dream come true. But it’s also retail. And I’m coming off a year of fellowship sabbatical: hermit-like living, where I talked to more trees than people. So, that means that by the end of my shift, especially if the store is busy, I am worn the hell out.  My brain is mush from balancing simultaneous transactions, my feet are sore, and I’ve used up a month’s worth of conversation.  I come home completely incapable of producing further facial expressions,

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Fiction editing: lessons from the dialogue read-aloud

I expected to have additional lessons from the back half of the first edit to share with you, but it turns out that by the time you’re that far into your piece, it’s really about applying everything you’ve already learned and picking up speed. Instead, new lessons come this time from my first forays into the dialogue read-aloud. Yet again, the learning curve has been a bit of a shock.  Yet again, I figured I would be quick about it, soaring through this new form of editing like a trumpeter swan.  After all, I’ve already edited the entire book once for major plot and character overhaul.  How hard could it be to read the thing out loud and fix a little grammar? Hard.  Real Hard.  Like, I-am-less-a-swan-and-more-a-barnyard-chicken hard. So, in the spirit of transparency and education…some further lessons. Lesson thirteen: Fill out character sheets I know.  I know I said in the last set of lessons that you would know

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Fiction editing: lessons from the first half

Halfway done! Halfway done.  …..halfway done…*collapses* And the lessons this time are about trust–of self, of other authors, of characters, of ability. Lesson eight: The iceberg metaphor I think the majority of us have probably heard the iceberg metaphor: maybe because we were emo teens with “complex” emotional lives that vibrated below the surface; maybe because our teachers had a poster up on the wall, desperately trying to drive home how much actual work goes into a project. But if not, it goes like this. For every 5% of material that makes it to the page, there is another 95% of material supporting it silently, unseen, from behind the scenes. In other words, if you don’t know the world you built inside and out, if you don’t where your story is going at all times, or if you don’t know why your characters say the things they do, based on backstory and motivation, your shit is going to get wrecked.

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The Holloway Project

Yes, this project is technically my dissertation.  I’ll continue to tag it as such on the website so that it links to prior posts on my theory and research.  And I intend to defend it and complete the graduate journey I started. But I also have plans for this piece that move it outside of the realm of the typical dissertation. Namely, I want to make this a compassionate project, for me, for readers, for those directly affected by my research. Here’s what I mean… Self-compassion: Over the past year, I realized that I don’t really want tenure.  I don’t want committee appointments, where I have to turn brilliant people down for funding.  I don’t want high-pressure research projects that divorce me from my students.  I don’t want to communicate in code.  And I am six kinds of over all the rambling conference presentations. I recognize that some people feel empowered by these codes and systems.  I do not.  If

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