Saturday, May 28, 2011

For the artist in all of us

My husband sent me this while I was in the middle of the mad dash to dissertation proposal. It's a wonderful blog post by an artist Austin Kleon. He has 10 things about the process of making art. In my eyes these are also 10 things about writing a dissertation. Here is the list - but check out his post here because he says it much better ... and he has pictures!
  1. Don't worry about originality ... it's all really a mash-up
  2. Just do it ready or not
  3. Write what you have a connection to
  4. Don't forget your body - it's part of the process
  5. Don't lose side projects and hobbies 
  6. The secret of good work - sharing it
  7. Geography is not our master - you do not have to be in this alone
  8. Be nice ... 
  9. Be boring ... routine, routine, routine
  10. Creativity is subtraction - know your limits, less is more

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Something Fishy....Academic Publishing Scams

Hello Dissertators, from the Other Side! (Also known as CGU alumni!)

I apologize for not posting much since I’m sure many of our recent graduates have also surmised, finishing is exhausting, the job search is all-consuming, moving out of Claremont and starting over somewhere new is a full-time job, and you just can’t look at your dissertation in any kind of meaningful way for a good 6 months (at the earliest) after graduation.

You’ve got enough to think about, but if at some point people would like to hear about Plan Bs for after graduation, I’d be happy to talk about some of the things I have been doing since graduation (In addition to adjuncting, I’ve been a Standardized Patient, a Dean, a handywoman, an editor, and an actor over the past year!) I’m also currently in the process of sending my book manuscript (dissertation!) for publication. Which brings me to today....a spam e-mail I received on my CGU account ostensibly from a publisher wanting to publish my dissertation (which the e-mail manages to call my “paper” – first red flag!)

Along the lines of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.....

There are many, many publishing scams out there. Because I teach Creative Writing, I often warn my students about Poetry and Fiction scams, as they are the most prevalent and tend to prey on the most hopeful. However, this week I received the following e-mail to my CGU e-mail account and I suspect that everyone who recently filed a dissertation with CGU (mine was spring 2010) probably got the exact same e-mail.

Here is the spam e-mail I received:

Dear (my name),

I came to know about your academic paper entitled "(my title here) submitted in 2010, while I was performing research at the The Claremont Graduate University's repository.
We are currently planning publications in this subject field and therefore we would be glad to know whether you would be interested in publishing the above mentioned work with us.

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a member of an international group having nearly 10 years of experience in the publication of high-quality research works from well-known institutions worldwide.
In addition to producing printed scientific books, we also market them worldwide through more than 80,000 booksellers.

Kindly let know if you would be interested in receiving more detailed information in this regard.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Yedisen Ramasamy
Acquisition Editor

I googled the name of the company and found several other people who also write about this particular scam. It’s kind of fun to see the different variations on the “acquisition editor’s” name:

Right now, all you are focused on is finishing. But after you finish, and after you celebrate, and probably about 8 months afterward when you can finally breathe and be normal again, it will be time to think about publishing. And that’s when an e-mail like this could really get you.

When you eventually get to the publishing stage, it is important to remember that you want to publish your dissertation with a reputable academic press. You will have to work on a query letter and proposal and choose the presses you contact very carefully, looking at the books they have published recently and whether or not your manuscript fits with what they publish.

Alas, the reputable press won’t just come knocking on its own. You will probably have to send out a lot of letters before you get any possibilities. But you’ll be an accomplished dissertator by then...if you can finish a dissertation, you can do anything!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Getting out of your head

Notes from our discussion at the last Dissertators group meeting.

I wanted to get us talking and thinking about things we do that make us feel good. Because most of the time, we think and talk about the big D - what I've done, what I have to write, feedback I've received, why I am putting the next chapter on hold ....

In between of course life is happening, we're experiencing and doing far more than just our dissertation. But in our memory all that becomes part of a generally cloudy background. So I thought I'd switch perspective and we could talk about things we do that make us feel good. The dissertation process is about being slow and steady. Nothing much to celebrate. Well, sometimes we stop and feel good that we completed a paragraph, a page, a chapter; these are important milestones along the way. But the distance of the journey stretches out always ahead of us.

So, having something whole and entire to celebrate is important so we can experience, and remember, and breathe in the feeling of completion. It’s important we do not forget how this feels.

And we can give it to ourselves by paying attention to and celebrating the small but powerful things we accomplish. Here are some things that came up in our conversation:
  • The weekly yoga/pilates//gym session
  • Completing a scrapbook (Anne said it’s like a legacy, and therefore in many ways like her research and dissertation)
  • Hiking – the accomplishment of starting out and getting to a specific place; there is enough effort to make the reaching of the destination a cause for celebration.
  • Learning a new song in choir practice and getting to the aha! Moment of ‘getting it’.
  • Starting a philanthropic project to build more communication in extended family and hearing from a family member after 15 years of no contact
  • Getting back in touch with an old friend
  • Walking the dog.
Also we noticed that quite a few of these things we recalled, that stood out for us as something that made us feel good, were things that involved us physically – walking, singing, breathing, scrapbooking. There is movement and a mind-body connection in all these activities. Others were activities that connected us with other people. All of them are activities that take us outside of our heads and definitely outside of our work.

Read more about the importance of remembering and making time for your whole self:
The NHS (UK) - article on a study of how physical activity reduces stress
The Franklin Institute - information and  tips on stress relieving methods that take you outside of your head.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

To outline or not to outline

To create a good outline you need to have a pretty good idea of the flow and structure of the chapter/section/dissertation.

But ….. one gets a good idea of the flow and structure of the chapter/section/dissertation by making an outline. I think of this as ‘messy outlining’.

The proverbial chicken and egg dilemma.

The first option rarely seems to work for dissertations because part of the writing process is about surfacing your ideas and making discoveries (even though we live with the illusion … delusion? … that we have it all worked out when we become ABD).

The second option might work better for dissertators. We write at different levels of detail; sometimes we’re thinking about the larger argument that spans an entire chapter, and other times, we focus on the flow of ideas within a section. So here, ‘messy outlining’ works really well.

Let’s say you’re in the middle of writing and the section you’re working on just does not feel like it’s coherent; the direction of your ideas is not clear. This is where you can stop and make a mini outline:

1. What is my claim or the main idea I am asserting?

2. What are the different points I am making that leads to this claim?

3. In what order should I arrange these points?

I like to do this by printing out what I have written for that section and then numbering different chunks of writing to identify the discrete points or thoughts. Then I consider the best order for these numbered chunks. Sometimes I end up cutting out the pieces and moving them around! It really helps my tired mind to think more clearly to physically move the ideas about. I’ve tried doing this on screen, but scrolling up and down, and cutting and pasting is not as effective as laying out a few printed pages and scanning it visually … and actually cutting and re-arranging. I seem to see better (especially when I am tired and have been grappling with the ideas for a while) because all the ideas are laid out within my range of vision. Chad shared that he does something like this as well and finds it works.

Give it a go and see if it works for you. And share any variations you discover that work.

You're Not Alone - Here are some of the members of our group!