Thursday, February 4, 2016

words words words

As usual, I haven't been blogging as much as I should. However, I have been working hard on my novel--writing almost every day. I've been rewriting chapters, expanding them. I'm currently revising the ending, which is intimidating. I know how it needs to be--I just hope I have the literary power to get it there. If all goes well, it shall be zany and heartbreaking and glorious.

Actually, if all goes well, it will be finished enough to submit to my thesis committee--in just a few months! I need to keep reminding myself that my thesis doesn't have to be a perfectly publishable version of my novel. Mantra: nobody's thesis is perfect.

On a related note, a few of us in the creative writing program have been fighting the good fight against ProQuest lately--it's been weighing heavily in my thoughts. Like many other universities, UNLV requires graduate students to submit their theses and dissertations to a company called ProQuest in order to graduate. Back in the old days, a company like this would simply transfer the work to microfilm, and then the university would keep it as an internal record. Other academics could access it, but they'd have to go through the university to get it. ProQuest, however, puts your entire thesis online. People still have to pay to access it, or they need a subscription, but unlike the microfilm companies, ProQuest actually publishes your work; it's assigned an ISBN number and everything. In many fields, this isn't a problem--it's important to share new developments in the STEM areas, for instance, as quickly as possible. But in other fields, this is detrimental. Many humanities students hope to publish their theses as books, and they often need several years to revise. For creative students like me, it's absolutely disastrous. No literary journals or major publishers will accept a work that's already available online, and it's especially ridiculous because there's no legitimate academic reason why someone would need to access a creative thesis anyway. At UNLV you can request to embargo your thesis on ProQuest for up to three years, but you have to remember to renew the embargo consistently, or else your work will end up online.

Our goal is for the university to provide us with a permanent embargo option. We've brought our concerns to the faculty, who are discussing it with the deans and other administrators. We've also presented our case to the GPSA so that other graduate students are aware of the problem and can put pressure on their faculties if they're so inclined. Hopefully it will be resolved soon, but bureaucracy isn't known for its speed, so I'm afraid it won't be resolved by the time I have to submit my own thesis. I'm tempted to submit a dummy thesis of some kind, a hundred pages of x's and o's...but we'll see. That could get my committee into trouble, and I like my committee an awful lot.

I met with Doug today, one of my committee members, to discuss some of the later chapters of my novel. He had few line edits, which is always gratifying, and he had some extremely helpful thoughts about structure and character development. I'm constantly amazed at how insightful our professors can be. Now that I'm also teaching creative writing, I hope that I can be equally insightful for my students--but I'm probably not. So far most of them have been workshopping poetry; I think they're saving the fiction for later in the semester, so that they have longer to write it. It's difficult for me because poetry is not my area of expertise, and I'm terrified that they'll be able to tell that I don't know what I'm talking about. The important thing to remember is that I actually do know what I'm talking about--or at least, I'm probably more of an expert on the subject than they are at this point. Most of the poems that they write are earnest, but also overly sentimental--which is not that surprising, considering their age. In my notes, I've been suggesting that audiences don't typically like to be told what to feel, so it would be better to try to manipulate the audience into feeling using form and language. I hope that this is good advice. I tip my hat to Tim for making me think about it that way.

Thank goodness we MFAs and PhDs have each other! I don't know how anybody is supposed to teach a class without a gaggle of other people who are also teaching that class, or similar classes, to rely upon.

On an unrelated note (sort of), I turned 28 on Tuesday. I wasn't planning anything big, as I had to teach all day. I texted a few people to meet me at Stake Out for dinner and drinks that night--I wasn't expecting many people to show up, simply because it was a weeknight. To my surprise, so many people came that there wasn't enough room for us--it took literal hours before we could shove enough tables together to seat everyone. I felt so loved! Thank you, dearest friends, for celebrating with me. <3

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