AcWriMo Reflections 17, 18, 19

Between “snow days” and friends and relatives who were in town and another swim meet, I’m three behind. But I have been writing in my head, which is always a good sign. I think I’m going to sit down over Thanksgiving and write a bit, like a new opening and intro to each of the sections.

Maybe I’m going to write a whole new 50k set of words. Awesome. But it is what it is.

So, reflection 17: How have the material conditions of your life changed as a result of studying your subject?

Since I am the subject of my study (n=1 FTW!), what has happened to me is that I am more aware, more purposeful, more outspoken. Is that a material condition, how my life has gotten better? Speaking out and writing about these issues did give me visibility and legitimacy, gave me a community, and it got me to Georgetown, so…

Reflection 18: What can I teach about my subject today?

I think I did that last week, letting Donna read my manuscript to offer me feedback on it. I had to explain (again) what I was trying to do in order to see if I was in fact succeeding. I wasn’t, but it gave me a clearer sense of what was going on in my manuscript and what I still had to teach and what I had to offer.

Reflection 19: How can I evolve my working thesis today?

Being a woman in academia is hard and there are real consequences to the inherent sexism (and ageism and classism and racism) in Academia, especially when one chooses to work in such areas, not just theoretically, but practically.

Oh, hey, found it. That was helpful.

AcWriMo Reflection 15 and 16

Between galas and snow days and the rest of life these reflection, I keep doing two-a-day. Which is fine; there’s not wrong way to do reflecting!

Today’s (ok, yesterday’s) prompt is really timely, as I got feedback from a good friend yesterday about my manuscript. Word of advice: if you have a friend who is an anthropologist, have them read your narrative. They live in stories, and they just get it. So, thanks Donna!

So, scaffolding. As you know if you have been reading these post (which, really, all two of you, hi, love you), this has been the biggest challenge for me. While I had the lightbulb moment of my six framing titles, within the sections themselves, there’s little holding the pieces together other than the theme. Plus, I didn’t understand the reader report telling me there wasn’t enough “me” in the piece.

So, as much as I resisted it, I have to go with a chronological account, based on the themes. But also, what was pointed out to me is that there isn’t as much “me” in the text because I do that academic thing where I have to quote other people to make sure that I am taken seriously, rather than letting my story speak for itself.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but I have to put myself more front and center.

So, thematic chronology. Awesome. I have set a goal for myself to write a new outline of each section, without worrying about what came before in the manuscript. I can make it work.

I’ve been avoiding actually working on the manuscript, so now I have some really clear direction. Thanksgiving “break” – here I come!

Reflection 16 is about definitions. Since this is a less academic project, there aren’t really very many terms that I need to define. OK, that’s not true, I have to define Bad Female Academic. And maybe I need to make the line clearer between the definition and the narrative. Because many of the essays weren’t originally or explicitly a part of the “official” BFA series. But they relate insofar as they are a part of the narrative of all the ways I was (still am) a Bad Female Academic.

I also needed in the last revision some definitions or explanations of certain aspects of academia that aren’t obvious to outside readers. That was a good experience for me, a good project to engage in. I was in fact taking a lot for granted with my readers. I never expected anyone outside of the academy to be interested in the book.

Wouldn’t it be nice, I was asked, if a young woman grad student could give this book to her parents and say, this is what it’s like for me?

So I think it’s time to outline this thing. Keep it coming.

AcWriMo Reflection 13 and 14

How is it already Thanksgiving next week? How are we already half-way through this month?

Two for one today again. It’s been a crazy week, and it’s only…Wednesday? I don’t never know right now.

So, for Reflection 13, what is the micro-genre of my work? Critical academic memoir. Which, I think the manuscript needs to be tighter, in terms of narrative. And, more explicitly critical.

Reflection 14, How does one of your identity categories inform what you’re studying or how you’re studying it?

I mean, does the world need another cis-het white woman academic memoir?

Well, from a position of contingency, probably. From the position of someone who has taught at regional, comprehensive public institutions, definitely.

My story still has something to offer.

AcWriMo Reflection 12

Today, my project in three sentences, based on the CARS model:

1) a general description of the conversation the author is entering; (2) an identification of the gap or problem that the author sees in that conversation and plans to address in this project; and (3) the author’s assertion of how this project addresses that gap or problem.

Bad Female Academic is about sexism in the academy, coupled with contingency, and the fallout from those circumstances. While the issue has received increased visibility, there still is little about the personal impact that these forces have in shaping individual decisions as well as the broader implications for higher education. My story is a common one, but one that rarely gets told.

How does that sound?


AcWriMo Reflection 10 and 11

First, my project’s motto: You are not alone.

My motto is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, I have people rooting for me and for this book in my corner that I can rely on. On the other hand, well, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure not to let them down.

I feel like this scene in The Muppet Movie:

Anyway, I think it’s time to re-watch that movie, if only because it’s good for my soul.

But I digress.

Next, what’s something about my project I’ve been meaning to explore. I think I need to tie in more about how this book is about the affective realm of contingency. It’s about decisions, but it is also about the fallout from those decisions, the emotional labor that goes into being contingent. I have a section called “Too Emotional” but really, it’s all about feelings, for better or for worse.

So, motto: You are not alone. New area to explore: affect.

Bring on Reflection 12.

AcWriMo Reflection 9

Today: A moment of human connection that moved my project forward.

I mean, I could just put my acknowledgements here.

Maybe that’s what I’ll do, just in case the book never sees the light.

(I had a rough night with the kids last night at bedtime; I’m feeling fatalistic.)

How do I thank everyone who has supported me during the last eight years and beyond? Who have encouraged me throughout my life to write and keep writing? Who introduced me to this world called the web and empowered me to use my voice on it? Who welcomed me into a community and helped keep me alive?

There is a lot of research on how ADHD brains are wired differently, but I have yet to read anything on how our hearts may work differently as well. I once told a friend: you don’t understand my heart or how much love it can hold. This is a part of my being too much, too emotional, too loud—no one believes (or maybe wants to believe) that anyone can feel this much, this sincerely, this intensely. Every sentiment, then, becomes either understated or overstated. These acknowledgements feel like both at once, overwhelming and yet still not enough to express what you all have meant to me.

First and foremost, I have to thank my husband and two kids. He asked me, in the depths of my despair, what it was I really wanted to do and then told me to go and do it. I would not have started the blog or started tweeting without his encouragement and support. And my kids for allowing me to write about our lives together. My husband finds it amusing that I am writing a quasi-memoir in my early 40s. I am grateful he has been by my side for more than a third of those years.

Next, I have to thank Katie Rose Guest Pryal for believing in this book and this manuscript. Her patience and her advice truly helped this collection become what it is now, which is better than what it was, better than what I believed it could be. I have always settled for good enough with my writing, but she saw something more for this collection, and she helped me see it too. I will be forever grateful for that.

I learned to code in HTML when I was an undergraduate by an adjunct professor; I unfortunately don’t remember his name, but I will always be grateful to him for introducing me to being on the web. Another adjunct, Ann Scowcroft, taught me as much as I know about writing, and encouraged me in my creative endeavors. Jo-Ann Elder, also an adjunct, was a wonderful mentor who has come in and out of my life at just the right times.

My friend Rob Ryan from high school invited me to write for his website when he started one back in 1998 or 1999. This opportunity was one of the first indications that maybe I had a voice that people liked and would read. I gave up writing online when I started my Ph.D., and I am grateful that we let the domain registration run out on the original site. But I love that I can say, I was blogging before blogging was even blogging, thanks to Rob.

The list of people who supported me when I got online again in 2010 is a long one and I will definitely forget some of you. Reading through all my old posts while preparing this book reinforces how much of the old community forged through an RSS feed has passed by the wayside. However, there is a core group of people who, as I always say, were nice to me when I was too much on twitter when I first got on, and for that I will always be grateful. They include the ProfHacker crew, the UVenus crew, the Hybrid Pedagogy crew, the Hook and Eye crew, and the Adjunct Swarm crew.

But I will signal some people out. Mary Churchill encouraged me to take my Blogger blog to Inside Higher Ed and provided much appreciated mentorship. Melonie Fullick and I have been living in foreign countries (her a Kiwi in Canada, me a Canadian in the US) together on social media from the start, and I appreciate her friendship. Liana Silva and Kelly Baker—former adjuncts, fierce writers and editors both—have given me opportunities to keep writing, and their editorial eyes have made me a better writer. I am also proud to call them my friends. Aimée Morrison is who I want to be when I grow up. Bonnie Stewart is the older sister I wish I had. I cried the day that I realized Audrey Watters was my friend because her work and her voice mean so much to me.

I had a rough go for a while as a Comparative Literature Ph.D. teaching freshman writing, but Nicole Papaioannou and I started #FYCchat together and formed a community on twitter that I will always be grateful for. Deanna Mascle was my first friend and real colleague at Morehead State, and I am so happy we got to be partners in crime together. During this time, through my adjunct activism, I was put in touch with Kate Bowles, whose grace I still draw strength from, and whose words inspire me in my own writing. Marybeth Shea also provided invaluable feedback on this manuscript.

I tried my hand at doing digital humanities and, like being a literature person teaching rhet-comp, there was some resistance. But, there were people like Dean Irvine, Roopsi Risam, Anastasia Salter, Alex Gil, Kathi Inman Berens, Bethany Nowviskie and others who welcomed me and sat on my panels and put me on panels and funded a non-tenure-track nobody from nowhere. I got to stand up at major international conferences and say, sometimes writing publicly on a blog is still a radical act, and that building is a privilege, and that there is still the exclusion of adjuncts and students like the ones I taught in these spaces.

When I said I wanted to get into faculty development, Paul Martin and Josh Eyler (who also read a draft of this book and gave me invaluable feedback) stepped up and helped me get started. When I needed a break into the field, Chris Rice took a chance and gave it to me. Brian Croxall has talked me down from a couple of twitter ledges, while Kevin Gannon and Ian Petrie have kept me sane in my work and gotten me into JUST enough trouble. When Aaron Bady would include me in the list for the old Sunday Readings, I thought I had really made it, and that he keeps asking me to write things is still wondrous to me.

And then as I moved into Ed Tech spaces, I am grateful for Kristen Eshleman, Mike Caulfield, Michael Burman (who also read a draft of this book), Autumm Caines, Daniel Lynds, Sundi Richards, and Maha Bali for welcoming me into the community and guiding me. You all keep me striving for what is better. Kristine Weglarz is a fellow displaced Canadian whom I can rely on to conspire with.

Finally, there are people who are your friends and you don’t know why, but there they are and they are steadfast: Chuck Pearson, Laura Gogia, Zach Whalen, and Nigel Haarstad. Circumstances threw us together, and you have stuck by me, and for that I am grateful (is there another word for grateful? Probably, but it’s the best one I’ve got). I’ve said personally what each of you have meant to me, but know that it is still true, and maybe even more so.

In my original Bad Female Academic: Shameless Self-Promotion blog post, I was talking about getting to a thousand followers. I’m at over ten thousand now. I’ve forgotten so many people here. Every single person who has ever encouraged me, who has told me what I said has made a difference for them, who has reached out to say thank you, this book would not have been possible without you. You all empowered me to be a Bad Female Academic. And then, you all stayed. And cheered and supported and made me better.

This book is for everyone who has ever felt like they don’t fit in, especially in academia. You are not alone. Tell your story, too.

AcWriMo Reflection 8

Today is about “inheritance” or what we’re taking from those who wrote about this before us.

I remember reading Mama PhD and Worst Prof Ever and (yes) even College Misery. I read Feminist Breeder and Hook and Eye and Dean Dad. Going through my old blogger RSS feed, I see so many blogs that I used to read that have gone by the wayside. Some of these blogs get mentioned in the book, as the posts I am writing react to them, as they were then. We were all writing for something, ourselves, and finding our people.

There were no book, no bibliographies on racism and sexism and ableism there way there are now. We read each other’s blogs because there wasn’t much else to read, not formally. Kelly Baker’s Sexism Ed is a great book to start with, and would be a foremother (or maybe sister, really) to my book. Virginia Valian’s Why So Slow is a great book that is a definite foremother of this book, of my writing, even though I hadn’t read it when I started writing.

(I just picked up An Inclusive Academy, her sequel to the first book for higher education. We’ll see how that goes)

So I’m flying blind. Is this an academic memoir? Is it just a collection of essays? A feminist screed? Am I still that mad, that sad, that disappointed? Does it show through?

I guess at the end of the day want to argue, this shit is real, impacting real people in real ways, and not just theoretically and hidden by statistics. This is a reality that warps our decisions every day, in every way.

To those who left, to those who stayed.

AcWriMo Reflection 7

Today’s reflection is about the structural logic of my writing.

What helped my manuscript come together the first time was settling on six thematic areas under which to organize the posts: Just a Teacher, Just a Wife, Just a Mother, Too Loud, Too Emotional, Too Much. These were really good umbrellas to help me think about what I was including and why, as well as what I was trying to say.

But it appears it isn’t enough, because thematically, there still isn’t any arch or order that an external reader can hang on to. They also aren’t AT ALL in chronological order. I address that in my introduction, especially because I experience time differently as someone with ADHD:

The ADHD world is curvilinear. Past, present, and future are never separate and distinct. Everything is now. People with ADHD live in a permanent present and have a hard time learning from the past or looking into the future to see the inescapable consequences of their actions.

I purposefully resisted imposing a traditional chronological order on the text because I wanted readers to experience memories and reflection the way I do. But then, it appears to need something else, because my logic isn’t the same as most people’s logic, making it hard for a reader to navigate.

This entire process so far, I’ve avoided picking up my manuscript and re-reading it. Part of me doesn’t want to because I’m afraid I won’t see what needs to be done, and then the manuscript dies. Part of me is just tired of reading it. But this prompt, today, is saying, re-read it. Even if I just map it out for myself, it might help makes more sense of it.

Let’s hope so.

AcWriMo Reflection 6

Ok, so this I thought was going to shorter than it will be. Today’s prompt was about housecleaning – what I could do to the project/manuscript to give it a better shape. To me, it is making sure there is a narrative thread. an arch to keep the reader engaged.

Which, I think I’ve written ever day now.

It’s funny because the last major edit I did was one that involved major housecleaning – I cut out entire sections, moved stuff around, “tightened the prose” so to speak. Turns out I cut in order to have space to add, to re-shape (again).

Christ, I hate editing. Editing is not my hyper-focus. I just want to be DONE so that I can move on to writing again.

Anyway, then I read this today by my fellow contingent faculty writing/blogger on IHE, John Warner. He talks about how contingency and racism (and I would add sexism) have warped the careers, the brilliance, of so many faculty members. And I think it still needs to be said, to be named: this is how contingency warped me, this is how pernicious and harmful it can be. “Old news” is only old if we’ve moved past it, and we clearly have not.

This book names it, claims it, narrates it, and I guess hopes to change things. The more stories we have, the more ways we have to name it, the more likely (I hope) that we are to change it.

AcWriMo Reflection 4 and 5

So I inadvertently answered Reflection 4’s prompt in my Reflection 3 answer: How is your perspective on your subject completely unique? I am writing from the perspective of someone who was working contingently at a regional (rural) state comprehensive. It’s not unique insofar as the majority of faculty work at places like where I was, but unique in the sense that NO ONE WRITES ABOUT IT. Not much. Not really.

So, having covered that, we move to Reflection 5: What is my project about?

How academia limits choices of women, punishes women. How we can make choices that empower us when facing those limitations. How can we use that agency to improve higher education for the better. What we do when we inevitably fail. How we redefine success.

This has really come clear to me during these reflections (YAY!) in a way that wasn’t before. This is the thread that holds it all together, and keeps the reader engaged. I think I need to make more explicit the latter part of what the book is about. But that’s good. It gives me direction, energy.