Blog 2

It’s been a hard week, lots of reading and researching. I’ve made side notes on what I’ve read and I’ve underlined. But I have not yet started an official draft of my Lit Review. On some of my sources I have longer side notes that on others so that's kind of an unofficial draft of my Lit Review but I am still unsure what my draft will look like. I am trying to focus on reading and researching and understanding what I find. I’ve been trying to focus on finding information related to how children are affected (positive or negative way) when being raise in a broken family.

The topic itself remains very interesting to me but I still don’t know which sources I’ll be using for my Lit Review. It seems so far like the sources I’ve found talk about how parents sometimes think that by staying together they are helping the kids. From what I’ve read, research has shown that that is not always the case. While children will rather to see their parents together, they do not want to have them together under the same roof fighting with each other all the time. When I read that, I also research about whether or not is healthy to argue in front of the children. I found so far that some level of argument is actually healthy to have in front of the children so that they can see how mom and dad work things out even when they argue. But it is not healthy when the argument gets out of control or turns violent.

As for my actual novel, I took out all my crazy drafts that I’ve worked on over time. I am planning on re-reading the “final draft” I have and then looking at the older drafts when needed. I will also be working on revising and drafting more my novel. I am excited because the research I’ve found so far has motivated me to draft more. Blogging was helpful this week as well because I can see that I need to research more and start drafting my Lit Review. 

A Bit Sappy

So I'm sitting in the public library down the road from my school because if I stay in my classroom I'll grade papers and if I go home I'll play with my dogs. So here I am. I walk in like a B-list celebrity as a bunch of kids from school are here mostly pretending to do homework and can't seem to understand why one of their teachers is invading their space. The "quiet room" in the back is filled for a little while and I have to sit at a long bench between a math tutor and his student discussing fractions and a foul mouthed fifteen year old and her "cool" aunt holding some sort of counseling session. It is hard to concentrate. Finally, a spot opens up and I am able to go into the quiet room and work. I am much more productive. I finish my second set of parallel stories that needed a massive overhaul from the weekend and I get to blog.

I've been thinking a lot about the happiness this project is bringing me. Dr. Zamora asked me last week reflective questions and I really have been thinking.... This project has purpose for my family. My father, my best friend and buddy, is also the most stubborn man and a source of frustration in my life. At 85 years old I suppose he's earned the right to be. I wasn't really sure how he would embrace my work. Throughout grad school he has liked some things that I've written, one story in particular since it had to do with my mom, but I can honestly say that he is now excited and involved. He comes over each week for Sunday dinner. As I cook I sometimes work. He, of his own accord, has sat down, taken my computer and read my writings. I can't believe it. Two weeks in a row! I can't even express how much this gesture means to me. He has been a great provider when I have needed clarifying follow up information and continually supports whatever I need. I just wasn't expecting this. I figured he'd check it out when it was finished, and that would've been ok with me. I just hope it comes out the way I envision and that I make him proud.

Here We Go…

     I'm sure everyone is familiar with the stores that specialize in costumes and home decor that crop up a few weeks before Halloween.  You start to notice them September in the locations that can't ever seem to hold a business that isn't seasonal. In my area, they started opening up in August, officially making Halloween the new Christmas.

     I don't mind it. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I love seeing the new merchandise that will someday scar neighborhood children. I used to fantasize about buying everything that would transform my place into a haunted house or a ghoulish graveyard. Cobwebs and candelabrums on the mantel, books containing spells and potions decorating the shelves, even spooky silverware for the occasion. Then I realize I'm the kind of person who can appreciate all that, but not the kind who actually wants to do it. Not like my neighbors.

     The people who live across the street go all out when it comes to Halloween. The yard is set up like a desecrated graveyard, replete with an in-progress human sacrifice (usually a volunteer) taking place right in the driveway. Ten-foot tall wrought iron fences are erected at the curb, from which dangle dozens of baby dolls. The neighbor, Jim, wearing a top hat and white face paint, takes residence in the middle of the street where he draws pentagrams using chalk. The most recent addition was a gallows three years ago. They rigged it up so that rope, while appearing to be around the neck, actually hooks into a harness that holds the weight of his oldest son. When approached by a trick-or-treater, the son wriggles and spasms, terrifying everyone. The inside of the house is done up as well, but my daughter is too scared to go inside (she tells me this is the year).

     The point of this digression is that even though the little toddlers who come through my neighborhood scream and cry when faced with this spectacle, they don't want to leave. They want to see everything go down as long as it's from a safe distance. And it's the same thing with my kids when we go to the Halloween store.

     As soon as my kids catch wind of one of these stores being open we have to go. Everyday if they could. My wife and I wouldn't mind taking them so much if they actually seemed to enjoy themselves when we were there.

     They both apprehensively approach the door, tiptoeing as though they are going to wake a sleeping dragon. Once inside, they get their feet wet in the kids section. Among the M&M, Power Ranger, and Power Puff Girl costumes they find temporary sanctuary. From these first few aisles they peak out at the more mature products: zombie babies, bloody corpses, and terrifying phantoms.

     It's generally at this point that one of us has to pick my son up. My daughter is good for walking on her own, clutching at her mother's hand for a few more minutes. I hold my son in my arms while he tries to both see and avoid every ghoulish thing in the place. I'm not usually one for terrorizing children, but if you ever need a good snuggling from your little one, bring them to one of these places.

     When the kids were smaller, we were able to venture all the way into the back of the store without them protesting. That's where they keep the most hardcore items. Full-size witches cackle while four foot spiders lie in wait. Much of this is motion-activated, which even scares me a little bit. It doesn't matter that you know something is going to jump out at you, it still startles you when it does. Luckily, in the past few years they have attached these products to little plates you have to step on to activate. I have been given permission to step on several displays, but only after the kids have been placed a safe distance away and I have promised no one will be injured.

     Eventually, the kids are freaked out enough that they want to leave. We are usually still in the parking lot when they both start talking about going back to the Halloween store.

Week 1 – 2

(Blog coverage includes first night meeting + last week's conference)

Surprising break through this week. During my conference with Dr. Z, the idea of turning my paper into a website came up. Though I was a bit skeptical. I've made a few websites already, so at this point in my academic career, it isn't as challenging as it used to be. When considering turning my (traditional) thesis paper into a website, I thought: this sounds a lot like cheating, it won't be a challenge at all. But that night, I went home and began messing around on wix, just to see if I liked the idea. Ling story short, I absolutely loved the idea.

Since last May, I have been dreading my thesis work. I was terrified of actually coming up with 35 - 40 pages' worth of original material??? The task seemed absolutely impossible, especially considering how large and shapeless my topic still was. My main concern was stitching all the various components together to make one cohesive piece. The transitions and recaps alone were giving me nightmares (kidding; mostly).

However, after deciding to turn this thing into a digital project (in its absolute final form) has facilitated the writing process dramatically. Whereas this summer, I had written a grand total of two whole pages, since last Thursday, I have written six. By looking at each topic (historical, psychological, political, etc...) as an individual webpage, I am less afraid of possible tangents. It is much easier for me to tackle each section, knowing that they do not have to flow as seamlessly as they would in a traditional academic paper. Instead, it is alright if there isn't as much--or any-- transition between subjects at all, because webpages are almost always independent of each other, joined together by the umbrella of the URL.

Initially, I wanted to have 10 pages of material for my next conference in October, but I am excited to say that I think I may aim for 15 pages. I am also excited to say that each piece feels pretty complete by the time I'm finished writing. Each section requires minimal editing, in my own opinion. Mainly changes in word choices and things of the like. I am extremely relieved to find that I am not mass producing junk writing just to meet my page limit, in which I would have to retroactively edit (which is a nightmare, because what if I had to edit most of my "hard work" out altogether???).

Overall I feel I am moving long at a much faster pace (and not procrastinating nearly as much) than anticipated.

Thesis Proposal

     My writing process for my thesis proposal has been quite an eye opening process. I have always had a basic idea of what I thought that I wanted to do for my thesis proposal. But when asked to actually write down my thoughts. I found myself in quite the quandary. I wanted to simply say that I wanted to do a creative project but that was not enough.

     I took the time to think and I wrote out some preliminary rough drafts of what I thought I should say for the first thesis proposal but nothing really struck my mind. After a while, I thought to myself what it is that I was really trying to say and what is important about what I am trying to get across in my thesis and work. After a while longer, it came to me that I wanted to write about something that I loved of course but something that made sense and wasn't a far off concept.

     Then it struck me that I have always been driven by the theme of identity. By the struggles of people trying to figure out who they are and what they want out of life. How the idea of being "I" can come so easily to some and so exceedingly difficult to others. I wanted to take this idea which has not only fascinated in my mind but in written stories and movies and see what I can create with the idea and my own mind and two hands.

     I found that after I free wrote some ideas about how to best interpret the theme of identity. I came up with the idea of creating a story in which a character has to go through a process of self discovery. And found that this process of writing allowed me to develop the rough draft of the research proposal.

Week One: New Ideas

This past summer, I thought a lot about what direction I want my thesis to take. I also thought about how all of these new ideas that I was coming up with would either harmonize or clash with the thesis concept that I came away with last semester.

I know that I definitely want to study fanfiction and fanfiction writers. Initially, my proposal leaned toward juxtaposing fanfiction with the source material that inspired it: the young adult novels that would serve as my source texts. One of the major goals of my project was to demonstrate the ways in which these fan writers are able to transform and authenticate the published stories that they write about.

Now, I am leaning more towards studying the fan writers themselves. I am interested in the ways in which collaboration occurs in these fan communities. I am also interested in how reader input influences the way that these writers write. These communities are tightly woven, and the writers and readers form relationships that I think are unique and worth studying.  

Thinking about my thesis topic…

This week I focused on brainstorming about topics for my thesis. I knew that I wanted to do something creative for my final project and I also knew I had creative writing projects that I had started but had not yet finished. In particular I had a YA novel I started writing a while back. As I thought about my thesis I decided that it would be great to incorporate my YA novel into the thesis and research more on the topic of the novel itself.

I spent most of my time this week thinking about my story, reading sections of what I have written already and thinking about what goals I had in mind when I started writing it. One of my goals was to write something I could publish and have printed copies of it. While this is a more traditional route I am excited to see how I could create a digital version of my thesis.  

What’s the Plan?


            Sorry to be so late with my post. I moved buildings this year, have a new principal, and have 3-5 new initiatives starting all at once. Once everything settles over the next few weeks I hope to find a steadier rhythm.

            I’m still very strong on the idea of writing about fear and how people respond to it. After discussions with Dr. Zamora, it appears to be headed in the direction of documenting myself in scary, allegedly haunted locations. I had all summer to plan it out and to start visiting places, but failed to take advantage of the time. My wife is incredibly excited about the project. She bought me a GoPro for Father’s Day in anticipation of our visits to these places.

            Some of the activities that I have lined up are the engagements I briefly mentioned last week. The talks will examine Jersey legends with a strong emphasis on the Jersey Devil. In October, I’m even taking Maddy on “Jersey Devil Hunt”. That will incorporate how people of all ages respond to terrifying situations. Burlington County Prison Museum offers tours and is supposedly haunted, so that will be a stop. Eastern State Penitentiary has been a dream of ours since many of the shows we watch feature it heavily. 

To continue using my kids as material, I’ve been documenting our frequent trips to Spirit Halloween since they popped up last month. We’re talking three to four times a week. We have four different Halloween stores in our area and my kids absolutely love them; but they are terrified once they get there and want to leave. What is it that calls them back?

Weird NJ offers so many ideas and places that are off the beaten path. This past Friday, a 20-year-old woman fell off a catwalk while exploring the Curtis Specialty Paper Superfund Site. The EPA goes around and cleans up sites that could potentially pose a risk to public health. Unfortunately, many of these same places draw people in who are looking to explore. So many people ignore the fences and warning signs, unaware of or ignoring the fact that these abandoned sites are decaying and seriously dangerous. I won’t be doing that. As a grown man with a family and a career, I think I’ll be staying away from trespassing and any other activities that could prove dangerous.

I’m anxious to see how it will eventually pan out. This is already a different idea from what I started with, but I’m happier with what it has morphed into. I am extremely excited for this project and can’t wait to see how it will turn out. If anything, my family will get to create a lot of memories and fun experiences together.

As I Start Creating

I'm in the middle of writing my first piece right now and needed to take a break because I'm being very hard on myself. I am using this blog to refocus myself and remind myself that this is a work in progress and I am creating drafts at the moment. There will be time for revision and adjusting later. This does not need to be perfect and probably will never be perfect. It's not coming out exactly as I want, but that's ok for now. I need to start and get it going. I love revision and when the time comes I will strengthen all of my pieces.

I decided to keep a list of concerns or thoughts that are bothering me about each piece while I write or after I read it over, so I know my focus areas later. I also know that I need to get more specific information from my dad about a few of these tales of his. I should be happy to have a focus for now. OK- a walk outside to see my pups and then back at it.

What Will It Look Like?

I've been thinking about what my creative take on my dad's interviews will look like. His interviews became a looking glass into his life as a child growing in Newark during the Depression and WW II. The interviews were rich with stories of family, neighborhood, sibling bonding, and friendship. His life was very different than mine as a child, but I couldn't help thinking about common threads that came up. I mentioned one in my last block about being that neighborhood kid. I also could connect when he talked about the bond he felt with his brother. Growing up, I definitely had a similar bond with one of my brothers and my sister. I think that although my dad and his friends got into a lot more mischief than I did, they still had a lot of regular kid moments.

All of these thoughts lead me to what I would like to create for my writing project. I would like to capture many of my father's stories through my writing and then create a parallel story of my own that connects to his. It would be a kind of parallel memoir?? with first a written interpretation of one of my dad's moments, then I would create a piece about a memory of my own that came back to me when he shared. For example the topic could be a moment he felt really scared or how the movies played an important role in his life as a child. I know that both of our mini-memoirs need to be more than just a retelling, so I feel that more interview work needs to be completed to get to the heart of why these moments were important.

 I would like to show how the power of oral history can bring about familial connections and make family members reflect on their own lives in new ways.