Beefing Up the Intro

Last week in class Dr. Zamora helped me come to the decision to remove the interview section of my thesis.  This was to reduce the stress of jumping through IRB’s hoops, and it was also too cut down the thesis a bit, as Dr. Zamora felt that including and analyzing interviews would make the thesis more like a dissertation in terms of length and work.  I have to say, it is a relief to have one less thing to worry about, especially something that was so vulnerable to things I cannot control, i.e. other human beings.  I had been back-and-forth with whether or not to include interviews and surveys since last semester, or possibly even the semester before that.  I felt like discourse and rhetorical analyses of community artifacts, autoethnography, and field observations just wouldn’t be enough, or perhaps like those methods alone weren’t scholarly and study-y enough.  See?  That same old doubt is still dogging me!  Dr. Zamora assured me, however, that the aforementioned methods would yield plenty of “meat” to create a substantive thesis.  Mmm… Thesis meat…

When I broke the news to one of the people I had already lined up for an interview, they were actually disappointed.  They revealed that they had been bragging to a friend earlier that same day about the planned interview.  It’s pretty neat to know that my thesis had this particular person excited, as they were the one who had first introduced me to closed species.

As I expressed in my last blog post, this week was mostly centered around finishing up the Griffia section of my Introduction.  I got a draft written of the stuff I wanted to say, but I still need to go back in and add the “proto-citations,” as a good deal of the information I wrote about was just stuff that I had learned during my time in the community.  By the way, I just made up that term: proto-citation.  That’s what I’ve decided to call the little note I make after a statement in a rough draft that states where I got the info from but is not a full, fleshed-out, formatted citation.  It’s just so I know what to cite later when I get to the next draft.

I also curated some more images, some of which I plopped right into the draft, and some of which I put into a “For Appendix” area.  I made the decision to include colorful, eye-catching examples of each species in the section that introduces them rather than just anatomical sketches and the like.  I realized that if I want readers to become as excited as I am about these creatures, I should give them examples that are demonstrative as well as fun.

Another task with which I was charged last class was to start preparing for my Lit Review proper by going back into my resources to re-familiarize myself and start working out which resources converse with which other ones.  I went back into my Zotero and read through the notes I had made for many of the entries, and in so doing I realized I needed to add another section to my Introduction.  I needed to explain to readers what the heck DeviantArt is!  I had gathered a few resources which I had noted were for that express purpose, but I somehow forgot to factor them into the outline.  I guess I fell into that trap of assuming everyone in the field would know what it was because two of my professors did.  I added that section in between my statement of purpose and my overview of the three closed species communities I’d be covering.  I began writing it based on comments my father had made when I told him about the website, but I did not finish the newborn section.  I guess that’s where I’ll pick up in the coming week, in addition to diving headfirst into the Lit Review!

Following the Plan & A Schedule



Finally, I have entered the final phase. Notice how I'm smiling in my test headshots.

But before I look to close this chapter of my life and move forward, I have to go back to where I started to appreciate the road that lies ahead...


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When I first started grad school I was so nervous.  I had no idea what an MA in Writing Studies would mean. What was I going to be able to do with this degree? Worst case scenario, I'd be able to teach college courses. Best case scenario, I'd be able to write my book. Which honestly, was the secret reason I wanted to go to graduate school but I knew that my family probably wouldn't think that was a good enough reason to put myself in thousands of dollars of debt. But I was determined, even without the possibility of getting a MFA in writing I would complete a book.

Step One, I registered for a Writing Children & Young Adult literature class. I loved that class. And in that class, I knew I wanted to write my book and it would get done. I had a great idea about a super smart girl from Newark that creates a time machine. Think modern day Quantum Leap.



In that class I wrote.  It was hot garbage. I'm sure of it and Dr. Inskeep was way too kind in her comments and feedback. Needless to say, I wrote about 50 pages of words and I haven't looked at it again since the end of that semester.

After a full year into my graduate program, I was learning so much about writing in digital spaces and different theories of writing and writing practice. All super important and really academic stuff. I absolutely felt more intelligent but by this point, my creative juices had come to a halt. And then, Dr. Zamora offered a writing boot camp class during the summer. I jumped at the opportunity and in this class, I found my inspiration and conceived my master plan.

In the summer of 2017, I wrote a book. I wrote the first draft of my book titled, Misunderstood from start to finish. But that was just the beginning. I didn't want to stop there, I wanted to get my book published so I started researching and scouring Twitter to find out how to take my manuscript and turn it into a book. After I gathered enough info, I did what all teachers do, I made myself a visual reminder in the way of over-sized post list, known in the teacher world as an anchor chart.

Step One: Get an Agent

With the amount of student debt, I'll have when I'm done with grad school there was no way I was going to self-publish.


After almost a year-long process and about forty rejection letters from agents, which in all honesty is not a long time or a lot of rejections I started to see the forest through the trees.

I got an email from an agent named John Cusick who I'd met at a conference. He told me while he loved so much about my book and he thought I was a great (he might've said good, but revision is history) writer he couldn't extend me an offer of representation at that time. I was crushed, ready to quit my dream of writing and scratch my manuscript altogether when I re-read the last line of John's email. He alluded to the fact that if I worked on the manuscript some more and fixed some things, he'd be willing to take another look. Well, that was just the slither of hope I needed. I jumped up from my laptop and created my next anchor chart.

I was on my way. I spent the entire month revising and tweaking the manuscript pouring over it with what I hoped was a new perspective. I worked a summer job which allowed me the time to work on my revisions. I'm so grateful for that time. Then on August 8th, I resubmitted my manuscript to John Cusick. Eight days later he replied and said he wanted to speak with me. I'd made it to the next step. I was about to get "the call." In the publishing world, "the call" from an agent means they are interested in your work. And it could essentially go two ways. The agent could extend you an offer of representation or they could say I love this are you willing to make a few more revisions. Either way, it is a big deal. And as a writer, this tells you that you're onto something. In my case, my call ended with an offer. And on September Slowly but surely things are getting checked off of my list. On September 4th this was shared with the world:



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And now my list looks like this...



That was until I got an email from my agent which contained my editorial notes. I'm not done yet, I've got work to do. I have to keep in mind that my true end goal is getting published. I want a book in hand. And in order to get there, I have to keep a tight schedule. So far, this is what I came up with:

So far, I haven't been able to write at my alloted times. And even though I had a laundry list of things to do after I left class last week, I was only able to do one of them which was to go through John's track changes in my documents and then I will change that. 

I know this has been a super long post but I felt that I needed to get some things out. And this process of writing this blog has actually helped me think about and remember why I'm doing this work in the first place. Which is one of the questions I was supposed to explore but I am too busy tyring to stick to my plan which as of right now, is kicking my butt. I said all of this to say, I did not finish this week's homework. 


Text and the CITI

At the end of our class meeting last week, I was given two main tasks for homework.  The first of these was to reach out to the OSRP department to ask about certain elements of the IRB process; the second was to write out a draft of the entire Introduction section of my thesis.  I did the first task, and I was not very pleased with the result.  I finished 2/3 of the second task.

From the response to my email to OSRP, I learned that the target population for my research would not be considered a vulnerable population, but it would be considered a high-risk population.  That was good news.  The bad news came in the answer to my second question regarding the equivalency of the NIH ethical treatment of human research subjects training and the CITI training listed on the IRB application.  As of May 2017, Kean no longer accepts the NIH training.  At first, I was a little annoyed.  I thought I’d just have to do a similar course that might take me a couple hours of my time.  When I looked into the CITI training, however, I learned that it is something for which I’d have to pay at least $60.  Or at least that’s what it looks like. I am aware of the great responsibility researchers take on when they endeavor to use human subjects in their work.  I appreciate the need for would-be researchers to learn about this responsibility.  I do not, however, appreciate having to pay $60 to be inconvenienced and learn something I was already certified (for free!) as having learned.  Maybe I sound stingy or petty, but I’m just frustrated right now…  I’m really going to have to discuss this with my professor.

As far as my Introduction, I was able to write out drafts of the overviews for two of the three communities I will be examining, GremCorps and CCCats.  This included selecting and placing the images I would like to use in those sections.  I did not get to finish the Griffia overview, as Griffia is a lot more complicated than the other two in terms of the mechanics and lore.  Unlike GremCorps and CCCats, which are focused around a single species, Griffia is actually a union of three different groups with dozens of species.  It also contains more gamified elements.  I anticipate using the coming week on the Griffia section alone.