I Need 24 Hours of Solitude


This was the last photo I took. I was so swamped at Thanksgiving I didn't take a single pic. And I'm not even sure if I got dressed for real. 

I need to be alone. I'm convinced. I need a day to sit with myself and my thoughts and no other obligations so I can get my thoughts out.

My Black Friday plan to work on my thesis because, why not? It was my day off. Instead, I had to host Thanksgiving at my house because my mom wasn't feeling well. Therefore, I spent that Friday trying to recover. I'm so glad my best friend dropped by. She forced me to finish my website. And I must say, I am very proud of myself. I did enough to show the world: Meet Stephanie Jones.

The worst part about not actually writing is that I have all of the ideas in my head. I now know exactly what I want to do. I have a plan I've thought about and talked through that forward where I'm planning to discuss how my students, teaching and my daughters were the catalysts for my creative piece formerly known as Misunderstood. (The name has been changed to Black Girl Magic, for now. This too could change.)

Quick update about my novel, Misunderstood which is now titled, Black Girl Magic. It is officially on submission. Meaning John, my agent, sent my manuscript to publishers and they're reading it as I type (or at least I hope they are). Anyway, so far I've gotten two passes (or no, but they were promising. I may share them next week)  So yea, there's also that. I am patiently waiting or no so patiently waiting, for a publisher to say, we like her book and we want to buy it.

Okay, now back to my thesis, I finally feel like all of the parts are coming together but yet, everything else in my life seems to be pulling me away from what I need to do. And it's not just like frivolous things trying to get my attention, it's my job, my family, life. The funny thing is, I know exactly what I need to do. I can see it as clear as day. And yet, finding even an hour of solitude to knock this thing out has become impossible. You name it, the obstacles are being thrown in my way. As we say in Christianity, the devil is busy. My hubby and I are sharing a car because water was leaking in my car and it ruined the motherboard, and the car was totalled. The list of interruptions and hurdles just seem to go on and on.

Next week, my daughters will be competing at the ESPN Arena in Walt Disney World. But, I have to leave early because of health issues so I may possibly get some time to take my thoughts and pour them onto the page.

Here's what I have so far in my brainstorming:

Talk about my students have influenced me to want to share their stories, or versions of it, with the world.

Discuss how my daughters, who as of yet aren't old enough to read young adult, but time moves fast, need stories to read that reflect them and the people they know. And how I want to teach them that it is never too late. Or you're never too old to chase your dreams. Writing this book, getting an agent and soon (Lord's willing) a book deal is something that I used to dream about as I stared out of my bedroom window in the 2nd-floor apartment of my family's two-family home, on Rose Street in Newark, NJ. Even though I never fell asleep to crickets or dead silence, the backdrop of the sounds of my city pushed me forward.

Lastly, I want to talk about how as an educator I want for my writing to challenge the status quo and become a part of moving the cannon forward. There's enough room for more stories to be added and deemed worthy enough to be taught to a class full of eager minds.

I just need a moment of peace to get the words and ideas from my brain onto my a blank document consuming all of the white space around it. The bottom line is, I know it has to get done. If I want to graduate then it is a must do. But this must do is something I want to do. And I want to do it well. Because I know at this moment, in this time I am at that proverbial fork in the road. A moment in time when I am much older, I'll look back and say, this is where it all began. That was when I began my career as a writer.

So yea, I have to do my best and it has to be my best. And in order to get that, I pray that God grants me some much needed moments of peace.  And the muses send me inspiration that sustains.

Combing Slowly but Surely Through the Internet Archives…

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving break (if you celebrate the holiday)! I celebrated by eating some turkey with the fam before getting back to work on this thesis it’s not going to write itself apparently.

research

Me over break 

Assembling my Thesis Proposal

So, since we last spoke, this girl has been hard at work on her thesis proposal! I have been digging through the EBR and New Horizons for thoughts and information on self-representation in the digital age as well as travelling the far reaches of the Internet for any and all research exploring the connection between new forms of digital content creation and Dadaism. The results of these long hours of research are a fairly developed annotated bibliography as well as a half-completed-ish proposal. I know, in my last post, I stated that I wanted to have a rough draft of my proposal completed during break. That may have been a bit overly ambitious. That said, while I acknowledge that I did not totally reach my intended goal, I believe I accomplished a lot of necessary work. Being able to focus on the research, also, helped renew my vigor.

I found many interesting articles drawing comparisons between new forms of digital content creation such as memes, shitposting, etc. and a reemergence of Dadaism in the twenty-first century. While not wholly academic articles, compelling points were made in them for viewing these new digital artifacts as representative of the Millennial sense of self and reality. Articles and posts by Megan Hoins, Charlie Scanlan, and Deirdre Olsen make a case for memes operating as a kind of lens through which the Millennial generation can view themselves as well as make sense of reality. Memes are essentially a response to the chaos and disorder that seems to have swept across the globe. If memes are nonsensical and nihilistic, it is because the world is nonsensical and nihilistic. Memes have become a new form of communication, have become the new mouthpiece of a generation that is sick of being silenced/having no say. More, they are becoming an essential part of the new self-portrait.

Further research by Shivani Gorle compares memes and shitposting to the rise of a so-called “Neo-Neo-Dadaism”. Gorle identifies these mediums as a contemporary kind of expression of Hugo Ball’s “this humiliating age has not succeeded in winning our respect” sentiment. These new digital forms of content creation are thus an emergent form of counter-art and counter-culture. Memes and shitposting, then, are how we as a generation respond to our world but are also the means through which we dismantle established logic and ideologies and so assert our own sense of self over our circumstances. It’s quite an interesting and compelling notion and one I definitely want to see represented in my own work. This kind of research is really getting at the heart of what I believe about new digital forms of content creation–that they are representative of a new kind of concept of the self. They contribute to the construction of an identity that is ideologically different than the processes of identity construction of the past, that occurred without media-intervention. Memes and shitposting and the like represent a kind of disillusionment with and fragmentation of the self that seems evolved from earlier conceptions of identity. At least, that is what I believe and hope to explore through my work.

Additional research on Elit found an interesting article on personal narrative and self-representation written by Dr. Ruth Page. In her research, Page discusses how the capabilities/affordances of Elit allow for an exploration of personal narrative that is not better than traditional literary forms but that is wholly different. Page states, “The medium-specific properties of electronic narratives aptly underscore the fragmentary nature of self representation, as the pixels on a flickering screen and the potential decay of hyperlinks give the lie to the illusion of textual permanence conferred by the printed page”. Essentially, the design of an Elit work can reinforce its themes. This is something that can be seen in works like Nelson’s This is How You Will Die, Davis’ Pieces of Herself and Ankerson and Sapnar’s CruisingAll of these works make use of interfaces that reinforce their themes or that reference some conceptual underpinning or underlying ideology. 

Overall, I think I’m making good progress with the literature. I feel like I have more of a grasp of my subject matter as well as a renewed focus, having read through research that explores similar ideas to my own. It is important, now, I think to explore some of the research counter to or different from my ideas. I will be working on incorporating that information into my draft this week as well as continue working on assembling my proposal. I have some questions about my introduction that I hope I will be able to go over in class this week. Mainly, I want to know if I’m going “in the right direction” so to speak. Since my work is a little more on the “creative” side, I’m not entirely sure what tone to take with my work. (I need to know how much of my style, let’s call it, can come through ^.^)

Speaking of style, I have also been working on the prototype of my Elit piece! Mostly, I’m working on adding textual information into the work right now as well as some hyperlinks. This weekend, I’m hoping to experiment a little more with incorporating audio into the work. I have some soundbites I would like to work into the piece. Some of these soundbites are more, shall we say, aesthetic in nature but some are more connected to the actual text or history, like Hugo Ball’s sound poems (examples 1 & 2).

Anyway, I will keep you updated on my progress! I’m hoping to have a workable thesis proposal as well as prototype of my accompanying Elit piece by the end of the semester!

****

~Till next time~

Stranded In Newark Airport

Photo: Courtesy of Facebook

There are no words that can describe what happened on Thursday, November 15, 2018. Well, actually there are words. Most of which contain expletives. I cannot believe that less than five inches of snow shut New Jersey down. We get snow every year. We're not new to this. And yet, on Thursday as the snow began to fall around 2 in the afternoon, my husband, brother and myself, headed to Newark International Airport on what is usually a 15- 20-minute drive turned into a four-hour trek, where we never drove our car more than ten miles per hour.

A few things happened on our journey to and while at the airport:

  1. We missed our flight. 
  2. I was able to change my flight to a later flight. 
  3. We made it to the offsite parking spot two hours before our flight was scheduled to take off. 
  4. From the Parking Place, it then took us an hour and fifteen minutes to travel what usually takes seven to eight minutes. 
  5. Once we got through security we had an hour to catch our 9:40 flight. (One which my sister was trying desperately to make. She'd been in the car for five hours trying to get from one side of Newark to the other.)
  6. While standing in line I get a text message from United Airlines, "Your flight has been delayed to 11." Okay, no worries it's 8:45 that's not too bad. 
  7. Thirty minutes later, I get another message, "Your flight has been delayed until 11:30pm." Still not bad. I'm just glad we made it to the airport safe, and in one piece. 
  8. Then, at ten fifteen I got the text message that entirely changed the game and my experience as a person who travels via plane. "Your flight has been cancelled, contact United Airlines..."


You would assume if you're flight is cancelled then they will replace or reschedule you on a makeup flight as soon as it's safe to fly again. Well, let me tell you. This is not how it works at all. As a matter of fact, you have to reschedule your own flight. You have one of three options, call on the phone, do it online or speak to a representative in person.



Here is an image of the line to speak with someone. I was at the end of three-mile line. It was literally three miles long and I waited in that line for two hours and still didn't speak with a single person. Let me take a moment to explain my original plan. I was going to write my blog in the airport while waiting for the plane or I'd work on it while on the plane. Nothing went according to plan.

The wifi in the airport was shotty and well, I never got on the plane on Thursday. I did, however, catch what I thought was a beautiful photo of all of the planes I could not get on.

I wasn't able to do any writing because well, this was now the middle of the day and the hustle and bustle of the airport were too much and the negative energy from all of the angry people who had spent the night in the airport like me was too intense, so I read. Even in that I didn't read very much because I was too stressed out because we didn't have a guaranteed seat on the flight. Oh and wait, I couldn't cancel and just go home. Why?  Because our luggage was going to take off and go to Vegas on the first flight out in the morning. Why not get it you ask, it would've been a two hour wait to retrieve our luggage and in two hours we were trying get on that first flight.



At around 6 am we finally spoke to someone who put our names on the official standby list. So we eargly moved around from gate to gate all around the airport, hoping to get a seat on the plane. We had no luck. The four of us held a permanent spot in place 30 and below on the standby list. After around the fifth flight took off without us. My brother left the flock and did this:

 
We didn't get a flight to Vegas until Friday night around 8:30pm. We were at the airport for 24 hours straight.

Never in my life had I ever experienced anything like that. And we weren't the only ones. Everyone's who had a flight out after 3pm on Thursday was stranded at the airport. Remember that three-mile line? Well, it was nothing less than a miracle that all four of us were able to board the plane to Vegas. We felt like we hit the lottery when they called our names.

Now, in order to talk about my progress this week, I had to share this story. Because before this adventure my days had been consumed with my girls and their cheer schedules and practices. I hadn't had a moment to myself. And even though I knew in Vegas I would be all about my hubby and brother. Celebrating their birthdays I thought at the very least I'd have five hours on a flight and time at the airport to get some work done. Nope. Want to make God laugh. Tell him your plans.

So yeah, I just had to give the backstory. It was one I had to tell and I will never forget. Anyway, before that, I had a pretty good week. My book is out in the world. John submitted it to different publishing companies. I am so nervous. I know I wrote a novel and not a picture book and it may take a while for me to hear anything from them. But not hearing anything is making me so very nervous. And the list of people he submitted to are some serious heavy hitters in the publishing world. I fell all of the nervousness and doubt that I felt when I was querying agents. All I want to do constantly check my email to see what John has to say and what is going on. I understand that this industry is filled with hurry up and wait moments. So I'll wait. I'll focus my energy on getting my MA thesis solid and together. Which as of right now it is all in my head. I do have a more clear vision of what I want and need it to be. I just have yet to put it down on paper for real. As of right now, it is in scattered pieces and notes I've collected as often as possible. My plan is to compile this list of notes into an actual written piece. Since I won't be participating in Black Friday this year, I'll work off all the food I ate for Thanksgiving in front of my laptop and get my first draft of my Author's note/Foreword out. In order for me to do that I will need a clear mind and a couple of night's of sleep in my own bed.


Short & Sweet (and #Suffering)

(Another brief update sorry)

So, this week, I have continued to read through the research surrounding my thesis topic. I’m still working on creating a developed and well-rounded annotated bibliography. To be honest, I think I need to focus more on the research aspect of my project. I have done a lot of research so far for my independent study (which is thesis adjacent) but, I definitely feel like I need to put more work into reading through sources for my thesis proper. I am finding that a lot of the sources in the Electronic Book Review are often specific to one work of Eliterature or to one rather specific, niche topic which is making culling research from the site slow-going. I am planning to look through Google Scholar and the library’s databases to see if I can find more articles that provide an overview of Eliterature and important, broader aspects of this emergent genre. (I have come across a lot of sources critiquing the genre, which ten to lead to other sources analyzing key aspects of it–which has been helpful. I still feel like I’m not finding the best sources though.)

As for the design and concept aspect of my thesis project, that’s going great. I was really nervous about developing a kind of prototype of my Elit piece. But, this week, I came across some programs that I think can help me assemble a decent prototype of my vision. Two of the programs I am really liking right now are PicMonkey and Thinglink. The former has proven to be a useful and very easy-to-use photo-editing tool while the latter shows promise for assisting me in creating a kind of hyperlink work. (Actually, I came across Thinglink while working on a training module just last week for my one of my jobs ^.^) Neither offers me the exact kind of functionality I want out of my final work but I think they provide me with a good starting point and a great place to “springboard” from. Like, I feel like I’m making some good progress with these programs. Last week, I wasn’t sure how any of the pieces I’ve been working on were going to come together. This week, I can see the pieces falling into place.

Click to view slideshow.
*Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been working on~*

Anyway, I think I’m going to shift gears and focus more on the research specifically for my thesis. I’m hoping to complete my annotated bibliography before Thanksgiving so that I can work on writing a rough draft of my proposal over that extended break time. During break, I’m also planning to wrap up the prototype for my Elit piece.

Wish me luck~

~Till next time~

Onward

Maybe the hardest part of this process is behind me. Maybe. Or it could be that I'm just over this one very big hurdle. Either way. I'm one step closer to the finish line. And it just so happens that I have two different end goal. The first one is to finish out this semester and earn my Masters degree. The second is to sell my book to a publishing company. It would be really cool if by graduation in May my novel, Misunderstood has already been sold to a publishing company and the announcement has been made in the Rights Report (a place where publishing companies announce newly acquired book deals weekly.) Talk about a full circle moment. I'm going to put it all the way out there in the universe my making this declaration. By the time I walk across the stage in May to earn my diploma, I will have sold my book-- which was started during my time as a graduate student.

Okay, so this week was pretty stressful but I made it though. After reading through 328 double-spaced pages of my novel. I was able to make up the text and make corrections in the margins for revisions. After I did things the old school way, I pulled out my laptop and changed the manuscript for the third time some I signed with my agent. I sent off my revisions to John on Tuesday night, I was totally supposed to be planning my E-lit project and I kinda was in my mind I have the entire thing mapped out. And that is half the battle.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, he'd sent me back some thoughts of some more tweaks to make. I moved around a chapter and changed some word choices last night and I sent it back to him. Now I'm waiting to hear back from him. I seriously keep checking my emails every thirty seconds. The good thing about the wait is that it gave me a moment to start working on my reflection in regards to the novel. Something I hope will become an afterword or a foreword for my book.


Here's what I able to write thus far: 


Stories have always lived inside of me. I've always had quite the imagination where I could come up with a story true or not right off the top of my head. There were times when I picked up and put down my pen never really thinking I had a place in the world amongst writers who I love. So I stopped writing. My career as an educator and my love of reading led me to pick up my pen once more. It was in my search for books to read to my daughters to novels to recommend to my students that I noticed a void. I read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas then I went on a frenzy where I searched for more books like it. I loved it every child I told about the book loved it as well. In my search, I found more novels written by authors, Nic Stone, Tami Charles, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Dhonielle Clayton. A world of authors who looked like me and wrote stories I would've killed to get my hands on as a young adult now exists in the world.

Trudging Through… #Suffering

Putting in the Work 

This week, I was tasked with starting my actual thesis proposal. A daunting task, let me tell you. Not because I’ve never written a research/thesis proposal but because I did not realize how much content I would have to comb through in order to assemble this monstrosity.

stressed to heck

Me this past week >.<

Currently, I am in the process of developing my annotated bibliography. Thus far, I’ve reviewed work by Scott Rettburg, Katherine Hayles, Illya Szilak, among others. I have so much more reading to do, though. I still need to include information on inspiring Elit pieces and digital art. Hopefully, by the time of our next class meeting, I will have that information incorporated into my annotated bibliography. When paired with everything that has been going on in my personal life as of recently, this project and its scope is just a bit overwhelming. I’m used to being “on top” of tasks and being able to keep to a strict schedule but, lately, I just have not been able to keep that usual standard–which is incredibly frustrating to me.

Sam stressed

I am trying to focus on moving at my own pace, though. I’m trying to appreciate what work I can get done–even if it is not necessarily the amount of work I had hoped to get done. The research I am finding on the Electronic Book Review site is, at least, relevant and interesting. In fact, I am finding quite a few articles exploring the artistic implications of Elit and new forms of digital content creation. Much of the research on this site, though, is concerned with the functions of Elit and the future of the genre. I’m trying to comb through information as best I can and in as timely a manner as I can. I may need until Thanksgiving break to develop a completed draft of my proposal. After then, I would like to focus on revision.

I feel slightly lucky that I have a fairly extensive annotated bibliography on new forms of digital content creation, like memes, that I have been developing in my additional independent study course. The information in that document may prove to be useful to my research when it comes to discussing self-representation and communication of the self in online spaces. Much of the research surrounding mimetics deals with the evolution of communication as well as with how online and digital spaces provide new affordances for expression of the self. I feel like this information is relevant to my own inquiries. Specifically, I think research by Shifman, Davison, Cannizzaro, Rintel, French, and many others may be applicable to my research.

Also, having a fairly fleshed-out concept for the Elit design and installation aspect of my work makes me feel slightly better about being behind in my reading. Writing my latest post on my other blog really encouraged me to keep going with my own research. I feel so…. honored(?) to be able to explore this line of inquiries. Because I am so invested in and inspired by my own topic, I feel blessed, in a way. I’m more encouraged to continue working on a project that I am looking forward to seeing realized.

*Finally pulled out the ol’ charcoal and sketch pad and got to drawing my design for my Elit work out~

Anyway, that’s this week’s progress update–I am bogged down in the research, trudging slowly but surely through it. I am planning to have a completed research proposal by the end of the month, if not sooner. Additionally, I should have a prototype for the Elit aspect of my work completed by the end of the semester. I’m not sure if I’m on the right path, time-wise, but I’m definitely moving and I feel like I’m making progress.

****

~Till next time~

Barely Holding On

Image result for stressed
It's safe to say I don't know what I'm doing. Well maybe I do know, but I'm overwhelmed. I can't seem to find the time to get it all done. I thought I was ahead of the game when I submitted my work to my agent ( I am very aware of every time I say this. I feel like I sound self- important. However, I do have an agent.) Anyway, I sent my work to my agent and I thought, "Whew, glad that's off my plate."


via GIPHY
Now, didn't think that I was done with my revisions. However, I also didn't think he'd read and respond and critique my new work within a week. He gave me more notes and now I have to go back through my manuscript from the beginning and read it like a reader and a copy editor simultaneously. The problem is where do I get more hours in a day. I haven't had a moment to breathe, let alone think about all that I have to do. My youngest daughter was sick that threw me off my game. Add that to their grueling cheer schedule of practice 6 days a week. (I cannot wait for December. Once the National competition is over we are taking a break.)

Then there's work. Teaching 12th grade and 9th grade is hell. I can't tell you the last time I've done thoughtful lesson plans. I do my plans but it's when I get to work, right before class starts. Don't tell my principal. I want to use my time at work to work on my MA thesis like a normal teacher but I haven't been afforded that chance because I'm actually doing work at work.

So yea, to say I'm swamped and overworked is an understatement. Truthfully I need a day to sleep. I'm totally running on E and every single morning I turn my alarm clock off at 5a.m., give myself fifty minutes of ten more minutes until I roll out of bed at 6. Which, wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to drag two little girls out of bed who move like snails maybe even slower because they don't want to go to school. This causes me to start my day behind the eight-ball. And I've been barely making it to work on time. Today I totally didn't make it on time as I was thirty minutes late. I've got to do better.

Needless to say, I have all of my ideas in my head. I even know what I want to do for my E-lit class to make it relate to my MA thesis. My goal is to do a piece that shows the worlds of Newark and Millburn from Mya's (my main character) perspective. I did begin what I think is a first draft of what I hope will turn into my afterword or author's note at the end of Misunderstood. I was inspired enough by Toni Morrison to know that I will not be the next Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou or Alice Walker for that matter and that's okay. A lot of my hesitation and reluctance to write has been because I've tried to be them or write like them and have a story just as important to tell. I can only tell my stories as only they could tell theirs but it is nice to peek in and get inspired. Right about now I can use a little bit of motivation and inspiration.

Update on My Progress

This is going to be brief but I hope that’s okay ^.^

So, this week, our cozy little thesis cohort was able to confer with each other about our work. This was a nice change of pace and I know I found it helpful to see what other people were doing for their thesis. Being earlier on in my thesis, it helped me better conceptualize my process by seeing where others were in their work.

Working with Katherine, especially, I found to be helpful as we are both attempting to approach unorthodox subject matter in creative, innovative ways. I enjoyed the tone and voice of Katherine’s work as well as the incorporation of personal experience. She revealed that this was a recent change and that she found it more comfortable to write in this voice. As a reader, I appreciated being able to hear her voice and thought it brought a personal dimension to her research that was absent before but certainly necessary. I’m excited to see where Katherine’s work will go from here!

thumbs up kid

Also, I’m excited to see where my own work will go from here. Katherine’s feedback on my little work so far was insightful and helpful. Katherine thought what I had so far in terms of a lit review was a good start. She thought the tone and subject matter matched. It was, also, easier to understand what I was discussing. That said, Katherine did mention I might want to include more information about the art perspective on digital content creation I want to use. Katherine recognized that that explanation may come further into the research, of course, but she did mention that it seemed to be something missing. This observation is, actually, similar to one I made about Katherine’s work. What she has written thus far seems to imply that she will be making a connection to mental health and art therapy but her research has yet to include that aspect. Similarly, my work mentions incorporating an art historical perspective but it has yet to explain its relevance nor any correlation to contemporary digital content creation. It’s on the list believe me.

Anyway, I think it was overall helpful to have this conversation with Katherine and the rest of our thesis cohort. Stephanie and Hope also provided me with some of their thoughts on my work. Mainly, they found it interesting but it definitely still needs some development (which, duh).

I look forward to working more closely with my fellow thesis writers! It’s helpful to have so many different perspectives to hear from!

****

~Till next time~