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Welcome back

Dear MA thesis writers,

Welcome back, after the long break.

If you have experienced “the break” anything like I did, then perhaps the term “break” seems not-quite-right. For me, the last month or so has been more like a fleeting interlude that presented many new challenges to face. When I think of each of you as I write this, I sincerely hope there was some chance for you all to replenish and recalibrate, to set new intentions and resolutions. That said, I think it is safe to say that 2021 seems somewhat similar to 2020, …at least at this early stage. But as always, I do have hope for better days to come.

One thing for certain is that working with each of you always brings me hope. I look forward to picking up where we left off, as you each continue your writing journey and further develop your MA thesis in Writing Studies. The term “thesis” comes from the Greek θέσις, meaning “something put forth”, and refers to an intellectual proposition. It is my genuine honor and pleasure to be your thinking partner as you continue the work, and further refine your project.

We will meet each Tuesday evening from 4:30-7:15 pm in the same Zoom room established in Fall 2020. See you all for the first meeting of the Spring 2021 semester on January 19th.

And, …my belated Happy New Year!

Dr. Zamora

the Thesis Home Stretch

Here we are, just two weeks before the end of the semester. The light is at the end of the tunnel, and yet, it is so bittersweet. I will miss seeing you all each week, and I am already feeling wistful about this. But we do have two more meetings to enjoy together!

What a wonderful way to reconnect after the holiday, seeing Darline’s radiant smile with the news of her recent engagement, and seeing our first glimpse of baby Kelly Rose and Mama Marykate….all a glow. New beginnings…despite so much challenge in this unforgettable 2020. I am so taken with all the wonderful things that our shared lives seem to generate.

Your thesis work this semester is indeed on the list of wonderful-things- generated. Thank you to Ryan for sharing his thesis-in-progress presentation as a “grand finale” in our roster. We all agree that Ryan’s current research into journaling and expressive writing is critical and important work. It is a testament to the power of writing to heal, and Ryan delves deep into this complex paradigm as he addresses PTSD and its affects on the psyche. It is fascinating to think about the role writing might play in rebuilding a sense of the world, and the power of self distancing that is embedded in the process itself. Ryan has pulled together an eclectic series of scholarship, including therapeutic models, psychoanalytic theory, writing theory, as well as literary artifacts & poetry – all which serve to jump start his case study research. To listen to Ryan as he works through this project is to see something taking shape that is so important, so vital and necessary. And as I said last night, I can think of no better person to pursue this line of study with true courage, which is a gift back to all of us in this forsaken world.

The remainder of our course timeline:

Next week will be a final chance to clear up any concerns you might have about your final submission for class, and a time to reflect as well.

Have a great weekend!

Back after Thanksgiving

I hope all of you have had a bit of a break with the Thanksgiving Holiday, and that you are feeling ok as we hit the home stretch of this pandemic semester. This semester has unfolded within an unprecedented time, and it is no small feat to be in grad school (and writing an MA thesis) in the midst of all of this difficulty. I am impressed with your progress.

Here are the slides of our last meeting agenda for the record:

Thank you to Linda for her thoughtful (and calming) overview of her thesis-in-progress. Linda’s inquiry is a close look at the unforeseen work that grammar-check tools can provide. In particular, she asks if these tools can provide needed support for multilingual and/or minority students, and what role grammar checkers might play in approximating more equitable experiences in our writing classrooms. I think her thesis is an important study, and it is the kind of work that should definitely be published in an academic journal. I am glad you were all able to tinker with and explore some of the grammar checkers she will be looking at in her case study work, and that you offered her some initial commentary in the padlet she shared with us durign her presentation.

Thanks also to Nives for a comprehensive overview of her non-fiction memoir about her experience with Obsessive-Compulsive disorder. The Seashell is a beautifully crafted work that is in part a narrative of personal trials and growth, but it is also a thoroughly researched account of a medical condition that many are struggling with. Nives provides important nuances that have to do with familial and cultural factors, as well as some insight into the pediatric onset of OCD. In this sense, I think her contribution is both distinct and important. But most significantly, it is the compelling storytelling that carries this project, as the narrator is conflicted, vulnerable, compassionate, and wise – all at once. It the kind of reading that you cannot put down. Not an easy feat.

As I have said more than a few times, I marvel at the collective wisdom and also the significance of your work as a thesis cohort. You have surpassed my expectations as a team of thoughtful writers, and a superb writing community. And you are all friends too, which to me, is also very meaningful. I am sincerely thankful for this journey with all of you.

This week we will hear from Ryan – our “grand finale” thesis-in-progress presenter, and then we will speak about the wrap up of our thesis days this semester. See you soon.

Another great evening spent with all of you thesis writers…

Thanks again for another great evening of thinking and exploring together. This week it was a pleasure to hear from both Kevin and Dylan as they presented their thesis-in-progress work. Our agenda:

Kevin is working on a thesis project that was born last Spring in the Networked Narratives class (“Net Mirror” course). He is forging his way through a dystopic landscape in what will prove to be a “pandemic fiction” – arguably a new genre that takes a closer look at the shifting social consequences emerging from a crisis born from a global public health disaster. This pained new world is born of a paucity of trust because the technologies employed to keep us safe are simultaneously also tools that might take away individual freedoms. In the age of data tracking, micro-targeting, and ubiquitous algorithms determing your next moves, what happens to human understanding (of both the self and the other)? With new forms of data driven digital surveillance, what happens to people who just want to feel connected, but find it difficult to trust in anything? Kevin sets out to tell a tale of his “everyman” protagonist – Kirk, and the conflicted “striver” antagonist – Juan. Through a series of unforeseen events (and perceptions of events), Kevin will open up these hard questions about life today in the age of COVID-19 and it’s aftermath. I think Kevin has paid close attention to setting (New Orleans and the Southwestern US) and he has set the stage for a creative work that will possibly lend itself to a screenplay or a series pilot “treatment”. Through his presentation, I think he has identified some possible categories for his lit review – and now he can delve into some deeper research.

Thanks to Dylan for a really thoughtful and courageous presentation of his thesis-in-prgress – a project which involves his deeper philosophical and personal query into how a writer defines the self. Dylan’s work dares to ask difficult questions about the origins of self-understanding and identity in light of the writer’s trials and tribulations. He grapples with concepts like authenticity, truth, inspiration, interhumanity (via Witold Gombrowicz), the repesentation vs. the real through language, rumination vs. reflection. His work also heads off the struggle with depression, and writing is situated as a pathway through the ambiguity, indifference and/or pain. The work adds up to a brave act, as it bears a certainly vulnerability which is necessary, and in this case, yields a certain profundity. I am certain that it is work that only Dylan Hirtler can produce. His talent and his intellect is made evident throughout. His thesis is ultimately part field-guide, part inquiry, part philosophy, part Writing Studies research, part auto ethnographic narrative, part scholarly and artistic curation…and this special pastiche will add up to a rigorous account of the writer and the self. I am thrilled to see this work manifesting, and I can only imagine how it will grow with more time.

Next class we will hear from both Nives & Linda, and I am sure it will be another memorable night. I am so deeply touched by all of your collective talent…the diversity of your intelligence and the spirit and soul of each of your projects. Bravo…as we head towards Thanksgiving!

A haunting follow-up!

Last Saturday was Halloween, but the ominous season was still very much with us (in a multitude of ways) as we met for thesis seminar this week. With an election still hanging in the balance, and our nerves all shot, we settled into enjoying Emily’s well-crafted story which was a fascinating turn for all of us.

Emily’s thesis-in-progress presentation was a walkthrough of her developing psychological-thriller fiction. We all sat back and marveled as she shared a short reading of her current work, showcasing both her imagination and her ability to weave a harrowing pycho-killer profile. Our ensuing discussion was an interesting consideration of what makes this character tick. The development of character is always a challenge when writing fiction, and in this context, there was something especially compelling in our shared consideration. I enjoyed our discussion of dating and what adds to a growing sense of intimacy, as well as out thoughts on the specificity of Lorelai’s psychosis. We all apprehended Emily’s use of genre (the journal-entry “missive”) as well as an effective use of interwoven prose and poems) as a clear strength . I think your peer feedback and your collective wisdom was a testament to the significance & power of a writer’s community. Great job to Emily, and to all of you for weighing in so thoughtfully. Emily has established a sound timeline for the project – just keep going now that you have apprehended both your methods and your process. I think we can all agree that Lorelai does send a chill up our spines.

A deep breath

I want to thank all of you for your understanding as we hit this “lull” in the semester. This has been an intense stretch of time, with the election still not determined in finality and tensions rising in our society, and our work loads intensifying in the meanwhile. I appreciate the sincere support each of you has offered each other and to me as well. I hope we will continue to bolster each other, as we are at the peak of the semester. We still have much to accomplish together. So please recharge, be patient, and take a deep breath as we continue to calibrate and pace ourselves. I know I will be working on this over the weekend.


Dr. Zamora

Turning the corner….

This week we are moving past the halfway mark in the semester. I marvel at the fact that we have made it to Halloween weekend. Enjoy a bit of bewitching time. Also, we will all take a collective deep breath, in anticipation of Election Day this coming Tuesday. And my regrets for the abrupt cut off of our discussions last night at the very end of our classtime at 7:15pm. It was on my end technically, and I am sorry for any lost threads of thought as per our on-going discussions.

Class agenda:

Thanks to Medea

Another wonderful presentation (and reading) by your peer Medea this week, who showcased her memoir. It is a piece of writing that courageously (and effectively) bridges two seemingly disparate topics. On the one hand Medea writes from the humorous lens of her quirky Italian-American family – a family built on both strong familial bonds and love, as well as certain strict cultural codes of conduct. On the other hand she is writing about the perils and struggle with anxiety. She at once is able to make us laugh out loud, and also understand (with empathy) a kind of silent ongoing trauma. She bridges these two worlds with both levity and grace, and her writing pays tribute to the good and bad in these perspectives that are inextricably linked. It is a unique project and it captures a world that only she could tell, and it works because the writer is singular and talented. Thank you Medea for sharing this with all of us, and I know you are now on the homestretch, with just slight revision and some lit review refinement to close out this special project. Bravo!

Please take note:

Your final submission date for all of you this semester is Friday December 18, 2020. For those completing their thesis this semester, 12/18/20 is the deadline you will submit your final project, and all supporting/developmental material that you would like to share (your overal thesis portfolio).

For the rest of you who will be working on your thesis in the Spring ’21, 12/18/20 is the deadline that you will submit your thesis proposal which should include: (1) a clear statement of the topic and its significance; (2) a statement of your thesis research inquiry and/or the importance of your contribution in the context of the creative genre(s) you are working within (3) a in-progress literature review; (4) a working outline of the thesis (5) and brief description of your in-progress research methodology. 

Great expectations

On a final note, I just want to share love and support for Mary Kate as she anticipates the arrival of her daughter (in these final moments before her birth). We welcome her into the world with joy, and we are proud of you Mary Kate for writing a compelling and moving young adult novel while also preparing for the first addition to your growing family. This is a profound blessing and a beautiful moment for our small writers community, and we are all wishing you both well. xo

There is no doubt that this is a busy season, and intense stretch of time for all of us. It is also a time that typically produces some amount of fatigue. With this in mind, I sign off with my weekly reminder to all of you to pace yourselves, and to go gently on yourselves as you set goals and continue to learn.


Dr. Zamora

Progress for sure

Our agenda slides

National Day on Writing

First off, I want to reiterate the invitation to participate in the National Day on Writing! Many of you are familiar with this because we partcipated in this last year. And many of you are educators, so I extend this invitation to your own students as well. Writing is an important part of life, especially our lives, and it behooves us to celebrate the ways writing has played a role in our lives!.

The National Day on Writing® celebrates writing—and the many places, reasons, and ways we write each day—as an essential component of literacy.   Since 2009, #WhyIWrite has encouraged thousands of people to lift their voices to the things that matter most to them.  The celebration will last for about a week or two, and I hope each of you will take a creative moment to share why you write (#whyiwrite), and also to share a little bit of who you are  (#iamfrom #whyiwrite).   Keep sharing your writing and connecting with others via the #whyiwrite #writeout #iamfrom and #unboundeq hashtags—find other writers via these hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

A Project that Embraces the Power of Identification

A big thank you to Lexie for presenting her thesis-in-progress work: -a beautiful and bold guidebook, -a proverbial letter to girls of color who need caring mentorship, -a retrospective letter to the writer’s younger self, and -a powerful ode to growing up with dignity & clarity to come-into-your-own.

Lexie’s thesis is written with a raw honesty and incorporates the shades and influence of memoir writing, but it is also a thoroughly researched “how to” and “guide” to understanding taboo subjects that are often misunderstood. Lexie digs deep to remember things from a young adult’s persective, while she also presents the facts to girls who really need them (in a world might preclude their own self-understanding). This project is long overdue, and I have no doubt it will have great impact. In the process of pursuing this work, Lexie is also tranforming herself into a true leader. Keep going Lexie! And thanks to all of you, her thoughtful writing peers, for offering insightful and smart feedback as she continues on this journey.

…Also, I am glad we covered the “come with a question” protocol in the second part o class, which allowed for a quick check in with each of you. I know each thesis writer has a simple directive for continuing on with their for this coming week.

To-do list:

-Blog on your thesis progress.  Share an update!  Set your next goals!

-We will hear from Medea about her own thesis-in-progress :)!

-The plan for next time includes breakout room discussions with peer work  (TROIKA protocol for first-semester thesis writers). More on that in class.

Have a relaxing weekend, and remember to engage in active self-care. It is a time of transition overall, and if you feel stress, be self aware and do your best to calibrate!

Sincerely, Dr. Zamora

Expanding our inspiration regarding method…

Our agenda:

Darline’s thesis-in-progress presentation

Thanks to Darline for a wonderful glimpse into her thesis-in-progress. As many of you stated last night, her thesis which focuses on ESL experience and ESL perspectives is a critical contribution, and one that is much needed in education. What I think makes Darline’s work special is the myriad “pathways” she developed for pursuing her inquiry. She employed autoethnographic writings and freewriting, she became a historian of her own family’s linguistic legacy, she has pursued case study narrative through carefully crafted interviews, and she has done a wealth of research on ESL theory and practice. All this comes together to form a thoughtful array of observations & findings. I think her work serves as a useful reference point for every thesis writer since you can consider her “menu of methodologies” as potential strategies for your own work too.

Small group work

I am glad I had a “touch base” discussion with each of the thesis writers that are still in the early phases of the project development. I think each of you has by now started out on your journey, and I am confident that each of you is starting to gain some sense of your own process. It is important for each of you to formulate a weekly “to-do list”. This is a good week to keep engaging and discovering new angles on what you are working on. As I have stressed, a thesis project is iterative, and shifts in time, consisting of ebb and flow of new knowledge and understanding. Each of you must learn to customize your work process – sometimes by reading and note taking in dialogue with other writers, sometimes by finding new materials for your reference, and sometimes by writing in your own creative way.

I hope that the TROIKA consulting protocol yielded some insights for my second semester thesis writers (“Get Practical and Imaginative Help from Colleagues Immediately”). Much can be learned through peer collaboration, and this exercise was designed to draw out solutions to a particular challenge or concern along the way. For those of you who had an opportunity to pursue the Troika framework together, I hope you will blog about your experience with this activity this week, and what new plans might have emerged from the discussion.

Your to-do list:

-Blog on your thesis progress: How is the process unfolding for you? What is working, and what is not working? Are you in research mode? Are you in ?exploring methodology” mode? Are you reading and note taking? Are you writing? What have you accomplished, and what steps do you need to take next?

-We will hear from Lexie about her own thesis-in-progress.  

-Come with one question:  For next week, please come to our class with ONE SPECIFIC QUESTION re: your thesis.  Please add the question to this google doc BEFORE class!

Have a restful and replenishing weekend! xo. -Dr. Z

Seeing the Forest from the trees

At a certain point in the thesis journey, there is a “forest from the trees” moment. A moment when you must take a step back and see the whole for all the parts. Thank you Meagan for an inspiring thesis-in-progress presentation which made this essential pivot quite evident. Meagan has been hard at work writing, researching, curating, and revising. Her work thus far is a rich testament to the learning journey-as-iterative. At this stage, she has all the parts of her study (all the “trees”). Now, she must step back, and organize it all with a logic that helps the reader see the forest (the overall intention or argument). In other words, Meagan is in her final “design phase”.

Seeing the forest from the trees…

Meagan’s work is meaningful – essentially it is a close look at the role between expressive writing, understanding the nature of trauma and healing, and discovering voice. I am looking forward to her final design for this study.

The rest of our time together:

I am pleased we were able to touch base in our smaler groups. We will switch it up with a next week with a new protocol (a different kind of peer review). I will meet with “first semester” thesis writers this coming round.

Each week I continue to read your blogsin order to keep up with your progress. In a way, you can think of thesis class like an “accountability loop” – by blogging a progress report and also sharing a weekly “next steps plan” you should be able to apprehend the slow march to measurable progress.

Keep going!!

For next week:

-Blog on your thesis progress.  What have you accomplished, and what steps do you need to take next?

-We will hear from Darline about her own thesis-in- progress.  Plan for breakout group work for next week. I will check in with Dylan, Linda, Lexie, Ryan, Emily, Kevin, Nives, and the other group have a check-in session with each other as well.

Calibration & reflection

As autumn and October is upon us, I commend you all for the slow-but-steady progress you are all making on your own terms. This is how it works. Step by step. Independently…, but with mentorship and a strong community of peer support. Keep setting your own small goals, and remember to self-discipline and put in the time to pursue lines of thought, reading, writing, connecting, sorting.

Thanks to the thoughtful “thesis-in-progress” presentations from both Patricia & Karel this week, we all received yesterday another glimpse into the iterative aspects of thesis building. Patricia presented her “The Adventures in Writing Process” portal for her upcoming case study work with nine emerging writers in the 3rd grade. What a wonderful glimpse into her thoughtful incorporation of some theoretical readings (Murray & Elbow) into a practice-based interactive design for your digital writers!! I especially loved the artistic application of her understanding through her multimodal design for this inquiry. We also spoke about the ambition of her project as she would like to apply a grounded theory model for observation and argumentation around the development of writing paradigms that emerge in your writers. I was pleased to recommend a “first phase” approach to this part of her work, as the time allotted for the remainder of her study will only allow for the start of the apprehension of patterns-of-practice with her nine “colorful” writers.

I think the main (positive) lesson here is to understand the scope of the work you are setting out to accomplish, and also understand the time frame in which you have to work. As Patricia recalibrate her earlier ambitions, she will end up with a more refined and precise set of outcomes, which will lead her to future work. I am glad we all had a chance to observe and discover this dynamic is producing a thesis project together. Said another way, sometimes a bit of “recalibration” is in order, and that is never a bad thing, but rather an essential step to take in the process overall.

Thanks to Karel for his sketch of his own writing process with his creative thesis project. As you all understand now, Karel has been working through his own experience in pandemic time through a creative exploration of the “Project Zero” story he has been developing. I think it is an important reality to apprehend – that all of you are writing a major academic project — your MA thesis – during this unprecendent time. There is no way that that contextual factor will not effect in some way the work. Thank you Karel for sharing your ongoing work with all of us, and making us see how that truth will shape everyone’s project in different ways.

To-do list:

-Blog on your thesis progress.  What have you accomplished, and what steps do you need to take next?

-We will hear from Meagan about her own thesis-in- progress.  

-Reminder of the Human Subjects Research in the Time of COVID-19 workshop next Monday Oct 5 at 3:15-4:15 pm. The Zoom link has been forwarded to all of you via email.

-Plan for breakout group work for next week (I will check in with Dylan, Linda, Lexie, Ryan, Emily, Fatima, Kevin, Nives, and the other group will proceed with a peer review protocol).

Have a great autumnal weekend, take care of yourselves, and reflect. And see you next Thursday! -Dr. Zamora