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Writing time during class Time

Here we are in mid-October, and I hope you are enjoying some of the autumnal vibrance, and the general shift in the season. Just like the weather has been fluctuating from humid/unusually warm to crisp and cold, so too is our effort to pace ourselves. It seems we are fluctuating back and forth. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes we are overwhelmed.

Last week was a great week to take stock together, especially after an especially stressful week for many of us. As we thought more about the rhythms of your current thesis work, we decided to make some changes to our thesis class time structure. Kate’s blog from last week prompted me to consider the need for some concentrated writing time during our MA Thesis class gatherings. As I mentioned last week, thesis class is usually devoted to checking in, reflection & feedback, and the necessary accountability measures to keep everybody progressing, slow and steady. This is still the overall goal.

But I also sense the challenge of our diverted attention (due to the demands of this relatively new face-to-face life). I think it has made it even more difficult to squeeze concentrated writing time into each jam-packed week. So with this context in mind, we have all agreed to devote more time during our weekly meetings to independent writing time. It is fitting that we can start this on the National Day of Writing #nationaldayonwriting2021 #writeout #whyiwrite! Our plan for now (the next few weeks) is to conduct a focused “writer’s workshop session” during the second half of class time. The last hour and a half of class should be a time to let your writing flow. We are purposefully setting aside this time to get more concentrated work done on your project. Use part 2 of class time to write, research and/or outline critical aspects of your developing work. Working quietly side by side peers who are doing the same kind of work will help in the ability to motivate and concentrate. I will be available for one-on-one consultation during Part 2 of class, but the priority when I am not connecting with you is to just WRITE and make some more progress.

Thank you to Hugo for an excellent walkthrough presentation of his in-progress e-lit thesis which explores the act of meaning-making in both art and language. We all “took in” (interacted with) his sophisticated yet somber Gallery – a tour of a stark/ formal exhibition space wherein the reader is invited to both explore aesthetic artifacts, and discover writerly reflections. These dual elements of the piece are left to us by a narrator, as well as a visual artist. The combination of these juxtaposed (yet parallel) points-of-view leave the reader reflecting on the nature of discovery and also intention. There is an implicit “You” and “I” in the work, that gives the whole experience a very human touch, but also makes it both elusive and mysterious. I really enjoyed our discussion of the piece, and the editorial suggestions offered to Hugo will certainly help him refine the work as he looks to complete it by the close of the semester. The work is definitely compelling, and pulls together Hugo’s artistic gifts along with his philosophical musings during this time studying for an MA in Writing.

….Next up we have Kate! I look forward to her presentation on Wednesday.

As always, I will look to your blogs for an understanding of your individual progress, and I hope to touch base quietly with each of you during Part 2 of our class time on Wednesday night. We are booked upstairs in Room 209 for the entire class period next Wed. But I hope to conduct the first part of class in Room 115. It seems there is a block on booking that room at 4:30pm because there might be a workshop that Craig conducts in that room, but I don’t think it fills up very often. Let’s plan to meet together first thing in Room 115 (the computer room where we first met with Craig). If it is occupied, we can always move to our back up room – Room 209.

See you all soon!

Dr. Zamora

In the thick of it…

Forgive my delay in posting here, I know it was not shared in timely fashion. Truth is, the last work week was so dense and exhausting that I needed to unplug for the weekend. As a result, Monday turned into really profound day for catching up on so many communications (snowed in by my inbox).

Confession: It took six weeks of this “back to real life” experiment to bowl me over, to astound me, to deliver me to true burnout. I have been working on pacing myself all this time, I have been mindful of the numerous demands on my time and have been quite deliberate in the steps I have taken to abate the ever looming exhaustion. And yet, I too succumbed. I had hit my limit by Friday night (when I realized I was still here working on campus).

Suffice to say, as much as I take into consideration the issues of pacing, downtime, mindfulness, etc., I too fall victim to the ever present demands on my time and attention. All this is just to share the simple fact that if you feel overwhelmed, I am here to say you are not alone. We are all struggling. You are trying to complete a thesis in the midst of a lot. Just do you best, take each week as it comes, reflect, reset, and recharge.

Thanks to Amber for a thoughtful presentation of her meaningful work. Her thesis is evolving in so many profound ways, both in terms of the shapes of her actual inquiry, and the rhetorical creativity in responding to her central concerns and questions. As peers, you offered supportive and formative feedback. Amber’s work on the significance (and shortcomings) of care in higher education is so important, and I am very proud this work is emerging from this program. Keep going Amber. The final write up will be both a tribute to your ethical approach and deep thinking, your creativity as a writer, and your grace as a person.

Next up! We will have the pleasure of hearing from Hugo, who I know is developing a project that is truly significant (and a critical synthesis) to some aspects of this time we have spent together (the pandemic). I look forward to tomorrow night!

For the rest of the thesis team, I sense you are now in the thick of your work, which is where you should be. Try to keep going, but also remember “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” A theme we keep returning too. It is a lesson that I often need a refresher on. 😉

See you soon!

autumn is Here!

Gourds

I hope you had a replenishing weekend, that you were able to carve out some time for your thesis work, but also some time to celebrate the changing of the light, and the beauty of the season. I love these early weeks in October, which are so potent when it comes to the mood and tenor of reflection. Fall has always been my favorite season, perhaps because of the sense of passing time, and the shift in light which signals to me pause, change, and harvest.

Speaking of harvest, we are well into our thesis presentation mode, thanks first to Tom, and now to Kelsey. Both creatives have kicked off the thesis-in-progress season with a glimpse into their imaginative work, their process, and their unique individual perspectives. Thanks to Kelsey for her entertaining reading. You are truly funny, and you capture the spirit of an independent young women who is evolving in the wild world of dating and discovery.  Maybe It’s Me is a playful project that is sexy and delightful. But it also has the potential to be truly profound and meaningful when it comes to what all this adventure and trial-and-error amounts to. I hope as you continue to develop the story in a way that reveals this important underside of the work, that you bring us to powerful insight. Keep going with the storytelling. I am confident that the adventures of your enigmatic narrator KC will lead us to certain pearls of wisdom.

Autumn hues…

Up next! Amber will take us through her work which has evolved significantly since the summer. I am looking forward to hearing more. We will meeting in the same rooms as last week – Room 116 first, and then we can switch to Room 115 next door. Remember that it was really cold in Room 116, so come with some layers, just in case it is the same in there this week.

See you soon!

Autumn is Here!

I hope you had a replenishing weekend, that you were able to carve out some time for your thesis work, but also some time to celebrate the changing of the light, and the beauty of the season. I love these early weeks in October, which are so potent when it comes to the mood and tenor of reflection. Fall has always been my favorite season, perhaps because of the sense of passing time, and the shift in light which signals to me pause, change, and harvest.

Speaking of harvest, we are well into our thesis presentation mode, thanks first to Tom, and now to Kelsey. Both creatives have kicked off the thesis-in-progress season with a glimpse into their imaginative work, their process, and their unique individual perspectives. Thanks to Kelsey for her entertaining reading. You are truly funny, and you capture the spirit of an independent young women who is evolving in the wild world of dating and discovery. Maybe It’s Me is a playful project that is sexy and delightful. But it also has the potential to be truly profound and meaningful when it comes to what all this adventure and trial-and-error amounts to. I hope as you continue to develop the story in a way that reveals this important underside of the work, that you bring us to powerful insight. Keep going with the storytelling. I am confident that the adventures of your enigmatic narrator KC will lead us to certain pearls of wisdom.

Autumn’s hues….

Up next! Amber will take us through her work which has evolved significantly since the summer. I am looking forward to hearing more. We will meeting in the same rooms as last week – Room 116 first, and then we can switch to Room 115 next door. Remember that it was really cold in Room 116, so come with some layers, just in case it is the same in there this week.

See you soon!

gaining Momentum

Well, it is officially Fall now, and we are well into this “hard-to-take” transition, as we all continue to acclimate to our face-to-face time together and our “public circulation” in general. I notice that I am starting to get used to the pacing a bit more. I also notice that I am acutely more aware of my own energy ebb-and-flow, and I think a lot about how this might be experienced by others as well. It is good to be self-aware of what is working, or not working.

I am glad we had an early thesis moment in the “Visualization and Immersion” room. Thanks to Tom for kicking off our presentation time together, and for spurning our early investigation of this space. I think we should have other moments in there in the future, but I also think we need a bit of training in how to use the technology so we can maximize on the full effect. That said, it was great to hear from Tom about his on-going project. It is evident how much time and attention he has given to this ambitious undertaking which is certainly a passion project. I think his vast output of material is a tribute to his imagination and creativity in building a unique universe that is at once familiar but also otherworldly. Keep going Tom, and hopefully we can loop back to your progress once more, if there is more time later in the semester (after some more momentum is established with the varying thesis presentations on deck).

Up next we will hear from Kelsey! I am so glad both of you two have taken the lead here, …it is a wonderful way to jump start our time together this semester.

Our 9/22 agenda slides:

I spoke with each of you individually about your progress (you have your individual plans for the week). I also gave all of you a “ballpark” understanding of how much time/effort you should be putting into this work (in the context of very busy lives) in order to keep some steady progress going that will get you to the finish line. I want to stress this sense of “time-devoted-to-thesis” is not designed as a hard rule, but more of a benchmark to keep you on track as you ebb and flow through this big writing project. Some weeks will be better than others. That is the nature of the process.

Next week we will be meeting in Library (Learning Commons), Room 116. This room is just a little bit further down the hallway beyond the computer room where we met with Craig Anderson. It is on the left side at the end of the same hallway. You should all be able to find it easily. I will also try to remember to put up a redirection sign on the old classroom in CAS.

I also want to remind you of the reading that will occur next Tuesday afternoon:

Please have a restful weekend, and remember that you will struggle with your own creativity if you you do not restore your own surge capacity with some time off. That is how it works.

I will try to remember this tip myself. 😉

See you next Wednesday night.

Starting our Process

I am glad we took a bit of time to check in this week. This transition time has not been easy for all of us, and I think there is a lot to consider that is effecting the way we feel, about the world, and consequently, about our work too. I mentioned reading something about “pandemic flux syndrome” in class, which I think is an interesting attempt to pin down the general malaise and languish that we are experience at this point. I hope we can keep our well being front and center as we proceed through this time and the thesis process together. It is critical to understand your own energy levels, and the things that help you replenish surge capacity, and the things that are really taking a toll. Here is a helpful reference point, which Kelsey shared with us in a tweet a year ago, but we should remember these days as well:

Taking care of yourself, by measuring your energy as it ebbs and flows

Here are our agenda slides from last class:

I am glad we settled our calendar for thesis presentations, and I am also glad we have something to look forward to when Tom kicks this presentation round robin off in our Visualization & Immersion room. I have booked the space for us, so we can meet there next Wednesday at 4:30pm. I have also pointed towards the presentation protocols/guidelines informally, but you can all read this document to get a clear understanding when it is your turn to prepare for this presentation.

Moving forward…..

Remember – for some of you have already embarked on the thesis journey, I have directed you to consider the Lit Review process at this stage, and perhaps your work should now center on developing a solid draft of this element of your thesis process.

For some who are really in earlier stages of thesis development, I have directed you to think about developing a proposal document with you can work on continuously throughout this semester, as you develop your work. This process of articulating your thesis proposal will help you in starting to map your thesis project effectively.

Each of you should have an idea about what would be productive for you to accomplish this week. I think your blog should articulate a goal (what will I get accomplished this week for thesis), and the blog should also report out on how that is actually going, and what parts of that goal setting have you been able to accomplish. Remember – your weekly blog is a self-assessment/progress report to the thesis community. It helps keep you accountable and reflective about what is working or not working.

Have a restful weekend. I will see you all next Wednesday!

On Our Way

On the road again…..

I am so glad we took the time to connect in the Library and visit the Kean University Learning Commons. Spending a bit of time with librarian Craig Anderson, learning about the vast resources at your fingertips, was certainly an important step for your continual thesis work. Since we have been remote for the past year and a half, this in-person introduction to the brick and mortar library was important, and I think it reminded all of us of the vast resources one actually gains when being a part of a University community. I am also so happy to have shown you the Visualization & Immersive Studio for Education and Research. I hope to conduct some of our classes in this space together, and I will be reaching out to our colleagues in the library to make sure we can book this opportunity for any of you. There is so much more for all of you to see at Kean, and I think we should take some time to discover what is at Kean while we work on your thesis each Wednesday. Since we are a group that is familiar with each other already, I think we will feel comfortable moving around campus in order to experience some of Kean’s resources together.

Here are the agenda slides from last class (that I didn’t use due to the workshop):

For next week, please remember your working groups, and remember each group has a specific protocol for writing your intro blog:

Group 1 (Hugo, Amber, Kelsey, & Tom):  Include a map or outline of your thesis work thus far, as well as a narrative of what has been done, and what you see as remaining.  Links to materials are recommended.

Group 2 (Diana, Jessie, Maura & Kate):  Include a map or outline of your thesis work thus far, as well as a brief narrative of what you have started, and what work you would like to do moving forward this semester.  Links to any in-progress material would be good, but not necessary.

Group 3 (Susan, Sun, & Bailey):  Blog about your early ideas for this thesis.  Please list some different ideas regarding your project.  Try to imagine a list of at least 5 different possibilities of what might interest you.

I look forward to reconnecting next week. We will settle the presentation calendar and discuss some general matters together, and then branch into smaller working-group focus time. Plan to meet in our CAS classroom at 4:30pm, and then we will walk together to our first re-location destination (TBD). See you then!

Shaping our Plans

I was thinking of you all yesterday evening, hoping you were ok and keeping safe during that torrential rain event. Although we knew there would be some significant rain, it was hard to anticipate the intensity of this storm and the havoc it wrecked. I sincerely hope you and your families are all ok.

It was genuinely so uplifting for me to see you finally in person. Once again, welcome back to campus, or just welcome to campus! Last nights conversation, spurned by the image gallery, was very meaningful to me. You are all at different places, with different perspectives, but it is clear to me that this thesis process will be an integral part of your growth this year. I want to state how truly how happy I am to have this chance to work with all of you in this capacity. This thesis journey we are on is the “heart and soul” of good work that matters to me. We have been so much together as a writing community – from virtual acclimation, and now face-to-face acclimation. All of it during a time of profound upheaval, collective and personal stress, and loss. I am glad we have each other as we weather through more of this.

Here are the slides from last class for your reference:

Some of you are just starting the process of discovery and invention for this thesis project. And some of you are well on your way, and have various elements “in the can.” Since you are each at various stages in the overall process will probably form different working groups in order to align the right pacing for you.. I would like those who will graduate at the close of this semester to take the early lead in the scheduling of these informal peer feedback/presentation sessions. More on this next week.

Remember, each of you can learn a great deal from considering each other’s proposal approach, no matter how nascent or evolved your proposal iteration might be. I look forward to “jump-starting” our collective work together.

For our Next Meeting

  1. Please send me the URL (web address) for your WordPress blog by filling this form out by Wednesday, Sept 8th.
  2. Please register for our library session next week with reference librarian Craig Anderson. Our plan for next class is to gather in our usual classroom (CAS 310) at 4:30pm, then walk over together to the library for Craig’s workshop on research.  Then afterwards, we will take a campus walk together and wrap up class in another campus locale.  Here is the link to the workshop registration: https://kean.libcal.com/event/8105600

See you then. Have a great Labor Day weekend,

Dr. Zamora

Welcome to your Thesis

On the road: The thesis road is yours to map-out and yours to discover.

Writing a thesis is not easy. There are many twists and turns in the road, roadblocks do come up, and there are unforeseen landscapes that cannot be imagined until you cover ground and truly travel. That said, the more time you have on the road, the more of a chance you will have to discover. I have no doubt that each of you will eventually “arrive” at the place of your own design. A place of insight and learning. A place where perhaps the outcomes were not the ones you originally anticipated.

I look forward to working with each of you as you set a course and cover some significant ground on your own terms as you develop your culminating project for your Masters of Arts in Writing Studies degree. I am here to provide suggestions, feedback, resources, and insight; to prompt you to refine your thinking and take your work to another level. Sometimes you surge forth in the process and cover good distance “on the road” due to insightful feedback during a conversation. And sometimes you surge forth due to extended sessions of engaged independent reading & research. Oftentimes, inspiration hits at the most unlikely times ;). I hope you will experience all of this.

The MA in Writing Studies @KeanUniversity is inherently a “customizable” degree, and I encourage each of you to follow a course for which you feel a spark of commitment and passion. I also encourage you to take risks in pursuing forms of learning that matter to you personally. In my own experience, this is the place from which meaningful transformation is born. And if you are going to work hard at something, why not make it both meaningful and transformative on your own terms?

The site will serve to organize some shared resources for supporting your writing process while connecting our learning. It is also a showcase of your work this year (in progress).

Sincerely,

Dr. Zamora