All posts by dianaknj

I. Am. Done.

I’m so happy, and proud, and relieved, to say, officially, that I AM DONE with my thesis! I got so much writing done last week, and I literally just spent the last hour formatting, and reformatting for a pdf, so I can use the Amazon self-publisher. (That was a huge and laborious pain in the butt, and I had to use page breaks, which I never do!)

But I’m very happy with where my thesis ended up. I finished my story, and I’m satisfied with the ending, as a first draft. Wow. It’s crazy to me that I’ve managed to write the first draft of an entire novel. I didn’t think, two years ago, when I started this thesis journey, during a worldwide pandemic, nonetheless, that this is where I’d wind up, and this is what I’d have to show for my time, labor, and learning.

I’m very proud of myself, and I’m proud of all the amazing work my cohort did over these last two years. Without your motivation, expertise, and inspiration, I could not have done any of this.

I’m keeping this blog short and sweet, since I now want to play around with the cover creator, and get this puppy on Amazon, for printing. I’d like a hard copy, so we shall see…

Thank you all for being so supportive. See you at graduation, y’all!

What a Productive Spring Break!

This Spring Break was so needed! I honestly can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a school break so much. Between good weather, good health, and over all good times, it was exactly what it was supposed to be! It was a chance to relax, spend quality time with family and friends, do activities, and check off some to-do’s from my list. Where shall I begin?

Of course, I hosted Easter, and we actually had a few more guests than I originally anticipated, which was fine, and I actually had too much food, which I was stressing about when I agreed to take the extra family on. But it all worked out, the weather was beautiful, and the kids all had a great time. They did an Easter egg hunt, and we even got a surprise: a robin laid eggs in her nest in the kids’ playhouse.

As for non-academic goings-on, we took the kids to see Sonic the Hedgehog 2, went to the beach for the first time this season (woo hoo!), and surprised the kids with a trip to Monster Jam! The kids had their first softball game and little league practices, and my daughter got to have a sleepover with her cousin. We took down two huge cedars that were leaning ominously towards my deck, and the future site of our pool. I planted all my herbs and veggie seeds.

And we (my sister and I) got a huge chunk accomplished at my dad’s house. Out with the old couch, which was quite literally falling apart, and in with the “new” (a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law, but it freed up room in her basement, and fit perfectly in my dad’s living room. Two birds, one stone, right?) We also managed to excavate his bedroom, and uncovered his bed, which was covered in a mini-mountain of crap for longer than I’d care to admit. And out of this accomplishment, I also incorporated a new scene into my thesis project, which I slowly chipped away at.

While in my mind I should have been more productive, I think I still made good progress towards my thesis goals. Better to shoot for the moon, right? I got a nice chunk of scenes added to Ch. 8, as well as beginning Ch. 9, which will be my character’s “descent” literally and, hopefully, figuratively. I also accomplished adding more information to my Preface to better explain my methodology and what this piece adds to the academic applications of “speculative memoir” as a redefined genre.

I even managed to knock out my next two weeks of lesson plans, so I don’t have to stress about them when I’m finishing up my thesis work over these final two weeks.

I can honestly say that I’m happy with how this Spring Break went, soup to nuts, personally, professionally, and academically. 🙂

Aah! My REAL Spring Break!

Wow. This week has been an absolute whirlwind! I hosted Easter this year, and preparing for a holiday was very stressful. My husband took a million overtimes, so I had no help all week. Saturday was spent cleaning my house like a banshee, and today, as after every party we throw, I’m looking around and wondering why I even bothered? The kids tore through their Easter baskets, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. The cat knocked over my plant on the windowsill, a baby lemon tree I’ve been growing for a year now, from a seed, and shattered the pot it was in. And while I was meaning to repot it, anyway, yesterday was not the day!

This week I was doing a lot of cooking, and cleaning, and planning, but not a whole lot of writing. Although I did go through the notes you all so graciously wrote from last week, and I’ve been dong some minor edits here and there. (Thanks, Sun, for the suggestion to feed Marie! She took a detour into the fridge, actually, so that suggestion yielded a nice paragraph.) But besides those minor edits and cleanups, I didn’t really generate any large, substantial swaths. (At least for my own project- once again, though, I did write a lot to help out my husband for an upcoming interview. And it’s annoying how much I can write for others, how much I can do for others in general, while back-burner-ing my own stuff…)

Nonetheless, my project was still at the forefront, conversationally. Two separate chats with my sister were about topics that she brought up, to which I replied, “It’s funny you mention that. I was actually just writing about that in my project.” And for the first time since I started this journey, my husband actually asked about my project. Like, in detail. He was genuinely interested, and asking questions and wanting to know about it. And that made me feel good. Like my work was relevant and interesting. (I mean, I think it’s relevant and interesting, and I know within the context of class it is, but it’s also something important to me to be acknowledged in the context of my family.)

But I have a whole week ahead of me with no work, and my focus is really going to be to make considerable progress on my thesis. Let’s see how far I can get…

Happy Little Accidents

So, apparently, my “breath of fresh air” was more like a short, quick gasp!  My laptop crapped out, and the IT department had to restart it and put in some nerdy reset code.  I lost an Action Plan I’d just written, some notes for this blog, actually. And, the kicker: I lost the beginning of the chapter that I had been in the middle of writing, and which I last blogged about.  I remember the vibe of what I wrote, but I was so in the zone, and there’s no re-creating exactly what I wrote.  Of course, this is a hard-learned lesson about always saving your work, and frequently, at that.  I’m sure Sun is shaking her head at me right now, saying, “You know, Diana, if you just used Google Docs, it automatically saves it for you…”  Yes.  [sigh] I know.  😒

So, for most of yesterday, I was trying to re-create the magic I’d written a few days ago.  I know it isn’t exactly the same, but it was sort of a blessing in disguise, a “happy little accident” like the great Bob Ross would have said.  What I wound up writing was, of course, different than the first iteration, but it also has a nice direction that I’m pleased with, and what I thought would be a simple intro to a chapter wound up taking on more life the second time around.  It gives more life to the relationship between two characters, and I think it also adds to my thesis project in the sense that it is about reconciling the past and the future, and processing traumas. So, I’m happy, albeit slightly annoyed, that it panned out this way. (And I’m ECSTATIC that my whole body of work was not wiped out!)

And I’m certainly pleased with how much I’ve generated, just trying to reclaim what was lost when my laptop bugged out.  One of my main concerns was whether or not this project, the creative side of it, I mean, would be completed, or “enough” by the due date.  I can say that I’m happy with the body of work I’ve generated thus far, and I think it’s becoming substantial enough to satisfy my own personal standards, so that’s a plus.

Looking at this weekend, I know Friday and Saturday will be busy for me, as far as the kids and their activities.  (They have a ceramics class Friday evening, then Saturday’s opening weekend for Clark softball, and there’s a parade, a game, and an Easter egg hunt, plus Palm Sunday.)  But I do want to add a bit to my research proposal/introduction as well, so that’s my next goal before Monday’s class, so I can present that all out to you.  I also have tomorrow and Monday to print out materials for everyone for my presentation of the work in progress, and get all that set up.  

A Breath of Fresh Air

It’s amazing how productive I can be when I can, you know, breathe!  Thankfully, and with the help of a little albuterol, I can once again breathe and talk.  So I can work.  And write.  This week, I was able to start Part III of my creative work, and I took a little detour in the story.  I was feeling like my main character needed, well, a breath of fresh air.  As did I. So, I took her outside the main setting, and focused on a lot of the imagery I found around myself.  I needed to switch up the setting, and really set my character up for her descent, and it seemed like a needed pace interruption in the plot.

At home, this week, I planted flowers, cold-loving pansies; I love their little “faces,” or at least that’s what they look like to me. It’s an activity I love doing every spring.  (That is, when I’m not debilitated by crippling, evil, stupid allergies.  And stupid they are!  I can see a body reacting to actual germs.  Foreign invaders.  But pollen.  Really?!?) Although it did get me thinking about the things we react to, and whether our reactions are justified, or some crazy overreaction.  In terms of my thesis project, I think it’s also a little exposure therapy.  Thinking about difficult moments to come, and preparing for them slowly, little by little.  That way, when the real thing happens, the reaction won’t be so debilitating. 

As a plan for this upcoming week, I’d like to build on the direction my thesis project is going, creatively.  I’d like to focus on developing some minor characters, like the mother.  (Yes, my mom is at it again, flaking out on important things, like she always does…)  So, I’m going to channel a lot of that frustration, and an impending, inevitable argument, into the creative work, to see how it pans out.  And aside from that, I also really want to focus on shoring up the research end of this piece, for my work in progress presentation next week, as well as the final deadline (which I can’t believe is approaching as quickly as it is!).

Re-calibrating What a “Me Day” Means

Well, this week has been a total bust for me.  Since leaving class on Monday evening, I literally haven’t stopped!  

What have I been doing?  Between CCD, church meetings, softball practices, online webinars and focus groups, a belated birthday dinner with a friend, and, of course, work, I literally didn’t have a moment of free time.  Except for Thursday.  I scheduled a physical on Thursday, for me and for my dad.  And a teeth-cleaning for me.  All while suffering from an acute and horrible bout of what I assume must be seasonal allergies.  I’m congested, my sinuses are screaming from the pressure, and my throat is dry and scratchy.  My eyes ache and feel like they’re going to pop out of my head.  I even got a covid test at Kean, where I ran into Sun, just to be on the safe side! (Negative, FYI, so definitely just allergies) So, I’m just drinking a lot of tea and taking a lot of Advil Cold & Sinus (the good stuff you can make meth out of, that you have to show ID for!) and eating raw, local honey on toast.  And as I write this, I also have to get ready to get my taxes done.  Joy. And that’s before tomorrow’s softball skills clinic, after church (Apparently, they will be taking attendance! That’s what the meeting was about!). Oh, and an ultrasound of my thyroid on Monday. Because that’s just what I need in my life.  So, that’s what I have been doing. 

Not something to do on a “Me Day.”

Which naturally begs the question: What have I not been doing?  The answer is a lot less complicated.  I have not been working on my thesis this week.

And the whole point of this blog, while probably a rambling rant about why I’ve been so unproductive this week, is to comment on the idea of self-care.  I think, at times, I run myself ragged trying to keep up with all the demands of work, school, friendships, motherhood, and running a household.  When I ran into Sun on campus on Thursday, something she said resonated with me.  I told her I was running errands, and had a physical and a teeth-cleaning. 

 My wording was “Having a ‘me’ day.” 

 And she replied, “That’s not a ‘me’ day, Diana.” 

 I thought about that a lot yesterday, and she’s absolutely right.  How did I get to the point where taking a sick day off of work because I could no longer put off my own actual, physical, and medical health needs was considered a “me day”?!  “Me Days” should be for pampering, relaxing.  Getting a massage or a pedi, lunch with a girlfriend, sleeping in.  Not routine bloodwork and a trip to the dentist!  I’ve lost my damn mind!  So, thank you, Sun, for re-calibrating me and my outlook on self-care.  I needed that. 

Ebb and Flow, and Riding the Creative Wave

Kudos to Jesse for sharing her great story!  I got so many pointers for formatting my own work and what I need to make my final product look like, and I have to say that it really gave me a great sense of forward momentum.  I was beginning to have a bit of “imposter syndrome” creep in, looking at my puny forty-ish pages, but once I saw what the product looked like in a different format, I felt much more validated that my work was, in fact, substantial.  I also paid closer attention to putting the work together in a way that looks more “book-ish,” that is, laid out like a proper novel.  I made some creative decisions and added some images that I originally wanted to include with each chapter heading, so that made me feel much more validated, too.

(As a side note on reflecting on this topic of “belonging,” I think last week’s scheduling conflict with the room was indicative of a lot.  Who has the right to certain spaces, academically and professionally?  To what extend should we be vocal in laying claim to that to which we are rightfully entitled?  And to what extent to age, race, perceived social status, and position of authority play a part in this interaction?  When does an interaction become “disrespectful” and from whose perspective is that measured?  I’m not commenting specifically on last week’s incident, but it just got me thinking about how we constantly have to navigate these social nuances, and how affected they are by a myriad of social dynamics.)

But back to my thesis.  I’ve already finished another chapter, and I’m eager to start my “descent” into Part III.  I purposely crafted the ending of Part II to leave my main character off on a high point, emotionally.  A place where she thinks she’s good.  I think it’s all the more effective at making the fall for her, emotionally, more powerful.  I’ll be reviewing the “Hero’s Journey” model for this part of the story, as I really want to capture that sort of cycle as a way to organize my character’s path through the space.  And, I suppose I’ll have to include that in my research as well.  But not just yet.  

If there’s anything I’ve learned in this program, it’s to respect the rhythms of things. That there is a natural ebb and flow to the energies in our lives. Our creative energies. Our personal energies. Our professional energies. These things come in waves, and they also go in waves. I’m in the mode this week where I’m surfing the creative wave of my thesis, and I have a feeling that the more ‘research-y” work is going to ebb as the creative piece seems to be flowing.  And that’s okay. 

Springing Ahead

I’ll keep this one short and sweet:

I’m feeling pretty good right now about the direction of my thesis project. I just finished up chapter 6, which is the one I may use for my Work in Progress presentation, and I feel pretty good about it.  Although Kean was technically on Spring Break, as a working teacher, I, obviously, was not. So, I took last week to actually take a mini- “spring break” from my project, and focus on work, which has been crazy.  Between State testing requirements, and curriculum writing, and PD workshops, I haven’t had much free time anyway, so having one week to not think about my project actually had a refreshing effect on me.  I vegged out, binge watched And Just Like That, and caught up on housework.  

As far as developments in my project, I was actually very productive this week.  We had an SEL Day (for social and emotional learning) and I decided to use that time to get a nice chunk of work done, for my own emotional wellbeing.  I’ve decided to use chapter 6 to disclose some key information for the readers about what I’d been foreshadowing.  I’m about 40 pages in, and I think it was time to make that explicit for the reader.  I also used this chapter as a way to process some anxiety that I experienced with my sister, regarding cleaning out my dad’s house.  I took some conversations we had, and condensed them into a scene for my project, as a way to inject some more dialogue into the work.  

I also took some inspiration from my research into pathography to give (hopefully) some direction to this chapter.  Aside from that, I don’t want to give too much away, since I’m probably going to be presenting this chapter for feedback from the class.  

I also ordered my regalia and took my final personal day of the year for graduation, which is something I very much look forward to.  So this weekend, when our clocks spring ahead (on my birthday, actually), I feel like I’m springing ahead with them!  🙂

The Snooze Button Has Been Hit

This week was definitely a much-needed reset.  As much as I have been feeling really productive in class, I also really enjoyed the day off.  It was a truly relaxing President’s Day with my family.  (I’m really liking the 4-day work week, too!  Why don’t we do this regularly?)  There were positive signs all around, from the pleasantly warm and springlike weather, to seeing robins on my front lawn, and daffodils beginning to pop up through the soil.  My mood was definitely improved, and I felt a wave of optimism about the upcoming season.

There was also a pleasant distraction this week from the developments in my story, since my younger brother officially tied the knot!  Congrats Anth and Mel!

But, I have to admit that I had less “working time” on my project as a result, since having the designated time and space in which to work has really opened up a new avenue as far as my ability to get schoolwork done.  I mainly focused on getting my “work work” done, and setting up my lesson plans so that they will pretty much be on auto-pilot for the next few weeks.  I have to admit, I had a mild moment of panic, though, last Monday, when I thought a blog was due, but thankfully, it was a false alarm!  I was relieved because, at that point, I really had nothing to show for my week.  

This week, not much time was spent on my actual narrative, nor was it spent on writing my foreword or lit review (although I did do a lot of thinking about it).  However, the week wasn’t a total bust, since there were some dramatic developments which I journaled about that might become/inspire/inform some side-stories or tangents to my main plot, to further develop the relationships between my protagonist and her husband, as well as with her sister.  I also had a sort of funny conversation at work (debating how many spaces go after a period, which, since I swore it was two, means I’m definitely over 40!) that I think can make its way into the narrative, since I’m looking for “moments of lightness” to incorporate into the piece.  And even if they only wind up on the cutting room floor, so to speak, I think it was still a worthwhile exercise in the therapeutic power of writing, as it relates to my thesis and to the development of speculative memoir as a genre.  It helped me to navigate two tricky conversations this week, and better prepare me for what seemed like inevitable conversations.  

Though now, my 9-minute snooze is up! I’m looking forward to getting back into a groove, and to hear more of what I’m sure will be Susan’s beautiful writing.  

My 3 Roads

This week’s session with Craig was actually very productive.  I was able to use the search strategies he suggested to really narrow down my queries and find very relevant articles that were particularly relevant to my thesis topic.  I found three great sources, which doesn’t sound like much, but adding to my additional 4, it almost doubled my current Literature Review.  That progress made me feel very relieved, and gave me a sense of momentum with regards to this project.

I was surprised at how little information I found about speculative fiction and speculative memoir, but I suppose this is where I can make the biggest contribution. I also gained exposure to another term I had no idea even existed: pathography. It’s the literary study of a person’s life as they go through the course of a disease. Framing my narrative in this way will help give form to how Alzheimer’s disease will play into the plot of the story, as well as the character development of the father figure.

I also didn’t realize, until I read Dr. Zamora’s notes, that many of the ideas I expressed and articulated in last week’s blog should probably be represented in the Foreword that’s emerging out of my Research Proposal.  So, I’ve done a little work this week incorporating those ideas into that document, which also gives me a sense of progress.  

Making progress on these two fronts has been a great shift from last semester, when I was really thrown into the creative piece, but with everything going on with my actual father, I don’t’ really have the emotional energy to work on moving the narrative piece along.  So having these other two areas to refocus attention on has allowed me to continue being productive, while not draining me.  And I now have a clearer vision of what my final project submission will look like: a 3-piece project consisting of a Foreword (a Research Proposal outlining my academic contributions and my redefinition of speculative memoir as a genre), a Narrative Story (the actual speculative memoir), and a Literature Review (an annotated bibliography of sources that have informed and influenced my academic work). 

Seeing my path forward not as a singular road, but more like three forking roads, is very helpful in visualizing where I can forge forward, and where I should tread lightly…