A capstone event for the Department of English this summer was the 2014 Ocean State Summer Writing Conference, hosted from June 19-21. Regional and national writers, both novice and seasoned, gathered at URI to study writing and to share their own works with fellow scholars.
On the morning of the first day, attendees found themselves in two-hour-long, rigorous workshop sessions. From beginning fiction to advanced poetry, memoir writing to screen writing, OSSWC offered workshops in various genres, giving participants the chance to work closely with experienced workshop leaders and fellow writers. In the afternoon, conference-goers attended a welcome reception in Green Hall. After remarks by URI creative writing faculty Professor Peter Covino and URI English alumnus, Thomas Barkman, participants enjoyed readings by brilliant writers. Continue reading “OSSWC in Three Words: Eclectic, Professional, and Friendly”
I had a chance to catch up with Anna Brecke, a Ph.D. candidate focusing on Victorian Studies. Anna has recently co-founded the Mary Elizabeth Braddon Association and I wanted to hear more about how this organization came into being. Here’s the result of our interview.
Q: Congratulations on co-founding the Mary Elizabeth Braddon Association! How many members do you currently have and where are they from?
AB: When Dr. Janine Hatter and I launched the organization last year, it was what you would call a soft launch. We started with just a concept, an email address, and a twitter feed. So right now, I think we have around 20-25 interested parties, mostly from the US, UK and Australia, who’ve joined a mailing list and are getting involved with the organization. This July we held an inaugural meeting at the Victorian Popular Fiction Association conference.
In Rachel May’s courses, students don’t just learn about writers’ work, they meet writers.
Over the past few years as a graduate student instructor in URI’s Department of English, May has arranged to have her literature and creative writing students speak with Jody Lisberger about her short stories; with Kristin Prevallet, David McGlynn, and Nancy Caronia about their nonfiction; and with M. NourbeSe Philip about her poetry.
This pedagogical practice brings her students in touch with writers, a choice that is important to her because, she says, students “don’t always see writers as real people and then when they speak with the writer they have a new perception of the work and what it means to be a writer. This is a regular person who wrote that book and that could be them.”
In her first semester at URI, Kara Watts enrolled in a modernism course with Professor Jean Walton, and it was here that an idea began to hatch when she read an excerpt of Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage. When we talked, Kara recalled that she hadn’t encountered Richardson before, but was immediately intrigued. Professor Walton recommended some useful resources to get started, and while Richardson’s work continued to interest her, Kara eventually decided to cut her work on Pilgrimage for the course’s culminating paper.
[br] Remember, though, that this is a story about good work developing over time. It is also a story of how great work sometimes emerges from the waste basket. With her seminar paper submitted, Kara returned to the ideas that had originally so interested her in Richardson’s work. In particular, she continued to think about modernist conceptions of accumulation, everyday life, everyday habits, and the impulse she saw for modernists to accumulate “stuff.” While this accumulation doesn’t necessarily lead to connections, it did lead to collections, and this is especially prominent in Richardson’s work. Reading Pilgrimage evoked questions, such as: Is Richardson’s text faulty for these mundane masses of objects, risking alienating readers, like Mansfield, with assaults of “stuff”? Or, does this textual excess exhibit something else – a model of readership, an economic model of consciousness – that pushes these accumulations to the fore?
April 2-6, 2014, marked the 45th annual conference of the Northeast Modern Languages Association, held in Harrisburg, PA. Founded in 1967 and incorporated as part of the national MLA in 1969, NeMLA is a professional organization for English and Languages serving the northeast region of the US. The majority of NeMLA members are professors and graduate students from this region. This year, sixteen URI English department professors, alumni and graduate students participated in the conference as presenters, session organizers and session chairs.
Veteran NeMLA participant and current URI Ph.D. candidate Sara Murphy remarks, “As someone who [has] worked as a NeMLA fellow and has now presented at her third consecutive NeMLA conference, I can’t overemphasize what an important role this organization and conference has [had] in my academic life. Interacting with our current and former colleagues made the experience both professionally beneficial and personally pleasurable!” Murphy went on to highlight the level of involvement URI has had with the conference: “Not only is it a pleasure to present my scholarly research in a rigorous professional forum, but also, it’s a pleasure to have a space to reconnect with so many URI alumni and current graduate students.” Participating in events held by organizations like NeMLA provides graduate students the opportunity to showcase their own research and to network with scholars in their field from other institutions.
Visitors to CFPList.com, the call for papers website run by URI English Ph.D. students Derick Ariyam and Michael Becker, will find a clean, innovative way to search calls for papers, conference information, writing awards, and calls for chapters and articles. The site’s organization and streamlined, user-friendly interface distinguishes it from other CFP sites. On it, scholars can search by the three criteria Becker and Ariyam use to structure the site: time (date), location, and topic. Ariyam and Becker saw the need for an easily navigable CFP database that was designed differently. As for that clean look, Ariyam explains, “To begin, I wanted a minimalist aesthetic that would allow people to see key things, like dates, right away. I wanted it to be responsive and quick.” Becker adds that he was blown away by the prototype’s clean style because he “had this idea of what the tools could be like, but hadn’t yet given much thought to the minimalist, organized, readable structure of the site. We talked about the color choices—green, purple, and orange—for the color-coding of the standardization of the site.”
This past spring, I was invited to Bryant University in Boston as part of the school’s events for National Poetry Month. With the help of another creative writer, Maria Anderson, I provided poems for any passer-by with the gumption to request one— they submitted a topic and I generated material. Poetry on demand: sitting at a typewriter, which was projected on a television screen, I cranked out poems (in triplicate) for four hours, with the clatter of keys resounding in the rotunda. Passing periods between classes were exceptionally busy and some of what was written includes: poems on dogs and sports; love poems for sisters, mothers, grandmothers, and lovers; and a sonnet on the subject of Greek Week. Bryant University was exceptionally hospitable and continued events through April (National Poetry Month), gearing up for a celebration of the 15th anniversary of The Bryant Literary Review, an annual publication of poetry and fiction. The Bryant Literary Review was founded by poet, Dean David Lux. I wrote on a Smith-Corona.
If the job market for tenure-track positions seems daunting, that’s because it is. I am not saying landing a job is impossible– I am saying we all know what the reality is, and it is a bit scary. But that does not mean the nay-sayers, the “what are you going to do with that?” crowd, can go on feeling smug about post-graduate degrees in the humanities. Of course, being in a graduate program in English means there is a good chance you have heard this all before, that you have done the research, that you have plugged your ears against the doubters and made the choice to follow your passion anyway. A degree in English is worth a lot more than just a job at the end of the line. But it is nice to eat, too. So, maybe there is a way to reconcile your passion with reality. I am definitely not saying there isn’t the chance for a tenure-track teaching position at the institution of your dreams; I am saying, do not be afraid to keep all options open.
This past January, Ph.D. candidate Rachel May celebrated the publication of her first book, Quilting with a Modern Slant: People, Patterns, and Techniques Inspiring the Modern Quilting Community.
An exciting and valuable resource for quilters and potential quilters alike, Rachel’s book opens with instructions for making a quilt that even beginners will feel confident following. An illustrated, easy-to-follow, how-to guide, “Six Steps to a Quilt” introduces many tips, tutorials, and offers advice for quilters of all skill levels. Sections of the book discuss quilting in connection to history, politics, and sociopolitical issues surrounding a number of topics, such as domesticity and quilting’s gendered history.
Few things strike fear into the hearts of many graduate students quite like the prospect of entering into the academic job market. People tend to cope with the looming future in their own unique ways: denial, anger, depression—really any of the five stages of grief apply here. However, one of our own success stories, Tim Amidon, has conquered the job market quite handily, recently landing his dream position at Colorado State University. Tim generously agreed to pass some of his wisdom and advice on to us.
Create a marketable identity: Tim urges graduate students to strive to be both well rounded AND specialized. We all know that our work must be stellar and conferencing is a must, but to enhance future marketability Tim stresses the importance of getting involved here on campus through service and organizations. Also, consider how you can shape your professional identity on a national scale through workshops, publishing, and other professional opportunities. These experiences will boost your marketability and they will also offer the chance to forge vital connections. According to Tim, “Do everything you do well, but do something exceptionally.”