Sunday, December 31, 2006

On the Eve of the New Year

Hello! It's been so long!

Well, I sit here on New Year's Eve, having returned from the MLA, having returned home from my parents' house, with my sweet little Man-Kitty having an evening snack behind me as I type, and I thought since I've barely written since the end of the semester that it's only appropriate that I write here now.

Since returning to the Lair of Crazy, I have...

1) Celebrated the new year with a delicious dinner of Chinese food. (I actually got not one but two fortune cookies - which must be a sign of something - and they read, "When one door closes, another will open," and "You will be successful through innovation and determination," which I think are auspicious fortunes for looking ahead into the new year.)

2) Watched The DaVinci Code (which is not nearly as horrible as I'd imagined it would be, though I will say that I still think that the protagonist should have been played by someone hotter than Tom Hanks).

3) Composed five resolutions for the new year (some of which are extensions of last year's resolutions, but at least one of which is brand new - perhaps more on this at another time).

4) Had some excellent quality alone-time with the Man-Kitty (who was not at ALL happy to leave his grandparents' house on this gloomy and rainy day).

5) Considered whether it's lame that I'm home alone on New Year's Eve (which I've decided it is not).

MLA was exhilerating and exhausting. The interviewing went as well as I could have hoped for - or at least I thought that I did my best - so now it's just a matter of whether they were totally wowed by candidates other than myself or whether they found me charming and enchanting and smart and all of those things. The funny thing is, I do feel this process of "going on the market" has now reached a satisfactory conclusion. I do realize that it may not be entirely over (should the gods smile on me in the form of an invitation for a campus visit), but for me, this is really where the "going on the market" ends - because I've done all that I can do now, if that makes any sense. I feel really good that I was invited to interview, and I feel like I performed as well as I possibly could have performed, and really, what more can I ask for than that? And so, whatever the verdict is, I feel like I've had a positive experience, which is, in the end, the best possible feeling that one can have in relation to an academic job search. This isn't to say that I won't be disappointed should nothing more come of my attempt, but I won't be devastated, as I fear I may have been had I not made it to the MLA stage at any of the institutions to which I applied. I've learned so much from doing this at this particular point in my career. I feel like I've had the chance really to think about who I've become as a scholar, and I feel really proud of myself in a way that I'm not sure I would have done were I not to have made this attempt. So, shall Dr. Crazy remain at her current institution? Have a chance to move on to another one? At this point, there's no way to know, but even if I do end up exactly where I am right now at the end of all of this, I do feel like I've gotten something positive out of the whole shebang. I think that I see myself more clearly as an academic, and that's not always such an easy thing to do. But at any rate, this is all a long way of saying that I'm not sure how much more I'll write about the process in detail from this point forward. Of course I'll let you all know if I move or not, should it come to that, but I don't feel like it's appropriate to reveal everything from this point forward, should there be an "everything" to reveal. That said, you've all been so supportive throughout this ordeal, and I want to say thanks. It really has meant a great deal to me.

So anyway, back to MLA. As per usual, the bulk of my time was spent socializing. However, there were some key differences to my socializing during this particular MLA. To sum up:

1) My dissertation director actually asked me to send him something that I've been working on because he thinks it might help with his own work. This has never happened before. I think he might actually think I'm not a loser. I hope that this doesn't have a negative effect on my ability to be an academic, as I've always held him up as the Monster Whom I Can Never Please. What shall I do if he actually thinks I'm not an idiot? I hope I can count on him not to respond in any way when I send the stuff along, thus I can go back to thinking that he does think I'm an idiot and do my work in masochistic peace, trying to please the Unpleasable Monster (who really is a wonderful person, but you know, I've got a thing where I need for him not to be wonderful to me, even though he often is).

2) The Scariest Professor I Ever Had in Grad School (not my adviser, actually) and I had a conversation and he was very complimentary, and I enjoyed talking to him and felt comfortable and not like a crazy imposter. Maybe he doesn't think I'm a loser either?

3) I actually introduced myself as "Dr. Crazy" to some people. That was certainly strange. Not bad, but not normal. I certainly hope nobody overheard.

4) Following on #3, I met a bunch of bloggy people! Mel and Horace and Scott Kauffman, and John Holbo, and Bitch Ph.D. and Flavia and Nels and Michael Berube and I hope I'm not leaving anybody out (and I'd link, but I'm lazy, so just head on over to the sidebar and you can find them all if you don't already read them) - just yay! Why was I always so freaked out by the prospect of blogger meet-ups before? They are such a great thing! Although I do wish I'd taken some pictures. I so suck at remembering to do such things unless the pictures I'm taking are of the illustrious Man-Kitty (whom I think has more fans than Dr. Crazy does).

5) For the first time ever I asked a question in the Q and A at an MLA panel. (So what if it was during the "Meet the Bloggers" panel and so I felt like it was a question I was asking of My People - still!)

Other than that, I also met some Fancy Esteemed People whom I'd never met before, reconnected with old and not-so-old friends, agreed to organize a panel for next year's MLA (so yes, I'll be there - start making your plans to be there now and there can be another meet-up - hurrah!), and got a blister on my left foot which really sucked.

But so now it's the eve of 2007 and I'm having some quality me-time in my own damned house without having to talk to anybody. Though I am feeling like I should call some people or something, as this whole New Year's plan is pretty anti-social. (If I'd stayed in Hometown, I could have hung with friends, but I just couldn't face not having any time to myself just to veg out before having to get my syllabi together, and so I totally blew off all my friends. I kind of suck.)

So anyway, I believe that is everything I've got for now. I'm sure I'll be writing much, much more in the coming days (if not hours) - I've been itching to blog and am so happy to be back in the land of the non-dial-up internet connection. Happy New Year, one and all! (Now it's time to go look at my bloglines. I've not looked at blogs since the 19th, so I suspect I've got a LOT of catching up to do.

ETA: I also met A White Bear!
(I link to her because she's not yet in the sidebar - must update that damned blogroll this week!)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Oh, and My Favorite Christmas Presents!

This year was a good year present-wise, although you'd not think it was since I totally didn't even think to talk about my presents in my last post. (Yes, I'm procrastinating again). ANYWAY, I got GREAT STUFF, even though my mom had claimed that she just "wrapped up a bunch of junk" and that she felt like I wouldn't like any of it. The reason, of course, that it was such a great Christmas is that my mom always gets me stuff I DON'T like usually (unless she asks me for a list) and so the fact that she thought everything sucked actually meant it was all totally awesome. So anyway, here are my favorite things of all my presents:

1. An old-fashioned recipe box. (This was something I asked for. My mom thought it was dumb - why not just xfer my recipes into my ipod or computer or whatever? And what about all those cookbooks I've got? Well, it turns out that my cookbooks are all turning totally disgusting from actually cooking with them, and I can imagine all of my electronic equipment would become similarly disgusting if I tried to use it while cooking. No, the old-fashioned recipe box will be AWESOME. When a recipe gets gross, I can just copy it out onto another card again and voila - no more nasty cookbooks or recipes or whatever.)

2. A Scrabble page-a-day calendar.

3. A gift card for Half-Price Books.

4. Corningwear baking dishes.

5. The movie Elf (which I really love).

6. New wine glasses (for I do enjoy a glass of wine, and I'm perpetually breaking wine glasses).

And then a bunch of other junk, some of which really was junk, like, for example, these weird shoe-polishing cloths. Maybe if I were another person I'd be into them, but I suspect I'll never use them. She also wrapped up some scented pot pourri stuff, but since I don't have a pot pourri burner, the gift fell a bit flat. Ah well, I did have a lot to open :)

Oh! And maybe my best presents! The Man-Kitty apparently phoned ahead to his grandma so that she would get some presents for me from him. (I know, too silly, but whatever.) The Man-Kitty got me a mug that says "Meow-y Christmas" with a drawing of a cat (love it) and a figurine (because apparently I now have a collection of figurines, even though I've never collected such things of my own accord. I've got both angel ones and non-angel ones, and other than the cat one, the others I've got all have to do with books and learning and things. Although I'm still not a figurine person - as I'm not a person who really believes in dusting - these are actually ok and I kind of like them).

Ok, so that's my conspicuous Christmas consumption post. Now I'm going to leave the internet (although it pains me to do so) and do some reading and then make delicious beef-barley-mushroom soup for my parents, because I'm the nicest child in the world (and we won't have anything decent to eat in the house if I don't do that because apparently they just don't cook here anymore).

Merry Christmas! Hello!

Ok, so I'm sitting here and I should be doing final interview preparations, but I thought I should check in to wish you all a happy holiday and say hello and give an update on my activities over the past almost-week. I shall do so in a random bullets fashion, as I can't really get it together to do a decent post at the moment.

  • So I didn't get on the road until 2:20 PM (the oil change took a hundred years because there was a line and then the kitty-cat had to get his nails done - we had a lot to do before we could get on the road - but I did make it to my mom's by 6 so that was cool.
  • Thursday I went shopping with my mom and I bought a fabulous dress winter coat (which I've needed for about two years) for half-price, visited my Aunt Rita (who told the FILTHIEST joke I've heard in a while - those whom I meet at the blogger meet-up may be lucky enough to hear it) and finished my Christmas shopping for my step-dad.
  • Friday I got sucked into going to the store to make fruit baskets (don't ask) and I ate out like fifteen times. Then Friday night I went over to one of my best friend's and we along with her sister (also a good friend of mine) drank COPIOUS amounts of wine and then went to sleep at 10:30 PM ( because we're not the girls we once were).
  • Saturday my friend and I woke up and went to breakfast, then I went home and went to brunch with my mom and my cousin, and then I went to dinner with another friend from high school and bought the last of the presents for my mom. Then my mom and I baked cupcakes and brownies and I made that breakfast casserole thing I made for my students a couple of weeks ago.
  • Christmas Eve my mom and I ate the delicious breakfast casserole, then we went to visit my aunt and her family and I got to meet my cousin's new baby. God, I love babies. And they really love me, if I do say so myself. Must have one of those sometime. Then my mom and I went to her cousin's house and we saw his mom (my great aunt) and the rest of the family. Then we went to my stepdad's sisters - were there until 1 AM - and then we went to my stepdad's brother's (yes, at 1 AM) and were there until 2:30.
  • Yesterday we didn't go anywhere, and I made a delicious roast and just hung out with my parents.
So yes, it's been a very nice visit, although a very busy one. So today I'll finish my MLA preparations, and tomorrow I'll go to Philadelphia. Whew!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Why am I such an ass?

What time did Dr. Crazy tell her mother she'd get on the road for her holiday visit?

12 noon.

What time is it now?


Things Dr. Crazy needs to do before she can get on the road?

  • Find her MLA jewelry, which she seems to have squirrelled away someplace.
  • Pack up the Man-Kitty and his many accessories.
  • Take the Man-Kitty to get his nails done.
  • Get oil change.
  • Find map of Philadelphia.
Dammit dammit dammit.

Update: All things done but oil-change and M-K related activities. I'm pretty impressed with myself (and I'd like to give a shout-out to St. Anthony, who once again came through for me with the finding of the lost items. I found the MLA jewelry and the map of Philadelphia in the SAME PLACE. That makes no sense, none at all. I totally believe in divine intervention. Or maybe this was a case of blogging the lost ala Profgrrrrl?). (In addition I also paid some bills.) Going to get oil-change now. I suspect I can be on the road by 1:30.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

MLA Blogger Meet-UP

If you contacted me about potentially meeting up at MLA, I just sent out an email about it to all of the people on my list. If you contacted me and you were not on the list, that is because I suck at organizing things, so you'll need to drop me an email or leave me a comment to this post. If you never contacted me, but you want to meet up with other like-minded folks for a drink at MLA, then you should either drop me an email or leave me a comment to this post so that I can put you on the email list.

[Today has been spent running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get ready for holiday and MLA travel. I can be surprisingly productive when I put my mind to it. It's really quite something.]

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wave! Hello! I'm Still Here!

Sorry for not writing much over the weekend - what with the sickness and the end of the semester and getting ready for the holidays and MLA, I've not really had much to report. Or, rather, anything I would report would be in the form of a random list of odds and ends, and I just haven't been in the mood for that. I'm thinking that I may take a wee holiday break from the blog just to recharge my blogging juices. I'm feeling so spent from the end of the semester and looking ahead to next semester that I just don't feel like writing here much. (This also may be related to the fact that I've been doing a lot of other kinds of writing, so I don't have much left over for the blog.) I did want to post, though, just to let you know that I'm alive, well (ish), and that I will blog something for real when I get the urge. The problem is that those urges are hard to predict when one is in re-charging mode.

(Watch now that I've posted about how I may be on a mini-hiatus I end up blogging like four times a day. I feel like that totally could happen.)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Listen All-a Y'all it's a SABOTAGE!

This just in: Somebody is "sabotaging" the English Literature job search wiki.

You'd think that I'm making this up, because why (really) would anybody bother? Is there some sort of pleasure to be derived in freaking out a bunch of already freaked out grad students and assistant professors?

Apparently, yes. But what's hilarious to me as I watch the escalating hysteria about the "sabotaged" wiki, is that nobody seems to think that anybody is putting misinformation on the thing. They basically trust that the wiki is the voice of Truth. The saboteur is in fact just being accused of deleting updated information. But why would a saboteur stop with deletion? Wouldn't it be more fun to tell people that interviews have been scheduled when they've not been scheduled, etc., so as to dash people's hopes, make them leave town and never check their messages, etc.? I mean, if I were a saboteur, this is what I'd do (and, let me state for the record that I am definitively NOT the vandal responsible for all of the chaos, nor would I do such a thing, but I'm not above thinking about it).

Now, my mom's been suspicious of this wiki all along, claiming that she thinks people would just tell lies on it. I thought she was being a bit paranoid, but now I'm thinking, hey, maybe my paranoid mom is on to something.

I suppose the point here is that it is clear to me that the wiki is just a way for people to focus their anxieties - whether for good or for ill. It really doesn't aid in one's own search at all, and I'd pretty much given up on the thing as being worth a damn anyway, because it doesn't really make the process transparent - rather, it creates an illusion of transparency, which I think is more dangerous than just acknowledging that it's not a transparent process.

I'd say more, but I'm drinking the echinacea tea and am feeling a bit cloudy. That said, am feeling better than yesterday, which is what happens when you sleep for about 16 hours over the course of a 24 hour period.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Still Not Done Grading

My annual Virus of the Holiday Season descended upon me full force today, one day before I was planning to accept the fact that I was sick. I did, in spite of this, manage to finish the grades for another class. Only one class to go. I plan to tackle this tomorrow morning.

As for now, I'm going to drink my Echinacea tea, moan, and watch What Not to Wear.

I hate the VotHS. It sucks.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Things That Make Dr. Crazy Happy

  1. My gorgeous, gorgeous new haircut/color. I have officially reverted to the hair that I had in 2002 when I went to MLA. Not sure what that means, but good hair is good hair. I should also note that I think I had this hair as well in 1986, 1992, 1995, and 1998. Apparently I have a "signature hairdo." Oh, except it is a teensy bit blonder now than it was in 2002 and 1998. But heck - I live in a place where people are a hell of a lot blonder than I am, and it really does suit me as my base color is a dirty blonde in winter.... Yeah anyway, I'm happy with my hair.
  2. Chai tea. Mmmmm.
  3. The fact that I'm done grading one class, nearly done grading class number two (only the finals left to tabulate) and on my way to being done-done-done with all grading by tomorrow night (I hope).
  4. The fact that I'm making good headway on preparations for MLA.
  5. Did I mention I expect to be done tomorrow?
  6. Oh, and Harry Potter. Harry Potter makes me very happy (am reading OotP again).
  7. Club sandwiches with french fries.
  8. Waitresses who call one "hon."
  9. The fact that I've yet to get ONE complaint about grades (although I'm sure some will come flying in as soon as I post this).
  10. That I'll see my mommy in less than a week! Hurrah!
  11. Oh, and the Man-Kitty. He doesn't like it when I leave him off of the Happy List.

It's 5:30 AM. Do You Know Where Your Professors Are?

Well, in the case of this one, I've been up for a half hour (thank you, Mr. Early Rising Man-Kitty) and looking around on the internet before I settle down to some early morning grading. I've got one class's grading finished (as in grades are posted and everything); I've got two more to go. (For remember, I've got that fancy course release this semester, so the end-of-term grading is less than it would be usually.) My aim is to have all final grades posted by tomorrow. This would mean that I have the weekend to relax, to do things like clean my house, to prepare for MLA, to prepare for the holiday visit to my hometown. Oh, and I also think I'll spend some of the weekend nursing a stupid cold, which I've clearly caught but which I'm ignoring right now because I have far too much to do to admit that I'm sick right now. It's not bad, but I have a bit of a cough and the sniffles. It is lame.

But so anyway, I will grade, and then I will go to school, and then I will go to the bank, and then I will go to get my hair cut, and then I should go to the gym though I'm not sure if I will, what with the fact that I'm sure to be tired and with the fact that I'm a little sick. I'm just really ready for my semester to be over. And the thing that is both great about finals week and not great about it is that I have the power to decide when the semester truly ends by finishing my grading. I just am having a very hard time motivating myself to grade the stack of papers that sits before me.

On an unrelated note, about five or six people have said they'd be interested in meeting up at MLA. If you'd be interested and haven't yet contacted me, drop me a note because I'm going to continue the planning of this off-blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Year in Review

I found this over at Notes, Recollections, Etc., and I thought to myself, "Self, you should do this meme! It is yet one more way not to do the work that you should be doing!" So here's the deal:
  1. Harken back to your archives.
  2. Collect the first sentence you wrote every month for the whole year.
  3. Entertain us.
January: "First, and before I get into the philosophy of this blogspace, welcome!" Because, of course, I moved to this address at the start of this year. So this is actually a blog-in-review meme for me, as well as being a year-in-review meme.

February: "After doing 30+ conferences in three days, I can barely string two words together." I should really stop doing this many conferences, yes? But the students really do get a lot out of them....

March: "I mean, yes, professionally, it is a deal-breaker for me." Which is my answer to the title question: "Is functional illiteracy a deal-breaker for me?" Clearly this was a post related to my foray into the world of online-dating.

April: "Yes, it's true: I have finished the Article."

May: "Yes, I had to get the "Professor of the Year" post off the top, even though I'm still really over the moon about the whole thing." In which I babble so as not to have a self-congratulatory post at the top of my blog. Even though, of course, I continued to congratulate myself about it in the first sentence of the non-self-congratulatory post.

June: "Ok, so before I get to the why of it all (for there is a why of it, and it's a lame why) here's what I've been doing" In which I explain why I've not been blogging regularly.

July: "Why is it that some grown women - particularly (at least from my observations in various airports and shopping districts around the country) women who aren't, shall we say, petite (and I would put myself into that category, because I'm not petite at all) - think that dressing like a five year old will make them appear "feminine"?" A question for the ages.

August: "I've decided for this Reading for Pleasure Wednesday to mine the vault that is my brain to talk about some books that I loved as a kid." Remember my whole RfP invention? Wow, have I dropped the ball on THAT. Ah well. The best-laid plans, etc.

September: "I've been thinking a lot about this practice of corresponding lately, in part because I do so much of it." In which I write a boring and opaque post about corresponding with people. You know, this meme is actually showing me that I'm a pretty boring blogger. Sorry for that.

October: "Notice that this is just the draft, but still!" In which I talk about completing the draft of my Book Proposal. Oh, and I got another rejection, very close to as nice as the first. Jury's still out on the last publisher, but I'm choosing not to worry about it until I get that third rejection. Then I'll revisit the proposal and send it to three more. This seems like a sensible course to take with this, and I'm not terribly stressed out by it. Also, a funny thing about me is that I'm not terrible with handling rejection. Criticism I hate, but outright rejection? Yeah, I can get over it pretty quickly. Not sure what that says about me.

November: "I think it's done." The book proposal, that is. I'm so fucking boring. Why do you people read my blog? Or maybe it's just that I'm boring at the beginning of the month? I hope that's the case.

December: "I realize I've not really posted in a few days...." In which I apologize for not posting and go on in a very boring fashion about all of the work I have to do.

Ok, so this exercise has shown me a number of things: 1) I whine a lot on my blog; 2) I'm very obsessed with work things on my blog; 3) I am not very interesting, at least at the beginning of the month.

However, at least we see that this has been a year that's been about work. Maybe one of my resolutions will be to make 2007 less about work? We shall see.

To lighten the somber mood of this post, might I also add that I made a hair appt. for tomorrow (yay! I so need a haircut!), my regular hair person had her baby (yay! babies! though also boo! Will have to go to a replacement person for this haircut! Very dangerous!) and I also have been working through my list of other appts. I need to make (doctor, dentist, veterinarian, etc.). I am very productive even when I'm boring and I procrastinate! Hurrah!

Grrr is for Grading

In the pile:

essays from my first-year composition students.
essays from my survey students.
finals from my upper-level students.

I'll get another batch of finals tomorrow.

Oh, and I've got to do the final grade tabulating.

This is NOT that much.

So why don't I want to do it? Why do I want to procrastinate until the last possible moment? Why?

Monday, December 11, 2006

More Weird Things about Searching While T-T

In our second year on the t-t, BFF sent out a few applications, and she got an interview at a Dream Job. I went for a drink with her immediately after said interview, and she knew, with implacable certainty, even in that close proximity to the interview, that she'd blown it. And this wasn't just angst talking - she really knew it. She said to me, at the time, that she'd forgotten how to think since beginning (at the same time that I did) at our current institution.

Of course, I said all the things you're supposed to say to a friend who tells you that. And then she recounted the interview to me in detail, and I said, "Wow. That really sucks. Let me buy your drink."

So flash forward to this evening. I've been working on preparing for my interview (rather than grading, natch). (Aside: Can I just tell you how much better I feel now that I'm no longer waiting? I'm so much better with controllable things, like going on the internet and finding lists of potential MLA interview questions and then typing out answers to all of them. Lest you think I'm insane, this is exactly what I did when I went on the market the first time, and I maintain that it is not procrastination but really quite good practice. You type them all out, and then you print them out and take them with you, and you read them over and over again - almost but not quite memorizing them, as if you memorized you'd sound like a fool - and really, it makes interviewing much more relaxing.)

So yes, I've been preparing for my interview by coming up with answers for potential MLA interview questions, and I think for the first time that I understand BFF's position at that Dream Job Interview That Went Awry. I'm finding it incredibly easy to answer questions that relate to teaching, that relate to institution, even the dreaded, "why do you want to leave your job," etc., but when it comes to the research questions, I find myself confused. And I've been an active researcher. And I've been through this before. This should be no problem, right?

I mean, last time out, when I was still finishing my dissertation, my experience was exactly opposite of this one, even though I'd done much less research-wise. I felt like I was bull-shitting the teaching stuff, and the research stuff came easily. "What theorists have most influenced your work?" No problem! "What critics do you engage and how does your work differ from theirs?" Easy as pie! "What is the intervention that you make in your field?" Child's play!

Strangely, these are now the questions that seem most opaque to me. In spite of the fact that I'm more respected now as a researcher, I have much more engagement with research in my field on a much broader scope, and I have more familiarity with what institutions seek when they look at somebody's research.

On the one hand, I think the problem is one of knowing too much. Last time, I was so green. I actually had utter confidence in my research the last time out - maybe because I had more experience with that than I did with teaching in my field - I don't know. Now, I've got a much clearer sense of the significance (or insignificance) of my research. I'm not saying that to be self-deprecating - it's just, well, I know that I'm not (yet) some sort of high-flyer. When I was in grad school, well, we were all made to feel like we were high-flyers or potential high-flyers or like we should be high-flyers. All of that can lead to utter confidence.

(Aside: this also explains a lot to me about some of my cohort from grad school who have as yet been unsuccessful on the market. They haven't figured out who they are yet - they still believe the hype. Apparently, though, nobody else is believing it, and that's not a recipe for happiness.)

On the other hand, what if I've forgotten how to think since I got this job?

Ok, so that's not true, and I know it. But I have forgotten the language of this stuff. (This was also something I realized when I attended a panel at MLA last year with people from my grad institution. I mean, I found it hard to pay attention, let alone to understand what the hell they were talking about.) Nobody at my current university has ever wondered what theorists I use in my work. I mean, hell, some of my colleagues don't even have active research agendas. (I'm not judging that - it's just a fact.) At my institution, a publication in a top-notch journal gets exactly the same praise as an encyclopedia entry. No distinctions are made, and no questions are asked. Any publication is good publication. Any presentation at any conference is as good as another. On the one hand, this has been very liberating for me as a scholar. I think I've come into my own here precisely because nobody gives a crap about what I do. I've been, dare I say it, "free." (Except from the voice of my dissertation director in my head, but that's my own issue, right?) But my point here is that people are happy here if I just do something and they don't necessarily have any interest in knowing the ins and outs of it. At my grad institution, people were always quizzing one about the ins and outs of one's work, and thus, one was quite prepared for being quizzed about such things on the job market. (No, this did not make for a "pleasant" or "enriching" grad school experience. But it did train me well.) And now, as I try to write answers to these questions, I'm rusty.

Add to this the less practical issue that I don't think that my research fits into easily categorizable terms. (I know, everybody probably thinks this, but just stay with me for a second on this one.) One of the things that this "liberation" from quizzing has resulted in is that I've tended to branch out a bit in my approach to the combination of theory and literature, and what that means is that I can no longer consider myself a Theoristian. When I went on the market the first time, I was a Theoristian. Period. Sure, I nodded at other theorists, but they didn't make a crucial difference to my work. Now, the closest I can come to a One Thing I Am answer is a Not-Derridian, and that's not particularly useful. The thing that I think is most interesting about the work that I do is the odd combinations of theory that I use in order to read the texts that I study. (Incidentally, I'm not using odd combinations on purpose; I use the combinations I use because I think they are - well - the most useful for the questions that I ask. They don't seem "odd" until others comment on their "oddness" to me.) I suppose I'll figure it out. At any rate, at least I'm thinking about this stuff now, even if I've not thought about it since grad school, so I won't be blind-sided if they ask me these sorts of questions.

In contrast, the answering of the teaching questions is CAKE. How do I teach a survey? Well, given the fact that I've been teaching it consistently since 2003, I've got lots of answers for that. How would I teach an upper-level course in my field? Well, let me tell you about the three I've taught most recently. How do my research and teaching influence one another? I could go on and on.

So we'll see how I do. But I wanted to post about this because it's been a revelation. I never realized the way that teaching would dominate once I started working in this field. But it does, at least at my kind of institution. It's not that one stops researching, but one does stop thinking about it in the same ways. And one stops (at least in my case) talking about research in the ways the one did in graduate school. I don't think that this is a bad thing, actually. It's actually probably a pretty good thing. Just not good for the job search.

Aw Yeah, Aw Yeah!

(I'm not sure how to make the above sound in writing like the hip-hop refrain it's supposed to sound like as I dance around my house, but it's the only appropriate title for what I'm about to reveal.)

I got a call.

From a department.

I am not a loser.

I have an interview!

(Incidentally, I feel a little sick, which may be nerves, may be the fact that I, while not an emotional eater, am an impatient eater, and so I've been enjoying delicacies like pillsbury cinammon rolls, pistachio icecream, etc, or may be that HOLY FUCKING SHIT I'VE GOT TO PREPARE FOR AN INTERVIEW NOW!!! I also wonder how I'm going to make myself grade in light of this development.)

And this reminds me. We need to schedule the blogger meet-up. I imagine this will be a total hassle, as everybody probably has a ton of junk they'll need to be doing all throughout MLA. My thought is that we should do it on the night of the 29th at like 8 PM or something and then we can all roll into the blogging panel hung over, or perhaps still drunk, and heckle the panelists (just kidding - kind of :) - hee!) Perhaps everybody who's interested in doing a meet-up should send me an email at reassignedtime [at] yahoo [dot] com and then we can coordinate schedules? Yes? (By the way, I suck at organizing this sort of shit, although I do love socializing, so if ANYBODY wants to take over the organizational onus of this I would be willing to buy that person a drink at the meet-up..... Otherwise, I'll expect every single one of you to buy me a drink! So there!)

(Dr. Crazy is giddy and a little bit freaked out.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Academic Rhythms and a Much More Relaxed Crazy

Why is it that I can never remember that the moment that the end of the regular semester is over I achieve a state of calm tranquility and happiness? This has been true since I was an undergraduate. Sure, there are a lot of things to be done in that final week, but one's time becomes more one's own, one can procrastinate and stay up late to catch up if one wants to without necessarily having to pay for it as one would during the regular semester - it is bliss, I tell you, bliss.

Since Friday, I have:

1) Had a great conversation with my step-dad, which improved my mood immensely related to the job search. His theory is that the Man-Kitty is controlling my job search with his mind because he doesn't want to move. You've got to imagine a man with a very thick middle-eastern accent, who is generally very no-nonsense, coming out with this theory after I've been going on and on about how stressed out I am. It totally made me feel better. I also think it might be true. You all might also be interested to know that as soon as the M-K realized to whom I was talking on the phone, he leapt to my ear, meowed loudly, and began to purr and nuzzle the part of the phone where the voice of the other person comes out. It is so weird how much he loves my step-dad. So, so weird. (And in case you think I'm crazy, he has never done this whenever I've been on the phone with any other person, male or female.)

2) Decided that I'm for sure going to MLA whatever the case because, duh, I'm trying to shop a book proposal and it makes good goddamned sense to go if for that reason alone! I'm such an idiot sometimes.

3) Played some Sims 2. Ah, I love my imaginary people.

4) Went "Christmas Shopping" which ultimately included more shopping for myself than anything, but you know what? If I don't buy myself presents, not very many other people will. I did, however, cross one very important item off of my list. It's a hilarious present for my mom. I want to say more, but I don't know how to do so without actually posting the background story on why I had to buy this for her for Christmas.

5) I read Julie and Julia, which is awesome, and if you've not read it then you should, as a) it is really oddly uplifting and b) it talks about blogging in one of the smartest ways I've seen. It is also funny and entertaining and just a great pleasure-read. (See, I've not given up on the reading for pleasure stuff - I've just been preoccupied with so many other things that it's taken a bit of a back-seat to all of my angst stuff.

6) I slept in, in spite of the Man-Kitty's protests.

7) I bought a big container in which to store the Man-Kitty's dry food, because as soon as I brought the bag of it into the apartment yesterday he destroyed it. What the heck.

8) I put up my Christmas tree (which is a tiny little ceramic tree that lights up, and which takes a total of three minutes to get from the closet and to assemble). It was my little Grandma's, and I love it, as tacky as ceramic light-up Christmas trees might be. Also, no way in hell am I decorating for real when I spend the Christmas holidays traveling.

9) I played with the Man-Kitty and his beloved Shoe Lace. I will have to post about this sometime, too, as it's totally a strange fetish he has.

10) I graded one batch of papers. The smallest batch, but who cares. Only three more batches to go before I get finals and the final batch of papers this week.

So yes. I'm feeling very relaxed and happy. And I don't have to go to campus tomorrow. HURRAH!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ooh! Fun Friday Quiz!

First seen here.

Be Adequite

Ok, so I just finished watching a segment on the Today show bemoaning the downward spiral of poor, stupid, though very talented!, starlet Lindsay Lohan. It all began when they reported on her email of sadness after the death of Robert Altman, and then they talked about how she had claimed that Paris Hilton hurt her, and then they talked about this email of craziness, sent by sweet, dear, illiterate Lindsay.

Ok, I've got to weigh in.

The only reason that this "story" is of interest to a program like the Today show (which got some psychologist to talk about how Lindsay is suffering from some child star syndrome or something) is so that its viewers can congratulate themselves about how glad they are that they are better mothers than Dina Lohan and how glad they are that their children are untalented, mediocre, and non-famous. The Today show does NOT care about Lindsay, or about how she is a "victim" of the "media feeding frenzy" for, in fact, the Today show is feeding on her as well.

And let's get something straight, America: Lindsay may not be able to spell, or to write in complete sentences, or to have a coherent or logical structure to a piece of writing. But as somebody who teaches writing to students about Lindsay's age, I'm here to tell you: your kids can't do those things either! Lindsay's problem is not that she's a starlet and that her mother emphasized fame over education, because if that is her problem, America, then how do you explain all of the non-starlets whom I encounter who write in the exact same fashion before I get my hands on them - and sometimes even after I get my hands on them?

Let's face it, folks. Most people who graduate from high school can't write particularly well. And if we bogarted their emails or texts or whatever, and we publicized them, it would be embarassing for them. I'll admit, most of us probably wouldn't talk about how Al Gore could help us with our war on the media or whatever it is she's talking about in that last email, but then, most of us have never met Al Gore, right? And I agree with Lindsay! Of course Bill Clinton would be on board with any plans she might make! But I digress.

My point here is that the segment on the Today show pissed me off incredibly, and it pissed me off precisely because I'm a writing teacher. I see writing like that (minus the raving about Al Gore) all. the. time. That's the young minds of our world, folks. We live in a world after NCLB and proficiency testing, etc. We live in a world in which we ignore and underfund the traditional humanities disciplines where people learn to string coherent thoughts together and to communicate those thoughts in writing. Are we really so shocked and surprised? Really?

PS. I love L.L. I also think that if somebody had bogarted Elizabeth Taylor's communications way back in the day that they might have looked quite similar to Lindsay's. That is all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

All Praise Chianti and the iPod Shuffle

I'm in SUCH a better mood. I've cheffed up tomorrow's feast for my freshmen (a delicious quiche-like sausage-egg-cheese-casserole dish (aka strada), which I will bake in the morning), I'm having a glass of very nice chianti, and all the while I've been listening to my iPod on shuffle.

Some songs from the list (in no particular order, as I've not been keeping track):

Divorce Song - Liz Phair
Crawling King Snake - John Lee Hooker
I Ain't Ever Satisfied - Steve Earle (so apt right now for me)
Crossroads - Tracy Chapman
Please Do Not Go - Violent Femmes
Y-Control - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
No Man's Woman - Sinead O'Connor
Beautiful Girl - Poe

And now a picture of the Man-Kitty (because he improves everybody's mood).

Disappointment, Exhaustion, Irritation, Happiness

Tomorrow will be the last day of the regular semester, and then next week is finals week. This has been a kind of strange semester, not in the least because of the job market attempt. As of the current moment, I'm feeling pretty dejected related to that attempt, as with each passing day I become more and more convinced that I've put myself in this position for nothing: that when all is said and done, the job that I have is the one that I will continue to have, whatever my high-falutin aspirations. Clearly I've not been rejected everywhere yet, but as the days tick by, with the help of that horrible wiki, it becomes clear to me where I'm out of the running. It's hard not to take it personally, even though I know (having served on a search committee) how impersonal and arbitrary the process is. I had gone into this process aware of that - and I'd thought that I could handle it - and, well, I can handle it, and I am handling it - but it doesn't make it easier, even knowing that it's not, well, me. Because it feels like me that is being passed over, however much I know that the needs and desires of departments and universities have little to do with me as an individual, ultimately. So that's the disappointment part of things.

The exhaustion, well, we're all feeling it. It comes with the territory at this time of year. Too much grading, too little energy, etc. Really, there's little more to say than that.

As for the irritation, well, today began with an irritating meeting and it ended with an irritating meeting. Both were irritating for different reasons, but both were irritating for particular reasons that have to do with the culture of my institution. Combine this with the disappointment in paragraph one, and, well, as you might imagine, the irritation is multiplied exponentially.

But then there's the happiness. This semester was one of my best teaching semesters I've had - ever. I am pleased with all of my classes - so much so that for the first time I've allowed for two of the three to have "parties" on the last day (something not unheard of at my university, but something I've never done - in part because there's never been time before, but somehow this semester there is time.) I have such a good rapport with the students in my classes this semester, and they've all come so far - from my little class of freshmen, who've grown up so much as people - not only as writers - since august, to my seniors, who have pushed themselves beyond what I'd imagined they could or would do, to all of those students in between in my survey class.

As much as I'm feeling disappointed and exhausted and irritated, it's hard to ignore the fact that I also feel extremely happy with my work as a teacher, and my work at this particular institution as a teacher.

And maybe the thing that I'm most happy about is the fact that a number of my upper-level students want to do a reading group with me in the spring for which they will receive no credit. You can't imagine the sense of accomplishment I feel about this. Students at my university, who work full time and have families and spouses and kids and all of these other commitments, don't tend to sign on for such extracurricular work. I'd mentioned that I'd be willing to lead such a thing in passing around midterm, and I really didn't think that they'd be interested. But now - in the last class of the regular semester, as I sat with them eating dessert for breakfast - they asked me would I still be willing.

And so whatever happens on the job market, I think I've got to pay attention to the fact that I am making a difference where I am. A real difference, a difference that I suspect even many of my colleagues here would never have predicted could be possible. That is real work, and it is good work. And I'm grateful for the fact that I have the chance to do that kind of work, whatever the things about this place or this job I wish were different. Perhaps the thing that really needs to change in my life is me - not my location, not my job, but my approach to things. If I can do this well with something so seemingly intractable, what else might I achieve if I put my mind to it? This is something that I think I need to think about in a serious way.

But I will not be thinking about it in a serious way right now, because I've got to make some food for my little freshmen to eat tomorrow. I know. I'm cooking for my students. What the hell is wrong with me? As BFF said, "What, are you going to start letting them call you 'Mommy,' too?" Not quite, but I really love the thing I'm making for them tomorrow, and it's the sort of dish that one cannot make when one lives alone, so there is something in it for me, too :)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On Freaking Out

As a student, I was the sort who freaked out. I remember vividly as a graduate student crying in a mentor's office because "I don't know what a dissertation is" (this is when I was about halfway through the process, incidentally, but my director was on leave). "How long is a chapter? How long is a dissertation?" (Why length was my big concern, I'm not entirely certain. I believe it was because I felt that at least that was controllable.)

I also freaked out as an undergrad, though that tended to translate not into crying in mentors' offices but instead into insomnia and/or screaming in my sleep. Literally. I've been known to sit straight up in bed, while sleeping, and to belt out blood-curdling screams. (Aside: my mom actually asked me whether I was "screaming in my sleep again" when I was going on and on one day about job-search-related stuff. I responded that I have no idea, as I live alone, and my cat's not talking.)

Anyhow, the point here, is that I'm no stranger to freaking out.

But at this time of the semester, I become not the freaking-out-person but rather the person who freaks people out, in spite of my best efforts not to freak people out. Today, I had a freaking out student who cried in my office. Yesterday, I had a colleague mention that all of my upper-level students whom we share are "freaking out" about their research paper in my class. (In fact, my colleague wondered why they weren't freaking out about the research paper that they will submit in her class, as part of this conversation. She seemed to think it was a good thing.)

On the one hand, I feel like it's good that my students are a little freaked out about their ability to do well in my class. I think that's a mark of them taking it seriously, of them caring. But then I worry: is the reason that they freak out that I make them do so? Is this a mark of me scaring them rather than being nurturing, etc.?

I do think, in part, that we create (as instructors) our students, and that we often create the students whom we ourselves were, for good or for ill. If we have a tendency to be high-strung, so too, will our students. Similarly, if we exhibit a zen-like calm, I think our students will be calm. I guess what I'm wondering tonight is whether one approach is better than the other.

The problem is, I can't pretend a zen-like calm. It's not in me. I'm kind of an intense person - both about my own work and about my students'. And what that means, at the end of the day, is that they (and I) will freak out. What I try to do, and I hope that I succeed, is to make that freaking out productive. I don't want to be "mean" to them, getting some sort of charge out of their anxiety, and I don't think I do. But I do believe that anxiety can be productive - that it can push us to levels that we wouldn't otherwise achieve.

But I hate it when students cry in my office. And I hate that the tasks that I set for my students make them feel like crying. I hate that rather than feeling exhilerated by freedom to choose their topics and by challenge they feel oppressed by those things. I hate that at this time of the semester everybody feels so freaked out - because freaking out is contagious.

Random Bullets of End-of-Semester Crankiness

  • I have to stop looking at that blasted wiki. It only makes me feel like crap for the most-part. Realized today that I'm probably out-of-play at two more places. Whatever. One of them I knew I wasn't really in play with from the beginning, and the other, well, I don't know. Of course, I may be counting chickens before the hatching, etc., but that's what the wiki makes one do. I wish I were the kind of person who could stop myself from looking at it, but really I'm not.
  • Today was meeting-filled. And very stressful as the students are very stressed and the stress is contagious.
  • Is it wrong that I keep thinking about how much I'd like a glass of wine? Even though it's only 3 in the afternoon? Because I really would.
  • I heard from a colleague today that all of my upper-div. students are totally freaking out about their paper in my class, even though it is ultimately worth less than the paper that they will do in my colleague's class. This may mean that I'm really not a very nice person, as I make my students freak out.
  • I haven't gotten good work done on my manuscript, and it's really making me freak out. Maybe I'm not a mean person, but rather I'm the sort of person who passes my own freaked out ways on to my students in a sort of share-the-wealth sort of a fashion.
  • Or perhaps there is just a Circle of Craziness that is at work here, wherein I make my students crazy and my students make me crazy.
  • I should probably go work out when I'm FINALLY done here in TWO HOURS, but by then all of those after-work people will be at the gym, and I hate working out when it's busy because I can't just easily go about my business. So I'll probably not, which will make me even more cranky.
  • Until I have a glass of wine, that is.
  • Right now I'm reading some partial drafts for students. I certainly hope that they get it together between now and when the final drafts are do. Sigh.
  • Why don't students understand that every good essay needs clearly to articulate a "so what" or your reader will not give a crap about what you say? Good thing the same does not hold true for blog posts :)
  • I am so cranky. I hate being cranky.

Monday, December 04, 2006

On the Lam

Well, I could have stayed in Grading Jail, or maybe spent some time in prepping jail, tonight, but instead I went to dinner and the movies (Casino Royale - meh) with BFF. It was good escapist fun, and I think good judgment ultimately to avoid work and home this evening. That said, now I'm home I feel like I wasted the whole night. Oh, and I came home to three messages (and people never call me! What the heck!) and like four emails from students (annoying, will respond tomorrow). Whatever. I'm going to drink some sleepytime tea and go to sleep. Wow. This might be my most boring blog post ever.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Grading Jail


I have procrastinated to the point that now I must do a marathon grading push so that all of the papers are graded before 9 AM tomorrow.

I have 15 left to go.

If these were regular papers, I'd not be in such a bind. The problem with grading these particular papers is that the assignment is all about revision, and so I have to look at multiple versions of things. The assignments are not terribly long, but they do require attention. This is very good for my students. I believe in the assignment. I just don't believe in grading it :P

So, a question:

How do we insist upon the value of revision without assigning things that teach revision? This is my dream, to come up with the answer to this question.

Some might argue that the way to teach revision is to dole out tough grades - they'll learn from failure. I think that is true for bright students who are also quite motivated. The reality is that not all students are bright and quite motivated. Many will look at tough grades and say, "wow, that professor just doesn't like me," and they'll call it a day. Oh, and skewer one on one's evaluations.

Another example is to add to the above the carrot of allowing students to revise to boost their bad grades. I do that, but the reality is that most students still do not really learn how to revise from that exercise. They learn to address professors' comments, but they do not learn how to approach their own writing with an eye toward revision. They don't learn to think of revision as something that all writing demands, and they don't learn to see revision as something that is ultimately freeing and creative. (I really do believe that about revision, incidentally. I'm not just saying that because I teach writing.)

And so I've come up with this assignment that I hate grading. And I do think that the assignment (to some extent) works. What doesn't work is the fact that I have to look at it. I've toyed with the idea of letting students grade it, but I know that would end in a series of A's that have no meaning. The problem is, I'm beginning to feel (after having given this assignment for four years) that the grades I assign on it ultimately have no meaning. Maybe one can't strong-arm students into seeing the value in revision. Maybe an assignment that puts revision as central is just a waste of my (and their) time.

Ok, back to the grindstone. Or maybe to bed and to wake up early to do them? (We all know what a great idea that would be. Yeah right.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

While the Casserole Cooks, Some Musings about Being On the Market and in a T-T Position

I apologize for the length of this post. I didn't realize how long it would become when I began.

As the perhaps overly specific title explains, I'm waiting for my delicious dinner to cook, so I figured this would be as good a time as any to do this post that's been percolating in my brain about what it's like to be on the market when one has already secured a tenure-track position. I've kind of talked about some of this before, I think, so if it feels repetitive at points, I apologize. Also, feel free to skim (skip whole paragraphs) if necessary.

I suppose one of the reasons that I want to write about this is that I've felt kind of at sea in this enterprise of looking-while-employed. While I know some people from blogging who've successfully gone on the market t-t, and while I know some more senior people who've done the same, I don't really know anybody in real life, in my academic generation, who has done this. Not friends from conferences and not people from my grad program. But wait. That's actually not true. I do know of a couple of people who've moved, but they've tended to be in hotter fields than mine and the moves have tended to be lateral and made out of hatred for Job #1. This is not my situation at all. 1) I'm in no way in a "hot" field with lots of open positions. 2) The positions for which I've applied tend to be a step up (and in some cases a leap up) from my current position. 3) I don't actually hate my current job, nor do I have concerns about my ability to achieve tenure at my institution. So yes, while I know some people who might have done kind of what I'm doing right now, I don't know anybody with this precise experience.

And so, while I know that what I'm doing is not "weird" and that it "can" be done successfully, I have felt kind of alone throughout the process. It's not that I don't have mentors who've helped me through getting materials together and such, but those mentors are people from my grad institution, and they really don't seem to have a clear sense of what it's like to try to move on from a job like mine. I don't know. Maybe that's not fair. Maybe I'm not really as "unique" as I feel right now, but I guess this is the thing: one characteristic of my grad program is that it's not particularly touchy-feely. And there isn't anybody there who I really feel comfortable being open with about any fears I might have related to this process. I mean, my "mentors" have not asked me about how things are going. Honestly, the person who seems to care the most is the department secretary. So I don't know. I suppose I feel like they all expect me to just know how to do all of this stuff, and while that may not be true, I'm not comfortable enough with these people to find out if it's not.

I also feel like it's unusual for people to talk in an honest way about looking-while-employed in English, partly because the market is just so hard in all cases. On the one hand, I think we all accept that superstars will move from institution to institution. Or even not superstars but just really, really productive and fancy people. But when it comes to somebody like me - who came out of a good though not on-the-top-of-the-US News and World Report-rankings PhD program, who works at a Directional University with a 4-4 load, who has accomplished a lot scholarship-wise for such a program though a mediocre amount compared with what one would accomplish at an RI.... Well, I don't think that we often hear narratives about people like me going back on the market. I think that usually we assume that people like me will be thankful for getting lucky once.

And I suppose that one of the hardest things about my current position is that I feel guilty for not being as thankful as I think I should be. It's not that I don't appreciate my current job - I totally do - and I am appreciative most for the fact that this job has been crucial to teaching me that I really do belong in this profession and that I am really good at it. But see, there it is, isn't it? In some respects, being good in this particular job has made me wonder whether I might be even better if I were someplace else. And then that is the thing that makes me feel guilty.

But enough about that, I've talked about it before, and it's dumb. What I think I really want to talk about is what it's been like to negotiate the demands of being on the market as a t-t person.

The Application

What was most surprising to me about embarking on this process is that I hadn't realized how different putting together application stuff would be the second time around. (I sent some apps out half-heartedly after my first year on the t-t, but unsurprisingly nothing came of them, as they were basically my ABD apps with an updated CV and I only applied for like two jobs.) I thought that I knew how to do this, having been through it once. On the one hand, that was true. I had a version of a letter. I knew how many letters of rec. I needed to get together, and I had some recommenders who would only need to update for me. My CV has been constantly updated since the first market run, so it wasn't like I had to create the thing from scratch, as I did the first time. Also, I had a writing sample that wasn't just a crappy chapter of my dissertation (not that the chapter remains crappy, but at the time it had barely been revised and I'd not yet defended - in fact, it's one of the chapters of the book manuscript that I'm most happy with now and that needs the least polishing, but I digress). But so yes, I had all of the pieces of the application. I'd done this all before, right? But as I sat down to work on the cover letter, I had no idea how to go about revising it to show who I've become now that I'm no longer a student. I had no idea how to write a letter that highlighted important stuff but that left less important stuff out - as the first time around the whole kit and kaboodle went into the letter because that was all there was. And I had no idea how a CV not for my current institution should look. Well, not no idea, but less of an idea than one might imagine I'd have. And the letters - while that was in some ways the easiest part - I had two, and I knew from whom I needed to get new ones - asking people who are colleagues and not teachers for a letter of recommendation is a really weird thing. I guess what all of this amounts to is that for all of my "experience" from getting a job the first time, I really feel quite inexperienced and insecure about this process. And honestly, this is the first time I've felt that as a professor since my first year on the tenure-track. It's not a good feeling. And I don't entirely understand it.

The Process

Another weird thing about this go-around is that even though it's only a few years later, things have changed A LOT in terms of communication about the process. Sure, the first time around I was obsessed with the Chronicle of Higher Education forums, but that was really it in terms of online activity related to my job search. Well, that and the constant checking of email. And that remains the same. But now there is the wiki. And there is blogging. It's very easy to be "connected" to the job search constantly, and that was not my position the first time around.

Another weird thing about the process is that last time I was able to temper my desire because I just needed a job. Any job. Part of this was because I'd be a newly minted PhD. I didn't have high-falutin' notions about my worth on the market in my field. Moreover, I was living with a guy who'd been unemployed for nearly two years, so realistically, I felt like I'd better get a job or we'd both be screwed. (Though, of course, as soon as I got a job "we" - as in the relationship - were screwed, so whatever.) The point here, though, is that I didn't even LOOK at specific stuff about the places I'd applied until I got interviews. I didn't ENTERTAIN THE NOTION of researching places before deciding to apply. All that mattered was a t-t job - any job. As my mother would say, beggars can't be choosers. (My mother loves a well placed cliche.) This time, well, it's very difficult to focus on just "getting an offer" because, well, I don't need an offer. I just want one. And I have been choosey in deciding where to apply. And, really, with all of the people out there who need offers, who am I to want one, and one of my choosing, right? Now, you might say, "But Crazy. If you leave your current job, that will then open up a hiring line, so you've no reason to feel like you don't deserve to look!" Except here's the thing about my job. I'm not sure they will rehire another person for my position. I don't think that I should say more about it on the blog, but let's just say that the fact that they hired me for this position was kind of surprising, and they will not necessarily need to fill a gap that might be left in my absence. This is not something I'm losing sleep over or anything (nor should it be), but it is something that is making this experience radically different from my last real time out on the market.

Balancing Life on the T-T with Looking for Something New on the T-T

This is maybe the weirdest part of the whole thing. It all began with telling my Very Supportive Colleague about it, and then telling my chair. It was very weird to tell people whom I like and with whom I enjoy working about looking for another job. Not bad. Just weird. What's become weirder is now going along as if nothing's changed (and really, nothing has, other than that I'm in the middle of this process) and not telling other people.

Now, BFF obviously knows that I'm looking (and in fact, she's applied for a few things, too), but I've not mentioned it to other colleagues. Nor should I, I know. But this week I had drinks with some colleagues (for the first time, I might add, because they'd thought that I was part of a faction in the department that I am solidly not aligned with, but that's another story) and it was on the tip of my tongue to mention it, but I knew it was best to refrain. It was weird, though, because the conversation was such that there was a clear presumption that I'm in it for the long haul here, and while if I am ultimately in it for the long haul here (as I may well be) I'm glad that I participated in that conversation in the way that I did, if I'm not then... well, I don't know. I just hate feeling guarded (as you might imagine from all of what I spew on this here blog) and I knew that the right thing to do in that situation was to be somewhat guarded.

(Actually, an aside: one of the things that was funny about this outing was that my colleagues were enchanted by me and kept saying things like they had no idea how funny I was and how awesome I was because I seem like such a "team player" in the department, and I said, "well, duh, that's the smart way to be!" but it made me realize that maybe I'm a lot more guarded than I realize I am given certain situations. Or, rather, maybe I'm not "guarded" exactly in some kind of an intentional way, but I have a tendency to be quite self-protective if not in an intimate group of people, and not to give much away about where I really stand on things. Can you believe that about me? It's so weird, because I always feel like I'm the sort of person who can't keep my mouth shut and can't keep secrets and, hell, can't even keep a pseudonym going without problems. But apparently in real life I'm quite the Miss Mysterio.)

But back to the topic at hand. At any rate, it's been weird to have to keep my mouth shut about being on the market. Which is perhaps why I'm so annoying lately on the blog and to all of the people who do know, as I can't just blab about it in a normal way in my day-to-day life.

Another weird thing about this has to do with my students. I find myself wanting to tell them. Not all of them, but in particular, I find myself wanting to mention it in my upper-level class, which has a great rapport and with whom I feel quite close. I know that this would not be appropriate, but at the same time I really hate the idea of blind-siding my students. You know, I actually found myself wanting to tell some of my freshmen, too, who interviewed me for an assignment for another class they're taking, and who asked me things like "why did you choose to work at this university?" I gave them my standard answer that talks about how professors don't choose where they work (which, of course, is more than they want to know, but I figure, educate them young, before they come to me talking about their dreams of becoming professors and then I have to dash them), but again, it was on the tip of my tongue to say, "you know, I might not want to work at this university forever, and in fact I'm looking for another job." Obviously I couldn't say that, but it occurred to me, in more than one of those interviews. The fact is, I feel better about not telling my colleagues about the fact that I'm attempting this than I do about keeping it from my students. While I don't tell my students everything about my life, I really don't feel like I hold back with them. They usually know what's going on with me, even if in an oblique way. The fact that this is something that is off limits, and that if it goes well that will be sprung on them, well, it really makes me feel kind of shitty. My colleagues, they'll get it. Whether they like it or not, they're grown-ups, and they don't really need me for anything. My students do need me for things. And the kind of students that I teach will be unlikely to ask for anything from me if I leave, even though I'd be more than happy to continue to mentor them. If there is anything that makes me feel ambivalent about my search, it's the student aspect of the whole thing. I really love my students, as much as I bitch about them. And I really feel like they need a professor like me at this institution, and if it happens that I get the opportunity to go? It's not that I think I'm not able to be replaced, but... Well, my institution doesn't hire a lot of people like me. I wish it did, but it doesn't. And if I have any ambivalence, it is related to the fact that if I do get an offer, it will mean that those students won't have courses like the ones I teach anymore, and they won't have me as a professor anymore. Ugh.

Also related to this balancing of the current job with the job search is the fact that I think I may be doing two opposite things simultaneously. On the one hand, I think that I'm overconfident about my prospects on the market, and so I'm much more likely to say, "fuck it, I'm great, who cares if I get those papers back in a timely fashion! Who cares about evaluations!" which of course could come back to bite me in the ass if I end up staying here. On the other hand, I think that I'm trying to hard to seem like I'm "engaged," and thus over-extending myself in order not to appear like I'm looking for greener pastures. I'm not sure if there's a way to resolve either of these things before I find out that I'm rejected by all possibilities.

(Incidentally, I got my first rejection today - and after reading it, I have to say, "thank you, search committee, for I feel like your department would not be for me, as your rejection letter made you seem like a department of quite pretentious people who would totally not appreciate my many charms and skills. And in case you think I just can't take rejection, I refer you to my reaction to the rejection from the Publisher earlier in the week, and I also will note that I compared this particular rejection to the pile of rejection letters I've saved since applying to grad school, and I felt it was particularly pissy.")

But again, I digress. I suppose to conclude this section, I hadn't realized how fraught it would be to be on the market as well as to try to do a good job at my current job. How hard it would be to throw myself into the ring while continuing to throw myself into the good work that I know I do here. I think I'm managing it, but it's not easy.

To conclude:

I've been rambling for way too long about all of this. The casserole has been done for ages, and I'm not sure what more really I could add even if I wanted to add anything. But I wanted to write all of this because this is the sort of narrative I wish I'd had before deciding to embark on this process. I also think that maybe it's a valuable narrative to have out there because I think there's a perception about people who consider leaving an institution like mine of being unthoughtful about what they're doing - just in the profession for ME ME ME and not caring about students or teaching or service or whatever. This hasn't at all been my experience. I'm not looking to escape teaching (though, I won't lie - I am looking to escape the 4-4 load) nor am I looking to escape teaching the kinds of students I teach in order to bury my head in a pile of books. It's just that I want a different life than the one I've got right now. I want to see what I can do in this profession and as a person. And maybe, at the end of the day, I'll end up seeing that in exactly the same job I'm in now. I'll be disappointed if I don't get another offer, but it really won't be the end of the world. And I suppose that's the best thing about my situation right now - that I'm in a position where it won't be the end of the world if that does happen. There are a lot of people for whom it will be the end of the line (in this profession at least) if they don't get a job this season. I'm thankful not to be in that position, but it doesn't mean I don't recognize that it is the position for some and it doesn't mean that I don't recognize how unfair that is. I don't know. I suppose we'll see. But I think I'm going to MLA whatever happens (unless I'm so dejected by being rejected all around that I stay at my mommy's house begging for sympathy), and so if others are going to MLA, drop me an email, yes? Perhaps we can organize some sort of festival of blogger fun.

Yes, I'm Aware It's 7 AM on a Saturday Morning

And all rational people are sleeping. I'm not sleeping though! I've been up since 5:30 AM! See, the Man-Kitty (who, incidentally, has now gone back to sleep, the little punk) woke me up ("Mrooowww! Give me some breakfast!!!! I don't know the difference between Saturday and weekdays! Meeeooooowwwww!"- and there was also some running across my body and then lying on my chest and doing the thing where he bathes my face as if I am a cat, licking his paw and then rubbing it on my face, as he does to clean his own face. What a weird little cat I have). I tried to go back to sleep but my brain was wide awake, so I decided I might as well use this time wisely and pay my bills. Can I just say that one thing I hate about the life of an academic is getting paid once a month?

So yes, I spent the past hour or so drinking coffee and looking at my finances, and I'm going to call my mom and bother her soon. Serves her right for all of those early morning calls on weekends when I was in grad school. I also still have to update the blogroll (no, I've not forgotten about that - I'm just slow), clean up around the house, go to the gym, laundry (maybe), grade, and work on the book manuscript. (I did get some work on the manuscript done this week, but I have a goal that I'm going to finish with my revisions on the intro this weekend. This was the most substantial bit of work that I needed to do on the thing - all of the other stuff is very superficial in the body of the manuscript because I've already been through the body a number of times post-diss. Let's say somebody wanted to see the completed manuscript immediately after I get the intro chapter finished - I could really within 24 hours send the thing off to them. I mean, sure, I probably wouldn't sleep during that 24 hours, but it could be done. That's not my plan or anything - to do things that way - but I'll feel much better when it would be possible to do such a thing, even if not ideal.)

Oh, and as I think I mentioned in a comment, I bought my MLA plane ticket last night. I was inspired by my fortune from the fortune cookie. So now everybody cross their fingers and send all of the good vibes you can spare my way. And I promise I'll talk about something other than my stupid angst related to the job search soon, although I do think I've got a post brewing about being on the market once one is in a job, which I think I need to write and then I can chill out a bit for at least a couple of weeks. Ok, I'm calling my mom. She won't be pleased, but well, I'm her kid and she has to put up with me :)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Evening Addendum

First of all, it was a pretty good day, in spite of the crap weather, demanding students, meetings with committees, etc. I came home, and the Man-Kitty was extra-special snuggly in honor of the crap weather, so we had some quality time, and there was a very productive nap as the centerpiece to that qual. time.

In other news, no news today (because I've decided just to be boring on my blog until I get some freaking news). At least not for me.

But one of the jobs on my list apparently has sent out at least one rejection, at least according to the wiki, which was invented by a villain who really wants to drive people crazy for the wiki actually makes this process worse, I must say, as when i was on the market last time there was no wiki and I think I was less - not more - freaked out when I'd not heard anything from places. Last time I took that as a "no news is good news" sign, which while not true was at least more edifying for me as a job-seeker, whereas now I'm checking that damned wiki a hundred times a day and when somebody hears from a place - even if it's not one of my places - and I don't hear anything I assume I'm doomed. Not healthy.

I've decided the best way to try to solve this problem tonight is to get chinese food for dinner, so that I can then see what my fortune cookie has to say about my potential fortune in the near future. (Yes, I believe in fortune cookie fortunes. I also believe in Chinese food on blustery cold nights.)

Edited to add at approximately 6:30:
Dr. Crazy's fortune: "You will be unusually successful in business." I am feeling SO much better.

I Got Nothin'

I realize I've not really posted in a few days.... The end of the semester + angst related to the fact that I've sent out all of those job applications + plotting a coup with some of my colleagues = Crazy just has nothing to say.

I don't have anything to say to my students, which is why I have yet to grade papers I received nearly two weeks ago and why I will not, although I'd said I would earlier in the week, be returning them today.

I don't have anything to say to my friends, even though I want to call them up and respond to their emails and things. The problem is, the minute I open my mouth all I want to talk about is the fact that I don't have anything to say about my "progress" on the job search because I've not made any "progress" but rather just have had a few writing sample requests, which means very little at the end of the day and is in no way a guarantee of a first interview, let alone a second, let alone a job offer. So what to do I "say" about that which is turning me into a nutso when, really, there's absolutely nothing to report about it? (Speaking of which, I've convinced myself that I'm an idiot about not buying my plane ticket for MLA. I've decided that the gods who threaten to strike me down for any sign of hubris will just have to look the other way on this one, as I really can't afford to wait much longer to buy this damned ticket. I'm hoping that the fact that I can decide not to go and to change the ticket if necessary will appease these gods. Or I can go for any other number of reasons. But I suppose the issue here is that I don't want the gods who threaten to strike me down for any sign of hubris to read a basically practical decision to buy a plane ticket as me not realizing that I may not get even one interview. Ugh.

You know, I don't think I have anything to say to the gods who threaten to strike me down for any sign of hubris, either. They're a bunch of assholes.

Sadly, I also don't have much in the way to say to you all, my readers. There's a lot I'd want to say that I probably should let percolate a bit before I do, and then there's the fact that most of even that stuff is so lame and boring that it's probably not worth saying. And you know, I'm really boring when I'm a freaked out mess. I wish that the semester were already over. And I wish that it weren't really crappy weather today.

- end whine -

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

To My Readers Who've Been Rejected by Publishers

I've got a question. I just got my first rejection of the book proposal today, but well, it was really quite nice, I thought. I'm wondering whether all rejections of this sort are nice or whether I should be (as I kind of am) pleased with my first rejection.

(I should also note that this was my least favorite of the three publishers to whom I sent the proposal out, so I wasn't terribly invested in them from the get-go, and in fact am kind of happy to have been rejected by them whatever the tone of the rejection.)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Inspired by Bridget Jones?

No, I didn't engage in any filthy messaging with anybody at work. Nor did I slide down the pole at a fire station on television. I did, however, make turkey curry, with the leftovers of the Thanksgiving turkey. Delicious!

(The fact that I did this is the signal that I ate 20 lbs. of stuffing and all other side-dishes in the house. It's back on the "I eat in a healthy way with things like vegetables and brown rice" plan. Sigh. I wish I had more stuffing.)

Presentations in Upper-Level Classes

In my upper-level courses, I've incorporated an individual presentation assignment for students. It all began when I was teaching Notoriously Difficult Novel, and I decided to have students do presentations on it basically because it was the only technique that in my experience as a student made that novel accessible. In other words, I didn't know how to teach NDN without presentations, and so ignorance drove my pedagogy. That said, I think that the presentations worked particularly well in that class, and students seemed to respond very well to the assignment. Their response then got me thinking: nobody had ever taught me how to do a presentation when I was an undergraduate. My first presentation in a graduate seminar reflected that lack of experience. If your graduate school experience was anything like mine, nobody taught grad students what was expected of presentations. Rather, one was supposed to "just know" or to pick it up by osmosis. And no, not all (or even most) of my students will go on to graduate school, but knowing how to speak in front of a small group of people in an organized and systematic way about a difficult topic is a good thing no matter what students go on to do, right? Also, I believe that presentations give students a certain ownership over material, and I believe that this has enhanced class discussions all the way around. And so, after my first experience with presentations in the NDN class, I then decided that I would make them a regular feature of my upper-level classes.

This past semester, I incorporated a discussion-lead component, and I'll say that this has not been as wildly successful as I'd hoped, but hey - it's a work in progress, right? That said, overall I've been pretty pleased with their presentations, and I do think that they worked well in the same ways that my first experiment with them worked well. Students feel a sense of responsibility to one another, and they stop looking to me to be the Oracle Who Possesses All Knowledge. It's all good, right?

Well, but here's the thing. Remember how I was so excited about my enrollment in my upper-level class for spring? Well, I'm still excited, but it's causing some problems related to the presentation assignment. First, this class, unlike my class this semester, will focus only on novels. What this means is that I can't as easily divide up the presentations, having students all follow an identical format. (For example, it would be silly to have students divide up the biographical information of a novelist three or four ways - it makes much more sense to have one student present all of that material in one presentation.) Moreover, there is a bit of difficulty in finding a way to fit in 15+ presentations over the course of the semester while still leaving some days open just for discussion, which I think is one of the reasons that my presentations this semester have worked so well. Let's say we're discussing a text over three class periods - I always leave the third class an open day so that we can get to anything that didn't get covered on presentation days. Now, it's true that some students will drop once they get the 45 pounds of course materials that I will hand out on the first day of class. But as it now stands, even if like 5 dropped, I'd still need to schedule some days with multiple presentations. And that doesn't solve the problem of not wanting students to duplicate material from presentation to presentation.

Here's what I'm thinking that I will do. This is still open to revision, so if you see potential pitfalls and/or if you have suggestions I've not thought of, that's what the comments are for :)

First, I've devised topics for the presentations, to provide students with a bit more direction than I've done in the past. This way (I hope) we'll get beyond the problem of duplication of material, while still allowing students to present on something that interests them. The topics are quite broad, but I think that they will work.

Second, I do have two presentations scheduled on some days. While this is not ideal, I figure that if I take out the discussion-lead component (which didn't work too well anyway) that this will still leave 35-45 minutes for discussion on those days.

Finally, I do think that it will be possible to have uniform criteria for each presentation, even with the more focused topics. I think that having uniform criteria (for the presentation and for the handout that I require to accompany the oral component) is one of the reasons that this assignment has worked well for me. The issue is, though, that I will have to tweak the criteria so that it's not quite so specific in some ways - for example, it doesn't make sense to require each handout to have a time-line of the author's life, but perhaps I can tweak the phrasing of the assignment in some way so that every handout will still have some sort of bulleted, general information at the top.... Hmm.... Still need to think on this.

The things that I don't want to sacrifice:

  • Requiring students to consult with two secondary scholarly sources and to summarize those sources' takes on their presentation topic.
  • Requiring students to perform a close reading of a passage that relates to their presentation topic and to relate that close reading to the text as a whole.
I think I can still do this, but somehow this assignment has become much more complicated with this particular class.

I'm still planning to do a sample presentation for them in the second week, so perhaps I should prepare my sample presentation before the semester begins and that will influence the way that I design the assignment that I give them?

Sometimes I think I make too much work for myself. That said, the presentations do take work off of me during the semester because I know that on presentation days that the presentations basically take care of all lecturing and background material. That is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Also, I really do think that this is a good learning opportunity for students and that they learn things from doing it that they don't learn from other things they do in my courses. Hmmm.

I don't know. Does anybody else out there do presentations in upper-level classes? If so, do you have a standard assignment or do you change it for each course? Is it unrealistic to do this in a course with more than 10-15 students? Are the benefits really worth the costs of such an assignment (i.e., the time I'm spending agonizing over it)?

Ok, time to feed the Man-Kitty. He's getting very restless.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Night of Beauty/Dark Night of the Soul

Well, the agenda for the night was that I was going to have a night of beauty accompanied by a night of grading. I graded approximately 1 and 1/3 papers, and it became clear to me that I could not grade tonight. Lord. Why can't they just do what I want them to do? What I ask them to do?

So at any rate, once it became clear that the night of beauty could not be accompanied by grading, all that was left was for me to have a dark night of the soul, which included:

1) wine
2) the movie Bridget Jones' Diary
3) some episodes of Sex and the City
4) much writing in my journal
5) Damien Rice's new cd

The night of beauty included:

1) putting a mask on my face (not a halloween mask, though that would have been most fun, but rather a pore minimizing/wrinkle reducing sort of mask. Not that I really have wrinkles, but whatever. Never too early to start trying to minimize them, I suppose).
2) manicure and pedicure (although I did not polish my fingernails, as it's pretty pointless when I've got a lot of grading/typing to do, as I do now. But my cuticles are all nice and the nails themselves are buffed and awesome).
3) Nice hot bath with lavendar-scented bath oil.
4) Shaving. This is such a pain in the ass, the body hair removal.
5.) Deep conditioning of the hair.

But so now back to the dark night of the soul. (Oh, though I should mention that I polished my toenails red. How good does that make a girl feel?) I spent a lot of time thinking about what it is to want. I spend a lot of energy on not wanting things. Or, rather, on not letting myself want things that I want. This is all part of a grand plan to stave off disappointment, my least favorite of all of the emotions. The theory behind this is that if I don't want beyond my station, that I will not then be disappointed, and thus will not have as big of a hurt as if I wanted to the full capacity of my wanting.

But it's occurred to me lately that maybe not allowing oneself to want whole-heartedly may actually leave one open to greater devastation than if I just wanted in an all-in sort of a way. It's sort of like playing poker. I think I may have a habit of checking on big hands, which ultimately leaves me the big loser, whereas if I'd go all in, I could be the big winner. But going all in - that's scary. Especially when one is fully aware of the odds of such an enterprise. It takes courage. Courage which to this point I've not had, not in any area of my life.

What's crazy is that I know part of what makes it possible for me to try all of what I try (whether it's going on the market, sending the book proposal out, whatever) is that I stop myself from believing that anything good can come of any of it. I don't let myself truly want, and so that somehow makes it ok to do these things. The problem is, I think that I need to truly want. I think that by checking my desire, I ultimately foreclose the possibility of achieving it. But how does one free oneself from that prohibition? How does one stop the superstitious checking of oneself?

On the one hand, one has to make attainable goals in order not to feel like shit all of the time. And in order to achieve anything, really. But I fear that perhaps I can attain more than I think I can. And that my attainable goals have ultimately held me back. Ultimately hold me back.

I wish that I could let go a bit. I'm trying. I want to be able to. But I don't know if I can.

I'm afraid to want all of what I don't let myself admit to wanting. I'm afraid of allowing myself to admit those things because if I actually say those things out loud, and then I don't get them, then what do I do?

Remember: admitting is not only fessing up it's also letting in. That's what makes it so hard - that it means both expression and, I suppose, impression. I don't know which I'm more afraid of. I suppose it's the inward part more than the outward part.

All of this may seem strange, given the ways in which I do put myself out there - take what may seem to be risks. But every risk is a calculated and cautious one. A middle ground that stops short of the thing that I really want to happen. I go on the market telling myself all the while that it's just that I want to choose my current job. I do online dating telling myself that I have absolutely no expectation that I'll meet anybody who's worth more than a date or two. What I think I've decided is that this is no way to live my life. But if I admit to wanting more than the provisional thing - the thing that can't disappoint - and I don't get what I want, then I will have to deal with that. And that's a hard thing to take on.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Ok, so I know it's late, but what with the cooking, the celebrating, and my attention-seeking parents (who are now at a nearby casino - things must be going well since they had only a hundred bucks between them), there was no time to write before now.

So what am I thankful for?

First, the shallow things:

1. For the fact that I finally learned how to make stuffing that is neither too dry nor too moist.
2. For stuffing generally.
3. For the glass of wine I'm drinking right now.
4. For the internet.
5. For nearly a full week without teaching.

Now, for the less shallow things:
1. For my parents, who really are awesome. Add into this one all of my friends who are really like family, etc.
2. For my sweet, darling Man-Kitty.
3. For the fact that I have done well at my job and that I have some confidence in my abilities as a professor.
4. For the fact that I haven't embarassed myself (yet) in this attempt at being on the market. Or at least not in an irrevocable way. Oh, and I've had another request for more materials (yesterday) - did I mention that? I'm thankful for that. I'd be even more thankful if I were to be offered an interview at any of the places to which I've applied. But scratch that because it's not really in the True Spirit of Thanksgiving.
5. For not necessarily being able to see what the future holds, even though I often wish that I could see what the future holds.

And now, for some Thanksgiving pictures!

This is where the Man-Kitty was hanging out while I was making the Thanksgiving feast. When he wasn't trying to force my stepdad (who had his first experience with using the internet and was wicked-excited about being able to read like 15 different newspapers - some in arabic - all morning long).

But then, the turkey was ready!

After turkey (and all of the many side-dishes on the menu), pie.

When Dinner was done, naps were taken, etc., the Man-Kitty then retired with the Stepdad of Crazy for some quality male bonding time. Did I mention that the Man-Kitty and my stepdad are best friends? And that if the M-K hears the S-D's voice on the phone, that he immediately leaps toward Crazy's head and begins purring and nuzzling the phone and meowing? And that he follows S-D around like he's the second coming whenever they're together? It is very strange, but I think probably good that the M-K has a strong male role model.