10 Signs You May Be Ready for Grad School

from PhD Comics by Jorge Cham

10) You find yourself hanging out in your professor’s office for no other reason than the stimulating conversation.

9) You take certain classes because you’re “looking for a challenge” or found the other classes to be “far too easy.”

8) You can’t decide if you should be proud or insulted when your professor doesn’t notice that you B.S’d your way through that whole essay.

7) You spend more on books each month than some people do on food. (And the books may be reproducing on their own because you’re pretty sure you didn’t have stacks leading down the hallway last week).

6) You walk into Office Depot because you love to stare at all the pens and pencils and dry erase markers and notepads… and you keep buying them for no reason whatsoever – except perhaps that they smell good.

5) You have a bad habit of volunteering/applying for more things (jobs, clubs, committees, projects, etc) than a reasonably well-stocked militia could reasonably be expected to deal with.

4) You then proceed to scream and rant and cry about your insane schedule which has become so full you discover you’re actually signed up to do 2-3 things at once and haven’t scheduled yourself time to sleep or eat for at least the next 6 months. …And then you proceed to sign up for more.

3) You’ve decided that sleep is something you can worry about when you’re dead, and food is best enjoyed in sporadic bursts of first forgetting to eat for a couple days, and then eating an entire large pizza in one sitting. (Also tums and ibuprofen are you’re first and last meal every day).

2) You have a large persistent streak of masochism that refuses to be eradicated despite the friends who beg you to stop working yourself into the ground, the parents who remind you do occasionally have to eat, the accumulating therapy bills, and the enormous bar tab that should be a sign you may be a bit stressed…

And the top sign that you are ready for grad school…

1) The idea of joining the “real world” — with a 9-5 job, a 401k, buying a house, paying off your already-enormous students loans, and all that other “normal adult stuff” — is so terrifying or abhorrent to you that even 3-10 more years of collegiate torture (and even more student loans) (and possibly an ulcer or two) seems like heaven in comparison.

also from PhD Comics by Jorge Cham

Busy Summer Is Busy

As you all may have been able to guess by now, I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy this summer.  But you guys don’t even know the half of it!  Between taking vacation at Yellowstone for five days, going to three concerts (Snow Patrol in May, Legend of Zelda Symphony, and then the Chicago/Doobie Brothers concert in July), and having dinner with famous people, and reading as much as I can manage, I’ve also been hard at work.

School never completely ends for those in graduate school.  There are always things you need to do (or at least SHOULD do) during the summer.  For me, this has included mainly getting more involved with extracurricular/service activities.  I’ve mentioned on this blog before that the English graduate students at UH have been in the process of developing and promoting both a yearly Graduate Student Conference and an academic literature journal called Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature.  While I did some work this past school year to help out with both, I decided that this upcoming year I wanted to be even more involved.  And I managed to get myself nominated as an Assistant Editor to the journal as well as Head of the Publicity Committee for the Conference.  And the work has already begun, especially for the latter.  I’ve spent the last few weeks creating contact lists for every Humanities/Liberal Arts College Dean, English Dept Chair, and Graduate Director/Advisor, for every university in Texas so that we can start sending out personalized invites to both present at and attend the conference.  I still need to make a list for all the community colleges in the Houston area.  And THEN I need to move on to the universities in Louisiana.  In the meantime, the Chief Editor of Plaza is working on the CFP for the journal, and I’m helping out with that.

At the same time, I had made plans last semester to make some serious changes to my syllabus for the coming semester, which I have now started work on.  After having done a lot of research on the benefits and practical applications for using blogging in a First-Year Writing course, I’ve decided to implement it in my classroom.  So I’m trying to work out a concrete plan for how and why I want my students to use blogging as a learning tool and as a way to open the classroom out into a more public space.  I’ve also submitted an abstract for a presentation based on all this research to the Conference on College Composition and Communication, along with two fellow grad students I’m doing a panel with.  It’ll be late August before we find out if our panel abstract was accepted to the conference (which isn’t until next March), at which point we’ll have to get hard to work actually writing the presentations.

AND THEN, throughout the whole summer, in between everything else, I’ve been writing.  A lot.  I started out writing the second draft of Midnight’s Knife, which I made some decent progress on until about three or four weeks ago, when I was hijacked by a new story idea that has completely consumed my brain lately.  It’s going to be a strange one, I can tell…  I actually have the basic premise for an entire series of stories, but this first one is a sort of science fiction detective story.  It’s a kind of mix of X-Files, X-Men, and Sherlock Holmes, with a large helping of human drama about a veteran with PTSD laced through it.  Yeah, if that sounds insane to you, you’re not alone.  It sounds insane to me too, and I’m so excited about it!  I’ve been living inside my main character’s head practically non-stop for two weeks now.

I have a month left until the Fall semester starts, so I’m trying very hard not to waste a minute of it.  We’ll see how much more writing I can get done before school-work takes over.

Also, I’m trying to finish reading Dominant Race by Elisa Nuckle – it’s a novella, and it really wouldn’t take me that long to read, except that I’ve been so busy the last week or so I just haven’t had the opportunity to sit down a finish it! – but hopefully you can expect a review on that on Friday.  And then I’ve agreed to review another novel, a literary fiction called A Work in Progress, which I’m planning (cross your fingers) to post on Aug 3rd.

Okay, folks, that’s all from me for now.  If all goes according to plan, I’ll catch you all on Friday.

What Was I Thinking?

Free-For-All Friday: What Was I Thinking?

stressed like this

This week has been crazy.  Frantic, stressful, exhausting, and amazing.  As some of you know personally (and others know from reading my ‘About’ page), I began my PhD in Literature this week, after being out of school for a little over a year.  I was more than a little worried that after all that time off I would not be able to switch back into “school-mode” early mornings, heavy work loads, enormous stress, etc.  And the first week of class did not make it easier, that’s for damn sure.

I do not have classes on Monday, but I began the week on campus in order to fill out paperwork, take care of some logistics, finalize my syllabus (because I also teach Freshman Composition as a Teaching Fellow), and so forth.  I was greeted with ridiculously hot and humid weather (even for Houston), long lines, downed computers, and a screw-up that meant I would not be able to access the office I share with several other Teaching Fellows until NEXT Monday.  Not an auspicious beginning for the semester, to say the least.

Tuesday was my first day of actual classes.  For those of you who are curious, my classes are: French for Non-Majors (which I need to fulfill my foreign language requirement) on Tues and Thurs, teaching one Freshman Composition course on Tues and Thurs, Intro to Doctoral Studies on Tues, and Sociolinguistics on Wed.  By Wednesday night, having been to all of my classes once, I was already exhausted, stressed, and laden with homework assignments.  I already have to read two entire books and give a group presentation by Tuesday.

I guess my professors don’t want to give us any illusions about how easy the PhD is going to be.  “Welcome to the first day of your PhD. Now get to work!”  Part of me keeps screaming in the back of my head: WHAT WAS I THINKING???

One thing I can say is that my Sociolinguistics course, while extremely difficult, is going to be absolutely awesome!  The subject matter is simply so fascinating to me, and the professor seems understanding, friendly, egalitarian in her treatment of graduate students, and more than a little funny.  And seriously, I get to talk about language all day!  How could that be anything but a good thing?

I also think my students this semester are going to be wonderful.  After only two class periods the first of which was merely getting all that introductory stuff out of the way they seem to be mostly attentive and at least somewhat interested in the class.  Granted, these are all college freshmen in a composition class, and few of them (if any) really enjoy writing research papers.  But at least they were all willing to enter into discussions in class.  That is always a good sign.

All in all, I suspect this is going to be a very long semester.  I think (I hope) I can manage it, but it’s not going to be easy.  You may hear some exhausted whining on this blog, though I will try to keep it to a minimum.  I just thought I should give you all some fair warning.

surprised a little like this

However, what really made this week particularly insane, was being featured on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed page.  I’m not sure you can imagine my shock and glee when I was told on Tuesday morning by the lovely Piper Bayard on Twitter that she had seen me on the front page of WordPress.  I never saw it coming!

It was an absolutely wonderful feeling to check my email in between classes on Tuesday and see how many people had commented, liked, and subscribed to my blog.  Of course, I was far too overwhelmed by the sheer number of comments to do much more than sit back and stare at my computer screen in awe.  But it was (and continues to be) an absolutely astounding sensation.  Once again, I cannot thank you all enough for your interest and support.

I am currently trying to go through all the comments.  I read every single one of them, but unfortunately there is simply no way I can respond to all of them.  I am trying to respond to as many as I can, but I hope you’ll forgive me if I fail to respond to your comment.

I also hope you’ll forgive me if this particular post is a little too personal and boring to keep the interest of all my new readers.  But I wanted to get this out there.  I promise that next week’s blog posts are all written, ready to go, and far more interesting than this one.  So I hope you’ll bear with me and come back on Monday.

yeah, kinda like that

In the meantime, I need to read Professing Literature: An Institutional History by Gerald Graff.  And possibly put my head through a wall.  So I’ll be going.

Have a wonderful wonderful weekend everyone! Thank you again! And I’ll see you next week!