What I’m reading: August 2021

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month. 

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains spoilers for Dr. Death (the podcast and probably the TV series), Glow Up, and Humans. Also I talk about The Most Amazing Vacation Rentals on Netflix in some detail. I don’t think it’s possible to spoil a travel reality show but I’m mentioning it just in case. Also: no reality show catch phrases (e.g. “What a life!,” “Ding dong!” or “Bring on the models!” were harmed in the writing of this blog post.)

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If we taught students what they expected to learn…

So I’ve been spending some time lately trying to write up the findings of my study on creative writing pedagogy. In making a case for why it’s important for creative writing students to learn about creative research, I started talking a lot about the mismatch between students expectations about what they will learn as part of a creative writing program and what the actual learning goals of creative writing programs are, at least at the undergraduate level. Evidence suggests that students come to these programs expecting to learn how to hone their talents and identities as writers. But according to the AWP’s guidelines, what these programs are actually meant to teach is critical reading. Basically, an undergraduate creative writing major is learning to “read like a writer” in order to better appreciate literature “from the inside.”

As a former creative writing student, when I first read this, it felt like a bit of a bait and switch to me. Like, what do you mean all that learning I did was about becoming a better reader instead of a better writer? What do you mean the AWP considers it basically a waste of time to teach undergraduates about actual writing because, statistically speaking, so few of them possess the talent or persistence necessary to actually become professional writers? I want my money back!

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Gone fishing: Summer edition

I’m on vacation this week so I won’t be posting any new content, but below is a list of some favorite posts from this year so far in case you’d like to check out any you might have missed. Enjoy and see you in a few weeks!

Guest post: Jesi Buell on how to use research in creative writing

Dear students: Citing your sources incorrectly is not plagiarism

Research in fiction writing: What problem is this investigation trying to solve (for librarians)?

Reference desk interactions: Helping “library users” versus helping “information creators”

Research in fiction writing: What problems is this investigation trying to solve (for writers)?

Reflecting on Being a (Former) First Generation Student

My Online Teaching Persona is a Major Introvert

Why I Start My Freshman Seminar with a Game Called “Category Die”

Dear AWP: Research is Not Just for Nonfiction

In Search of Borders Between Research Contexts

The True Bummer of Teaching

That Time I Tried Using a Tom Lehrer Song to Teach Plagiarism

 

 

Basics of Creative Research: A totally random Zoom event

Hey everybody,

On July 20, I’ll be giving a short talk on the basics of creative research, based on the findings of some of the studies I’ve talked about here, to a creative writing Meetup group I started a few weeks ago. I decided to post it here too in case there is any interest. The event will take place on Zoom at 7 p.m. Eastern. The information in this talk will be of interest to both creative writers and librarians looking to learn more about creative research.

If you’re interested, click the link to register below and I’ll send you the Zoom link the day of the event. The talk is free and you do not need to join the Meetup group to participate.

Basics of Creative Research

Date: Tuesday, July 20
Time: 7 p.m. Eastern
Location: Zoom (link will be sent the day of the event)
Description: A talk about some research basics based on a study of popular and academic writing books as well as published author interviews. What types of research do published authors talk about most? What recommendations do they give for going about the research process? What advice do they have for using research as part of a creative work? The talk will last about 30 minutes with time afterward for Q&A.

What I’m reading: May 2021

Image: Title screen for TV series Warrior, owned by Cinemax

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains discussion of and possible spoilers for Crime Show (podcast), Warrior (TV series on HBO Max), and Lego Masters (TV series on Fox/Hulu). 

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Dear AWP: Research is not just for nonfiction

I’ve been spending some time lately taking a closer look at the AWP’s various guidelines for undergraduate and MFA creative writing programs. You’d think that this would have been a step I would have taken much earlier in my research into creative writing pedagogy. And it was, sort of. But now that I know a little bit more about what I’m looking for in these documents, it seemed worth taking the time to take another look.

As mentioned in a previous post, the undergraduate guidelines don’t have much to say about research or even writing. They make it pretty clear that an undergraduate creative writing program is more about learning to appreciate literature from a writer’s perspective than it is about being a writer. Which, as a former undergraduate creative writing major, kind of makes me want to gnash my teeth but whatever.

The MFA guidelines (which are called “Hallmarks,” I guess) are a little more interesting, though. Because they do mention research. Sort of. In a section on the value of cross-genre study, they specifically say: “fiction writers often benefit from learning the research techniques of nonfiction writers.” And later, they mention the value of the campus library…as a place to study works of great literature. Which, as a current librarian, kind of makes me want to gnash my teeth a little but, again. Whatever.

That quote about nonfiction research techniques fascinates me, though. On the one hand, it’s awesome that this document acknowledges the fact that fiction writers do, in fact, sometimes do research as part of their creative work. On the other, it drives me kind of insane that they’re treating research as something that belongs strictly in the realm of nonfiction. That fiction writers (and, I assume, poets) who do research are just borrowing a technique or creative practice from another genre that is somehow the rightful owner of that technique or practice.

Like, what?

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Sabbatical report

So my long-awaited research sabbatical finally came to an end last month. This was my first time going on sabbatical and it was…well, it was a lot different from what I envisioned when I first applied for leave in fall 2019. You know, back when the phrase “global pandemic” had yet to enter my lexicon. That’s not to say it was a bad experience and of course it’s an enormous privilege to be able to do something like this at any time, much less during a devastating economic and public health crisis. But the pandemic-related restrictions on travel and social interaction that have been in place to one degree or another since March 2020 meant that any goals I had for using my more flexible schedule to become more active in these areas had to be set aside. On the one hand, this meant I had no choice but to focus on my projects and be as productive as possible, which is not a bad thing. On the other, it made the experience of being on sabbatical much more isolating and burnout-inducing than it might have been otherwise.

I might do a future post on some of the challenges I faced and how I dealt with them but for now I wanted to focus on some of what I was able to accomplish during this time.

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What I’m reading: March 2021

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, or play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains spoilers for The Neverending Story (both the book and the movies), the podcast Who the Hell is Hamish?, The 100 (TV series), WandaVision, and The Bridge (the HBO Max reality series).

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Reflecting on “Research is an Activity and a Subject of Study”

As I’m working on some new and exciting research projects, I’ve found myself going back to a few of my earlier works and reflecting on how my thinking has changed in the time since I wrote them. I thought I would share some of this here partly because I still get asked about some of these articles from time to time and partly because I think it’s valuable to show how things can change as you grow as a scholar.

So today I’m taking a look at “Research is an Activity and a Subject of Study,” which was published in College & Research Libraries in 2019.

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