Archive for June 29th, 2014
By Thor…I needed all the help I could get.
No, that’s not quite right. I was 90% prepared, going into the morning. I had piloted the in-room technology the day before, things worked fine. I had given myself plenty of time to run out to get treats to encourage class participation. Had prepped a few side documents (a roll sheet, a notes page as a guide to remind me of points, or keep me from rambling). Then I got to the campus computer lab, and the server was being wonky, and not letting me print. In the classroom, the tech had been changed so the display was that of the overhead projector, not the mirror-display from the computer.
While the monitor issue was resolved, I was still faced with presenting without my formal notes. Good thing I had been giving serious thought to performing my presentation as I was putting it together. Add a certain degree of passion about the subject, and I was able to do a fair share of winging my way through. I ended a little on the shorter side, and the debrief included a couple of possible activities I could have used to stretch the time a little longer, but I passed, which is ultimately the primary concern.
Let me explain. Remember that “Teaching Popular Fiction” course I mentioned? Students coming out of that class do teaching presentation at their next Residency. I was lucky enough to get mine done on the first day, lifting much of the pressure and antica…..pation that might have been there had I not been slated for later in the Res.
The afternoon module I had opted for was “The 30-Minute Novel,” for Reasons. From my mentor meeting, (two days prior, before Orientation), I had been given the green light to start work on another project. During this module, I added flesh to a story skeleton I had been tinkering with, getting a clearer idea for how it may play out.
Then came a (relatively) quiet night.
The first session is a split one. During the 3-hour morning block, there is a (mixed) “Discussion of the Common Reading” session, followed by a class-specific breakout workshop.
An aside. I think I’ve mentioned before that there is a common text selected for each Residency, that varies based on a genre schedule. January, for instance, we read NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (Horror). Two years ago, when I started, it was The Hunger Games (YA). This time, the text was The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
A second aside. The program is structured to cover five academic semesters. The first three are (usually) “Readings in Genre” courses. The fourth term is when students take the “Teaching Popular Fiction” course. It is the students in that course that are given the opportunity to assemble materials (handout or Powerpoint presentation) that are used for the discussion sessions for the common reading at the next Res.
I was one of the four people that worked on the materials. They went over well.
Then came our breakout session: Reading Aloud, along with a brief discussion of what we need to be prepared for in this last semester, if we plan on graduating in January.
After lunch saw the start of the formal modules. I had selected “Media Tie-ins.” They were one of my gateways, way back when (gaming related books, ST:TOS and TNG novels), that I wouldn’t be opposed to one day playing in other peoples universes.
I sat in on one of the thesis readings that night, before putting the finishing touches on my teaching presentation, set for the next morning.
The Drive. The longest slog. I left the house early enough – 10am – to make the 8 hour drive (had I gone straight through). Stopped for lunch about half-way, and traffic was moving well. No problems.
Then I missed a turn.
No, no horror stories…at least, not thosekind of horror stories.
The summer route I usually take is 95 North, then head west around Fredericksburg – on 17, to start, then winding my way up 81, through a corner of West Virginia an up into Pennsylvania. And I missed the turn off of 81 that I had intended on, and a few miles later found myself stuck in a horrible back-up. Over an hour to crawl less than five miles, around 5pm, in two-lane traffic, reminded me of driving around DC in rush hour. I watched my ETA (as figured by the GPS), creep later and later. I checked for an alternate route, made plans for a possible exit escape. Then realized that plan involved waiting it out for another 8 miles of inching along the asphalt.
I took the next exit I came to, and prayed to the GPS gods to be gentle. It took me along a short, scenic route, but redirected me back toward 81…several miles farther along than where I exited, but it was back toward 81.
To say that I was skeptical, and less-than-thrilled is an understatement.
But something interesting happened. That side road brought me down a hill, not a steep one, but enough that I could get a hint of traffic waiting on 81. And there was none. A few cars zipping along southbound, but almost no cars headed north. I was returning to the highway only a few miles from where I had exited, but I had bypassed whatever accident-thing that had stopped traffic. I was soon exceeding the speed limit (a relief, after the hour’s crawl), and a few moments later I was passing the exit I had originally planned as my escape.
Arrived at the hotel a little after 8p. Soaked in the hot tub to recover from the drive (and extra tension from the delay) before dinner, and moving over to the dorms the next day.
Day 0: Each Residency officially starts with an Orientation session, at night, that is part mixer, part reunion, part business, and part homecoming. New students are welcomed, introduced to the faculty, the graduating students, and generally get overwhelmed right off the bat. (At least, that’s how it felt two years ago, when I started.)
But first, I had to move, and other business to handle. I spent the morning putting slides together for my teaching presentation (finally figured out how I wanted to order things that had been floating in my head for the previous few weeks), transferred from the dorm to the hotel, dropped my stuff in my new room, and lingered on campus for less than an hour before cruising back toward the hotel and a (the?) local Starbucks, to sort-of-write, before my mentor meeting at 3p.
About that. Each Residency involves students meeting with their mentors, to discuss the thesis project, the terms of the contract for the coming semester, and whatever other business may need to be addressed. Normally, there is one night exclusively dedicated to the meetings. I am lucky. The mentor that I am (currently) with, after the initial “new mentee” meeting after the assignments (in my case, was done last June), likes to meet with his folks “off schedule.” Hence the chance for a leisurely 3p meeting before the Residency has even started.
And the writing I was doing? Brainstorming. With the end of the thesis in sight, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what to work on next. My ideal involves finishing my thesis with plenty of time to spare, so much time, in fact, that I am able to work on another project before graduating. Not only that, but maybe even getting enough of it done to see how well I can apply what I have learned to a project that’s NOT the thesis novel (which, as near as I figure, should suggest that I’ve incorporated the process enough to be able to apply it to future projects as well).
Then it was back to campus, getting ready for orientation, and a class dinner after.
Then came the Residency proper.