Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rewriting the hypothesis...

Today I'm one year, four months, and two weeks, exactly, into this PhD. I just rewrote my hypothesis.

When I first applied to do this PhD, I proposed that flash fiction has as much literary weight as short stories, novellas and novels. As it turned out, the concept of 'literary weight' was somewhat problematic. It was a bit like the 'how long is a piece of string?' problem. 'Weight' is quite an arbitrary measurement.

So, I kind of let go of the hypothesis and just starting researching the history and definition of flash fiction, coming to the conclusion that while there isn't a lot of writing about flash fiction in academe, there is already more than enough writing aimed at defining flash fiction, and the only thing I would add to that writing might be a push to use flash fiction as an umbrella term to round up the lexical variant whichs populate the general definition of very short fiction.

I went on a bit of a trek into concepts of narrative identity and narrative lives, as well as realising that my attraction to flash fiction probably stems from my familiarity with Icelandic smásaga and the similarities between the two practices.

This morning I realised that all along I've been maintaining the same position; that is, while I'm interested in what flash fiction IS, I'm far more interested in what flash fiction can DO. I'm all about that action, peeps.

Why is flash a relevant form of writing. What can it do that other forms of writing cannot do as well as flash.

And this is where, at fourteen and a half months into my thesis, I find myself rewriting my hypothesis.

I heard this can happen. I've heard this happens a lot. Now it has happened to me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sorting all the things...

I've registered for the conference in Wellington, and also booked my flights. As it turned out I have to stay four night because the conference starts early on the Sunday and ends late on the Tuesday, so I have to be there Saturday and Tuesday nights. Oh well, I'll survive, I'm sure.

I submitted my passport application this morning and was told it would take 2-3 weeks, I really hope that it happens as quickly as they say, because three weeks will be the 3rd of November and I fly out on the 29th (I know that sounds like plenty of time, but seriously I want all my ducks in a row with plenty of time to spare!).

I have submitted two weeks notice of applying for assistance (reimbursement from the university for a domestic conference, confusing, I know, but for conference New Zealand is considered domestic). Hopefully, once I submit the application itself, I'll get the reimbursement in short order because I have yet to arrange accommodation, international sim, pocket money etc.

I also have to lodge a postal vote for the Victorian state election which just happens to be the same weekend I'm away, lucky me!

What else?

Around the 7th of November I should, hopefully, get my peer reviewed paper back with revisions. This makes me a bit nervous, I've heard all sorts of stories about papers being outright rejected to needing extensive revision. I'm hoping mine won't need a whole lot of work, though I expect it will need some work, being my very first paper.

Once that is done, I can revisit the presentation, and make sure the two pieces tee up nicely.

For the next three and a bit weeks I plan to revise everything I've done to date on this thesis and see where I stand with the project and how I want to proceed from here (I suspect this won't take three and a half weeks, maybe only a week or so, but the rest of the time will be about a getting a start on what I want to do next. I suspect I feel very differently about it all now, even since doing the colloquium, I feel like I've learned so many new things that colour how I view the topic, but it's all brewing somewhere beneath the surface.

Friday, October 10, 2014

What a little 'coming together' can do...

I've been working on this degree for about 16 months now. I'm almost half way through. It was only in the past two or three months that I started to meet up with other research candidates and was able to share the experience of being a PhD student or candidate with peers. Finding these other students has made a big difference to my experience of doing the degree.

If you read blog or journal articles about being a candidate, you will have come across (probably many) references to the sense of isolation doing this kind of work brings. Even if you do know other research students, they are often doing a very different field of research, using different methodologies, and having different kinds of issues with their research. So, even when I did find peers on campus, only one or two of them were writing peers, and none of them were doing the kind of writing I'm doing.

For the past couple of days I've been attending a symposium of arts and education research students. There were between 20-25 of us in all, and with those kinds of numbers I was able to find people doing similar kinds of work to me. It was bloody brilliant!

Everything about attending the symposium was pretty awesome. Talking about writing and the challenges writers face, but even more so, hearing about all the very varied research topics was very exciting (there were research topic I would NEVER have been able to dream up, including one on dream based writing). But most beneficial was the emphasis on collaboration.

I knew I was going to the symposium to meet other researchers, and possibly, maybe make a connection with someone and maybe even consider collaborating on a paper with that someone, but honestly, with my social ineptitude, I wasn't holding out much hope of that happening.

Getting published is imperative to gaining employment in academia. I know I need to have research papers published in peer reviewed journal, and I want to do this, but it is a daunting task. I have almost no experience with doing this (I have only just submitted my very first paper for peer review). So, with almost half of my degree done, I've been panicking a little about how to achieve the holy grail of publication - what to write about, where to submit, and most importantly how to write in a way to make publication happen.

In the past two days we had several rounds of presenting papers. In each round, there were 2 or 3 presenters, and at the conclusion of the presentations the audience was asked to choose a presenter whose presentation inspired them in some way and sit at a round table with them, and at the end of the discussion each of the audience had to present the researcher they had chosen with a suggested title of a paper they could collaborate with that researcher on. Then the researcher would choose the title which most appealed to them and would pair off with the other person to write an abstract together for a paper they would work on in the next year or so!

From this process, I now have two papers to work on with two new collaborators! This is so exciting to me, I can't even express how I feel about it. Not only do I have two I will definitely be working on (two inspiring projects to work on), but I have several other potential papers in the form of titles I can go over (once I get my breath back) and then contact those people in turn to see if they would still be interested in collaborating in the future.

When the symposium ended yesterday, I also felt as if I had made a whole bunch of new friends and contacts. Some of these people will be attending the conference in Wellington in November, which makes going to the conference a lot less intimidating to me. I was able to practice my presentation on them, and got a thumbs up from one of the people who is managing and reviewing the peer reviewed papers for the presentation (I don't think they have seen my paper - it was only submitted a week before -, but gave me a thumbs up for the presentation, saying I should definitely present it at the conference).

I was on a high last night. I'm feeling very wrung out today. Of course, being back in my office, and back to being alone, is quite jarring but hey, what a wonderful gift this symposium was!

Monday, October 06, 2014


I have had the most wonderful weekend!

Today I want to tell you about going to see 'Once' at the Princess Theatre on Spring Street, in Melbourne. Gosh, the Princess theatre is lovely! But this isn't a blog post about architecture - though the architecture was beautiful!

No, this is a post about the musical play, 'Once', 'Once' the musical play, is based on the film of the same name, which became a surprise international hit in 2006, winning an Oscar for best song ('Falling Slowly'). This award winning Broadway production (including multiple Tony awards, a Grammy, and two Oliviers), which has already been embraced by audiences in London, New York, and Dublin, has finally come to Australia. It is led by British Director John Tiffany and Music Supervisor Martin Lowe, both part of the original New York creative team. 'Once' has played to packed audiences since preview performances commenced in late September, and is currently playing at the Princess Theatre between October 1st and November 9th. I was very fortunate, not to mention excited, to get tickets to opening night via Nuffnang, and Oh My, it was amazing!

'Once' is a story about love, so, this is one for all the romantics out there!

This story of an Irish busker and a Czech girl is one so many of us can relate to, and it sure to evoke memories and empathy. It is about love and music, and of course, loss, because love is never felt more keenly than when it is lost. 

The mood for the night was set by the cast jamming on stage with the audience invited to join them for a Guinness. The word which came to mind as I listened to the traditional irish songs being played before the lights went down was synergy. Throughout the night, this word synergy came back to me over and over again. The cast has such coherence that not only do they play and sing as one, they create an energy which fills the theatre from the outset.

Tom Parson, playing the protagonist, Guy, skilfully guided the audience into the first setting of the play - a bar, and as the lights dimmed we entered a community on the other side of the world, in Dublin!

The story of a love-lorn musician who meets a girl who has heard and loved his music, played by Madeleine Jones in a very convincing Czech accent, brings with it all the magic of a chance encounter - the pivotal moments in life which change us all in unexpected ways. She encourages him to record his music and pursue his lover, who has moved to New York. But, of course, life is never that simple. This is a poignant and moving production, is peppered with wisdom, but not short is laughs, either. The performance ensemble is teaming with talent, portraying larger than life characters. Of special note are Billy the bar owner (Colin Dean) and Baruska, the girl's mother (Susan-ann Walker), who steal their scenes.

The music had me quite choked up -something I was not expecting - from beginning to end, but I was especially taken by a harmony which is sung towards the end of the show. The blend and strength of the voices was delicious and potent. I would see this again, just for that harmony!

If you want to follow the excitement surrounding this musical, you can check out the Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/OnceMusicalAustralia or hashtag: #loveonce.

In case you don't think you like musicals... Think again!

The Grumpy Old Man was sure a musical wouldn't be his thing, so I dragged a friend along with me instead. Robbie is a self-confessed musical-phobe, and lo and behold, he LOVED it. I would challenge anyone to not enjoy themselves seeing 'Once', and for people who appreciate great theatre and live music, this is a must-see event!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Get ready, steady... Go!

I sent off the paper for peer review last Tuesday morning. At the end of the first week of November I should get it back for revisions before it is published. I am so exciting, and a little nervous. I hope there aren't too many revisions to do, or worse that they say it is an utter piece of shit and I should go hide under a rock and never show my face in academic circles again - but I'm hoping that is very unlikely.

The Write/Connect symposium is on this coming week, and I'm hoping it turns out to be everything is proposed to be, and I might make a real connection to do some collaborative research and get another paper published. In any case, it will be good practice for speaking about my topic and working on the involuntary shakes and dry mouth that happen when I get up to speak. It's so odd, I don't feel nervous about speaking, I do it all the time, but in formal situations I still get shaky and dry. This symposium is supposed to be very relaxed as symposiums go, and I'm speaking just after lunch on the first day, so after that I can relax and enjoy myself.

I've been wrestling with going to Wellington. Just not sure how I will swing it, and it would be so easy for me to opt out because it is all too confronting (again, not the presenting bit, but rather the travelling alone to a place I don't know). I've decided to take the bull by the horns this week and get registration and flights bought and then start the refund process for accommodation and sustenance costs when I get there. I have also decided to get a cane to make my vision impairment more readily recognised by strangers when I'm travelling. I have asked to be signed up for mobility training, though I don't know if that can be arranged in time. I think in 2015 I'll be put in an application for a guide dog because I am far too reliant on Dave and mum, and friends to escort me everywhere. People are neither canes nor guide dogs.

This weekend is busy. I'm in the middle of transcribing my presentation to braille, both for braillng consolidation and for practising my presentation.

As well as this I'm going to the Princess theatre tomorrow night to review the musical play, 'Once'! I'll be putting a review for the piece here on the blog on Sunday, or Monday.

On Sunday, I'm going to my favourite movie theatre in Melbourne, The Astor, to see 'Gone with the Wind', I might do a review on that as well!

So, it's all happening around here!

Good Job!