Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing Group Check-In

Hello, WG!

Member Susan has just walked over to remind me to post so that she can update! The illustrious Notorious, PhD has kindly sent on the list of participants and their goals from last week (below), so that I can check things off as they come in. Please, everyone, don't forget to also post your goals for next week, as well as any changes to your longer-term goals.

WHAT? Changes? Well, yes. And, in fact, that's what I want to talk about this week. Well, that and how to juggle projects. The thing is, projects and priorities sometimes get shifted, either by necessity or from opportunity. So, for example, when I came back from Berks, I had been given A Job To Do, i.e., to submit my paper to a journal by today. That's something I really hadn't counted on, especially with the admin work I meant to finish when at home, that I still need to get to Superdean. So now I have three immediate projects: a paper submission; assessment reports; and my Leeds paper. Also, I'm in the UK, and need to make those things happen while juggling being a decent houseguest (rather than just someone who crashes at a friend's place), visiting family, dealing with a rather extensive commute (I'm staying somewhere between West Drayton and Uxbridge, i.e., about 75 minutes from the BL, and actually making the best use of my time in the BL.

I'm fairly sure you all have similar things happening. Some of those things are just life. I'm not going to talk about them. Instead, I am going to say a little something about juggling the writing projects in the time set aside for work. First? I'm not so good at it. I haven't got my paper ready to submit, because I really felt it was important to get a bit of a grasp on the Leeds paper first, and get myself into some sort of work routine this week. No work on Monday, because it was a flying day. But I've been trying to do reading that will benefit both projects. I think this is one of the things that many of us forget: sometimes, we can work on two things at once, if only because things are related. So on Wednesday, I opened up my Leeds paper project on Scrivener, and started a project file for the article. As I've read, I've found some things I needed to add to one, some that help for the other, some that apply to both. The general citations, notes, and tagging have gone into Zotero, and then I've added about four hundred words to the Berks paper and written about 1100 words for Leeds (although about 2/3 of that is rambly notes that won't make it into the final paper).

So yeah, trying to work on two things at once is one way of doing things. Another thing I've been doing is taking a few minutes at the end of the afternoon to take stock of what I've done, make notes for things I want to do in particular (books to order, etc.) and what I haven't got done. Then, I try to look at that list again in the morning. It's helping, I think, although not as much as I'd like. This coming week, I want to start adding to that notes on setting aside time to do certain things, so that I can make sure that projects aren't dropping off the radar.

What is both helpful and difficult here is that I have three deadlines. Today (missed, but I will be in the library tomorrow and hope to finish the draft then); next week (or my dean will kill me); and something like the 10th (because that's when I get on the train for Leeds). Keeping those in mind is also very important. So -- deadlines that can be re-scheduled sometimes; taking stock and making sure to make and log progress on each project; constant re-evaluation of each project. Let's see how it goes next week.

In the meantime, how are the rest of you doing? (I'll put a strike through last week where applicable and list what you did, and your goal for next week)

ABDMama [Draft of an article MS]: complete going through the primary and secondary sources identified this week

ADM General goal: [conference paper for Leeds; revision of paper after]; Last week's goal: work on Leeds paper added c. 400 words to Berks paper, wrote about 1100 words for Leeds, read several books on property and land transactions; Next week: [submit Berks paper w/ revisions; get a better handle on Leeds paper with detailed outline -- I'm traveling for 2-3 days, but part will be spent conferring with Magistra et Mater, who knows things about my topic, so hope to have about the same amount of writing, but much more polished and usable]

Bardiac: [Review-ready article MS*] [out of town, but wrote up a work plan] [this week: follow work plan?] NB from ADM -- a little more detail might be helpful!

Caleb Woodbridge [MA thesis]: No goal submitted for next week [NPhD: these are important to keep you accountable and moving forward]

Cly [revise article for publication & draft chapter for book]: Incorporate article changes and have skeleton of book chapter

Dame Eleanor [Revising a conference paper into article MS]: need to finish the conference paper this week, but put in 20-30 minutes a day taking notes or outlining the main project.

Digger: [drafts of two book chapters] [This week: edit chapter, incl. tables; 1 abstract written and submitted for a conference in Jan; an outline for 2nd conference paper]

Dr. Koshary [Review-ready article MS]: "slap together" narrow draft

Eileen [First draft of a dissertation chapter]: another 4k words integrating data theory, complete with clean citations

Erika: Review-ready draft of an article MS* [This week -- finish reading primary sources, add 1-2 pp of writing to draft]

Firstmute [draft of the final dissertation chapter]: (small shift in priorities) [This week -- have the article in shape to send to my advisor by Friday. I'll have a secondary goal of putting in 1 hr a day on the chapter]

Frog Princess [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: produce review-ready revision of current chapter, and to write a workable first draft of the introduction… thus resulting in the first complete draft of the whole dissertation [NPhD: Woot!! Go, Frogprincess!!!]

Gillian [an article that needs writing]: detour to finish Leeds paper

Godiva [First draft of diss. chap.]: Read one long narrative source

J. Otto Pohl [Complete draft of 2/3-finished book MS]:[make up for lost writing time] [NPhD suggestion: a more concrete weekly goal to help keep you on track; ADM thinks this is very necessary -- a word count meter is good, but you can have one of those without a writing group!]

Jason [First draft of a dissertation chapter]: Traveling, so will commit to squeezing in 3 writing sessions during the week, plus 90 minutes of reading each travel day; also create a daily work schedule for New Summer Place. [NPhD: hooray for having a summer writing retreat! Can we all come?]

Jeff [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: at workshop, but trying to revise Nth chapter

Jen [Revising conference paper into article MS]: Traveling for wedding, so goal is just to write a little every day.

Kit: [Need LT goal -- can't find it] [500 words a day]

Matilda [Draft of a publishable paper]: work through week 5 section of WYJA; working hard on the draft I was asked, which needs quite a bit of reading, and its deadline is coming. While doing these tasks, I am working continuously on my own article. I will. (Note from ADM: try to come up with concrete objectives, rather than "working hard" -- it's something that really does help when juggling projects]

NWGirl [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: "Write first" [NPhD: sing it, sister!], with a goal of completing at least one section of the paper.

Ro [MS revision (NPhD: article?)]: Traveling, but continue readings in primary sources, writing up notes of insights gained and significant detail seen so far

Sapience [diss chapter]: work on article abstract for a book CFP and job market materials while waiting for feedback from advisor

Sara [Revision of research exam]: Read two articles & incorporate them into draft

Scatterwriter [Complete expansion/revision of an article MS]: identify more concepts to focus on and to write up at least one of them (if not more)

Scholastic Mama [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: Read a couple of things by Abelard to fill in a gap in the evidence.

Susan [Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS]: [Last week: Complete draft of the current chapter and sketch out what needs doing on the next] [this week -- two amorphous but essential summaries of brosder bodies of information]

Tigs [Completed diss draft]: Rewrite legal section of ch. 2, and finish initial round of edits on pop culture section

Travelia [Write two conference papers]: finished most of one paper, finishing up and conferencing this week.

What Now [Polished book proposal]: idea stepped on; taking a week to regroup/rethink

Zabeel [Draft first two sections of new article]: Again, my focus is on working consistently. It's going to be a reading week -- Mon and Tues in the BL, then some close work on primary sources again working toward getting a more complete draft er... drafted.

Zcat abroad [write two articles]: Traveling [NPhd: Okay, but next week, give us a concrete goal, yes?]

Awaiting report:

Anastasia: a book chapter to write for an edited volume**

Audie: working on transitioning a dissertation chapter to an article**

Avery: Draft of an article MS***

Historydoll: Convert dissertation chapter into an article*


Ms McD: Revising a conference paper into an article MS*

My Museology: redraft three dissertation chapters*

theswain: editing & rewriting; produce new reviews/summaries for New Year's work**

UPDATE: Hi all -- still updating goals, but have some inputted now!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chasing the ghost of von Ranke

So I'm writing a Leeds paper about a ghost. It's the ghost of "everybody says" or "people used to say" or "common knowledge." It's a paper that came out of a few conversations, conversations where people said, "But X couldn't do Y," or,"But that wasn't supposed to happen," or, "but you can't trust this source because it: isn't what you think it is; is possibly (or is) a forgery; is not the original, but a 12th C recreation; probably didn't have that witness list (which by the way might not really be a witness list) attached to the original, etc."

So I thought, "let's try to figure out what it is we know, and what it is we don't, and who told us this stuff that is common knowledge." I thought I needed to know this because not to know it, and more importantly, not to discuss the historiography and the arguments scholars have had before sticking in my own oar, seemed shoddy work.

Then I talked to a colleague who said, "if it's old and obviously wrong, I just ignore it! Why document that someone else argued against what you are now going to demonstrate?" Well, that's a good question. I think that we need to trace the arguments a bit, if only because people like me, who are to some extent self-taught, would like a bit of help.

But the more I look at things, including articles by a single scholar that say one thing 20 years ago, then suddenly don't, and perhaps mention the reason for their change of heart in a very small footnote, the more I wonder if I have to worry quite as much.

So my paper will be methodological, and will likely focus on the evidence for what seems to have been true.

And the conclusion? History is complicated. Carolingian history is packed with people who say one thing and do another. Theory is fine, but practice often diverges from it. Basically, if you are a historian who does the job at all well, you'll use the evidence honestly, draw your conclusions, and point out where we have to use the sources with big chunks of salt, and why.

It's not going to be wie es eigentlich gewesen. But I think (or at least this is how I am justifying it to myself) that sometimes, the best we can do is present the evidence, explain why we think it means what it does and how it fits in, and admit there are big holes that other people may interpret differently. Sometimes, it's not about knowing the answers, I think. Sometimes, good history is about pointing out where and why there are questions we might not be able to answer. Or so I hope.

In the BL

Working. Glancing around the room, I see a colleague from St Andrews and someone else Historian on the Edge has mentioned a few times. And regular reader Susan should be here later.

In the meantime, reading a little Warren Brown and a lot of Wendy Davies, et al.

Must organize time, though. The problem with being here is that I just want to gorge on books that I can't normally access, and really, I need to focus on particular projects. Speaking of which, I need to look at the Leeds programme and see if I'm talking for 20 minutes or 15!

Going down to Cambridge next week to see Magistra...

Later, gang.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Let the panic begin

Well, I leave for London in two days. I have promised to finish my admin stuff Real Soon Now -- and that really means by the end of next week. I also promised a group of fairly intimidating women scholars that I would submit my paper from Berks to an Actual Journal by the end of next week. In the meanwhile, I am beginning to panic about my Leeds paper and why the hell I thought it would be a good idea. Just kill me now.

At least I will be in the place of peace that is the BL by Tuesday...

In the meantime, I am trying to get together my life, my house, and denying it all by watching Season One of Being Human.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Final Berks Post (what I love about the Berks)

All right... so despite my grumpiness at feeling marginalized because of my scholarly interests, which grumpiness increased when I overheard the following comments:

"I need one of those handouts -- the one with the funny writing" (for two incredibly normal-to-ANY-pre-modernist documents)

" least you can ignore all that irrelevant medieval stuff" ('irrelevant' definitely modified medieval rather than stuff)

Despite that, I enjoyed the Berks as I have before. There were tons of cool people, and the medievalists (and some other pre-modernists) who were there at least had the chance to see each other and hang out together a bit more than we would have at the Zoo. There was an antiquity paper, two (TWO!) Carolingian papers, a couple of charter papers, and some later stuff. The nice thing about being a medievalist (especially if you're one like me who started in the 19th C, then moved to Tudor, then to Classics, then forward to Anglo-Norman before settling in the EMA) is that there's a pretty broad range of stuff that is familiar. The panels I went to were all really good, and almost every paper was solid, interesting, and well worth hearing. There were a couple that were less good, but none were poor. I heard a gorgeous paper on Late Antique cosmetics and pharmacology, a really interesting one on the ways Chinggis Khan used marriage networks, another on Baldwin of Flanders' marriages... The quality of papers is a real tribute to the program committee(s). I went to a workshop today, and can't say I loved the format, but that might in part be because the one I went to was sort of cobbled together from a solid panel and some papers that needed homes, I think.

Besides that, though, Berks did offer one of the things it does really well -- the opportunity to meet other scholars, make connections, mentor and be mentored, and in my case, get my butt kicked about my inability to move papers to publications. I'm not sure why, but Berks does tend to attract a group of women scholars who just don't have time for bullshit. It results in a different sort of dynamics -- maybe because women in groups, or maybe those women? are really good at being blunt without hurting feelings or egos. So if you are thinking of Berks, then keep an eye out for the CFP. The only way to get more pre-modern on the program is to get involved. And the benefits generally outweigh the costs (which can be semi-pricey, depending on where it is -- UMass was expensive, but Minnesota was really cheap). Besides, if you're anything like me, you teach enough non-medieval stuff that you can still still ask questions at panels :-)

A small note on panels and timekeeping

Please do this. Try to keep to time. This is really important. It's being considerate to your colleagues on the panel, and also to the people who would like to hear papers on two panels. Your paper is probably interesting. It might be the most interesting paper in the world. Everybody might want to hear more, but you know? that's what question time is for. If it is the most interesting paper in the world, the questions will reflect that.

I have been at conferences where senior scholars have gone over -- a lot (one went over 40 minutes, and made it necessary to carry the questions over to the next morning, so that the two senior scholars who had stuck to time -- and incidentally given much more interesting and solid papers -- could answer questions). It's really unforgivable. But if you are a senior scholar, especially one who is well-known, you can get away with it once in a while. If you are a well-loved senior scholar, you might be able to get away with it more often, but if you make a habit of it, you won't be as well-loved.

If you are a junior scholar, it depends on how good you are. If you're scary good, then you can probably get away with it in the manner of senior scholars. But if you aren't? Best to be extra-polite.

If you are a grad student? We all get how involved you are with your subject. We were there once, too. But there's a good case that you aren't as plugged in to the community at the conference yet. You might want to consider that people on your panel and in the audience are folks who can be useful to you, or whom you want to impress, but you ave no idea what they look like. And this can be true on a larger level. When, for example, someone who appears meek and polite (not me, btw) makes a comment and asks a question, think carefully before correcting them abruptly. That person could be someone whose research and teaching have included your topic since before you started grad school, and the question might be going somewhere that would help you. They might be making a different point that you weren't expecting. And sometimes, that person is also a person who organizes conferences in your field, or edits a journal you want to submit to, or will recognize your paper when it comes across her desk for peer review.

I happen to be a person who teeters between absolute fear at conferences (yes, I spend hours asking patient friends if my paper was ok, or if my question was dumb!) and trying to be really polite, and then stepping into things and being perhaps too blunt (and in fact, I just jumped in and argued with a colleague over something). There are many people who are better at conference behavior than I am. But I do think that considering all the dynamics of what could be happening around you, and that every person you don't know (or do), might be worth at least trying to be polite to, is probably something to aim for.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Berks, round two

So, it's been an marvelous Berks! Despite a lack of pre-modern stuff, there are lots of cool pre-modernists here. My paper went well, I think, and Janice gave a great paper, as did pretty much every person I know! I've seen a bunch of papers so far, including one on Chinggis Khan, one on medieval Islamic law, one on Medici women...

I've met up with lots of old friends, had dinner with Impressive Medievalists, including Extremely Cool Colleague, and some new ones. Met Knitting Clio, Cliotropic, and saw Belle, Tanya, Clio's Disciple, Clio Bluestocking, and Tenured Radical. Really missed Historiann, but am happy Madeleine is ok.

So, yay for another great Berks (more pre-modern, please!!) and tomorrow? home and more work. Apparently, I am submitting two papers to journals by the end of the summer. Eep!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dear Berks Organizers

For next time, could you please try to get more pre-modern -- and especially pre-16th C -- papers? The program is really embarrassingly imbalanced towards the modern and the American. I like the conference, and it's pretty awesome. But honestly? All you have to do is read Judith Bennett's History Matters to get an idea of the contributions of medievalists to women's history. We've been doing it a long time.

This is something that seriously pisses me off, because it shouldn't happen. Medievalists were doing postmodernist work before modernists got the clue and gave what we'd been doing a cool name. Medievalists and Classicists have been doing interdisciplinary work since long before it became cool and necessary. Um, duh. Medievalists have been looking at women for kind of a long time, and there is an awful lot of good work on women in the MA that might even -- dare I say it? inform some of what our modernist colleagues are only just discovering.

And yet, a conference that grew from the marginalization of women historians and women's history makes me feel very marginalized in the very same way I feel in my department and on my campus. It's a good reminder that privilege comes in many forms.

I can go to pretty much any panel here and feel comfortable with the topic and be able to ask questions. I teach World Civ. I am a woman of a certain age and a feminist. I have a good grip on modern stuff because I live in the modern era. These things are part of my everyday life. They are also, to some extent, current events to me, and almost political science rather than history. If it happened after I started school, I have a hard time seeing it as "history."

But here, as in my department, on my campus, and at AHA, I feel like I have to apologize because what I do is not necessarily as accessible. I feel like I have to apologize for reading and using Latin and German (and no, I'm not doing handouts of the texts as I would at a medieval conference; I'm just doing quick translations in the text). I feel like I have to convince my colleagues here -- if they even ask -- that working on kinship and family and remarriage in the MA is relevant.

The last Berks wasn't so much like that, I think in part because one of the organizers was the amazing Ruth Mazo Karras. There were enough pre-modern, and even medievalist, papers that I had to make choices. This year? not so much. It's more about digging to find something that I can use in teaching. The best panel is a roundtable on Sunday -- and I will have to miss part of it because the conference is in BFE in terms of transport. I really hope that the organizers think about these things a bit more next time. /grumpy rant.

Writing group, Week Two

Hi all -- welcome to week two! I've used executive privilege to add two new people, Cly and theswain, and added the names of a couple of people who asked to be in before the first week. However, the group is now closed till next session, unless Notorious overrules me! Last week, I asked Notorious to post this:

Lots of people started out making less progress than perhaps they had planned, for all sorts of good reasons. But we all know that those good reasons still eat into our time, and can often mean a sense of failure that affects getting the writing done. For next week, let's not only post our goals, but also think about one or two small things that, even if life starts getting in the way, we can get done to move the project forward. It could be reviewing a couple of articles, or drafting an outline, or even just freewriting 500 words you think you'll have to dump -- but it should be something you can point to and say, "I did this thing."

So, what are/were your small goals (or baby steps) for this last week? What did you get done? For those of you who are juggling many things, was it helpful to log even the small things?

My week was incredibly busy. I was away scoring AP exams from 8-5 every day. But I managed to write another 750 words on my paper for Berks (which I am now cutting down and practicing for tomorrow!), and did some reading and note-taking (a good article by Rachel Stone: "Bound from Either Side’: The Limits of Power in Carolingian Marriage Disputes, 840--870") for the Leeds paper. Next week, I am planning to review the research I've already done on the paper and draw up plan for what I need to do and order books to be waiting for me at the BL when I get there on the 21st.

In the meantime, I have to say that I used Scrivener for my Berks paper, and LOVED it. It allows one to write in little chunks, which sometimes suits my schedule. I'm also still playing with Sente, and it's wonderful in its way, although sadly, it has some things that zotero doesn't, but zotero allows one to tag individual notes, which I think makes it better. Next thing this coming week is to see if I can get the standalone zotero to work on my macbook. I'm looking for something I can integrate with an iPad, and so far Sente is the only thing that does. BUT ... if I could use Sente and export to zotero, I could get all the functionality I want.

(also, I will be adding links to everyone's profile as I get the chance don't forget you can click on people's names in comments to link to profiles/blogs!)

  • Sapience: a first draft and a revised draft of the current dissertation chapter
  • Dame Eleanor: Revising a conference paper into an article MS
  • NWGirl: Same thing.
  • ADM: a conference paper for Leeds
  • ABDMama: Draft of an article MS
  • Dr. Koshary: Review-ready article MS
  • Sara: Revision of her research exam
  • What Now: Polished book proposal
  • Avery: Draft of an article MS
  • Jason: First draft of a dissertation chapter
  • J. Otto Pohl: Complete a draft of a two-thirds finished book MS
  • Jeff: Review-ready draft of his completed dissertation
  • Frog Princess: Same thing
  • Erika: Review-ready draft of an article MS (taken from the dissertation)
  • Godiva: First draft of a dissertation chapter
  • Kit: Same thing
  • Eileen: Same thing, too!
  • Bardiac: Review-ready article MS (revision of a draft paper)
  • Scholastic Mama: Revising a conference paper into an article MS
  • Jen: same thing
  • Tigs: Completed dissertation draft
  • Digger: drafts of two book chapters (one already underway)
  • Zcat abroad: write two articles [??] [is this from scratch, or two revisions? Seems like a lot for 12 weeks; just sayin']
  • Caleb Woodbridge: MA thesis
  • Matilda: Draft of one paper [for a conference? or for publication?]
  • Zabeel: Draft of the first two (of four) sections of a from-scratch article.
  • Ro: first draft of an essay for an collected volume (mid-summer)
  • Firstmute: draft of the final [ed. note: YAY!!!] dissertation chapter
  • Scatterwriter: Complete expansion/revision of an article MS.
  • Susan: Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS
  • Travelia: Write two conference papers (possibly more later in the summer)
  • Ms McD: Revising a conference paper into an article MS
  • Gillian: an article that needs writing.
  • Audie: working on transitioning a dissertation chapter to an article!
  • Anastasia: a book chapter to write for an edited volume.
  • My Museology: redraft three dissertation chapters.
  • Cly: redraft three of my dissertation chapters.
  • theswain: lots of editing and rewriting of what I've already written. New stuff -- trying to produce reviews/summaries for Year's Work in OE Studies.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Today's Cool resource

If you hadn't yet seen Regnum Francorum Online