Summer Anthology: Touchstones

I am the editor-in-chief of Touchstones. Touchstones is the undergraduate art and literature journal at Utah Valley University. We are doing an anthology or selections edition during the summer of the last ten years of the journal. Eleven years ago, I was the editor-in-chief (EiC) of the Spring 2007 edition and hoped to be the EiC of the then anthology, but disaster happened: I ran afoul of a bureaucratic slip-up in the UVU financial aid department and I wasn’t able to return to school until Fall of 2017.

So I’m doing it all over again, but this time everyone I knew and had a great relationship with has graduated and moved on and I’ve only had a year to rebuild relationships with new people. That’s been pretty hard. The reason I need the good relationships is so this anthology edition can go through smoothly. The biggest problem is most of the people working on Touchstones right now are so busy, they don’t have a lot of time to work on the journal.

Things are going very slowly. We’ve only read about ten percent of what we should have and I’m worried people will not get much more done.

I’m kinda bummed about it.

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GRE Workshops

I just scheduled myself for three workshops for the GRE. They’ll be happening June 18, 19, and 20 from 6 to 7:30 in the evening at the Fulton Library at UVU. This will be going on during my second week of 100 days of GRE study period.

The workshops will cover the three major areas of the GRE. Pretty nice. Now I gotta find a backpack to haul all my study gear in. I had to toss my old backpack because it developed a mold problem. Yeah. Pretty nuts. My bottle of Coke Zero exploded in my backpack and spilled all over the place. I was able to save my book, but the drink got into the liner and didn’t properly drain.

Nasty smelling stuff. I kept the backpack until the last day of the semester. I finished my last take home final at 23:58 on the final day before the school’s digital communications system went down. The sky was filled with stars and the smell of a just passed rain storm. I tossed the backpack in the bin and then wandered around for a while in a daze. I had been doing nothing but writing for five days straight and was having a little difficulty coming down from being in the “writing zone” that creative zone where words flow out of your fingers at as close to the speed of thought as possible. I wrote four papers that day. Three three pagers and a fourteen pager for that final.

Glad it’s over.

100 days of GRE

I’m in the planning stage of my 100 days of GRE prep. Right now I’m setting up my calendar and preparing my study area.

I finished spring semester three and a half weeks ago. My study area is still a mess. I’m going to be doing some chores and re-shelving all my books. I’m keeping all my books except my French book: I binned that piece of crap right after my final.

I got four As and an A-. The A- was in my philosophy class. I’m kinda bummed out about that, but otherwise, my semester went well.

Tuesday & Thursday Studies

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a Mormon Studies class and a French class. I like both for different reasons. I like the Mormon Studies class, because it examines issues facing LDS Intellectuals in academia rather than big issues being dealt with in Mormon culture or the news. It is pretty fascination because while most religious traditions have professional academics who are part of the structure of the religion, Mormonism does not. Most people who study Mormonism do so as part of a university instead of being paid by a church. BYU has a number of academic who are Mormon studying Mormon history and religious text, but BYU doesn’t have anyone who studies Mormon theology or anthropology. Historian, philosophers, theologians, anthropologists, literary critics, scriptorians, and what not who study Mormonism as a part of their academic profession are almost always employed outside of the LDS formal educational bureaucracy and because of that there is a lot of tension between the actual LDS church and academics who study Mormonism even if the intellectual in question is a loyal, believing member of the LDS church. What we examine in class rarely is discussed in church if ever other than when an LDS religious leader acts against university professors who study Mormonism.

I like the French class because it is a welcome relief from my other classes. The French class is hard, but it is not nearly as serious an endeavor as the Philosophy of Mormonism, Rhetoric, and the study of American Novels.

Comic Characters: Ty Beddo & SFC. Collins

IMG-4043One of my homework assignments was to write an emulation of a novel section we read in my English Genre’s class. The novel I’m working from is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I have the professor’s permission to write the assignment up as a comic script.

For this assignment, I created two new characters, Ty Beddo and SFC. Collins. Their write-ups are attached to the left. Beddo is the main character and Collins is the antagonist. When I say antagonist, I do not mean villain. Collins just makes Beddo’s life difficult while the plot progresses. Collins is not the reason the plot moves, however.

In Whitehead’s novel, the scene I am emulating shows the novel’s protagonist, Cora, and the villain, Ridgeway the Slave-IMG-4042Catcher. The scene takes place at an outhouse where Cora is relieving herself and Ridgeway is talking to her through the door. The purpose of the scene is for Ridgeway to reveal to Cora his belief system about Cora, why she is important, and what his role in the cosmos is.

My emulation is similar. SFC. Collins is meeting Beddo for the first time. Beddo is a private in the army and is getting some valuable time in the latrine after a long guard shift. Collins is talking to Beddo through the latrine door and reveals to Beddo his primary management philosophy.

The emulation is supposed to be short, but I do not know the equivalence of a comic script to a three or four page bit of prose, so I am writing the script as if it were going to be four pages of comic with a beat-page and scene description with a two page description for the professor about what I’m writing about. All together, this is ten pages of script, but there is a lot of white space.

Regarding the character write-ups, I got the format from Maurice Broaddus in the podcast “Writing Excuses.” I kind of like it. I’ll keep working with it. If I complete the entire graphic novel this could become, these two pages would make great editions to a character bible.

Maybe 10 Minutes of Blogging Will Do

Today is one of those days I wish I could just sit and write. It’s raining outside. I love rain and treasure it. We’re gonna get rain here in Utah for only another month or so and then we’ll get nothing until September.

The rain we’re getting smells just so good, but all my homework and study needs keeps me from sitting next to a window and writing. I just spent three hours catching up on my French homework (no deadline on this work). I did some financial aid. I did some research for a paper I need to finish outlining by the end of this weekend (I should be okay). I also did some exercise so I can reverse my getting fatter habits.

But I have written anything important all week. I’ve written an essay a day all through spring break, except last night when I got to fight with a backed up toilet for three hours. Essays are nice, but the essays part of my GRE prep regime.

I need to write a poem or outline a short story or brainstorm a novella. Something. Nope. I got reading to do for the rest of the night. I’ve got academics who’ve been dead for decades calling for attention and demanding grey-matter.

I guess I’ll have to put it off some more. I read about some of the complaints people have for MFA student about how they are forced to write. I love the idea. I can’t wait. Before I started school in the fall, I was writing a hiaku or a tanka a day and posting them to twitter. I haven’t done that since August, but in August I had a poetry class to write for. Not this semester. I have a lit class, a rhetoric class, a philosophy class, and two French classes. Nothing that demands creative attention.

I’d love to have an MFA workshop whip snapping behind me. I’d love to sit next to the window and write for me, the cosmos, my grand-kids, God, and maybe no one.

MFA Search: Week One

For the last week, I’ve been looking twenty universities that I am interested in applying to. After examining the schools for one week, here are the top twelve schools:

  1. University of Wyoming
  2. Vanderbilt University
  3. Oregon State University
  4. Syracuse University
  5. Portland State University
  6. University of Florida
  7. Virginia Tech
  8. University of Virginia
  9. University of Oregon, Eugene
  10. Florida State University
  11. Virginia Commonwealth University
  12. University of South Florida

These are ranked by ease of application & application requirements and what living near campus will be like. I looked at cost of living, funding levels, how much it will cost for me to move there, rent, distances to shopping & the VA, and convenience of social activities I’m interested in (comic book shops and used book shops).

To be honest, this is all easy stuff to look at. I now have to look carefully at the programs, classes offered, faculty publications, campus publications, faculty reputations, alumni publications, and urban data dealing with crime targeting students. This is going to take some time and is honestly the most important aspects of my MFA program search.

Where to Study

I can’t study at home. It’s impossible really and stupid. The reason is simple, I’m a grandpa and when I’m at home, I’m in charge of the grandkids. A blessing to be sure, but a curse as well. A three year old and a five year old make studying rough and since it’s spring break right now, my normal schedule is all topsy-turvy.

To solve this, I’ve tried to study in a few different places.

Orem City Library. I went to the local library to study, thinking that would be a great place to go. Unfortunately, Orem City is using the library this week to showcase the city’s plan for the next twenty years. A couple hundred people showed up and none of them were quiet. It got so bad, I decided to relocate to the McDonald’s across the road. When I was walking out, I came across a group of protesters that oppose some new, high-density, student housing going up near campus. I love protest, but these protesters were using false information and scare tactics to gather signatures to first stop work on the development and put the issue to a referendum. To say the least, I argued with them. I also complained to the library about the protesters blocking people’s access to the library. Eventually the protesters were moved.

McDonald’s. McDonald’s is not that bad a place to study. I got some food and a fountain drink and then started to work. The problem was the manager was not too happy I was there taking up table space and made her displeasure known by cleaning my table every ten to twenty minutes. I got nothing done.

UVU Food Court. Even though it is spring break, campus is still open (except the library, they’ve truncated their hours making it impossible for me to study), so I am sitting under the tv screen writing this. The problem is the custodians don’t want me here. They tried to boot me, but I told them to blow: the food court is closed because all the students are gone because of spring break. They complained to their supervisor and she came over to talk to me. I promised to be gone by midnight and to clear my own table (easy enough, I brought a PB&J in a paper bag and a 2 liter of Coke Zero). Five minutes later, the volume on the TVs got jacked up. I’m listening to MSNBC, Fox, and CNN all at once.

I’m not giving up. I’m going to fight through. I just wish the grandkids hadn’t killed my headphones.

Spring Break: Whatever

Spring break started yesterday right after I left my French conversation class. Yeah right. My spring break has nothing to do with doing the fun stuff normally associated with “spring break.” First of all, I’m too old for that crap. I’m 49. It would be way creepy for me to show up to a beach some place and party with all the young-uns running around doing stupid stuff even if I probably would rock a wet t-shirt contest.

Nope. None of that. I’ve got way too much homework.

  • I have an outline for a philosophy term paper to create (I already turned in the abstract and annotated bibliography, so I’ve already done a bunch of the leg work).
  • I have an outline for a rhetoric term paper to create (this one is based on three smaller papers I already wrote for this class, so not hard either).
  • I have a paper to write for my French class that has to be in French.
  • I have to write a movie review of a French movie to write for my French conversation class that also has to be in French.
  • I have to write a presentation for my French class and memorize it, because the presentation must be in French with no notes.
  • I have to write a paper about a religious studies conference I attended last month for the philosophy class.
  • I have to write a paper about the eight novels we covered in my English Genres class.
  • I have to write a small reading response about Chaim Perelman for my Rhetoric class (due tonight).
  • I have to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved for English Genres.
  • I have to do a bunch of online French homework so it won’t interfere with the rest of the semester.
  • I have to write a French journal entry for every day of spring break which will be pretty repetitive since I’m not going any where.

Oh yeah, I’m gonna have a great spring break. Maybe I’ll eat some cake to celebrate spring break. Maybe a candy bar or something.

Grad School Prep: The Groundwork

After walking a mile after French Conversation 115R class ended, I went to the professional development stacks here in the library and picked up a copy of the GRE prep book by ETS (the dweebs who make the test). 

In the previous sentence, you can see four things that have to do with preparing for grad school: walking, French, professional development, and the GRE. The other things I’m doing is researching the professors who teach at my prospective schools, researching the campus experience at each school for grad students, and also researching the community surrounding the campus I’ll be renting an apartment in.

Walking. I am walking right now as exercise. So far today, I’ve walked 2.2 miles and yesterday, I walked 4.1 miles. I’m averaging 2.8 miles so far this week. I’m trying to get back in shape without killing myself. I have started a small calisthenics program and I walk a bunch, but it isn’t much. Again, I want to get into shape without killing myself. I am slowly improving how much I walk and how much I exercise.

I will be going to grad school for English and while there, I’ll be teaching. Most students are resentful they have to take two sections of beginning English classes after they took all those English classes in high-school (yes, English 101 & 201 are beginning classes, don’t fool yourself). I get it, but I don’t want students to hate English just because I am a fatty. There are loads of other reasons to hate intro English.

French. This one is easy. Many grad schools have a language requirement. I lived in South Korea for eight years, so I can speak a smattering of Korean, but English departments want French, Spanish, or German. It doesn’t matter if I’m fluent in Korean, I still need to study French.

Professional Development. I have worked for two fortune five hundred companies as a manager and know the professional standards those companies require, but do those standards apply to English as an industry? I don’t think so. What are the dress standards? What are the work hours? What types of meetings do grad students go to? How many and what types of committee meetings are there? Other than teaching, is there more management time I will need to spend? There are loads of these kinds of questions.

GRE. Right next to me are three GRE test prep books. I’m going to be flipping through them to get an idea of what the test is like. I already have been preparing for the two essays, but I also need to do well on the rest of the test.

Research. This area is really broad. I set up an excel spreadsheet to track all of the information I’m gathering about the different schools I applying to, the professors who work there, and the communities the schools are in.