I am officially on dissertation leave starting today. No teaching duties from now until August 2013, just reading and more reading and writing and more writing and thinking til smoke pours out my ears. Bliss!
Just now completed grading my students’ final portfolios for this semester. I generally don’t blog about teaching because it is potentially awkward for my students, but I had a truly exceptional bunch this go-round. Add to that the fact that by some departmental alchemy I had only 24 students total (11 in one class, 13 in the other) and a T/Th schedule and I feel like I got my first taste of what it would be like to work at a student-centered institution. I have no idea what my students experienced on the other side of the lectern, but I was definitely the best teacher I’ve ever been in terms of the time I was able to put in to each student’s work. Extensive commenting and extended office hours felt like impossible luxuries in previous semesters when I had 75 students and my own coursework besides. Anyway, I’ll be fascinated to see this round of evaluations. If their feedback is appreciably more positive, chalk it up to scheduling luck, because I changed very little about my pedagogy. I just wasn’t frenetically trying to serve too many students at once, for once.
In two days I head back to AZ for a month. My kid brother is graduating from university with a degree in poli-sci and he starts an excellent job a few weeks later. I’m terribly proud of him and also terribly envious. The PhD feels interminable midway through year four. Eh, it is a privileged life I lead. No complaining! It’s just that some days I miss earning a living wage, is all. That will change someday soon, I hope.
Had a midnight dissertation epiphany. I’ve been thinking through and playing with the ramifications of said breakthrough for the past few days. Perfect timing given that my other goal during the next month is to keep trundling along on the dissertation. Slowly the pieces fit into place… I’m also slowly feeling my way through a rather long short-story (possibly novella/novelette length, even). It’s a bit overtly influenced by Eugie Foster’s “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest,” but I’m having terrific fun. In other fiction-related news, I have a story coming out in the Spring issue of Mirror Dance, a publication I’ve long admired. Oh, and my review of Anna Joy Springer’s Vicious Red Relic Love came out in the latest issue of American Book Review, and I’m working on a second review for them, this time of a memoir on suicide. Steady (if plodding) forward motion on many fronts.
I may be scarce for the next few weeks as I crisscross Arizona for graduation- and holiday-related festivities, but then it’s dissertating in earnest for me. Five months is a reasonable length of time to draft a book, no? Madness!