So. Two interviews then.

It never rains but it pours.

Two research job interviews within a week of each other. I know which one I’d take, but what if I were offered both?

Luckily, each position is part-time. It could work, totally. I could totally do them both. One finishes in December, while the other is a 2.5 year 3 and a half days per week gig. I could totally fit them both in.

Today is a good day.

happy dance

Getting Gritty with it: the real thing

So here’s a thing. I’ve begun some long overdue editing work. It’s kinda boring, because it’s editing, y’all, but I discovered something. In doing this, I want to start writing again. The editor of the book is a personal friend and writing colleague, and the book is about a particular form of qualitative research called Narrative Inquiry, which is my thing.

Narrative Inquiry methods “story” the data and findings. In lay terms, we make meaning of social science research by putting raw data into a readily readable narrative for humans to connect to. In true terms it’s of course a rather messy and frustrating approach to analyse data but in meaning-making it beats most quantitative studies in the social sciences, because in the end quantitative researchers, with all their numbers, still have to put their discussions of the findings in ways that make it meaningful to humans. In narrative form. Often in the form of storied case studies, that sort of thing. Which Narrative Inquiry does from the get-go. Does it make the research any less rigorous? No, however, there may be ways of interpreting the research that quantitative researchers find using other means. Now, remember folks, I said the SOCIAL SCIENCES. NOT medical or earth sciences, or biotech or any kind of tech, really. Medicine and biological sciences need quantitative data much more than, arguably, the social sciences do.

As I’m sitting here doing the editing (which has to be done in little increments because it’s impossible to focus for more than an hour at a time on the stuff without losing the will to live), I’m all fired up and excited about writing again. I’ve offered to write a chapter in the book – according to my friend the volume’s a little short, so I’ve taken the bait. I had originally offered to write something about 100 years ago but I wasn’t in a good emotional space to be doing that, so I never submitted an abstract. I’ve given myself a 2 week turnaround for a rough draft of 8000 words. This doesn’t seem overly onerous, but there’s a whole heap of extra research and reading to do.

For every article I reference, there’s about 5 I read and discard. So if I include 50 references then I’ll need to read up to 250 articles for this chapter. Luckily I already know the field so more than half of the references are stored away in my brain somewhere, to be dragged out as a hoarder drags out his favourite rusting, teensy doo-dad from under the piles of equally rusting detritus, which he kept just in case. I’m going to send my friend the rough draft in early March and she can make the decision as to whether it’s good enough for inclusion. It’s a tight turn-around but it’s doable. The review process might be problematic because it’s usually very slow but the editors will no doubt send it to someone in the field who is known to do things quickly.

Seriously. It’s not as if I have better things to do with my time.

On the the Live Below the Line thing. I’ve been having another think about my starchy foods, and I’ve taken a little inventory of the food I usually eat on a normal day. Toast, eggs, sandwiches, pasta. I’m thinking I could buy a loaf of day-old bread from the bakery (cheap as chips), and some ready-made pasta, and this will do me just fine for 5 days with the other things. I’ll need to get fighting fit for the challenge. Perhaps a 2-day challenge to see how I cope with no coffee and wine? Not that this will hurt me, as my girth is back to its old chubster state.

I’m thinking on it. As you may have noticed, I’m a problem solver and this problem is rather delicious to play with. Also worthy. And as a cis-heteronormative white woman living near the 1% dream, I have very few excuses to shirk my duty as concerned world citizen. 😉

Sayonara!

The wheels of change grind slowly…and then they don’t

Feeling slightly bloggy today. That is, I want to be saying something, yet I’ve nothing much to say.

This week is the week of waiting and editing. Waiting for the bathroom to be done (ONLY the electrician is left now); waiting for some editing jobs to come in; waiting for Friday.

Friday is job interview day. I’m asking myself why I’m not walking the dog or doing some shopping but hey, there’s not much to be doing here other than TV watching (now onto season 3 of The Good Wife – a step down from The West Wing because it’s not as complex and just a little bit more melodramatic, but otherwise excellent).

I’m waiting for something to start. And start it has. I’ve just had a phone call from a colleague who may have some project work for me. So for a few weeks at least, if I don’t get the Friday job I now have some editing work, a DECRA grant to prepare, teaching singing to organise (although not much because I’ve been winding it down slightly), a possible project, and 4 singing gigs.

The year is gearing up again. So I really should be planning my research work. For those who care, I have a PhD in music. I have a bunch of stuff to do with this research, even if I don’t have a paid job to go to. I could plan and write my monograph, I could write a couple of research articles. However, as everyone in research knows, writing research articles is like pulling teeth. I get engrossed in it but I hate starting it off. It’s like writing a term paper but much, much harder. Nearly everyone you know hated writing undergraduate term papers. It’s no different just because I’m a grown-up. Luckily everyone I know procrastinates on journal articles, too.

Stooges pulling teeth

Anyway, so. Editing. It’s a thing. Yesterday I wrote a Flash Fiction piece, 130 words long. Today I edited it. Let go, much? It’s better, but not much better. I read it aloud this time. It helps to read stuff out aloud. One gets a feel for scansion, flow, word placement, comma placement, narrative and dramatic tension. I’m no good with grammar rules or poetry / narrative / syntax / phrase rules – I wasn’t taught any memorable English language rules as a child, and as an adult I struggle to retain information like that. I might remember a Kardashian moment, but I won’t remember syllable emphasis. I have to go with intuitive rhythmic/ melodic placement of the spoken word.

editor_2

Fiction so short is like poetry. Smells, sights, sounds, interactions, and a narrative arc told in 100 words. Brevity is vital, quality is paramount. No passive voice. Very few adjectives. The right word for the right scene, no excess or repetition unless the repetition adds narrative value. Tricky but doable. I’m getting better at it, I think. At least, my eye is sharpening.

So, waiting and editing is my thing this week. And now: to walk the dog.

Adios!

 

 

Today is a good day.

A new day, a new year, a new life, a new something else.

For those who are interested, I left the house. Yes, I have been a little bit agoraphobic. It basically comes down to this: if I leave the house I know I’m going to spend money, so best not.

I had breakfast with a girlfriend. It was good. A delicious Eggs Benny with bacon (that’s an Eggs Benedict for people not in Australia – we insist on shortening every proper noun). Then I went and deposited a cheque, and then I bought more groceries because that’s what I do when I’m about to be seriously broke.

And then I watched the last 5 episodes of the 7th and final season of the West Wing. Who do I love the most? CJ Cregg? Toby Ziegler? Josh Lyman? Donna Moss? Leo McGarry? Sam Seaborn? The completely hunky Matthew Santos? (I’m talking characters here, he’s the even more gorgeous Jimmy Smits in real life). I probably love CJ the most. She’s the woman every strong woman wants to be. Smart, funny, thin and fashionable, driven, in charge. But Josh Lyman. The thinking girl’s hunka hunka burning-up-because-he-never-sleeps love. And we all know he had a six pack under those white shirts (thank goodness they finally started wearing white shirts by the end – grey and green blech at the start). And then there’s Eeyore Toby Ziegler. Soulful, sad, smart, a little bit morally superior, with brown eyes to die for. And Donna Moss, the character who grew the most over 7 seasons and who steadfastly loved her man despite him being an idiot. I loved these characters and I loved the actors and I loved the show and I loved that after Aaron Sorkin left the 5th season the show got a bit meaner and sadder and more difficult. It needed it. Sorkin lives for the soapbox and his characters are well-meaning but a little morally elevated and a touch grandiose. The writers who took over insisted on making the characters more human. It had a remarkably consistent cast, all of whom came back for the final few episodes. It wasn’t perfect TV but it was close enough for me. I shall miss it. That’s no joke – it was 125 hours of TV, 156 episodes. I’m nearly ready to begin The Good Wife, but I’ll need a few weeks of mourning time for my favourite ever TV show.

westwing

Perhaps I should start to read The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro, now sitting on my bedside table, and begin my Goodreads pledge.

In other news I’ve been sniffing around for work and have been offered a bit of copy-editing to do. It’s boring work but I learn stuff every time I do it, and I don’t have to teach people, so yes, thanks! to that. And I’m about to start gunning for an ARC DECRA. I have interest from a local uni who have offered to sponsor me and give me support to apply. Wow.

Today is a GOOD day.

 

 

Weekend coffee share

If we were having coffee you’d notice I like my coffee in strong espresso form. Black. 2 cups. You’d see me drinking out of a bright red espresso cup, thick rimmed and sturdy, with a white interior. You’d be sitting with me in my new study area, me at my desk and you in the old velvet chair in the corner. You’d notice I’ve brought 2 house plants in there because the room is bright and light filled and you’d wonder whether I’ll remember to water them because I always forget and I’m near-famous for my black thumbs. 

We’d be talking about what’s going on in my life and I’d tell you about the disappointment I felt on Friday when I opened the rejection letter regarding my first-ever Post Doc application. I’d tell you how sad this rejection makes me and how that even though I knew it was an exciting project, well constructed and useful to the institution to which I applied, that the competition was always going to be fierce. And I’d tell you that while the assessment panel didn’t seem to have issues with the project itself my submission just wasn’t as good as other applications because my publication track record wasn’t strong enough and my project’s alignment with the Research Centre research areas wasn’t as close as other submissions. 

And if we were having coffee you’d notice I would be crying because I have no resilience in the face of failure. You’d be chiding me for my distress and telling me it’s just one rejection out of many to follow and that Post Docs are notoriously difficult to get. You’d be telling me to pull my socks up, suck it up and go for the next thing, and the next, and the next. You’d be telling me about all those people in their 40s who applied for hundreds of jobs before they succeeded. You’d be reminding me about the experience of my own supervisor who for three years unsuccessfully tried to get a Post Doc, until she got lucky.

You’d be telling me to become more competitive: get that book written; publish journal articles from my thesis, be more strategic. 

And I’d be inconsolable because I know that approach might be good for younger people; people in their late 20s and 30s. People who are hungrier than me, more desperate. Try telling that to a woman in her mid forties with time running out of employability because there are people younger and hungrier than me, and HR departments filled with people who’d prefer younger employees because ageing is an impediment to job creation. And I’d tell you the sad truth that without institutional affiliation any academic work I do will lack value. 

And I’d look at you trying to make you understand that it’s not even about that; it’s that I can’t cope with failure and that I don’t bounce back and that I don’t have reserves of resilience because I think I’m just a bit beaten by life. And that if I look at my life it’s characterised by me surviving, not thriving. That at every roadblock I’ve experienced in my life I’ve not found another way through: I’ve just given up. And if we were having coffee I’d tell you how I don’t know why I’m like this. But I’d tell you how in my childhood I was always the same. That I was terribly sensitive and would withdraw at the first sign of difficulty. That I would give up rather than try to finish something if it got hard. 

And I would cry again because I don’t want to feel so damned sensitive and skittish. I would recite to you the quote from LOTR, spoken by Galadriel as she refused Frodo’s offer of the Ring: “I will diminish, and go into the West”. I would tell you about the fear I have of diminishing. Of becoming useless and of losing value; of having no worth. And you would see the frustration I feel at not having hard ambition and the resilience to get back up, dust myself off and try again. You would wonder why I have such little self confidence that one little rejection can floor me. You would ask why I chose to enter a field-music-that is so competitive you need to have nerves of steel to succeed. 

I would tell you I don’t know. 

My sole-authored article is being published in an academic journal!!

My words, my study. My sole-authored publication. I’m a tad chuffed. I’ve written a PhD, I’ve co-edited a book on singing, I’ve even published articles with others. But NOTHING beats seeing my name as sole author in a prestigious music education and research journal. It’s my very first article. It had an awfully long gestation period. I wrote it back in 2010 for my mid-candidature review, then sent it to the journal in 2011. Heard nothing for a year, then a response – the editorial team had changed and my article was being sent out for review. Came back with major revisions required. I put the article away for about a year because criticism and then got a query about a year later wondering if I still wished to revise for publication. Oh, all right, quoth I. I got stuck into the revisions, discovered major flaws in my writing, fixed most of those, sent back the revised copy and ages later it was accepted for publication. Then the real revisions began. The editor of the journal is fabulous. I love this editor. Awesome at finding flaws in logic and writing style. The whole revision process made the article SO much better. There are still issues with it but not enough to be a major problem for the reader.

And it’s a damn fine article, if I do say so myself. I read through it for the final edits today and I thought, wow, I really knew my stuff back then. I still know it, but now I have Stan brain. (Stan brain is binge TV watching).

The editor of the journal is a real stickler for detail. I had to edit and re-edit after the review process, and even yesterday was fielding questions about my methodology. To be fair I had written a really crap methodology that was in no way good enough to publish but no-one had picked it up until the most recent pass. I revisited my thesis abstract for ideas re methodology. Revising this little article, a mere 9% the length of my actual thesis was actually more annoying than doing my PhD and I spent several weeks on it for absolutely no reward other than seeing my name on the byline.

No wonder that my PhD revisions felt like dancing when this article revision felt like shovelling shite. But like all hard work, totally worth it. I’m a better writer because of it.

I might have to write to my ex-supervisor and let her know the article is being published in the June edition.

Booyah!

 

Writing retreat huzzah!

After the craziness of last week’s Audition workshop in which I was course leader, it’s great to get away and have a peaceful time here in Noosa, finishing off the PhD. I don’t seem to have much of a sense of urgency about this week, which is weird because already one day is wasted due to travel and general sickness, and another 2 are nearly over already. I guess what I am now seeing is the very last bits of the thesis all slotting into place. I can now see that I need to add a concluding summary section at the end of my literature review that ties up all the loose ends.

I can also now see where there is a gaping great hole of research that I had completely forgotten about. I’m filling it in very fast now, really in my writing element, and writing and editing quickly – and at times, simultaneously. I’m filling and patching and removing and slicing and dicing my text, then reading it all through again to see if it makes sense. The ongoing problem is to ensure all the pieces slot neatly together, so I keep going back to my signposts to see if they are clearly marked. Linking phrases and passages are becoming clearer now, too. Especially if they are absent.

One of the things my precious book “Completing your qualitative dissertation” by Bloomberg and Volpe (2012, Sage) say is that there are steps to presenting your lit review. They are below:

  1. Provide a statement of purpose
  2. identify the topics or bodies of literature
  3. provide the rationale for topics selected
  4. describe your literature review process, report all your literature sources, and identify the keywords used to search the literature
  5. present the review of each topic
  6. present your conceptual framework
  7. provide a brief chapter summary of the literature review and its implications for your study

Sadly, this does not seem to include a “what is not known” element that I am told by my supervisor and others is important – in other words, identifying the gaps that led me to the study. Also, I’m not sure a conceptual framework goes at the back. Or does it? I’ve put mine front and centre, and then again at the back, to link to the literature. In fact, this is the problem of my literature review: I still think it’s a bit all over the place.

Also, I’m not sure point four is really useful unless this is to delimit the search specifically for the benefit of the thesis examiners. One thing I probably need to explain is that I need to limit my search on pedagogical approaches in one-to-one music lessons to SINGERS, not other folk. Because the singing instrument is embodied and mostly internal and singers don’t hear what their audiences hear, plus we’re actually building the instrument at the same time as learning to play it, there’s a lot we have to do regarding simultaneous feedback between singer and teacher.

Anyway, I’m loving the quiet rush of the sea and the occasional sound of the seagulls – which are far less lonely sounding than those English ones. I can see the sea from the balcony and I am deeply, quietly happy about writing. Maybe that’s what I am now. A writer. One of my many identities, at any rate!

I read Anna Goldsworthy’s exquisite biography “Piano Lessons” (2011, Black Inc) this morning. Gulped it down in one enormous rush. Loved it, loved the beautiful, respectful way she wrote about her teacher, the enormously funny, wry commentary on being a child, and her struggle to become a musician. Mostly I love her trying to explain about feeling the music – the architecture, the small bits, the joy, the composers. All through the broken English of her beloved Russian teacher Eleanora Savin. What a joy this relationship reads as! And yet Anna does not resile from asking herself whether she was too dependent on her teacher even as she writes about her improved understanding of the music and how she functions with this woman. Will read it again once my study is out of the way.

And given that I am next to the ocean and have not even gone for a walk, I think now is the time to take a short stroll along the beach before heading out for a bit of food. And then, after dinner, Offspring followed by The Good Wife. Perfect.

 

How oh how do I do this discussion chapter??!!

This week my bete noir is the discussion chapter. I think I’ve found a way through by revisiting those pesky research questions, but the super structure has been eluding me. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a simple little journal article! A few themes! Findings that sit happily under headers! Less than 7000 words in total!

Now I’m sure you’re thinking, hang on, didn’t she have themes emerging from the data, like, weeks ago? Weeeellll, yes she did. And jolly good they were too. However, they didn’t fit very well with the superstructure and I hadn’t really signposted them very well in the literature. So in my discussion I’ve gone back to my research questions and not tried to be clever, merely clear. My findings are separated by case, then participant, then values and beliefs, then practices. So there. Plus there’s a bit at the end where I show that there are themes across cases emerging from the data.

And now that I’ve been returning to the literature some more I’m drawing the threads together between theory and findings. It’s adding words I don’t have, though.

I’m ignoring for a moment the still overblown and repetitive literature review, but already the thesis is calming down and beginning to take shape.

Most of the references are in the reference list, most of the in text citations are cited. I’m starting to look for transitional paragraphs that take the reader from one section to the next, signposting and clarifying the structure.

The discussion chapter is still hideous but I’m now a third of the way through. Looking good. Of course, the most horrible part of doing this is when I read something by someone else that is just perfectly written, and I want to weep a little because the work I’m doing is so gauche by comparison. Gulp. Sigh, pick self back up and remind myself it’s ok not to be perfect.

Finding new literature for the review: the snowball effect

Gah. Every time I think I’ve collected all I can about my subject I find I’ve not checked the usual journals for a while and BAM! There’s a whole new section for my subject opening up in front of me. It’s known as the snowball effect, I think. You find you’ve not substantiated something with enough literature so you look online at a journal article and BAM! On the side link is another article that someone else has read, so you look at that and BAM! There’s another one that’s relevant. And then you switch journals and BAM! A whole new avalanche of material hits you. At times I feel I’m suffocating under the weight of all that snow.

The challenge is accept that, yes, there is lots new stuff out there that looks WAY interesting and everything, but I can’t include it all in this thesis. In the words of Elsa, Let It Go. (Sorry, references to Frozen will continue unabated until that darned ear-worm dies.)

However, my current challenge is to update my literature. In the last 5 years since I began the project, lots of work is being done by a number of good folk in the UK and Australia that supports my findings in some way or another. Granted, we’re all doing this using startlingly different approaches but the ideas are similar. So I’m doing a last sweep of the literature, basing my search around the conservatoire and one-to-one teaching. I’ve found at least 8 articles to support the literature I currently have. Of course, I just found a review of a singer’s practical guide book about European opera houses and culture I probably need to read. Bugger, if I’d only looked sooner.

This is what happens when one takes time off one’s study to do other stuff like LIVE. Now, the next thing to do is read the bloody stuff then weave their work into my review. I have a specific approach to selecting an article to read. I read the Abstract to decide if it’s important, then I do a super-quick sweep of the article online to get a feel for the study. I scan the conclusion. Then, if it passes all those checks I download the article to read again later. Takes me about 5 minutes to do each one, but this gives me the breathing room to actually read the articles in a bunch and get on with writing in the meantime.

I organise the writing and reading as different activities done at different times. Examples of my reading and note taking are below: my notes on actual books are usually sticky-notes with one word added to make sense for me later. In the case of the Rogoff book – which I own – I read through the ENTIRE book taking notes. Then, I write the section on cultural psychology, I look through my notes for cues.

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The writing phase for me is one of  stream-of-consciousness style. I just get stuff out of my head, then I decide – usually much later on – if it’s worth keeping in the document. My first draft is hilarious. My second not much better. But as my ideas coalesce I am then able to see where my thoughts and ideas match the research and what I am trying to say. I’ve been doing massive sweeps of my work and I’m almost at the reading-out-loud phase, which helps to identify areas that make no sense, lack flow or lack substantiation.

Anyway, DH arrived home this morning which interrupted my sleep and therefore my flow today. I’ve taken the opportunity instead to get the articles I needed and write this. Now it’s back the flow state. Ciao!