And now … the rest of my professional life …

Since I started teaching full-time at Longwood University in August, I have had to focus on course preparation, the transition to new job, new routine, new institutional culture, and completing and defending my dissertation, which I did in October over Longwood’s fall break.

No time for blogging.  Not much time for anything really, except the job.  But I was “hooded” in a December graduation ceremony – officially becoming a Doctor of Philosophy in Media, Art, and Text.

Being “hooded” sounds creepy, but I found it to be a cool ritual.  I walked into the ceremony as part of the formal procession of faculty and graduates, carrying my academic hood over my arm like a four-star waiter’s towel.  During the graduation ceremony, my name was called, I walked forward, gave the hood to Dr. Kathy Bassard, chair of VCU’s English Department, and turned around so she could drape it over my neck and arrange it behind me.

Because she’s shorter than I am, I had to kneel down slightly – which added to the ritual of the moment.  Being hooded felt like a sort of soft-cloth knighting ceremony – with roots back into the Middle Ages and the birth of universities within monasteries.

My parents, my husband and my daughter were in the audience as witnesses, as well as several professors and some MATX’ers I’ve been in seminars with.

Also in attendance was the chair of my dissertation commitee, Dr. Noreen Barnes, who let me wear her academic tam instead of the standard-issue mortarboard VCU had given me.  Not only was the tam more attractive – the fact that she let me borrow it for the ceremony was a nice symbolic gesture. As an Associate Professor in VCU’s Theatre Department, she knows the value of ritual and gesture.

So now that I’ve completed the MATX PhD program, the question becomes –  how do I stay fresh and engaged with my field so my classes in Communication Studies at Longwood stay fresh?  And, given the interdisciplinary nature of the MATX degree, what constitutes my field?  What journals do I follow and what conferences do I attend?  Is that even the path I will take as an academic?

Those questions are why – although I could have spent the day grading the design projects I took in on Wednesday or working on notes for the Communication Theory class I’m teaching – instead I spent the morning investigating professional associations and journals.

The Oral History Association ?

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication ?

One I may join simply because I love the fact that they meet every March in Orlando, Florida, and cover topics like: “Gender and Feminism in Science Fiction”,  “Staging Monstrosity” and “Terrifying Futures: Post-Apocalyptic, Post-Human Dystopias” …  The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts

Who do I want to become as a writer, media producer, and scholar?

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I can see the forest, but it’s a blur!

You know that moment when you’re riding a roller coaster and you’re poised at the top of the first rise for split second before the coaster releases and barrels forward?

Everest roller coaster, Walt Disney World, November 2009

Click, click, click … those few seconds of anticipation …  excitement and terror threaded together.

I know I’m not going to die, but as I slam through the turns, I feel like I might.

That’s the way I feel right now,  a few days away from the start of the fall semester.

The job search is over.  I accepted a position teaching communications full-time at Longwood University.     This fall, I’m teaching multiple sections of Public Speaking and Media & Society.

Meanwhile, my dissertation has been revised twice and is  ready to go to the full committee, with a defense planned for this fall.

It looks like I might graduate in December.

Oh yeah, and the ESVHS & I were awarded a second grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to continue collecting farm life interviews for the Eastern Shore Stories project.

There’s more, but I’m breathless.

Wheeeeee … here I go !

Does this mean if I look behind me I’ll see the forest now?  I think the answer is yes, but the trees are a blur ’cause I’m moving too fast.

on memory and oral history research

I’m reading some oral history theory these days … glad that I started interviewing and recording oral histories before I started reading about it.  Mostly my observations are being articulated and confirmed.  The three best resources I’ve found so far are Studs Terkel – especially the “biography” that oral historian Tony Parker published in 1996 – and writing by Alessandro Portelli and Michael Frisch.

So – I was reading this morning about how the real subject of oral history may be the study of memory, not history – and then I heard this interesting story on NPR re: emotions and memory.  
NPR: Emotions Outlast The Memories That Drive Them

It occurs to me that neuroscience research on memory might be helpful when it comes time to pull this dissertation research project together.  I think what I’m doing is truly trans-disciplinary in nature – which will make it harder, but ultimately more rewarding for me.

on adrenaline and the preparation of presentations

I’m writing the third of three presentations I’ve had to give in about two weeks.  This one’s on the Eastern Shore Stories oral history project.  I feel more pressure with this one, simply because so many people I know and people whom I’ve interviewed will be there.

But I also have a lot to say, and the writing of this presentation is going quickly.  I’ve decided to write down and time out everything I’m going to say and share … and to limit my tech needs to using my laptop to play edited sound clips through portable speakers.  Keep it simple and less can go wrong.

The best presentations I’ve given, I’ve read aloud at academic conferences.  I don’t want to read aloud here, but I’m not going to speak from notecards or bullet points. I want to know exactly what I want to say and practice so much that I’ve got it memorized.  Then I can relax and concentrate on connecting with the audience during the talk.

Adrenaline aids public speaking, right?  I’ll be glad when the season of presentations and occasional adrenaline rushes are ended.

on blogs, farming, heart and voice

Just posted a new story on my Eastern Shore Stories blog.  I titled it on turkeys, eggs, and afternoon naps – the question that Ruth asks by the time she finishes her musing is about what children are missing today.  The more I work on this oral history, the more I want to move back to the Eastern Shore … and work on the small farm where my parents and brother and his family currently live … spend my days in a rhythm that’s more connected to animals and land and weather than the life I currently lead.

My parents don’t farm, but we could.  It’s a small farm – less than 50 acres –  I’m sure we’d do an orchard, some strawberries and vegetables, and have some pasture for goats.

I haven’t been posting here because I’m rethinking this blog.  I like the interactivity of Facebook … and certainly have a different “persona” there – one that’s more intimate and connected with my family life than I allow myself on this blog.  I think of this as my “professional face”so I try and keep this MATX- focused.  The closer I get to finishing coursework, however, and the more I work on my dissertation-connected research – the more integrated I want all the pieces to be.  So, I’m playing with another blog idea – one that would be a hybrid between the voice I tend to use on Facebook and this “professional” blog … one that would integrate all my musings in one place.

latest post from Eastern Shore Stories project

I haven’t written about my oral history project in a while, mostly because I’ve had to work on other PhD related stuff … like passing comps and starting a new semester.  But I have been posting excerpts from the interviews I’ve done on the blog Eastern Shore Stories .  Here’s today’s post which I called “I guess you know how to drive, don’t you?” 
I was driving a Model T truck in the field. They were loading ‘em up, you know, and going along the rows where the barrels were, when I was ten years old. I was ten in May, and in June, July, we were digging those potatoes. I didn’t drive it out on the road then, but I drove it. I was driving before I was old enough, old enough to have a license.
We only had one state trooper in Accomack County, and that was Harry Parker. He lived at Accomac, but his wife and my grandfather were first cousins. That’s right. And he told Papa one day, said “that boy is driving, and I know it. And I know he’s got no license. Now I’m not gonna pull him because I know he’s got no license. But if he gets in trouble, I got to carry the law.” 
So, one day, I decided to go down there and get my license. Well, I wasn’t eligible to go down there, see. I went by myself, and I went in the office at the Accomac courthouse. That little book, I knew that. He didn’t even have to ask me, I could give him all the answers. And he went through all that and he said, “well I guess now we’ll have to see how you do driving. Drive around the block and see how you park between the sticks.”
He had never smiled a bit – he made a good officer. He could scare people just with that look, you know. The only time he smiled, when he got ready to get in the car, he was on the passenger side. He said, “I guess you know how to drive, don’t you?” And I said, “Yes sir, I think so.” I couldn’t help [but] laugh – he was laughing too. ‘Cause he knew I’d been driving, you know, a long time. I rode around the block and parked back. I usually parked pretty good in a parking place. And I got my license. And guess how much it cost then? I think that was about ‘36 or ‘35. Fifty cents.
A lot of people were driving that didn’t have them. But that was wrong for me to ride down to Accomac to the courthouse and park right in front of there with no more license than – well my dog’s out here somewhere – than that dog has.
from an interview with Norman Mason, summer 2009

For more excerpts: Eastern Shore Stories

unplugging to get lost in disney magic

I’m flying to Walt’s paradise in Florida tomorrow – a gift from my parents to themselves and to us.  They wanted to celebrate their wedding anniversary by spending time in Walt Disney World with their children and grandchildren – and I’m going to unplug myself while I’m there.  Get lost in Disney magic.

I’m curious about Disney’s imagineering and what my impressions of the place will be – especially having spent 15 months in the MATX program.  I plan to take my camera and old-fashioned journal with me – record my observations and maybe even sketch some.

Yes – I know I’m going someplace with great wireless & cell phone access – I could twitter and blog away the whole time I’m gone.  But I want to be unplugged and totally present in the physical moment with my family.  I think it will help me relax and recharge my internal batteries.  I’m also curious to find out just how plugged in I’ve become.  I know I’m going to have email withdrawal.

FYI: I just posted a fourth entry on my Eastern Shore Stories blog.  Have to create a fan page or something for this project … some way to easily let people know when I post new material.  The RSS feed is a start – but may not be enough.

farm life oral history blog live


Here it is … the farm life oral history blog.
Eastern Shore Stories

About ten days ago, I removed the privacy setting on the Eastern Shore Stories blog, but I’ve been dragging my feet telling people about it. I don’t know why I’m going for the opposite of buzz.

It’s a simple blog – excerpts from the interviews, as well as relevant photos if I have them, posted occasionally on Thursdays. I decided to post only one excerpt from each interview, although I may change my mind on that later, but that way I can keep posting new material through the lecture that’s scheduled at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society next April.

The one thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to make this RSS-feed enabled. And I haven’t created a Facebook page or a Twitter account to support it. Since I’m only posting every two weeks or so, I need a way to let people know when new posts are there. I love this development in blogging … that it doesn’t have to be an every day thing, but that – through news feeds – I can give and get notice of longer-form blogging.

My style, as a blogger, is definitely on the quiet side. As for why I’m going for the opposite of buzz with Eastern Shore Stories … I feel very protective of this place, these people, this material. I hesitate to share it digitally with the world in cyberspace because I don’t want it lifted or misinterpreted or misused – so easy to happen. But I don’t own the place or this material … and I know from my uncle’s sudden death that the stories can be quickly silenced. They live orally with the people who tell them and the people who hear them. I love the stories that have been shared with me and they’ll live with me now until I’m gone too. I feel honored.

on bookmaking and flash galleries (or why I haven’t been blogging)


I call this book Found & Stitched, made over the summer for a grad level studio course in bookmaking.


What I like about it are the interior details … the silver stamping on torn white paper. The contrast of silver with black. The Frankenstein-like stitching directly through the cardstock.

Torn paper and found sentences … silver thread and images of flying or running … for text, I lifted sentences at random from books around my house … usually the first sentence of the third paragraph on the 50th or 70th page. Oddly, the randomness coalesces into something that makes sense.

Next – I finish my Book of Hours.

I’m also creating galleries in Flash to showcase work on my website. Once I got the first one to work (the one on Found & Stitched) … creating the others has gone quickly. Last night I created one from photos I took over the summer (my Life Unplugged) and this morning I’ve got a cool one partly done with historical photos from the oral history project, complete with captions. Maybe by Monday, I’ll have uploaded the new pages to my website … if so, I’ll post here and on Facebook.