Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Even without Classes, I Still Stay Busy

I know, I have been horrible about blogging in July. Bad Stephanie! But, if it makes my poor, neglected readers feel any better, let me assure you that it is not because I am lolling about at a beach or swimming pool. Actually, I haven't been swimming since March, and frankly, I'm not much of a beach person. They get dull, in my opinion. No, lately I have been swamping myself with some big projects. Here's the lowdown:

1. I resumed piano lessons after a fourteen-year break. After the obsessive teacher I had as a child, I stayed away from the piano for quite some time, recovering. After a few years, I started tinkering around with it again. Since moving back to Virginia, I have started playing daily, but desperately wanted lessons to refine and direct myself a bit more. So, even though I have a busy year ahead and am a pauper, I decided that lessons were one extravagance the pocketbook could handle. It's an excellent stress release, and when I play hymns, it's almost as if I'm praying through music, thus opening a whole new door for personal devotional time.

2. I started some mega research. A paper that I wrote for a summer class came out a bit odder than expected, and got a result that I never expected: my teacher loved it and thinks I should refine it into a publishable article and even consider it as a thesis topic. So, I decided that he was right about the article idea, and am now working to see if it can be cleaned up for that very purpose. As far as the thesis possibility goes, I am also considering that idea. Last week, I journeyed up to College Park, MD to go to the National Archives II (many people don't know this, but there are actually two national archives). I spent a day researching two separate possible tracks to take with my thesis and wound up with two other possible ideas as a result. Grr! I'm going to have to go up again, probably on Friday of this week, in order to refine the research a bit more. Believe it or not, it was an amazing and thrilling time pouring through about ten boxes worth of cables and interoffice memos from the OSS, so I can't wait to do it again.

3. I have made tremendous strides on my fantasy novel. I scrapped a few chapters and wrote some new ones. My novel is now on chapter eight and isn't even halfway done, although I have sailed past the 75th page. I normally never make it this far without getting overly critical and deleting my entire work, so I'm quite proud of how this novel is coming. Earlier today, I solved the major plot hole that has been plaguing me, so now it should be pretty smooth sailing for a while. Amazingly, I still like my main characters!

4. My writing group (Inklings III) and I are taking our first brave steps into the world of publishing. We're looking into self-publish options now and are beginning plans to start our own press. We're also considering starting an E-zine, and we are working on the plans for a website. We figure that with group promotion, we can finally get somewhere. After all, if absolute crap like Twilight can get published, than surely our work ought to stand a chance.

5. The work and research continues on my doctoral plans. I have made the highly ambitious decision to apply to two international schools as two of my top five. I know the chances of getting in and getting funding are slim, but the programs and possibilities are too magnificent for me not to take the chance. And what have I to lose? So, as it presently stands, my first choice is still University of North Texas, second is University of Glasgow, third is University of Wales Swansea, and I am not sure yet on four and five. Schools in the running for those slots include University of Kansas, Temple University, George Washington University, and Texas A&M. Gradually, I'm getting things narrowed down.

6. Believe it or not, I actually have a social life. Yes, the history gypsy does get out -- weekly, in fact. I've been spending time helping my roommate with some of her wedding planning, having game nights and movie nights with Inkling friends, ice skating, and even enjoying the odd dinner party. Tomorrow, Brandi (the roommate) and I are off on an adventure to Appomattox for the day. We're planning to hit a few historical sites, go hiking, enjoy a picnic lunch, and look at a few bridal shops (for her) on the way back. It should be a great day, assuming that the weather cooperates (we do have a chance of thunder storms). In the evening tomorrow, Brandi and I are planning homemade pizza and a Jimmy Stewart double-feature (tonight we enjoyed a Hitchcock film followed by The Quiet Man).

7. I am also busy buying all of the books for next semester. Colonial History is all set, but I still need to track down and order my books for my Reading Seminar in American History and my Historiography class. Fortunately, I do not have quite as many books being required for the fall as there were for the spring (I think there are only two less, but yes, it does make a difference).

8. Oh yes, and one more thing. For some odd reason, I also got it into my head to start writing a second novel. Drat these impetuous ideas! For the sake of my sanity, I am not allowing this second novel to go beyond the planning and character sketch stages until the fantasy novel is completely written. I'm afraid my head will implode, otherwise.

I'm quite amazed (and even perhaps a bit shell-shocked) by all that I've gotten done so far this summer, as well as by what I have left to do. Next week, I'll be journeying back up to Michigan for almost two weeks, then when I get back down here, I'll be visiting some more archives. Classes and work start up again on the 23rd of August, and it is definitely going to be another high-stress, high-interest semester. "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"