Looking Forward to DragonCon!

This time last year, I was a mess. I was finishing up the second of two classes I took over the summer. I was struggling to make ends meet financially, and, because I took summer classes, my financial aid was distributed differently than previously and I owed the university money for fall. And, our friends were not going to be able to make it to DragonCon. While I was looking forward to DragonCon, it was with about the least amount of enthusiasm I’d ever had. I didn’t pack any costumes. I had no money to go get anyone’s autograph. I did end up putting together an Arthur Dent from what I had packed at one point, but that was as close as I got to cosplaying. I was burned out, and DragonCon did not help with that much.

This year, it’s completely different! I have done nothing over the summer. Well, that’s not completely true. I’ve been studying, working on my CPAC presentation, making a costume, finishing another, and picking away at dissertation things. But, I’ve been taking time to do nothing, to relax. So I’m nowhere near burned out. I also have no financial problems this year, thanks to some scholarship money and employment for the school year. Which means I can add at least David Tennant and Catherine Tate to my 500 Year Diary, as well as get Farscape autographs, among other things. But, the best thing right now? Our friends are able to make it!

A little context. These friends are why we first went to DragonCon in 2010 (yes, this is our 10th DragonCon!!). For those ten DragonCons, they have been at 8 of them. They have become a part of DragonCon for us. Even if the only time we see them is in the room, they are an important part of the experience for us. So it is going to be so awesome to have them there again!

Thanks to my relaxation and recuperation this summer (and our friends coming!), I have 4 costumes that I am really looking forward to wearing. I have my Wafuku Tenth Doctor for Friday (when I’m planning to camp out in line for David Tennant if necessary), Death as Didi for Monday, and my Star Trek Fangirl and Pirogoeth, my first D&D character, for Saturday and Sunday. Since I don’t know the schedule yet, I don’t know which day I’ll be wearing which costume. I’d like to be my Fangirl when I meet George Takei, but when I meet him depends on when I’m presenting at the conference. I need to be able to get out of whatever costume and into non-costume for my presentation.

In two weeks, I’ll be at DragonCon, enjoying my yearly 5-day geek vacation. I can’t wait!

Trying to stay sane!

This summer has been an experience. Where to start.

Well, I took two classes over 12 weeks. Each class was 6-weeks long and covered a typical semester – 15-weeks. It was a lot of information in a short period of time. Also, the first class was online, which I haven’t done at the grad level. It was also a mixed class with grad and undergrad (seniors) students. Thankfully the information was the same from one of my master’s classes, just from a different perspective, so it wasn’t as overwhelming as it could have been. Looking at international communication and international popular culture don’t seem to be too different after all.

The other class, Intro to Media and Comm, did meet in person once a week and I think was trying to kill me. The professor is great, and I’m looking forward to taking another class with him in the fall. There was so much to read and write every week, it was a struggle at times to get through it. But I did, and I’m glad I took the class. It’s given me a different perspective on a lot of what I learned during my master’s, but not the same information. It solidified my decision to go with a Media & Comm secondary focus and certificate.

During those twelve weeks I was also a tutor for two different classes. The first session I tutored some football players for Psych 101. It’s been so long, but it was an online class, so all the lectures were online. It was helpful for me in having the professor’s exact definitions available, but it was a ton of information squished into 6 weeks. It was intense. I was not jealous of those guys. The second 6 weeks were Sociology 101 with a group of football players. This was a little harder to help them with because it was in-person, and I had to look stuff up at times. And, it was a lot of information thrown at them in 6 weeks. But it was fun and a great learning experience for me.

But, with all of that going on, I didn’t have time for my own research. During the beginning of the summer I was trying to fit it in, but my class work suffered. I put my full focus on the second class, dropping my own stuff. Now I’m in the middle of my actual summer break, all three weeks of it, and I’m finally able to turn my attention to the paper/presentation I need to have done by the end of the month (you can read more about that here). I’m actually getting a lot done. It’s probably because I actually want to work on it and I’m in complete control of it. I’ve found that tends to help.

But, the end of the month marks the beginning of the school year. I’ll be taking three classes, working a 20-hour a week assistantship, and working another 6 hours as a tutor. Somewhere in there I need to keep working on research for my dissertation. Thankfully, one class should allow my final paper to contribute to my dissertation in some way. I’m trying to figure out how to bring it into another. I’ve heard the third class involves taking an existing paper and reworking it so it can be published. That may end up being my paper from spring that I’m presenting in October that I’m already working on reworking. It would help with that, as well as being a piece toward my dissertation, despite a few other papers I would love to do that to for class. But, the dissertation comes first. So far I’ve taken 6 classes and written 1 paper related to my dissertation. I know it’s possible to use class papers to work on my dissertation, I just need the opportunities.

Now, I’m focusing on getting ready for DragonCon and CPAC. I’ve decided not to pack any costumes this year, which I wrote about over here. That means less stuff to fit into the car and get into and out of the hotel. I’ll probably post something here soon about basics of packing for something as big as DragonCon, which can easily be adapted to any con. This year I’m able to spend more time thinking about those little things that I know I’ve been letting slip through the cracks in past years.

It’ll be an interesting break during that first week of class. But I know it will charge me up for the school year!

Settling in for the summer

Life has been quite complicated lately. The first week of May was finals week. The end of my first year as a Ph. D. student. I didn’t write the best papers for my classes, but they were good enough to get me Bs. It took me almost another week to get caught up on my grading. But, my students didn’t seem to hold it against me too much. I got some of the best feedback I’ve ever gotten. Even their problems and critiques were useful, not just “it sucked”. I am so happy and grateful to have had this class. They really helped me to become a better instructor.

The weekend after grades were due was Marcon. It was so nice to get to see my friends again, go to panels, and be on panels. I’m starting to realize that my attitude is keeping people from approaching me in costume. I don’t know how to change that. It’s who I am. But as much as I am an introvert, I do like getting compliments and recognized when in costume. I put a lot of work into the whole thing, from the clothing to the props to the make-up. But if it doesn’t seem like I want to be approached, no one will. I need to be more aware of it when I can. Lets face it, sometimes you have ten minutes to get all the way across the con –  which is a very long distance at DragonCon. Sometimes you can’t be stopped.

Anyway. After Marcon, summer semester began. Well, the first term of summer semester. We have two terms over summer, two six-week classes that contain all the information of a 15-week class. In order to get caught up with where I should be, I’m taking one class each term. My first class is online, and it’s a split undergrad/grad student class. That is the more interesting aspect of it, not being online. Grad students have different readings and different responsibilities. Thankfully, because of my two theory classes and International Popular Culture, it’s going over topics I’m already very familiar with. It’s from a slightly different angle, but similar enough that I’m not too stressed over it.

At the beginning of the month, my dad moved to New Hampshire. It’s a very good move for him. He didn’t need to take any furniture with him, so I got to take some things off his hands. We now have a dining room table, the old microwave hutch (which is at least 20 years old, probably more) that is now our bar, one of the end-tables that my parents have had since before I was born, and an almost 20-year-old wood futon frame. The futon is in my room, patiently awaiting the spring mattress to arrive so I can finally properly use it to stretch out on and study on.

But those weren’t the only things he couldn’t take with him. He couldn’t take Harry. We have had Harry almost his entire life. He’ll be 15 at the end of July. But between his age and the fact that he’s black, we knew that he wouldn’t last if my dad took him to the local humane society. He’d be high on the list to go if they needed more space. We’ve been taking care of him until Saturday. He hadn’t adapted well to being here, and we just can’t take care of him properly right now. So I drove him to Columbus to a no-kill shelter. They couldn’t take him. They had no space, but, more importantly, they couldn’t have taken him even if they did. He’s never been to the vet. Without vet records, they couldn’t take him. The lady there said that at his age, the best thing would be to have him put down. He’s perfectly healthy, as far as we can tell, for a cat his age. Why would I do that? So after a breakdown in the car, I decided to take him to Columbus Humane. But they require you to make an appointment to surrender a pet, and charge more than I can afford right now.

So I changed plans. I found Marion Area Humane Society and headed there. I felt bad because it wasn’t cool out yesterday, and he had been in the carrier for over an hour at that point. But he seemed to be okay. We got to MAHS and I started to break down again. He had been part of the family for almost 15 years. They had space for him. As they processed his information and mine, I talked with one of the volunteers. She said that they get people looking for older cats sometimes. More importantly, she told me that they are a no-kill shelter! He is going to be taken care of for the rest of his life. I am completely fine with MAHS being his home for that time. They are going to take care of him. Last night I had to fight the urge to check on him behind the futon – where he had made his home. I miss him, but he’s going to be fine!

Remember, always take your pets to the vet. You never know what will happen to you. They may have to go to a shelter, and vet records are required by some before they will take your pet in.

Well, that went longer than I thought it would. I’ll just leave this here and get back to working on the paper and presentation I need to have ready for CPAC and my summer watchlist.

The Next Chapter, aka 2018

While I have technically been an American Culture Studies (ACS) Ph. D. student for a semester, now I really feel like it. I am really looking forward to starting this new chapter of my life. And a new chapter it will be.

I’m going to be taking three classes this semester. Back to full time student!! I’ve got Geneology of American Culture, Critical Approaches in Film Studies, and Global Popular Music. This is going to be so much fun! The first class is required for all ACS students, MA and Ph. D. The second is required for the Media concentration in the Ph. D. program. The third is my choice for the Media track. I am really looking forward to having more than one class. Hopefully I’ll do better at getting the readings done and being able to contribute consistently in class. I’ve been working on it.

We are also working on moving closer to school. Which means no more long drives – especially since I’ll be in class three days a week. We’re trying to find a bigger place as well. More changes. More new. More excitement.

I’m going to be going to BroadwayCon in a few weeks. I’ll also be seeing Hamilton, again, the night before. Then, of course, there’s Marcon in May and DragonCon in September. I’m hoping to be attending/presenting at 3 conferences this semester, 1 over the summer, and 1 in the fall. At two of those conferences, I’ll be presenting chapters of my thesis. I’m hoping to get useful feedback on how to better expand/explain/polish the information. And the rest are looking deeper at topics I’ve written about before. Conferences are a great way to figure out if you’re headed in the right direction, or if you’re just indulging your own interests. So far, it’s been the former. I hope I continue that way.

Hopefully I’ll be able to take 2 classes over the summer. That way when I take my 3 classes in the fall, I’ll be almost caught up. One of my fall classes is one that I should technically have taken this semester, but was told by the professor who teaches it that I could put it off a year so I could focus on Theory and getting the comps passed.

It’s going to be a year of seeing old friends, making new; making new professional connections; adding more to my knowledge bank, and putting it all to use; and so much more that I don’t know about. This is going to be a great year!

Reflections on 2017

Well, the year is almost over. It’s that time of year when we take the time to look back and think about what has happened over the past 365 days. For me, it has been quite the rollercoaster.

Mostly it has been focused around school and classes. I started out the year with a rough draft of one chapter of my thesis done.  A thesis that needed to be completed, approved by my committee, and uploaded by April. Yeah, no pressure at all. But I also was taking a class about the superhero genre in comic books. Yay! I was also studying so I could pass the two parts of the comprehensive exam I would be retaking so I could graduate in the spring. All while continuing to serve as the president of the student organization for Popular Culture scholars and helping to organize our yearly academic conference. There was just a little stress going on.

I buckled down and got my thesis finished. Is it the final product? No. But it is a thesis that satisfied my committee, which was the most important part at the time. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start picking away at revising and expanding it so it does reach that final product and I can start looking at getting it published. I went to another graduate student run conference at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. I got to present my paper on “my descent into Hamilton fandom” and make new friends. I presented my first paper on the intentional representation of Deafness in comics at the Ray Browne Conference on Cultural and Critical Studies, which I had quite the hand in organizing and it went off successfully!

I managed to pass one part of the comps, but still failed the other. I was given one last chance to pass it, and managed to fail again. The bottom dropped away from me. I had worked so hard to get my thesis finished and I wasn’t going to be graduating? How would I start in the fall as a Ph.D. student? I could not take another year off. I had taken so much time off already, I wanted to keep the knowledge coming in. Things finally settled and the fall was laid out for me: I would retake the entire comprehensive exam again in the fall (all three parts), I would also start the American Culture Studies Ph. D. program, I would be able to continue in the spring providing I passed the comps in their entirety. In order to prepare for the comps, it was suggested that I only take 1 class in the fall: theory. I also worked with a wonderful professor over the summer to better prepare for the comps.

Still, I was crushed. I wasn’t graduating with the rest of my cohort, my friends. I had to pass this exam that has been kicking my ass repeatedly in order to graduate and continue my studies. I wouldn’t have a job on campus since I was only part-time. Also, it made sense to simply live at home and just drive up for class once a week. That was great for my budget and for being at home with the hubby. But it also meant only seeing my new cohort/classmates/friends once a week. It sucked.

But as the semester went on, things got better. I gave successful presentations at CPAC and MPCA. I finally passed the comprehensive exams and graduated a few weeks ago. I successfully completed my first semester as a Ph. D. student. I have begun a new research project that I can continue to pick away at in addition to my dissertation work, and has been suggested as the topic of my dissertation, if I didn’t already have one.

There were also the more leisure-fun times. Soon after the year started, I had my adventure in NYC. I went to my first (the second ever) BroadwayCon! I got to be in the same room as so many talented legends, learn so much about Broadway, both in front of and behind the scenes, and enjoy being with fellow fans. And, thanks to giving in to an impulse, I finally went to see Hamilton. It is an experience I will never forget. To really experience the show, you need to see it performed. It truly is a combination of music, acting, choreography, staging, lighting, words… Knowing only one aspect does not paint the entire picture.

Which is part of why I went and saw it in Chicago in September. That and gathering more observations on the audience and the performance. It was completely different and completely the same. That cast has really made it their own. I only wish I could see the tour’s Angelica company in LA.

I had so much fun being on panels and just being at Marcon in May. I got three new costumes together for DragonCon in September. If only I had taken the time to make sure the one fit before calling it finished I could have worn all three! I had a blast at DragonCon, making more friends/professional connections. I even managed to amaze someone that a scholar they highly respect – with very good reason – was on my thesis committee. I watched many cool movies (including seeing Star Wars twice!), and even went to see Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time in the theater. I have met many new people and made many new friends. I have added many books to my shelves – both academic and for fun. I have added so much to my knowledge bank. I have so much more to learn.

I am grateful for all my experiences this year, from the very exciting to the extremely depressing. I am looking forward to everything that next year is bringing. But I’ll save that for another post. For now, thank you 2017 for quite the ride. Bring it on, 2018!

Oh duh!

One of the joys of being an academic is the academic conference. It’s a great place to present papers and get feedback from a wide variety of people that you would probably not see otherwise. The problem is figuring out what you want to present by the time the submissions are due.

Since 2015, I have been attending the Comics and Popular Arts Conference (CPAC) that is held at DragonCon every year. Since 2016, I have also been a presenter at the conference. CPAC is a great conference to present at because it is open to all at DragonCon to attend. So not only am I presenting to academics and scholars, but to fans and individuals who may not have thought they could be scholars as well. It’s great for getting feedback, especially in regards to accessibility of your work to the general public.

Just last week I had submitted papers to three conferences that are happening in the Spring. But, I forgot that CPAC’s deadline is next Friday. I was going “What am I going to present? I don’t have any idea what I’m going to write for classes next semester. I’ve submitted my paper for this class to a Spring conference. I don’t want to represent a paper, even if it is a different conference.” I was panicking. Then I remembered, I have a whole list of paper ideas I’ve come up with while working on the paper for class. When you have 8-10 pages, you need to focus. I am so glad I did that.

It’s a good habit to have as an academic and as a student. You’re never going to be able to fit everything into one paper. Keep track of the things you want to talk about, makes notes on them, make note of authors you’d use for that paper. You never know when it will come in handy!