advice for academia

I've spent much of the summer thinking about, reflecting on, and even worrying about the next steps in my career. Finishing the Ph.D. was wonderful and slightly disorienting, just like all big changes.

Two books that I appreciate knowing about but am not reading in full:

Caplan, Paula J. Lifting a Ton of Feathers: A Woman's Guide to Surviving in the Academic World
This book cites tons of research, much of it so very depressing. Great resource, but not the right read for me right now.

Maack and Passet. Aspirations and Mentoring in an Academic Environment: Women Faculty in Library and Information Science.
This one is more fruitful reading for me, and if it weren't so expensive I'd have already bought a copy. As it is, I know I'll be referring to it again because it's so specific to my field.

A memoir, advice for the office, Buddhism, and a novel

It's Easier Than You Think by Sylvia Boorstein
Nothing like rushing through the end of a book on Buddhism so that you can get it "done" and write the blog and get on with your life.... not exactly mindful presence, is it? Boorstein is brilliant in her accessibility. I love her laid-back style, her ease and grace as she talks about how to handle the most difficult things there are using Buddhist principles of mindfulness and compassion.


Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office 101, by Lois P. Frankel

Okay, there was definitely useful advice in this book. The one I'm not taking is to only focus on one goal at a time, because I need to turn the book back in to the library. I'm taking notes here. These are not just for me, but also for my many female students.
--Make a list of the rules of the game at your workplace... observe
--"If you find yourself the only person in a room who disagrees with the consensus It can't be done and think, But I could make it happen, an alarm should go off that you're being naive." (p. 31)
--Sharing too much personal information. This includes bursting into tears in a meeting, in your professor's office, in any setting where you should maintain a professional demeanor.
--Acquiescing to Bullies. Bullies may be ubiquitous, but this does not mean you have to give in. "I feel I'm not being heard" is one tactic, as is focusing on problem solving rather than looking back to the past. Know what your goals are in having any particular conversation.
--Decorating your office like your living room. See Dolores Umbridge in the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
--Making miracles... don't promise deliverables no human could deliver
--Viewing men in authority as "father figures." Ask why you're giving up your power.
--Ignoring the quid pro quo. Be mindful of the exchanges you're engaged in, and both give and take.
--Letting people waste your time. Set boundaries about how much time you have, be clear about your schedule, and end conversations politely but firmly.
--Give feedback effectively: describe the problem, explain how you see the situation and elicit the other person's view, show that you've heard and specify what you want now, make the consequences clear.
--Internalizing girlhood messages about "nice" being more important that Respect.
--Don't assume others know more. Ask "why do you recommend that?" or "How do you know that?"
--Don't tolerate inappropriate behavior. If you can, address it at the time. If you can't, then address it clearly later.
--Speak up! You can support what's been said, ask a question, or offer an opinion. Be part of the conversation.


The Commitment by Dan Savage

A memoir of deciding, ultimately, not to get married as a gay couple in a world in which marriage isn't legal. Savage has written a longstanding sex column, and this memoir delves into his family life. He and Terry have an adopted son, D. J., who at 6 doesn't believe in marriage. But he wants his daddies to stay together. Dan's mom wants them to get married. The most revealing part of the book is when Savage argues that straight people get to be married and still do whatever they want (divorces, threesomes, open marriages... two of the three are in the minority among hetero marriages), while gay people are expected to be absolute paragons of monogamous virtue. Savage has a point, and he unveils many of the assumptions about marriage in general through this arguments.


The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

I read this 10 years ago and it absolutely floored me, rocked my world, brought me to tears. This time through, I didn't finish it. What changed? Me, I suppose... the book is probably the same one I borrowed a decade ago. Maybe I'm just too into nonfiction right now, or maybe I'm just more into the ideas that Gilligan outlined in The Birth of Pleasure. Gilligan analyzes this book, which is why I picked it up again. The other one she analyzes in the same vein is The English Patient. This experience makes me not want to read it.

Storytelling books, teaching storytelling performance

Each of these books spends some time on storytelling performance...

The Way of the Storyteller by Ruth Sawyer
Talks about vocal technique in the chapter "A Technique to Abolish Technique" (p. 131-151). This title more or less captures the attitude that has traditionally been part of children's librarianship in regards to storytelling. The storyteller effaces herself in favor of the tale. And while I see the wisdom in foregrounding the tale over the teller, especially for beginning storytellers, it's an attitude that certainly predates the feminist revolution. For that reason alone, it deserves rethinking.

Olcott had a similar quote in one of her articles:
"The more informal the story hour, the greater the lack of selfconsciousness
(sic) on the part of the children, and this is to be aimed at, as a perfect
effacement of self makes a receptive audience."
from Olcott, Work with Children at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, p70.

However, Sawyer does also talk about the quality of the voice and connects this so musical training, say8ing that it is important to "acquire a listening ear." (p. 132) She advocates proper diaphragmatic breathing, relaxing the vocal muscles. Exercises she mentions include: panting, then speaking A-I-O-U in rhythm and in a natural pitch for your voice, and playing with chest/head voice. (p. 133-140)

Sawyer writes that stories should seem natural: "...that perfect art of seeming improvisation" (p. 142) so that "there may be no distraction of revealed technique." (p. 144) The method she advocates to achieve this end is "That of learning incident by incident, or picture by picture. Never word by word." (p. 142)

She is especially disparaging of anything that appears to be "mechanical" or "mechanically acquired."

Where does that leave the professor of storytelling, whose students demand some mechanics as crutches, so that they know what they should do?


Creative Storytelling by Maguire
In the chapter on "Telling Stories, Maguire has a section on "Using vocal tone, pace and rhythm to stimulate the listener's interest." It is telling (little joke there) that this follows sections on choosing the right time and place for storytelling. That's how I was taught too: that the time and place, even the arrangement of the audience, have a potentially magical power to create a good storytelling experience for the audience. And they do--I believe they do from my experience. But what about performance?

Maguire divides his advice into a handful of bullet points, some of which sound much like Sawyer:
--Speak in low, modulated tones--common error is using a voice that is too high
--Vary the rhythm of your delivery--action passages should be spirited, a low voice is effective for dramatic events, speed up near the end
--Use pauses for special effect--power of the pause to lend drama and energy
--Be flexible with vocabulary--look up synonyms for common words, let certain phrases reflect characterization
--Allow gestures to come naturally--and yet he says to make the gesture before or at the same time as the words it relates to
--Relax, breathe easily, and feel your voice--he references Sawyer here on diaphragm breathing

He mentions Sawyer and Ramon Ross's Storyteller as 2 good sources on the topic. The Ross is available at the CCB: S.808.543 R733s1996


Tell Me a Tale by Bruchac
In the chapter "Sharing" Bruchac has a section on "The Act of Storytelling."
It boils down to a few questions: "Why do I want to tell this story? What do I like about it? If someone asked me what the story is about, could I explain it? Can I really see this story when I tell it?"(p. 94)

"Memorizing a story word-for-word is not the way that professional storytellers do it. Instead, they know the heart of the story and then tell it in their own words. Try to see your story as you tell it." (p. 94) [pretty cryptic advice there!]

He does give some good tips:
-Use pauses for suspense and count the seconds in the silence. It gives listeners time to absorb.
-Speak clearly, don't mumble or speak too softly.
-Speak from the diaphragm, and project to the back of the room.
-Use your own voice, don't imitate.
-Think about tone, pitch, volume and emotional qualities (sad, happy, frightened). Think carefully about making up voices for each character--this can be very tricky.
-Gestures and body movement shouldn't be overdone


Improving Your Storytelling by Lipman
(need to get this at work and look at his tips)
Several sections are relevant: In chpt 1, "The Variety of Expression, all of Chpt 4 "Kinesthetic Imagery and Characterization," and chpt 11 which looks like it's about staging, and all of section 4, chpts 15-17: "Your Voice," "Performance Anxiety," and "Your Support Team."

Wow, this looks like actual fun to read. I'm considering taking it on my trip. If I replace the MacDonald with Haven and Ducey and use Lipman as the second text, will I totally freak my students out???


Crash Course in Storytelling by Haven and Ducey
Chpt 10 is "Owner's Manual," all about use of voice, body, etc. using the metaphor of a car. The section on voice cover pace (which they call "rate"), pitch, and volume with less judgment than the Sawyer and other older texts. The section on Gesture and Movement has some great what-to-avoid tips. Probably the best section I've seen.


The Storyteller's Start-Up Book by MacDonald
(need to also get this one at work)
You'd think I have this one memorized already, but I don't. In fact, this is because there is almost nothing in this entire book about performance. I am ready to switch to another main text for the storytelling class.

primary sources back to uiuc library

It's tough letting go of these, but they're all owned by UIUC, so I can get them again if needed

-Book Culture and Character, by J. N. Larned, 1906
A much looser sense of what is acceptable reading than in earlier works. Even the title of that chapter, "Hints as to Reading," is gentler than what came before.

-References to books in the Cleveland Public Library, intended to aid the third grade teachers of the Cleveland Public Schools, compiled by May H. Prentice of the Cleveland Normal School, published by Cleveland Public Library, sometime in the 1890s--LJ contained announcements of this. This was the first time I saw evidence of this fine-grained level of age grading in a public library resource. Opens with a quote: "The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught as that every child should be given the wish to learn. [...] Sir John Lubbock, in Pleasures of Life p. 184" [I don't know any more about Lubbock or this source at the moment.]

-List of Books to be Read by First Year Students, by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Training School for Children’s Libraries. 1912. 7 pages long, probably worth copying to keep this list.

-List of Students in the Training School for Childrens Librarians Since its Organization together with the positions held by them, by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, 1910. Also worth copying.

-Stepping Away from Tradition: Children's Books of the Twenties and Thirties, ed. by Sybille A. Jagusch, contains an essay "The Leadership Network in Children' Librarianship: A Remembrance" by Mildred Batchelder. 1984. (this copy is falling apart) Also contains an essay by Tebbel.

-The Children's Library by Sophy H. Powell, 1917

-Libraries and Schools by S. S. Green, 1883 publisher Leypoldt (multiple essays, several cited in dissertation)

-Public Libraries in America by Wm Fletcher, 1894

-Classics of American Librarianship: The Relationship Between the Library and the Public Schools, ed. Arthur E. Bostwick, H. W. Wilson. Includes Stearn's 1894 Report on Reading for the Young.

-How the Other Half Lives by Jacob A. Riis.

-Statistics of Public Libraries in the United States, 1884-85, by U.S.--Bureau of Education, Washington Government Printing Office 1886.

-Samuel Swett Green, A Biography by Robert Kendall Shaw, American Library Pioneers series, Chicago: ALA, 1926.

-Caroline M. Hewins Her Book, containing A Mid-Century Child and Her Books by Caroline M. Hewins and Caroline M. Hewins and Books for Children by Jennie D. Lindquist. Boston: Horn Book, 1954.

-American Library Pioneers/Pioneering Leaders in Librarianship ed. by Emily Miller Danton. Includes Hewins and Sanders

-Public, Society, and School Libraries in the United States with Library Statistics and Legislation of the Various States. United States Bureau of Education, 1897.

19th century reading advice

Quotes from a few titles I'm going through as I revise a book chapter, due Aug. 1:

How to Read by Amelie V. Petit, 1878


Reading should be done in an orderly manner: "A confused jumble of unclassified books, however large the collection, is not properly a library; neither is a confused jumble of unclassified knowledge an education." (p. 2)

Reading requires work: "While the cream of literature undoubtedly rises to the surface, it must be worked over and over by the intellect before it yields its best, most desirable product." (p. 20)

Fiction should be only one part of a varied course of reading: "We advise the reader to intersperse with them [books of fiction] books of travel, biography, history, and poetry, relating to their authors, or the country wherein the scene of the story is laid."
(list of recommended books follows, with explicit mention that these are a good course of reading for the young)
"A professed novel-reader will say, 'What a meager list, when there are so many hundred fine stories unmentioned.' We grant this true; but no person who does not wish to almost utterly wreck his intellect, and destroy all zest for real life, will need farther reading of novels." (p. 57)


Books and Reading by Noah Porter, 1871

chpt 7, the moral influence of books and reading--the reading of fiction
In discussing which books are bad... starts on p. 72-73 with a long quote about noticing the ill effects and influence of reading something bad.
"The ground of moral exposure is not the fact that evil is painted, nor that it is painted boldly; but it is in the manner in which it is represented,--whether with fidelity to the ordinances of nature, or falsely to her eternal laws as written on the heart of man." (p. 83)
Follows with examples from Milton, where Satan is depicted in unflattering terms, vs. Byron's depiction of Lucifer "who discourses atheism and blasphemy with such specious and passionate force that the trusting reader's faith in God and conscience is shaken and confounded, and it is well if, with heated brain and unbelieving heart, or passionate and despairing scorn, he does not plunge himself into some rash act of passion or crime [...]" (p. 84)

About the influence of reading on the imagination: "The imagination forms and controls the conscience so far as it form and enforces the ideals of what we can and ought to become. The ideal which it actually forms and enforces must inevitably raise us upward or drag us downward."

About mass-market books:
"There is a very abundant class of writings that are sometimes denominated cheap literature, which, only by courtesy, deserve to be called literature at all. It is a class somewhat miscellaneous and comprehensive, consisting as it does of novels, novelettes, journals, and newspapers, in which so-called stories abound. Of many of these productions nothing worse can be said--though that is bad enough--than that they are utterly frivolous and vapid, that they while away the time, and interest the feelings, but neither elevate the tastes nor brighten the life. [...] They are make to take and make to sell, and they both take and sell, because they humor what their readers like[...] Much of this sort of literature is open to the more serious objection tha tit stimulates and inflames the passions, ignores or mislead the conscience, and studiously presents views of life that are fundamentally false." (p. 97-98)


The Librarian of the Sunday School by Elizabeth Louisa Foote, 1897

Discussing what kind of books belong in these libraries, gives an example of one library:
"The South Congregational church of New Britain, Conn., in a little pamphlet on its Sunday school library, states its govening principle to be the admission of 'books which inculcate, directly or indirectly, moral or religious truth, and also those which contribute to a knowledge of Church history or minister to the upbuilding of character.'"

Blubber by Judy Blume, The Olympains Book 2 by Rick Riordan

Blubber by Judy Blume
I re-read this classic on my trip to Minneapolis in part because I've decided to teach it this fall, inspired by Betty Bush. It's a novel about teasing among children, definitely, but it's also a novel about growing up. Not coming of age, but embarking on those first steps towards maturity that involve taking responsibility for one's actions. At one point, protagonist Jill and best friend Tracy are talking about the tooth fairy. They are aware, however subtly, that childhood is drawing to a close:

"...How much do you think it's worth?"
"I'm not sure," I told her. "Last time I got a quarter."
"If I were you I'd try for more. We haven't got that many baby teeth left." (p. 66)

Another passage: Jill really is a jerk to victim-of-teasing Linda and to her brother Kenny all at once, when they are at a bar mitzvah. Kenny has a habit of reciting facts, and Jill, his sister, is getting annoyed:

"...For instance, Louis XIV of France was born with two teeth."
"Nobody's intersted, Kenny!" I said.
"I am," Linda told us. (p. 114)

Note the teeth theme... Not an accident, as the main teasing incidents of the book revolve around eating and weight, and tooth are such a visceral sign of childhood passing.

One last thing. Blume, in this book about misbehaving girls, references the first major misbehaving girl in children's literature, the ground breaking and controversial Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh:

"I wish our school could do a play like the one in Harriet the Spy where everybody pretends to be a different vegetable. I would like to play the onion. I'd roll around the floor the way Harriet did in the book. I wonder if there really are schools where they do that kind of thing?" (p. 150)


The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
To my eye, Riordan is 2 for 2 in his series about ADD kids who actually turn out to be the half-blood children of mortals and Greek gods. Percy, our hero, is the son of Poseidon, and this volume not only continues the saga of The Lightening Thief, but ends with a major cliffhanger. Fun, light, but adventuresome enough to be summer page turners.

What Research Ideas Mean

I have odd dreams. More than once, I've dreamed something so narrative and elaborate that I was convinced it was a full-blown novel waiting to happen. I did write it out (100 pages) and found that it needed more editing than I expected. At about this time, I began work on the Ph.D., and creative writing projects fell by the wayside.

I still have odd dreams, but now they are about research. I've woken up in the night with ideas for 3 or more papers at once. Last night, there were 5 ideas for small-to-medium research projects involving methodology other than history (surveys, focus groups, interviews).

The humbling truth of the matter is, however elated I am at 3am, each of these ideas to grow into a paper would need substantial. In fact, I've decided to post a list of the steps needed:

1) Is it worth it? (in the cold light of day)
2) Why do I care?
3) Who is my audience, and why would they care?
4) Is it feasible?
5) What else is out there on this topic? on similar topics? What will be my lit review?
6) What 3 journals could I send it to?

The good news is, once I've written these answers out, I should be able to turn to #s 2 and 3 to refuel my motivation for the project when it is low. I've been reading a blog called Zen Habits, and motivation is one of the things the author addressed yesterday in this post.


It's also possible that step #5 should be #2 or even #0, depending on the subject area. Having finished the diss and facing the wide world of all that is possible, I am continually branching out into new areas in my head without having done the depth of research I need to make a start there. It's a shame you can't get a Ph.D. in Everything, so all the basic work is done! Alas...


And I've missed some steps, even on the projects I've already committed myself to doing. Last night, I realized that I needed to start looking at the Journal of Women's History and other sources for papers on women and work, especially feminized professions, for one of the projects I have coming out of my dissertation.

One last thing: I'm posting this because I've been spending some summertime in the blogosphere, and just can't find the kind of academic-productivity-tips-and-tricks blog that I wish were out there. It would be Emith Toth's Ms. Mentor's Impeccable Advice... book, but in blog form. I'd love to find something like that...

The Rules by Cynthia Lord

ah, one children's book I read on vacation, borrowed from Isaac, my friend Ruth's son....

The Rules by Cynthia Lord
Catherine does all she can to take care of her autistic brother David, including creating a series of rules for him to follow. Rules like "don't take your pants off" and "no toys in the fish tank." Each chapter is given a rule as a heading. Catherine is frustrated because her social life is majorly hampered... Not only does she get teased a lot because of her brother's strange ways, but she's also expected to babysit him constantly by her mother who runs a business from her. Her father is checked out, basically home to sleep and otherwise on the run from the overwhelming responsibility of their son. Catherine is a fun character who is reasonably believable, if a bit precocious. But what good children's book protagonist isn't, really? Definitely recommended summer reading.

anthropology, psychology

Two wonderful books:

A Thrice Told Tale by Margery Wolf
Wolf juxtaposes a fiction story she wrote in the 50s about an experience she had while traveling to do fieldwork with her anthropologist husband, the fieldnotes made about this same incident, and the article she wrote for an anthropological journal about the incident. All to the end of debunking the idea that "postmodernism" in terms of mulitple voices and texts is somehow a new phenomenon. She also points out that it is only those who have had the most power who find multi-vocality to be a new phenomenon, because they've never had to modulate their way of speaking like those with less power. She also questions the postmodern idea that the project of representation should be abandoned. As I write that, I realized I'm overstating the case, and Wolf does this a bit too, but many of her points are valid. The most interesting bits, however, are the fictional story and the article (the field notes are predictably tedious) and even comparing those 2 first-and-last versions is worthwhile.

The Birth of Pleasure by Carol Gilligan
This is a book that I swallowed whole, that I ate up from beginning to end. Gilligan has become a sophisticated writer, and her psychological findings are presented using interesting juxtapositions. The entire book is framed by the myth of Eros and Psyche, the conclusion of which (for those of you who aren't teaching storytelling every year) is the birth of the daughter Pleasure. Gilligan unravels the metaphorical meanings in some familiar and some new way, in order to demonstrate that it's only through seeing each other fully that men and women can create relationships that move beyond the constraints of patriarchal struggles.

While many people have long said that gender bias hurts us all, Gilligan proposes that girls get slammed in middle school and boys get slammed in kindergarten. Boys therefore have few tools to resist their enculturation into stereotypical roles. Girls can resist, and they remember the devastation better because they were older. But Gilligan gives evidence from her research on interactions between 4-5 yr old boys and their fathers that boys are equally devastated by having to hide parts of themselves.

Coming soon, another boring post on the books I'm getting rid of post-dissertation....