Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - 7.29.09

Spanish Dancers performing on the streets of Waynesville, NC during the annual Folkmoot Festival on Saturday, July 25, 2009.

Links to more Wordless Wednesday posts can be found here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Master's Program: 40% complete

The Master's Program that I am taking is rather unique. It is geared towards teachers, although you do not have to be a teacher to be a part of the program. It is through Middlebury College in Vermont and the program is the Bread Loaf School of English. The program is simple in concept: take two classes each summer during an intense 6 week session (a total of 12 classes; 36 class hours) for 5 summers and receive a Masters of Arts degree. We are mandated to take 2 British Literature courses pre-1700s; 2 British Literature course post 1700s; 1 American Literature course; and 1 World literature course. The remaining 4 courses are electives. The program takes place on four separate campuses: St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM; UNC in Ashevill, NC; Middlebury in VT; and Lincoln College in Oxford, England. I spent my first summer in NM and this summer in NC. I am now 40% done. I have completed the pre-1700 requirement and I have completed half of the post 1700 requirement. I took my first elective course this summer, a class entitled, Rewrite a Life.

This point in the summer is always bittersweet. I am more than ready to go home and relax: spend time with family and pets; sleep in my own bed; eat what I want to eat when I want to eat; and read something of my own choosing. And yet, there is always a melancholy feeling that the summer is over. I think we spend so much time in class, studying, reading, taking notes, writing papers - that when it abruptly stops we are left wondering how to handle the new-found freedom. There are times in the summer that I wonder why on earth I have chosen to torture myself in this way, and there are times that I am absolutely thrilled to be in the company of other like-minded professionals who love literature and learning as much as I do.

This summer has been especially wonderful. I managed to have a single room, which for some might have been too solitary, but for me was absolutely perfect. I am an introvert by nature and it was especially restful for me to know that I could always retreat into my own room in order to energize. The classes that I took this summer were mixed. The Shakespeare class did not meet my expectations, but the writing class more than exceeded any pre-conceived notions I had. I have never taken a writing class before and I must admit that I was very apprehensive about taking this one. While the work was constant: drafting, revising, editing, workshopping, etc.....the end result is that I discovered I really love to write. I have no aspirations of becoming a professional writer, in fact that would probably take the fun out of it, but I do love to write. It is a way in which I can be self-reflective and play "what if" in the safety of my notebooks. I have a voice - which was a surprise to me - and I have a need to express that voice, even if no one else reads it but me. I am hoping to continue this writing lifestyle when I return to Kansas, and perhaps even enroll in a continuing education class that will help further develop this voice, and the imagination muscle that has lain dormant for several decades.

I have one more class to attend tomorrow, the graduation ceremony of a fellow Bread Loaf student on Wednesday, and then I return to home on Thursday. Life will begin shortly after that, with meetings at school, lesson plans to write, family obligations to attend, and household chores to complete. I am ready - but there is a part of me that will miss the wonderful academic lifestyle that was lived in Asheville, NC this summer.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Indulge Me

I did not realize how much I missed this book blogging community until I started reading your blogs again. I spent two hours this morning leisurely reading through your posts and I have enjoyed every single minute. I have missed you so much, but I am anxious to reconnect.

The problem with being absent for so long is that I want to run full-steam ahead, and I am afraid that I will set myself up for failure. I know that once I get back to Kansas the daily life will resume and in three weeks I will be back into the school routine. In these final days of summer school however, when I have completed all papers and have no household responsibilities, I find myself romanticizing about all the free time I will have. I will be able to read any book that strikes my fancy, to develop the daily writing discipline, and to blog for hours on in. So, while I know that this fantasy world will not become a reality, let me indulge myself today.

I have already discovered two new reading challenges that I want to join - and I am sure there are others out there that I have not yet read about. These two challenges I did not even allow myself to contemplate whether I should or shouldn't --- I just joined. I will write separate posts about each, but I simply couldn't resist sharing my excitement now.

Stephanie is hosting the Everything Austen challenge from July 1, 2009 to January 1, 2010. I had so hoped to take a Jane Austen class this summer where we would read each of her six published novels and then watch a corresponding film adaptation, but alas, that class was not offered this year. I am debating about "developing" my own class for this challenge. BUT...there is always the option of making this an Everything P&P challenge. I have had Pamela's Aidan's Fitzwilliam Darcy Gentleman trilogy on my bookshelf for months and this would be the perfect opportunity to read those in conjunction with Pride and Prejudice and then watch the Colin Firth film and compare it to the Keira Knightley film. Oh my, which direction shall I go? Personally, I think Stephanie needs to offer an Everything Austen Challenge #2 starting in January and I can do both options over a one year period.

Michelle at Galleysmith is hosting a Harry Potter challenge from August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010. In that time period we are to read all seven books in the series. I never thought I would be interested in these books, as I do not have much interest in fantasy fiction. But, due to the powerful recommendations of the book blogging world, I decided to give the audiobooks a try. I listened to the Sorcerer's Stone in April and cannot decide if I am more in love with Harry Potter or Jim Dale. I found that I would invent errands to run just so I could listen to one more chapter of the book. I am thrilled to now have a "viable" excuse to listen to all seven books. And, I think I would also like to watch each of the six movies as well (I have not watched any of them yet).

I am VERY excited for both of these challenges and look forward to reading about other challenges as well.

One more event that I have just discovered in my morning reading is the BBAW - that is, the Book Bloggers Appreciation Week that will be held September 14-18. I am so very excited to see what all this is about. This will be the second annual event, hosted by My Friend Amy, but since I did not even know "book blogs" existed last September, this will be my first time to participate. It is my understanding that 400 different book blogs were represented last year, and this year they are hoping for 1,000 or more. Isn't that exciting?! There are over one thousand people out there that enjoy reading books and writing about books as much as I do! I anticipate finding many more blogs that I absolutely MUST follow, and I am sure to add hundreds of books to my TBR pile as a result.

I still have a lot of catching up to do in blog reading. I hope to that over the next couple of days as I gear down from Asheville and gear up for Kansas. I am looking forward to routine again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What is your "Must Read" book of the summer?

I am slowly allowing myself to become human again. I have definitely been living in an artificial environment for the past six weeks and it is not easy to mainstream into the real world. In this six week time period I have focused almost exclusively on two summer classes. This required reading hundreds of pages, taking copious notes, and writing several thought-provoking analytical papers. This program is geared towards teachers, so we do the work of one semester in the span of just 12 class sessions. It is intense.

I also had to couple the stress of academic rigor with the adjustment of living the college dormitory lifestyle after nearly three decades of living on my own. My roommate had to cancel at the last minute due to emergency surgery, so I had an entire suite of rooms to myself. It is a good thing that I am an introvert by nature, because anyone who craves human contact on a regular basis would have gone stark, raving mad. Not only did I have a single room, but I was the only one living in the suite of three rooms. I had my own private bath (not a bad fringe benefit), but I also had no one with whom I could just shoot the breeze. It was a rather lonely existence, even for a loner like myself.

I will not go into detail about the quality of cafeteria food (or lack thereof). Suffice it to say that I had to learn to eat at certain times of the day (my schedule was NOT my own) and I am very weary of powdered eggs in the morning and salad bar for lunch and dinner.

I did not allow myself any outside life exposure: I did not log onto blogger; I did not watch the news; I did not tweet; I did not read a newspaper or magazine; I did not go to the store --- not even a bookstore! Yesterday was the first time I entered the "normal" world and a friend and I went to see the Pixar movie, UP. What a great experience! It felt so good to laugh again and to realize that there is more to life that 17th Century Renaissance drama! So as you can tell, I am a little shell-shocked and in desperate need of learning to reconnect with the world.

So, I am desperate to fill my mind with fun, engaging novels that have absolutely nothing to do with British literature. I have about three weeks before I need to start focusing on teaching duties, and I want to clear my head for a portion of that time. I am in need of your assistance to help me select some great books, and my question for you is this: What book have you read over the past six weeks that you would classify a "must read" book? What book was your favorite? What book could you simply not put down? What book made you laugh out loud (or cry out loud)? Please comment below and help a fellow booklover find her way back into reality.

Perhaps I can compose a list of all the suggested books and write a summary post next week. I thank you in advance for you willingness to share.

BTT: short survey

Oh - I am so excited! My first "real" post in over six weeks, and fortunately this one does not require a lot of thought (my brain is still mush after writing so many papers in a six week period). The BTT meme asks:

Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)

  • Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? Usually....something serious. But right now I can hardly wait to pick up an easy-going mystery and totally escape.
  • Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? Usually Paperbacks because they are easy to carry with me anywhere I want to go.
  • Fiction? Or Nonfiction? I prefer fiction, but every once in a while I go on a non-fiction reading spree.
  • Poetry? Or Prose? Prose, without a doubt.
  • Biographies? Or Autobiographies? Either
  • History? Or Historical Fiction? Historical fiction.
  • Series? Or Stand-alones? Up until recently I have only read stand-alones. I am trying to read more series now in order to learn how the author develops characters over time.
  • Classics? Or best-sellers? Classics because I am generally guaranteed a great book with little inappropriate language (call me old-fashioned). There are, however, some great best-sellers out there and I am always interested in reading any good, well-written novel.
  • Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? Straight-forward, basic prose Those who know me know that is a no-brainer question as I am straight-forward and basic in nearly every aspect of life.
  • Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? Plots --- I have not developed enough literary skill to understand stream-of-consciousness yet
  • Long books? Or Short? Long - I enjoy the development of plot, character, and theme over time. I am usually sad once the story is over. It is like saying good-bye to a close friend.
  • Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? Typically non-illustrated, but I am trying to add art appreciation to my list of new educational pursuits.
  • Borrowed? Or Owned? Owned, definitely. Although finances dictate that I use my local library on a regular basis
  • New? Or Used? Gently used - as I can buy more books that way
This was a fun quiz, and just about as "serious" as I can stand right now. I am anxious to see what "further details" will be included in future BTT memes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm Back.....almost

Well, I had NO idea that I would fail to post the entire time I was away. I feel so very guilty, but please trust me that there was really no way that I could find time to do so and do justice to this graduate program.

I knew that the summer courses would be intense, and they were to a certain degree, but the real surprise of the summer was the amount of writing I was expected to do for the course, Rewriting a Life. I have never taken a writing class post-high school and did not know what to expect. The class was amazing - nearly life changing - but it was totally consuming as well. I could have easily worked on that course 24/7. Fortunately, as far as time was concerned, the Shakespeare class was not nearly as time-consuming. Unfortunately, I did not learn much either. Oh well, you win lose some.

I turned in my last paper last night at 9:45pm. I still have class tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday and I do not fly home until next Thursday. BUT...for all intents and purposes, I am done, and I am relieved.

I feel totally ignorant as far as current books and book blogs are concerned. I have not stepped foot inside a bookstore since I left home on June 15, and I am sorry to say that I have not had an opportunity to read any of your blogs. I cannot tell you how much I have missed that. I am hoping to start catching up on your posts over the weekend and to start posting more regularly to my own blog within the next week or so. I am so grateful to those who have left kind messages of support, and for those who became a follower of my blog while I was away: I promise to be a regular contributor starting in August.

I am now 40% done with my Master's degree and thrilled!!
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