Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Maintaining Focus

As a matter of record, here is a list of my goals for 2010:

  •  writing an average of 7000 words per month, complete 1st draft of novel;
  • attend University of Chichester’s Research in Progress conference, 15 May, and present paper ‘Voices of the American West: Striving for Authenticity’;
  • attend University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Studies in Literature Annual Postgraduate Symposium, 21 May, and present paper ‘Identity in Western American Literature’;
  • make a research presentation at the Postgraduate Forum at Uni of Chichester;
  • gather critical sources;
  • complete outline of dissertation;
  • review Sherman Alexie’s next book, Fire with Fire, due out in autumn;
  • submit paper to Western American Literature journal;
  • apply for research travel grant from British Association for American Studies in autumn.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Review of 2009

It's been a full year since I started down the PhD road and at times it doesn't feel like I've gotten very far at all. To be honest, I've only been officially on the MPhil/PhD programme since mid-October. The preceding ten months were spent on University of Chichester's Probationer's Scheme, a sort of feeder road leading to the PhD highway, filling out applications, applying for funding, applying for more funding, building my 'writing profile', attending conferences and doing preliminary research into my subject. Lordy, I've filled out a lot of forms this year...


Here's a list of what I've actually done this past year:
  • completed a 7,000-word Literature Review of fiction, historical texts and theoretical works pertaining to my research;
  • finalised my research proposal;
  • applied for funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (a three-month long process which was highly stressful yet ultimately unsuccessful);
  • attended three conferences (The Uncanny, Playful Paradox and NAWE);
  • presented at two conferences (Playful Paradox and NAWE);
  • attended the Small Wonder Short Story Festival;
  • applied to the University of Chichester and was accepted as an MPhil/PhD student;
  • started this blog;
  • completed outline of novel;
  • wrote 8,000 words of novel since beginning of December;
  • applied for Studentship at University of Chichester;
  • was shortlisted and interviewed for above;
  • submitted work to 29 journals/magazines/competitions;
  • published 4 travel articles, 4 book reviews, 2 short stories;
  • had 8 short stories shortlisted for prizes.
  • Oh yeah - I also spent 2 months riding my bicycle from Alaska to Idaho (by far the easiest part of the year).
I'm assured by my supervisor that I'm on track, but I'm still prone to periods of serious self-doubt in which I wonder if I'm really meant to be doing any of this.

Always a bridesmaid...

Have just received an email from the good folks at Moonlight Mesa to say that 'The Difference Between Cowboys and Clowns' was named as one of four runners-up in their 1st annual Cowboy Up Short Story Contest, just missing out on a piece of the prize money...

The story came out of the 1st round of the 2009 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge in which competitors are assigned a genre and subject and given one week to come up with a 2500-word story. I was horrified to receive the genre of 'Romantic Comedy' and the story remains the one and only example of this genre in my portfolio. Shockingly, it's proved quite successful, as it was also a finalist in the NYC Challenge. Perhaps I should give up my pretensions of writing 'literary fiction'?

NYC Midnight run a number of competitions throughout the year, and their SS Challenge is a good way for writers to step out of their comfort zone and attempt something entirely different. Here's a link for more information: http://www.nycmidnight.com/2010/SSC/challenge.htm. The 2010 competition is looming, but sadly I've decided not to take part this year as I'm needing to focus on 'The Novel' and related PhD projects.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Difference Between Cowboys and Clowns

My romantic rodeo romp 'The Difference Between Cowboys and Clowns' has just been named as a Semi-Finalist in Moonlight Mesa's short story contest: http://www.moonlightmesaassociates.com/.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Literature Review

For the purposes of this review I have divided my research into four main categories: historical data surrounding the Lewis and Clark expedition and the life of William Clark’s Nez Perce son, Tzi-Kal-Tza; personal identity in the writing of Native American authors; the use of landscape in literature of the American West; and the acquisition of authority.

Historical Data
Since its completion in September 1806, numerous books have been written about the explorations of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, almost all of them based on the diaries of the two Captains and four of their enlisted men. Sergeants Charles Floyd, Patrick Gass and John Ordway, along with Private Joseph Whitehouse all kept journals during the expedition’s two-and-a-half years.

The first complete record of the expedition to reach the public was the journal of Sergeant Patrick Gass, published in 1807. As Gass was relatively uneducated and his literary skills limited, his work was heavily edited for publication and his original manuscripts have since been lost. The official expedition report wasn’t published until 1814, five years after Lewis’s apparent suicide, and the complete journals of Lewis and Clark themselves were finally published in their entirety, in 1904-1905. Whitehouse’s accounts were included here, in abridged form, alongside those of the two captains, and Ordway’s account was published in 1916. Floyd died of a ruptured appendix three months after the party set off from St Louis, limiting his contribution to the expedition’s archives. In 1966, the last of Whitehouse’s journals was discovered, and between 1983 and 2002, the University of Nebraska Press published three editions of what is now an unabridged thirteen-volume set of diaries, The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Numerous abridged and annotated editions have also been published over the course of the last century, but the UNP’s thorough and academic treatment is considered to be the definitive version, inspiring a number of recent scholarly works.