writing

Bourdain, Depression, and Work

The first time I encountered Anthony Bourdain’s writing was in his review of Queens Of The Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork.

I was a huge fan of the album, but this send-up struck me because of how much it had in common with Gonzo journalism. I had just finished writing my Master’s thesis on Michael Herr’s Dispatches whose writing style had a lot in common with Gonzo, too. I loved the way he could write decadently and pointedly at the same time, reaching delightfully hyperbolic heights while hitting home hard. But wait — isn’t this guy a celebrity chef?

Parts Unknown hooked me immediately, but not because of the great cinematography or the interesting places they chose to go, and definitely not because of the food. All of these things were great, don’t get me wrong. It was Bourdain’s writing and his willingness to tear away the veil a lot of travel shows keep between the tourist and real life, however, that made me realize there was something special here.

Just look at episodes like the one in Istanbul where he’s partying with young people on a rooftop who say they know a bomb could go off at any moment. And the most astonishing episode I remember: when he went to Palestine, and actually spoke to Palestinians, and stood up for them to an anti-Palestine Israeli. And of course the episode of No Reservations in Beirut where the whole crew was on lockdown as war broke out in the country. What about the episode about the heroin crisis? How about when he talks to Georgians who show where Russia has just surreptitiously stolen their land? The one in Mexico City where he interviews a journalist who can’t leave her house because of threats against her?

This is a food show???

Bourdain was a bad-ass, obviously. But what attracted me even more was that his writing was visceral and real. The intros and outros of shows where he would read his writing were my favourite parts. Unlike most plumped and packaged travel writing, Bourdain vivisected the places he visited and held the innards up for us to see. His awe was never forced; and he never pretended to like anybody who didn’t deserve it. His empathy was real, and he was genuinely humbled by the mothers who showed him how they make empanadas in lived-in kitchens in tiny towns at the end of dirt roads. His respect for humankind was enormous, while his disgust at those who would disrespect it probably even bigger. He worked to make sure nobody ever saw him as a neutral party. He never hesitated when something needed to be verbally gutted and hung to dry.  

He was fiercely loyal and generous to those who deserved it. He was fierce to those who didn’t. I admire the hell out of that. 

When I found out he took his own life, I was in shock. I still am. I cried all day. I’m crying now. My shock doesn’t come from a place of ignorance; I have clinical depression myself, and I’ve been medicated for a couple of years. I’ve worked hard to change my habits so that they help my mental health. Overall, it’s working. But there are still days, weeks, months when things are bleak. My shock at finding out about Bourdain wasn’t related to the fact that he had a “dream job.” Of course, he did have a dream job. But depression doesn’t discriminate. In fact, when things are going well for you in your career, depression can be worse. I don’t deserve this comes across one’s mind more often than I’m not depressed because my life is great. This has been said a million times over on social media, but depression doesn’t only affect those who haven’t got what they want out of life. Depression can make anyone feel like a failure. 

My shock came from the fact that I know how hard he has worked in the past few years to help his situation. He became a competitive Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter (physical activity helps a lot, when you can bring yourself to do it). He had a kid, and even his divorce was amicable. He had a new relationship. In that way, he had “things to live for” and he was taking care of himself physically. He was doing everything someone should be doing in that condition to take care of themselves. But it didn’t matter. 

This is part of the reason why you see a lot of backlash to tweets about suicide prevention hotlines. I called one yesterday for the first time, though I’ve felt suicidal many times in the past. Yesterday, seeing someone I thought was doing everything “correctly” still succumb to it, was what pushed me to give them a call. The person I spoke to was kind and understanding and very obviously had a “if person says THIS proceed to line 22” script in front of them. But that’s understandable; I was seeking help for something acute and we didn’t have time to get into highly important things. I thanked them for calming me down and ended the call. Then I saw this tweet:

Getting help for mental health is not enough. We live in a world where people don't want to live in it anymore. We need to change the world.

-Nikki Wallschlaeger on Twitter

Getting help for mental health is not enough. We live in a world where people don't want to live in it anymore. We need to change the world.

Like a slap across the face this tweet made my conflicting feelings come to a clear conclusion with a ringing in my ears. Seeing how hard Bourdain worked to give people voices when they needed to be heard, and seeing how deftly he tore down those who would silence those voices, leads me to believe that the contents of this tweet were at least part of the reason he made the decision he did in Strasbourg this week.

Bourdain was changing the world. He did change the world. And he still didn’t want to continue living in it. This is a gut punch for those of us with depression and suicidal thoughts. Having our friends reach out, getting treatment and working to change our habits, fighting every single day to stay alive — this is all really difficult when the world seems to be changing for the worse. 

So what can you do if you want to help your friends with depression?

Fight for them. Don’t just check up on them. Get out and work to change the conditions that make life so unbearable for so many. Seeing you alongside me at a protest goes a lot farther than any coping mechanism I’ve discerned. Seeing you vocally engage with those who would vote to strip rights from people. Seeing you use whatever power you have, be it privilege or physical energy to just fucking tweet about this shit again goes farther than a “I’m here for you.”

Be there for us by being beside us, by fighting alongside us and for us, and not relying on the Bourdains of the world to do it all themselves. This world needs change by the many and I’m sick of hearing people’s milquetoast lamentations after the worst happens when they sat on their laurels, comfortable in their complacency. Your friends are suffering. We don’t want your pity. We want your work. 

 

The Strong Woman Superhero

I saw Wonder Woman last night, and I really liked it. And I hate superhero movies, generally. Here are some reasons I liked it. No spoilers.

Growing up fat but athletic (yeah) and not pretty, Femininity has never been a place I belong, if you will. If women in movies are strong and athletic and pretty, they're also sad and damaged. This has never really motivated me to want to relate to women superheroes. I've never related to a woman character in a movie before and i'm not sure if i necessarily do to any in Wonder Woman either, but it has definitely struck me differently.

In my upcoming NetFlakes podcast on The Fifth Element I talk about the portrayal of strong women as being strong insofar as they are sexy, and that once their strength eclipses their sexiness, their womanhood is erased entirely. (This is especially interesting in a movie about a creature that is actually genderless in regards to the concept of the gender binary but stay tuned for the podcast for more on that.)

Fifth Element Case in point: the idea of this woman pretending to be our hero's wife is a joke because despite being strong and capable, she is not sexy. Therefore she might as well not be a woman.

DBhP5jEXYAAkfga.jpg

DBhG1B5VwAAgJ0g.jpgDBhG1B6U0AASjot.jpgOne of my criticisms of Wonder Woman was that I didn't see enough buff warriors but clearly they were there but too briefly. Obviously these women are still beautiful and supposed to look beautiful, but they look unlike other "strong" women superheroines. They're beefier. And they're also happy to be beefier. (I really want the Amazons to have their own movie so these women can have more screen time.)

So the body diversity is better, but can always improve. But what struck me even more was that these characters are proud to be strong. They're kind and compassionate and just happy.

DBhG1B5VYAAYO3M.jpg

Diana is unlike all other women superheroes I know of in that she isn't angry or damaged, and her attractiveness doesn't come from being damaged or needing emotional saving despite being physically capable.

Diana's male counterparts quickly realize she's the far more capable fighter and never demean her for it. Her romantic interest respects her; he isn't waiting to show her that she needs him in order to establish a power imbalance in his favour. And Etta, the plus-size non-Amazonian woman, doesn't resent her for being beautiful or strong or capable. They establish a friendship, not a rivalry. This is because Diana is written to be happy, kind, and compassionate, instead of the usual woman superhero schtick.

In every other superhero movie I've seen, the strong and capable woman must also be unhappy. Her strength comes from a traumatic past. I don't want to pity the circumstances that drove a woman to be strong and capable. All that says is that once a man takes care of her, she can quit this life she never wanted. Diana was raised amongst a loving family who helped her become strong and capable and let her choose her destiny and follow her own path. This is way, way way too rare amongst women characters in action movies. Strong women are always strong out of necessity because of trauma and often talk about how they wish their lives were different. Except Diana and the Amazons. Diana chooses to fight when staying home would have been easier. No other woman superhero in a movie that I know of gets to choose. Being proud of strength, choosing her own life direction, and acting instead of reacting are elements that are far too seldom (if ever) equated with femininity in popular media. I talk about this lack of agency in women superheroes in my The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo podcastReacting to harm isn't the same as choosing to fight. 

TL;DR:

Wonder Woman is proud to be and chooses to be strong;

Other women superheroes are strong because something sad happened to them;

More women characters with the agency to choose to be strong without having to be sad/damaged or sexually useful, please.

The Witch isn't Feminist

Spoilers ahead. I'm a pagan witch and I'm doing my doctoral dissertation on nostalgia, gender, and the occult in American literature. Even though I'm a big scaredy cat when it comes to horror films, it's safe to say that I was curious about The Witch. When I read review after review lauding the film for the director's attention to historical detail, lack of cheap jump scares, and even a feminist message, I moved from curious to downright hyped. The movie came out on my birthday, and I took this as another good omen that I had found a new favourite.

What a disappointment.

The movie that I was hoping I'd see would be about a patriarchal Puritan family's psychological dissolution thanks to witch panic motivated by religious fervour, sexism, and desperation vs. the wilderness. I was hoping that the character of the witch was a figment of their imagination -- just like it had been 60-odd years after the movie takes place, in Salem. I was hoping that the foreboding and tense rising feeling of dread that every review told me to look forward to would be thanks to the idea that we, as viewers, aren't sure if the witch is a real threat, or if we should continue to be critical of the Puritan eagerness to blame women for all the ills of the world.

When the movie dashes all these hopes within the first 30 minutes by revealing the monster (isn't there a rule about that in horror...?), I even held out hope that there would be a reveal later that we were supposed to distrust what we saw as being through the panicked eyes of the family.

Nope!

The Witch had a chance to say something interesting about the very real fear that gripped the New England colonies and the innocent people (mostly women) who suffered and died because of it. I've read many articles that cite the director saying that he wanted us to understand that for the Puritans, a witch was a viable threat. Wouldn't it have been more interesting from a place of historical accuracy, a place of questioning patriarchal violence (which would metaphorically help us question the same which remains today), and from, you know, just a scary point of view if the witch was revealed not to be a cheesy bride of Satan monster, but either a) a crone living in the woods and minding her own goddamn business but that the family condemns from fear (often the real victim of witch crazes) or b) not real at all? Why did the movie go to such lengths to show us that there is a real monster in the woods, then attempt feebly to make us worry that Thomasin would be condemned as a witch? Why did the movie decide to reveal the feminine as monstrous after all? And newsflash: Thomasin signing her life/soul over to a man/Satan so that she can become a fictional stereotype in the woods rather than starve to death is not a feminist ending. Sorry!

I was hoping for a movie that was about how horrifying witch hunts -- literal and figurative -- were, and continue to be. I was hoping for a movie that critiqued the idea of demonizing femininity as being monstrous and unnatural. I got a movie that toes those lines in all the predictable and most boring ways and worse yet, is being championed as some feminist horror masterpiece. Put it this way: when you make a movie that Cotton Mather would have been cheering about, screaming "I told you so!!" -- you've probably failed.

 

 

Dining with the Undead: Etiquette for Today's Host

il_570xN.901929144_lo7p I wrote and illustrated a fictional non-fiction etiquette guide for entertaining zombies in the post-apocalypse for the zine press Pamphlets for the Apocalypse, and you can buy your very own right here.

"It is a well-known fact about the undead that the idea of 'home' is near and dear to their still hearts. The undead must visit their former house before they can exist peacefully as undead -- banishing it from what's left of their consciousness -- but that doesn't mean that they can't enjoy exquisitely planned and executed candlelight suppers with entertainments."

In Dining With The Undead, author Caroline Diezyn takes the guess work out of entertaining some of the most difficult hosts--the Undead. While the world around us may have changed, Diezyn shows us how humanity's prevailing sense of manners and propriety can indeed survive any apocalypse. Raise a glass (or bottle) to toast yourself; with this handy book of etiquette, you're sure to be entertaining post-apocalyptically in style.

Here's a peek at one of the accompanying illustrations:

il_570xN.901929340_2fqt

Medieval Zombies: The Undead in Northern Alliterative Poetry

My proposal to the International Congress on Medieval Studies at the University of West Michigan was accepted. The proposal comes from the same paper as the one I'll be presenting in England in June, but this conference paper is more skewed to poetry than art. Here's the proposal I sent:

 

“To tell the todus theropon with tung were ful tere:”

Transi Tombs, Toads, and Luxuria in Medieval Alliterative Poetry by Caroline Diezyn

Until the last years of the fourteenth century, medieval tomb imagery reflected a hope for salvation, with calm-faced figures representing a confidence in God’s mercy. Then, a strikingly different type of monument appeared in Northern Europe: the transi tomb. Gruesome emaciated corpses with exposed organs, skeletal frames with skin and tattered clothing drawn across the bones, and decaying bodies covered with snakes and toads were all incarnations of the new type of sepulchral memento mori. Kathleen Cohen writes that the transi tomb is not merely another iteration of a memento mori; the transi tomb also played a role in the expression of hope for the salvation of the soul of the deceased (181). I intend to argue that there is a link between this representation of the dead in transi tombs and descriptions of the dead in Northern English alliterative poetry – but not just in the male depictions of ghosts in poems like The Three Dead Kings. Guenevere’s mother in The Anturs of Arther is crawling with toads – just like the first known transi tomb in Europe, and unlike any others until the mid-fourteenth century. I intend to argue that The Anturs of Arther represents the specifically female counterpart to the male transi tomb representation – that of Luxuria. Transi tomb imagery and epitaphs that condemn a luxurious lifestyle specifically depict toads, changing the message from a simple memento mori to a commentary on Luxuria, the iconographic symbol of a woman devoured by toads and snakes as punishment for her sin. Guenevere’s mother, a ghastly animated corpse described in the same way as the transi tomb corpses, disavows covetousness. Her depiction and disavowal cast her character in a specifically feminine sinful way when we consider the symbolic significance of the toads devouring her as representing Luxuria.

 

Works Cited

 

Cohen, Kathleen. Metamorphosis of a Death Symbol: The Transi Tomb in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Oakland: University of California Press, Print.

 

 

 

 

Day Jobs and/vs. Passion Jobs

I received another question from the student who I'm corresponding with regarding editing and writing jobs:

Is it true that like a writer, editors should not quit their day jobs for a very long time (low, inconsistent pay)?

Here's my answer:

This is question is a Really Big One. I’m also really sad that it needs to be asked, but I totally understand why you’re asking it! I’ve felt the same way many times since I began my undergrad in 2006. I’m going to try to answer in a way that remains genuine but that doesn’t sound too pessimistic.

The short answer is probably that yes, you gotta pay the bills. The long answer begins: yes, you gotta pay the bills, but whatever you devote the most time to in your life should be what you really want to do. Most people, except the very fortunate, need to continue in some job they don’t love in order to make ends meet until they can hopefully move onto something more fulfilling. The problem with this, especially for our generation and especially for creative projects, is that creativity is so often devalued in our society as not being lucrative enough, that often people will never break free of the mindset that they can’t possibly make a living doing what they love.

I’m not an idiot, or even an idealist, and I understand that not everyone’s circumstances are such that they can devote themselves to work that they find meaningful instead of work that keeps them alive. Capitalism works by making it necessary that people need to continue doing work they hate to survive.

That said, and while acknowledging my own bias and privilege, I have seen how a focus on my creative pursuits as Legitimate Career Options has helped me to not only ameliorate those skills and become more successful, but has also made me a happier person. I’ve been really lucky in that I have often found employment that has at least tangentially fulfilled some aspect of my creative interests, but I’ve also been in situations where I’ve worked jobs I absolutely hated, where I was treated badly, making minimum wage, with no creative or intellectual stimulation whatsoever. I worked these jobs because I had to. I was in a terrible financial situation where I was reliant on a partner who resented having to support me. I hated that whole situation, and it made me hate myself. My point to this overshare is that there are those who say that they can work at their “day jobs” and then work on their own fulfilling creative work on the side. In my experience, I was so incredibly beaten down by how much I hated my job that it sucked all creativity out of me, anyway. Instead of spending the evenings and weekends on my own fun work, I spent it dreading going back to my day job, and became very depressed.

So what’s the alternative? I shared your question with a friend of mine whose response more succinctly sums mine up: “Make it your day job. Well, your day jobs. Three of your six day jobs.” That’s basically how I’ve operated. While I need multiple gigs to stay afloat, and I’m really busy as a result, I’m way happier than 9-5 Mon-Fri in retail would ever make me. The only insight I can offer here is something you’ve mentioned before: the value of building a portfolio (or CV). I’m not saying the work you find will be fulfilling. I’ve written way too many smarmily flattering words about jewelry boxes and bikinis for search engine optimization that I know that nobody will ever actually read. But they’re all part of a portfolio of writing, that show me practicing my skills. Of course, these types of gigs can be inconsistent, but the pay typically isn’t “low” – not nearly as low as soul-crushing retail where men sexually harassed me on the regular. Friends of mine who are creative writers work at career counseling companies editing cover letters, or at newspapers writing copy for ads, as their “day job,” while they shop their writing around and work on their own projects. These “entry-level” writing & editing jobs require skills and degrees and experience, but they can be stepping stones as they help you hone these skills, get new experience, and make connections in the field.

I’m also not saying that this method is a sure-fire path to success. If I wasn’t a PhD student full-time, I’d have to be hustling a lot harder trying to find jobs to pay the bills (which is, by the way, another reason why I recommended considering grad programs that offer entrance scholarships rather than ones you have to pay for). In a way, the PhD is my “day job” – but it’s something that specifically ties into writing and editing. And as long as (you’re lucky enough that) your “day job” is in service of your passion jobs and eventual dream job, I think you can hit that medium between “happy” and “fed” (maybe even both!?).

I hope this answer provided some insight without coming across as narrow-minded or naïve. I really do have faith in creative careers and the people who seek them out. And I believe that the only way we can change the system that precipitates your ubiquitous question is by relentlessly and courageously turning the jobs we actually want into our “day jobs.”

 

Creativity and the Academic Essay

Last week, I attended an English department meeting on behalf of the Graduate English Society about incorporating "teaching creativity" into courses. You can see the live tweets from the department account here. Near the end of the meeting, a professor I had in my fourth year of undergrad warned of the danger of turning "creativity" into a buzzword, and reminded us that research papers are creative endeavours, too.

I agree entirely. I let the room know that once I realized that my research papers could and should be written creatively, my writing improved immensely (and so did my grades). The only way that I was able to recognize this was by reading scholarship by established academics -- e.g., published journal articles.

Very few courses in my undergrad career had journal articles on the syllabuses. Though papers in my second and third year required "secondary sources," it wasn't until my fourth-year seminar -- the one taught by the aforementioned prof -- that I was assigned entire journal articles to read for class.

I remember trying to read these for homework and the language and structure seeming impenetrable. My reading skills, even in the last year of an honours specialization degree in English, were not at the level required to parse an academic article easily. (Part-way through my Master's, I remembered this initial reaction as I asked myself if the articles I was reading now were just overall easier, or if my reading level had improved. I assume that it was the latter -- hopefully!)

But aside from elevating my reading comprehension, these articles showed me that academic writing could be eloquent and full of personality, while still being concise and insightful. Once I realized that I could have fun and flex my creativity while I write these papers, I understood how to make my argument more nuanced and my writing more engaging.

As a teaching assistant in the English department, I spend a lot of time going over writing skills in my tutorials. This helps me in the end, because it makes the papers I ultimately have to grade better. But it's also knowledge that I find exciting to impart, now that I've grasped it for myself. We throw a lot of words like "controversial" around when trying to motivate students to develop better thesis statements, but students don't often grasp what we really mean by this. And I think the reason for this is that they, like me, don't realize how they can get creative with their essays.

We ask students to write good essays, but seldom give them a model to follow. It'd be ridiculous for a creative writing class to not stress the importance of reading fiction in order to ameliorate the students' own writing. I think it's equally important for students in literature classes to have models to follow. One option, aside from academic journals which I've already described can be daunting for fourth-year students, let alone first-years, would be for professors to encourage students to read the papers published by the Arts and Humanities Student Council. As a former editor-in-chief of the AHSC, I know how much work goes into these fantastic publications every year. They have a pedagogical use in class, because each paper had to have received an "A" grade to be considered for publication, and then they get blind-vetted by a team of professors. As the person who hand-picked these essays, I can attest to the edge the more "creative" ones had over the other highly-graded submissions. I use these publications when I teach essay writing to my students to show them what an excellent paper can look like. This is often the first time they've read a literature essay. They're often very impressed by their peers' writing, and newly motivated because they finally understand what it is we're trying to get them to do -- structurally, yes, but creatively more so.

It's my opinion, based on my own experience and the good return on investment I've seen with my own students, that stressing creativity in essay-writing is an effective way to improve the quality of the writing, grades, and overall attitude toward English literature as a discipline. Let's remember this when we plan to make our lessons or syllabuses more creative, too.

Medieval Zombies: Transi Tombs and the Undead

09_1401.jpg

My proposal was accepted to the Death, Art, and Anatomy conference at the University of Winchester in southern England. Here's the proposal I sent:  

“To tell the todus theropon with tung were ful tere:”

Transi Tombs, Toads, and Luxuria in Medieval Poetry

 Unlike English transi tombs, that of François de la Sarraz in Switzerland (late 14th century), and later German examples (1450-), feature the decaying corpses of the men they memorialize crawling with snakes and toads. The description of the ghost of Guenevere’s dead mother in The Anturs off Arthure (late 14th century) as having exposed bones, tattered clothing, and being covered in toads and snakes, is uncannily similar to this particularly gruesome type of transi tomb. Similarly, the Disputacioun Betwyx the Body and Wormes depicts a dream vision of a conversation between a woman’s body and the worms eating it within the grave (vividly depicted in an illumination accompanying a Northern England version (ca. 1435-40).

I intend to argue that the unusual representations of dead noblemen in continental transi tombs and descriptions of dead noblewomen in English alliterative poetry both have their roots in traditional images of luxuria. Transi tomb imagery and epitaphs that condemn a luxurious lifestyle specifically include toads, changing the message from a simple memento mori to a commentary on luxuria. When allegorized, Luxuria is often depicted as a woman devoured by toads and snakes as punishment for her sin. The Anturs and the Disputacioun, therefore, present a specifically feminized iteration of the transi tomb imagery. Their appearance draws on the memento mori tradition of the transi tomb, but combines it with the more specific representation of Luxuria, who is not just licentious but also vain and covetous.

 

So you're interested in editing

I received an email from an undergraduate student who wanted to pick my brain about how to get into editing and publishing as a career. Though my current career is "grad student," I've worked extensively as an editor since 2006. I thought my response could be useful to others, too. I've changed some details for the sake of privacy, but I think the info here could be widely applicable. Moreover, whenever I spend a while writing something, I feel like it's worthwhile to put it on my blog, too. Maybe that's another piece of advice I want to share. Or maybe it's weird.

Finally, this doubles as a mini-bio when it comes to publications/editing experience, which I think is kind of cool in and of itself.

~ Hi S.! Nice to meet you.

It's so great that you've found your passion. I'm happy to give you whatever information I have based on my experience.

I'll try to answer your questions in order:

1) How do I get started in the editing and publishing industry/get my foot in the door?

2) To become a proofreader or an editor, do I need to have extensive experience as a published writer first?

The answer to these depends on the type of editing you are looking to do in the future. You could edit magazines/blogs, news, books, journals, etc., and all of these types of editing require different skill sets and have different style guides. No worries if you don't know which type of editing you want to do right now, but if you know you'd rather work for, say, an academic publishing house than a newspaper, let me know, and I'll tailor my answers in the future.

The most important thing you can do is get experience editing rather than publishing your own writing (though that's rad and helpful, too!).

First, have you spoken with the Arts and Humanities Student Council on campus? They have a publications team that publishes essays and fiction written by students multiple times a year. I just went and spoke with the Editor-in-Chief (their office is next to mine) to see if she needed volunteers for editing, and she said yes, and that she'd email me to get in touch. Once I hear from her, I'll forward it to you. I highly recommend getting involved with them because it's fun and it looks great on your CV. I was the Editor-in-Chief in my fourth year here at Western, and though you won't be able to take over as EIC since you're graduating, it would be great to get that experience before you leave Western.

I also volunteered for campus newsletters when I was in undergrad. I didn't work for the Gazette, but it might be worthwhile checking out if they're looking for proofreaders. Here's the volunteer page. It seems that they have a dedicated person answering emails about copyediting, so there's probably a good chance that you can get some work there. I realize that doing both of these things in the last semester of your university career could be a bit much, but the lines on your resume or CV will be helpful, in my opinion.

Back in undergrad, I sent an email to a blog I really like letting them know that I love their work but the writing could use some help. I said I'd volunteer, just for the experience. The publisher wrote me back saying thanks but no thanks, and then six months later wrote me again saying "Actually, if you're still free, we could really use someone to copyedit -- and we'll pay you." I ended up working there for five years, all remotely over the internet. I acknowledge that this was a huge stroke of luck, but I encourage you to try the same thing. If there's something you enjoy reading that produces content daily or weekly, it can't hurt to get in touch with the editorial board and volunteer your services.

As far as publishing your writing, like I said, that won't hurt. If you want to do that, you should totally look into the aforementioned Arts and Humanities publications, the Gazette, and any websites you like to read that accept submissions. Let me know if that's something you're interested in and we can talk more about that, too!

Finally, if you feel like you'd like to start your own publication, I can provide info for that, too. Running your own publication is its own special type of madness, but it provides extensive experience and shows a lot of initiative. I started a graduate student journal during my MA that mirrored and continued the work I did for the Arts and Humanities undergrad journal, and the experience I've gained has been invaluable. Plus, it's really fun to do it your way, for once!

3) Do I need an additional degree or certificate in editing in publishing? If so, is there a specific school/institution that has a good reputation in this area?

As far as a degree in editing/publishing goes, I actually don't have a lot of info on this, because I didn't take that path myself. But I've put my feelers out to see if I know anyone who did, so I'll let you know. I see based on a Google search that Ryerson offers a program in Publishing. It seems pretty comprehensive: http://ce-online.ryerson.ca/ce/default.aspx?id=2000

But like I said, I don't know anything about it when it comes to its practical use, or its value for tuition money. I don't know if it would provide funding (but I can make a good guess that it won't), and in my opinion, if you're going to do post-grad degrees, you should do a program where your degree is covered by the school. For example, if Ryerson doesn't offer any funding for this program, it would mean that you're going into a considerable amount of debt (factoring living in Toronto into the picture!) for a degree that might not actually be necessary or even helpful for working in your chosen field. But if you were to attend Western for your MA in English instead, your funding package would cover your tuition, and you're guaranteed a TAship where you'd be grading student papers. Obviously, grad school in English isn't a good idea if you don't love literature as much as you love perfect punctuation, so don't choose an MA in English just because; but I do think it's a viable option for someone looking to go into publishing.

An undergrad degree seems to be the new high school diploma, so an MA might really distinguish you from the crowd of applicants when you go for publishing jobs. What's more is that there are plenty of opportunities to work for publications on campus and elsewhere while you're in grad school. For example, the English department has a publication called Word Hoard that has a rigorous reviewing process and needs keen editors. Once again, I admit my bias toward grad programs that fund you, and that I don't know anything about Ryerson's program, but I think that an MA in English could help you be as competitive in the job market (if not more?). I also think that it would be a better use of your money and time to do something that calls itself a degree -- whether that be at Ryerson or similar or a Master's -- rather than a college certificate. Maybe you should shop around and see what each program could offer? Admissions to grad programs are usually due in January, so you have some time to really do your research (and I'm available to answer questions on this front, too).

4) Does it help to have a web presence? Is it too late to start now?

In general, my response to this question regarding almost any career is yes -- a web presence always helps! Especially if/when you start proofreading and editing for web publications (which are the majority when it comes to editing jobs these days I'm sure). It goes without saying that a web presence needs to be a thoughtful one when it comes to searching for a career. But if you're interested in writing anyway, starting a blog and a Twitter account shouldn't feel too uncomfortable. It's good to have a body of work to point to even if it's a "personal" blog and Twitter. I have my CV online (I call it my portfolio) so you can check that out if you like.

It's DEFINITELY not too late to start! I realize that I come across as a super-keener when it comes to this because I was doing it starting in second year, but I know based on my peers in the PhD now that I'm in the minority there. Most people don't figure out what they want to do until later, and get their feet wet with it in grad school. So you're in good shape!

Sorry this email is so long. Let me know if you have any questions! I'm happy to talk shop anytime.

Best, Caroline

What do Nostalgia, the Anthropocene, and Zombies have in common?

They're all part of the paper I'll be giving in Edinburgh at the 16th Triennial Conference of the International Society for the Study of Time. Here's the proposal I sent:

Nostalgia in the Post-Apocalypse:

the Anthropocene in Whitehead’s Zone One and Hurston’s “Zombies”

“First he is carried past the house where he lived. This is always done. Must be. If the victim were not taken past his former house, later on he would recognize it and return. But once he is taken past, it is gone from his consciousness forever. It is as if it never existed for him.” -Tell My Horse by Zora Neale Hurston

“The last time he saw his childhood home was on Last Night. It, too, had looked normal from the outside, in that new meaning of normal that signified resemblance to the time before the flood. Normal meant ‘the past.’ Normal was the unbroken idyll of life before.” -Zone One by Colson Whitehead

In Zone One by Colson Whitehead and Zora Neale Hurston’s Tell My Horse, humans are forced to confront the unhuman zombies who cannot return to a human (or “normal”) way of life. In turn, the zombies in each text must confront their home or a familiar place as part of becoming or being a zombie. In this conference paper, I intend to examine two types of nostalgia as defined by Svetlana Boym in The Future of Nostalgia. Restorative nostalgia emphasizes rebuilding the lost home and memory gaps, while reflective nostalgia focusses on the longing and loss of remembrance. I propose that Whitehead’s Zone One is an example of restorative nostalgia, while Hurston’s chapter “Zombies” in Tell My Horse is an example of reflective nostalgia – but that both together are an example of how nostalgia in the post-apocalypse (and post-anthropocene) is a longing for a temporal and psychological place. Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia complicates reflective nostalgia further. Boym explains: “Reflective nostalgia is a form of deep mourning that performs a labor of grief both through pondering pain and through play that points to the future” (55). Whitehead and Hurston’s texts are examples of mourning and melancholia pushed past the limit of human experience to that of the post-apocalyptic zombie and survivor. How does this change in psychoanalytic circumstances complicate nostalgia? What happens when the “play that points to the future” is a post-apocalyptic future?