Sunday Book-Thought 51

The reality, of course, is that every writer’s individual habits and practices are deeply personal and idiosyncratic, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to extract patterns in support of generalizable conclusions – beyond the intense intimacy and commitment that the act of writing invariably demands. Some writers dictate aloud. Some write longhand and then type their work on a typewriter or computer. Some compose at the keyboard but then print out their work for handwritten revision. Others don’t need the hard copy. Some writers print everything out, mark it up, and then retype it themselves. Others hand it off to an assistant. A few still revise by (literally) copying and pasting strips of text. Some writers find the computer alienating, intimidating. Others see it as an intimate, profoundly unmediated experience. Some writers value the slowness of the pen. Some value the speed of the keyboard. Some chafe at the labor of retyping, others embrace it. Some writers are enamored by the small rituals of the process, the changing of the worn-out ribbon, the bright bell of the carriage return. Others are unsentimental. Some writers require an absolutely specific instrument – or setting, or time of day, or slant of light, just so. Others write on anything and everything, anytime, anywhere. Work your way through “The Art of Fiction” and its kindred features in the Paris Review – what George Steiner, in his own “Art of Criticism” interview, describes as “the largest collection of insight into this of any publication” – and you can find accounts describing all of these and more. The one inescapable conclusion is that our instruments of composition, be they a Remington or a Macintosh, all serve to focalize and amplify our imagination of what writing is.
Matthew G. KirschenbaumTrack Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing ( Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016), pp. 22-23


New Directions, Networking… and Cookies

Well, folks, my first conference presentation as a PhD student was a success!

This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure of presenting some of my research at Oxford Brookes University’s annual ‘New Directions in Print Culture Studies’ symposium, hosted by The Oxford International Institute for Publishing Studies. This conference featured the wonderful Drs Shafquat Towheed and Samantha Rayner as keynotes, as well as a bunch of other academics investigating a vast range of topics within the fields of book history, print culture, and publishing.

My research is still very much in its early stages, but those who heard me speak were so supportive of what I was doing. I didn’t scare anyone away from natural language generation!

Want to give my presentation a peruse? Here you go:

One of the best parts of any conference is meeting people within your field who can challenge your views, but who can also offer you the support you need to continue improving as a researcher. As with every conference, I did do some pretty typical networking, and ended up meeting some interesting people from across the UK and Europe.

Here’s a hot tip: If you’re not great at starting conversations with strangers, just stand ever so slightly in the way of wherever the cookies (or other sweet treats) are. When someone realizes that he/she has to speak to you in order to get you to physically move, that is when you make your conversational move. Ask that person what he/she has found to be the most interesting part of the conference so far. Grab another cookie for yourself as you do so. Once both parties have a cookie in hand, y’all are practically guaranteed a jolly chat. You’re welcome.

Seriously, though, while networking went well, it was the panel I was assigned to that made my day. I sat on a panel with two other women – Dr Kate Macdonald from the University of Reading, and Laura Dietz from Anglia Ruskin – whose research topics differed drastically from my own. However, as we got to talking and presenting we realized just how much overlap there was between what we were saying. Following our presentations, Kate offered me some ideas about potential research avenues (which I’ve already begun diving into), and Laura provided insight into some ways to collect qualitative and quantitative reading response data (which will be very helpful for next year).

Also, we now have this photo where I look like I am going to eat Laura:

Sorry about that, Laura.

Hopefully I’ll be attending more conferences soon, although for now it’s back to the grind of chapter writing.

Got questions about the presentation embedded above? Hit me with ’em!