Coming Soon:Beyond the Blockbusters

children's literature, Publications, research, Uncategorized, YA Literature

It is a bit surreal when a project you have been working on for years is finally ready for public consumption. The edited collection that I have been working on with Casey Wilson for the past 800 million years (or 4 years, depending on your perspective) is finally live in the University Press of Mississippi catalog. The book is scheduled to be published April 2020, so you can’t quite hold it in your hand yet, but it does look and sound very real from the catalog description.

Book Cover Screensaver

From the catalog:
While critical and popular attention afforded to twenty-first-century young adult literature has exponentially increased in recent years, classroom materials and scholarship have remained static in focus and slight in scope.
Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, and The Hate U Give overwhelm conversations among scholars and critics – but these are far from the only texts in need of analysis.
 
Beyond the Blockbusters: Themes and Trends in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction offers a necessary remedy to this limiting perspective, bringing together essays about the many subgenres, themes, and character types that have until now been overlooked. The collection tackles a diverse range of topics – modern updates to the marriage plot; fairy tale retellings in dystopian settings; stories of extrajudicial police killings and racial justice. The approaches are united, though, by a commitment to exploring the large-scale generic and theoretical structures at work in each set of texts.
As a collection, Beyond the Blockbusters is an exciting entryway into a field that continues to grow and change even as its works captivate massive audiences. It will prove a crucial addition to the library of any scholar or instructor of young adult literature.

You can find the complete University Press of Mississippi Spring-Summer 2020 catalog here!

Summer Goals Accountability

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As predicted, my summer goals were overly ambitious and I did not accomplish all of them. I think was likely going to be the case no matter what.

However, after a particularly difficult summer personally, I am struggling a bit with how the realities of life can often intrude on our professional work in ways that are also often invisible. There is no space on the CV to report a death in the family or other family emergencies that understandably and rightfully occupy our time and attention, but therefore diminish the output of work that is so often already invisible.

Despite these life events that have made the past few months very difficult, I am pleased to report that I was able to complete some work and made progress on the (overly ambitious) goals I set for myself.

This is the list I posted back in June – crossed out items are done and italics items are much further along than they were at the start of the semester. The items in red . . . remain on the to-do list.

To Write:

  1. Dystopian Trilogies essay for edited collection
  2. Introduction for edited collection with co-editor (outline/notes)
  3. Hewins and Best of List presentation for CHLA (outlined/drafted)
  4. Hewins article based off of presentation and feedback from CHLA
  5. Twitter in the Classroom TechStyle article for the department (drafted – needs polish)
  6. Twitter in the Classroom journal article

To Edit:

  1. Essays from edited collections with co-author (15)
  2. Book project based on dissertation

Other summer plans:

  • Move across town – closer to work, better maintained house
  • Plan new 1101 course on bestsellers, banned books and best of lists, including SLS components
  • Begin assembling corpus based on Hewins “Books for the Young” list
  • ADDED – Complete Strategic Plan Advisory Group (SPAG) Curriculum Design for Effective Team Dynamics initiative
  • ADDED – Lots and lots of personal crises

I do intend to keep making progress on this list over the course of the school year, but I’ll be updating it with the new projects and plans I have coming up in the near future.

Perks of Researching Publicly

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As a young professional in the academic field, I’ve been thinking carefully about the ways in which I make myself visible in the realm of social media carefully. I think it is unlikely and unreasonable for a scholar of my generation (very early Millennial) to be completely removed from social media and the Internet at large. Also, as I am exploring the possibilities of adding Digital Humanities components to my work, familiarity and comfort with digital tools is becoming more and more of a thing.

So why track my productivity in a public forum like Twitter?

First of all, it helps keep me honest. Studies have shown that accountability is the biggest predictor of success when it comes to creating new habits or achieving long term goals like weight loss or completing a degree. I know my dissertation group in grad school was a huge help in terms of structure, support and accountability to keep working, plugging away. Having fellow scholars to talk to, who could celebrate along with me that I wrote 12 WHOLE PAGES this week, was a big deal, both in terms of keeping motivated and in terms of staying sane during the isolating and lonely process of writing. While my colleagues here at Georgia Tech are amazing and wonderful, we aren’t all working on the same things, in the same field, or even on the same kinds of projects. Many would happily applaud my current accomplishments (I’ve added 80 sets of records to the database today!) they aren’t in the same trench and they aren’t digging with the same kind of shovel.

 

Second, I have come to realize that so much of the work that we as faculty and scholars do is invisible. I had a rather candid conversation with students last semester about why it took me SO LONG to get papers back to them (to be clear, SO LONG = 2 weeks). I asked the students how many of their papers I had to grade, and they looked around the room and said 22. I said, ok, but I have two other sections of this class, so multiply that number by 3. Asked how long they thought it took me to grade each paper, (or how long they hoped I spent on each paper), they gave a fair estimate of 15-20 minutes each. So even if I did nothing but grade, 70ish papers at 15 minutes a pop is nearly 18 hours of grading. Then, adding in the rest of the work for our class, which was teaching 3 sections for 1 hour a pop, three times a week, plus at least an hour of prep for each of those classes has me at 12 hours of teaching/prep time a week. Add another 4 hours a week for office hours and I’m spending 16 hours a week still working FOR them, but not on grading their papers. Then we add in things like eating, sleeping, commuting to and from campus (we live in Atlanta after all) and my students started to very quickly feel like 2 weeks turn around on their papers was reasonable after all. Then I started adding in the work they don’t see. Answering emails. Departmental committees and service requirements. And my research work – I spend probably 5-10 hours a week reading, either fiction in my field or academic articles and I try to write for 30-45 minutes every day. All of this on top of having a family and a social life. By the time I stopped adding things to that list, my students were kind of aghast at how much work I did and realized that when I said I spent all of my spring break grading their papers, I wasn’t kidding.

So to me, making the work that I am doing over the summer (and possibly into the school year) public does some of the work of making that labor more visible. It gives me something to point to when acquaintances or family members joke “It must be nice to have the summer off.”

Third, one of the things I struggled most with early in graduate school was the never-ending nature of our jobs. Once all the papers are graded, the classes for this week prepped and the inbox set to zero, there are articles to write, journals and new books to read, research to conduct, service to complete, students to mentor, networking to maintain . . . it can make a person crazy. Early on, I had to set goals for myself of what a “full day” of work looked like and find a way to turn that off at a reasonable hour.

Finally, I am starting to become more and more of a data hound. I am fascinated by the kind of data we generate as human beings and the devices that help us do it. I have a FitBit. I use Forest to track my productivity. And the more data I generate, the more honestly and realistically I can estimate how long it will take me to read a book, write an article, review an essay, write a letter of recommendation, or grade 70 papers. It will help me be a more efficient scholar, teacher and, frankly, friend and spouse – when my friends ask if I can come out to see Wonder Woman on Friday, I can look at what I need to get done this week, estimate how long it will take and say “absolutely yes, I’ll be there!”

Summer 2017 Writing and Research Goals

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In the spirit of making more of my work public as a part of this accountability experiment, I am going to post my summer goals here. I have two major projects I plan to tackle over the course of the summer, and then a couple of articles that are in various states of progress that I am hoping to finish, polish and send out.

To Write:

  1. Dystopian Trilogies essay for edited collection (research done, ¾ drafted)
  2. Introduction for edited collection with co-editor (outline/notes)
  3. Hewins and Best of List presentation for CHLA (outlined/drafted)
  4. Hewins article based off of presentation and feedback from CHLA (1/2 drafted, tons of research and notes)
  5. Twitter in the Classroom TechStyle article for the department (drafted – needs polish)
  6. Twitter in the Classroom journal article (outlined, ½ drafted, research done)

 

To Edit:

  1. Essays from edited collections with co-author (15)
  2. Book project based on dissertation (opening moves complete, goal is to set plan for the year)

(Like most things, this is super ambitious and unlikely to actually all be completed come August.)

 

Other summer plans:

  • Move across town – closer to work, better maintained house
  • Plan new 1101 course on bestsellers, banned books and best of lists, including SLS components

Experiments in Research Productivity

Pedagogy, Productivity, research, Uncategorized

Maintaining motivation and momentum throughout the summer is a challenge for a lot of academics; we are scattered, somewhat isolated and for those of us not teaching, have large swaths of uninterrupted time. Without the urgency of other work (like grading) or deadlines (most of which come before or at the end of the summer), its easy to get lost in academic rabbit holes or spend more time than necessary tweaking a presentation powerpoint.

I also lately have been searching for an outlet to discuss my research more; while the classes I teach often touch on these topics and I am surrounded by smart, brilliant postdoctoral fellows engaged in fascinating research of their own, I do miss a little bit of the structure of dissertation group meetings and a research advisor to touch base with from time to time. So I’m going to experiment a little with some of the same digital pedagogy tools I’ve been using in my composition courses to help my students with their research projects.

In the Writing and Communication program here at Georgia Tech, the program emphasizes using digital pedagogy to help students adapt their communication skills to a multimodal environment. Using the acronym WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and non-verbal) to help emphasize a wide variety of communication forms that can help students expand their concept of “English” beyond the 5 paragraph essay for English class and into workplace-ready forms of communication. I have recently been encouraging students to use Twitter as a brainstorming and researching tool (more on that in a later post) and have long used WordPress blogs in place of response papers. I have found that incorporating social media elements into informal writing has helped students feel more comfortable with sharing their “unfinished” ideas and can help a classroom full of disparate personalities come together into a community of scholars, if only for a brief semester. I have found over the past few years of using social media in my composition and literature classrooms that the students who engage with their peers and embrace the informal nature of these assignments often feel more confident in their more formal work, have a deeper and more nuanced set of research questions, and have benefitted from the informal peer review and feedback from their classmates over time, (not just in the formal peer-review exercises in class).

So with all of that in mind, I’m engaging in a couple of social media-based experiments to help me with my own writing. The first, using Twitter, is more motivational/structural. Each work morning, I will tweet a specific goal for the day- given that Twitter is limited to 140 characters, this helps me be clear, concise and specific in setting my goals. I’m also hoping to use the Forest app on my phone/web browser to help me keep track of my focused writing time. By sharing these goals on Twitter each day, as well as the very pretty forest diagrams that demonstrate the time I spent focused on work, I hope to build an accountability system for myself. There are other perks to this system (one which I’ll perhaps discuss in a future post), but on the whole, I see this as mostly a useful exercise to help me keep the ball rolling and to build a demonstrable record of how much I accomplish in the next few months.

The second social media experiment is this. I am adding this active blog section to my professional website in the hopes of giving myself an informal outlet to outline budding thoughts, keep track of progress, and “talk” to fellow scholars, even if there isn’t clear evidence that anyone is reading or talking back (though if you are reading this, feel free to chime in). I’m hoping to post a few times a month (maybe as much as once a week) but mostly when I need some space to think though ideas or start putting words to paper.

Stay tuned to this space for more!

Welcome!

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Welcome to the professional website for Rebekah Fitzsimmons. Headshot1

I am a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in the Writing and Communication Program, in the School of Literature, Media and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I completed my PhD in English Literature at the University of Florida in 2015. Please see the About Me page for more details.

My research agenda includes children’s and young adult literature, genre conventions, highbrow/lowbrow taste distinctions in American culture, best sellers, adaptation theory, histories of childhood, and utopian/dystopian literature and theory.

My teaching experience includes histories of childhood, critical approaches to children’s literature, canonical children’s literature texts, American literature post Civil War, theories of utopia, introductions to research writing, and technical communication.

This semester (Fall 2017), I am teaching:

ENGL 1101  Making the List: Banned Books, Best Sellers, and Best Of

Section D7 Tues/Thurs 1:30-1:45pm Skiles 311

Section H Tues/Thurs 3:00-4:15pm Skiles 107

Section S Tues/Thurs 4:30-5:45pm Skiles 311

Feel free to contact me:

Email: rebekah.fitzsimmons@lmc.gatech.edu
Twitter: @DrFitzPhd
Google+: rfitzufl
LinkedIn: Rebekah Fitzsimmons
Academia.edu: Rebekah Fitzsimmons