Thursday, 16 February 2012

Another Project Update: The End is in Sight

I am very behind updating, but here are some highlights of what is going on with my honors thesis and eBook.
  • ·          I submitted my thesis to the Honors Department. It is not perfect, but it felt great to turn it in with my bulky portfolio of undergraduate highlights. 
  •  I am defending my thesis on February 27 at 12! My overseer is Professor David Laraway. My referee is Professor Gideon Burton, and Professor John Bennion is my honors faculty mentor.
  • I submitted “Om Mani Padme Hum” to the Mayhew Essay Contest here on campus. I’m not sure when I will hear back, but I feel good about the submission. I changed my ending and feel a little more comfortable with it, though I still think it is the hardest piece I have ever had to write.
  • I'm presenting this research on how digital technology can enhance cross-cultural experiences at the 2012 Inquiry Conference next week.
  • Looking at options for publishing. Apple came out with a new self-publishing platform that is supposed to be easy to use. I need to look into this and other options. My friend Brett also started his own publishing company, so I want to compare and contrast the benefits of doing it myself or having him publish. I wasn’t planning on charging, but he would; I guess that changes things. I still have a lot to explore. I want to have this figured out by March so I can complete my project before I graduate in April.
  • I also met with Professor Scanlon, the director of the Honors Program for an exit interview. I really enjoyed having an opportunity to talk to him about what I gained from my experience with Field Studies and the Honors Program. I believe the fourth aim of a BYU Education, promoting “life-long learning and service,” best describes what these two programs combined did for my undergraduate experience. If you would have told me five years ago when I was a freshman that I would have been to five continents, completed two Field Studies, presented at four conferences, published my work, helped on three undergraduate, peer-reviewed journals, volunteered to put on a conference, started writing a novel (I'm meeting with an agent in March!), established great connections with professors, interviewed for Teach for America, and had the opportunity to teach a class for a job, I would have laughed in disbelief. I want to laugh in disbelief now! I love that the Honors Program—the classroom education, as well as my thesis—helped me learn to think for myself so that I can go forth with a love for learning and a passion to serve.

I guess the end is in sight. A light at the end of the tunnel (and I hope it is not a train). I have had a fantastic undergraduate career. I feel ready to leave, but it is so bitter sweet.

Stay tuned to hear what I do about my defense and pending eBook!

(Photo credit to Seeking Equilibrium)

Monday, 2 January 2012

Update from Professor Bennion


Well, Christmas break is over now.  Time to buckle down and sprint to the end.  My honors thesis is due January 16th, and I will defend it in March. Dr. Burton and I have agreed that I should have my eBook finished by the time of my defense.

For now, here is an email I received from Professor Bennion, my honors faculty mentor:

Sorry to take so long.  I had a lot to read as I left England.  This is about finished.  Most of my comments just deal with sentences and word clarity.  I think you should spend a few hours thinking about the ending.  It's good, but it can be better as you think about the trouble you've had since coming home.  I don't think you need to narrate it day by day, but how seriously you've been unseated is told instead of being evoked or enacted.  That's an exaggeration. but I think you could be even more precise and clear about how difficult it's been.  And if you have come to a tentative peace about it, you might make more clear how difficult that was.  The last essay is slightly too quick.  As I said earlier, I think it's good but that it can be better.  This certainly can be defended in January. 

I do also hope that you're feeling better.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Mock Thesis Defense: Justifying Blogging When I Could Be Revising Essays

I have a serious need to repent.  I intended to write this post over a week ago, but here we are.  Let's be honest-I just collapsed after finals and fell off the radar.  But now it is time to get back in the game, and without further delay because my honors thesis is due January 16th.

I want to take a minute and comment on what I have learned from my mock thesis defense and from my latest post that goes over a draft of my final essay in my collection, "Snot and Untold Stories."  The mock thesis defense was done as a final presentation in my Thesis Writing class.  Another student who acted as my representative contacted Professor Burton and received some good questions to ask me, one of which was this: how do I justify spending valuable time blogging and focusing on the digital component of my thesis when I could spend that time doing much-needed revising?

It is a good question, and after my latest post highlighting concerns with my essay I am more equipped to answer it.

Since posting my latest draft, I have received a few great comments with invaluable feedback.  While I admit I have not had as many people comment as I would have liked, the comments I did receive were incredible.  Shara, who I connected with while in India, took a good chunk of time to give me some much-needed suggestions.  Had I not blogged about this draft, I would not have received that feedback.  In this case, blogging has actually aided me in the traditional revision process.

A second, less obvious benefit to blogging that I have discovered within the last few weeks, has been that I am held accountable to a "real" audience.  Within a day after posting my essay, the German friend I met on the bus mentioned in my essay, who I renamed Charley, contacted me and mentioned he read it.  My initial reaction was concern.  Had I really represented him accurately?  For all of my talk of authenticity, was I holding to it?  The truth is I fused a little bit of a later conversation I had with a history major friend to include a few of the Vietnam details.  By having this post I am acknowledging the fragile nature of storytelling while also being held accountable to an immediate audience.  This is not available in mainstream publishing.

In conclusion, while blogging and adding this digital component of my thesis can be time consuming and daunting, I am glad to have done it.  At the end of the day I would rather have my ideas shared and available to read than have them be perfect.

(Photo credit goes to

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Me talking through my final essay "Snot and Untold Stories."

Hi Everyone!

 As I'm going through the drafting process, I am in need of some solid feedback.  Here is a jing video link (screen shot software) with me talking through my latest draft of "Snot and Untold Stories."  The entire draft is posted below.  Anyway, if you have any suggestions on the points that I raise, or additional feedback, I would appreciate it!
Click Here

Snot and Untold Stories

My host grandma was a snot-flinger.
            We would sit together each evening, my Tibetan host grandma and I, on the veranda of our second story housing complex, overlooking the lush Himalayan valley in Dharamsala, India.  As the sun would nestle into the horizon for the night and the stars would gradually pop out like watchful eyes in the indigo sky, savory smells of Sunam’s dinner simmering on the stove would sweep through the air.  While sitting out in the open air, the culmination of the day, I would read, sometimes scribbling down some fragmented thoughts in the dimming light, trying to be a real writer, while my host grandma would fumble with a string of ivory-colored prayer beads, occasionally flinging visible amounts of mucus off the second story of the balcony in a swift motion with the back of her hand.  The leftovers she smeared on the chair without shame.  She was an eighty, maybe ninety-year-old woman (no one from Tibet seemed to record their birthday) with unusually large pupils, wire-like hair parted in a thick, balding line right down the middle her head, and facial features oriented not unlike a Picasso portrait.

Snot and Untold Stories

"Snot and Untold Stories" is the last essay in my collection which looks at what I learned about the Tibetan situation (and American situation) while I was in India.  It seeks to address the indescribable and untouchable parts of my experience that I could not quite translate- yet, the stories were still there.

I have not received a lot of feedback on this essay yet, but am looking forward to some here in the near future.

Here are some posts that have helped pave the way for this essay:

(Photo credit  istock)

Om Mani Padme Hum: Compassion, Charity, and a Headache

This was potentially the hardest piece of writing I have ever tried to write.  This essay explores my difficulties coming to terms with charity and compassion within myself and my group members.

The biggest change I have made to this essay has been trying to make it more objective at the advice of Professor Bennion.  I've tried to do so, meaning I've been forced to try and make sense of it and see it from all angles.  It is still a work in progress, but I think I am getting closer.

I'm also trying to add more descriptions and make the writing more clear in general.  I'm having some of the same issues I had with "A Bus to Dharamasla" in keeping the present and past separated. 

Here are some posts that helped inspire this essay:

A Slightly Unconvincing, but Trying to be More so, Defense of Marriage

This is the third essay in my collection about me grappling with the idea of marriage while I was in India.  I had a good time writing this, though I have not done enough drafting yet.  Here are some changes I have made/want to make so far.

More setting details, a better conclusion, reorganizing material so that I am not "spilling the beans too early" as Dr. Burton says.

Here are some posts that have been foundational to this essay:

(Photo credit to Wikipedia)