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MLA Talk Writing Process: Blogging, Convos, Works Consulted, Storify, Tweets, Google Docs, and the Kitchen Sink

Just a couple weeks ago, I gave a talk at MLA13 on graduate student blogging in which I call for graduate students, like those of us on hastac and in our example, to blog more about what we do over the course of the years we spend training for our jobs and for publishing. This post is an effort to share my process of writing this talk, since it was highly dialogic and a new process for me. Feedback from other bloggers was critical to my learning how different users read, write, and connect through communities of graduate students studying Romanticism and other topics in the Humanities and to thinking through two very different kinds of group blogging forums: our nassrgrads blog and HASTAC.

Here’s a link to the talk: “‘A Large Amount of Good Second-Class Work’: The Value of Graduate Students’ Contributions to Scholarly Group Blogs”

Twitter and Storify: While writing my talk, and especially during MLA, I Tweeted a bunch and was on the lookout for Tweets on topic that pointed to relevant scholarly discussions. I made a Storify of these tweets, which you can find here.

To get to the final version of this talk I needed a lot of feedback from nassrgrads.com bloggers and hastac.org users. To think things through, I blogged on hastac and through those blogs generated two sets of very useful conversations.

Blog 1: “Graduate Student Research Blogging” and its conversation (on HASTAC) led me to …

Blog 2: “How Do You Use HASTAC” and its conversation (again, on HASTAC’s platform). All I can say is: wow! It is incredibly satisfying and exciting to have real-time discussions with scholars and to have those conversations inflect my work so directly and meaningfully. Can you imagine if scholarship was always like this -- where you can have real conversations with the critics whose work you want to discuss, rather than *only* accessing their brains through their books or articles? MLA Commons might be a move in this direction.

Works Consulted List: Here is a loose compendium of the sources I consulted while writing this talk, pub’d in Google Docs. One source I just thought of that is not on the list, and that includes blogs as scholarship, is Debates in the Digital Humanities (ed. Matthew K. Gold, U of Minnesota P, 2012). Works consulted lists are rarely published in any way -- they wander and spelunk a lot more than works cited lists or bibliographies, but for a group that blogs and thinks about blogging, I thought it might be useful here.

Revise nassrgrads.com group project: On the “shoulder” of the MLA talk project, and related to it, I was simultaneously thinking a lot about how another blog I manage, www.nassrgrads.com, can be a better, more fruitful, rewarding, rich, fun, and useful collection of posts and conversations. I started working with the group toward those aims and published a Google Doc for our group to make suggestions for improvement and visions for future development of the group.

All of this is to share a process that was extremely nontraditional for me in terms of scholarship production. It was true for this paper that thinking editorially about my blog and group on nassrgrads, also for the blog and group on hastac.org, blogging questions and comments in multiple fora, Tweeting and making a Storify, researching in The Chronicle and other pubs that focus on the relationship between scholars, modes of scholarship, and the profession helped me recognized the lack of serial scholarship produced by graduate students (on the whole) and ways in which we can increase our value as working Humanists who produce great quantities of useful work over the course of our training. It was a highly dialogic writing process in which comments from people I only know through HASTAC or nassrgrads — by professional connection in an online research community — contributed to critically thinking through the issues and identifying what I wanted most to say. After all, Mark Sample was adamant that each speaker only had 6 minutes and 40 seconds at the podium. I sweated this one and a lot of discussing and reading went into those few, precious minutes. (Blogging my talk gave it a lifespan of a lot longer than 6:40, thankfully!)

Now that most of it is collected here, in this blog post, I am turning to my first spring semester projects: dissertation fellowship applications, revisions for my entries in the Johns Hopkins Guide to New Media and Textuality, and revising a diss chapter into an essay-length piece.

What are you working on right now? Looking forward to hearing from you — tally-ho, Spring semester projects!

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