Teaching – Spring 2015

I have my schedule for Spring 2015. I’m teaching three classes at Loyola Marymount — two sections of Rhetorical Arts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons and one section of Intro to Chicana/o Studies on Thursday evenings. I may also be teaching an online or weekend course on American Ethnic Literature at CSU-Dominguez Hills, we’ll see how that goes.

I taught Rhetorical Arts with the theme of “Digital Divides” last year. It worked well, but I’d like to spend more time studying rhetorical theory. I’m torn about what rhetoric book to use. I liked the book we used, Jason del Gandio’s Rhetoric for Radicals, but the university program is centering itself around The Rhetorical Act: Thinking, Speaking and Writing Critically by Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Susan Schultz Huxman. On the one hand, The Rhetorical Act is clearly set up as a course book, which could make it easier to use. On the other hand, Rhetoric for Radicals deals a with digital rhetoric and the construction and influence of movements in a way that’s great for my topic. There’s also a huge price difference. The one the university is recommending is $172, whereas Rhetoric for Radicals is $16. Actually, as I write this, I’ve realized I want to stick with Rhetoric for Radicals, but I suspect I’m going to have to make a case for going against the rest of the program.

The Intro to Chicana/o Studies is a new prep for me. The people I teach with at LMU have been great about sharing their syllabi, but I want to put my own stamp on it. What I’ve realized though is that I need to get a better sense of what I think Chicana/o studies is. I’m tempted to start with Elizabeth Martinez’s “A Word about the Great Terminology Question” and have the students crowd source definitions of Chicana/o, Latina/o and Hispanic. I also want them to try writing their own version of El Plan de Aztlan. But mostly I’m feeling the pressure of teaching a class that only meets once a week. I want to make sure there’s enough variety of activities going on each week so we get enough done and it isn’t boring. One nice thing about the large chunk of time is that I’ll be able to show some films.

Every Day in November – Week 1

Since today is November 9 it’s been a little more than a week since I started my commitment to write 30 minutes a day, every day this month. Not, as I planned, 30 minutes a day first thing — though I did do that 7 of the 9 days, stumbling to my desk with only a cup of coffee and light box between me and the early morning. But for the last two days, having stayed out late at the ASA conference, I’ve slept in meaning I had to write in the evenings. Last night, though I didn’t get home until after 11, and ended up writing until 1am. Today was a little more sane, with my 30 minutes happening in the early evening.

What’s it been like?

First, it’s been liberating. 30 minutes feels like nothing, too little to worry about getting done (and, in the beginning, too little to accomplish anything). On Tuesday, a teaching day, I woke up later than I meant to (sleeping is something of an obsession clearly) and my first thought was “clearly I can’t write this morning.” But then I felt afraid of putting other things before this writing time. So I sat down and did the 30 minutes. It did mean I ended up arriving at school 20 minutes before I had to teach, with my hair still damp, but the writing was done. Each day the writing has gotten done.

Second, doing 30 minutes of work on my manuscript every day has helped keep my job market anxiety in perspective. It’s so massively out of my control that having this one thing that’s completely mine has been great. Doing the writing reminds me every day how much I love this work and connect with causes and writings of the people I’m researching.

It would be great, in the tradition of the NaNoWriMo to be able to end this by giving some impressive word count. But in line with #AcWri and #GetYourManuscriptOut, the writing that’s needed to be done this week is editing a book chapter on Elizabeth Martinez’s writings as Elizabeth Sutherland. 30 minutes a day has made a huge difference in the state of the manuscript and my responses to the editors. When I was asked two weeks ago if I could get the edits in by November 15, my response was very unsure. I have so little time right now, I thought. It seemed impossible. After the past nine days, while it still doesn’t seem exactly likely, it seems possible. While I may not hit that deadline, I’m sure I’ll have the revisions to the editors before Thanksgiving.

On to Week 2.

Battling the ‘Bots (Part 2)

A couple weeks ago I wrote about attacks by spammers on this domain. They’re generating so much traffic that I’m having to pay my domain host extra. The Bad Behavior software has helped, but caused it’s own problem. The spam traffic is so high that the log Bad Behavior keeps was filling up my disk space, even though the log purges itself every seven days.

Unable to solve the problem, I went back to P for help. Looking at the logs (so thank you Bad Behavior) he pointed out that a lot of the ‘bot traffic was directed at my login page. With his help I found a plugin Rename wp-login.php which does just what it said, helped me rename my login page so it’s not the WordPress default.

I know rationally there’s no point in being angry about this. Spammers spam. They do it for the money. It’s nothing personal. But I can’t help it, I’m angry my completely non-commercial domain is being attacked. I resent having to spend my time and P’s time in this arms race. I just want me and my students to have a nice space for our writing.

There, I’m done whining for today.

AcWrit – Every Day in November Plans

clockI’m making a commitment for November to write 30 minutes a day, every day (that’s 7 days a week). Right now my plan is to do this writing first thing — even before I check my email — though not before I make coffee. We’ll see how that goes. I’m talking about it in public because I want to accountability, plus I want to explore though weekly blogging about the practice of writing every day. Because my blogging also doesn’t get the time and attention it deserves.

This goes against the way I’ve generally written. I’ve always been something of a binge writer, writing in intense bursts when either inspiration struck or deadlines loomed. Yet I know that’s not the most productive or healthy way to write. One of my Twitter compadres, Raul Pacheco-Vega writes every morning for 2 hours. His daily discipline inspires me.

My other thought is that by writing first thing in the morning, I’m paying myself first. That is, I’m putting my research and writing ahead of everything else, from grading to job search work. This relates to some of the advice Wendy Belcher gives in Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks — that the grading will get done, but for many of us our writing gets a lower priority and ultimately never gets our time.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but the plan crystalized as I read Ryan Cordell’s “Writing 20 Minutes Every. Single. Day.” and the more recent “Scholarly Writing Hacks: 5 Lessons I Learned Writing Every Day in June” by Jennifer Ahern-Dodson. The fact is, there’s too much going on right now to have the luxury of writing binges. Even if I had the time to write like that, I wouldn’t have the time to recover.

I was incredibly pleased to mention my plan on Twitter and get responses from a variety of scholars who want to make the writing daily in November commitment too. I’m asking permission this afternoon to put their names (or whatever names they want to use) and links to their blogs (if they have them) here so we will have made a public commitment.

What I’ve been working on this week is getting my writing spaces organized so once this starts I can just sit down to write without having to first clear my desk.

If you want to join, leave a message in the comments, tweet me @anneperez or get in touch somehow. I’d love to see what we can do in November.

Who’s committed?

@santaperversa: Finding Self, Finding Love & It’s Always Summer in LA

Nikolai Garcia: @hellokommie

Annemarie Perez: @anneperez & Cited at the Crossroads

Liana M. Silvia Ford: @lianamsilviaford & Words Are My Game

Battling the ‘Bots

Not a video game.

This is a busy time for me. Yeah, yeah, Annemarie, I hear you say. We’re all busy. And I’m sure you are. But right now I’ve got three huge piles of grading nagging at me, job application deadlines and revisions to an article on Betita Martinez that need to be done.

So what has sucked up 6 hours since Friday? Trying to find a way to deal with spam traffic on this domain.

Mostly I don’t think a lot about spam. In fact, thanks to the ease of using WordPress and the general greatness of my host, Laughing Squid (how can you not want to host with a place called Laughing Squid?), I don’t think much about my multi domain install. It does what I need it to do, which is let me set up blogs for my classes and accounts for my students and then we do our thing. Askimet does its thing and, when I think about it, I empty the spam and delete the crap that hasn’t already been filtered.

I didn’t think I was in an arms race. I didn’t notice my numbers creeping up across all my archived course blogs. Then on Friday afternoon I got an email from the Squid help desk saying that since my domain was using close to three times the allowed “compute cycles” my hosting plan allows that they were moving me up to the more expensive plan. But even that wasn’t going to be enough. In addition to Mega Squid hosting, I was going to need two tacked on packages.

What? I was out cafe writing when I got the email, but when I got home (after Squid help hours) I spent an hour trying to figure out what the hell was going on. For starters, I didn’t even know what a compute cycle was. I’m still a bit blurry, but whatever they are I’m using lots. Were Stephen Fry and Neil Gaiman blogging about the Chicana/o Gothic? What the hell?

As I was trying to figure out what was going on with the traffic across my sites, I unthinkingly deleted the filtered spam, noticing with half my mind that the emptying was taking a little longer than usual.

P got home and I showed him the mail. We looked at the control panel stats. Compared them with his domain. According to the numbers, I was using a 30 times more cycles than him. So I went back again to look at my stats. As I did, I noticed that each blog already had more than 100 spam comments since they’d been emptied an hour earlier. I mentioned this to P.

P is a web programmer. Among his many jobs, he battles comment spam on his university department’s websites. At his advice I started looking closer at my spam numbers. Just because the spam wasn’t getting through didn’t mean it wasn’t causing havoc to my page loads. The deeper we looked, and without more detailed information from Squid, the more it looked like this was the problem.

So I closed comments on all the blogs and put a “moderated” message up so that searching ‘bots might see the moderated warning and not bother trying my site. But the thing is, I don’t want the comments to be closed. Not at all. One of the reasons for archiving my students blogging, especially in Chicana/o and Latina/o studies is that there’s so little of this on the ‘net. I want people to be able to find the content and comment on it. Just in sifting through this spam deluge I found a comment about a poet we read made by her daughter. I don’t want to eliminate those moments of contact.

My other alternatives aren’t very attractive either. I don’t want to use free wordpress.com blog sites for my classes. I like the control of knowing they’re on the domain I host and that I never have to worry about ads. I don’t want to put my classes’ work behind the Blackboard wall.

So this morning I found a plugin, Bad Behavior, that claims to block ‘bots. So far it’s working — it claims to have blocked a thousand so far across my sites. Hopefully it’s enough. Then tomorrow I’ll call the people at Squid and see if they have any more ideas.

Spammers. They’re why my blogs can’t have nice things.

Saying Goodbye to LinkedIn

This morning on yet another one of my social media spaces, a friend commented that as much as Facebook is creepy, LinkedIn is even creepier in its suggestions of people users may know or want to comment on. Her comments reminded me how annoying I find that that LinkedIn is always trying to get into my address books, making it much harder to say no than yes.

Then I started wondering, why do I even have LinkedIn?

Basically I have it because LinkedIn tricked my mother. One day I opened an email that said “Rita Perez wants to connect with you on LinkedIn.” This seemed possible or even probable. My mother works in the business community so her using LinkedIn seemed reasonable. I pictured her at her desk using the business acceptable social media time waster. It could be fun, thought me and so I opened an account.

Once I did, I realized my mother did have a LinkedIn profile, but that she didn’t use it, that it had harvested her Gmail account and emailed (or emauled) everyone in her address book. We never exchanged a word on LinkedIn, though I think we endorsed each other.

But now my account was set up. Trickles of notifications started coming in from former editing clients and students wanting to connect. I was pleased — I’m always pleased to see my former students and their endorsements were like little pats on the back, especially when they endorsed me for skills I didn’t know I had. Too, it was great to see what they were doing in their own careers.

Mostly though, I ignored it in favor of my other networks, especially Twitter. Except as LinkedIn kept trying to get into my address book. No means no means let me ask you again. And again.

As of today, LinkedIn has asked me questions for the last time. That account is closed. My address book is safe.

Safe-ish.

MLA 14 – Our Kind of People: Textual Community and the Latina Edited Anthology

mla2014-logoThis was a good morning.  I was surprised and very pleased to find out that my paper for MLA14, “Our Kind of People: Textual Community and the Latina Edited Anthology” was accepted for inclusion in the Chicana and Chicano Literature Division ¿Anthologizing Latinidad? panel and that the roundtable special- session “Back Up Your Work: Conceptualizing Writing Support for Graduate Students,” which I’m on with Liana Silva, Abigail Scheg, Lee Ann Glowsenski and Tara Betts, was also accepted.

The abstract for my talk:

“Our Kind of People: Textual Community and the Latina Edited Anthology”

Readers see the authorial decisions as definitive while editorship remains invisible. Within a text, editors are seen, to the extent they are seen at all, as serving a generally administrative or organizational role. Yet in reality editors act as facilitators, filters and / or gatekeepers — albeit sometimes uncomfortable ones — deciding who and what is included and excluded, encouraging writing that otherwise might never be published or even written. By making these decisions, they decide whose thoughts merit inclusion, which ones belong and which do not, controlling how and if a subject or author will be presented. Still further, editors decide through which point of view or lens an artistic, social or political movement will be viewed. Discussing the role of editor, Norton editor Alane Salierno Mason, wrote “[e]diting a literary anthology is like forming a social club — you get to decide who are ‘your’ kind of people.” This paper focuses on anthologies as textual communities made up by women of color — especially Latinas. Although Latinas contributed to anthologies of Latino and feminist writings in the 1970s, beginning (largely) in the 1980s, Latinas became anthology editors. In their editorial role they facilitated other Latinas and women of color as writers to engage in intellectual discourse and be distributed on a larger scale than permitted by earlier underground newspapers and journals.

The two anthologies I focus on are Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s edited anthology, This Bridge Called My Back (1981) and the Chicana studies anthology Chicana Voices: Intersections of Class, Race and Gender, (1986) edited by Teresa Córdova, Norma Cantú, Gilberto Cardenas, Juan García and Christine M. Sierra. Both books have publication histories that are themselves acts of resistance, reflecting how the books were constructed as well as how each has been presented, received and used. Though examining these anthologies, a sense of the construction of textual communities and the creation of anthologies as acts of resistance is discussed.

When our roundtable proposal is put online I’ll put a link to it here.

Hey! I’m Not a Basket Case and I Don’t Regret My Ph.D.

Disclosure: I finished my Ph.D, in English in 2011.  Since then I’ve worked as a freelance editor, writing consultant and adjunct.  

There have been a number of articles lately in Slate and The Chronicle (and elsewhere) expressing regret for the time spent getting a Ph.D., feelings of failure, warnings to others not to go and generally expressing what, to me, reads like a great deal of entitled exhausted (?) angst.  In response, Emory Ph.D. student Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote an excellent blog post on reasons why students of color should look at getting a Ph.D. and the power said degree has in helping one make their way through a white world.

Yes, finishing my dissertation and getting my Ph.D. were the hardest things I’ve ever done.  Yes, there were bad times, including moments when I was sick, out of money and (the worst) faced with racism on the part of my fellow graduate students who openly expressed their suspicions that I hadn’t gotten where I was on merit but  was a product of affirmative action (which, whatever my merits, I am). But getting to work on my Ph.D., becoming the first in my family to be called “doctor” was and is the greatest privilege of my fortunate life. I got to spend a decade studying literature, mostly Chicana/o literature, which continues to inspire me to tears at its beauty. Along the way I got to teach, advise and edit undergraduate and graduate students. I got to do all this while my sister worked cleaning houses, serving food, doing retail and generally working at whatever she could to get by without health insurance or any security, asking me to recommend books she could read for thirty minutes or so before she goes asleep.

At the same time, I also found a community of Latina scholars, including my dissertation advisor, who have heard and understood my pain, especially the pain of feeling alienated from my mostly all white department, who have told me I’m good enough, who have supported my scholarship whatever my affiliation or lack thereof.  There is a history in Chicana/o scholarship of research being done be people in a variety of positions — there aren’t generations of Chicana full professors at research universities.  We’ve always struggled from the margins. Important work is and has been done by librarians, grammar and high school teachers, administrative support people and community activists. I’m not ashamed I’m not in a tenure line position — those before me weren’t necessarily either.

Yes, part of me reads these articles and understands. The job market / adjunct situation is bad. Rejection sucks. Uncertainty is hard. But nothing is ever certain. My family is proud of the adjuncting work I do, proud of the editing work I do, proud of me. They wouldn’t understand (or care) about the difference between a tenured and untenured position. To them all employment is uncertain, all work has dignity.

I wonder if some of what gives me strength and makes me see struggle for the beauty and gift that it is, are the very writings I study.  Whether it’s the passion and life-long activism of Betita Martinez or the raw celebration of life and pain of Gloria Anzáldua, Chicana writing is about feeding one’s soul in order to then go out and do what can and should be done.

As Ella Diaz remarked when I expressed surprise at the number and tone of the articles out there, perhaps we should create a reading list of the works that keep us sane, that sustain our souls and share them with those who feel their degree wasn’t worthwhile.  I think what it comes down to for me is I believe the work I do on the literature I work on is important and valuable. I will do it however I can for as long as I can as hard as I can.

Because when I see Latina/o scholars I think we’re beautiful.

 

CSRC Virtual Boxes Proposal

Image of archive from wikipedia photos.

Image of archive from wikipedia photos.

This is a sketch of a proposed project I’m working on with Lizette Gurerra.

Inspiration: This project draws inspiration from several sources.  One classic archival assignment is to bring students of history or cultural studies into the archive, randomly assign them a box and ask them to write an essay or construct a historical narrative based on the materials.  At the same time, there is also a tradition of archivist traveling to classrooms and bringing with them a “trunk” of materials for students to handle and examine.

Project Summary:  The purpose of this project is to facilitate the construction of  narratives,  making use of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center archive materials through the creation of virtual boxes that can be explored by educators, students, scholars and community members.  The narratives created by the “box” users would ultimately become part of the archive and the boxes’ history.

Project Rationale The ability to work with archival materials in order to research and construct historical narratives has previously been limited to those with the privilege of accessing  the archive in person.  These institutions rarely are the same ones designated as “Hispanic serving.” This project would allow educators, students (6-12 as well as college and university students) and community members to  have the powerful experience of opening an archive box and working with the original materials.

How would it work:  Boxes should be able to both be randomly assigned by teachers and / or users so as to create a sense of surprise and adventure, especially in a classroom situation.  Yet there should also be the ability to request a box on a specific topic so as to make archival materials accessible to community members and students.

Box topic ideas: For this project our focus will be on the Southern California Chicano Movement of the 1960s – 70s.  Specifically:

  • Blowouts
  • Moratorium
  • Creation of MEChA
  • Race and gender
  • Arts and popular culture (murals, music?)
  • LGBT (Cyclona)
  • Chicano Park
  • Labor (UFW, Justice for Janitors, Francisa Flores, Regeneracion)
  • Literature (Manazar Gamboa)

Questions: What platform could we use to build and maintain this site? Thinking about Omeka, but that’s mainly because I heard about it at THATCamp MLA and was fascinated by it.  Ideas for cool names for the project.  Possibility for users to add their own narratives (and materials) to the site.

Other questions and issues we haven’t even thought of yet.  Please let us know what you think.

¡Ban This!: An Evening of Mass Education

About a year ago, frustration over the banning of Chicana/o writings by the state of Arizona, and the hate of all things Latino that seemed to be spreading across the country became a topic of conversation on Twitter and in essays written by some of us for Aztlán Reads. This might have been the end of it were it not for the energy and organization of Santino Rivera of Broken Sword Publications.  Santino put out a call for writing, welcoming both poetry and prose and encouraging all of us to contribute.  We brought the call to NACCS, making an appeal for Chicana/o scholars to contribute.

I have to admit, even at this point, I didn’t think the anthology would happen.  There’s so much to publishing and editing and I’ve seen too many projects die from the complications of life intervening.  I did send a contribution — something theoretical on the mythology of Aztlán.  I don’t think it was what Santino was imagining, but he wrote me back encouraging me to expand the autobiographical section of my essay.  I happily did so, watching via Twitter as Santino edited the collection, got artwork for the cover and, sooner than I could have imagined, announced that the anthology was going to press.

As exciting as it was to get my copy and read through the diverse contributions, what Art Meza has organized for tonight at Cypress Park Library is even more exciting.  Tonight a number of us will do readings from the anthology and sign copies of the book for the public.

I’m nervous, but can’t wait.