Saturday, August 23, 2014


Writing about risk. That's the theme of the 2015 Conference on College Composition & Communication, which will take place in Tampa, Florida, the very home of my doctoral program (USF). Last week, I learned that my proposal had been accepted. My performance explores the rhetoric of "DIY" (do it yourself) composing projects as a kind of "optimistic failure." Upon reading the acceptance email, I had a moment of gratitude and joy, and I shared the news with 2 of my immediate supervisors (as we are encouraged to do and as may be rhetorically wise, though it always *always* feels creepy, the same kinda creepy that keeps me from applying for awards. i think that if you'd like to give me an award, great. but to compete for one isn't in my nature. i'm hardwired, perhaps, for failure, and as i am thinking about it, accepting this truth and all that it may mean about my private definition of "failure," i'm okay with that). So the C's talk -- the work will draw upon Lauren Berlant's concept of Cruel Optimism, and I'm excited about taking up her work to think about my own, as I did at the 2014 CCCC in "Open Aesthetics."

For Berlant, optimism is "“the force that moves you out of yourself and into the world in order to bring closer the satisfying something that you cannot generate on your own but sense in the wake of a person, a way of life, an object, project, concept, or scene” (1-2). Optimism "becomes cruel only when the object that draws your attachment actively impedes the aim that brought you to it initially" (1). Surely, we think of our work, our attractions and attachments, the desires that brought us to teaching writing at the university level -- the creativity, the drama, empowerment (!), the rewards of having served, social justice (!), and more. And then, the impediments (...).

We've all heard that we should treat work as only part of a full and happy life. Doing so has always seemed difficult. My attachments to the promises of my teaching life have perhaps been out of balance, but even with my profound career missteps and disappointments, I've remained. After the dark mood that greeted me upon waking today, I'm writing it out, wondering why. I'm writing this entry as an optimistic approach to contemplating my attachments to my work as a form of cruel optimism, where I both gain ego points and crushing anxiety, both at the same time. 

Tenure provided some sense of security, though it was never terrifically fortifying. But despite the research, reflection, soul-searching, and other work I did to prepare to leave it, I could not have anticipated how much giving it up would undo me (my therapist has helped me to forgive myself for being "so stupid!"). Add to the mix a seemingly ongoing and strangely infantilizing compulsion (on the part of some individuals) to remind me that at my new job, my presence is valued (as if I'm skipping class all the time), and I wake feeling threatened nearly every day. I suppose many of my NTT compadres will say, "welcome, bonnie"). I wake nearly every day sensing that the "aim that brought me to it [teaching, but especially this new move] initially" is "actively impeding" [sic] my ability to not only thrive but to feel even a measure of sanity about my choices, my situation, my future and present happiness. Sure sure, life is suffering, but this is suffering from the privilege of even having a job in this economy, so let's say we just heap on a few dollops of guilt, shall we? Is this helping?

It may help to explain that I am not a gamer. I don't play video games because of the throbbing proximity of these two experiences (ego grat/crushing anxiety) and the crescendo of FAIL they escalate in the process. But through Berlant's "cruel optimism," I get at least a sense of the integrity of my choices. Sure, romantic. Also sure, motivated by love. We'll see where this goes. Happy Saturday. I'm going to my niece's soccer game. Aoife (5) is playing for Matilda (6), who fell out of a tree and had to get stitches this week. My time in the ER motivated at least one of the threatening emails, as I missed an opening speaker, oh, and here is Tilda offering to let me move one of her cupcakes for a WIN. You kids play nice.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

renovate ALL THE THINGS!

Don't worry about me. I'm fine. And I have and plan to keep my writing schedule in the post "reviews are in" phase of the project. I had to build up to it, but I have a schedule. Around the schedje is the work of changing up this space. Today's post (I've mostly been posting about the prodje over at my Facebook page) is about floor stain. I mean, we have red oak (very sad-to-possibly-troubledsoul-type face).No gingey floors pour moi! Nope. We tried some stains yesterday, and while Marek (of MS Total Custom) was pulling for DuraSeal Jacobean, I could not get past all the orange still showing through. I LOVED "Classic Grey," but the look on Marek's face and his outright insistence that I will never sell this condo by laying down the grey, ... said, "No." And then, Mike walked in and kinda loved the "Ebony." Frankly, I worry it makes the ring stains (natural wood grain age marker thingies) look so black and then the other parts not black enough -- zebra-style). Marek assures me that it will darken with "sealing," but I'm not sure that's any assurance. I need to see it.

So, like any good internet user, I woke today to look up images of others' experience. I'm now thinking a blend might work, and then I find this lovely image of straight up Ebony on red oak. Pretty great, right?!

Contemporary Dining Room by New York Interior Designers & Decorators Michelle Winick Design

But so I had thought, "That's it. Done! I'm in!" And then I see this, which suggests they've used 2 coats of "Ebony."

So now I will have a Monday session w/ my people. I hear the "sealant" darkens it, so maybs these worries are for nothing. Come Monday, think of me, swatching and hoping. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

reviews are in!!

I am the reluctant writer. Oh sure, I write a lot and in different modes. But this book project? (really, we need to rethink the ways in which *books* create these forms of approval ... the ongoing dream ...). As you know, I've been trying to launch this documentary-style ethnographic narrative (aka "book") amid my life's 4 billion obstacles (i know i'm not spesh in this, but for real). I am proud that I finally put out a proposal (2 months ago'ish). It is a point of pride to give up the yearning to audiences. So I am lingering on that for a moment. Now, there's this: Yesterday, I received reviewer's notes, along with my fine, fine Editor's plan for advancing. 

I am terrifically grateful to these people who are taking time to help me make this happen. Sure, I better werq, and with the packing and moving and whatnot, it will be *interesting*, challenging, but the plan before me is doable (esp given the work i've put into it, so far), so much so that last night, I had a lucid epiphany about the introductory chapter: the existing intro needs to be Ch 1, and Ch 1, Ch 2. Also, a new intro needs to emerge (the proposal writing process made this clear to me, and now, it is back in the foreground). 

This reconfigured introduction will explicitly define the conceptual frame, moreso than the current work (which assumes a lot on the part of my readership, a common trait in my work, one that I see as ennobling, avoiding condescension. But it's also a move that ambiguates in ways many readers do not appreciate, post-________________ notwithstanding).

So then, this new intro articulates more clearly my use of 2 of the main figures (film critic André Bazin, and rhet/comp scholar Robert Connors) I reference to frame this history I'm tracing and the ethnographic mapping I am indulging as a way of telling the story of this emergent field I've been calling "film-composition."

Of course, this reflection comes prior to reading the reviewers' comments. I will get to that soon. I need to build up to it. I am the reluctant writer.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


So, we are about to buy a condo in Naperville. Very exciting! Sounds great, right? And it is. But so I hate to admit it, but ... nah. We'll go with "great!" Why? Because in the ongoing project that is bonnie lenore kyburz, I am working to reflect and evolve, and I've been doing a lot of it this past year. Ceci n'est pas une pipe.

I won't lie. This year has been one of the most challenging of my life. It beats my craniotomy year, and that's saying quite a lot. 

One undertakes the process of giving up their hard-earned tenure and taking on a NTT position in the Midwest not because of the siren call of Chicago-style pizza but, in our case, to be with (and maybe help) the family. Sound reasoning. Great, moral, spiritual motivations. And but ... we did, as we now look back, have some pretty severe reservations, stuff friends warned us about, stuff we categorized as "Nah, we got this." As it turns out, we didn't really have it. And, thanks to a fine therapist I started seeing only 2 months into the move (due to "transition anxiety" -- a real thing!!), I have learned that we could not, after all, have foreseen the future. We could not have imagined the scope of the challenges; they have been many. So maybe what I have learned will help someone else facing these sorts of decisions. I reflect upon them in the following list of things that have challenged me with this move to a new job in the Midwest:

  1. The insecurity that comes from the "NTT" (Non-Tenure Track) designation. Sure, I knew I was taking a hit, but I never imagined how it would play out (anxiety, depression, uncertainty, paranoia). And then, it seems that some institutions offering NTT positions are themselves uncertain of the meaning of the designation. My advice? Learn something about the options, and expect extremes. Don't be surprised if you are asked/required to behave as if you were not only on the TT but already tenured. You will do that much work. And it will not be on "the clock." You think you don't care about that, but you do. 
  2. Re-acclimating to a radically different climate. The West is beautiful. I could stop right there and you'd get my meaning. People had warned me about Chicago weather, but having visited many times and rarely experiencing anything drastic, I didn't factor it into my thinking much at all. And then, I had lived in Utah through 14 winters, so I felt I knew winter. I had winter down. NOPE. Moved in the worst winter probably on record. Terrible, terrible. Couple this with the fact that the offices where the department was temporarily housed (ostensibly while the ostensible shiny new Humanities Commons was being ostensibly built) was a health hazard (at least to me, and to several of my colleagues). And then, just the general allergy attacks ... severe, ongoing, persistent. I seem to be allergic to Chicago. I have learned to stop fighting and am now on a regular regimen of several additional pills and tinctures just to sort of breathe every day. Again, you may think that you will just "get used to it" and that this will happen quickly, and if you are facing a big move, I hope this is the case. For me, it wasn't. And added to the insecurities (see #1), this was a whammy.
  3. Recognizing that your ideas about family may differ from your family's ideas about family. I love my family, and Mike and I are both so honored to have been able to spend this time with particular family members, and maybe even to have helped. However, perhaps because it's just been Mike and I for so long, we are not accustomed to family dynamics as they play out in, well, families beyond our immediate party of 2. So that's created the need for adjustments we didn't expect.
  4. Trying to deal with issues 1, 2, and 3, and then discovering that another family problem is coming straight to your doorstep. Details withheld (see symptoms associated with #1).
  5. Finding a good therapist. Oh come now. You think you don't need a therapist? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Get on that.
  6. Keeping up with your ongoing projects (in light of #'s 1-5). Never mind "advancing" them, but just keeping pace with your career, thus far. Add these stressors, and you can anticipate some additional worries. Advice? Even if you hate yourself for all you didn't consider about these potential challenges and you feel you are failing at just about everything, love yourself. Take breaks. See your therapist. Talk to your grad school friends and mentors. Whine, if you have to, but try to keep it together (this will not be easy, but try. You will fail, and you will probably embarrass yourself. But each day is new, so try). Keep trying. Keep moving. Exercise. Do the local stuff that you love. 
  7. Making time to reflect and consider options (possibly, to act on them). Add this to your list of challenges because it's going to appear there. Just do it. Advice? Schedule time for it, so it doesn't overtake you.

There is much I could add, but in my attempts to be wise and not merely whiny, I will conclude. I hope this is helpful to any readers who are facing big life changes. It has been helpful for me to write it. Thanks to my readers for indulging me. We move into the condo in 2 weeks! Details forthcoming!

Monday, February 24, 2014

why, hello! (w/ embedded life lessons for young academics, people in general & whatnot)

It has been entirely too long. Hello! This photo is from my home workstation, which lives in what should be the dining room. I hope that in the coming days and weeks I will be using this space almost exclusively for creative projects, placing grading and planning on campus =  great plan and my tip to anyone who is able to consider making this happen.

To be sure, I have been generating creatively from this space. That is, I assure you that I have been writing, and doing lots of it. I'll make a list: 

3D map, latest additions
The book is seeing support from a thoughtful editor; these days it seems less a vague dream than a reality.

A proposed journal submission landed an invitation to compose a book chapter for a collection on Social Media (!).

I am composing my CCCC's presentation, & my remix (for CW), a parody on the concept of "privacy."

      The new job continues to challenge me in ways I had not even come close to anticipating! I am happy to report that I am surviving these new moves, learning more than I'd imagined (or hoped to learn). 

      I have also begun reading more about Fair Use. My C's presentation is on Fair Use, our unwillingness to fight for our writing rights, and (academic) hierarchies generated by fear. It's exhilarating work, liberating, encouraging, .... name a few more breathy adjectives!! I'm there. Oh, and on exhilaration, make this chili! We've made it twice (albeit with fewer ingredients + adding stew beef, no beer). It's amazing, and one of those things we stumbled into by going to Whole Foods (academics!) around Super Bowl Weekend; they had a chili contest, so we sampled from setups all around the store. This was the winner. Trust.

      Today, I will finish unpacking my office (I had to move from an unsuitable space to a hopefully better one). I'll grade, plan, and then look around for a place to live that is a bit closer to campus. I still love Naperville, but moving a bit further south in town will cut 15 minutes from the 40 minute commute. How had I been convinced I could do a 40 minute commute? see? learning. BOOM.

      This is terrifically informal. I'll dress it up for you soon, when I post about these things I've been designing. 

      Finally, another great thing? We found this cool play and took our niece, Fiona (9), who is very creative. We saw That's Weird, Grandma!, and it was fantastic. Great improv group, actors who teach in local schools and generate scripts from the writings, drawing, and compositions of their students. This is the sign at the theaterspace, which the Barrel of Monkeys group rents from the Neo-futurists. So cool. Also, True Detective! If you are not, WHY?!!