Tag Archives: collaboration

Thinking through the holidays

It’s the day after the day after Christmas, and celebrations are over–for the most part. It has been great to relax and not think about work. My activities over the past several days have included:

  • shopping for and wrapping gifts for my beloveds
  • shopping for, cooking (or watching Arlequino cooking), and eating wonderful food (best scalloped potatoes ever! lamb curry!)
  • hanging out with family (all of them this time! a first!) and dear friends
  • enjoying wine, including a freshly squeezed clementine and prosecco mimosa on Christmas morning
  • reading
  • knitting
  • yoga
  • walking

We went away for a couple of days just before Christmas and had a lovely quiet time together–with some swimming and gym workouts to interrupt the sloth. Muskoka resort; great deal; awesome food; enormous room. No people. Perfect.

But now I find my mind turning back to work, and that’s okay. There is always work to be done, and i LIKE my work. I’m not thinking much about teaching yet, but I am thinking about conference papers that have to be written for the coming year.

Arlequino and I have decided to write a paper together (our first academic collaboration). It will be about Two Generals, a graphic ‘novel’ (it’s not a novel) based on Scott Chantler’s grandfather’s WWII diary. If you want to see a promo video about the book click on this link: AgsyhAtzYcs?hd=1

The analysis of the text lends itself well to our different areas of expertise: Arlequino knows everything there is to know about Military re-enactment, performance, Canadian political history and more. I know a thing or two about life writing, especially Canadian and including graphic memoirs (or, in this case, a biographical text). The personal in the historical; the historical in the personal. We can do this. And I’m enjoying thinking about my contribution to this paper. Plus I’m starting to love working on graphic texts, where the visual design is so very important. For instance, I’m so impressed by this particular author’s use of frame size and repeated images to enact the pacing of the narrative. The text is also a frame narrative. And it’s very literary–uses intertextuality, for example. Nice. Interesting.

And, of course, I am writing more and more about family histories, family stories, personal stories about WWII.

Brain still functioning!

Happy Christmas/New Year week, everyone.


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Filed under conferences, Life writing, Research


Some colleagues of mine (both here at Waterloo and elsewhere) wrote a short piece for University Affairs on collaborative research and writing.They weigh the pros and cons and come up with some pithy advice. Reading this piece I was reminded of how much I love collaborative work and how no “con” could persuade me otherwise.

For me, collaborative writing began more than a decade ago when my good friend R. and I wrote a piece for a conference. It was a special panel for a BIG conference (the MLA) on the work of probably Canada’s most famous Native author, Thomas King. We were living in separate cities in those days: I was in Waterloo and she was in Vancouver. We did much of the writing alone, but we did the final stages together. I went to B.C. for a visit. That’s the thing about collaboration; much of it can be done over email or (in the olden days!) by faxing drafts back and forth, but eventually you just have to be in the same room together. That paper was a dialogue that we performed at the conference and then revised as a published paper. Since then R. and I have written two more pieces together, both on topics close to our respective research interests. I expect we’ll write together again.

And then I co-edited two books with fabulous colleagues MK and JP (also SE), all well established, famous even, autobiography scholars. It was such an honour and a joy to work with those women. I learned a lot from them, and they also seemed to value the work I could do. Again, we did much of our work over email–thousands of messages archived. We sometimes shared 20 or more emails over a day while we were making decisions and talking about the editing work. We also wrote our own papers that went into those books and read and edited each other’s writing. My favourite parts of this collaboration were the end-stages: shaping the ms. to send to the press, copy editing (I’m weird like that: I actually like copy editing, and I’m good at it. Sharp eyes.), and–best of all–coming up with a title and a cover image. In both cases, I found the cover images. Yay!

But again, we could not do all of the work remotely. On three (or was it four?) occasions we met somewhere, spent days together, lived in each other’s houses or, once, spent a week in Mexico, and, on another occasion, tagged on a week in Santourini after a conference we had all attended in Athens. In those spaces we talked and laughed, cooked and ate together. And we got a heck of a lot of work done too.

Collaboration has been the best part of my research life. I have wondered if this is a particularly gratifying way for women to work toether. Sharing, supporting, but also gently questioning and nudging. I do my best work when I am doing it for my collaborators. Now Arlequino and I are plotting a collaborative paper. I can hardly wait to work with him. So, it’s not just a woman’s way of working in the Humanities; it’s perhaps a new Humanities way to work. No longer the isolated, monkish, scholar bent over his solitary desk; now we’re teams, partners, colluders and collaborators. And it’s really, really nice not to feels so alone inside my head.


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