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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Checking in with Katie Parks, a Current Thesis-Writing Second Year Student

The Yawp staff wanted our readers to become a little more familiar with the experience in the daily lives of Villanova Graduate English Students. Currently our crop of second-years is working to polish thesis and field exam, most of them trying to finish by the end of the semester. We decided to check in with Katie Parks, who is writing about Teresa Deevy, a 20th Century Irish playwright. 

The Yawp: Katie Parks. How are you? Does this email find you in the midst of writing?

Katie Parks: Hi, Yawp! I am doing well this semester. I am currently in the midst of editing and revising my thesis. Draft. Revise. Draft. Revise. Lather, rinse, repeat.

TY: Is thesis writing everything you hoped it would be? Has anything surprised you about this process?

KP: I'm not really sure what I hoped thesis writing would be like, but the process has proved that this kind of venture requires a great amount of organization and discipline. I have been surprised continuously by my research on Teresa Deevy and the early decades of 20th-century Irish theatre, which has spurred my deeper interest in this genre and love for the stage.

TY: Who is advising you? What has that process been like?

KP: Dr. Joseph Lennon is directing my thesis, and Fr. Cregan is my second reader. Dr. Lennon has been extremely supportive and helpful throughout the process and I feel really lucky to be working with him. Father Cregan has been a wonderful support, as well, and has played an active role of this process. His knowledge of Irish theatre and theatre scholarship has been critical in expanding and strengthening the groundwork of my thesis.

TY: Describe an average day. 

KP: 
An average thesis-writing day is almost always a day when I don't have my assistantship, which varies from week to week. Because my assistantship allots for very little downtime during the day, I rely heavily on my evenings to get thesis work done. I'll work until 9pm or so, depending on whether or not I have work the next morning.

Okay, so back to the original question... An average day for me begins around 7 or 8 in the morning, if I'm not working at my Philly assistantship. (Un)Fortunately, I don't wake up to a normal alarm clock on these days; there's a pesky woodpecker that makes daily visits to a tree right outside my bedroom window. I'll grumble and mumble to myself, under the covers, about not wanting to spend all day at my desk, typing away to the beat of the woodpecker's peck. I'll get out of bed, eat some Rice Krispie Treats cereal, watch an episode of Law and Order: SVU, and get to work on my thesis. Around 2 or 3pm, I'll take a break. Sometimes, I'll relocate to Falvey or Starbucks for the afternoon, just to get out of the house... I tend to go stir-crazy after a few hours. Around dinnertime, I'll finish up for the day. If it's a Sunday, I'll eat a nice spaghetti/ravioli/lasagna/ziti/stuffed shells dinner with my parents. I wish every day was Sunday, but only for the pasta.

TY: Best and worst moments so far. Go.

KP: Best moment: Crossing the sixty page threshold in drafting. (Making it to 70 was exciting.)

Worst moment: Making (heavy) edits to sixty or seventy pages only to find that I now have sixty, fifty, or--no, wait--45 pages.

Next worst/most difficult moment: Trying to scale to the top of the sixty-page mountain again, only to find that the sixty-page mountain is a plateau...the mountain's height is undetermined. I'm still scaling this mountain, after round #349054896103 of editing. I'll let you know when I reach the top.

TY: Who holds the tissue box when you cry?

KP: Lil Bub, between her lil paws. Juuuust kidding. I wish Lil Bub were my writing companion, but I'm allergic to cats... Luckily for me, my wonderful friends and my director have held the tissue box when necessary. I'm not allergic to any of them.

TY: Since we will all be following in your eminent footsteps, what words of wisdom can you offer to first years and incoming students about the thesis-writing process?

KP: I thought for a long time about my response to this question. I think the best advice I can offer to those who will write a thesis is to be as organized as possible and to start the thesis proposal and research processes early. Figure out your thesis topic and the professor(s) with whom you'd like to work. I think it's important to do this as early as possible, ideally before the fall semester of your second year. Once you've determined your topic and the professor who will direct your project, start your research! Most importantly, love what you're doing. If you enjoy research and writing, you'll have a rewarding thesis experience.

The Yawp offers its best wishes to all the current Second-Years who are writing theses and field exams, although each of you will certainly be missed!

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