Stephanie Kocer

Writer. Editor. Grad Student.

Some Things Stay With You

That “submit” button can be exhilarating and scary at the same time. You have to really think about it before you click it. Did I include everything I was supposed to include in the assignment? Did I remember my work cited page? Let me double check three times to make sure I attached the right document. And just like that, with a tiny click your paper is submitted and the semester is done.

Finishing my first year of grad school is exciting. I’ve worked really hard this last year and learned a lot about myself and the world of academia. I’m excited to be on the path toward my career goals. But it’s also a little bittersweet to be finishing up the semester now. Yesterday my dad called me and told me that my high school English teacher had passed away. It was the first time I’ve really allowed myself to cry during quarantine.

There are lots of things that have been written about inspiring educators. In fact, I think there have already been several things written about this specific teacher. But, for me, it was his classroom where I really fell in love with literature. I learned everything I know from him. I had always loved to read, but his classes were where I first discovered how to really analyze a text. It was the usual things. Talking about The Great Gatsby or learning how to actually read Shakespeare (a skill that has served me oh so well in grad school). Continue reading

Books to Read in Quarantine

As someone who reads constantly, I get asked a lot about book recommendations. When you read novels for class you’re not always going to love what you have to read. I’ve read some great books for classes before. I’ve also read some real stinkers. Not everything appeals to everyone. I’m more of a nonfiction fan myself in my personal reading, but I try to open myself up to fiction as much as possible, especially when it comes my way in the form of a recommendation. After a year of people recommending it to me, I finally started Daisy Jones and The Six this week. I’m about halfway through. It’s OK. The Fleetwood Mac Rolling Stone article by Cameron Crowe is just as juicy. But I’m thankful for a new read in the time of quarantine.

In the spirit of recommending a read to a friend, I thought I’d put together a list of books that I like to recommend to people:

 

Never Let Me Go
I read this novel a few times in undergrad and just finished reading it again for my World Lit class. I’m not a huge dystopia fan (especially right now), but Never Let Me Go has a little bit more something than the others. It’s the story of three friends; Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. They grow up going to a boarding school in England where they’re told they’re very special. Technically, they’re clones, raised to eventually be harvested for their organs to help other people stay healthy. It’s ultimately a story that tries to define what it means to be human. Definitely a worthwhile read during a time of uncertainty.

 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
This bad boy is the longest-standing New York Times Best Seller of all time. The true story follows journalist John Berendt as he becomes intrigued by, and eventually moves to Savannah, Georgia. If you’ve been to Savannah you know it’s a really weird place, and Berendt brings that to life in the colorful real people he profiles in his book. The plot revolves around a rich antiques dealer who is charged with the murder of young male prostitute/his lover. Even though Savannah is a tourist town, it’s smaller than you think and people gossip. When I visited Savannah last year, it was the only thing people wanted to talk to you about.

 

Continue reading

The Bottle Episode

Do you know what a “bottle episode” is?

A bottle episode is an episode of television that takes place in one setting. Usually they’re made because the production is trying to save money. In sitcoms they usually result in all of the main characters being stuck in the same room together for an unexpected reason. See where I’m going with this?

Unlike the “Friends” episode where no one is ready, we can’t hang out with our friends right now while we’re stuck at home. Social distancing means no socializing. It’s more like the episode of “Mad About You” where Paul and Jamie get stuck in their bathroom for hours. Of course, our quarantine is lasting a little longer than a half-hour multi-cam.

COVID-19 is that thing in a sitcom that no one was expecting. And yet, it has completely altered our lives within a few short weeks. We’re all stuck at home now as if the knob fell off the bathroom door, or someone in the group can’t decide what to wear. In real life, of course, we don’t know when things will go back to normal. Continue reading

Writing is a Tap

Writing is a tap. Sometimes nothing comes out. Sometimes you can control it. And once you turn it on it’s hard to stop.

I write all the time.

I write when I’m happy. I write when I’m sad. I write at work because it’s my job. I write at home when an episode of SNL is particularly interesting.

I also write constantly for school.  After I have to analyze pages and pages of literary theory, my writing tap turns off. And it sometimes takes awhile for it to come back. The last few weeks I’ve felt like I was all tapped out. My discussion board posts for class didn’t feel as satisfactory as I wanted them. I was putting effort in, but nothing good was coming out. I felt defeated. Was I done forever? Was I ever going to write something good again? Continue reading

The Good Place

I made the mistake of watching the final episode of “The Good Place” and starting the Gender Theory section in my Literary Theory class this week.

As I’ve mentioned, we get to choose the sections of our theory book we want to focus on each week in class. As you can imagine, the Gender Theory section is full of a lot of interesting ways to explain how men and suppress women. Yay!

Pretty early on this week I was struggling because, as it turns out, Gender Theory is really much more complicated than I thought it was. It’s rooted it a lot of Capitalism and, gasp, Marxism! Blah. It seems that Gender Theory is complicated, as is gender. I was feeling defeated reading my theory textbook and realizing that just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I could automatically have a perfect understanding of Gender Theory.

And then I watched “The Good Place” finale. Continue reading

Literary Theory and Second Semester

Monday began my second semester of grad school. I was feeling pretty confident about it until my literary theory textbook arrived.

For those of you familiar with literary theory, it kind of sucks. Don’t get me wrong, my nerdy, literature loving heart loves reading about it, but I do not like writing about it.

Writing about theory is like doing a back flip while driving a car. You think you understand the concept well enough, but trying to explain to to a reader is harder than you’d think. Literary theory is complicated. It’s interesting and complex in all the ways that my analytical mind needs. But to understand theory you really need to forget everything you thought you knew about literature and turn it into something almost scientific. Continue reading

Here’s to 27!

 

I’ve been obsessed with turning 27 my whole life.

Growing up I always thought age 27 was young enough that you were still cool and had the ability to go out and do whatever you wanted, while being old enough to truly be considered an adult. It was also an age that a lot of famous people I’m fascinated by never got to live past. Today I turn 27. I always wondered what I would be like when this birthday came. Would I be mature and married with my 2.5 kids already with a killer job? Would I be mysterious and have a made up hipster day job while I did underground comedy at night? I was sure I’d be thriving and making it in whatever my fabulous 27-year-old self was doing.

Of course, there was my other very real fear that 27 was going to be a shit storm. Prince once said that age 27 was his hardest year. I always just assumed he meant that it would be that way for everyone. Was 27 really that scary? What made it hard? Was I always destined to have a crappy year because that’s just what the universe does to you at 27?

Continue reading

One Semester Down

As of Friday at 8 a.m. I finished my first semester of grad school! I submitted my first-ever seminar paper and survived peer editing in the process. 

I need a nap. And I want to know what’s next.

I keep telling myself it’s time to relax. I don’t start the spring semester until mid-January. I have some free time to do whatever I want with. But I’m not sure if I remember how to relax.

It seems like I have some existential stress about what I should be doing to prep for the next step after the Masters. But if I’m being honest with myself, I have no idea what that next step is. And I hate not knowing the future.

I have a real anxiety when it comes to the future. I think it may be a Millennial condition. I’m working hard to get the job I think I want and deserve, but sometimes it’s hard to picture what that might look like because it’s, you know, in the future. And I know there’s absolutely nothing I can do about this. Man, it’s annoying, though.

Being someone who is very Type A when it comes to my school and professional life, it’s hard to relax. Having nothing to do makes me feel like I should be getting something done. Of course, it is the holidays and I have a lot to stress over. I need to fill out Christmas cards, make cookies, and make sure I have all the presents wrapped. These are trivial things, but they do help distract me from worrying about post-Masters life. And let’s be honest, I love the holidays.

This is all ahead of my 27th birthday in a few weeks. Why does it feel like turning 27 is the launch into real adulthood? A lot of this is all in my head, but I’m sure a lot of others in my position feel the same way. And there is some comfort in that.

For now, I’ll just drink cocoa, do some reading for pleasure, and watch JTT in “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” on Disney+.

Workshop Guilt

Another week, another grad school high and low. This week I rediscovered the joys and complete terrors of peer editing. If you’re like me, your writing process is word vomit until you can’t word vomit anymore, then edit the hell out of it. I usually have my best ideas while writing. I discover things as I go.

When it comes to editing my classmates’ work I tend to take the approach of saying two encouraging things for every critical thing. No idea is a dumb one. I like to ask a lot of questions that might help someone expand on their ideas. In the past I might have also not cared that much if classmates succeed or failed in their writing . But now I need to practice what it might be like to one day have students who want my feedback and need guidance in their own writing process.

For class, we have to peer edit a paper proposal and a draft of our final seminar paper with a small group of classmates. It was difficult for me to turn in a proposal because I knew I would discover more of my paper direction during the actual writing process. But I turned it in anyway and got some interesting feedback from my group. Continue reading

Note-Taking Works!

 

I’m really bad at taking notes. I don’t know how it happened. Quite honestly, you don’t really need to take notes in English. Or maybe you do and I’m just really bad at my chosen study?

Either way, I’ve been really bad at it this semester. It seems like every time I attempted to do it, I couldn’t find the right things to take note of. I underline things in texts that I find important and come back to them when I need to, but that hardly seems like taking notes does it? With my final seminar paper, I decided it was time to buckle down and use note-taking to my advantage. Especially since this is my first real grand school seminar paper. I needed to be prepared. Maybe even over-prepared. I needed to research outside sources that I found on my own! I needed to read them (skim) and pick out quotes that would aid me in my paper’s argument. Continue reading

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