Stephanie Bagwell

Literature Teacher and Writer

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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

Paper Proposals


I have two very specific obsessions as of late; “The Morning Show” and my seminar paper proposal. My two favorite things; writing papers and thinking about how underrated Jennifer Aniston is.

We’ve been watching “The Morning Show” an episode at a time, drawing out the already drawn out first three episodes of the show. For me, the semester seems to be taking forever to get to the next act as well. In my class we have to write a 20-page final seminar paper. It’s due during finals week in December, but first we must present a paper proposal our classmates edit, followed by turning in a draft for classmates to edit again, before turning in a final draft. This is my first official seminar paper of grad school. And it’s strangely terrifying.

Continue reading

I Decorated For the Holidays Early

My dad had a very strict rule growing up; we were not allowed to decorate for Christmas until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Not a single light or ornament was to go up in the house before then. Holiday decorations in the stores? Look away. Early Black Friday ads in the local paper? Just throw them in the trash. This rule has stuck with me into adulthood. Don’t rush past November my dad would say. The holidays have become far too commercialized anyway.

But the best thing about being an adult is making your own decisions. Sorry, dad. I decorated for Christmas today. Continue reading

What I Learned This Week: Always Manage Your Time Wisely

I told you I would be trying to write more! When I sat down and really thought about it, I realized that I’m learning things in grad school every week. Sometimes I learn about politics and religion. Sometimes I learn about a new author. Sometimes I learn about a new way to analyze a text or a way to write the perfect paragraph talking about that text. Other days I learn I still have, well, a lot to learn. I’m still trying to get the online school thing just right. I struggle with feeling inferior to my classmates every day. I’m still terrible at note taking. But I’m learning.

What I was reminded of this week is that you have to always manage your time wisely.

Sure, that’s a given in most adult situations, but in grad school it takes on different meaning. The reason I learned about this phenomenon this week is because I found myself with too much time on my hands. With one of my classes already over for the semester, I only have one class left to work on. And with the month of November sneaking up on us, the semester is nearing it’s stressful end already. The only problem is this week my professor isn’t requiring our usual discussion assignment (I’m guessing she’s out of town at a conference) and the only thing I have to do right now is finish reading our last novel. Easy, right? Continue reading

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