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William Faulkner Reviews An Uprising of Angels

The unheavenly, inexorably scorching sun beat down on a more than dusty road—a road beyond dust, connecting the past and future, beyond the irrepressible earth itself, into a throat parched dryness and heart stopping swelter of an afternoon from another era, another day, like the Los Angeles slum ridden and dark secret hidden neighborhoods in the book I was reading as I sat by the side of that dusty, dusky, infernal road to hell and back, my back against a weeping willow tree and a damp rag from mopping my brow in my hands, hands gnarled and shaking, angry hands as angrily I read about a riot and the never to be ended, never should have begun struggle of the races against each other that reaches deep into the nation’s past and soil and soul, from the South I knew to the western Pacific shores I didn’t, into a huge metropolis beyond anything I ever experienced, being from a postage stamp sized county in a state swarming with hatred and despair and immutable actions, unsilent words, unspoken deeds and bitter emotions, emotions rambling through centuries and eons of human relationships and uncivilized civilizations, only to end up carrying that weight of race and flesh and skin, those battles never unfought and never finished, into a riot of universal size with gangs of great-great grandsons of slaves and slaveowners, of sharecroppers, storekeepers, and barn burners’ descendents exploding once more, uncontrollable, irreconcilably turning streets into bloody highways saturating the dust and filling the skies with smoke and flames as if nothing has ever been learned and nothing could ever be learned, for how could it, if all that I have recorded and written about men and their hatred has never been assimilated into hearts or souls but rather turned out and ignored, my words having meant nothing to these Los Angeles men and their furious undiscriminating unassailable dispatching of death and destruction all so very many years since I myself  toiled my fingers on pen and paper, ink stained to pass a message that’s been unread, unlearned, uncared for, since as Baldwin writes, this riot erupted, this cataclysmic abysmal unfathomable eruption of hell’s deep darkness onto the earth where men still walk and breathe and live yet must fight and struggle with themselves and others over what, if not their own beyond interminably terrible destinies and drives, desires and indefatigable selfishness where justice is damned and no one is safe in their homes, their skins, their lives, all lives reduced to the rubble beneath  the passing years’ feet and I, myself, in my legacious state of misfortunate fame or infamy can neither affect nor change, despite all the books, all the stories, all the writing I did, so that Baldwin now must take up the pen and once again, as I and others before him have, to record the impossible, impenetrable, unending and unfailing misery befalling the never innocent at the hands of the always guilty men who fail to get along?


Kirkus Gives Uprising of Angels a Good Review

“Baldwin parlays his real-life experiences into his thorny, complicated, character-driven debut that follows a group of interconnected middle-class denizens through the urban underbelly of L.A. In [his] dark world of urban decay, Baldwin has assembled an edgy cast of characters that’s ambitiously broad and richly realized. The relentlessly grim and aggressive plot [is] worth a read for its rough, raw and luridly realistic portrayal of inner-city strife.”

–    Kirkus Indie Review


Ernest Hemingway Reviews An Uprising of Angels

Baldwin sent me his book and I read it. I read it sitting on a verandah with cold beer and cats on my lap. I read it in one sitting as the sun crossed the grey clouded sky and faded into the horizon. The ocean turned black as the light faded and night fell. I drank 7 or 8 beers while I read it. The beers dripped their condensation on the pages of the book and now the pages have beer stains that will remind me when I read it again where I was and how I enjoyed the crisp clear beer while reading Baldwin’s book.

His writing is clean and crisp like the beer I drank while reading it. His story goes down smoothly like the beer. I started reading with little interest because I don’t like big city people who have problems they bring on themselves because of their stupidity and laziness. But something about it kept me reading. It was the danger, I suppose. The guns and the violence and the danger are all things I like in a book and in life.  I also like writing about war. It brings out a man’s true character. This book is about a war. A war in Los Angeles in 1992 between some good people and some bad people. The good people are not all good and the bad people are not all bad. That is the way with people.

I like the way Baldwin writes. He understands that life must be lived and fears faced. I have been through war and the riot of 1992 was a war. The bell tolled for many and no one came out of it without a wound. But some took the wounds and used them. They felt them and studied them and were true to them. That is life well lived. This is a book about life.

Baldwin tells me we share the same birthday. That is an interesting fact. I like facts because they are sharp and hard and cannot be denied. I don’t like it when people try to deny facts. Such people do not know themselves and do not understand life.

I would take Baldwin hunting some day if I could. I bet he’d be a good hunter because his eye is clear and sharp and his words cut fast and sharp, like hard flat stones skimmed across the surface of a calm cool lake.  His characters go out too far like Jake and Santiago and me. I like that too about his book. His characters know how to live and they know how to die.

I’d like to meet Baldwin and see how he lives. But I’m dead and my verandah and beer and cats are all far from the earth that he and all the people alive now still live on. I don’t live there anymore. I put a rifle in my mouth and pulled the trigger. But I won’t talk about that. There are many things that should not be talked about. A man and a writer must understand that what is not talked about gives a story and his life even more meaning. You have to know a lot to leave a lot out. Baldwin’s book leaves a lot out. That’s what I like about it most.

So I will never meet Baldwin and drink a beer with him and take him hunting. That is too bad.  We could have had a good time together. At least it’s pretty to think so.


A Brief Frictional Fictional Interview with Myselves

EGO: We’re here tonight with ourself, Marc D. Baldwin, author of An Uprising of Angels. Thanks for inviting us all to speak our mind tonight, Marc.

ID:  Yeah, thanks. We’re all out of our mind, that’s for sure. That’ll be pretty clear to everyone who reads the book.

SUPEREGO: Don’t blow our cover, all right?

I: What do you care? You always were trying to take us all down with your compulsive behavior. Like the time you…

E: Zip it, Id.

The trio stare each other down. With a wry smile and ominous chuckle, Baldwin marshals his selves into one for a moment.

I: Okay, me first.

S: As always.

I: Damn straight.

E: Cut the crap, you two. Just tell the readers why we wrote the book.

I: Why else? So we can let our schizophrenia run wild. The 5 main characters are all us. We seek pleasure. We love darkness. We like to live a little. You know. It’s cool. Right?

S: Why is everything always all about you?

E: Really. Stick to the fiction: the book. It is fiction, right?

I: Oh sure…of course…definitely, right? All made up. Total fiction. You know that.

They share a big laugh, face full of memories making various micro- appearances.

E:  Okay, here’s the deal: We just wanted to make sense of the senseless, right? The worst riot ever in America. Chaos, horror, anarchy. Why? Why did it happen? Because King’s attackers, the cops, were acquitted? Or was that just an excuse to riot and loot and burn and kill? Macetti, now he’s got it down. He and Gunther, they’re heroes, trying to protect the hood from the bad guys.

S: That’s absurd.

E: Me? Absurd? Id’s the absurd one, not me.

I: Got that right. But at least I know I’m absurd, pal. You don’t. You and your phony image of respectability and decency. Don’t make me laugh. You might have the world fooled, but you don’t fool me. You’re closer to being Rayhab and the gangstas than Macetti and Gunther. But they’re all messed up too.  And what’s really the kicker in this book, in our whole life, really, is trying to make sense of the senseless. That’s the definition of absurdity.  Right?

S: Yeah, but you have to try. That’s what Anwar did. He tried hard to help Ishmael avoid getting into gangs. And he tried hard to live a good, straight life.

I:  Gimme a break. He just wanted to screw Sonja. You know that. You set the poor sap up for a big fall….

S: I totally disagree!

Superego flips off Id and looks for support to Ego, who just shrugs. What can you do with a runaway Id?

I: Yeah? Whatta you know about racism, bro? That’s the ultimate absurdity and evil. I’m just part of a white guy, doing my own thing and trying to keep out of my own way. Like most people in L.A. before, during and after the riot. Just trying to get along, man. Live free or die. Don’t screw with me and I won’t screw with you.  Screw with me and look out.

E: Big tough guy.

I: You got it, bro.

S: You make no sense, as usual. I mean, yes, racism is a big part of the book, of course. As it was a major cause of the riot. But really it’s about all people. All colors and ethnicities of real people caught in hell. Trying to survive. It’s good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, love vs. hate, legality vs. criminality. In a word, life.

I: You just love dichotomies, that’s your problem. The world ain’t all black and white, pal. It’s all shades of grey.

S: Like a Motown winter’s day….

I:  Ya know, I could live without you just fine, ya know that? Do whatever I want…

S: Put ketchup on your beans?

I: Yeah. That’s right.

E: Okay, okay. You guys are killing me. Literally. I’m the one who wrote the damn book. It took all my strength to suppress you two long enough to get the words down in some kindof order. And I say Uprising’s about everything we’ve ever known. We’re all in this book, right? All of us, all of everybody. Everything we know, right? Am I right? Everything?

S: Or nothing at all, maybe. Kinda like the whiteness of the whale. The big Moby.

I: Or the blackness of the universe.

E: That’s what I’m saying: it’s about all or nothing. You in or you out? Hold em or fold em. Kill or be killed.

S: There ya go. That’s what it’s about. For real.

The trio nod and bump fists. At peace with one another. For the moment, anyway. Just trying to get along, like Rodney King wanted.



Approaching Reality, Encroaching on Truth

One of the biggest problems most people have is they think they know what’s real and true. Their reality is the reality; their truth the truth.

Wonderful, Awful Words

A dog is a dog. A house is a house. A job is a job. We can all agree on those words representing the things to which they refer. Right? Common realities and truths. Right?


What specific dog are you talking about when you say “dog”? I hear “dog” and I may picture a kennel full of mutts about to be euthanized, while you may be thinking about Fido who slobbers on your face and makes your heart race with joy.

A house may be your house, a dozen houses, a row of them on skid street. My house may be a home, full of warm memories, making me cry about my little gone girls all grown up and living far away.

Your job might be a dream or a nightmare, what you’ve always wanted or never wanted. I think of “job” and there’s a dozen car lots and a few teaching positions, but mainly now sitting at the computer writing emails and processing editing work.

Writing my novels and these blog essays isn’t a job for me. It’s a pure kick of joy.

The Words Mean What They Don’t

Point? Our realities and truths are definitionally dependent. Words denote and connote. They try to refer to specific things—a dog, a house, a job—but they always refer to very different actualities in our individual brains.

So what you think of one way (cool dog, a house is a house, rotten job), I think of another (dumb animal, my house as my home, my job ain’t my life).

Everybody attaches different denotations to every word. So every reality is different; every truth contingent. (No, I am not a radical relativist. I’ll discuss the distinction another time.)

And connotations? Holy cow, Harry Carey. Just as every word evokes its own specific representation (your word “dog” means something different to you than my word “dog”), every word triggers emotions, feelings, memories, associations.

Take the Rodney King L.A. riot of 1992. It may mean nothing to you: no emotions, no memories, no feelings whatsoever. You can bet it means more than just about anything in their lives to thousands of people who lived through it. The emotions run strong; the memories are seared in their soul’s flesh.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, Round and Round….

So your reality and truth is not my reality and truth. But neither of us is necessarily living in a false world or delusional mindset.

We’re just figures of speech, really. Humans as metaphors, with lives like words—open to interpretation, closed to conformity. Gliding and sliding down an endless slope of signification, where one thing leads to another—eternally.

Not buying it? Then let’s hear another theory for how 10,000 years of human “communication” has led to this current state of global uber-miscommunication that has us all teetering on the brink of total annihilation.  How else to explain it but to blame it on the words themselves? And our failure to compose them into compatible realities and cooperative truths.




10 Academic Writing Tips from PhDs

DR. JOHN Ke SAYS: I think almost everyone would agree that a lot of academic writing leaves a lot to be desired.  It can be dry and tedious, aimed only at the two or three other scholars who do similar work, rather than trying to reach a broader audience.  At its best, academic writing should avoid this.  It should be interesting and accessible to the interested layperson, and help make readers more interested, rather than less, in the topic under discussion.

As with any other writing, I think the key to good academic writing is to find a voice that is genuine and personal.  Writing can only have an effect when it seems to come from a real person.  Of course,  in academic writing one also has to cultivate an “academic” voice – one that is informed and authoritative and conversant with the other literature in the topic.  But that voice ought to also seem like it’s coming from a real person, and it ought to show why you are excited about the topic you are writing about.

If you can’t convey to your readers why you think a topic is interesting and worthy of study, you can’t expect your reader to be interested in it.   Any really good academic writing, like all good writing of any sort, needs to draw the reader in, to make the reader care about the work and understand why it is important and worth doing.

Obviously, there’s much more to successful writing than this – conveying often complicated information clearly and elegantly; finding the structure that works best to present your argument; and finding the tone that shows you are a competent, professional scholar.  But more than any of this, good academic writing must meet the most basic goal of any piece of writing – making a connection to its readers.


DR. WILLIAM SAYS: Here’s my personal “recipe” for good, academic writing:

The professor who served as my primary advisor for my major and dissertation writing advised me to post a visual reminder to guide my writing: to tape my primary hypothesis on my computer screen so that I never sat down to write without keeping the main thing the main thing.

Nothing’s worse than getting off track in your writing and having to hit that dreaded delete button.

You must be willing to edit your own writing at a very basic level. At least read over your work for missing thoughts, run spell and grammar check, and read your writing out loud.

You also must be willing to let others read your work. They will see things you do not. They will point our areas of confusion that may have made perfect sense in your own mind in the middle of the night. Your team of helpers will fine tune your writing and take it to a higher level.


DR. JOHN Ku SAYS: Don’t Start with the Introduction!

Unless this is your strength, don’t start with introductory paragraphs or even your introductory chapter.  Most of us are pretty sequential in our thinking.  We do this first, then this, and then that.

With academic papers, this order generally manifests with trying to write our introductions first, then the literature review, followed by the study design, etc.

However, the most effective and efficient approach is to start with sections that you are the most comfortable with, and then move around from section to section.

At some point you’ll begin to organize your logic, and eventually your sections will follow suit.

Another piece of advice, particularly if you are planning on writing a thesis or dissertation, is to first conduct and write-up your literature review.

During my dissertation proposal, when I was wrestling with a topic, I was advised to complete and write a literature review around issues I found interesting.

This was perhaps the best piece of academic advice ever given to me.

After the literature review (or chapter 2 in standard dissertations), I knew my problem statement, the gaps in the research, how similar studies have been conducted, what data collection instruments prior researchers have used, and how my study would contribute to the field.

As a result, the preceding (introduction) and following (proposed method) chapters pretty much wrote themselves after this literature review was complete.

Not bad, for a graduate student who couldn’t narrow down a topic six months before.


DR. JOHN Ku’s “Six Rules for Good Writing”

In 1946, George Orwell presented an essay critiquing the often vague and boring manner of written English.  Perhaps a similar argument can be made today with academic writing.

When I was a first-year graduate student, I sat next to a dictionary and a pitcher of coffee trying to read long and mundane peer-reviewed scholarly articles.  When it was my turn to produce such content, I caught myself falling into a similar trap.

After years of reading and writing academic material, I now try creating content that can read by non-academics and academics alike.

To prevent you from falling into the vague and boring style of academic writing, Orwell recommends the following six strategies:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech, which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I’ll add a few recommendations to Orwell’s list:

  • Get to the point
  • Don’t repeat yourself (unless you’re writing to politicians)
  • And usually, the more succinct a manuscript, the better (you can’t hide behind a stick, as my former advisor would say).


–by the Staff of Edit911, Inc. and Baldwin Book Publishing


Marketing Your Book (Part 2): Where?

In focusing your marketing efforts, consider where your readers spend time. Showcase your book, your expertise, and yourself in those places your readers are most likely to frequent.

Online retailers Obviously book buyers shop at online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Amazon offers various tools for authors who want to gain exposure for their books, such as author profile pages, where you can let customers know a little more about yourself, and the Search Inside!™ tool.

The more material you make available to potential readers, the more likely they are to purchase your book (especially if you’re a first-time author), so be sure to take advantage of features like Amazon’s Search Inside tool, Barnes &’s See Inside feature, and Google Books.

Facebook: That social networking site With a population of users larger than many countries, Facebook is a perfect place to promote yourself and your book. Set up a personal profile and a page for your book, create and join groups, and actively update your pages. While you’re in a social mood, set up accounts on other popular sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. With growing usage (13% of online Americans use Twitter as of 2011) and integration with Apple’s iOS 5 mobile operating system, Twitter is another platform for reaching potential readers in large numbers.

Online communities These virtual communities allow you to interact directly with people who love books. Some sites cater to a general population of book enthusiasts, such as Goodreads and Shelfari, and others are more specific, such as, a site that is popular with writers and readers of young adult books. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Target your search. Look for online communities that are as specific as possible to your genre. Not only will you have more to contribute, but people who are passionate about a subject may participate in several online communities, and so you may find yourself developing relationships across multiple sites.
  • Participate. Set up a profile page, find or start groups, join in discussions, and comment on others’ blog postings.
  • Don’t focus on selling. Not every interaction in an online community has to (or should) be about promoting your book. Be yourself and make a real contribution. By participating in relevant communities, potential readers can get to know you and you can learn more about your readers and what they are looking for.
  • Practice reciprocity. As you develop relationships with group members, consider asking particularly active ones if you can send them a copy of your book to review on Amazon or (if applicable) their blog. If they like your book, see if they will provide blurbs for your website or recommend your book to other members of the group. Be prepared to do the same for others. Good relationships are never one-sided.

Your local media There is a lot of competition out there for coverage in big newspapers; unfortunately, not everyone can make it into the pages of the New York Times or the Philadelphia Inquirer. However, editors of local newspapers and producers of local TV and radio shows are frequently looking for interesting stories about residents.

  • Publishing a book can be a great local interest story. Send a press kit to local editors and producers, and be sure to follow up. Let them know if there’s a story idea that would be of particular interest to the community. For example, if you’ve written a book on parenting tips, and you’re heading into a cold suburban winter, offer to write a piece on fun things to do with your child at home.
  • To reach local readers, also consider location-specific news sites such as, which reports on local news and events in towns and cities around the country.

–Meredith Hale, Marketing Manager, Baldwin Book Publishing & Edit911, Inc.


APA Editing: Tips for Navigating its Murky Waters

To borrow a trite analogy, learning to use APA [or any documentation style, for that matter] is like learning to ride a bicycle. Once you understand the mechanics, including how to shift, balance, and stop, the rest is easy. The first step is to purchase, and actually read, an APA manual, either APA5 or APA6, depending on your university’s requirements. Granted, it is not a riveting work but essential. If the thought of reading a reference book causes chills to dance down your spine, it is likely time to seek professional help … not for your phobia but for editing your work.

Based on many years of editing dissertations, I can offer a few essential points that candidates frequently overlook. The top fifteen below may be helpful:


  • All references in the text must have a comparable listing on the reference pages and vice versa. Each mention of an author’s name must have an identical spelling for each use.
  • Et al. is Latin for ‘and others’; thus, it applies only to three or more authors of the same work. All authors [unless a number in excess of six] should be listed for the first in text citation; if the citation is for two or three authors, all names should appear in each citation.
  • All direct quotes in text must have a page number (p.). Page numbers are not required on paraphrased material.
  • If referring to the same author in closely connected sentences, it is not necessary to use the author’s date in subsequent citations.
  • If websites have no author, begin the reference with the title of the material you retrieved and use that information as the in text citation.
  • Listing databases [Ebsco, LexusNexus, etc.] as a source of retrieval is not required on the reference page. The website address is required.
  • If you are using APA6, it is not necessary to use a retrieval date on websites.[Retrieved from http://xxxxxx]
  • If you are using APA6, locate the doi number, if available, on periodicals. Add it at the end of the citation without a period. [doi: xxxxx]

Writing Style:

  • Eschew passive language but tread lightly. It is not enough to employ an active verb if the subject of the sentence is incapable of the implied action [anthropomorphism].
  • If you are creating a proposal, refer to your work in future tense; if you are writing a completed dissertation, refer to your work in past tense.
  • Normally, all references to previous studies are in past tense.
  • In qualitative dissertations, you should avoid personal pronouns. Although it is sometimes necessary, to employ the rather stilted phrase, ‘the researcher,’ it is preferable to using I. Qualitative dissertations offer more leeway on author referents but ‘playing’ with sentence construction can help you avoid using either I or ‘the researcher’.


  • Double check your Table of Contents not only to check correct page numbers but also to confirm identical wording as your text headings.
  • Tables have labels at the top; figures have labels at the bottom.
  • Let the computer work for you. If you are using Word, you can go to file and page setup to indicate consistent margins throughout your document. The paragraph tab under format can produce clean margin indentations and create a hanging indent for those pesky references. Under the insert tab, you can indicate page breaks, which rid your work of widowed headings and subheadings.

To keep your bicycle and your dissertation running smoothly may require additional maintenance. In the case of your dissertation, this means discovering whether your university committee or graduate school has exceptions to APA and tweaking your work accordingly. Normally, the exceptions relate to spacing and specific required headings within each chapter but, occasionally, there are exceptions to tense selection or other peculiarities.

This should provide a starting checklist for your work. But it’s no substitute for the manual. So if you’re a grad student or scholar, pick one up and enjoy it! Joke. It can be pretty dense reading, but that’s the name of the academic game.


Writing a Dissertation Proposal: The Beginning of a Doctorate

It’s your third year in the doctoral program. You’ve taught like a god. You’ve written seminar papers that have made your teachers weep (in a good way). And you’ve logged more time on airplanes and in hotels than in seminar rooms. The world is starting to know you and your ideas.

You’ve passed comps or prelims.

What do you do now?

Pat yourself on the back. You’ve taken your warm up laps, and now it’s time to get ready for the marathon that’s ahead of you. It’s no secret. But nobody seems to know it. Unlike law school or med school, academic grad school is really two programs.

There’s the coursework, which you’ve aced.  Right? That’s all great stuff, but it’s over and you’re on your own now. You’re doing your own stuff. This is the FUN part of graduate school. You’re basically a baby professor at this point.

Now, what most of the dissertation books don’t tell you about this part of graduate school, the dissertation stage, is one little word:


What, you may ask, if you’re in the sciences or, god help you, the humanities, does dissertation writing and scholarship have to do with MBA stuff. That’s the stuff you didn’t want to do.

The short answer:  Everything. From here on out (and you’ve already been doing it in coursework, teaching, and conference presentations) everything is about pitching and selling ideas.


Does the thought of selling really make you queasy? Get over yourself! Ideas mean nothing if no one wants to read them.

The dissertation phase is about pitching your ideas to your advisor, your committee, and, if you get lucky, fellowship committees.

So, get ready to sell!

It’s time to write the proposal: the truly condensed version of your dissertation. It’s short and sweet. Usually, it’s about five to ten pages. So, how do you write the proposal?

First off, this is one of those chicken or egg kind of questions. You have to enough to write the proposal. But you won’t know enough to write the whole dissertation. Generally, what you want to do in the dissertation proposal is to  frame a question.

You need to be very bold here. Make arguments and assertions, the bolder the better. You also want to present a pretty clear outline of what you intend to do in the dissertation itself. Obviously, you’re in a weird situation here. You don’t know a lot. But you know some things. It’s best to err on the side of audacity. Make your arguments as bold as possible and as clear as possible.

You need to know the current state of your discipline quite well. That’s a given. And you have to announce to the world what you want to do. How are you going to be making a new intervention in the world of scholarship that you know well? That’s what people are going to want to know. What’s new and or exciting about what you want to write?

Start off with a one paragraph argument.

This first paragraph should state what your argument is and probably what you’re basing this argument on. Who are the major players in the field, and how is what you’re writing addressing gaps or problems in their work?

Then write your sub-arguments and conclusion.

Each paragraph that follows (and these can be huge, whopping big paragraphs) can list your sub-arguments. Then, after that, you have to propose a conclusion to what you’re writing.

The secret about a proposal

Would you like to know a little secret about the proposal?

It’s generally pure fiction.  What you really write about in your dissertation may or may not conform to what you’re writing about here. That’s just the way things are in this world. But you absolutely do have to write this proposal.

You’ll submit it to your advisor and your committee members and everyone will sign off on it. And then you can get started. Now, you may or may not get full buy in from your committee. Generally what I found is that most of your committee members really won’t care one way or another about what you write. They’re too busy writing their own stuff. So, you can generally sneak your own writing in under their radar.

Score a Fellowship

Do a very good job on the proposal because it can serve as the basis of fellowship proposals. And, baby, you want a fellowship.

Why?  Because if you get one of those puppies—anywhere between about twenty thousand dollars and fifty thousand dollars, you can have a very nice year. You can go wherever you want to write the dissertation. Imagine writing on a beach somewhere down in Mexico.

Fellowships are your friend. And they also mean that you don’t have to take time out to teach those pesky undergraduates unless you really want to.  They can also set you up for being published, and they make you look like a good candidate for a job. So, do everything that you can to win yourself a dissertation fellowship.

OK, let’s say you’ve written a killer proposal. Your committee says, “My god, this is the next big thing.”  And of course I knew you could do it.  You edit the proposal slightly and win yourself a fellowship. You’re in like Flynn.

What do you do next?

Why, you have to write the dissertation, of course—which we’ll start tackling the next  installment.


3 Tips for Success in Graduate School

DR. WILLIAM SAYS: Expect lots of reading and writing.

You may read a book per week per class, and have to discuss it in depth, or even turn in a paper each week.

Learn the basics of how to dissect a book’s content and get a quick overview of its thesis.

My history professor wheeled a cart full of books into class one day, a different book for each student in class. He handed out the books and announced, “At the end of this hour, I want you to turn in a one page book report on this book!”

Talk about a crash course in how to get into the content of a book without actually reading it.

This is what I learned from that experience:

  • Read the basics first
  • Start with the summary on the back cover
  • Peruse the table of contents and chapter titles
  • Scan chapter titles and subheads
  • Read the forward and introduction
  • Then move into reading chapter one or the first page of each chapter.

You’ll be amazed how much you can learn about a book and its thesis from these basics.


DR. DAN SAYS:  there’s a veritable litany of suggestions that people will give:

  • Work hard
  • Make good use of your time
  • Socialize
  • Find a balance
  • Find a really good coffee shop/Indian restaurant that delivers, etc. etc. etc.

These are all excellent pieces of advice, and I encourage you to take them all to heart.

That said, though, I would recommend treating grad school like college (unless you had one of those “Four-year-house-party-with-a-$50,000-cover-charge” kind of experiences) in that you should get involved.

It can be tempting to see grad school as your first entry into the ivory tower, calling you to countless hours in the library/lab, but your experience will be richer if you embrace the fullness of where you study.

Depending on your role, you will be a teacher, a student, and a researcher. In this trinity, recognize that your identity and the expectations leveled at you will be fragmented.

Sequestering yourself in one role alone can result in a soul-sucking experience.



I have yet to meet any person thrilled with the dissertation process. It is one of the most frustrating endeavors we go through to earn our credentials. And to some extent, it is designed that way! The best way to handle it is to just do it!

My dissertation topic was on professional development for educators, a relatively new specialization at that time. I was the coordinator for such programs in my school district and hoped to use my dissertation to help my colleagues throughout the state benefit more from the new state requirements for professional development.

As with many new things in one’s field, most of my professors, including my advisor, didn’t really understand what I was trying to do. The old notions of what constituted professional development were too embedded.  No matter how much research I presented on the various theories and principles that formed the basis for effective professional development, that old concept of the speaker on the first day of school and workshops on nothing particularly related to the classroom needs of teachers colored his understanding of my design.

I had reached the point of deciding to be an ABD when my superintendent came to my office for a chat. “It’s an exercise,” he reminded me. “Forget trying to break new ground. Forget everything except meeting the expectations of your advisor and committee and just do it!”

I ruminated on that for a few days before acknowledging the truth of his statements.  Then I resubmitted my original proposal, tweaked the way my advisor wanted it, and within two weeks it was approved and I was on my way.  Six months later, I received that coveted letter from the dean’s office acknowledging that I had fulfilled all requirements for my doctorate.

So when you’re frustrated with rewriting your proposal for the umpteenth time, when you can’t make your advisor understand what you’re trying to do, when your desire to make breakthrough contributions to your field get the better of you, remember that this is all an academic exercise. It is your admission ticket so that you can do what you really want to do in your chosen field. It is the beginning of the next phase of your career, not your ultimate contribution.

Take a deep breath, refocus on the goal—earning your doctorate—and JUST DO IT!