This Month in My Sabbatical: Stupid Short Month!

Where the dickens did February go? It only just started, and now it’s past. Sigh. I knew it was going to be a compromised month because in its infinite wisdom the Halifax Regional School Board decided to move the kids’ usual March break to February and extend it to two weeks, ostensibly to allow families to attend the Canada Winter Games, which Halifax hosted. I have yet to talk to one family that went to any of the sporting events: most seem to have left town, or just hunkered down–which is what we did. Between my sabbatical and my husband’s February break overlapping with the kids’ for one week, we managed to juggle things OK without packing them off to some kind of camp: this option is one great gift of the flexibility of academic schedules, but also as the kids get older (they are 9 and 13 now–which makes me … young! very young!) they are more self-sufficient about entertaining themselves. Still, I am cursed with a need for silence and extended contemplative periods without interruptions if I want to do serious reading or writing, so I knew that the second half of the month would not be my most productive time. What I hadn’t figured on was the four snow days in the first two weeks of the month, which meant that altogether they were in school (and thus I was “at work” in the usual way) only SIX DAYS in February.

Still, there was time to read and write, and even some time to think. When I fretted about how the break weeks were going to go, my daughter sagely recommended that I should “make plans for things that you can do, and then do them!” And that’s pretty much what I did: I adjusted my expectations and ambitions to focus on the projects that weren’t quite as intensive. Hence all the reading and blogging about crime fiction, which has actually brought me a lot closer to some decisions about how to mix up the second half of the reading list for my mystery fiction course. Right now, I’m thinking I’ll take out Rankin’s Knots and Crosses and probably a few short stories, and put in Ed McBain’s Cop Hater (to make the transition to contemporary police procedurals and a bridge to the Scandinavian writers explicitly influenced by him) and then either one of the Sjowall and Wahloo series or one of Henning Mankell’s. I still have more to read, but this direction makes sense to me, and I feel increasingly comfortable about being able to work with the material. I’m almost finished Mankell’s The Fifth Woman, and it really is quite a different kind of book than Faceless Killers. I don’t like the case much, and I still am finding the style dull, but it is just much richer and more interesting. That said, it’s also quite long, which may make it less than optimum for late in the term. I have a handful of other related titles to read but this seems like progress.

Let’s see: what else? I’ve done some other reading and blogging, and I’m working on a small piece for another site about one of my favorite books (the struggle I’m having being satisfied within the 400-word limit is a salutary one for me, as I often give my students very short limits on their papers and blithely tell them how much harder it is to make a few words densely meaningful than to ramble on for several pages). I have done more letters of reference (and another request for one came in this week). Yesterday I returned a 50-page thesis chapter on Frances Burney. I prepared some materials in support of my nomination for a teaching award. I explored funding options for a conference I hope to attend in early September–in the next week or so, I need to write up a proper proposal for my part in a panel as well as one for a workshop for graduate students, which will probably be something to do with academic blogging. I practised using my iPad. The keyboard still nearly defeats me. Maybe I could use little sticky things to give me some tactile indication of where the darned space bar is: about 75% of the time, if I try to actually ‘touch’-type, I put “n” in instead. It’s a long way from the IBM Selectric I learned on back in 1983 to a perfectly flat glass screen. I worked on soliciting and editing pieces for the March issue of Open Letters Monthly. That’s about it. Oh: I also finished my little ‘Blue Ocean’ quilt!

3 Comments to This Month in My Sabbatical: Stupid Short Month!

  1. March 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    You should applaud yourself, given everything going on you’ve worked miracles. I wonder, was your daughter by any chance quoting the wisdom she’d learnt from her mother? I am so relieved I’m not the only one who has trouble with typing on the I-Pad, although I tend to hit the b rather than the n. And do you have to watch out for predictive spelling! I’ve written one or two very interesting papers over the eight months I’ve had it. Having said that, I wouldn’t be without it now. The convenience of having everything in one small package is wonderful. What you say about the later Mankell is interesting and I might now go back and try another. I really wasn’t that impressed with the Karin Fossum but you might find you like her. On your recommendation I picked up a copy of ‘Cop Hater’ when I came across it in a secondhand bookshop last week, but haven’t yet had the chance to look at it.

  2. March 2, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    The quilt is beautiful. And I recognize that kind of advice. My 13 year old daughter is prone to that kind of thinking from time to time.

  3. March 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    That sounds like a very productive break–or at least six days actually. I am always more optimistic about what I can accomplish with a little time off from work than is realistic and then tend to feel like I’ve wasted my time when what I need to do is simply set more achievable goals. Oh well. That’s a gorgeous quilt by the way–that alone would make me feel good about time well spent. My Nook has a virtual keypad on it and my fingers never seem to hit the right keys–I need to practice as well. When are you going to teach your mystery fiction course (or are you in the middle of it now?–am behind in blog post reading…). There was one offered at my university several semesters back that I wanted to take but it was off campus and during my work hours so it didn’t work out for me, but it sounded like fun.

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