It’s been just over two and a half weeks since I defended my thesis, so sit down and let me tell you all about it.
I met with the director of the English Graduate Program on Thursday for coffee (I had hot chocolate) at a place near my office, so I could slip away in the middle of the workday for a quick break. My attorneys were all at an out-of-state conference, so I knew I had a bit of time and could just work through lunch instead. He was very excited about my defense, and laid out how it would go. Usually everyone sits at the table and the defender can either choose to stand at the podium or sit down at the table with the rest of the committee. After a quick ten-minute reading, the questions would come.
When Dr. B asked me some “sample questions,” as he called them, my mind went absolutely blank. Even with my notebook in front of me, I couldn’t recall even the simplest answers. It was awful. I stumbled my way around a few questions before he started talking me through how to answer things properly: reword their question back to them before responding, so it looks like you know what you’re doing. I did a bit better with that tip but still fumbled.
Then Monday came. I wore my 50s-inspired red dress and rocked some red lipstick for a boost of confidence, covering it with my Italian leather jacket I got in Florence. I spent the first half of the day working, because I knew if I’d taken the whole day off I would’ve just worked myself up into a tizzy and wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on the defense itself. I got down to Montevallo a little early, which gave me time to sit on the quad and review my notes one last time. I ended up reading in the Palmer Commons (the defense room) about thirty minutes before the defense began.
Everyone trickled in right at 3:30, and by 3:35 I was standing at the podium to read a short excerpt for the first ten minutes. I chose the scene where Drake (the main character) takes Mira to a dress shop run by a sorceress, for her to experience magic (that’s not being used against her) for the first time. It was something that could stand alone, but it’s also clear that it’s part of a larger work. My adviser had mentioned it was very reminiscent of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and after that I tried to work in a few references.
After the reading, it was time for questions. And I do apologize, but I can’t remember the majority of them. My nerves were so bad, but I do remember that they were not nearly as scary as I thought they would be. I was able to answer all of them very easily, nothing tripping me up like Dr. B’s questions had just a few days earlier.
One question in particular stuck out to me: “Why does Drake join forces with the Duke? If peace comes to the land, won’t the Thieves be useless?” I thought about that for a minute, and I made something up on the spot, to be honest. Drake’s going into this knowing that the Thieves might have outlived their usefulness, but he still wants peace. (I had a really long and well-thought-out answer for this, I promise, but it’s written down in a notebook somewhere that I can’t currently put my hands on.)
I was also told that my story might work better from the third person. Everyone mentioned that it was clear Mira’s voice was the strongest in the story and that she was the obvious favorite, which I found surprising since I thought it was clear that Drake was the favorite, but I guess maybe I can’t write young adult males very well. It doesn’t matter now. What does matter is that, after about an hour and twenty minutes of questions, they had me step out into the hall. And there I sat and waited.
Dr. B passed by as I was sitting outside, sweating, and he congratulated me because he knew there was no way I wasn’t going to pass.
After the longest five minutes of my life, I was called back in, they shut the door, and they told me I passed. They didn’t even want any revisions. I almost cried. I did cry when I called Steven right after stepping outside. I cried nearly all the way back to my car. It was over and done with.
I’ve put my story away for now, because I’ve worked on it so much that I can’t currently stomach looking at it again. In about two months, though, I’ll probably pull it back out again and work on it. I’ve got a plan for shopping around for agents, and then at some point in the future, you’re going to be able to hold a book of mine in your hands, not a short story in a collection, but a book that is 100% mine. And y’all, I’m so excited.
It’s been a long 2.5 years to get to this point, but now I can tell you with 100% certainty that I am graduating on December 7th with my Masters in English. I am so incredibly excited for this opportunity and I thank you all for following me along. I’ll still be here, but now I can read whatever I want, when I want, without having to worry about deadlines.
Thank you, everyone.
And as always, keep reading.