Compiled by Lauren Aspery
Despite the current situation, there is still plenty of exciting research going on in the children’s literature department here at Newcastle University. While everyone is adjusting to new ways of working, a few CLUGG members have shared their tips and tricks for managing research during lockdown.
Lauren Aspery – MLitt Student
Lauren is currently researching late twentieth-century British children’s poetry. She is especially fascinated by processes of canonisation and the Signal Poetry Award. Some of her favourite children’s writers include Michael Rosen, Patrice Lawrence and Julia Donaldson. When Lauren isn’t busy researching, she enjoys baking, organised fun and writing poetry.
Lauren’s Lockdown Advice:
“Keep a realistic daily to-do list. Never promise yourself a vague 1000 words that you’ll have to rush through or can’t achieve, but 200 words about something specific. As well as your academic goals, include things like watering the plants, taking a walk or organising your bookshelf. Ticking off those little victories can really improve your mood during these difficult times.”
Megan Ayres – MA Student
Megan is currently researching contemporary Young Adult literature with a focus on performance theory and ideas of adolescent ‘voice’. Some of her favourite YA and children’s books are those from Patrick Ness, Neil Gaiman, and anything slightly spooky. When Megan isn’t researching, she enjoys sewing, gardening, and trying to stop her dog Rosie laying in the vegetable patch.
Megan’s Lockdown Advice:
“Working from home can be unsettling if it’s a far cry from your usual working environment and, like me, you don’t have a desk. Set up a space with everything you need and keep your work within that space. This means that at the end of the workday, or during a break, you can move yourself away from any stress. I’ve set up my dining room table with a printer, the books I need, my notes and stationery, and, of course, a cup of tea. I also make sure to tidy it during lunch and at the end of the day. Even though it’s tempting to lie in bed and do some reading for work, try not to do this as it’s proven to disrupt sleep patterns. Keeping a specific, tidy area should help keep a firm boundary between work & life, even in these difficult circumstances.”
Helen King – Doctoral Candidate
Helen is in her second year of a PhD project on the work and archive of Beverley Naidoo, with a focus on representations of displaced and activist children. In her free time she enjoys painting, cycling, climbing walls (although only in the metaphorical sense during lockdown), and bothering the cat.
Helen’s Lockdown Advice:
“Find what works for you and don’t let comparison creep in. I’ve found I write best first thing in the morning, and then again in the late afternoon, so I use the middle of the day for other things (reading/editing/snacking). The best way to be disciplined is to give your mind and body what they need – I like to reward myself with something nice after a chunk of work to keep me motivated, with a walk, a phone conversation, a bath, etc.”
Stephanie Lyttle – PhD Student
Stephanie is a creative writing student who researches representations of bisexuality in 21st century YA fantasy. She is also writing a YA fantasy novel. Her current favourite children’s book is The Velveteen Rabbit.
Stephanie’s lockdown advice:
“In this creativity-sapping time of constant anxiety, writers may feel that they should exclusively funnel what creative energy they do have into their “serious” work. However, I’ve found that taking time out to work on other, low-stakes personal writing projects (in my case, poetry) actually helps the words flow more easily when I go back to my PhD novel. Let yourself write “for fun”, without judgement! It’s not a waste of time.
This advice can be broadened out for researchers in any field – take time to write a nice note to a friend, or a thank-you email, or a diary entry. Give yourself space to produce writing that doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Lucy Stone – Doctoral Candidate
Lucy is writing up her thesis, is writing up her thesis, a case study of the juvenilia children’s author-illustrators Judith Kerr (1923 – 2019) and Tomi Ungerer (1931 – 2019) [https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/childrensliteratureinnewcastle/far-out-isnt-far-enough-remembering-tomi-ungerer-1931-2019/] made in exile in the Nazi era. When not at her desk, Lucy is taking (online) ballet classes, tending her sourdough starter, or baking cakes, should the tiger come to tea, although apparently he’s more after loo rolls these days…
Lucy’s Lockdown Advice:
“Everyone works differently and needs to find a way of working that suits them. I’m finding it helpful to take one day at a time. I work the best I can each day, but even if I have a bad day, I stop at 5 pm or there about and take the evening off. It’s particularly important at the moment to maintain a balance and take care of yourself.”