Today we hear from Florida Tech English professor Dr. Melissa Crofton!
1. What is the last topic you wrote about? If you’re a creative writer, tell us about what inspired your composition. If you’re a student or scholar doing research or writing journalism, explain the context of your piece and what motivated you to choose that topic.
I’m currently in the process of revising a chapter from my dissertation into an article for publication. One of the things I like best about returning to my project is that I’m able to do so much more with it than I ever thought possible. You get so focused on one particular idea that you completely ignore the other directions your work could take; at least, that’s the case with me.
My research interests focus on the transition of texts from manuscript into print, and the article I’m working on now examines the adaptations of Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. The text, which was an adaptation itself, dates to 1409, and I’m looking at ways in which redactors revised and redeployed the text for later audiences. I’ve worked my way through discussing the first editions to appear in bookstalls after the advent of print in England, and now I’m examining two seventeenth-century editions.
I used to do some creative writing in my spare time, and I would like to return to that if I can ever figure out how to set aside some extra time. A long time ago, I began a piece of historical fiction about a nineteenth-century woman from Savannah. It was very Lovely Bone-ish in the sense that the narrator was dead, but I started writing it before The Lovely Bones actually came out. I think that’s one of the reasons I put it aside—that, and the fact that I was in graduate school trying to write my Master’s thesis.
2. What conclusions or assumptions (right or wrong) might someone make if they looked at the books on your bookshelf/desk/backpack right now? Tell us about some particularly interesting selections and any books you’d recommend to others.
The first conclusion one might make is that I’m a hoarder. As a literature professor, my life is all about books, so they can be found just about everywhere. One’s impression would change depending on where he or she is looking. My desk has stacks of books about Nicholas Love and book history, so the pretty obvious, and correct, assumption is that I’m hard at work on a project. There’s a few rogue books about Tolkien on my desk, but I’m teaching a class on Lord of the Rings, so that makes sense.
I’m pretty obsessive when it comes to order, so my bookcases—both at home and in my office—are organized by genre. A careful look would reveal how diverse my interests are when it comes to reading. Of course, as a medievalist/early modernist, I have shelf after shelf of books on those topics, but life isn’t all about work, work, work. I love historical fiction, so you’ll be able to find a lot of Philippa Gregory and Alison Wier (I know, I know, more Renaissance), but I love dark humor as well. One of my favorite authors when it comes to this subject is Christopher Moore. I don’t think I’ve laughed harder than when reading Lamb, or A Dirty Job.
Then there’s my Nancy Drew collection. I loved Nancy Drew when I was a girl, and my friends and I actually had a Nancy Drew club. Our elementary school was built on an old Indian burial ground (we had archaeological excavations there all the time), and we were sure the woods behind the school was haunted. I can’t wait until my daughters are old enough to read them.
My level of organization extends to my oldest daughter’s bookcases, but my youngest daughter seems to be a lost cause as of now. Perhaps that’s because of her age—she just turned two. For every book I put away in her bookcase, she pulls out at least three more and scatters them all over the floor. It drives me crazy, because she’s very particular about the books she likes me to read her, and there’s nothing worse than rummaging through a bookcase, bedroom, and house while your kid screams, “Goodnight Moon! Goodnight Moon!” Maybe one of these days she’ll understand why a sense of order is necessary.
3. What or who inspires you when you are feeling creative? Your response doesn’t necessarily have to be about writing. It could be about anything you do to express yourself creatively and the inspiration that fuels that creativity.
Music. I wrote my dissertation with the help of Charlie Parker, and now my musical selection is opera when I sit down to write. Believe it or not, sitting down to read or write also inspires me. My mind is always going in a million directions, so I’ve got plenty of ideas for future projects. As noted previously, though, the trouble is finding the time to be able to write.
Setting is also important. I can’t just write anywhere, and I need to have my things around me to get those creative juices flowing. Whenever I get stuck—which happens more often than I’d like—all I have to do is look up at a picture of one of my kids, or glance behind me where I keep a collection of Shakespeare toys and trinkets. If all else fails, I always repeat the mantra of Julian of Norwich—“All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”