Today we hear from Florida Tech English professor, Dr. Natalie Dorfeld!
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, explain the context of your piece and what motivated you to choose that topic.
Natalie: I just finished a book chapter last night. It is called “I’m Here to Shave Your Alpaca: The Secret Lives of English Professors” and will be featured in Burning Down the Ivory Tower: Insiders Take on Higher Ed Crisis.
As an adjunct, I made $13,500 in my most lucrative year, so I had to supplement odd jobs on the side. My colorful career included work as a lifeguard manager, chiropractic assistant, bookseller, farmhand, and, yes, shaver of alpacas. It was glamorous work.
Most of my research revolves around the adjunct crisis in humanities, specifically highlighting the inequities in compensation/benefits/retirement, teaching loads, and protection. According to recent statistics, 75% of staff appointments are now contingent, and I think that’s a canary in the mine for tenure.
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.
Natalie: I think people might assume I am OCD, but I prefer the term highly organized. I cannot work in clutter, and I arrange my books by subject matter and height. It’s a sickness I share with Dr. Robert Taylor. Very Sleeping With the Enemy-ish.
My interests are probably broken down into three main categories: work, brain food, and play.
Although I purged most of my books from my M.A. and Ph.D. programs, I still have crates full of reference material. It’s dry, academese rhetoric, but it comes in handy when researching information for articles.
Regarding brain food, I like writers who are wickedly intelligent, humorous, and slightly off their rockers. My favorite female authors are Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, and Erica Jong. My favorite male authors are Sherman Alexie, Billy Collins, and David Sedaris. I met David at the King Center a few years ago, and we had a lovely discussion about underrated fanny packs. I still wear mine with pride.
For play, I enjoy books about fitness/vegetarianism, photography, nature, and traveling. In my next life, I want to be a national park ranger out West. I think it would combine all my passions, and I’d get to wear a spiffy hat.
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.
Natalie: I need to get better at making time for creativity. I usually feel it comes through me, and in such instances, I quickly jot down notes on whatever material I can find readily available. This has included paper towels, cereal boxes, and my arm.
As to what inspires me, anything. It could be a well written book, an obscure line in a Jimmy Buffet song, or the great outdoors. I used to write a lot of poetry, but I have gotten away from that in recent years. Some say happiness writes white, and I believe that in some sense. I guess I had more angst and rebellion in the rust belt.
I also draw. (See photo.) I’m sure it doesn’t make sense to the world, but it’s how I take notes. I am a highly visual learner, and most of my college notebooks look something like this. People worry. And whisper.