Posted in Education, Uncategorized, University, Writing

Don’t test me!

I’m not great at exams or tests, unless it’s something I absolutely know – but even then there’s a good chance my mind will space out and I’ll get simple things wrong.

I coasted my way through standard grades and even my highers… in all my years, just off what I happened to remember from the classes. I didn’t know how to engage with the information, never mind study or formulate the answers lecturers wanted from me.

When I got to uni, it was mostly all about those essays. My first essay at uni I scored 18/20 in Classics, and the teacher said I saved her soul because my enthusiasm for Classics oozed out of the pages. But then, it set me up with a false hope – when other teachers didn’t appreciate my poetic style and my ability to inform rather than factually analyse the grades dropped and my attempts at essay writing faded year on year.

Then came the exams where you’re expected to remember and regurgitate the coursework verbatim and don’t start me on open-book exams! The crux of all of these is when the tutors don’t explain how to tackle the questions, what to actually do in the exams or they make something up which is the exact opposite of what’s required.

I had classes as well where the essay questions were pre-selected for you, but I could never make heads nor tales of them and in desperate attempt to figure it out, I’d have a whole plan and run full steam ahead. (Even consulting with the course lecturer, hoping I was on the right track but they seemed impervious to my pleas of help) Then the damn things would be returned a few weeks later with a shitty grade (at least comparatively to others – and sometimes just downright shitty) and there’d be no chance of support to improve or understand what the hell they wanted in the first place!!!

The most disgusting and heart-breaking example was my dissertation. The idea struck me in a moment of inspiration in the library while lamenting that I wasn’t studying Italian, nor the Romans and wondering if the Romans ever had any ties to Spain. Ha! Maybe it’s common-ish knowledge nowadays but it was the first time I’d come across the Conquest for Hispania and that it took over 200 years to be conquered. I knew about Carthage, the Punic Wars, and Carthago Novo (now Cartagena in Murcia), but suddenly everything tied together.

My preparation work and presentation scored me a massively high A3 mark, so naturally my expectation was that this would translate into a similar grade.

Eleven months and over ten-thousand words later, despite going to every supervisor meeting possible and repeatedly being told that I had it and was doing fine… I got that plastic bound tome returned to me with not an A grade. The first paragraph of feedback was calling my work stellar, the narrative well-crafted, and that I’d handled the mixture of sources flawlessly, especially for an undergraduate thesis. Alas, what could I do? The supervisor I had was not skilled in European History, never mind Classical Western History and the classics department at uni had been made defunct, not that I could get another lecturer to mark it anyway. I was deeply angry about it for a long time, given how much effort I did put it – so many studyspo posts say that the effort won’t betray the grade, but in real life, it often can do – especially if you’re just not working in the teacher’s realm.

I’m still proud of my dissertation, and plan to rewrite and expand it in the future for MYSELF, because I find the subject endlessly fascinating. Isn’t that what education is? Or should be? About diving head-first into a thrilling new adventure and learning and absorbing all that you can about it… Not about how well you can construct a 2000 word essay or answer eight essay questions in an exam in under 2 hours.

I’m enthusiastic about plenty of stuff, I’m nerdy, brainy and have plenty of smarts, but maybe it doesn’t all translate to a specific grade. It’s a quality of knowledge that maybe can’t be measured but experienced.

Anyone else?

e x

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Posted in Uncategorized

Amazon KDP Event

In May, Amazon had a whole-day conference in Edinburgh involving different representatives from Marketplace, Kindle Direct Publishing, and many others. I signed up to attend the Publishing event as I’m interested in self-publishing.

The event was to start at 9am with Coffee and Registration but since I’m in Glasgow I had to get up at 4:30am to have time to get ready and get the 6:18am 900 bus, thankfully not too far from where I live. I arrived in Edinburgh for 7:30am at Haymarket and managed to navigate myself to the conference centre. Though I was still to early to enter there was a cute little coffee shop across the road, so I had a coffee and a bacon roll as a second breakfast.

I decided to go inside the centre a little before nine and was immediately queried by a security guard on the door. I wasn’t fully aware, at that point, of the Manchester Attack which had just happened the night before, naturally security was tightened. Everything was quite casual anyway, people were milling around drinking really bad coffee and nervously looking for friends. I’m still amazed I didn’t meet anyone I knew! Soon we were instructed upstairs for the first conference which was to introduce self-publishing and Kindle’s own distinct form of publishing. It is really simple, which left me kicking myself when half of the audience raised their hands to say they were already published authors. What the hell’s my problem? Oh, right, self-doubt!

There was another coffee break before the next talk then lunch was provided completely free of charge (thanks Jeff Bezos!) However, they really hadn’t catered beyond fish or a vegetarian option; I can’t eat hot fish and the veggie option, while delicious, was made with ricotta cheese and dairy hates me. I was starving so ate it despite the pain I knew I would be in (at least there were green beans!). Obviously the cheesecake was out of the question for me.

Then the final talk came where they got down to basics – talking about money. One woman used to be traditionally published but her publisher dropped her by saying that her books were too niche and no-one would read her work, so she published with kindle and that book became her best-selling book ever. Also she makes about ¬£23k a year. Not too bad for writing down the voices in your head. Another guy discussed a lot of the handy tricks that Kindle publishing offers, like by selling your book for ¬£0 you can instead earn a percentage based on page reads. This works best if you have many pages in your books but also it’s proof that your books are real page-turners if you can rely on people to receive the book for nothing AND read it. I’ve many unread free books on my kindle that I now know I should read to help the authors earn something back.

I’m glad to see that things have changed from the vanity publishers masquerading as helpful self-publishers. Kindle are letting you remain in control, retain copyright over text and artwork, offer advice but they aren’t sitting with a big red pen to cross out all of your hard written work! Oh, also you can set your own price (depending on the size of the file) but you can earn up to 70% in royalties, far more than with any traditional publisher. You are also responsible for networking and promotions, but essentially it’s free by using facebook, tumblr, and your own website or blog.

I left the conference feeling very inspired and wanting to dive straight back into my own books (and maybe finally finish some, now that there’s really no excuse not to) but I’ve been up and down over the last month… The hardest part is just jumping back into it. Especially now that the summer is under full swing and no employers are banging down my door yet.

Alas, alack!

e x