Thoughts on Theses: Sydney Tate
Issue   |   Tue, 02/27/2018 - 19:14

Sydney Tate is an English major. Her creative writing thesis combines poetry and prose to explore the development of her identity. Her thesis advisor is Writer-in-Residence Daniel J. Hall.

Q: What is your thesis about?
I am writing a creative writing thesis in English, mostly poetry with a little bit of prose. I am basically writing about my life and how I’ve come into my identity and writing about the different nuances between family dynamics and coming into what it means to be a black woman in America.

Q: When did you start thinking about this? What inspired you?
I started thinking about it in my sophomore class, in a class called Long Poems with Daniel Hall, who is actually my thesis advisor. We were reading a collection of poetry in a book called “Citizen” by Claudia Rankine. She just took a collection of a bunch of microaggressions that were said to her and other people and collected them all into one book about her experience with them, and I kind of got the first, initial idea there, thinking, “Oh, this would be cool to do something like this.” And then I read things like Jamaica Kinkade and just other books also. They all just really inspired me. I think I came [up] with the concrete idea when I was in my Writing Poetry I class, which was also with Daniel during my junior year.

Q: How has your relationship been with your advisor?
It’s really good … I’ve taken a lot of classes with him. We click really well so I am really happy he was able to work with me. He is a writer-in-residence, and this is actually his last year here so I’m really happy that I got him for his last year. We work really, really well together.

Q: What was the timeline for writing your thesis?
I started preliminarily over the summer with mostly reading and trying to imitate [the poems], just writing a few ideas down. My thesis is due on the 30th of March so I only have about a month left. Right now, I’m still writing all my poems and then once I get done, which should be probably by the first or second week of March, I am going to edit them. I am splitting them up into four different sections, each section named after a season. It’s basically representing a different time in my life, so the first season is going to be my childhood and so on and so forth. That’s going to be most of what I’m doing during March — organizing and editing.

Q: How have you managed your time?
It’s been hard. I’ve taken on a lot my senior year so I’ve dedicated a lot of time to this but I also have classes, I’m in two seminars this semester, and I’m also directing a show and also just job searching in general. It’s been a lot of time management but I figured it out at some point. I don’t know really how I figured it out. Mostly I work on my thesis in the morning; I’ll get up and write whatever is on my mind, poem-wise. Over the weekend, I spend a lot of time writing. On Saturday, I’ll spend almost all day working on my thesis.

Q: What has been the toughest part of writing a thesis?
I think just staying on top of doing my work. Daniel is very much a “You tell me when you want to turn something in [type of person].” He doesn’t push me as much, so that’s been really hard, to push myself to do the work. But also, just in writing, I’m writing about a lot of tough experiences that I had in the past that I haven’t necessarily dealt with. Just getting that on paper is tough and reading it out loud is even tougher.

Q: Have you shared your thesis with people so far? What has the response been?
For our English symposium this year, we had to do a capstone [project] where we had to present for 10 to 15 minutes and I read part of my thesis. Next week, the MRC [Multicultural Resource Center] is doing a series called “The More You Know,” which is about senior projects and capstones, and I’m presenting my thesis there as well. At the capstone, it got very good — I don’t want to say reviews — but people really seemed to like my work and what I was doing. It was really hard to read it to them but I think it paid off in the end.

Q: What advice would you give to future thesis writers?
Do more work over the summer, for sure, because I slacked off a lot. I think also don’t stress yourself out too much about it because, honestly, that prevented me from doing work because I was so stressed about it. Find some fun in it because you are doing the project because you want to … It should be something that you are enjoying and having fun in. Don’t be afraid to work with other people. I’m more motivated when I’m with somebody else who is also doing their theses because then we’re like, “Oh, we got to stay focused, we got to keep doing this.”

Q: Have you found a lot of support from other thesis writers?
Yeah, for sure, even thesis writers who are not in English. My friend, Bailey, is doing a thesis in chemistry, and I have literally gone to her lab with her and worked while she is working. Even if we’re not doing the same thing, we are both very focused. I’ve also exchanged work with other English writers and we read each other’s stuff and edited. That has been really helpful, for me at least.