Monday, August 3, 2015

No Longer Me

E.G. Wiser, guest post. 
Writerly thoughts on pen names and process.


E.G.Wiser is a pseudonym—a name derived from the first letter of one person’s name, the first letter of a different person’s name, and the name that happened to be on the bottle of whiskey I was drinking when I came up with the whole plan to have a pseudonym. 

It was a plan that I did not enter into lightly—or entirely sober—as I had always thought it important to stand by whatever words I chose to make public, whether it was in the pages of magazine, between the covers of books or in the comment section at mediamatters.org. I was always, on some level, me, the true me.  Even when my first story sales turned out to be to places with names like Climax, Orgy, Thigh High my by-line featured the same name as the one on my driver license. There was nothing to be ashamed of (even if there was there was nothing to be overly proud of either,) and if on occasion I wrote my fiction from a point of view or predilection I did not actually possess in real life (be advised, dear reader: when pressed for cash I will fake a foot fetish in print), I wrote it without judgment or embarrassment. My fervor for the gentle insole of this or that angel may have been something less than sincere, but beneath the necessary details and repetitive motions of the genre, there could still be something real—something genuine.  Longing, for all its vagaries, is universal.

Time passed.  Something happened and the genre lost its appeal for me. Maybe the stories just stopped selling.  I wrote other, more serious things. Good things, mostly. Plenty I was proud of, and eventually my very real name graced the bindings of a small number of novels that could be found in the discriminating book stores, libraries and garage sales of several countries. I received some good reviews, some praise from writers I respected, even got the fan letter or two. And the books—cliché as it is to say so—felt like parts of me out there.

But I was still broke. And E.L. James was filthy rich.  My day job—the one that actually paid the rent—was a miserable, Kafkaesque affair and some nights the only way I could get to sleep was by convincing myself that there was a fair chance of dying peacefully in my dreams before morning.  This is not a healthy alternative to counting sheep.

And then someone got a book contract based on their One-Direction erotic fan fiction and something inside me snapped. I began to write an erotic romance novel—but one written the way I thought one should be written—with humor, with humanity, and without characters that were thinly disguised members of an insufferable boy band. And this time, I used an assumed name.
Two writers, one desk.

I had a number of practical reasons for deciding to use a pseudonym now when I had not used one before. For one, I had an agent who was ostensibly still trying to place my more “legitimate” work and I did not wish to confuse the two efforts. Secondly, I had the notion that the writer being an actual identifiable person could be a detriment to the type of stories I was now trying to tell.  It is one thing to write erotica, it is another to write erotica while reminding the reader of their uncle Fred or Aunt Beulah—and while I actually resemble neither of those fine relatives, you perhaps can see my point. If books are a kind of willed dream, my real name was a sort of nagging reminder of another world invading that sleep.

So I created my new self—a vague, genderless identity and tribute to Canadian whiskey— and then got to work on the actual writing part.

That is when something strange happened: The words—which had become an increasing struggle over the years—flowed freely. E. G. Wiser was not just a secret identity: it was a super power. I was unencumbered by neither expectation nor reputation.  There was no me standing in my way—no feet of my own to trip on. I found in my writing again the selfless joy of pure story-telling. The dream I was conjuring for the reader, I was dreaming for  myself as well—and rushing from scene to scene with a thrill I had lost somewhere in the layers of me that had begun to overlay all of my previous, more “personal” work. Now, free of identity, of ego, I feel am more purely a writer than I have ever been. At very least, I am a happier one; writing is fun again.

And all I had to do was lose my self.

***

Beth August, Special Agent with the Department of Ufology, is sent to investigate an object of mysterious origins. What she uncovers could send the world into an orgy of apocalyptic proportions.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Developing Philosophy for Maximizing Human Presence in Online Learning Environments

Establishing a human presence in online courses is imperative. Pairing professor content expertise and knowledge with the benefits of online learning environments give faculty the opportunity to  provide a unique virtual classroom experience. Fortunately, faculty don’t need a degree in experience architecture to be successful, only a guiding philosophy and some thoughtful planning. 

As part of my ongoing effort to establish a human presence in my online learning environments, I have begun creating short videos. These particular videos aren’t meant to be particularly informative, although they do contain information. All the information in the videos is also available in the online course site and/or in the text. The goal of the videos is to give a ‘face’ to the instruction with the hope that students will not feel so isolated from the course.

A few principles & practices of these videos:
  • Like a class session, the videos aren’t meant to be perfect. I don’t worry if I make an error; I just correct it and then continue.
  • I don’t worry about “looking silly.” I just go with it and be myself. My thinking, in that way my video self will match my online self. Again, my goal is to be human not to be perfect. Being perfect would take too long. Much too long.
  • Being human doesn’t mean being sloppy. I use the YouTube enhancements to clean up errors and maximize quality. Also, I consider things like lighting and background.
  • The videos are not meant to be permanent. I make them quickly and delete when no longer needed.
  • I post the links in the course site & host the videos on my YouTube channel, LuckenLCC

A few sample videos:



A few principles & practices of developing a human presence in online learning environments:
  • Products, such as faculty made videos, used to establish the human presence in an online environment do not need to be perfect.  Example.
  • Human presence means more than putting a face to the instructor. Linking the students together and linking students to campus resources, such as writing centers or student success centers, are excellent ways to establish 'humanity' online.
  • Technology tools are not a replacement for the personal connection. Use tools in a way that generates interaction, not simply presents and manages content. (Examples: Polleverywhere, twitter, Facebook)
  • Online environments have advantages face to face environments don’t. Make use of those advantages. (Example: Prezi & Google Docs & Hangout)
  • Students have digital literacy. Give them opportunities to use and improve it.
I continue to work on this philosophy of developing a human presence in online environments.