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What did you do with your thesis?

As I wait patiently to hear back about comments on my MFA thesis, I am reminded about my BFA thesis. I’m not saying academia is even a way to go in writing, my favorite writer (and secret reader/editor) never finished the 8th grade and lives in a shack in the woods in Eugene, Oregon and it takes us months to send mail back and forth to one another. That being said, I decided it was time to dig out the old BFA thesis, which was a novel told in short stories called, wait for it, wait for it, (I’m blushing while trying to even type it, alright here I go): “Baggage.” Go ahead, laugh.
Anyway, the point here is that while I wait for comments back on the current thesis, I have already continued revising and moving into yet another draft, and I started to wonder, was the BFA thesis I’d written six years ago any good? Were there any choice “cherries” I could pluck out and place into the newer work? How much had I grown as a writer?
The answer, dear readers, is that holy crap, I was a mellow-dramatic 21 year old. Will I feel the same way about the current novel? Doubtful, I’m older now, but still. If you had a thesis, what have you done with/to it? If you didn’t, do you ever peruse old notebooks or do you live and let live with the filing-cabinet?
the author of “Baggage: a novel told in shorts”

25 thoughts on “What did you do with your thesis?

  1. I was just thinking about my bachelor’s thesis the other day. it was the beginnings of a novel called The Adventures of Risk Adams. I really liked it, I planned on finishing it. but I lost it all when my hard drive died last summer. so far I’ve yet to track down any of the printed copies I’m sure are floating around my garage, but my favorite parts of it were the one’s I’d started more recently and I know there are no remnants left of those.

  2. My bachelor’s thesis is unpublished and fallen by the wayside. It was a 50-page photographed graphic novel called /small flightless bird/. I built an 8’x8′ set in my parents’ basement, then photographed various small figures on it, designed according to a storyboard. Then I put in the photos on 11″x17″ paper (bound on the 11″ side) and hand-lettered it. (I thought I was going to become a graphic novelist!)

    Then I wrote an accompanying book of fake criticism about it, nonsense essays and the like. My department liked it (they gave me an award for it), but the honors college I belonged to wouldn’t accept it (because it failed format check!). So I had to submit rather an essay about it, describing what I’d done and so forth.

    But I never liked having done that, so later on I went to the library where it’s housed, and destroyed it. I tore out the pages, then wrote a note about it on the inside cover and put that back on the shelf. And then I went and destroyed the microfilm copy, too. I videotaped myself doing it, and always meant to turn it into a short video or something, but… Maybe someday I’ll write a song about it all or something.

    I think the department might still have a copy of the graphic novel itself. I myself do not (because it was so expensive to produce even a single copy—I spent like hundreds of dollars on making the project—and then afterward I was too exhausted to bother recreating it.

    My master’s thesis, however, had a happier ending. I received an offer to publish it, but declined it (WHY??!!), then rewrote it entirely (twice). It eventually became my first novel, /Giant Slugs/, due out later this year.

    Nice to finally have something so show for it.

    1. dude, that sounds pretty awesome. you were industrious! as part of mine i started a documentary about the whole process, but all that ever came of that was a short trailer for it. which i still have.

      a week before i had to present mine though i was told i had to rewrite my entire thesis. i got really drunk and spent two days considering whether i should torch the school or change majors. in the end i rewrote with a fury.

      1. Well, it didn’t really get me anywhere. Other than to establish a precedent: mountains of work, without any publishable result.

        But this year, finally, something (two things) coming out… I’ll finally be a real author!

        The Master’s thesis only came about after I spent four years working on a totally different project that I, typically, never finished. Although I’m going to return to it later this year. After I finish one of the novels I eventually spun off from it.

        I hope.

        1. this sounds eerily familiar. i tend to have a billion projects going all the time. it’s always nice to see one get finished! i’m jealous of your soon to be real author status!

          1. man, i know this feeling. i’ve at least 10 poem/story projects going on right now, a chapbook length project, and 2 shelved novel ideas waiting for a time when i can actually concentrate on them.

            i’m horrible about finishing what i’ve started.

    2. First of all, Adam. Your undergrad thesis sounds amazing. Please
      go and find it. If you mail it to me, I will return it very unharmed.

      And, what are these two books you have coming out? Where and when can we get them?

      1. Thanks for the interest, John! And I’d love to send it to you, but I don’t think I can at the moment. I don’t have a copy myself, and the pieces of it are in a box in my parents’ attic.

        But the next time I’m home maybe I’ll dig out the photos, at least, and scan them in, and put them up at my website. At least. Or something.

        The two books are a short story collection and a novel. More info here:

        Thanks again for the interest! Adam

  3. my ba thesis was mostly trashed. my mfa thesis became Parabola, which won the chiasmus press un-doing the novel contest. happy story, happiness.

  4. My graduate thesis was all published stories, due to a problem where it looked like all our theses were going to be publicly available on google and if we put stuff out that was unpublished, we’d lose first rights. That turned out not to be a problem, but I’m still glad I put the damn thing together with only previously published work, because for some reason, writing at Iowa drove me crazy.

    I did two undergrad theses. One was short stories, poems and articles. I think all the articles had already been published, and some of the poems. A couple of the short stories were published later. The rest, oh my God, I would not look back.

    My other was an anthropology paper on the intersections of cultural creation of sex & gender with North American utopic and dystopic writing. I’ve wondered about trying to create a usable academic essay out of the 75 page monster I forced my poor prof to read, but… other projects beckon.

      1. Heh, I’ll send it along, but be warned — it’s 75 pages of undergraduate meandering. Feel free to just check out the bibliography. ;)

        1. Rachel: I am interested in cross-reference of utopian-dystopian American literature with religious sects and communities such as New Harmonists, Shakers, Mormons, Oneida Community etc. If you do not mind sharing I would like to read your bibliography. gorgrease@gmail.com. To date my primary focus along these lines has been on fiction written by Methodist authors.

  5. My thesis was an unfinished trilogy. One of the books, Forecast, is coming out later this year. The other two don’t have homes, but I hope they do, eventually.

  6. My undergrad thesis in psych was a paper on Jungian arcehtypes in x-men comics. It makes me cringe. But I’m still proud of a bunch of smaller papers from college, in particular, ones written about evolutionary theory. My grad thesis, written about 15 years ago, a novella, occasionally gets sent out. I don’t relate to much of it anymore but I’m not ashamed of it. It’s like a different person wrote it- I know that gets said a lot, but it’s true- and so I just feel detached from it.

    1. “My undergrad thesis in psych was a paper on Jungian arcehtypes in x-men comics.”

      REALLY???????? I would really love to read this if that’s true. I’m 100% dead serious about this. Please let me read it! I promise I won’t say anything bad about it!!!!!

  7. My thesis — a collection of short stories — is now over ten years old. I look at its library citation online sometimes and chuckle.

    One of the stories is so pre-Internet that in order to bring it out of hibernation, I’d have to deliberately set it in the early 90s and add some plaid shirts, Nirvana, and pogs.


  8. My master’s thesis is sitting on my hard drive, languishing and there are a few bound copies shoved in bookcase somewhere. The ideas in the stories are excellent but the stories themselves, the writing is just horrible. I’m mortified by the thing and can’t bear diving back in to fix what is broken.

  9. I’m waiting for my first meeting too Nicolle!

    I don’t recall writing a thesis as an undergrad, but I wrote two papers for the same professor for different classes that totaled approximately 30 pages.

    One was about the evolution of emo music (for Rock n’ Roll and Hip-Hop Class) and the other was about Caribbean Poetry (Caribbean Lit. Class).

  10. My undergrad thesis was titled “Hair cell regeneration in the lateral line of GFP-Brn3c transgenic zebrafish (Danio rerio)”

    It was a compelling read and now occupies a healthy portion at the bottom of my bookshelf.

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