Tag Archives: University of Ottawa

10 lessons I’ve learned from writing my thesis

4 Dec

I love reflecting and dreaming. It’s shocking, right? I get into deeper reflection mode in December as I soak up the past year and think about my dreams for the future. It has been another year of wonderful opportunities, tough challenges, amazing people and living out my passions.

While reflecting on this past year, I realized I don’t take enough time to soak up my accomplishments. I probably spend more time appreciating the little things in life, but I think it’s also important to value reaching certain goals.

One of those moments was FINALLY finishing my thesis. 

Last month, I walked across the NAC stage, shook Michaelle Jean’s hand and got my master’s degree. It’s pretty surreal writing this post, considering the fact I didn’t think I would actually finish. If you ask my friends, the thesis updates were rarely positive!

(Robert Tenn-Yuk)

I finally did it! (Robert Tenn-Yuk)

But it’s done and I’m writing this post. Woo!

The past three years have been quite the journey. There were many tears and low points, but I’m glad I pushed through. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from writing my thesis.

  1. What if you lose your passion? Sorry to break it to you, but this will happen. You won’t always feel passionate and will probably want to quit many times. This was a huge struggle for me, especially as someone who advocates for people to follow their passions. Sometimes, you need to suck it up and do it.
  2. Tough love goes a long way. Have blunt people in your life who will tell it like it is. When I told one of my closest friends I wasn’t passionate about my thesis and wanted to quit, she gave me some tough love. She told me I had come this far, couldn’t give up and had to finish what I started – even if I wasn’t passionate about my work. This conversation was a turning point in which I committed to finishing what I started.
  3. Trust your gut. My thesis changed drastically from my original vision. I didn’t trust myself on how I wanted to do it, which made writing a challenge (i.e. critical discourse analysis isn’t the most exciting methodology). If trusting your gut means putting more work on the front end, do it.
  4. Find the cheerleaders. You’re going to stare at your computer for many, many days. You won’t write anything. You’ll waste a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You’ll probably cry. When you’re in those spots, surround yourself with people who will encourage, support and ask you how you’re doing. When you don’t believe it, others can keep the faith.
  5. Reward yourself. Set mini goals instead of focusing on the end product. The finish line will overwhelm you. I often rewarded myself with going to the gym or hanging out with friends. It’s okay to take a break. And it’s okay to cry.
  6. Have work friends. My supervisor set up group meetings every week, which were really helpful to keep me on task and stay motivated. It was nice to be around people who were going through the same process, and could encourage and give feedback.
  7. Add a new discourse. It’s exciting to think I’ve added a new discourse to academia and documented Capital Slam’s history. Many people talked about the lack of female poets in the scene, and I got to deeply investigate the community and put that story in the public sphere. There’s also limited research on slam poetry (especially in Canada), so it’s neat to add a new discourse.
  8. A piece of paper matters. I had numerous arguments with friends about this piece of paper. I constantly questioned if it really mattered. They said yes. I know that doing a master’s degree in women’s studies has opened up several doors for me. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t want my lack of a piece of paper to prevent me from certain opportunities.
  9. Where’s your focus? My thesis was never my focus, so that’s why it took me an extra year to complete. If I had acknowledged that sooner and was okay with taking a bit longer, then I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. Since I didn’t focus on my thesis, I could pursue some other great opportunities.
  10. A good thesis is a finished thesis. This was great advice from my friend. My thesis wasn’t perfect and there were many ways I could’ve taken it, but I finished it. Someone else can take up where I left off and hopefully it’ll help someone who’s doing research on slam poetry.
The fam.

Grateful to share this moment with my family.

And remember, don’t be so hard on yourself. Writing a thesis (or any essay or project) can be really challenging. When you need some encouragement, watch this scene from The Waterboy. I’m living proof that you can do it!

When you have chance, please check out my thesis on Capital Slam’s poetry scene: Where My Girls At? A Critical Discourse Analysis of Gender, Race, Sexuality, Voice and Activism in Ottawa’s Capital Slam Poetry Scene.

Here’s a quick abstract:

Ottawa’s Capital Slam poetry scene has transformed over the past decade, marking a shift in the identities, discourses and performance styles of local poets. This thesis investigates these changes and trends within the time periods of 2008-2010 and 2012-2014.

This thesis demonstrates the shift from male poets of colour in 2008-2010 to female voices in 2012-2014 at Capital Slam, through an examination of Ottawa’s history and a multimodal critical discourse analysis of online performances. In particular, the creation of local alternative poetry shows over the past five years has increased the representation of female poets and transformed the racial dynamics of the scene.

During the period 2008-2010 and 2012-2014, poets used key historical elements of slam poetry such as storytelling and speaking through personal experiences to effectively demonstrate how marginalized individuals can speak counter-narratives to dominant culture. The use of storytelling allowed these poets to engage, connect and dialogue with the audience, as well as demonstrate their different identities, discourses and performance styles.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from writing a thesis, paper or finishing a project?


Upcoming poetry shows and photos from Jamaica

19 Sep

It has been more than a week since I was enjoying the beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets, delicious food and visiting family in Jamaica. It was a time to recentre, refocus and actually relax. I tried to soak up every minute of my time there.

Enjoying a beautiful sunset with my mom.

Enjoying a beautiful sunset with my mom.

When I returned to Ottawa, it was tough to resist the urge to fill up my time and quickly move back to this fast-paced lifestyle. Life is a balance and I’m trying my best to take the time to recentre, refocus, slow down and continue pursuing my passions.

I’m excited to get back on the stage this month and I have some upcoming shows and performances to share with you. I hope you can check out a show if you have a chance!

Sat. Sept. 21
Art as Resistance:  All-Star Artistic Showcase and Artist Library feat. Brandon Wint, Luna Allison, Melody McKiver and Jenna Tenn-Yuk at the University of Ottawa at 7pm

Wed. Sept. 25
Words to Live By feat. the 2013 Capital Slam team at Pressed Cafe at 7:30pm

Sat. Sept. 28
Furaha Project / Inspire Hope fundraiser at Peter Devine’s at 8pm

Footprints in the sand. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Leaving my mark in Jamaica. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

The food was amazing! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

The food was amazing! (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Words to Live By and upcoming talks

25 Feb

When I first started performing spoken word poetry, I never imagined the possibilities it could bring. This is an exciting and busy week of poetry from workshops to academia to shows.

I’m leading a spoken word workshop tomorrow, and giving a lecture and speaking at a graduate student conference at the University of Ottawa. In my talks, I will be discussing some of the politics of slam poetry, the complexities of identity and the potential for change in these spaces.

It’s really neat to be able to combine my interests in academia and slam, and to discuss the dynamics that occur in the slam poetry arena. Over the weekend, I was on a panel at a conference and performed some of my poetry about the difficulties of negotiating identity.

It was great to expose other academics to slam, and the importance and potential of theorizing this space. I also find it powerful that spoken word can bring theory to life through performance, and engage people in a new and interesting way.

The academic world is interesting, but I really enjoy creating a space for people to speak their voices. One of my favourite parts of being in the spoken word community is co-hosting, Words to Live By. We will be featuring some talented youth poets, Biting Midge and Emelie Jáquez, this Wednesday, February, 27 at Pressed Café. This is Biting Midge’s first solo set, and Emelie’s first-ever feature.

This could be you! (Rebecca Jones)

This could be you! (Rebecca Jones)

I always envisioned Words to Live By to be an open and safe space where people could step up to the open mic for the first time, and to also showcase poets who are just starting out. We’ve had a number of people share their work in front of an audience for the first time, and some poets have had their first feature here. One of those poets includes, V, who was a member of the 2012 Capital Slam team and recently won the Last Poet Standing Poetry Slam in Toronto.

The possibilities for spoken word are endless, so don’t limit yourself. Imagine the different ways you can use your voice and engage those around you. If you’re free on Wednesday, please come and support these talented youth poets and perhaps share some of your work for the first time!

Some upcoming shows and workshops

10 Dec

These past few weeks have been super busy and exciting. I’ve performed, led workshops and gave a TEDTalk at Ottawa’s first TEDxSandyHillWomen. It was an amazing experience, and people told me they really connected with my talk and spoken word poetry. I can’t wait to share it with you when it’s online!

Speaking at TEDxSandyHillWomen. (Terri Figuereido)

Speaking at TEDxSandyHillWomen. (Terri Figueiredo)

Last month, Words to Live By had a great show of spoken word and folk-hop featuring Ian Keteku, Lucia Misch, Brad Morden and I, at the University of Ottawa’s Alumni Auditorium. It was a lot of fun and some people even got their dance on!

The crowd dancing to some folk-hop with Brad Morden and Ian Keteku. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

The crowd dancing to some folk-hop with Brad Morden and Ian Keteku. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

This month, we’re back at Pressed and will be featuring the talented poet and writer, Kay’la Fraser. Come share some of your words and check out the open mic before Kay’la’s set. The show is tomorrow on Tuesday, December 11 and starts at 8pm.

I’m also giving a spoken word workshop that same day at the University of Ottawa. I love giving workshops and providing a space for people to connect and share their voices. I’ve met some really great people and it’s awesome to see the beautiful work they create during the workshops. Details are here.

You also don’t want to miss OH MY JAM at Raw Sugar Cafe this Friday, December 14 at 8pm. I’ll be performing some spoken word and music along with Tanya Davis and V of the 2012 Capital Slam team. These female voices are incredible and it’s going to be an awesome show.

I hope you can make it out to one of these workshops or shows. If not, I have other places and things you should check out. When I was in Montreal this past weekend, my friends took us to Kazu, a Japanese restaurant in Montreal. The place is tiny and intimate, and the food is great.

My friend also has the coolest coffee maker. I don’t drink coffee and I don’t know anything about coffee, but this contraption was like a science experiment! My friend says it makes the smoothest coffee, so I guess that’s important, too.

The Cona coffee maker. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

The Cona coffee maker. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Words to Live By poetry show at the University of Ottawa

21 Nov

New name. New location. Four talented poets.

Words to Live By (formerly Spoken Word at Pressed) will be doing a special show at the University of Ottawa’s Alumni Auditorium this Saturday, November 24. We’re partnering with the uOttawa Poetry Slam Club and Capital Poetry Collective to bring you Ian Keteku, Lucia Misch, Brad Morden and I.

Ian Keteku is the 2010 World Poetry Slam Champion and has performed his poetry and music all over the world, and continues to plant seeds of poetic justice globally. Ian is also part of the critically acclaimed spoken word troupe The Recipe. He has shared the stage with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Ursula Rucker, members of the Wu Tang Clan, K-OS, critically acclaimed poet Saul Williams and others.

Lucia Misch grew up at an astronomical observatory near San Jose, California, and moved to Canada when she was eighteen. She placed second at the 2011 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam, was a member of the 2010/11 Vancouver Slam Team, a two-time South Bay Youth Slam champion, and the winner of the 2010 Vancouver Labour Slam.

Brad Morden is an Ottawa-based poet/musician often seen walking the streets of the nation’s capital ukulele in hand, poem on the tips of his tongue.

I’m also excited to share some spoken word and music, and to be part of this great lineup. Doors open at 7pm and tickets are $10 at the door. Words to Live By will be back at Pressed in December.

Finding your sweet spot: living out of your passions, dreams and gifts

29 Oct

You know what’s exciting? Discovering your “sweet spot,” that place where your passions, dreams and gifts meet. It’s that space where you come alive and often tap into all the beautiful parts of your life.

You can tell when you see those people who are living out of their sweet spot. Their enthusiasm and passion are contagious. You can’t help but be encouraged, inspired or desire to discover what makes you come alive as well.

Over the last several years, I’ve been living more and more out of my sweet spot. It has taken a lot of personal development, self-reflection and figuring out my purpose and passions.

It’s neat to look back and see the steps in my journey that have led me to this point where my desires, strengths and vision are unfolding right before my eyes. Like a knee injury 10 years ago that opened up music and writing for me. Or studying journalism and becoming passionate about the importance of telling our stories.

In an old journal entry I wrote almost two years ago, I was recognizing my desire to help people find and speak their voices.

“I feel very excited right now! I sense one of my roles/passions is helping people find their voice and use it… My heart is for people to use their voices and to know how valuable they are. We each have a story worth telling.”

When we follow our passions, live out of out gifts and stay focused on our vision, these dreams can actually happen. Our work, goals and day-to-day activities become  a lot clearer and exciting to pursue.

If you’re in school like me or may not know what you want to do, you may be asked similar questions and comments like this: “What will you do after school? Where’s your degree going to get you? You need to make sure you get a good job and make lots of money.”

These questions can be quite annoying, but you know what has helped me deal with these types of comments? Focusing on my vision and passions, as opposed to a specific career. I tell people I’m passionate about helping individuals find and speak their voices. I could live out of that purpose while working in communications, journalism or maybe teaching.

There are many different careers and venues to tap into my passions, but this broader way of thinking opens a variety of doors and helps me to look outside the narrow box many of us believe we need to fit. I’ve also found it helpful to be open in the uncertainty, change and other curve balls that have come my way.

What passions and activities make you come alive?

This week, I see a variety of ways I’m living out of my sweet spot and tapping into my passions and strengths. Today, I performed some spoken word and music on Photogmusic LIVE on CHUO 89.1FM. I had a lot of fun hanging out with Ming and sharing more of my creative side with the world (you can check out the interview below).

Playing some music on Photogmusic LIVE on CHUO 89.1FM. (Ming Wu)

I’m also leading a spoken word workshop tomorrow on finding and speaking your voice at the University of Ottawa. I’ll be leading biweekly workshops every other Tuesday and the seminars are open to the public.

Tomorrow night, the Capital Slam team is featuring at a monthly show I started with Brad Morden at Pressed. We had a great turnout at our last show in September featuring the Urban Legends team. There were also some newcomers who stepped up to the mic, which was awesome to see!

Some members of the Urban Legends team performing at Pressed. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

It’s so exciting, rewarding and life-giving to be living out of my sweet spot. I can’t believe I have the opportunity to do these activities and share my passions with those around me. I encourage you to see what you’re passionate about, and not be afraid to discover and live out of your sweet spot. 

What is your sweet spot? How can you live out of your passions, dreams and gifts more?

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