Romance novels have been on my radar for quite some time now, because if they make up a significant portion of the 34% of the fiction market (and they do), that means that not only are people interested in history, but also, they are learning history from these novels.Read More
With a new YouTube channel and a new website format (not to mention my stylin’ and very first pair of reading glasses, as you can see!) I’m trying out a whole new look. I hope you like it, and that you’ll chime in with your feedback and help me make it better and better.Read More
Since I last posted all those months ago, I’ve been afforded a bunch of cool opportunities I never expected, including co-editing an issue of Ancient History Magazine (which has now hit newsstands), designing a Tudor trip to England for 2019 (which I’ll get to lead!), and – most scary and amazing of all – becoming a TEDx speaker. I’ve pushed and grown and changed through these experiences, learning a whole lot about what I’m capable of, and what I’d like to offer the world.
In launching myself as a historian without the safety net of academia, it’s been important to figure out what I have to give, and how I can contribute to the world in my own small way. How can I make your life even more amazing? How can I nurture your love of history?
I’m delighted that one of the ways in which I’m bringing my own take on history to the world next is through a new book for Pen & Sword History: Medieval Europe: In Fact and Fiction. I’m hard at work on that one at the moment, digging up interesting facts and investigating common fictions. It’s similar in style to The Five-Minute Medievalist, which makes it fun to write, but it’s a lot bigger. If all goes according to plan, you’ll have the finished product in your hands in the autumn of 2019.
The other major way that I’ll be sharing the love of history is by creating my own YouTube channel, a project that I will admit I never had the courage to attempt before. I’m looking at creating two videos a week, answering popular questions about the Middle Ages, putting out book reviews, and (when the opportunity arises) taking you with me to visit museums and to talk to interesting people. Right now, I’m figuring out the logistics and gathering my courage with the aim of launching in January, 2018.
I have to admit – there’s been a lot of learning, making mistakes, and admitting to just how much I have to figure out to do this on my own. I’m doing my best to overcome my perfectionist tendencies and just show up, ready to give it everything I've got. It may not always be pretty, but it’s better than not showing up at all. I'm posting this (imperfect) picture to remind myself not to take things too seriously - this was my one millionth attempt at testing my A/V setup. (Forget testing 1, 2, 3!)
My work over the past few months has confirmed in my heart that my mission on this planet is to share the amazing world of the Middle Ages with as many people as I can by putting interesting, positive, and reliable information out there. I’m ready to take the next big steps along the learning curve, and so excited to have you along.
I have to say, you know you’re in the right field of study when you feel lucky to be a part of it. This weekend, I returned to my beautiful alma mater, the University of Toronto, to spend the weekend at the Medieval Academy of America annual meeting/conference. I think that the people who are down on experts these days haven’t met a lot of medievalists. After all, no one goes into Medieval Studies for the money or the prestige. Everyone in the field is someone who fell in love with it and (hopefully) still feels that love. The atmosphere at the medieval conferences I have been to is open, congenial, and genuinely collaborative. Everyone wants to know more, so everyone wants to share more – sometimes share a lot!
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns (okay, someone usually is studying unicorns). There are always the raw nerves of presenters for whom public speaking doesn’t come naturally, or who are self-conscious about their proficiency in English. My heart also feels a painful squeeze every time I see the forced smiles of graduate students, desperately afraid they won’t get a job in the shrinking ivory tower. As someone outside of those walls, I always want to give them a hug and show them there is, indeed, a place for their passion and their work, either inside or outside academia.
Still, even though a medievalist may show up at a conference drained by the everyday, jet-lagged, or worried about the future, if you watch the audience in any panel session, you’ll see people deep in thought. They’ll be leaning forward, scribbling furiously, smiling to themselves, or furrowing eyebrows, but you can practically hear the hum of busy brains making new and exciting connections. There are always hands up in the air at the end with helpful suggestions, new avenues to explore, or new questions. I’m not sure if it’s like this in every field, but medievalists are definitely keeners, and it’s so much fun to witness.
This particular MAA meeting was uplifting in other ways, too. There were sessions on diversity (much needed: most scholars are still white and Eurocentric in their work), and on work outside of the tenure track. There were talks on refugees and sexual assault, topics which are timely and crucial to discuss. There were scholars young and old exchanging ideas, and women confidently speaking beside men without feeling the need to shrink themselves or appear unintimidating. There were calls to share our expertise with those in other fields, and those on the front lines of early education. More than this, there were people showing up, ready and able to meet these new challenges and spread the love and the expertise.
It’s hard to be down on experts when they wear their love for their subjects right out there on their sleeves. It’s a privilege to be among them, and to learn from them. On the outside of Victoria College, where much of the conference was spent, is an inscription: “The Truth Shall Make You Free” (behind me in the picture). For me, and many of the medievalists I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with, getting together and working to learn the truth about history sure does feel like freedom
The beginning of April is an exciting time for me, and not only because we’ve just come off the twin delights of International Hug a Medievalist Day (March 31) and Whan That Aprille Day (April 1). Last April, I hit “Submit” and suddenly went from being a contributing writer to a bona fide author, something I had nervously dreamed about for years. To my surprise and delight, the book found an audience with more than just my parents, and I had the tremendous honour of watching it reach #2 on the Kindle store, just above A Man Called Intrepid. I was thrilled.
Turning The Five-Minute Medievalist into a book was a joy for me, not just because it was a dream come true, but because each download and each paperback showed me that other people share my love for the Middle Ages, my delight in its quirks, and even my wry sense of humour. Sharing The Five-Minute Medievalist has felt like building community, and what a wonderful feeling that is.
Lately, I’ve taken up my yoga practice once again, and often find myself following a sequence called “Circle of Joy” – a stretch that really opens up your chest and feels like magic after spending too much time in front of a computer. As I took up my pen to outline what I wanted to say in this first blog post, it occurred to me that this year itself has been a circle of joy for me – one that has taught me much, opened up new possibilities, and pushed me into some new and exciting challenges.
This April, I’m working on a new project (it’s a second book! Shhhh!) and I’d like to invite you to come with me on my journey. I’ll be posting some of the new and interesting tidbits I dig up here on this blog, as well as linking to some of the other places my writing may pop up along the way.
Spring certainly is a great time for new growth. Thanks for reading; thanks for sharing. Thanks for being a part of my circle of joy.
P.S. Please feel free to participate in a contest for a signed copy of The Five-Minute Medievalist this week, hosted by my friends at Medievalists.net. Follow this link for more information: http://www.medievalists.net/2017/04/win-copy-five-minute-medievalist/