Those First Steps Toward Earning My Master’s Degree

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

It was on a late August day in 2016 when I strolled — somewhat intrepidly, but perhaps incredulously — down the walkway shown in the image below.

My destination was Stevenson Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. My purpose was to participate in the first class required to earn my Master of Arts degree in English.

On that August day in 2016, this walkway on the UIC campus was filled with people just like me — people wanted to learn and grow.

Since that class, the ENGL500 Masters Proseminar, I’ve successfully completed three writing workshops and four seminars, or courses based on literary genres or eras; plus I submitted a thesis (60 pages of a novel still-in-the works).

The outcome: I’ve earned my Master’s degree through the Department’s Program for Writers.

Today would have been the official commencement for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but the condition of the world in this place in history meant the in-person ceremony would have to be postponed. A virtual Commencement is scheduled for May 16.

In this space, I first announced in a “creative” July 2016 post my intention to earn an advanced degree.  Since then, I’ve chronicled my experience in the classroom over the semesters in several posts, including a May 2017 report on what I learned in a class focused on the works of author Vladimir Nobokov and “candid” perspectives on some classmates.

So, what did I learn?

Well, along with the subject of the required readings, I learned how to interpret literature, authors and theories and present a (somewhat) cogent thesis that later evolved into a scholarly paper. And, I learned that there are few, if any, absolute or definitive perspectives in the analysis or interpretation of literature: Your thoughts are valid, providing you can support them.

So, what’s next?

I certainly plan to continue reading fiction and non-fiction works, but now I want to explore works from other authors. For example, I’m now reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, which at 695 pages requires a commitment. Also on the agenda: Completing my novel and revising short stories from my recent Fiction Writing Workshop.

So, who do I thank?

Of course the professors who prepared and led class and provided direction when I was at a crossroads, my classmates who challenged me and shared my commitment to learning, the administrators in the English Department who provided much-needed guidance, and my UIC colleagues, family and friends who offered encouragement when I felt overwhelmed. But most of all, I must thank my dear Susan, for her steadfast belief that I could, indeed, earn a Master’s degree in English.

So, what am I most proud of?

From an academic standpoint, I maintain a paper exploring modern poetry completed in 2018 for a course on modern and contemporary literature represents a high-level of achievement. Also, there’s a soft spot for this short essay on a street I called “a bastard thoroughfare,” still my favorite street in the world.

And, there’s one more thing: I only missed one class over the entire eight semesters, and that was on September 28, 2016, when I learned that afternoon that our dear mother, Sophie V. Bury had passed away.

On this Mother’s Day 2020, I’m confident our mother also is proud of what I accomplished.

 

 

 

Seeking Inspiration For The Future of The PRDude

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Okay, for clarification regarding the title of this post: I’m not referring to myself, but this blog — thoughts, observations and commentary I’ve published for more than a decade.

Over the years, I’ve addressed a lot of topics, public relations being the focus, of course. But this space also has tackled politics, Chicago, sports, the media, travel, holidays, the employment market, and what’s happening in the media.

Ideas for posts come from what I read or learn about in the world around me, from adventures in and around Chicago and abroad, from experiences and observations.

Looking north from a bridge in the Harms Woods Forest Preserve, I sought inspiration.

But lately, I’ve struggled. The passion and desire to dash out a provocative and compelling post remains, however, I’ve not been inspired as much as in the past.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve written mostly about public relations (misinterpretations of the profession and misrepresentation by the media), Chicago (the politics and the people), development in the media (the decline of print media) and the other categories noted above.

I need some new inspiration.

So, that’s why I pose this question to you, kind reader:

What subjects should the PRDude address in the months to come?

Yesterday, on a spectacularly sunny and mild mid-winter day, I sought inspiration through a morning hike in a local forest preserve. The image posted here, with the snow covered banks of the North Branch of the Chicago River, reminded me of a blues song I penned many years ago. So I felt it was fitting to share the lyrics below.

Back to my question: All suggestions are welcomed. Please reply to this post or send me an email: edwardmbury@yahoo.com.

Sun Shines on the River

Sun shines on the river
On a cold, cold winter morn
Sun shines on the river
On a cold, cold winter morn
I’ve been on this road for 13 miles
And I must keep travellin’ on

Me and my ole hound dog
We’re hungry and we’re tired
Me and my old hound dor
We’re hungry and we’re tired
I could use me a shot of whiskey
And, a warm, warm raging fire

Got thrown out by a woman
She really done me wrong
Got thrown out by a woman
She really done me wrong
So I guess I’ll just keep on keepin’
Keep on, keepin’ on.

Copyright Edward M. Bury, 2020

A “Novel” Approach to This Post

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Poetry. Drama. Short stories. Non-fiction works.

As I humbly learned, writing a novel can prove fleeting at times. Image courtesy of Academic Help.

All these forms of the written word challenge the writer of literature, commentary and criticism. But it’s the novel — that extended extended genre of fiction — that truly provides the examination and demonstration of the writer’s skill, dedication, drive and passion.

It’s with first-hand experience that I make this assertion.

Last week, I completed the “Novel Writing Workshop” course, another educational step toward earning a master’s degree in English.  Completing the course, however, did not equate to completing my novel.

Ah, the sound and connotation of those words, “my novel.” Yes, I am underway with an extended work of fiction, and I plan to complete a draft by August.

Hold me to that.

In my class, I was one of six fledgling novelists. Some already had works published, others were well into stories that spanned genres (a young woman growing up in a foreign brothel, a surreal account of spirits interacting with people), topics (detective tales, a search for a missing child) and continents (from North America to Asia.)  Me, I created a protagonist who to my knowledge has not been used before: A building engineer. From Chicago, as you’d expect.

More on my story soon.

Every class I’ve taken these past six semesters has culminated in gaining knowledge and understanding of the written word. And, all have improved my cognitive skills.

To summarize, here’s what I learned over the past 14 weeks:

  • First Person.  Writing in first person is harder than anticipated. I launched my work taking the narrator’s point of view, but the instructor and classmates wholeheartedly suggested I move to the third person omniscient. I did, and it really made a difference in the narrative.
  • Accepting Criticism.  At first I was somewhat stunned by critical comments, leading to defensive replies: “What do you mean there’s not enough conflict? Why do you find the dialogue too dense at times? So, what the heck does understanding temporal distance and free-indirect discourse have to do with writing a novel?” Every writer receives criticism; I learned to accept feedback and move on.
  • Map Out the Complete Storyline.  Before class started in early September, I drafted a two-page synopsis of sorts, but I really didn’t craft a solid plot or a conclusion. That led to a roadblock, one I’ve since overcome.
  • Point of View Characters. There can only be so many “POV” characters in a work for it to be intriguing and make sense. I learned to restrict this perspective to my protagonist and the guy who’s the villain.
  • Trust Your Instincts.  In light of the aforementioned, it will be my name below the title of the work. When the manuscript is completed, the results will be based on what I think is right.

And now, a sample. Here’s the first paragraph of the work:

“For Myron Jezmanski, here’s how it goes when everything is right, when nothing unexpected gets in the way, when he can count on the day being like the day before, and the day before that, and there’s no crap or nonsense that he has to deal with and he can close his eyes and just be thankful for what he’s built, what he has, and what he’s earned. First, the dog is still asleep when he awakes at 5:30 a.m., which means Myron doesn’t have to let him in the yard until he’s had a shower, coffee – one-half teaspoon of sugar only — and a bowl of Cheerios with fruit – dried fruit in the wintertime, fresh fruit when it’s in season. Hell, if he’s going to pay $4.99 for a pint of strawberries in January. If they’re out of Cheerios, he will eat his wife’s granola, even though he really doesn’t see the big deal in granola.”

What do you gain from these 157 words about my protagonist? Stay tuned for more.

By the way, the title of my novel is “The Way It’s Supposed to Be.”

 

 

A Question Posed in a Song Written a Long Time Ago

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

For decades, music has been a big part of my life.

I’ve played guitar and sung (arguably with relative competence) for some 50 years, at home, with the band Love House and during music classes.

For more than a dozen years, I contributed articles and reviews to music-based publications, most notably the Illinois Entertainer.

And, I’ve composed my own music.

Starting in the 1980s, I’ve written lots of rock, pop and blues songs, some 70 that I still have lyrics to and can remember the melody line.

The lyrics to the song within this post is especially poignant today.

Yes, I still love rock and roll and all that goes with it — the freedom, the expression, the emotions. But over the years, my personal musical pallet has embraced bluegrass, Western swing, jazz and even classical.  (Still can’t grasp opera, but can appreciate the work and talent involved.)

“Will I Still Be Rockin’ at 63” was written in 1985 or thereabouts.  I probably recorded this composition with my now-gone but well-used Tascam Portastudio, a marvel in audio engineering at the time, as it allowed unschooled enthusiasts like me a platform to record voice, guitar, drums and keyboards on a multiple track cassette tape machine, then mix the sounds to two-track.

In those days, arranging and recording songs in my apartment on Chicago’s northwest side, I felt akin to Todd Rundgren. It was just me, my instruments and gear, and my music.

Back in day, I first scribbled the lyrics to a song on a yellow legal pad or sheet of paper, then typed out the final version on my then trusty Smith Corona manual. These days, I still initially scribble lyrics to songs on paper. For some reason, I kept both the original handwritten and printed versions of this song.

 

Copyright, Edward M. Bury, August 2018.

As for the melody to this composition, perhaps I’ll record it the modern way — digitally of course — and post on my YouTube channel.

As for the question posed in the song, I guess I have 364 more days to determine the answer.

Who Are These New PRDude “Followers?”

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Let’s face it, the PRDude blog I’ve published since September 4 of 2009 is the epitome of a labor of love, along with an equal amount of blood, sweat and sometimes tears.

Hello Word Press! Can you shed any light on these new “followers” to my blog and personal website?

Like many who write about public relations and other topics that certainly lack appeal to the vast masses of readers today, there are no financial remunerations through subscriptions, sponsored content or tile ads.

Well, not yet at least; as I noted in this 2013 post, the blog is for sale for the right price.

The impetus behind this site is the freedom to share my thoughts on public relations, politics, popular culture and more; hopefully readers find value, and hopefully some even subscribe.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Over the past several days, I’ve received email notices from the nice folks at WordPress about new followers.  Yea!  Someone out there appreciates my prose and ideas.

But upon an examination of the email addresses for the handful of new recent followers, I became suspicious.  Here are two examples, one for the PRDude blog, one for my personal website:

sancheznuzricardoof@outlook.com just started following you at https://prdude.wordpress.com. They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations.

guillenqsmjacquelineuf@outlook.com just started following you at http://edwardmbury.com. They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations.

Note the “name” before the @ symbol in both addresses.

Who or what the hell are these “followers?” Why the hell do they want to follow my blog and site? Should I be concerned?  Should I try to remove them?

I attempted to bring this to the attention of WordPress but am not sure if my message to the help desk was received.

So, I leave it up to you, kind readers: What should I do?

A shout out to — sancheznuzricardoof@outlook.com — and other new “followers” who will get this post: Take note of the questions above.