Meaghan is currently completing her MA in History at Concordia University with a focus on Ireland’s role in the commemoration of the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli.
Who is your favourite academic?
Jenny Macleod and Guy Beiner.
(Jonathan Evershed’s work on the politics of the Decade of Centenaries has been really instrumental to my thesis research as well.)
What are you reading for work and/or for leisure these days?
For work: I am anxiously awaiting my copy of Emmanuel Destenay’s Shadows from the Trenches: Veterans of the Great War and the Irish Revolution (1918-1923) to arrive in the post.
For fun: In non-fiction, I’m currently reading Humans: A Brief History of How We F***ed It All Up by Tom Phillips, a humorous look at human error throughout history and listening to Ijeoma Oluo’s Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America audiobook. In fiction, I’m just starting Tom Phelan’s The Canal Bridge.
What podcast do you recommend?
I’m really enjoying “You’re Wrong About”, which is a podcast from journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes, who dig deep into major media stories that created common public perceptions that are, well, wrong.
My true crime obsession has been well fed by the abundance of podcasts put out during the pandemic, and I’m currently catching up on missed episodes of “Canadian True Crime” and “Mens Rea,” an Irish true crime podcast.
What is your favourite archive or library?
With my research trip getting canceled due to COVID-19 in the summer of 2020, I haven’t been able to explore any archives beyond the digital realm yet.
That said, the wonderful treasure trove of academics on Twitter has been so helpful. When libraries shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, many individuals helped me track down sources, sent me digital copies of their work, and/or offered research direction and I am very grateful.
What book or movie changed your life?
Slightly cliched, but both the novel and the (1930) film All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque really helped to lead me on the path of questioning popular narratives about the First World War, which eventually led me to grad school!
Do you play music while you work? If so, what?
I like to write in complete silence, but I will occasionally put something instrumental on in the background. When I’m doing some of the duller tasks – going through citations, compiling bibliographies, organizing files – I’m usually listening to country music or Billy Joel.
What are your essential research tools/supplies and why?
First and foremost, coffee. Preferably strong. Preferably often.
I’m very much a pen and paper kind of person, which is great when reading or taking notes because it means I can stray away from my desk. Cue cards have become a lifeline after my supervisor suggested I use them to help organize notes and ideas. Laying them out and being able to see everything that is going into a piece of writing without having to switch tabs, or flip notebook pages has been a game changer. In the digital realm, I rely heavily on Excel spreadsheets for organization.
I also use this 6-minute Yoga At Your Desk video once or twice a day to wake myself up after hours of desk work. (I also suggest getting a decent keyboard to attach to a laptop for long periods of writing.)
What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career/degree?
The two things that come to mind immediately are:
1) Learn how to create a work schedule that functions for you. Working on a self-driven project that has very few strict deadlines can be very intimidating but setting specific times to sit and focus only on that work is really important. I only realized how badly I needed this when the pandemic hit, and I wish I would have realized it sooner.
2) Push yourself outside of the isolating bubble that grad school often creates. I have been very fortunate to find a great cohort to share ideas with and work with. We have specific Zoom meetings where we work silently in Pomodoro-style time chunks, before reconvening for breaks and chats at the end of work sessions where we share our struggles and tips on how to overcome things or look at the process differently. We spend a lot of time focusing on the research process in courses and seminars but having people and space to discuss the writing process is instrumental. (Again, a lot of this developed after lockdown as we could not convene on campus.)
What is your favourite way to de-stress?
I always start my day with a cup of coffee that no one is allowed to interrupt. I do not check email, or messages, or answer the phone. Sometimes I read a novel, sometimes I work on a puzzle, or listen to music and sometimes I just walk around the block with my coffee cup. Those 30-minutes are mine to “pre-de-stress” before the workday even begins.
I am also a big fan of mental junk food – extremely predictable romance or crime novels, sit-coms, reality TV cooking shows, usually paired with a glass of red wine and cuddles with my dog.
(Some favourites are: Jasmine Guillory’s romance novels and the Temperance Brennan crime series by Kathy Reichs; Sitcoms: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the Golden Girls, Will & Grace and Frasier; Cooking Shows: MasterChef Canada, the Great Canadian Baking Show.)