news viva work

Finding Ziferblat

My independent Viva Survivor workshop is taking place on June 29th at Ziferblat in Manchester. I’ve felt stuck about doing an independent workshop for a long time, partly because I couldn’t find a great venue. Fortunately, I went to Ziferblat in April, and Ziferblat is a really great venue:

  • It has good transport links, halfway between the two major train stations in Manchester, and there’s a good car park nearby too;
  • The staff there are really great and friendly;
  • There’s a wonderful range of refreshments;
  • It’s a beautiful space, and the private space that we’ll be using for the workshop is lovely.


Ziferblat does things a little differently from other venues; there’s a great cafe/public meeting space, and several fab private rooms. We’ll be in the Classroom, which is made out to look like an idyllic primary classroom of yesteryear – it feels right that a workshop about the pinnacle of formal education should go back to basics!

The atmosphere is wonderful at Ziferblat – as are the refreshments provided. No lukewarm tea urns or coffee jugs, no two-packs of biscuits. Proper coffee, proper tea, fruit juice, cake, biscuits and a heck of a lot more. And if you arrive early to take advantage of these or want to hang around afterwards you’ll be more than welcome.

This is where we’ll have our workshop. Viva Survivor can help ease viva anxieties, make sure you know what to do to prepare and answer all of your questions about the process. But if can only do that if you come along to Ziferblat. Are you coming? Check out the booking page soon, as there are only limited places available. Can you help me spread the word about the workshop by telling others who might be interested?

Thanks for reading – check back on Thursday for details of books that will be included in the participant packs for this workshop!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


Interesting Things, April 27th 2015

I used to do a fortnightly round-up of things that I had been sharing or things that I had seen whilst on my travels, and then I stopped doing that. I think it would be a mistake (for now at least) to promise to do that regularly again, so instead I’ll start this irregular series of posts: Interesting Things. The condition for sharing things in these posts is that the thing I’m sharing interests me (or it’s something I’m doing, because I like talking about myself sometimes!).


The Reading List 2015, Update 1

In January I shared that one of my goals for this year was to read some of the books that I have bought or have been bought in recent years, but have yet to get around to reading. I tried this the year before, but it never worked because – surprise, surprise – I didn’t make the goal concrete enough. This year, I had to do something different, so like it says in the previous post I made a list of ten books that I would read in 2015. They wouldn’t be the only books I’d read this year, but they would be some which I had to read.

So far I’ve read three and started a fourth:

  • What If? – a great book which applies science and creative thinking to wonderfully strange questions. One of my favourite passages is in the introduction, where Randall Munroe says “…it turns out that trying to answer a thoroughly stupid question can take you to some pretty interesting places.
  • The Upside of Irrationality – a book which I both loved and hated. One of the things I really liked was how inventive some of the experiments were, the lengths that the experimenters would go to in order to test or measure a behaviour. At times though, I was a little frustrated by some similar sorts of experiments. Still worth a read.
  • The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – the only fiction book on the list, and a great little story. I read it pretty much in one go on a single train journey (and a cafe stop when I got off the train). If you like the fantastical and scary fairy tales for grown-ups then this might be your cup of tea.

I’ve started reading Playing At The World which looks at the history of role-playing games. I need to take my time with it though; it’s hyper-detailed, a serious academic work and not just a pop cultural story. I also started reading Serious Play, but I think when I bought it I may have mistaken it for another book, so I’m going to take another look soon. It may be that I replace it with another book off my oh-my-gosh-how-many-unread-books-do-I-own-pile.

I like reading for pleasure, but I also like to be inspired. Each of these books has inspired me in some way already, and the ideas form part of the mosaic of thoughts I put out in my work. It’ll be interesting to see how the other books impact.

What have you been reading lately?

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


Viva Survivors Update

While I continue finishing my second book on the viva, it seems only appropriate to share some of the recent episodes of the Viva Survivors Podcast over here! I’ve interviewed two recent PhD-completers in the last few weeks, and both episodes are now up over on Viva Survivors.

First of all, in Episode 35 I spoke to Dr Eljee Javier, who told me all about her research in the experience of visible ethnic minorities who were native English speakers engaged in teaching English to non-native speakers. It was great to get a flavour of her research, then also hear about her viva experiences.

Two days ago I posted the latest episode, Episode 36, where I spoke to Dr Anna McFarlane, who recently completed her PhD on William Gibson, one of my favourite contemporary authors. It was interesting to hear about her research – and also to have an interviewee on the podcast who had, what we might call, an atypical viva experience – albeit quite a good one! You’ll have to listen to see what I mean.

These were two great interviews; I’m always looking for more people willing to share their PhD and viva stories, so please get in touch!

Thanks for reading.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


quick thought

Nathan’s News

Once again the blog becomes a one-day-per-week affair. Apologies. My mind has been on other pieces of writing of late, as well as related aspects of them. As of Tuesday I finished the second draft of my second book – which may or may not be titled Frequently Asked Questions About The PhD Viva – and am now at the stage of looking for or designing a cover. I made the cover for Fail Your Viva myself, and while I’ve never been unhappy with it per se, I’ve always wanted something a little snazzier. I have found myself looking at the pre-made covers at Go On Write a lot in the last few months (spoiler alert: I’ve bought one or two already for future projects!). I don’t have one yet for this new book.

A new episode of the Viva Survivors Podcast went live on Monday! It was great to talk with Dr Eljee Javier about her research and viva; I met Eljee when she had just started her PhD several years ago, and it only seemed like a few months. Time flies, eh? It was great to hear how things had gone for her, and also hear about some really interesting research. There will be a new episode on Monday 23rd February too – it seems like a new pattern for the podcast might be that it updates on the last two Mondays of a month… I’ll see what I can do about that.

I’ve had a week of working from home, so don’t have any workshop news – I could tell you about my daughter’s latest accomplishments with the Megablox, but that might be less interesting to you than it is to me! In the coming weeks I’m back out on the road, delivering Viva Survivor and other workshops. If you’re reading this and want any details of these workshops then please get in touch and I’ll help in any way I can.

Until next week! Thanks for reading.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

news quick thought

The Last Three Weeks

They’ve been quite intense actually! In the last three weeks I have:

  • delivered seven workshops, including facilitating a Grad School;
  • three of the workshops were Viva Survivor, and I also spent half a day working with PhD supervisors and telling them about my research so far into the viva experience of PhD graduates;
  • travelled to Wales and Scotland – including my first workshop in Edinburgh;
  • finished the first draft of my second book;
  • been ill for a day, which really knocked the wind out of my sails;
  • read several books – including a few from my reading list for 2015;
  • signed up with Payhip, and from next month I’ll be selling Fail Your Viva through that service as well as through Amazon.

I’ll write again on Friday with details of the books that I’ve read so far, and why I think they might be interesting to you, dear reader. I’m also working to arrange new interviews for the Viva Survivors Podcast – and if you’d like to join me on the podcast to talk about your viva then do get in touch.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)