Thursday, June 30, 2011

Purple Iris

The bucket of life has spilled once again. I can turn the pail upright, but I'm not sure I can collect all that was lost (can you tell we've been painting the house?). I've been thinking a lot about what the future holds. Well, I don't have an answer. No one does. Despite what is going on with others, I've got to pursue what I'm destined to pursue. In the past, I've hobbled over obstacles by telling myself I'll find a way. I'll find a way. I WILL find a way. I always do.

Needless to say, I've been too distracted to send any emails and part of me is wary of a negative response or no response at all, but I'll get there. I will.

There is no better photograph for today than iris' that were given to me by my mother.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Everything about writing involves making a decision. What topic to pursue? How to approach it? How to organize it? Which word to use? An entire career is made up of decisions, footsteps that propel a person in a direction. My resume reflects my choices.

As I look back on my years of writing I think about what I could have done differently to speed up the motion and reduce the frustration. I never pursued work for hire or an agent. Would that have helped? I never gave any thought to self-publishing. I don't regret that decision. Then there are those things that can not be rushed. Writing needs to season over time and with practice. Lots and lots of practice.

Anyhow, I made a decision, I have a direction. It was based on the question, where is the story? Now I need to ship out a couple of emails, one to a scientist or two, the other to an editor. Before I do, I need to give them careful thought so I include everything I need to include as I continue to move forward one tiny footstep at a time.

These photographs were taken at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at the Hill-stead Museum where a friend and I sat in a garden and listened to music and poetry. I sat behind this tall clump of statice.My friend brought these wonderful ginger cranberry rolls stuffed with chicken salad because she knew I'd like them. She was right.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Right now, I'm split down the middle as to which route to pursue. It's one of those times where I wish I had an editor to ask. Oh, it doesn't matter which editor, anyone from A to Z. Hopefully, I can address my questions at Chautauqua. I'm tackling this four year old project piece by piece, starting with the smallest chunks. When I looked at this stuff a year or maybe it was two years ago, I revised and improved it a lot. It's all there, but not necessarily as polished or as clear as I plan to make it.

Aside from that, I have two pieces of writing waiting in the queue for my next crit email date early next week. One is an action packed revision. The other is that silly piece of fiction.

Walt took these excellent leaping cat photographs with a fast shutter speed and a multiple shots option (click on photos to view in full screen). What I found really interesting was Twinky's tail. Note in row 2 column 1 the tail is behind her, but in row 3 column 1 it is in the opposite direction over her body. I've read that cats use their tails for balance, but it almost looks like it's a brake for the landing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Good thing I made those brochures! I had the opportunity to speak a bit about my presentation and handed all of them out at yesterday's meeting. The focus of this meeting seemed to be educating students which is exactly my intention. Another strong theme was collaboration among organizations. I recognized one woman from the CT Envirothon. She asked me if my husband was Roman. I said no and he'd better not be and laughter erupted. My only regret is that I had to leave early to collect Julia on her last day of school and I missed a presentation that I was interested in hearing. Drat.

Aside from that, I've dug out some four year old writing. It's time to strengthen and revise to make this proposal as strong as I can make it.

I found these pieces of hornet's nest scattered all over the deck. Walt pulled them out from underneath the shingles. I don't know if he was kidding or not, but he said there's now a hornet's nest in the umbrella of our outside table, the same table I put these pieces on. Ut oh!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I still need those photographs and my subject is in camp this week. I'll get them. Trust me. This brochure WILL be done by tomorrow morning's Climate Change Education Committee meeting. I'm going to throw out an idea for that committee and see how it goes.

I am overjoyed to see that a dead opportunity has sprung back to life. Years have strengthened my resume. I'm going for it with a full court press because opportunities come, but they don't linger long.

This gorgeous full rainbow was visible from the back deck. It's not often that we see an entire rainbow where every color in the spectrum is visible. For over ten minutes, I couldn't take my eyes off the sky. This photograph doesn't do it justice. The blues, violets and greens are lost in the sky. It was a spectacular sight.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My brochure is 92.75% done. It came out great, but needs some photographs. It looks like I'll have to plan a swim date with my niece so I can get myself a real life model of the appropriate age. I'm quite content that now I have something, something concrete to show people. Ahhh. I've tried and I will have to keep on trying because I intend to honor my part of the bargain.

I received a 21-page emailed pdf file (e-book) from the Highlights Foundation. Inside were short biographies for all one hundred writers/illustrators attending from all over the United States, Canada, India and South Africa. As expected, there weren't many men, but there were lots of teachers and lots of people who loved being outdoors. Of course they loved writing/illustrating too.

I've posted more photographs from the National Museum of Natural History. These were taken at the dinosaur casting area

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Now that my article has been emailed, I've set a new goal and given myself a new deadline. I want/need to complete a trifold brochure by Monday night. There is a committee meeting next week and this brochure is coming with me. The thing that might hold me up is the photographs, but I'll get it done. I will.

Now for last post's question, "why is this article that I emailed important to me?" I consider everything I write to be a stepping stone, one notch further than the prior piece. I have high aspirations for this one.

I love the vivid blue color of a mound of lobelia. Yellow flowers are a dime a dozen. Dandelions are yellow, buttercups are yellow, black-eyed Susan's are yellow, but blue is not so common in the wild, at least not around here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yesterday, I worked from 9:30AM to nearly 9:30PM checking my work for accuracy. When I finished (ring the bell, I'm dun dun dun dun!!!!), I went straight into thinking mode. I wondered why I worked so hard. My first thought was the tag along the right side called "asylum." Then I thought about drive and what makes a person driven. Without looking at any research on the topic, here's what I came up with. To be driven to meet a goal a person needs:

1. A specific goal - With nothing to work toward, your efforts are scattered versus focused.
2. Belief that you can meet this goal - I call this mental toughness. Marathoners say this is a huge part of their runs.
3. A realistic goal - If the goal is unreachable, it's not going to happen.
4. An important goal - The goal must be important to the person.
6. A deadline - This is what pushes a person toward a goal at a faster rate than they would normally move.

I still have questions. Why is this article so important to me? Why did I push myself to finish it all in one intense chunk of time? The editor didn't give me a deadline, I gave myself one.

To fuel my writing fire, I didn't spend much time on dinner. Chipotle Black Bean Burrito's were Mexican, healthy, veggie, fast and yummy. Perfect for busy people.

I noticed a paper of mine is now on Google Scholar where you find research papers. I don't know how long it's been out there, but I kind of liked the company it's keeping. That set me off wondering how it got out there. The publisher submits it.

The bunny is back again searching for a garden to flourish in. It has yet to find one. Maybe some day soon.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Time is ticking fast lately. Crit group suggestions are nearly complete. Then it's back to fact-checking. I hope I can get the article out the door by the end of the week.

I learned the name of my Chautauqua (is that the hardest darn word to say or what?) workshop mentor and I'm uber-delighted. The forty-five workshop descriptions that arrived via email were more detailed than those on the website and they included who the speaker was. For example, there was a workshop on e-books (by Harold Underdown) a workshop called "200 words or less" and another called work-for-hire. I got to pick 15, at times that was tough. Many of us on the Chautauqua discussion board plan to swap notes. So, I have to remember to write clearly and neatly (or I'll have to retype, ugh).

Squirrels are so common out here. This one is clinging to our oak tree out front. Earlier today, Walt took some awesome fast shutter speed images of the cat leaping. I'll post them another time. I have to read the owners manual to learn all its capabilities........but reading manuals is so bbbbbborinnnngzzzz.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Currently, I'm answering some questions for a blog interview. Hopefully, I can finish that up today. Some of the questions are unusual, but I think that will make it interesting to read when and if it gets posted.

I will probably set myself a deadline to finish this article because I want it out of the way before I skip off to a conference in July. Also, I've been running some tests by simply making observations of how things are valued. Yep.

This, BTW, is my first butterfly of the season, a swallowtail.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I spent the morning incorporating most of the changes that my critique group suggested. They are so helpful! Nobody was too thrilled to have their picture taken so I didn't take one. We also changed our meeting location from a park to a patio. Writing time is getting tougher to find as my social calendar heats up with the thermometer.

I love this purple and white Iris that originated from my mother's garden. Close up, this frilly flower reminds me of a preschool coffee filter project where water and deep purple paint blend and wet edges ripple.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I spent the whole morning fact checking an article and there's much more to do. Amazing all the piddly little things you find to clarify points and add precision. I also need to create a brochure and I need to do it soon.

Tomorrow, I'm getting together with my writing friends and we are taking it outside this time. YEAH! I'm bringing my camera so maybe, if my human subjects cooperate, I'll post a photograph next time. I also plan to post about the Chautauqua Writing Conference in July, but I'm not interrupting the experience by doing it real time. I will write about it after I return.

While I was examining the wilting remnants of invasive Oriental Bittersweet, this robin perched in the oak tree above my head. He looked so stately sitting there that I couldn't resist the photo opportunity.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I noticed this sharply critical blog post about a wolf article in Highlights magazine and since I also had an article about wolves published in Highlights several years ago, I felt a duty to respond to it. Either something went wrong when I tried to post or the poster chose not to publish my comment (maybe it was too long!). Therefore, I feel the need to get that information out another way, right here.

The blogger questioned the scientific accuracy of the article by asking for the names of the researchers. Although I can not speak for that writer and their research, I can write about the five articles that I've had accepted for publication by that magazine. They were all based on research papers and consultation with an expert. Not only that, all the editors at Highlights review every article so there is absolutely no way they would publish any nonfiction without it being based on fact. No way. No how. Not happening.

Anyhow, I explained that in my 800 word article the bibliography was two pages and I consulted four research papers, one from a study in Montana and three from a study in Banff National Park. Additionally, the finished article was reviewed by the expert.

In my article, wolves were scared out of the park by park rangers who used to shoot them. They returned to the Eastern and Western portions of the park, but not the central region. For fifteen years, scientists studied the ecosystem in all three areas. They counted elk by helicopter, they examined aspen and willow trees, they monitored songbirds and beavers. They also followed wolves on snowshoes and on cross-country skis to learn where they went and what they ate. In the central area of the park, where there were no wolves, elk populations had grown out of control. They wandered in the roads, gardens, and on soccer fields. They chewed through aspen and willow, killing some trees. Songbirds nest in the trees so there were less songbirds. Beavers used the willows to make their lodges so there were less beavers. The bottom line was that without wolves, the ecosystem was out of balance.

I then commented that he was lucky to have received such a long letter from a busy well-respected editor. Many writers yearn for such feedback.

If the blogger was truly interested in reading the research paper(s), he/she could easily type in some keywords on Google Scholar. Words like "wolf" or "wolves", location, and researcher last name should be enough to find the paper. I haven't read the article, but the controversy has certainly captivated me to want to.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thankfully, the internet technician finally arrived and was able to pinpoint the problem. He suggested we do a test to see if the problem was inside or outside the house:

He suggested we connect a long phone cord out the window or door from the computer directly to the jack-in-the-box (phone box) on the side of the house, thus bypassing the inside lines. Who knew there was a phone jack in that box? Anyhow, full signal outside. + awful signal inside = inside problem. To circumvent the problem, two jacks (out of three) are not being used. The computer is now humming along with great response times (HALLELUJAH!!!!), but the casualty is that I record interviews using the jack upstairs. I've lost that ability. Deep sigh. This problem needs to be addressed.

I sent ten pages to my critique group, so there was no room to include that fun little fiction piece. Next time. We meet early next week. I finished reading the book on writing which had some good advice on revising and made me feel right at home. Now, I'm reading two science books that make me think a shredder went off.

Today, the search website BING features the Montgolfier brothers and the first balloon ride. I thought I'd post my photograph from the National Air and Space Museum.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I was quite happy to get the mail yesterday. An article I wrote earlier this year placed in the 2011 Writer-editors Network International Writing Competition. It competed against poems, picture books, YA book chapters and other works of fiction and came in second. The article is unpublished and unpurchased. Granted, I'm about the only one that is delighted as I've read this kind of news is of little fanfare to agents, editors and publishing houses. For me, placing in a contest is something to strive for, a challenge to meet. I don't think I'm alone in my views. Last year, the PEN committee selected my chapter as a winner and so did this same contest.

I should finish my book on writing today. It has helped me clean up some superfluous wording. Yesterday, I removed four adjectives and today I revised the ending once more by rearranging and revising some sentences. One of the questions I want to ask my writer friends is if the organization should be changed. Currently it looks like a sandwich with scientist 1 being the bread: Scientist 1, scientist 2, scientist 3, scientist 1. I'm wondering if the stuff at the end should be put together so it would more like an open-faced sandwich: Scientist 1, 2, 3. I've got about a week before I get input. The scientist 1 stuff at the end is pretty exciting, so I'm thinking it might be a letdown to move it up.