Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The past few days have been filled with plenty of worrisome distracting things. Despite the hurricane's howling winds, I managed to chip away at some revisions to a chemistry article. The chips were about as big as 10X sugar, but that's besides the point. I posted a few photographs of the hurricane. We were lucky, we never lost power and there were only sticks and leaves all over the yard. Local damage was in the form of downed trees, power outages, roads blocked off, and traffic lights out. The eastern portion of CT got socked with major power outages and on the coast, a few houses slipped into the sea. EEK!

Also, I spent some time pointing out and trying to get to the route of my mother's increasing confusion. Some bozo prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. GET HER OFF OF THEM NOW! I think/hope they've got a handle on the problem now, but geesh, you REALLY have to watch in these rehab/nursing facilities.

I took another look at the large project that I'm itching to ditch. I did some minor tweaking, stuff like jacking up the font size by one increment and indenting one whole space on a few lines. I did find one word that needed to be replaced. That one word made it all worth my while. It was a place and it didn't match the place I listed in the rest of the material. Phew! Spared myself some embarrassment (wow, that's a first!).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Some times it's a challenge to get any work done as a writer. In the work for hire world you have five days to get your changes in. If you don't get them in on time, then you don't get more work. There was a time in my life that this may have worked for me, but not now. Take this week for example. There was an earthquake, a pulled lower back muscle, a vasovagal response, and a night in the emergency room. If that's not enough, two kids were dropped off at college and a hurricane is on its way. I can see the little note in my file, "forget this one!"

My big project is done and ready to ship out! I hope this one takes me places. A critically important email arrived last week and boy was I ever excited to get it!

There was a turkey convention in my backyard and I slept through it. Drat! The bottom photograph is Melanie's new roommate at college, a handsome fellow named Zach.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Last night, at 2:43AM, ideas came churning out. I was unable to find my small notebook, so I ended up going downstairs to write down this growing list. Forget about sleep after that.

The to-do list can be categorized as:
1) Chemistry Article
2) Presentation related
3) Other writing

It's pretty clear that this writing journey is taking me in a direction far different than most nonfiction writers. I like that. I think it's much harder to break into the field of narrative nonfiction and stay true to writing stories versus writing nonfiction not in a story format. After hearing about the work-for-hire scene, I came to the conclusion that from a financial standpoint, it seems to me that fiction rewards bestsellers or those with literary merit and nonfiction rewards speed. What's with that?

Here's a photograph of my niece on a hike at the Worcester Ecotarium. I think these fish were expecting some food, instead, on a very hot day, she dumped her water bottle in to give them a drink. How thoughtful. Needless to say, a little while later she mentioned she was thirsty.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I got my article back again for a second set of changes. Hopefully, I can come up with a better beginning. I am about 97% done with another large project I'm working on. I plan to ship it off on Labor Day with or without the pieces that will surely make it stronger. If I get all the pieces, it will be one small miracle.

Today, I volunteered to help at the NESCBWI conference next year. If it comes to fruition that would be great. A number of years ago, I volunteered, but was not needed. In 2010, I volunteered again, but oh what a year that was. A dump truck of really awful personal stuff unloaded as that conference was heating up. Like everything else, I have to keep on trying.

I came up with a great idea for another class for kids. I think (have to check on this) that it would be geared for middle school students.

We passed these bald eagles before entering the Worcester Ecotarium. Along the side of the cage, I was able to bypass double fencing and really get my camera lens between the chain links. Such a shame no one was there to stop me. Actually, the spot I was in was well worn so I wasn't the only one with that idea.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recently, I was reading an article in Discover magazine by esteemed NASW science writer Carl Zimmer. I was really drawn into the article by the gruesome action packed beginning. It got me thinking. I had an action packed beginning in my chemistry article, but the editor replaced it with a summary. I know the American Chemical Society does a lot of reader tests to get feedback. I'd really love them to test two versions of the article to see which captivates students more--the summarized start or the action packed start. Personally, I think a better place for a summary is in the extensive teacher's guide they produce with each issue.

In New York, I picked up another tidbit of information from a marketing class presented by Mary-Alice Moore of Boyds Mills Press who grew up in here in Connecticut. She mentioned that people spend too much time on blogs, reading and writing posts. I definitely think I do and I've made a conscious effort to cut back on my blogging and focus on writing and research. Instead of posting every other day, I'm cutting back to about twice a week.

It's been three weeks since my return from the workshop and I'm just now starting to feel like I can relax a bit. I still have pages of notes, hours of recordings and piles of books to pore over.

I could have watched the river otters at the Worcester Ecotarium all day long. They were so cute I couldn't stop snapping photographs. Here they look like they are kissing each other. Some day maybe I'll write about river otters and submit some of the better photographs I took.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I've been moving non-stop since my return from Chautauqua New York. The queue has been jam packed with things to keep me busy. Yesterday, I emailed a revised article, so that's out of the way. In Carolyn Yoder's session, From Research to the Printed Page, I learned that words taken from other sources usually cost money, so I asked about the excellent quotes I found in videos. I was told they are usually not allowed, so I removed them. That was disappointing. Next up, I'll be digging a fat envelope out of the cellar and dusting it off. I can't wait to get back to this one!

About a week ago, I took my niece to the Worcester Ecotarium for the day and took these photographs of a boa constrictor. The snake's dirty laundry is hanging in the bottom photograph.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Roger Tory Peterson Institute

One evening while at Chautauqua a bus whisked us away to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown New York where we had a barbeque (the salmon was yum). Roger Tory Peterson created the "Field Guide to Birds," first published in 1934. While we were at RTPI we had the option of taking an architectural tour of the building and/or a tour of the archives. Mark Baldwin of RTPI showed us one drawer of extinct birds and held up an Ivory Billed Woodpecker and a Passenger pigeon, both extinct. I couldn't help but think how exciting it would be to be let loose in those archives to open the drawers, examine the birds, turn them over in my hands and feel their tiny feet, but that was a no-no.

The photographs of bird artwork were Peterson's first and last illustrations. He died in 1996. The unfinished illustration left an impression on me. It was a stark reminder of how quickly and unexpected death can be. He was so passionate about his work that he was doing it until the day he died.

If you're interested in getting other writer's opinions of Chautauqua or RTPI, I've assembled a list of blog posts from friends I met there:

Marie Powell-Mendenhall - RTPI
Betsy Devany - how I landed in Oz
Kathy Mirkin - 10 reasons to attend
Gail Handler - The charm of Chautauqua

Here's a place to find information about Chautauqua 2011 alumni

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My final comments about Chautauqua have to do with the publishing marketplace. I heard from a nonfiction writer that nonfiction is not selling right now. I heard from picture book writers that picture books are not selling right now. I got the distinct impression that the publishing industry is partially paralyzed by the changes rippling through it from e-books. They are cautious and waiting, only taking on projects that they know will sell.

I've been revising a chemistry article that took some getting used to after the editor shuffled it like a deck of cards. After looking at it, I realized it's mostly my cards rearranged a bit. Actually, the edits aren't that extensive, so it's moving along.

Although this bee on a coneflower shot could have been taken anywhere, I took this macro shot at Chautauqua one day as I walked back to the hotel.