Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bat in Austin Texas
I found this great guest post for editors about getting organized.  The guest poster was Sue Burznyski Bullards, associate professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Granted, I'm nowhere near qualified to be an editor, but I could stand to improve my organization (have you seen the piles on my dining room table?).  Google Calendar is mentioned in the post.  I can't just take it for granted that it will work, I've got to test it first.  I set up a test event, creatively named "test" with a reminder scheduled to detonate in 14 minutes.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

I also received information about a FREE online class called Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Change Conversations which I signed up for.  It's a $935 class.  (Can she pass anything up, ever?)    The first quiz is May 27th and I signed up two minutes ago, so I guess I'd better get my buns moving on this stuff!!!

In Austin, we hung out beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge waiting for 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats to make their nightly appearance.  They were well hidden until dusk arrived.  As they poured out of their hiding places, the glint of light from a streetlamp made it look like a night of heavy snow.  Wow! 

Btw, my "test" worked!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

American white pelican at Padre Island National Seashore
Recently, I've been a bit dismayed, not with writing, but with the way the publishing industry works.  So, I've decided to redesign it.  I put my systems design background to use automating the handling of huge slush piles.  Here are some preliminary thoughts:

Many publishers open mail by hand and seal up the rejects in self-addressed stamped envelopes, then mail them back.  Others heave the unwanted contents.  All of this is time consuming, so why not have a computer weed out the inappropriate submissions?
great blue heron

1. In my redesigned publishing house, a submitter would go online to a publisher's website and complete a  pre-submission form.  Completion of this form assigns a name and number to the submission. 

When the ruddy turnstone spreads its wings, it's stunning.
2. The form is an overview of what the manuscript is about.  There would be fields for genre, age, subject, email address....

3. Each publisher would have the capability of creating and modifying a list of things they don't want to read because they are inappropriate for their house:
 a) don't publish that genre
 b) don't need books on a particular subject because they've got a contract on one
 c) don't publish books for a certain age
 d) don't publish that type of book (board book, early readers....)
The list could also include subjects they are seeking.

yellow warbler
4.  It's a simple matter for a computer to take the fields input and check them against what the publisher doesn't want.  An automated reply could be generated.  The reply could be simple such as "Please mail manuscript with this form" or "I'm sorry your manuscript doesn't fit our needs," or it could be more detailed, "We don't publish poetry....".

5. In lieu of postage, if publishers allowed emailed submissions, they could charge a nominal fee.  The fee could be waived for writers that had a track record of producing submissions that were worth considering.

* A computer is capable of more sophisticated searches, weeding through manuscripts.  For example, if a pre-submission form and first page were allowed, it could identify words that are too long for that age level....

I'm winding down on 3 things I've been working on, so I'm ready to dive into my waiting stack of projects.  

At Padre Island National Seashore, we went on a free 2.5-hour birding tour given by volunteers.  In a van they drove us to spots on both sides of the coast and to isolated ponds, some in areas not open to the public.  We found 34 different birds.  I learned a lot and loved it!



Monday, May 6, 2013

a graceful sinuous body
I vanished for a week to see Julia graduate from Air Force Basic Training in Texas.  I dropped out of social media and disconnected from everything except email.  Surprisingly, I didn't miss any of it.

This great blue heron let me get very close.
Now I wonder if the loss of a writing network kept me up at night tossing and turning, pondering over this writing journey that is a lot like Cheryl Strayed's quest to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with a Volkswagen beetle on her back.  I was restless and weary and tired of struggling.  I thought about taking a course at a college, something, anything, to move in a different direction.

Citgo oil refinery in Corpus Christi Texas
One morning during breakfast three feral cats stared at me through the glass as I scanned USA Today.  I read an article that ignited my dwindling desire for social media.  It was about how the Koch brothers were contemplating buying newspapers like the Hartford Courant--the same Koch brothers that had everyone convinced that tobacco posed no health risks and that climate change was from natural causes.  There was absolutely no way I was going to keep my subscription if it was produced by a group of conservative oil tycoons that made a habit of misinforming the general public.  The article fueled my interest in getting the facts out.

great blue heron on Corpus Christi beach
When I returned to spring in New England, I eased back into reading blog history, scrolling through Facebook posts, and prioritizing my writing goals.  In my own bed, I slept soundly. 
feet that looked like a music stand

I've made some minor changes to this blog under school visits and writing.  I stopped listing all articles that were accepted, paid for, but not yet published.  No one cares unless it's a published clip.  I have little hope that an article about bioacoustics being used to study golden lion tamarins will ever be published.  After being given 3 publication dates for an article on bioluminescence, I will believe it's published when the clip is in my hand.  Before leaving for Texas and after much debate, I signed up for the 21st Century Nonfiction Conference