Wednesday, July 31, 2013

iPhone junkie unplugged... It's not pretty


Image
A month ago, I left my phone in D.C. It came home in this package.
I am an iPhone junkie.
Everyone around me knows it. I have never denied it. Earlier this summer, I left my iPhone 4 on my friend’s bookshelf in D.C. where it was charging. He mailed it to me, but since I left on a Thursday and the phone arrived on Monday afternoon, that meant five days without my phone. 
Monday, while cleaning the bathroom, my iPhone slipped from my pocket and went for a brief swim. As it fell, I reached out to catch it but it was too late. Submerged in water for about seven seconds, the time and my home screen flashed at me briefly before it powered down. I sealed it inside a plastic bag of whole grain brown rice. I'm told I can't touch it for a week. A week!
That was about 50 hours ago. I find it’s not the Facebook or the Instagram I miss as badly as the lack of information. When my husband mocked me for not knowing a 1980s cartoon monkey, there would be no YouTube search. No news makes it into my house. My favorite news sources’ tweets fall upon other ears. No texts from my father. No Facebook messages from work colleagues pushed to the forefront to let me know that extra shifts are mine for the claiming.
No impromptu photography of the ridiculous things my daughter does. No blogging of the meals we eat day-to-day for my recipe blog, www.angelfoodcooking.blogspot.com. My email is limited, as we don’t really have internet in the house. Those job listings I find via the Indeed app each morning... Those are far away. No pedometer to tell me how far I’ve walked or where I walked it.
It’s hard to check my bank balance, especially since I have several accounts at two different banks all of which are more or less empty. When I went to Target to buy my grandmother a new nightgown, I couldn’t use Cartwheel. Read a book? Listen to music? Nope, can’t do that, either. No maps. No easy access to my calendar, phone numbers or addresses. No GPS to tell me where I am. No apps to help me find the nearest bike path or public transports. I can’t even buy a train ticket. 
I’ve been told I can do things via my phone that some people haven’t mastered on their computers. I edited press releases via the Pages app, share them as Word docs and save them to Google Drive or simply email them. I keep PDFs of my resume, favorite samples, portfolio and recent newsletters that I can distribute with a touch of my finger. 
My Instagram followers and Facebook friends may think I’m dead. In a way, I am. I am using my circa 2009 Nokia flip-phone that I gave my husband after his phone went through the washing machine. The kind people who answered at my carrier’s customer service line have forwarded my calls to his line. But that leaves us one phone. For a family of three. And no landline. My daughter doesn’t even remember when we had a “house phone.” Answering machines are alien technology.
The ring tone of my ancient phone is Cake’s “No Phone.” The lyrics remind me, “No Phone. No Phone. I just want to be alone today.” I loaded it as a joke back-in-the-day when I was a newspaper reporter. In the days before iPhones, Twitter and Facebook.
But, hey, the old Nokia has a car charger.

This essay also appears on www.angelackerman.com

Monday, July 15, 2013

Official Web Site

Once again, I've neglected my writing blog for more than a month. I've been working on finding a job, and I've recently enlisted the help of a career coach. I'm slowly implementing her suggestions and some of my own. I decided to try and find as many of my professional samples that are lingering out there in cyberspace. With them found, I wanted an online portfolio. So, with the assistance of WordPress, I've launched www.angelackerman.com.  Day by day it will connect my various interests, all my blogs, all my talents and even my fiction and the occasional piece of poetry.

I hope you'll visit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Baby steps

Why is it that I can blog several times a day for my other blog yet completely neglect this one? UGGH.

I have a bunch of baby steps I need to take during the remainder of this summer. I have my new degree. I've had some exciting job interviews and lost some jobs to some superbly talented people. I suppose that puts me in some good company.

I opened an old project, which was an attempt at a ghost story/romance novel, and it spurred an interesting short story.

I'm on my neighbor's porch blogging, so I'm not making much attention to my editing or grammar. The kids are playing and the neighbors are chatting.

In addition to renewing my commitment to this blog, I'm continuing my job search. I'm hoping to do some communications work, maybe freelance and maybe volunteering, to help me determine what my long range career goals are. And take baby steps toward them.

Another option is the possibility of freelancing writing on some of the topics I enjoy.

Meanwhile, I've done some reading: Laurel K. Hamillton, Charlaine Harris and an academic piece from the early 2000s, Pox Americana by Elizabeth Fenn, I believe the name was. She has an academic background and employment history very scattered like mine. She spent eight years as an auto mechanic! And then she wrote this book.

I'll keep you posted.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Those little wow moments

I think I had a revelation this morning.

The last few months, heck maybe even the last year, have been full of excitement and challenges. These events leave me minimal time for anything. I've forgotten my hobbies. I have no idea how to do anything fun. I also have lost the art of deeper introspection.

Now that I have graduated, I still have excitement and changes, but my daughter is home from school for summer vacation so this forces me to slow down and do the housework I've neglected for eons. This also gives me time to think.

Today's nugget:
My husband and I have discussed for about 9 months now the possibility of me returning to full-time professional work. The ends haven't met in a long time, and the finances have reached the point now where the car payment comes out of the grocery budget every month. Or, shall I say, the car payment consumes the whole grocery budget. Earning this new degree was to facilitate potential career change and give me a chance to recover from life as it used to be.

That's simply put.

My daughter is older now. She was four when I returned to school. I needed a flexible work schedule when she was home, in half-day kindergarten and in the early days of her academic career.

I spent four years as a college student, while serving on boards and working part-time. I thought, when my daughter was young, that I would use that time to promote my writing to publishers, editors and agents. But I didn't. I did earn a bachelor's degree. Why did I spend so much time on a bachelor's degree? If I spent the same amount of effort on promoting myself, I probably would have built some sort of fledgling career by now.

Do I not want it? And the answer is...

I don't know. My behavior suggests that I have no interest in a career as a creative writer. I think that's because I don't like the uncertainty. I have spent too much time being poor. I don't like the life of a freelancer, especially tracking everything for my taxes. I don't like not knowing how much money will come in or when it will arrive.

Writing has always given me solace and comfort. Maybe by trying to sell it, I'm sacrificing the element of my writing that provided me with escape and comfort and replacing it with the stress of using something I love with so very much of my soul as the means of my survival. That's ALWAYS why I resist the life of being a writer first.

Part of me also needs to be more than a writer. What makes writing so fun and interesting to me is that I can use what I learn and share it with other people. I can learn about haute couture or dance moves or even political circumstances and pull other people into that universe.

I want a master's degree some day and I know I could get into several MFA programs without an issue, but I resist. Instead I dream of a master's in international journalism, or international development, or foreign service... But then when I contemplate my Ph.D. I dream of history and Johns Hopkins because of my interest in post colonial Algeria-France relations.

And the MFA is on the list. It's just not the top of the list. Weird for a writer, isn't it?

Right now, I want to feed the family. I want to grow as a person. I want to do good. I want to help make a better world.

Fiction will remain my stress relief.

I need to see what I can do in this world, before I can help my fictional people make their mark.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Change is hard

Let's face it. Change is hard. I have challenged myself to write more, blog more, and eat better and I'm pretty hit or miss on all of them. Two weeks ago I had my thesis defense. It went well. Despite a rapid start. The nerves kicked in and I covered the first half of the presentation really quickly. The final is handed in to the appropriate people. I hope the paperwork is, too.

I've been working a lot of hours at Target, fulfilling my volunteer commitments and making no headway in finding a job or cleaning the house.

Then I got an email that an NGO in Washington DC wanted to interview me for a communications director position. And less than 48 hours after that interview, they requested a second one. That one is scheduled for the 28th. Road trip!

I am exhausted from everything I have had going on. Graduation is a week away. My birthday is Monday. Now a road trip?

I'm excited and trembling, so coupling this with the exhaustion makes me want to flop in bed and twitch.

Truth be told, I'm TERRIFIED of getting a job almost as much as I am terrified to continue in my current lifestyle. Getting a job means returning to a 40-hour work week. Returning to my status of primary wage earner. Sacrificing my freedom. Work stress. Suits. Potentially moving. But there... there is a BIG word...

Moving.

This could move me forward and I don't mean leaving this house for another one. I have loved these last few years. But my daughter is getting bigger and doesn't need me as much anymore. Not as much as I need her. So, I have earned this new degree and now it's time to build the me that goes with it. But holy cow!

Rebuilding me?!?!?

This is hard stuff.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Defense of my undergraduate thesis tomorrow



My goal has been to practice my honors thesis presentation once a day for the last week. I have not hit that mark. I have missed two days. Today I'm supposed to practice it twice, since tomorrow is *the big day.* I practiced it one and a half times and recorded it via Keynote and exported it as a QuickTime iPod movie.

I also exported it as a small web movie, but the file size ended up being 500 MB vs. the 25 MB of this one. 

I only listened to the first eight minutes or so before I got distracted by the idea of how could I upload this to friends far away. It's about 32 minutes long, which means if I STICK TO WHAT'S ON THE ACTUAL SLIDE versus going off script at will, I should nail the intended time frame.

My adviser has asked for 20-30 minutes. I have broken it down into five minutes on each of my chapters, plus a few minutes to explain the introduction and the nature of the project.






video

Monday, April 1, 2013

It gleams

The third in a challenge to post the first draft of my writing... blog entries on everyday items.

IT GLEAMS

My house is a cluttered disaster. With a child, a husband, three cats and a tortoise, it seems like it's impossible to keep stuff in its place. Last week, I spent two hours scrubbing our small downstairs bathroom. (And I only vacuumed the floor, didn't wash it.)

Today I thought I'd clean our main bathroom. My daughter is home from school so I encouraged her to help. She did the toilet and the sink. I did the tub and the tile. Neither was a small task. I rarely use chemicals to clean, relying instead on high percentage isopropyl alcohol, baking soda, and white vinegar. Child got some rags and headed to work on the toilet, while I embarked on my annual adventure with soap scum remover. My grout had some moldy spots, those little dark green, almost black polka dots between the 1950s pink tile.

My daughter wielded the toilet bowl brush like her trusty sword and plunged the bristles into the water and the baking soda. Then she poured the white vinegar in, giggling at the sizzle and foam. Meanwhile I stood on the side of the tub, surrounded by the bright pink light reflecting off my tile.

Last spring our shower wall failed and we took all these tiles outside, scraped them clean, dried them in the sun and reinstalled them. I think of this every time I am faced with these tiles in such a one-on-one manner.

Once we cleaned these key elements of the bathroom, they had that sparkly look. We put the stray objects away, remnants of how we passed our winter: NyQuil, anti-fungal cream from child's bout with ringworm, extra toothbrushes from the last dental visit and that random tube of lipstick that I'm not even sure who owns it.

Now, I really hate the idea of taking my shower. It'll get the bathroom dirty!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Homage to Erma B

This is the second entry in a blogging challenge where I have decided to write blog entries about the everyday, posting first drafts of my writing for all to see...

HOMAGE TO ERMA B

My mother-in-law thinks I have the potential to be the Erma Bombeck of my age. Comedy does seem to run rampant in my life, like the recent incident where I was asked to pick a roommate for an upcoming conference and given a list of men from whom to chose. Now I realize "Angel" can be a tad ambiguous, but "Renee" is more straightforward... As a newspaper reporter, my potential gender might have been an asset. My "Angel R. Ackerman" byline could have been a man or a woman.

In real life, the situations that arise due to this can be very inconvenient. I once had a medical claim for a gynecological exam rejected by my medical insurance carrier because they insisted I was male. I think, or at least I hope, my doctor would have noticed that during the exam.

I also have pets: an escaping tortoise and three cats, one of which is a 17-pound cat that's afraid of his shadow and another grouchy 13-year-old cat that last week decided to poop on the middle of the bathroom scale.

Since having a daughter, the opportunity for humor has multiplied exponentially. She was 8.5 ounces at birth but grew very slowly throughout her preschool years. She grew steadily, and on a curve that pleased our doctor. She ate like a horse. Despite this, she didn't hit those average weight charts until she turned four. Suddenly, at age 4, she reached average!

At age six, she got a fat letter from the school. It wasn't a full fat letter, it just said my daughter had an increased risk of becoming overweight later in life and that I had to show this letter to the pediatrician. Now my pediatrician is old school. He laughed when I showed him this letter. The nurse took my daughter to the scale and checked her. Apparently, she had grown two inches since the school weighed her. And the weight-- it was exactly the same. So she had gained weight in preparation for a growth spurt, which had increased her BMI.

She was not fat or even at risk of being overweight.

And if you think that's bad, you should hear what happened with the dog bite two weeks ago. But that's another story for another day because it's Easter and my family expects me downstairs any minute...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Challenge of the Ordinary

I'm still working on my honors thesis, getting ready to present at NCUR in a few weeks. Gulp. I'm occasionally working on my werewolf coming-of-age story as a stress relief. I just finished another GLVWG newsletter and I'm still applying for jobs.

Since the winter is slowly transforming into spring, many of my writer friends have found success with their New Year's goals. Fellow GLVWGer Linda Frindt has met her goal of blogging everyday, despite many personal challenges.

So, it makes me feel like a slacker. Even though I have everything in paragraph one going on, plus work, and family.

But I need to spend more time exercising my writer brain, if only as a way to sharpen the senses.

Now, with Easter coming, and my conference, I probably won't meet a goal of posting everyday. I have met my personal challenge of renewing my journaling habit.

I extend this as a next step: post a blog entry everyday, short, but developed, on something ordinary. Bring to it my writer's eye.

Today it's a toss up. My morning tea or my car.

Here's some words on my car, totally off the cuff and unedited. First draft.

BEAUTY THE NISSAN

A few months before my husband and I got married we bought our first new car, a 2000 Saturn SL2. The SL1 didn't have enough pep. The Pontiac Sunfire we drove had red dashboard lights that my husband said looked like staring into the fires of Hell. I don't remember what else we looked at, but the choice clearly came to the Saturn.

It had no fancy features. The SL1 we looked at had every special doo-dad. The SL2 didn't even have power windows. They had similar price tags. We took the SL2 for the bigger engine. $14,500 in August 1999.

We used that car to move (twice). We drove to Boston, to Niagara Falls, to Virginia, to North Carolina. We brought home our baby in that car. We piled our bikes into/onto that car and went for rides.

It blew a head gasket last August. Two weeks shy of having it 13 years. I'd been spending about $2,000 a year on car repairs for several years and had already spent my annual car repair budget when it happened. My husband and I discussed it and there was no way we were spending ANOTHER two thousand on an old car.

We started shopping for a new car, but we only had a day to make up our mind. And we saw the price tags on the new cars, close to 30K for a car we thought was comparable to our Saturn. We knew we couldn't spend that. We went to the used car section. At our budget, the salesman was showing us two-year old Hyundais. I had never been so disappointed.

Then, I saw her. She glistened in the sun, a beautiful dark red (my favorite color). A 2005 Nissan Altima with 24,000 miles. She had leather seats, a sun roof, even a six CD-changer. Using our monthly grocery budget as a guide of what we could afford, we bought her. We charged the $1,000 down payment, knowing my mother-in-law was giving us our Christmas present early.

My daughter named her Beauty. She had named the Saturn "Herbie." Yes, like the Love Bug. Even Herbie has a happy ending. My dad had him fixed and we sold him, making a $800 profit once we reimbursed my dad for repairs.

Beauty is fun to drive, but tomorrow we find out how fun. Even though we've owned her for almost six months, tomorrow she takes her first road trip.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What I'm reading

I like history, and while I don't identify as a hardcore feminist scholar, I do identify as a feminist. I am also very interested in fashion. A couple years ago, my husband bought me a book at the Mary Meuser Memorial Library book fair, Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Feminism and Fashion by Linda M. Scott. I never got that far into it because it's a heavy book and school work interfered. I picked it up again yesterday.

Every time I pick it up, I am captivated. I didn't have much time yesterday to read, but I managed to finish 50 pages. It's a well-written, well-supported book and my lack of completing it is not the fault of the author.

I've also found several points in here I could add to my honor's thesis. The whole point of reading this book was that it had nothing to do with my honor's thesis.

FROM GOOGLE BOOKS:
"Linda M. Scott wants to put an end to the belief that American women have to wear a colorless, shapeless uniform to achieve liberation and equality.

A pointed attack on feminism's requisite style of dress, Fresh Lipstick argues that wearing high heels and using hair curlers does not deny you the right to seek advancement, empowerment, and equality. Scott asserts that judging someone on her fashion choices is as detrimental to advancement as judgments based on race, nationality, or social class. Fashion is an important mode of personal expression, not an indication of submission. She demonstrates that feminism's dogged reduction of fashion to sexual objectification has been motivated by a desire to control other women, not free them. This push for power has produced endless conflict from the movement's earliest days, hindering advances in women's rights by promoting exclusion. It is time for the "plain Jane" dress code of the revolution to be lifted, allowing all women to lead, even those wearing makeup and Manolos.

Marching through 150 years of American dress history, Scott rips down feminism's favorite positions on fashion-from the power of images to the purpose of makeup. The illustrative examples-from flappers to Twiggy to body-piercing-are often poignant, occasionally infuriating, but always illuminating and thought-provoking.

With Fresh Lipstick, Linda Scott gives women the ammunition to settle the fashion debate once and for all. She challenges feminists to move beyond appearances and to return their focus to the true mission of the movement: equality for all women everywhere."
http://books.google.com/books/about/Fresh_Lipstick.html?id=5pCy8-EitMgC

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A different kind of rejection

As I writer, I have grown accustomed to rejection. The form letters that encourage me to seek a different publisher or a different kind of agent or even the personal, in depth criticism that fosters the heartbreak of a near miss...

But recently, I have been reintroduced to the art of job hunting. In the internet age, job application rejection seems to be a new era of boilerplate rejections that don't even make sense. They offer kind words about my qualifications, yet don't even mention my name. How can you know pretend to remember what I have to offer when you don't even use my name?

I apologize to any firm that recognizes their letters, or their approach, represented here. I have posted these letters, after removing any identifying factors and replacing them with xxxxx. I find this interesting as an editor and a wordsmith.

THE GOOD REJECTION.
Let's face it. I know I won't get a call from many of these organizations. It's not humanly possible. This one handles the combination of anonymity and bad news very well. I like this one. I would write a letter like this if I were hiring. Good job to their writers/HR people... It even uses my name!!!

"Dear Angel, 

Thank you for applying for the XXXXX position with XXXX. We appreciate your interest in our organization. I wanted to let you know that we selected someone else for this position.

Should you be interested in getting involved with XXXX in a different capacity, do not hesitate to contact us in the future.

Best of luck with your future endeavors."
Very nicely done. This one on the other hand...

"I am writing in connection with your recent application to the AD for Communications role. You have an impressive background, and we are pleased that you have thought of XXXX in connection with your job search. We have completed the process and are not able to offer you a job at this time.
We do want to thank you, however, for your interest in XXXX and wish you the best with respect to your future endeavors."
The first sentence has several issues. No name included anywhere, not even an indication who "I" is...

 My next example has many merits. It uses my full name and comes from a person.

"Dear Angel Ackerman,

Thank you for your interest in employment at XXXXXXX. While your background and experiences are noteworthy, we have decided to move ahead with other candidates whose qualifications more closely fit the department's needs.

You can continue your job search by visiting our website
for information on other vacant positions at XXXX.

Best wishes in your search for a job that offers you challenges and rewards.

Thanks,"
But I am uncomfortable with the discussion of my noteworthy experiences and the suggestion that my qualifications don't fit. My qualifications fit very nicely for this position. I have four years experience doing exactly this job. Each job only has one person that can fill it, and in the end, there are many factors and some are as simple as presentation.

It's very interesting to me as an editor to see the word choice that companies use in these letters. I guess that's the fun of rejection.

So, keep sending those rejections!

And I'll keep looking for those challenges and rewards.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Portrait

I am a word person. Art is difficult for me, yet I am drawn to it. (As in magnetism, pun not intended.) Every once in a great while, I try to draw something and I don't have much training, just the advice of my husband and one drawing/painting class in college.

I like to exercise the other half of my brain. Today I drew my werewolf, Jules. Though he's not a werewolf in the picture. Maybe that will be next.

Sometimes, when the creativity reaches a certain place, it's good to indulge in something outside our natural talents. It's flexing different muscles and leads to inspiration.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Philosophical Approach

The last few years have had their challenges. Bad work situations, anemia, a changing newspaper industry where I saw my career ending right before my eyes, a child with chronic ear infections and let's not forget breaking my teeth...

But such is life. Some people avoid these tribulations. Some people never have to worry about money a day in their life. But these people have their own challenges.

I walked away from professional employment almost three years ago. I needed to find out who I was, where I was, and I had to appreciate my little girl before she grew up. I went back to school, took a part-time job at Target, and traded the financial security of being a dual income family for the chance to be a part of my family.

I've lost friends. I've made friends. I've gained mentors. I've found souls that inspire me.

I'm slowly learning to let go of this first world stress and to revel in the moment. I still have goals and places I desire to go, but if I never get the chance to do them, am I a failure? No. As long as I make steady progress and really see my life as I want it to be, I am no one's victim. I want no regrets. I'm not focusing on my happiness as something that comes as a reward for what I've done.

Happiness can only be how I frame this moment.

Right here.

Yeah, the moment I'm wasting on the Internet talking to everyone and no one at the same time.

There's a ton of old proverbs, Bible verses and adages that address this. The past is gone. The future will never come. I even had one of them read at my wedding. The verses from Matthew that say something like this: Don't worry about the future. See the lilies of the field. They don't worry, yet God dresses them beautifully. 

Evaluate your life. This week I applied for jobs (yes, professional ones), put out some freelance proposals, examined my volunteer commitments, handed in the first massive draft of my honors thesis, and took some naps.

And you know what?

I will never be defined by my jobs, or my mistakes, or even the things I do each day. I will be remembered for how I touch people. That might be by giving a kid a special straw at Target. That might be because of some fiction piece or some article I wrote. That might be walking some child home from school. That might be teaching the neighborhood kids to garden.

Okay, well...
I have some errands to run. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The windings down of January

This blog, for some reason, has always tormented me. I'm a writer, and a prolific one at that, but for some reason it's easier for me to write 50,000 words on Algerian-French relations that write 200 words potentially every other day for this forum.

My return to journaling has been a success. I have managed to write in that every day, every once in a while twice a day. Does it make sense that sometimes I need a sense of connection and reflection in my own life? I think that the technological advances and the speed with which everything changes and is communicated to use might be more detrimental than helpful. Our lives keep speeding up, and I don't want to barrel forward like a speed train. I need more stillness.

January started on very uplifting notes. I won an attendance contest at work and got a $250 Target gift card. My grades came in higher than I expected. I had a really awesome job interview with a nonprofit that supports work I really could support.

But the last week or so seems very bogged down in real world worries, the kind of stuff you can't control. I know I should be thankful that our credit with our fuel oil supplier has covered two fuel drops so far this winter, but instead I worry about how I'm going to pay for the next one. Okay, so maybe not really, but that's the logic my mind follows.

This was back-to-school week for Lafayette College. This also seemed bittersweet because it's my last semester. I don't have classes, only my honors thesis. So I registered for NCUR and looked at the other accepted abstracts from my school. There's someone else doing a presentation on the veil and France. My adviser is trying to facilitate a meeting between the two of us.

I printed out a draft of my honors thesis yesterday and am working on a line by line hand edit. I hope to hand something in to my adviser Tuesday.

I also attended a workshop via the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group on POD with CreateSpace. I'm tempted to publish a werewolf novella as a test. I certainly know the people who could make sure we develop a quality product. I've been against various forms of self-publishing for many years. The two main reasons are that many authors publishing their work independently don't have the skills to create a quality product and the idea that independent publishing can imply that an author does not work well with others.

I have a background in newspapers and some experience in desktop publishing. I went to the workshop interested in the technology. While I sat there I realized two things:

1. I have not done anything with my work for almost two years. No querying, so serious research. I've done some writing and some editing but none with a goal in sight. I've been busy with school and life, but I've also been watching the trends of the publishing industry to understand where I might best succeed. Or perhaps fit.

2. I have a distinct vision of how I want my books to look. I know the artists and graphic designers and even editors that I would love to have working with me.

So, if I'm not doing anything anyway, why not try a POD project?
And if I know what I want it to look like, any other publisher won't allow me that control.

Worth pondering.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

NCUR: Accepted!

I'm pleased to announce that the National Conference for Undergraduate Research accepted my abstract and extended an invitation for me to present at NCUR 2013 at the University of La Crosse in Wisconsin, April 11-13.

An excerpt from the official notice:
"Congratulations! We are happy to announce that your abstract submission, "CIVILIZING MUSLIMS: HOW THE FRENCH PERPETUATE ALGERIAN COLONIALISM IN THEIR FIGHT AGAINST THE VEIL," was approved for presentation for NCUR 2013 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Chosen from more than 3,500 submissions, your abstract demonstrates a unique contribution to your field of study and we are pleased to offer you the opportunity to present your work to your peers, faculty, and staff from around the world."

My friends immediately rallied behind my announcement on Facebook, thumbs up from everyone and messages of support from the academics in my circle. I also announced it to my writers group, Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG). They also sent kind messages of support.

My adviser, who is enjoying her winter break in Berlin, sent a message via email:
"Many congratulations! This is awesome and a real accomplishment!!
Talk to you soon."

Her words lead me to question the value of "real" versus other accomplishments... because this isn't a Nobel prize, it's an undergraduate research conference.

When I first heard the news, my head exploded into a stress headache. This honors thesis is something I've done for fun, for me, and for the privilege of working with an adviser I really respect. Now I really have to share it. And part of me worries... No one has really read it yet and what if it's a giant report and not really a research project of significant originality?

I suppose these are the risks we have to take... But so far, 2013 has brought some great opportunities and news.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Journaling again

Among other goals, I told myself I was going to journal more this year. Open my journal once a day and record something... a high, a low, wax philosophical. And so far it has worked.

When I was younger, I always had my journal open. I carried it everywhere.

Sometimes the entries are for myself. Sometimes they are therapy. Sometimes I intend them as wisdom that I wish to share. Sometimes they are merely lists of facts.  People I saw. Things I read. What I do day-to-day.

With technology changing and electronic formats taking over so much of publishing and media, what will happen to the old-fashioned notebook? Will handwriting be a marker of the ancient past?

Before the invention of recording technology, letters and journals preserved so much of everyone's lives and relationships and I feel like our conversion to electronic communication may make hand-recorded records valuable once again.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Honors update

Somehow, as I transition into what my new routine of normal might be for 2013, I have managed in three days to edit 42 pages of my undergraduate honors thesis. It's been more fun and more thought provoking than I thought it would be.

This project has moved in directions I never thought it would, including an invitation from my College to present at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR). What began as an invitation from my faculty adviser in the wake of Hurricane Sandy received a pledge of financial support from the Dean's Office so if I get accepted by the NCUR folks, I may be presenting this piece in Wisconsin in April.

While that is pretty exciting, it's also intimidating. It's transformed something personal and fun into something that will see broader audiences. In a way, I lament that change.

I won't hear from the NCUR people for another two weeks, but it's certainly transformed how I look at my own work. The difference between what we do for ourselves versus what we do for presentation to others... Psychologists might say I know my material and getting out there to share it will only enhance my performance.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hey, It's January!

I neglect this blog terribly. Maybe that will change now that my only academic obligation is my honors thesis. Maybe not.

I'm working on a coming-of-age werewolf story where a teenage boy defeats the school bully. It's a short story, but the main character, Jules Zweigenbaum, grows up to be a player in some of my other novels. Plus, I've already gathered enough info on his past to give him his own novel. As it is, he makes his debut in Courting Apparitions. Although I do mention him briefly in Manipulations...

I recently completed another review for Hippocampus Magazine. This one explores Anthony Shadid's memoir, House of Stone. Rooted in Lebanon. Very cool.

I also have 150 pages on my honors thesis done.

And I have finished four newsletters for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers group.

So my writer/editor muscles have flexed.