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.