Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Virtual Members' Nights (and Day)

One of the many family traditions we weren't able to perform this year was visiting the Field Museum for Member's Night. This event is normally held in May over two nights (usually Thursday and Friday) and allows members to see some of the research being done at the museum and learn how new exhibits are designed. Fortunately, the Field Museum came up with a new way to participate this year: virtually over Zoom. They set up three sessions last week, each with several short presentations on different topics. I attended all of them, though I didn't watch every presentation. (My husband had to work during the presentations. I did share the Zoom link with my son, though I don't know if he watched any of the sessions on his own.) Here are a few of the presentation topics:

Totem poles (cleaning and imaging)

Hats and headgear (ancient hats mostly from Asia)

Green River fossils (see below)

Gems (Victorian household items made from gems; we got to guess what they were used for)

Artifacts from Kish, one of the oldest urban areas


Fossil prep (we got to see two of staff members actually doing this at their homes)

Fish specimens (we saw some of those at Dozing with the Dinos in March)

Dinosaurs (of course!)--the oversize collection

Some of the presentations I didn't get to see involved birds, moccasins, and mummies. There were a couple of presentations from Thursday night that aren't coming to mind at the moment.

The presentation I enjoyed the most was the Green River fossil presentation, which focused on ancient bird fossils. They showed a very nice fossil of a 155-million-year-old bird with impressions of feathers visible. Dr. O'Connor, Associate Curator of Reptile Fossils, explained that contrary to what you might expect, they found evidence of soft tissue preservation in these fossils. By demineralizing and staining a sample from another ancient bird fossil, they were able to find evidence of ovarian tissue in the fossil. Most birds have only one ovary (probably an adaption for flight), so this work showed that the ovary reduction happened very early in bird evolution. I thought that was fascinating work that could change how other fossils are studied, which would allow us to learn more about prehistoric life.

We did visit the Field Museum when they reopened in July, but unfortunately, the Chicago museums had to close down again last week. It was good to reconnect with The Field again, even if it was just virtually. Hopefully next year the whole family can attend a Members' Night in person. In the meantime, please support your local museum(s)!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Pushcart Prize Nomination


I'm thrilled to announce that World Weaver Press has nominated my short story, "A Shawl for Janice," for the Pushcart Prize. "A Shawl for Janice" was published in Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters in January. (Anyone still remember January 2020? It seems so long ago....) The Pushcart Prize honors writers of poetry, short stories, and essays. Each small press can nominate up to six entries per year. I'm honored that World Weaver Press not only chose to publish my short story in their anthology but decided it was among the best stories they published this year. You can see the announcement on their blog here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Drafts and Layers

 I thought it would be an interesting to discuss how authors might work on different parts of their story in different drafts. When I start a first draft, I generally have a sense of where I want to start and end and maybe a few bits in the middle. I still tend to discover most of my scenes and plot points as I write. (I guess no matter how much I try, I'll never be a full-on plotter.) In my first drafts, I tend to focus on story and dialogue. Description may be scant in the first draft. Since I'm a pantser, my second drafts often require a lot of work. I may change the scenes I initially wrote if I come up with something better. Often, details about the characters may change as well. I'm trying to be more mindful about the emotional aspect of my stories, both in developing character emotions and reader responses. Sometimes my work needs additional drafts before I feel it's solid. Then at that point I can focus on improving my sentences and word choices. The final pass is dedicated to removing typos and fiddling with the story until I get tired of it.

I think I write the way I do because it's easier for me to work on certain aspects of the story than others. I tend to be sparse in my descriptions because I feel more uncertain about them (in that I may make a mistake). I feel more confident about my dialogue, however, and it flows more easily for me. Hopefully as I keep writing and improving I can juggle more story elements in the first draft. I'm certainly more aware of them than I was as a beginning writer.

Do you feel that your first drafts focus more on certain story elements and others require more development? What are your story element strengths and weaknesses? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


Wednesday, November 04, 2020

IWSG: Why I Write

We made it to November 2020, everyone. By the time this post goes live, the election will be over, though we may not know yet who the next president will be or what Congress and the Senate will look like. I expect the coming winter to be tough, but hopefully next year we'll have a vaccine for Covid-19 and will be able to start rebuilding. In the meantime, best of luck to everyone participating in National Novel Writing Month! I have one novel to edit and three other projects to write, so I'm not starting anything new this month (I hope). Speaking of writing, let's talk about the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Here are links to their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. Our hosts this month are Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G. Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria

Here's our question for this month: Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write? 

I write for lots of reasons. I write to create the types of stories I want to read. I write to explore ideas and work out their implications. I write to make a mark on the world and hopefully nudge it in a better direction. I write to connect to other people. Yes, I would also like to supplement my income with my writing and gain recognition, but I think I would write even if no one else ever read another word I wrote. I write to give myself a sense of purpose and to escape the problems and monotony of everyday life. Writing has helped me cope with the crises of 2020, and I hope my stories have helped other people take their minds off their problems and find some enjoyment.

If you write solely for fame and fortune, you'll most likely be disappointed. You have to commit to writing for personal reasons. No matter how frustrating writing can be at times, I find it sustaining. 

Anyway, enough blogging about writing and back to actual writing/revising. If you'd like to share your reasons for writing, feel free to do so in the comments.


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