Christmas Greetings

It’s that time of year – even the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Being as it’s Christmas Eve Eve, I’m just stopping by to say Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to friends, family, loved ones, the blogosphere, the internet, and the world in general.  I’ll be spending the next couple days deeply imbedded with the family, enjoying all this holiday has to offer and celebrating B.T.’s first ever Christmas with copious photographs to be used as blackmail and/or insurance at a later date.

I’ll not be back online at least until after the aforementioned merry day.  Chances are 50/50 that I’ll be back some time during the week next week with a word or two here or there. 

So, to you and yours, Good tidings we bring, to you and your kin

Author’s Note: Oops… my bad.  This was supposed to post on the 23rd… Oh well, happy day-after-Christmas everybody.

Tidbits of Inspiration: Ghost Cities

Today, another edition of “Tidbits of Inspiration”… this one is something eerie and a little frightening, in a way.

I invite you to visit… the Ghost Cities of China.

China’s an odd place, by all news accounts (full disclosure: I have never been to China).  But this is an oddity to top them all.  For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, they keep building these cities.  And despite being a country of 1 Billion+ people, yet nobody lives in these undoubtedly creepy, spooky abandoned cities deep in the heart of the country.

What strange, speculative tales could such an unusual fact inspire?  What haunting tales could these images spawn?

A Small World, Betimes…

Sometimes, you learn something that reminds you that the world is indeed small.

In the aforementioned class on Networks, this week, we reviewed the idea behind “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” – and one of the readings suggested that we all know, or are fairly closely connected to, someone who knows everyone – or near enough to everyone that through that person we are in effect connected within an average of six degrees to pretty much anybody and everybody.  Our proximity to such a person is part of what connects us more closely to everyone else (and such persons are apparently closely connected to other such persons, extending this network more fluidly).  I don’t know that I buy the Gladwell article, but if there’s any truth to it, that’s one major flaw in my network: I don’t know anybody who knows everybody.  Which means I may have trouble reaching the people I need to reach.

But even so, sometimes amazing links do pop up.  For the past month-and-a-half, on Tuesdays and sometimes on Thursdays, I’ve been serving in a Grand Jury.  Last week, while chit-chatting over lunch with a few fellow Jurors, I happened to mention that I’m a writer and an aspirational professional author.  This was in response to one of the jurors indicating that her day job, when I asked, was as a text-book writer (she writes books on speaking English for ESL students in grad school, and she has training in linguistics and speech pathology).  When I remarked that I, too, was a writer – of fiction, of course, not of text-books – she asked, “Do you know about Nanowrimo?”

Well, of course I know about Nanowrimo.

“My daughter,” my fellow juror explained, “She’s the director of Nanowrimo.”

Oh.  Wow.  Now that’s interesting.  Suddenly I felt embarrassed that I’ve never participated in Nano, that I’ve always been too busy.  Silly, of course.  But a funny discovery, nonetheless.

My fellow juror went on to tell a short story about her daughter – a few sentances, I won’t recount them here – and we talked about writing.  My co-juror used to write fiction, she said, but she could never get published, try and try though she might.  Then, once, whe wrote a text-book, and without hardly trying she was published, and she’s been writing textbooks ever since.

I’ve been impressed with the clear intellect and awareness of this and the other co-juror involved in this conversation.  They seem like smart people, people worth knowing.  I hope I’ll be able to stay in contact with them, from time-to-time, after this jury term ends in a couple weeks.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to  have folks like that in my network…

Writers and Authors

An interesting perspective on the difference between writers and authors today from Jason Sanford.  His view in a nutshell: an author is what happens when a writer engages with readers and grows from that experience.  The short-short version: writers write; authors are writers with readers.

I must admit, I’ve often used the two words interchangeably.  At the same time, however, I’ve also often treated the word “author” as though it is something higher and nobler than just a writer.  I’m a writer, and I’ve no qualms at calling myself such.  But I also classify myself as an aspiring author.  As if, somehow, I know that though I am a writer, I’m not yet an author.  I think, maybe Jason’s perspective has some merit.  At the very least, it seems to resonate with how I’ve used the words in the past.

At the same time, however… this perspective does not suggest that I’ve crossed the threshold between writer and author when I get published, and paid for my work.  Instead, it suggests I’ve crossed the threshold when I engage my writing with readers, when I experience feedback and react to feedback by learning and growing and improving my craft.  One can argue that this threshold could be crossed either before or after getting professionally published.

But by that perspective, am I then already an author, and not an aspiring author at all?

Words to think on, perhaps.

Every Ending is a Beginning

Yesterday was the last day of the Fall semester for me, the day when my final project and exam were handed in.  Yeah, so you’d think with a title like that I’d be talking about writing stories.

But no, the punchline is that today was the first day of a new mini-semester we call an “ACE” class.  These are little one-class-at-a-time deals that occur in the month-long period between semesters where we go for three weeks, two normal class-days a week plus Saturdays.  The topic of this class is one where I am sorely in need of improvement (the course has “networks” in the title, and it’s not a computer science course, if you know what I mean).

So, what did I do with a whole evening’s break?  Why, go with Dear Wife and some other family members to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert, of course.  It’s the Christmas season, so it’s the time of year when you break out that kind of music.  But I’d been so sleep-deprived from some extremely late nights this past week that we ended up not staying for the whole thing; the better to beat the crowd out and get home so I could crash (and Dear Wife was tired, too).  Last night was the first full night of sleep I’ve had in a while.

And now, I’m back in the saddle.

The good news?  I can really and true just make out the light at the end of the tunnel.  Five months.  Just five months.  At the same time… I can’t help but recall it was a year ago when I started work, in earnest, on that short story referenced in the side-bar (“PFTETD”), rewriting vast sections of it, adding new characters, and changing the direction of the story somewhat, in anticipation of sending it out with an eye toward its hopeful publication.  It ended up taking me a little longer than what free time I had during the semester break (I didn’t take an ACE last year), but I did finish it and I did get it out.   It was only shortly before that that I started blogging.   It’s interesting to look back over that year.

Anyway, I’m just relieved.  This past semester has been one of the most challenging and demanding, time-wise, that I’ve had so far.  I’m glad I’ll only be taking one class in the coming Spring Semester.

Tidbits of Inspiration: Stone Money

So, I heard something interesting today while driving in the car.  And, as I thought about this story I heard, it made me think about how, every once in a while, I run across something unusual or interesting or bizarre or inspiring in the world, on the web, in the news, and elsewhere that make me think, and make me wonder.  The sorts of things that can inspire little bits of story.  I don’t always know what to make of them.  But, I realized I should be sharing them…. Continue reading

17 Days and Counting

I have a special treat for you all today, a guest post!  I’ve mentioned her here before, but the illustrious Dear Wife would like to address your attention today.  So, without further ado, I’ll turn you over to her:

It’s less than three weeks until Christmas, which means that I’m scrambling to write a Christmas letter and print cards for our friends and family.  This year, I plan to print our photo cards at www.shutterfly.com.  We used Shutterfly to print BT’s birth announcements earlier this year and they turned out wonderful!  We recently had some amazing family photos taken by a friend and I can’t wait to show off BTs cuteness and our growing little family in our Christmas cards from Shutterfly.
 
I love Shutterfly’s Christmas photo card (http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery/christmas-photo-cards) and other holiday photo card (http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery) designs for this year.  Also, now that I have oodles of cute baby pictures, I’m considering using Shutterfly to create a calendar (http://www.shutterfly.com/calendars) with some of my favorite photos.  I’m also eying some of the other photo gifts contemplating which I like most.
 
Back to our Christmas card – each year we’ve been married I’ve written a letter updating family and friends on the big happenings in our family during the year and mailed off the letter, a photo card, and brief personal notes to our friends and family.  It’s also a nice way to briefly document our year and I’ve been saving a letter and photocard each year and plan to put them in a scrapbook.  It will be nice to be able to flip through to see how our family has changed.