Thursday, April 29, 2010

Library Bloat and E-Readers

It's true. My personal library is overflowing. The shelves are full both at home and school. I've books stacked on the floor by the bed. The top shelf in my closet is stuffed with beloved novels, and I have myriads of books out on loan to friends and students. I keep telling myself I need to downsize, but I find it hard to say goodbye to such good friends. When it comes to books, I'm a pack-rat.

The problem is my to-be-read list keeps growing, and I've nowhere put new books. I know, I know... go to the library, you say. I've tried that. I end up with monster fines because I forget to return them. Sometimes I forget they're not mine and loan them to a friend. Not a good thing, especially if they lose it. But mostly, I like knowing my favorites are available to read whenever I wish.

I've considered e-readers before, but not for long. I love the feel of a bound book in my hands, pages to turn, no back-lit technology burning holes in my eyes. Books aren't battery dependent or terribly fragile. If you drop one, you simply pick it up and find your page again. Drop an e-reader, and you might lose your library, or at the very least an expensive bookshelf. That's something to consider when you're a klutz like me.

My storage crisis has forced me to reconsider my stance on e-readers. I've started to investigate what's out there. Admittedly, I don't know much about them except the prices are a bit daunting. I need to change my mindset. It's a storage unit that doesn't take up wall and closet space. The books are priced more like a paperback. Most I saw were around $9.99. That's less expensive than a new hardback...

Do you use an e-reader? I'd love to know your pros and cons.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Busy, Busy and New Baby!

I have a crazy busy summer ahead, and I'm really looking forward to it!

I've been preparing for the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. I've finished revising the first 2500 words of my novel, and now I'm working on a one-page synopses. Why are synopsis so hard to write? Getting an estimated 60,000 words down to one page is difficult, but it must be done. It will help the staff decide who my faculty critique partner will be. I should receive a listing of workshops for the week soon. I can't wait to see the choices.

I received more good news last night. I've been awarded another scholarship! This one is to the George Washington Mt. Vernon Teachers Institute. It is a weeklong workshop intensive that explores 18th-century history with top historians. I'll participate in interactive workshops, tours, field trips, and group projects. After the workshop, I'm expected to share what I've learned in a district-sponsored seminar for my colleagues in my home district or state, and I must complete one lesson plan for dissemination to teachers across the nation on the Mount Vernon website. In return, I will receive professional development hours towards renewal of my teachers license - and it's free! Woot! This workshop is two weeks after Chautuaqua and two weeks before school starts again. Might be hectic, but I'm looking forward to it.

And finally, I've a new baby in the house! No, not that kind of baby... This one is an Acer Aspire One 10.1-inch Blue Netbook! Acer Aspire One AOD250-1580 10.1-Inch Blue Netbook - 7.5 Hour Battery Life I've named her Tink, and I love her. I've missed Humphrey (my deceased and ancient Macbook), and I decided it was time to replace him. Tink is small enough to fit in my purse (and my budget). That means I can write anytime, anywhere, and access the internet wherever it is available. She goes to school with me - I write on my lunch break. We've been to the library (cubicles AND internet), Panera and McDonalds (food!). I plan to write at the park this summer and on my back deck at night. I like the freedom to leave the distractions at home. I don't plan to add many bells and whistles to Tink -that would defeat her purpose. But when I need to see multiple documents and internet pages at once, I still have my iMac. My only complaint about Tink is she is a fingerprint magnet, so I ordered a Lotus flower skin for her. Bundle Monster Laptop Notebook Skin Sticker Cover Art Decal - 12" 14" 15" - Fit HP Dell Asus Compaq - Lotus Pond

Fitting for a faerie, don't you think!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Because It is Amazing...

I love this story! Who would have thought an elephant and a dog could become best buddies?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

Time, Compliments and Deadlines

It's amazing to me how a little time, a pat on the back and a deadline can motivate me to get things done.

I write every day, even if I'm exhausted and it's 10 PM (because that's the earliest point in the day I've had time to sit). My rule is I have to write at least one GOOD sentence before bed. Most work days I can knock off up to 800 new words. Today, the first day of spring break, I put down 1100 words before lunch. Most likely, I'll have half that again before my day is done. All because I have some undistracted writing time, someone who says my writing is worth pursuing, and a deadline.

I like to write as soon as I wake. My head is clear and the ideas flow easily. The day's events aren't able to distract me, because they haven't happened yet. I'm focused. I find that if I start my day thinking and working on my WIP it's easier to solve character issues or plot problems. I'm better able to think of ways to raise the stakes for my characters. In short, I'm more productive and it feels less like work.

A compliment can make a huge difference in my writing attitude. I am productive for days after a good word from my writer's group or critique partner (shallow and silly? Maybe...). This scholarship award from Chautauqua is very much the same. It's validation that I'm doing something right, and they are willing to invest their time and money towards my writing education. It's a powerful motivation, and I don't want to disappoint.

I have always worked best with a deadline, but since I'm unpublished, my deadlines are self-imposed. Sometimes that works. Sometimes not. My goal is to have my new WIP complete by July. The hope is I'll have a completed manuscript (albeit rough) to take with me to Chautauqua. That only gives me 13 weeks, so it's definitely fast-drafting (for me).

I've got an entire week free of the day job, and I'm hoping it'll be a productive week. It helps that I love the story I'm writing. The characters are fun, and the plot is an intriguing puzzle to solve -one I want to get right.

How, when and where do you write? Do you have a routine, or do you write when the muse hits you? Just curious...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Chautauqua Bound!

I'm so excited! May I say it again??? EXCITED! I found out on Thursday that I received a scholarship to the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. (Thank you to Kent Brown and the Scholarship committee!!).

I learned about Chautauqua several years ago from my critique group. Several members had attended and shared their experience during the meeting. They came back thrilled, refreshed, full of ideas, and ready to take on the writing world.

I went home that night and looked up Chautauqua, and I found that it was run by the Highlights Foundation. In addition to all of the information about the workshop curriculum and faculty, Highlights posts Writing Tips from various authors/faculty members of recent Chautauqua workshops. They also offer what they call Founders Workshops. These are intimate, focused writing intensives that are usually 4-7 days. My critique partner has attended several of these. She likes the smaller group size. Hers have had 8-12 attendees, and she finds the focus on a particular topic helpful.

Chautauqua's curriculum is more like a buffet. It's a bit overwhelming when I look at all of the topics covered. My email said they would send me a curriculum list in May, and I'd have to choose what I'd like to attend. It's like going to a restaurant when you're super hungry. Everything looks good, and you don't know what you really want. I hope I choose well.

I had lunch yesterday with my friend and critique partner, Kathy. She's attended Chautauqua, and she brought with her a photo album from her visit. I loved hearing her talk about everything - The Athenaeum Hotel, Philosopher's Hall, The Hall of Christ, brick streets, beautiful gardens, and of course, all of the workshops attended and fabulous people she met.

I have high hopes for the experience. A week's immersion in the writer's community sounds like heaven - and work. It's a challenge I'm ready to tackle. I've lots to do while I wait. I've chosen which manuscript I want to work on with my mentor. I'd like to have a completed first draft before I go. I have almost four months to get it done, but that's pretty fast for me. I've only just started the novel. Summer break is coming, so I should have more time to work. Here's hoping!

If you're attending, let me know. I've love to meet you!