Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rejection and Challenge

At long last, the rejection came in for that story I eventually inquired on. I'm not surprised that it was rejected. The surprise would be actually selling a story at this point. I know I have to improve as a writer, but I also have to consider that what I write, my style, isn't what the editors of the magazines that I've been submitting to are looking for. That doesn't make the stories bad, necessarily.

Of course, I do need to continue to get stories out for sale, and to write stories. I haven't been devoting time to writing because of prep for my solo trip the first week of May and because there's a lot going on at work. Busy at work is better than bored at work, but I'd like to find a happy medium some day.

I'm glad that I didn't have as much of an emotional reaction to the rejection as I usually do. My skin must be thickening up. I mean, I did have hope for this one. From another magazine, it actually got a personal rejection instead of a form letter. So there was something to it that appealed to more than just me.

I'm letting what I learned in the depth workshop percolate, but I need to get some practice in as well. There's a story that I started before the workshop and then started tearing up because I thought I'd written past the ending. I want to go back and re-do the beginning with better depth and then figure out the ending and be done with it, though I haven't a clue what market it would be good for. I might just publish it standalone for sale and see how that goes. But it needs to be finished first. And I have the starts from the depth workshop to continue off on.

After my solo trip, I need to get back to writing, back to the challenge. 600 words a day from May 8 through September 8, 300 on backpacking days. I know I can write that much or more in a day if I carve out the time for it. So I will.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Duck Fight!

Sometimes I think my husband spends too much money on bird seed and critter feed. And also that he sometimes spreads it too indulgently and on perceived demand.

But we have been getting quite a diverse crowd of birds. We'll see doves and redwinged blackbirds. Squirrels, including a momma squirrel with two growing little ones. The occasional pair of geese and plenty of ducks, of both the mallard and wood varieties.

Just watching them feed can be a calming experience.

But then come mornings like yesterday, when we can spend a quite moment together enjoying the antics of the ducks.


 na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na duck fight!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Gotta Laugh

My in-laws were visiting Boise, driving my husband and I to a restaurant so we could eat dinner and catch up. I often forget to leave my phone ringer on, because I get in the habit of silencing it at work, but on this particular evening it was on. And when it rang, I saw the call was from my mother and only hesitated a moment before answering.

She had called to ask me what my phone number was.

Not some other phone number, like a home phone or work phone. The phone number that she had just called.

I was taken aback by her request and had to repeat it enough times that everyone in the car realized what she was asking (no one ever figured out why). When I got off the phone with her, we all had a good laugh.

There's really no other option. My in-laws understood that my mom has problems with memory and common sense; the laughter wasn't malicious. It was the kind of laugh that stops you from thinking about things that would otherwise make you cry.

The other night, she called me again - only this time, she didn't mean to. And in the days following, I found myself relaying the conversation we had to several people in social situations. Because I found it highly amusing. The conversation went pretty much like this:

"Hello?" I said.
"Hello?" she said.
"Hello?" I said.
"Hello?" she said. "Who is this?"
"Whoever you called."
She laughed.
"I don't know who I called. That's why I asked. I was trying to get Peter, but I guess I didn't."
"Well, you came close. You got his daughter. How are you, Mom?" I said.

When she asked who it was, I could have just answered her straight. I mean, I did know who she had called. A part of me thought she would recognize my voice if I just kept talking long enough. But I also wanted to make a joke of it. A funny story to tell myself so I wouldn't cry on the phone when she ultimately couldn't recognize my voice.

I prefer to laugh at these things, to repurpose tragedy into comedy as a coping mechanism. It helps that my mom is a pretty good comedic audience, by which I mean it's really easy to make her laugh. The words don't even need to be a joke as long as the tone is right.

She laughs. I laugh. I tell the story enough times to make it more a story than something that actually happened. It's just a funny story, a tale, a legend, distant and unconnected to my life except by laughter.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


In just over a month, I'm going to be hiking over 100 miles of the Idaho Centennial Trail from Nevada border. The Owyhee Desert.

And so, while I want to make sure that I use what I've learned from the depth workshop going forward, I am putting less priority on writing than I am on preparing physically and mentally for the challenge of the early season desert hike. It's been a snowy winter, and a wet spring, so I have hope that there might be decent water supplies. But the truth is I'm likely to encounter less water than would be ideal.

I'm increasing the amount of running I'm doing to try and prepare my legs. This weekend will be the start of hiking conditioning where I'll seek out trails if it's dry and go for the incline treadmill at the gym - with boots and pack - if it's wet.

Writing is still important for me, but it's not a high priority at the moment. I'll be keeping up with my blog entries and there's two stories I really want to finish along with three more from the workshop that I really ought to start. Plus there's the nonfiction project of writing up a kind of guidebook for the Chamberlain Basin Trail and there's also work to do putting some works into wider distribution.

There's plenty to do. And I know I need to set goals if I want to get it done. But I'm not setting any strict ones until after this solo trip - and, of course, after the solo trip I'll have a write up to do. I am thinking about another fiction writing challenge for the summer, along the same lines as last year, but more words. I could start May 8. Go for 750 words a day on home days and 250 words on backpacking days. Fiction words - I won't count the work on the solo trip.

But for now, it's all about conditioning, training, mentally preparing for a dry, desert hike with little water access. Planning the meals, planning the meet ups with my husband. Getting the maps I need and figuring out the places I would want to camp. Solving the puzzle of my journey.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Querying as Directed

I did finally send that email query regarding my story that had not received a response within the magazine's specified time. At first, nothing happened. There was - surprise - no immediate response of REJECTED. Nothing, really, to be afraid of after all.

A response came, about a week after the query, letting me know that they were still considering stories submitted around the time mine was, thanks for the patience, etc...

So, it wasn't actually that scary of a thing to do, and I'm glad I did it. Still pretty sure the story is going to be rejected, in part because I've learned a lot in the depth workshop that I did and I know that story has room for improvement. Though it is one that got secondary consideration from another magazine, so who knows? Maybe it will have appeal to an editor. As the writer, I can't really judge.

I learned that lesson again when completing assignments for the depth workshop. The last assignment was challenging, and I really didn't think I'd done well on it. But my reply from Dean revealed that I had fulfilled the requirements of the assignment, even though I didn't think that I had. Looking back, I think that my critical voice was complaining about the prose even though I was doing the right things.

Now that the workshop is over, I need to set aside some time for writing. I have three great starts that are begging to be finished. Of course, the solo trip preparation takes precedence, but I think I can find some time. It's all about setting the goals and holding myself accountable.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Adding It All Up

I joke about math and how difficult it can be when I'm at cross fit. To be fair, that's because when you work out at 5 in the morning, and you work out hard, numbers can get a bit more complicated to deal with. I joke about it, but I actually keep pretty good, some might say obsessive, track of my numbers.

I like math.

I always have. I was the kid in 2nd grade who got pumped when the teacher announced we'd be taking a "mad minute" math quiz (one page of problems, one minute time limit - go!).

Recently, I talked with my brother and had a realization. He said that he didn't try hard at school, and that's why he didn't get the best grades. He put his energy into sport. Implied, though not stated, was that I tried hard at school. From my perspective, I didn't. I put my energy into reading, but I didn't read textbooks beyond what was assigned. I excelled at school with minimal effort (for the most part - I do still remember how I almost failed vocabulary in 6th grade because I refused to memorize and regurgitate the exact definitions in the book).

For him to match my grades would have taken effort he didn't wish to expend. For me to approach his prowess at sports, I would have had to give an effort I didn't even know I had when I was young. Our perspectives were just so different.

And so, when I encounter people who aren't "math" people, who have a genuinely bad relationship with numbers, I have a hard time understanding. I think it's an important perspective for me to understand, as a writer, but it's also hard to grasp. Algebra makes sense in my brain; it's simple, consistent, and intuitive. To imagine that not being true is foreign.

Even after a hard workout, summing a column of numbers is a relaxing exercise for me. I do have problems with counting sometimes, mid-workout, but burpees do have a way of jarring numbers out of my head.

In my mind, the jokes about not liking math, or numbers, were just jokes. Sure, we say math sucks, like we say Monday sucks or burpees suck - wait, no, burpees really do suck. But the funny part is that math doesn't suck. Isn't it?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Busy Is Good. Right?

Work is getting extra crazy for some reason. Just when things should be slowing down... 

Usually, this time of year would be a lull, but the lull has been filled with new project development. I attended a conference last week, which took nearly my entire work week. This week, I've got three full days of solid meetings, and everything else needs to get squeezed in wherever it will fit. 

I'm working on being "documentative" when it comes to everything I'm doing. I demonstrate a technique, I document it, I follow up on meetings, I make records here, there and everywhere. 

In some ways, it feels like I'm doing two or three times the work that I need to, but I know it will all pay off in the long run. Having processes documented increases the ability of everyone in my unit to do the required work without struggling. 

On top of my intense meeting schedule, I think I'm getting some cold/crud thing - headache, body ache, too hot and too cold at the same time. I probably shouldn't have worked out today, but I guess I'm glad to have experienced the infamous 12.1 open workout. Anyone can do it - it's just 7 minutes of burpees to a six inch target! 

Ideally, next week should be less full of meetings, but I'm not entirely sure that will be the case. This week's set of meetings is the start of a build project, and I'm pretty sure I'll be the main contact for follow up work. Just a feeling that I have. 

My bosses do at least know that I'm in this situation and doing my best to keep my head above water, but I'm frustrated that I don't have the time I want to spend on projects that have been on hold for nearly a month. (I had four out of five days in meetings the week of 2/13, a four day work week for the 2/20 holiday, the conference, then this week. I'm feeling a wee bit behind.) 

Oh, and I'm also doing an online writing workshop. And preparing for a 100 mile hike the first week of May, which includes physical training, research and prep work. 

I am not bored.