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. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Learning Cycles - Setting

One of the things that I learned from doing the 2nd workshop assignment is something that I already knew, but that I hadn't revisited. I mean, I guess I thought I'd fixed it, but now I know that I haven't. The fact is, I'm not very good at describing setting. I fall back too much on details that are generic on the page even though I have a good picture of them in my head.

A few years ago, I tried to refocus on describing places. I took pictures and tried to describe them in words to practice. But I still ran into the fact that I will use a word and assume that it means to everyone what it means to me. It doesn't. A noun alone is rarely sufficient. I need to consider that I could have readers from all over the world, with experiences that cause their word definitions to differ from mine significantly. A house is not a house is not a house.

I'm going to blame Hemingway for my spare setting descriptions- not the writer himself, but the way that his writing is taught in classes. There was a certain fawning admiration on the part of several instructors in my writing classes for the simplicity of his prose. An emphasis came about that a story should have the fewest words possible to convey what it needed to convey. The problem was, no one taught which words were the necessary ones. It was just - cut! cut! cut!

Too much description would bog the story down.

Less is more.


In a way, I can't blame instructors of writing for having that attitude. When faced with the prospect of reading 20 student written stories, an emphasis on shorter probably saves their sanity. But it doesn't do the students much good.

With my backpacking books, I focused less on describing setting in the first couple because I was leaning on my pictures. I didn't need to place the reader in a setting - that's what the pictures were for! But starting with The Wild Coast I began to try and use those little black marks on the page to put the reader in a place. A very specific place, with a specific emotion. And I continued that with ICT: Sawtooths, writing the reader into the scene more often than pointing them at the pictures.

So now I need to bring that attitude into my fiction writing. Define the place as the character sees it. Make the reader see what I see in my mind, using the magic of little black marks on a page.