Adventures of a Fiction-Writing MLIS Student: Semester 1

My first semester working toward my masters in library and information science is over, and I feel confident in saying that I totally rocked it. I was pleased to discover that, twelve years after finishing my undergraduate degree, I haven’t lost my Nerd-Fu.

On the downside, first semester craziness combined with Ye Olde Day Job seriously cut into my fiction writing time. I did, however, find my fiction writing life creeping into my grad school life in fun little ways.

How do I love Scrivener? Let me count the ways . . .

I bought Scrivener several years ago for novel writing. When putting together a lecture for TNEO one summer, I discovered that Scrivener was also great for collecting and organizing research for that. So when it came time this semester to turns lots of research into a presentation for a group project in my Human Information Behavior class, Scrivener once again became a handy tool. And then came my final paper for that same class. In addition to using Scrivener for organizing my research and turning it into a paper, I discovered that Scrivener had an APA style template. From my undergrad days, I was used to writing papers in MLA format, but the MLIS program requires APA format, which was new to me. Scrivener saved me huge amounts of “how exactly am I supposed to format this again?” time on the APA learning curve.

It’s just like a short story, only it’s mostly plot with very little setting and character development . . .

At first, I was a little apprehensive when faced with the prospect of writing a 15-page research paper for the first time in over a decade. But then I thought, “Hmm, 15 double-spaced pages in 12 point Times New Roman font with an inch margin all around–that’s roughly the equivalent of a 4,600 word short story for which I’ve done lots of background research. Piece of cake!” On the downside, years of focusing on the style and rhythm of my prose made the paper revision process go a little slower than it might have otherwise. Without the fiction writing experience, I probably wouldn’t give a damn about using the same sentence construction twice in a row in a research paper.

This one time, at writing camp . . .

Human Information Behavior, where we studied how people search for and process information in a broad number of contexts, was a fascinating course. Several times I found myself drawing on writing-related experiences as an example of information-seeking behaviors and how library and information science professionals interact with users in their search process. One example was the judgmental you-frighten-me look I got while checking out a book called On Killing for research purposes and how that kind of attitude can dissuade people from using the library. And as an example of the Principle of Least Effort, where someone consults a known resource instead of investing the small bit of extra effort needed to get what they know would be a better quality answer, I mentioned the weird phenomena I sometimes saw of individuals asking very specific research questions in a writing forum where it was unlikely anyone had expertise in the area in question, and then balking at suggestions to consult resources more likely to actually provide an answer to their question.

The geek is strong with this one . . .

My other class this semester was Information Technologies, where we got to learn some basics about web design, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, and other fun stuff. The class seemed like it was a struggle at times for several folks, but I was safely in my geek comfort zone. I already knew how to create a website with HTML going into the class, and I picked up the rest of it pretty easily. Two of our projects involved creating an “information resource” on any topic of our choosing, so I created a site called So You Want to Write Speculative Fiction? And for our final project, we had to create a site using WordPress, so I tested out a redesign of my writing website.

And there you have it. Now to check off more items on my winter break to-do list, which includes paying attention to this blog again and rediscovering the fact that I’m a writer.

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Signals and study and stories, oh my!

It seems I went AWOL on the blog posting front. Again. But now that I’m here, many things…

SIGNALS: First, a signal boost: Say Yes to Gay YA, where authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith talk about an unfortunate instance of being asked to either make a gay character in their novel straight or remove the character’s POV altogether. EDITED TO ADD: Some follow up. And this is where I bow out without further comment other than to say: must so many people resort to needing to cast a villain with a dastardly agenda in the matter instead of considering that it’s more likely not so clearcut?

STUDY: Busy grad school is busy! But despite some initial moments of panic (because that’s what I do), I’m settling into the school routine just fine and have started to find a balance between class and everything else I need to squeeze into my days. You know, like writing. Speaking of…

STORIES: Appropriately enough for a writer, there are sevveral things going on in the story department:

* Now available for purchase is the 2011 Untied Shoelaces of the Mind Anthology, which includes my twisted little flash piece “Mr. Fluffy.” The story should also be online soon in issue 5 of Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.

* My story “The Cycle of the Sun” was accepted for publication in the March 2012 issue of NewMyths.com! My Odyssey classmates will quite possibly remember this piece as “the orgy story.”

* My steampunk lemurs on a dirigible story, “A Red One Cannot See” (originally published in Shimmer’s Clockwork Jungle Book issue), has been added to my stories available at AnthologyBuilder

* And I’ve finally gotten to work on the revisions for my story “The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen,” which I got some great feedback on back in July at TNEO. Much like my daily schedule right now, these revisions are proving to be quite the balancing act. There are some changes to make that I think are going to really strengthen the story, but I feel like it would be easy to do too much and totally edit all the life and magic out the story.

Random Summer Is Random

I’m the kind of person who likes to have some structure to my life. It can be a little bit of structure or a lot of structure, but preferably a mix. If I need to practice piano earlier in the day than usual to accommodate something that can only be done later in the day, I like having that flexibility. But if I didn’t have my piano lesson at the same time every week, I’d have a hell of a time planning around it and remembering when I need to head out the door (note to self: you need to leave in about 45 minutes for this week’s lesson).

But trying to maintain any kind of structure to my days this summer? Didn’t happen. Too much flux, which is one of many reasons I’ve been so scattershot about blogging the last few months. Hopefully, though, September should bring a touch more stability with it. Classes for my MLIS program start this Thursday. Regular weekly choir rehearsals start up again next Wednesday. My last day at Ye Olde Day Job was a week ago; I’m hoping to find something part-time and library related, but in the meantime, there’s a freelance database project I’ll probably be taking on. And with all of those things set, maybe I can get back into something resembling a regular routine for writing and exercise, both of which I’m ashamed to say I’ve been mostly neglecting lately. Bad me. Bad.

Related to all of the crazy flux in my life right now, trying to answer the question “What do you do for a living?” at my grad school orientation last week was far more difficult than it used to be. “What do I do? Up until a few days ago, I was a grant writer for a theater company. Why did I leave something that sounds so cool? Well, working in the performing arts was cool, but fundraising made me miserable, and I really loved the two years I spent working in a music library, which is why I’m pursuing my MLIS now. Why didn’t I stay at the music library job? Because it was a temporarily funded project, or else I would have. No, I’m not going to be a fulltime student now. I’m hoping to find a part-time library job, and I’ll probably be taking on a freelance database project.  

“Oh, and I also write fiction.”

Three things make a long overdue post

1) First, I’ll get the pimpage out of the way: The Best of Every Day Fiction, which includes my story “Dumping the Dead” and a slew of other flash fiction stories (including some fellow flisters), is now available.

2) Today the procrastination gods compelled me to take a look at the “ideas” folder on my computer where I throw whatever crumb of an idea lodges itself in my brain–from quotes I’ve overhead to phrases or titles that have popped into my head to full-fledged plot sketches. The crumbs in there stretch all the way back to high school, so there was a lot of…well, dreck. Cliches. Ideas that have been done to death and that I had no original spin on. Some that were just plain stupid. So I jettisoned some of the dead weight (though not all of it; occasionally, I’ve been able to mine something cool out of an otherwise craptastic idea). But most of the stuff in that folder is there for a good reason, so I now I find myself wanting to write 20 short stories all at once. Stupid lack of a clone.

3) I’ve been feeling restless. In need of some change–which will soon be coming, but not soon enough for impatient me. Appropriately, it wasn’t all that long ago that a discussion group I was participating in raised a question about change and whether you’re someone who resists it or welcomes it. As with so many things for me, it depends.

With some things, I easily fall into patterns. I’m the type of person who tends to gravitate toward sitting in the same seat on the train and will find myself getting irrationally annoyed if someone is already in it. But with a lot of other things, I get restless if things stay the same too long. I get bored if I have to perform the same piece of music too many times. One of the things I loved about college was having a different class schedule every semester, so I’m looking forward to that again with grad school. And one of the many things that appeals to me about writing fiction is that I can write a story, and then do something completely different with the next one. Different genre, different style, different point of view, different tense, you name it.

So now that I’m done rambling, feel free to chime in with your own thoughts on dealing with change. Love it? Hate it? Too busy changing your hair color to answer?

A letter from my brain

Hello blog readers,

I’m Barb’s brain, and I’m here to tell you that she’s been AWOL from this blog because she doesn’t love you anymore. It’s ok, she doesn’t love me either. I wanted to watch this bad movie the other night, and she wouldn’t let me. She seemed to think the critique she was working on was more important than my entertainment.

After that, when she looked at her friends page and saw just how many posts you had all made, she insisted that we couldn’t stay and comment on them all. Something about having to figure out the schedule for TNEO. Please, like writing workshops need planning.

Then, when we could have been watching a hilarious YouTube video with a cat playing piano, she wanted to work on a short story. This time there was some excuse making about a deadline. I know what you’re thinking: how selfish can she get?

And even though neither one of us enjoys it, she insists on doing work for her day job. Every weekday! I don’t see what a paycheck has to do with anything.

So there you have it. Now you know how horribly abused I am having to live in Barb’s head. I would cut off ties with her immediately if I were you. Or start a fund. People United to Save Barb’s Brain. Or something with a catchier acronym.

Love,
Barb’s Brain

Escape from the Void Of Too Much Else To Do

Urgh, so much for resurfacing on the blogosphere. Well, I did resurface. I just got sucked right back into the Void Of Too Much Else To Do. I have a feeling that’s going to be happening a lot over the next few months.

So the bulleted version of what this writer has been up to:

* I’ve been encountering far too much lately that has led to forehead slapping and *head desk* moments.

* After much demanding from my brain, I returned to the slow-going revisions on My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel–so of course a short story idea immediately started jumping up and down and waving its arms around and asking for a little love. Stupid brain.

* I began my dive into the critique fest that is TNEO.

* I changed the look of my website.

* More details to come, but it looks like my story “Final Report” (from issue 4 of the sadly short-lived Darker Matter) will get some podcast love in the near future.

* The last few months spewed so much crazy all over the place that my attempts at establishing a routine were repeatedly thwarted. That really needs to change. I was determined to get myself onto something resembling a consistent schedule starting today. It’s not even noon yet and that plan’s already gone to pot.

And on that note, I think hear the unmistakable sucking sound that is the Void Of Too Much Else To Do.