Tuesday, April 30, 2002
I am working on a marketing plan for my book proposal - because I think that may be what turns the "seriously considering" into an offer...and I know my proposal was very weak in this area before. This is a process, and honestly you can never revise enough, although you have to stop somewhere. That's something that takes a while to learn when you write. It always is tempting to think, wow, this is some incredible piece, no way should I ever change it. My drafts aren't bad - especially now that I compose on the computer, but everything improves with tweaking.
That being said, when I review some of my old work, although I am definitely a much more competent writer now, I have to admit that twenty years ago my perspective was fresh, and my fiction was more creative. But I still like being 40.
Anyhow - while doing some research for my marketing plan - I stumbled across this remarkable website from Philips Electronics Corporation, called Vision of the Future. It's from 1996-97, so in this rapidly changing technical world, it is old - but it is still thought-provoking and quite simply amazing.
Intruding in my writing time: a couple of students. I really lost it with one, he is so clueless and disrepectful. I probably should have made more of an effort to not let him get to me (which I'm sure is what he was trying to do, so in a way he wins - if he wasn't trying to get (negative) attention, then he is even more clueless than the word clueless implies - but this also could be true). However, I didn't subject him to public ridicule, so I don't feel all that bad. And I'm still not sure whether I managed to get my point across. Every semester is a new learning experience for me, in what some students will do to: avoid work; just get by; be rude; disdain learning; and still pass. I dream of classes that are (to use ed fad words) "learning communities," but based on my experience as a student and an instructor, for some students the hierarchical "instructor has power/students have much less or none" is the only method that works (and barely at that). Sigh. It is sad to grow cynical.
What's that? I resolved to spend time on the good students, and not so much on the bottom feeders? I know. And most students are fine, some are even brilliant, and really such a joy. But the bottom feeders are so demanding and controlling...
Sunday, April 28, 2002
Hey! Is post & publish working again? Just checking - not going to invest a lot of time until I'm sure...
OK - I tried it and it seems to have worked. Well - it is late, nearly 1:30 a.m. and so I am not going to invest a lot of time, anyway. I'll just have to take a risk and hope Blogger is working tomorrow. (And if not, there are always a few pages left in a dusty and trusty old spiral-bound notebook.) It's funny, there was a time when I could not imagine composing on the computer. Now, I write for any length of time with a pencil or pen and my hand kills me!
Hey - I was dying to write a post today, because I had such good news - such incredibly good news - good because it isn't bad news - good because I have been wanting this for so long - nice, encouraging (but not definite) letter from a publisher, saying my book proposal is being seriously considered!
Saturday, April 27, 2002
Blogger is sort of working, but I get the Windows "cannot display" message when I try to publish new or edit, or look at the news, for the past day or so. Also, and this really concerns me, when I go to the Blogger home page, I am already logged on, and logging off has no impact. I am a relatively new user, and it seems to me that problems like this happen a lot.
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Nearly a week since my last post, and I have so many ideas...
First, there's Sirius, a police dog. He was the only dog to die in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. My friend Suzanne told me on Friday night that they were doing a tribute to him, and that they had found his remains back in January. I wrote a story about Sirius shortly after seeing a segment on television about him and his human partner, and it is posted on my website. I'm still not sure if I have come to terms with the 9/11 events. About a month ago we had a really, really bad thunderstorm, kind of weird for March, but then the weather has been strange. It was only raining lightly, but suddenly there was this flash of light that looked like nothing I've ever seen before. Then it was completely, eerily, silent. My heart stopped, I thought it was all over. I don't know if I would have reacted this way before 9/11. I never had such thoughts. There was such a sense of relief when the huge bang of thunder came. Last week, there was an earthquake centered in the Adirondacks. I'm glad I slept through it (I have a hard time falling asleep, but once I'm out, that's all she wrote), as the next day, when I saw my neighbors, they were all very shaken (literally and figuratively). Earthquakes are not common in these parts, but again, I think after 9/11, we all feel differently. And as far as Sirius goes, he's a hero and deserves a tribute. Plus, I really, really adore dogs.
Then, there is this follow-up Times Union story. A while ago I wrote about being angered by the brief jail sentence given to a woman who hit a boy while driving drunk, then refused to help the boy's cousin and instead left the scene. Apparently, the judge in this case has a history of handing out such sentences, and also, among drunk drivers, there is an understanding that if you hit someone, it is better to leave the scene, sober up, and if you are eventually caught, claim you thought you hit a dog (this alone makes me want to puke, because the assumption is that it is perfectly OK to hit a dog and drive on). The authorities won't be able to prove you were drunk at the time of the accident, and as I wrote before, if you want to kill someone, you can get off easy as long as you do it with your car.
Finally, there is this incredible interview from Wooden Horse Publishing with the editor of Moxie about the new policy of charging writers a $10 fee for submissions. The editor asserts that many other publications are doing it (although she said she didn't have to time to find out which ones when asked), and that they receive a lot of submissions from writers who don't bother to spell check, use upper case at the beginning of sentences, or care about proper grammar. She believes the fee will cut down on this practice. She complained that writers often send multiple submissions in five minutes, and that it takes too much staff time to log, read, and respond to all this junk. Also, it is expensive to publish Moxie, they provide a lot of valuable editorial services, and they pay $10 for accepted stories, which is the same as the reading fee & etc., etc., etc.
The writing community is being encouraged to comment on this practice. I don't think I will send remarks to the editor, but I will rant a little here. First, I will admit up front that as far as I can remember, I have never submitted to Moxie, and now I never will. Also, now I have no plans to read Moxie, either. But, for someone who was crying about unprofessional submissions, her response about not having the time to back up her assertion about other publications charging reading fees was truly shocking.
I always spell check, I don't need much in the way of editorial services, I have an excellent command of when to use capitalization (that I learned in second grade), and a fair command of grammar (that I learned over the years in elementary school), and I find this all rather insulting. This is a bit off-topic, but unless the piece is not my idea (meaning it is contract work), I never agree to selling all rights to my work. If it is a personal essay, poem, short story, or article of my own design, the copyright remains with me, thank you.
I think it is very sad that writers, dreaming of publication, are so shamelessly used. To suggest that acknowledging and reviewing submissions is more important and time consuming than creating the works, which is what she implies when she complains about being inundated with multiple poor-quality emailed submissions from the same source, is insulting. I have been an editor, and yes, it can be frustrating. But that's her chosen job, and in most cases, it is not the equal of effort put in by the writer. So get organized, get a system, and streamline your process, because there is something wrong with it if it is so cumbersome.
Also, if charging a fee of ten bucks actually could eliminate typos, bad grammar, and poor writing, then I'd think paying several hundred dollars in tuition would be an even better screen. Guess again. I teach 35 or more students per semester, and believe me, the editor will need to go back to the drawing board if that is her goal in implementing this new policy.
Well, at least she demonstrates Moxie. Sadly, in this case it is not a good thing.
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Last week, I was wearing my winter coat, and today, it is 90 degrees. I had to put the A/C on to be able to work in this oven of a room. I have no choice, I landed another writing assignment (I think this means I can almost call myself a writer now), and so I had to tie up some loose ends. First, I did another round of clearing out the office, making space and filing. Then, I did some work on my class. Only four weeks to go and the semester is over. All-in-all, a better semester than last Fall, but still there are always annoyances...coming primarily in the form of students who refuse make any effort, but fully expect passing (or better) grades, graduation, and all the rewards of a college degree.
Enough of that. Why is it that 95% of the students are fine, and probably at least 20% are excellent, but the 5% who do not wish to learn are such a drain? I promised myself after last Fall that I would focus a bit more on the 95% and 20%, and not let the 5% dominate. I'm happy to report that I have been kind of successful in that approach this Spring. I am piloting an online assessment from Mount Royal College, called FAST. It has an advantage over the one the university administers, in that it is online, just like the course delivery. Mailing forms to distance learning students means a very low response rate. And, it has the advantage over my usual online instrument, in that it is anonymous.
Edna-Kitty is doing better - eating some, adjusting to the shaved spot, hates but will tolerate the antibiotic - and pissed that she isn't being let outside at the moment.
Monday, April 15, 2002
Now here's an interesting one. Today, the Inscriptions newsletter reported that The Author's Guild recommends that writers remove links to Amazon.com from their websites. Apparently, they are concerned about Amazon's aggressive approach to selling used books. I read the brief item and immediately knew it would be the subject of today's journal entry. Then, I finished browsing the newsletter, and discovered the issue is also the topic of Inscription's weekly poll.
So many things jumped into my mind:
A. I have always liked the convenience, prices, and service I get from Amazon.
B. Yes, of course I agree with The Author's Guild; after all, I believe downloading music is wrong.
C. OK, let's de-link, but shouldn't we also be encouraged not to buy anything from Amazon?
D. What about my usual practice of passing along a book I enjoyed to my sister, et al. and vice versa? Are we hurting publishers and authors too?
E. Is it wrong to buy used books from bookstores?
F. Does this mean the box of books I have slated for the Memorial Day weekend yardsale should be returned to the shed for storage?
G. Is it better to "re-use" the printed word or add to our waste stream by throwing old books away? (I already have no more room for another bookcase.)
H. Can something that promotes literacy be bad?
I. Should my students stop selling their books back to the college bookstore? (Note that our on-campus one happens to be a Barnes and Noble).
J. What about libraries? Is it OK for me to borrow or should I buy what I read?
Friday, April 12, 2002
Not a good day. My cat, Edna, was bleeding last night. I don't know what happened, but there were some droplets of blood on the floor. After she ate a little something, I finally located the cut on her right side, kind of near her back bone. She has long hair, but for a cat she's fairly cooperative, and before I want to bed I did manage to put peroxide on it. She didn't seem too hurt, but she was not her usual self, either. I didn't get a lot of sleep, since I kept waking up to check her.
This morning she didn't get up and go downstairs to the kitchen for her breakfast, like she usually does. And when I fussed over her, she hid under the bed. So, after a trip to the vet, she now has a large shaved spot that reveals three puncture wounds. Veterinary opinion is that another cat scratched her, which is possible. She is on antibiotics. Back at home, I worried myself thinking about rabies. Her shot was up-to-date, and she got a booster today, but I had handled her, and gotten blood on my hands. So, a call to the vet assured me that I am at no risk.
Anyway, poor Edna still hasn't eaten anything. She has been sleeping in the living room since we got back.
Thursday, April 11, 2002
I spent a few days making updates to my website, some technical and some content. Content-wise, I focused primarily on genealogy research, and a little on spring. I am continuing to sort through old papers, and I find some real gems, and some embarassments. I have the feeling this site is going to crash or freeze of something, so I am not going to devote any more time to writing this entry...
Tuesday, April 09, 2002
This weekend, I did some work outside in the yard - the first of the season. Today the air really feels like Spring, with a hint of thunderstorm (that hasn't happened yet). I've always been into gardening. I love to grow things, and the past few years I've been really getting into organic gardening. Every year I try to expand those methods a little, and I get some impressive yields on a small patch. Three great suppliers are Seeds of Change (I get most of my annual seeds from them), Johnny's Seeds (not everything they produce is organic, but I get a set of beneficial flowers - that works like magic - from them), and Gardens Alive (I get grass seed and beneficial nematodes from them). And of course, for gardening information generally, there's good old Organic Gardening. I remember reading that magazine as a kid at my grandmother's. They have made some good changes and some bad changes over the years, but it is still a great magazine.
Monday, April 08, 2002
Well, it seems every time I try to post something here, the whole system is down or a part of it freezes. So I will make this snappy in an effort to avoid [not responding] messages...ran across something else today, from the Chronicle (some parts are subscription, some not). We are back to the plagiarism issue. This time, a former PhD student at Cornell is suing the university, and a professor, for stealing credit for her research.
Friday, April 05, 2002
This is a great piece from the Chronicle, about the process of making a decision on taking a much better job far away from extended family, and having to move...also how the immediate family reacts. This is a very common issue in academe, where it is so hard to find a really good position without moving half way across the country. I'd advise, a career may be important - but it can never rival family.
Wednesday, April 03, 2002
I am outraged by this! I saw on the news tonight that a drunk driver who hit and killed a 12-year-old boy (then drove away, ignoring the dying boy's cousin's plea for help, and later lied to police, saying her car was stolen), was sentenced today to only 6 months in jail. Here is an article from the Albany Times Union. I'm no activist on these issues, and I'm all for having fun, but we have to draw the line somewhere...at a way lower threshold than this case, which should have been a no-brainer. Clearly this judge doesn't have a clue. This sends a very bad message about all the heinous actions this woman took.
Is it any wonder that the exponentially-growing population of road ragers think their reckless behavior is perfectly fine? Five minutes late for work? Not a problem - speed, illegally pass, tailgate, run that stupid creep off the road, they deserve it for going so slowly. Done with happy hour? Get behind the wheel, you're a better driver than most other jerks on the road so you can handle it. Hit something? No sweat, it was probably only a mailbox, why bother checking? It really was something? Who cares? That's why they invented 911. Hey, if you want to be rude, harrass, or even murder someone, do it with your car.