Monday, April 15, 2013
If you have two little kids, you end up reading a lot of bed time stories. And I've found that kids often don't have much discrimination--or at least, not any kind of discrimination that I can understand. At various times, my kids have both become fixated on books with plots so thin or inane that I can't even recall them now. Lapses in logic particularly infuriate me, and repetition of those logical lapses can drive me up the wall. I never liked re-reading the Dora the Explorer series of books, and reading the Magic Tree House chapter book series to my older daughter almost drove me around the bend. (Seriously, how stupid can those kids, Jack and Annie, be? Jack loses his backpack in every freaking book, and Annie is always walking up cheerfully to some dinosaur or saber-toothed tiger or whatever, confident that it's a friendly beastie that will enjoy a scratch behind its ears. She should have been eaten long ago)
Then there are the other kinds of books, in which repetition is soothing to kids and adult alike. The kind of book I can happily re-read. My blog-friend Cloud has written such a book.
"The Zebra Said Shhh" tells a simple story. A zebra at the zoo wants to go to sleep, but the other animals are making too much noise. Shhh, the zebra tells them. Each page depicts a different zoo animal making its own specific call. The monkey says "oooo", the lion says, "raaaar," etc. It's a calming and charming tale. The pictures are bright and adorable (I particularly like the lion's mane, and the scene of the sleeping seals). It's perfect for the toddler to preschooler set, who will enjoy making the sounds for each animal.
And even my six-year old, who fancied herself too sophisticated for a zoo book when she first saw it, enjoys this book. She is learning to read, and we found that the repetition of simple sentences provides her a perfect exercise in sight-reading. "Shhh, it's time to go to sleep," she read out loud for us tonight, as my husband pointed to the words on the page. With every turn of the page she grew more confident, and by the end she was proudly reading the entire sentence at once at the correct time. "I can read the whole sentence!" she said proudly.
By the end of the book, each zoo animal is slumbering peacefully in its enclosure. The stars are out, and it's a restful end for animals, kids (and parents!) alike.
Recommended. (And not just because Cloud is a friend!)
Note: as we finished this book tonight, Husband read the "About the Author" section to Legume, and mentioned, "This is mommy's friend."
Legume replied, "When she's dead, her book will still be around and children can still read it." (Sorry Cloud--my kid's on a morbid streak right now)
"That's right," my husband said. "That's the good thing about books."
"And when I'm grown up," Legume continued, "maybe my kids can still read my books. If my books are cared for."
"That's right," I agreed.
That is the good thing about books. I looked at her shelf, which has real paper books. I admit that Legume and Bean-girl don't really know of any other kind. Even if all the electronic copies were to vanish into the ether, we would still have these shelves of physical objects, and if well cared for, we could indeed pass them down the generations.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Thursday, April 4, 2013
I'm on vacation, having a fabulous time visiting friends and family, including my new baby nephew.
And I thought I'd also just toot my own horn. Vacations seem to bring good news for me on the fiction front. On my last vacation, I received word that my fantasy tale, "Snow's Daughter," had been accepted for publication at New Myths.
And now it's just gone live.
Unfortunately, I seem unable to link directly to the story. But if you'd like to take a look, you can click on the above link to the journal, click on top for Issue 22 (the latest issue), and then scroll down the table of contents for "Snow's Daughter."
Yes, I'm blowing my pseudonymity. I'm leaving scientific research--what do I care anymore?
Also, I received word this week of another story acceptance--this time at the wonderful science-in-culture webzine, LabLit.
And now I'm off to get ready for a meeting with friends, and then an afternoon with my new nephew. It's our final day here in the San Francisco bay area. Next day we board a plane back to the Midwest and reality.
Yes, it's been a good vacation.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Sunday afternoon, a tired Legume snuggling in bed beside me.
Legume: Tell me a story.
Me: Uh, okay. (thinks a moment) Once upon a time there was a land where it was always day; the sun always hung in the sky. The birds in that land had feathers of fire. The people wore bright clothes and were merry and ate hot, spicy food.But across the mountains, unknown to the people of the Valley of the Sun, there was another land. And in that land it was always night. But the night wasn’t scary, for a full, bright moon always hung in the sky. And the people of that land wore night and moon-colored clothes: clothes of white and silver and black and deep blue. And they were a cool and quiet people. They—
Legume: And they have a war.Me: A war? You mean, you want the two peoples to have a war?
Legume: The moon-people and the sun-people have a war because the moon-people think their moon is the best and the sun-people think their sun is the best.
Me: Okaaaay. . . (Pause). So the two countries went to war. But a boy from the Valley of the Moon fell in love with a girl from the Valley of the Sun. And they ran off together, away from the fighting and their families, and they found a new country, a country with both day and night, where both sun and moon shared the sky. And they had babies and founded a new people and lived happily ever after.There. Do you think that’s a good story?
Legume: Yeah, that’s a good story.
Monday, March 18, 2013
This is one of the best quotes on writing I have ever seen.
It was posted on ProfessorFangirl's tumblr, and the subject is scholarly writing in the humanities. . . but it applies to any kind of writing. At least, any writing that we actually want others to read.
The whole post is here, but these are my favorite bits:
5. You are a writer. Think of yourself as a writer and not God. When you get caught up in trying to know (and say) everything, you’re confusing your role with that of Athena or the omniscient god of bloodless abstract theology or the Oversoul or the ubermench or whatever.
6. Send your imagined critics to the Bahamas. When you imagine and try to anticipate every possible objection to your thought, it stifles your creativity and clouds your thinking. Let that critical review come later. Put your critics on a plane and start serving cocktails immediately; you can write while they’re drunk, distracted, and intriguing to sleep with each other.
7. Keep moving. Remember Goldberg. Do free writings so you can get used to writing that you’re not invested in. Every word doesn’t have to count. Get comfortable with words that don’t.
8. Who are you when you write? A scholarly fortress? An impregnable pedant? Who do you want to be? Alive. I want to be alive, and to be alive is to be transitory. This knowledge that I build, this stuff that I produce, it’s transitory. No eternal temple, merely me and you, my reader, locked in a momentary dance step that will pass and move on. Other readers, other dance steps. No permanence or security here. That’s what living prose is.
Think of your writing as dancing, and keep moving those feet. There is no perfect step. There is no set of moves that everyone will adore. You have only your body; if you’re going to dance, it’s the one you must use. You have only your own mind and your own language; if you’re going to think and to write, use them.
Delight in that body. Delight in your mind. The desire for eternal words, eternal certainty, eternal life—it’s a death wish.
I don't know who this Warren Hedges is that Professor Fangirl is quoting, but he is now one of my heroes. And Professor Fangirl? In a follow-up post, she quotes the Litany Against Fear from the classic sci-fi novel, Dune. I am totally fangirling over her now.
Friday, March 8, 2013
I think I’m over the bitterness now. Mostly.At the end of May, my fellowship funding runs out. I entered this lab on a three-year postdoctoral training grant supplement funded by the NIH to promote re-entry into biomedical research careers. After a few years off the bench--time spent in scientific writing/editing and in caring for the bean children--I was eager-beaver as a naïve undergrad to do science again.
Three years flies by fast.Three years is not (usually) enough time to build a real body of published research achievement. Not these days.
A lot can change in three years. A lot can change in 6 months.For the first two years, I was thrilled to be back in the lab. My project was cooking. Walking in every day was an adventure. I loved my co-workers.
I still love my co-workers. I hate my project.I expect to write up a small manuscript before I finally leave. . . but my project has gone downhill in ways that don’t bear going into right now. And once my fellowship runs out, there is no place for me in this lab. I always knew my PI would not be able to offer me a permanent staff position; he has too many permanent employees as is that he has committed to. I did think he’d be able to support me for at least another year on his current R01 grant. . . but I was mistaken. So I’m out the door a year sooner than I thought.
And I’m done. I’m not doing science anymore.I’m not putting up with the extreme career instability, the pressure and crazy hours and pay that would be considered insulting in the business world. I’m not walking out of the house on a bright Saturday morning, saying goodbye to my little fresh-faced bean-girls to spend a full day in a dark basement doing confocal microscopy or sitting at a computer laboriously quantitating image slides.
I’m not looking for another research job which would probably also be cut in a few years time.It’s time to be realistic. I’m more than a decade past my Ph.D. receipt. The academic research game is for the young: it’s an “up or out” career structure. I didn’t make it in the allotted time. I’m old and expensive. I’m out.
So the question is. . . now what? What do I do in a small Midwestern city with limited career options?I’m going to be looking to get back into freelance scientific writing and editing. . . and into writing some fiction as well.
I’m looking to spend weekends with my family again. Cooking decent meals for dinner. Cleaning the house.Not being too tired to talk to my children or spend time with the husband.
Other than that. . . well, I hope to figure it out.
Friday, September 21, 2012
There are so many things that make me happy. A good meal. Sunlight on trees. The crisp autumn air. My kids tucked in my arms. My husband holding my hand.
There are things that make me happy, that are hard for me to find time for. Books. Pleaure reading--the ultimate escape. And near twin to that is the pleasure of writing. Typing here in this blog, or indulging in masochistic attempts at fiction. Frankly, writing is not always pleasure for me--but I find it important for mental health. If I go too long without writing something down, I feel unsettled. If I go too long without escaping into fiction-reading, I begin to feel twitchy.
I am trying to run regularly. It's not always easy. It often sucks while I'm doing it, but it feels so good to have done it. That's what writing is like.
And it's not easy to find the time for running, either. September has been a bitch, throwing road blocks almost weekly into my exercise schedule. I know it's necessary for physical health. I know it's important for mental health. But between work and family responsiblities, it's so hard to find time.
Hard to find time for reading and writing. To find time for the joys that are independent of work and family.
Cloud alludes to this in her latest wonderful post on parenting and working and living at her blog Wandering Scientist. There are things in our lives that are sources of joy that are separate from our work lives and family lives. . . and so hard to fit in, when work and family are enough in themselves to overwhelm us.
There is so much hype about "virtual reality", new immersive technologies, 3-D films that will make you feel like you're really there in a movie. But to date, the most powerful virtual reality technology ever invented remains the old-fashioned book.*
*including books in e-format. Although I still prefer the old-fashioned paper kind.