Friday, November 30, 2012

Censor Or Be Dooced?

I've been working on understanding blogs. I'm trying to increase my knowledge on the subject and have started with a book that I found called Blogging for Business by Shel Holtz and Ted Demopoulos.

In the first few pages they mention the verb being "dooced." The idea that you can be fired for what you write on your blog. Apparently there was a woman by the name of Dooce that had this happen to her.

The idea is not foreign to me. I had just never heard the term "dooced" before. The warning that Julie get's in Julie and Julia has always sat in the back of my mind. Her boss reads about her cooking disaster that made her skip work one day. She had called in sick to fix the dish for special guests that evening. In the post she even said she was feeling unwell. The boss didn't think it rang true. It serves as a reminder that anyone could be watching.

I had two interesting experiences with blogs in high school. Back then everyone I knew was using to blog, facebook hadn't opened up to high schoolers yet. I wrote most of my posts publicly, but one night I made the unfortunate mistake of allowing comments on a private posting. It resulted, unbeknownst to me, in the post going live. My parent's ended up reading the post about them and they were not thrilled. Not only did I have to delete the post, but I had my internet privileges taken away from me for a month.

Another couple of my friends had a nasty spat on the site that actually got them called down to the principal's office. Someone had reported it. They were both forced to shut down their accounts or face suspension.

You could say I've had my fair share of reality telling me to censor what is said online.

Self censoring is important, but the question is how much do you censor yourself? Taking out every little bit of craziness that you do can make you sound droll and unreal. Does mentioning the fact that I was once so drunk I chased the Moon mean I'm walking on the edge? It certainly says I've had poor judgement, but it was a part of my life. Or, is it simply work related posts like Julie Powell made?

How much can we say before we get dooced? Better yet, what is a dooce-able offense? As a writer, it's an interesting question and one I will contemplate as I go forward.

Editorial note: I checked up on this Dooce person after my original post (she doesn't exist). My memory warped what I had read in the book. Dooced is a blog written by Heather B. Armstrong and she was fired because of her commentary on work. Still, outrageous actions can lead to consequences and my questions still stand.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Wicked is Wikipedia?

Almost every professor I had at college told their students not to use Wikipedia as a source for their papers. They did say that it was a good place to start to gather information to start research with, but never to rely on it wholly. I heard the same spiel when I was in high school.

I understood on some level that it wasn't completely trustworthy. It is after all an amalgamation of knowledge from individuals around the world and while there are monitors and editors on the site you never know how often misinformation might be added to a page.

The incident that best demonstrates the sharing of misinformation was Steven Colbert introducing and the quickly demonstrating the concept of Wikiality in the summer of 2006. Wikiality was defined on Colbert's piece The Word as, "together we can create a reality we all agree on—the reality we just agreed on."

He then went on to encourage his viewers to alter the information about elephants on Wikipedia. I was between my Junior and Senior year of high school as I watched people flock to the internet and write, "The elephant population in Africa has tripled over the last six months." Wikipedia ended up having to freeze the changes being made to the words elephant and Africa as a result.

Because this was such a highly publicized event Wikipedia responded very quickly, but the idea still stands that any article could be altered by anyone all too quickly.

That being said, I've never found any inaccuracies in my use of Wikipedia. I did as my teachers suggested and followed the sources at the bottom of each page and I used books at the library regularly. In fact I like finding physical sources more than I like using the internet when it comes to research.

Mostly I find a guilty pleasure in checking out a book that hasn't been used since before the seventies or eighties. I did it several times when I was at college and nothing gave me such a thrill as seeing a book getting it's stamp card taken out and replaced with security and due date stickers.

This week I've been doing my research on viruses exclusively on Wikipedia. Over the next few days I'll go through and find primary sources to back up the information I found.

I'm just curious if anyone has some wild or wicked Wikipedia stories out there. Rest assured, I will let you know if I find anything interesting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Deadline 2

I have a deadline looming before me, and while indefinite it is approaching very quickly. I have been working non-stop the last few days on an article for Penumbra and am anxious to not only provide a good context for the piece, an interview in this case, but also good editing!

I've been in such a tizzy to get it done I haven't really even attempted to work on my notes for my book today. I've been coming along with my notes. Learning about viruses and syndromes and how they work. I still need a little more in that area historically, but then I'll move on to different ancient cultures, specifically the Aztecs. So there's a plan in place, just no movement.

These deadlines are really teaching me to start using my time more wisely, because I don't want to be frantically pushing like this near the end all the time. A professional should be better than this, and you can bet your buttons I'm going to make some changes despite the upcoming holidays!

So while I would love to ponder on my writing skills, future books, new tools that I should be looking at as a young writer, and the book groups I should be trying to join. My fingers are currently needed elsewhere.

To all of those still pursuing NaNoWriMo, best of luck to you!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Can There Be Joy In Editing?

I often feel like beating my head against a table unceremoniously. The reason? Simple, finding an error in a piece I've already published. It makes my ears turn red just thinking about it.

The ironic thing is that when I was at school it never really bothered me. If I had a few red marks on my college paper I didn't feel like an idiot so much as I felt like I had been robbed of time before I turned in the assignment. Procrastination was a friend that I kept at bay mostly by being constantly busy. However, in my super senior year (that's year five for those of those who are curious) I contracted the infamous, Senioritis. Everything I did was last minute and I had little guilt. I just lost the will to care at that point. Mainly because no one ever marked me down enough on grammar to make me care. So I didn't.

Now, when writing for the public eye, I often wonder if my grammar is correct. I fret over comma placement like I haven't fretted since my elementary grammar tests. I constantly reference books on what I should be doing in regards to punctuation, and am constantly checking my use of affect and effect, usually twice before my work gets sent out. It's nerve wracking and I often find myself feeling like a degenerate when my German mother finds errors before I do.

Before I tear myself down any further I will add, that these last couple of months at Penumbra have started to re-instill the basic grammar I've been neglecting throughout my education. I can, and often do, find my own errors and do not need to have them pointed out to me. Typically. No one has the perfect first draft, it is usually filled with errors. I just find it ironic that I'm working for a magazine and don't know all the basics by heart. It's another one of those, "How did I get away with this?" questions.

To be honest in all of writing, editing is my least favorite task. You can edit as you go, but  it almost never ends up catching all of the errors. It's the method I usually did at school because it was quick and PAINLESS. I know it's silly, but it often hurt my pride to find those silly little errors. Quick and painless, however, were based in pride, and as the saying goes, "Pride comes before a fall."

I know time with my paper (or even my blog, yes I'm aware there are a few pieces I haven't edited here) would solve many of my problems. However, I always get the feeling right before I edit like someone is dragging their nails down a chalk board. While I'm doing it there is not problem and afterwards I usually feel secure. It's those minutes before that drive me crazy. I feel like I'm having a confrontation with my weakness and I, like many, don't like it.

So the question becomes is there a way to find joy in editing? To face yourself and not only be comfortable doing so, but enjoy doing it. You might be thinking this girl is nuts! Who equates editing with self worth? Well, the answer is a career writer. A career writer should care about the quality of their work. Deadlines should never be an excuse. Though, I admit, it's often deadlines I blame for my lack of editing.

Maybe if I start placing my pride in my ability to edit, I can change my mindset. When that happens I think I will truly find that joy in writing. In reworking and refining what I have into the best pieces I can make.

That and my proverbial head will enjoy not being bruised by repeated drops onto a hard table and my ears can keep their normal pale color.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Who Do We Listen To When We Write?

I have had the pleasure of meeting a few different authors this year. I've also had several English and literature teachers in my life. They all have knowledge about how and what to write that they shared with me and, I am sure, many others. The author's methods certainly got them somewhere, and my teachers each taught me different ways to approach what I was writing. Whether that was message, grammar, or plot, they certainly offered me some of the basics of writing.

One author who I interviewed for an upcoming Penumbra issue said to write a page a day. It's something that has stuck with me. I've been gathering notes (a page a day) for my chosen book, so that in January I will be ready for my personal novel writing month with my friend. While helpful in moving in a direction of actually completing something, it's not very inspirational for what to write about.

Inspiration often comes from somewhere else. A hobby you're interested in, a genre of books you read, or in my case graphic novels and comics. I read over 100 different web comics and follow them religiously. I recently started putting together a Pinterest board with some of the better ones.

In the beginning of November I attended Youmacon in Detroit, Michigan. Youmacon is an anime convention held every year the week after Halloween. When I was there I had the lovely chance to meet one of my favorite web comic artists. Michael Terracciano, better known as Mookie, he is the creator of the long running web comic Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire. He gave a presentation called, Writing Unique Heroes and Memorable Villains.

I first saw the presentation in 2011 and saw it again this year because I had been so entertained the first time. Mookie has a bit of the theatrical spirit in his bones and does his presentation well, especially when explaining what sort of stories he loves and hates. I can't replicate his tone or the enthusiasm he displayed when acting out various characters on stage. However, his main points were these:

1. Get the girl friend out from behind the wall (AND FOR GODS SAKE PUT SOME CLOTHES ON HER!)

2. Use the intellectual victory when possible (for no other reason than that it is impressive).

3. People have random quirks, so should your characters. Something that makes people care about the characters and how they are doing. It gives a person something to relate to, to find a bit of themselves inside the character you make.

4. Your hero, villain, or bad-ass-bruiser does not need to have the only thing he or she has ever cared about blown up, killed, or destroyed in some other manner for them to take action.

There may have been more, but these are the bits that really sat in my mind. If I go to Youmacon again next year and he is there I will be in the crowd again, watching getting my dose of inspiration and entertainment from a man I truly respect as both a story teller and an artist.

Small Gifts

Yesterday I achieved my first written page. Today I will continue on, though I may be feeling a little levity and the thankful holiday spirit. 

I got to hear from my uncle for the second time in my life. He's German and the language barrier is a little hard to bridge, so having my mother there helped. He called us on Thanksgiving to share some bad news. So the reunion was a bit tainted. He told us that my Oma, or grandma in German, died sometime between 2008-09. She had dementia and was hard to keep track of a continent away. 

I have very few memories of my Oma, I was very young the last time I saw her. It was Christmas and she was visiting, as she did every year. This year I showed her the completed 3D castle puzzle that she had gotten me the year before. I remember being very proud of that puzzle. I remember her gray and white hair and loving it. She didn't speak any English, only German, so I don't remember anything she said to me, but I do remember her smiles. So her passing, sad as it is to say, did not affect me as it probably should have. My only problem is that we did not try to find her earlier. That I did not try, still, about the time I was thinking about looking for her, she had already passed.

So in remembering the little things and hearing from my uncle again I can be thankful for this day. I can be thankful for the family that received me at my mother's (step-mother's). It was a reminder of all the good family can bring to the soul.

I saw my sister's today; who though ten and twelve years younger than me are now taller than I am. After having not seen them in a month I realized how quickly they grow and was thankful I had the opportunity to see them. 

Life is such an interesting plethora of events, often taking place on the same day. Something that effects me one way, effects others differently. Thanksgiving is a holiday that requires us in some ways to reflect on what we are grateful for. I am grateful for my family however broken it is. It is filled with complexities I can appreciate and can only hope to emulate in a story. It is the intricate pieces that really bring life to the people we know. It's not all sunshine and rainbows and it's not all doom and gloom. I am thankful for this life, and all the small gifts that come with it. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fighting the Holiday Blues

Some days it's really hard to write. It feels like your creative juices just died in your dreams and you left them in bed. If I had napped today maybe the will to be productive might have returned to the recesses of my mind from the pillow in which I'm certain they're stored.

Still when you make the plan to write a page a day, you trudge on, even when you don't want to. Especially when you've been playing hooky the last few days. So after this I'm going to pick up my notebook and write my basic story line, write some details, and possibly draw a sketch. Something to empty a bit of my brain and keep my hands moving.

Tomorrow I'll be traveling home, like plenty of other Americans, to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. I always feel drained around this time of year because I'm always making decisions on where I'll be with my multiple divorce family. It's never as relaxing as it should be because in the end you always feel like you've offended someone.

I've used the term "nuclear family" to describe my divorced family before, but I don't think it's accurate. Apparently a nuclear family is just a basic family unit with two parents. It can be a gay couple (not my case,) but in the end it is just two parents and their children. I have my mother, my father, and my step-mother. All of whom I am very close to. I have two half sisters, who at half my age are already taller than me. I love them all, but as with any family there are problems. Not to mention the grand parents, aunt, uncles, and cousins who are also affected by your decisions.

It's enough to drive a person crazy or drag a person down. I'm headed on a downward spiral this year. Dread, fatigue, and body aches aside. I will write on.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Good Girl Gone Bad!

Last Christmas my mother got me a night shirt that said, "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel." It was meant as something cute. However, whenever I dawn it I get this small bit of satisfaction out of it. Knowing that there is a wicked little secret that I may indeed depict someone. Never in a recognizable way! A trait here, a quote there, but never more than that. It's a habit to want to imitate life, to make your writing have a breath and life that carries more than your own voice.

It's Tuesday night and I didn't written a thing on Monday. It's because I visited my boyfriend. Some of you out there probably understand the pull certain people in your life have on you. Those that can convince you to take time away from the things you should be doing. A lunch here, dinner there, a walk along the cold beach, or watching a new movie.

It would be so easy to lay the blame on him. Others often do when faced with my situation. They say that their partners always demanded or stole their time. However, I've always found that a silly thing to say. In the end I was the one who made the decision to avoid my writing. So needless to say I feel a bit wicked today, but nonetheless rested.

However, I'm not going to let this little break in my writing change my new goal just as I'm starting to form a habit and make some headway. I suppose the positive thing is that I really felt guilty about it. I've decided that I am going to keep writing on a Monday through Friday schedule.

Despite my neglect I did make a necessary selection for my future writing goals. I went through my personal library of notebooks and chose a story line to write about from the several I had. It wasn't a science fiction story like I had thought it would be, at least not entirely. The piece I chose is a solid piece of speculative fiction, a mix of several genres. There's a bit of science fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy in the story line. The piece I'm working on is called "The God Syndrome." It was an idea I came up with while I was in college. The notes for this story thankfully included a plot line.

Over the next few weeks I plan to expand my notes on the story. I may write a more detailed version of the plot, a mini story of sorts. I will still write a page a day, but I want to focus on building this work/ world. That and I will need to do some research on various subjects before I blindly move forward with my writing. Especially with history being an aspect to the story.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How Do You Measure a Page?

Anyone with a word processor knows that a page of writing can vary in the amount of words it contains. Double space, single space, size 10 text, size 12 text, and let's not forget font!

In high school it was common for my school mates and me to talk about tricks for getting a paper to look longer. There was changing the size of periods, and commas, messing with margins, and of course determining the size of the paper's title. Today I laugh at what I used to do. College professors never let you get away with that sort of shenanigans. That aside, I learned to love research and writing.

So why bring up all these alterations?

The answer is simple next week I'm going to start writing a page a day (offline). Picking one of my many fiction ideas is going to be another can of worms, but I'll go through my files and notebooks and pick one. So what do I consider the length of a page?

Honestly, I've always been a pen and paper girl. I like the look and feel of crossing things out, writing in the margins, using different color pens and pencils, doodling little images of characters for later reference. However, most know that a paper page never really equals the quantity of one that is typed up.

I used to do three, typed, double spaced pages a week for writing club in college. Keeping this in mind I think I'm going to do one written page a day, and when I have to rewrite I'll take that opportunity to edit and digitize the book.

So I have a question for you, if there's anyone reading this out there. How do you measure a page?

The Future of Exploration

A piece I did for Penumbra EMag's blog.

Penumbra eMag: The Future of Exploration: by Kristen Saunders

The picture wasn't spectacular, but it was the best I had at the time.

The piece focuses on how our current history is going to affect the writing of the future. It wasn't meant to be about writing techniques, which is the usual topic. I was asked to find a different approach to addressing exploration from a writer's perspective.

December's topic for Penumbra will be Utopia. I've been thinking about what people think as the perfect world. Thing is no two definitions would ever match up. So it's an interesting thought process to start to delve into.

I'll probably write again today, this was just a shameless plug.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Deadline Day 1

So today was a deadline at Penumbra. To say I'm tired doesn't quite cover it, yesterday I described to my boyfriend that my hands felt like they were attached to lead weights. He said I should try that and really see what it felt like. Writing takes my energy, my eyes burn from staring at the computer screen, my bones ache, and my brain feels like it's fried at the end of the day.

I still love the exercise of it. I like the expression it allows, and the feeling at the end of the day of some accomplishment when hitting the pillow. Still it's nice to know that after tonight I'll have a little relief. Tonight I'll watch a few episodes of Sex and the City with my mother. It's the first time I've watched it, and I have to  say I like Carrie's style. Carrie is perhaps what I strive to be. A little less risque perhaps, but definitely the kind of fun analysis of life that I want to achieve. The humor I always feel I'm a step or two away from.

I proposed a column today, and I'm crossing my fingers it will be accepted. It was turned down the first time. Understandably so, looking back at it now I felt it was an atrocious mess. This time though I think I've got it. It may not be 100% of what it needs to be. But this time I feel I've captured some sort of essence I was reaching for. Still that little demon of uncertainty is whispering terrible things in my ear. So we'll see if it goes anywhere.

So, those are my hopes for this first deadline. I'm certain I'll have many more of them in the future! I'm going to leave them on this page tonight and wind down for the evening. Snuggle into my raggedy burgundy throw and be entertained by other great minds.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why Do I Try NaNoWriMo When it Makes Me Feel Guilty?

My good friend posted this on Facebook today:

"Nano update 2170 words done today to bring my total to 6240. Not bad. Very tired though."

I wanted to grind my teeth. For those of you who don't know, This month is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. It's a one month race every November to type 50,000 words and finish a novel length project. Every year I say I'm going to do it, and every year something gets in the way.

This year it was a convention. I attended Youmacon the first few days of November and have made no attempt since to even try moving forward. I had work projects, and had to help my boyfriend move into his new apartment. Life has this funny way of trying to stop you from accomplishing your goals.

I'm flat out jealous at this point. I know I could do it, If you write everyday we're talking about a measly 1,667 words a day. Around two to two and a half pages without spaces. So I've come to the conclusion, I will try to do it this year. However, I'm not doing it with everyone else like I should. I'm moving my NoWriMo to January and writing with a friend.

We figured January was the month for breaking bad habits and starting new ones, that and there were no major pesky holidays like Thanksgiving that could take days out of your time if you have a nuclear family like I do. I have two thanksgivings and several hours worth of travel no matter which way I go to celebrate. January's only holidays would only serve to give us more writing time and no familial obligations. It was the perfect solution to the busy schedule problem.

Still, I'm missing out on the big rush. The feeling of completing my stories along with everyone else. The feeling of a group of people working together to get to that glorious end. The national bit of the equation.

Youmacon did have a panel on NaNoWriMo called 50,000 words. The panel gave me some resources to check out, and I wouldn't have found my writing buddy for January without it, so I don't regret leaving the national stream. I'm just slightly jealous of all of those folks who are going to attain their goal just slightly ahead of me.

To you poor saps attempting the challenge now, I commend you, trudge forth!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting Away With It?

When did I think I could get away with professionally editing, without writing first?

I'm not certain when the idea first came into my head. I switched majors in college five times till I found myself comfortably studying English and literature. It was easy, the questions could be argued, and I always figured that at the very least that I could later attend law school. However, my real focus was to become an editor. After all who wouldn't love to read submissions on a daily basis and find the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nora Roberts, or George R. R. Martin?

As you can see, I have a wide range of tastes, It's certainly wider than the respective author's genres above. I thought the job would be ideal. I'm just not certain when I thought I could get away with being the gate keeper to such writers, without first offering up a smidgen of my own work. I've always had these glorified views about how things work, and I didn't have any professionals to guide me or give me a reality check.

I had never been a member of the college paper and I never bothered to volunteer a column. I wrote in a writing circle, but that only lasted one year before it fell apart in my Junior year of college. Of course I wrote analysis papers for my classes, but in the end the only thing remotely professional I could claim was a short piece of fiction that I got published in the schools annual PRISM writing contest. Even then I only got second place to a well accomplished friend who blew the competition away that year. He won something like three first place awards.

I should say, that I was an active college student. It wasn't like I was a good for nothing. I stayed active with Sigma Tau Delta, the National English Honors Association, and worked at school twenty-two hours a week on top of being a full time student. 

You would think at some point I would have woken up from my fantasy and realized that this was not all going to work out as I had envisioned. 

So, here I am, an intern with Penumbra eMag and I've been writing. Doing interviews and attempting to develop a column on early writing. It hasn't been accepted yet, but it is in the works. It's a bit of a hilarious mess really, but I'm going to figure it out and make this thing work. 

I'll have to learn to write for the masses, explore the tools available to me, and fight that tick I got in college called procrastination. This is my attempt to start publicly writing and to move myself into the mentality of writing for the masses. I may have interesting stories or little tid-bitts of information to share. But here it is November, National Novel Writing Month, and I figure this is the best time to give a professional writing career a serious go.