Adult Failure

I’m two years into a graduate degree.  Two years with one year and 10 weeks to go.  Yes, exactly.  Yes, I’m counting.  I’m studying for a Master’s of Science in Geographic Information Systems, or making maps on the computer.  Overall, I’m loving the coursework and learning new things.  I’m hating that it gives me very little time to write.  My family hates that it makes me an unholy grouch to live with.  Balancing 32 hours a week of work, school work, and volunteer opportunities, while trying not to be a terrible mom, wife, sister, and child make my temperament less than jolly.

Imagine my thrill when the final project for my last class was posted.  A class I hated.  A class on which I spent over 20 hours a week.  A class I struggled to understand with a professor who I just didn’t gel with.  A class in which the technical text book used! lots! of! exclamation! points! incorrectly!  The final project announcement said, “I need to see some layout & design, professionalism, communication of ‘a story’, creativity…”  The project assignment said, “Tell a story about what is spatially living in this location.  Keep it short, straight to the point, and fictional if you want.”  The professor wanted a story?  A story that could be fictional?  Suddenly, my least favorite class had a silver lining.  I could write a story as my final project.

I dug in, I got creative.  I researched mythical creatures.  I thought about fonts and colors.  I agonized over the compass rose.  I came up with conflict and history and theme.  I made a map-story of which I was proud.  Right click on the below and open it in a new tab or a new window if you want to see how awesome it is.

Final Lab

As a kid, you have plenty of measurable opportunities to fail.  You can fail tests, fail homework, lose at soccer games.  Success or failure is quantifiable: less than 60% = failure; less goals than the other team = fail.  As an adult, failure feels more nebulous.  Plenty of times I feel like I’m failing as a friend, a parent, a wife, a child, a sister, an employee, or a writer, but it’s just a feeling.  This class gave me a chance to experience quantifiable failure as an adult.  My final grade on the above project?  50%.  A big fat honking F.

How did I get an F on such a masterpiece?  Oh, let me tell you.  He said that the map I created looked too much like the sample map he used as his example.  We used the same layout, map on the left, and color scheme – blue for water; shades of green, brown, and yellow for land.  So minus 25% for using his map as a guide and using appropriate cartographic colors for the land areas.  (The map had to be this size, so where in the heck else was I going to put it?)  Anyway, in his mind, 25% off for being a copycat.  Then, he said my final work product was just a map, and it would be enhanced by “some ‘pictures’ of the the pixies working at night or graphics showing how the brownies export the farm products.”  Really?  Maybe I could just throw on some 1990s clip art?  Great idea prof!  Minus 25% for wanting to create a tasteful uncluttered communication piece.  Got it.

Here my friends is the glory of doing graduate school in your 40s.  Did I like this class?  No.  Do I like the professor?  No.  Did my family have to listen to me rant endlessly for the two assignments I got bad grades on – this one and the other 50% I got because I’m unable to present information to decision makers in the correct manner.  (I’ll have you know, my real job involves near constant communication with decision makers and I AM VERY GOOD AT MY JOB.  But I digress.)  Yes, my family had to listen to me say bad words.  However, as someone in her 40s,  I know that this guy is just not a great teacher for me.  I know that this class is not a subject in which I excel.  But do you know what?  I’m still proud of my map story.  I like the idea of dryads and gnomes emigrating from the Mt. Adams fires and the Fairy Council trying to find homes for them.  I mean, they could be building walls to keep them away, but they are not.  Good for them.  Good for me.  I give myself an A+ for taking a crappy class and a crappy assignment and doing a little something with it that feeds my soul.  Actually I get an A++ and a gold star.

And you know what?  I still got an A in his damn class by 0.15%.  Not such a failure after all.

Twas the night before publication…

Twas the night before publication, and all through the house not a creature was stirring except me because gosh darn it, holy moly, gee whiz my first short story is getting published tomorrow!  Monday, June 3rd is publication day.  After a rough few years of submitting and being rejected, then completely quitting for a bit, I’ve had a run of acceptances.  (Is two a run?  I feel like it is.)  My first creative essay was published online April 20th and now my first fiction story will come out tomorrow.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow….

Grork Dentist will be published by Luna Station Quarterly, a magazine in their tenth year of publication.  I’ve loved Luna Station Quarterly since I first came across Holly Lyn Walrath’s story The Joy of Baking.  It’s a magazine with a cool mission: publishing speculative fiction by women-identified writers.  I love that they do a print and online publication (I’ve got four print copies arriving Tuesday from Amazon, thank you very much.)  It’s easy to share online publications with friends and family, but likewise really special to have a print copy of your very own story to hold, and smell, and sleep with, and carry in your purse everywhere, and give to your mom, and accidentally leave at your dentist office and… and…. I might need to order more copies.

The other cool thing?  I got to write my very own real live author bio.  I mean, does it get any more official than that?  My full bio is online and a shortened version will appear with my story.  Nothing makes you feel more like a real honest to goodness writer than a bio.  That is, not until tomorrow when I see my story.  I bet that will feel even better.

It’s funny, because I spend a lot of time with the Twitter writing community.  (Too much time, but hey, it got me my first publication.)  I’ve read how getting your story published doesn’t change anything.  My expectations will just get adjusted and I’ll want bigger and better things.  I must disagree.  For me, getting my first story published means the world.  As great as this story’s rejections were from high quality magazines — “We loved this story’s delightfully ridiculous concept” and “there’s some good writing here” — nothing equaled the joy of “We would like to publish your story, “Grork Dentist”, in the next issue of Luna Station Quarterly. Thank you for submitting!”  Getting a story you are proud of accepted into a journal you love is a very special feeling.  I’m now no longer afraid of calling myself a writer, and the publication has made me believe that my stories are worth writing and worth being read.  That feeds my writing soul.

Tomorrow I’m going to be refreshing my browser like an idiot waiting for the cover image to change and my story to show up.  Until then, I’ll be like a kid waiting for Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny to all show up overnight and bring me the best present imaginable.  Happy publication eve to all, and to all a good night.

Polymath Puberty Ponder

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There are times when all my roles in life — mother, graduate student, writer, and professional — threaten to draw and quarter me.  I’m pulled in different directions and the pain of not doing my best at anything rips me apart.  Then there are other times that epiphanies happen, and could only happen, because I see the world from so many angles.

It started with the note home from school.  The anticipated but dreaded permission form for my daughter’s puberty class.  The coming-of-age embarrassment of all children when they start to stink, have to think about a bra, or experience “nocturnal emissions”.  Nocturnal emissions?  When did wet dreams get such a fancy name?  I reread the note to make sure it meant a boy waking up in sticky sheets.  Yep.  The note clearly said “nocturnal emissions.”  Apparently it’s not just new math these kids are learning, but new puberty too.

That same week, I had to submit my graduate school capstone project proposal.  I’m leveraging a work project on alternative fuel corridors to examine how the climate impacts of the World Cup and Olympics could be mitigated by utilizing alternative fuel.  It’s a great proposal that hits the sweet spot of a school project for me: something that extends a work project and gets me credit from both school and clients.  As I was researching my proposal I found some fascinating journal articles that discussed the importance of delivery timing during mega-events.  The goal is to ensure that souvenir and food deliveries don’t impact spectators getting to events, and one of the strategies is to make deliveries at night.

Without warning, my writer brain engaged.  I had the perfect proposal topic.  If I shifted my focus to the Women’s World Cup happening in France this summer and refocused on the temporal aspects of the study I could title my capstone: Calculating Nocturnal Emissions resulting from the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Now who wouldn’t want to read that?


Photo by Seb Creativo on Unsplash

Jobs I Do Not Want

Last night, I was lucky enough to sit directly behind the bench at a collegiate hockey game.  There I witnessed a job that I do not want: a hockey skate maintainer.  Hockey equipment manager?  Whatever this guy is doing, I don’t want to do it.  One of my phobias is slicing.  I hate movies that feature knives or swords.  Every hockey game I anticipate the moment when a player’s Achilles, leg, or face will be sliced open by an errant skate.  This guy has to pry blades out with a wimpy plastic tool, sharpen them, and then use his bare hand to press them back in wall while pucks and sticks and players fly about.  I couldn’t stop watching him, anticipating his hand being cut in two.   Gak.

My list of jobs I don’t want now includes:

  • Hockey skate maintainer
  • Glass sharpener
  • Spider wrangler

Please don’t recommend me for any of the above opportunities.  Thank you.

Work is Raunchier than Fiction

Note: Image above used in a real webinar.  Transcript below has been adjusted to better align with the image’s message. 

Ally:  Okay, so there was a question about the potential fueling options in the New York Metro area.  Johanna can you do a quick on-the-fly evaluation?

Johanna:  Sure!  Let me zoom into the region.  Remember earlier we showed an analysis indicating that natural gas has some penetration in this area, so I’ll turn on the natural gas layers.  As you can see, there are three distinct strategic thrust areas:  the areas outlined in blue.  Those shafts indicate where we have a deep penetration of natural gas stations — indicated by the blue dots — along an interstate.

Johanna:  First consider the shaft from Scranton heading east.  There we have an exciting opportunity for double penetration into both New York and New Jersey.  Next while there is only a single station in White Plains, with some attention, that shaft could rise and stimulate the upstate New York market.  Finally the shaft along the Long Island Expressway has so many stations it almost seems to be ready to explode with potential.

Johanna:  This map makes me so excited about the growing opportunities in the New York region.  Transforming these shafts into natural gas corridors isn’t going to be easy — in fact it’s going to be hard, very hard.  In the end, with a little political and technical stroking, I know our strategic thrusts will climax into a robust natural gas fueling infrastructure in this region.

Ally:  Gosh, you’ve got me worked up!  I can’t believe how huge this opportunity is.  That was a stimulating question and a really deep analysis by Johanna.  Thanks!  Are there any other regions folks would like to explore?

Parental Elastic

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Fifth grade.  It’s impossible to watch my daughter grow and not remember myself at her age.  Fifth grade was a turning point.  Fourth grade was rotten.  Third grade was unremarkable.  Second grade was amazing, but little kid amazing.  I remember finally feeling like I was growing into myself in fifth grade.  Watching my daughter start to navigate this school year I am struck that there is something more than a new year and a new teacher going on.  For the first time, I can really see her starting to become the adult she will be someday – not in flashes, but in persistent displays of adult. Grown up.  Not little kid.

The first day of fifth grade, my husband and I walked her up to school, like we had every single day of daycare, preschool, and elementary school.  Then the ultimatum: we could walk her to the gate, but no farther.  Most of the other kids’ parents didn’t drop them off at school, even in third or fourth grade, she explained, so it was time for us to stop too.

Last year this announcement might have stung.  Two years ago, my feelings would have been hurt.  Three years ago, I would have talked her out of her decision.  Now?  It was okay.  I had been feeling the awkwardness myself.  Watched the dwindling parents. Noticed the kids didn’t come and say “Hi Coach Johanna” anymore.  Heck, I wasn’t even sure they remembered I was their second-grade soccer coach.  In some ways it was a relief.  Dropping her off a block from school gave me a chance to get to work on time and avoid the yoga-mom chit-chat after the bell rang.

Two weeks in, a new development.  Her friend approached her about biking to school together.  So, our routine shifted.  My husband or I ride her to her friend’s house, then ride home while Afthead Junior and her buddy head to school.  Now I’m out the door to work before school even starts, with a little bit of exercise under my belt, and the girls ride their bikes home alone every day.

I remember the freedom of walking home from school.  I remember the fear when a new route creeped me out for some reason, and the joy of taking my time during a nice day or when there was a friend to walk with.  I remember watching for mean dogs, like the one in the Ramona Quimby book.  When my daughter comes home five minutes later than normal with a big grin on her face I’m happy for her freedom, for her exploration, for her independence.  Sometimes she tells me why she’s late, and sometimes she doesn’t.  It’s a step toward a more grown up relationship where she shares what she wants, not just because I’m her mom and she’s supposed to.

Heading out for our annual Labor Day camping trip I grabbed my favorite “won’t wash my hair for three days” headband.  I pulled it on and heard the little elastic strings woven into the headband fabric snap.  The band fell down.  In the past year, while I wasn’t paying attention, the elastic had passed on into the land of non-stretchiness.

With my hair askew and my useless headband around my neck it hit me.  There are no apron strings between parent and child.  At least not in my situation.  There is an elastic band holding us together.  In the beginning it was tight tight tight.  It held her inside me as she grew into a baby.  It held her to me when she was an infant and couldn’t walk.  The first snappings happened as she toddled away screaming “I can do it.”  She needed more space.  The band got less and less restrictive as she went off to preschool, kindergarten, elementary school.  It was strong enough so that when her friends were mean, her coach yelled, or she failed at school the energy in the elastic always pulled her to me: back to safety and momma.

But now I can feel the elastic slipping.  There are less stretchy bits left than non-stretchy bits.  What will happen when all the elastic is gone?  Will we toss it like a cheap pair of underwear?  Like a swimsuit gone see-through and obscene?  Will I store it away in some box where it will sit next to baby teeth going to dust, pulling it out occasionally to caress the rotting fabric and reminisce of days when our relationship was simultaneously simpler and more complicated.  When I always stood between her and the dangers of the world.  Will I brandish it at her when she doesn’t call or doesn’t come home for the holidays demanding she remember what I did for her?  Or, will we keep it and use it when we need it?  When her boyfriend (or girlfriend) dumps her, will she pull it out and wrap it around us?  When her own baby is born will she stretch it around me and her own new elastic band providing an extra layer of support to a new precious life?  When I’m infirm and heading to the rat-infested nursing home will she give it to me, so I can clutch desperately to the fragile ties between us?  Whatever happens, these long-term connections are a choice, not a given as they were when she was tiny and wee.

Apron strings can be knotted, ripped open, re-typed, or left dangling at will.  Our bond has more of an air of inevitability about it.  Someday it will not be needed, but I hope it will be wanted.  I hope there will always be days when she chooses to ask my advice, spend time with me, or just snuggle up next to me because she finds me a comfort.  And I hope I’m brave enough and wise enough to give her the space she needs, letting the elastic continue to stretch to fit our ever-changing relationship.

Last week an early morning rush to band left her frazzled.  The week of soccer, running, homework, early mornings, and late nights caught up with her.  We’d barely seen each other between our non-coincident commitments.  She gathered her trumpet and her backpack and then asked, just outside of school in view of any other early arrival, “Mom, can I have a hug?”  I got out and held her while she cried.  Then I opened the car door and told her, “Get in.  You can practice trumpet at home.”  We sat together in the basement, annoying her sleeping dad, while she played for me and pretended to be her band teacher: giving herself corrections and praise.  An hour later I dropped her off at school and she ran in with her normal quick hug and “Love you mom.”  I watched her turn the corner then drove off to start my own day.

My favorite flower

I’d like to introduce you to my favorite flower.  Don’t misunderstand.  Tulips are not my favorite type of flower: that’s an iris.  This specific tulip is my favorite flower.   My husband and I have owned our house for almost 18 years.  I believe this flower came with the house, or at least I don’t remember planting it, and I don’t remember a spring when it didn’t bloom.  It’s a big tulip, the flower probably four inches tall, and it can’t decide if it wants to be pink, orange, salmon or all of them at once.  In a garden filled with blossoms it commands attention.

The spring before my daughter was born I remember checking on my favorite flower each morning wondering if my baby or flower would arrive first.  The flower bloomed a month before my due date, and my visions of enjoying it’s beauty with my baby evaporated when it’s petals fell and I was still pregnant.  Seasons, flowers and babies have their own timelines.

Now every spring I remember the anticipation, anxiety, and excitement of those last weeks of pregnancy.  With my favorite flower’s arrival comes reflection on my decade of motherhood.  I tell the story of the flower to my daughter, and we remember our springs together.  My favorite flower makes me pause to remember and appreciate the wonder filled life I’ve been given.

Don’t stop by, anytime.

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My house on an average day. Playing with cats is more important than putting laundry away.

I hate unexpected visitors.  I don’t want you to stop by if you are in the neighborhood.  If you are going to be driving by, feel free to text or call to see if I’m available, but if I don’t respond just keep driving.  Sure it might be fine to stop, but it might not.  I’m too polite to tell you to “go away” at my door, but I will quietly seethe your entire visit if you aren’t welcome.

See, I might be naked, fighting with my husband, or naked fighting with my husband.  Those things don’t happen all the time, but they do happen.  I might be in my introverted shell and while you’ll think I’m lonely, I am not.  I enjoy being alone.  It’s an infrequent pleasure in my life.

If I’m in the front yard, feel free to wave or honk or slow down for a quick chat, but unless I invite you in, please stay in your car.

I realize this is weird. My extroverted best friends with people skills tell me, “I was in your neighborhood yesterday and I didn’t stop.”  I think I’m supposed to feel guilty, but instead I reply, “Thank you.”  I know they are trying to illuminate the fun times I am missing, but I am not missing anything.

My house will be a mess if you stop by.  I am not a housekeeper.  If I don’t know you are coming there will be shoes and backpacks tripping you just inside the front door.  The dishes from breakfast, lunch, and maybe dinner the night before will still be on the table – worst case – or in the sink – best case.  The cat-box will be dirty and the house may stink.  My slovenly ways mean you will judge me and find me wanting.  I’ll feel terrible and you’ll feel superior, but I’m sure you can find ways to feel good about yourself without me being involved.

Please, if you are invited, come on over.  It’s not that I hate people, or parties, or visitors.  But I am descended from, or reincarnated from, peoples who had barriers to keep away invading hordes.  The drawbridge must be lowered, the moat monster put away, and the dungeons cleared before honored guests arrive.  If guests are expected, I know I won’t need backpacks to alert me of intruders, convenient food left in case I must suddenly flee, or cat poop to fling at invaders from warring tribes.  Be confident that if I asked you to come, you are welcome.  My house will be clean, my clothes will be on, and the familial fighting will be negligible.

I beg you, don’t stop by.  Give me a call if you are in the neighborhood.  We’ll meet at the coffee shop.  I’d love to see you there.

“Check it out”

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The perfect family stood in line waiting to select their bagels.  Two parents — the expected mom and dad — and three adult children out for Sunday breakfast.  The attractive eldest stretched to at least 6’4″ if you measured to the tip of his glossy black hairstyle:  spiked enough to be stylish, but not so much as to be inappropriate for one closer to 30 than 20.  The daughter’s lithe body, draped in a dark red lace shawl, clicked past me on sensible-heeled above-the-knee boots on her way to the restroom.  Her face was beautifully sculpted, framed by the sleek black hair, but she kept her eyes lowered as she excused herself  while slipping past me.

“Check this out,” the oldest held out a smart phone and bent over his smaller brother.  Glasses slightly askew the third child moved with less grace than his siblings, or others in line.  His face, his glasses, and his demeanor conveyed an extra chromosome or perhaps an abnormality in one.  The third child belatedly smiled at the phone and the mother beamed as her eldest protected her most vulnerable.

The father, had he been straight, would have neared the height of his son.  Stooped as he was, the top of his head reached the same height as the mother.  Trying to make sure her family didn’t cause an inconvenience, the mother directed her sons to the menu ensuring their orders would be ready the moment they reached the front of the line.  She was a strong looking woman, not lithe like her daughter, but fit and powerful: the backbone of her perfect family.

“Let’s check it out,” the older brother motioned to the menu and his brother’s gaze slowly followed.

The daughter breezed back from urinating, or fixing her hair, or her pre-breakfast bulimic purge.  Upon arriving back she closely conferred with her mother, who left for her own bathroom ritual.  Catching me watching her family she smiled an eye crinkling smile at me, which I returned.  Her joy at having her family together was genuine.

His wife gone, the father took on the shepherding of his family.  They stood closer together than a normal family of adults might, always keeping the third child toward the center as if protecting him from outsiders.  The daughter’s shawl provided a physical barrier to her brother as she placed her hand on his rounded shoulders.  The moment it was time to order they efficiently stepped up one by one and succinctly selected their bagels.  Returning, the mother walked directly to the cashier confident her order would be accurately conveyed by her daughter.  While waiting to pay, the mother surveyed the tables for one that would seat her family of five.

The only mishap was when the youngest son and father approached the drink cooler.  Apparently drinks had not been accounted for during their in-line planning, so they had to backtrack.  I stepped back to give them access to the cooler.  The son reached for a bottle of orange juice and mistakenly grabbed orange mango instead.  “That’s orange mango,” the father corrected, “or do you want to try something new?”

“I’ll check it out,” replied the third child echoing the sentiments of his majestic older brother.  His speech was deliberate.

The father paused reaching toward the traditional orange juice, but changed his mind at the last minute veering toward orange mango.  “I’ll check it out too.”  He nodded my direction in acknowledgement of the minor inconvenience he and his son had caused during their drink selection.

My order placed, paid for, and received, I walked to the soda dispenser.  The family had settled at a high top table with four seats nearby, father opting to stand rather than take a seat from another table.  They were not a family to take more than the appropriate allotment of chairs.  As I turned to go, I heard one of the family’s men utter, “…check it out,” and I wondered at what point did that repetitive phrase break the sister’s or mother’s perfect facade.  I knew I would break, but their life was not mine.  Perhaps the phrase was their own security blanket.  One that conveyed their belief in open-mindedness, curiosity, and willingness to make the best of what life had to offer.


Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Reading Debut Novels – 2017

As someone who would like to have a debut novel someday, I read the first book of several authors this year, and tried to read them as a writer.  What was it about these books that first grabbed an agent’s attention, then a publisher’s attention?  Was it possible I could do what they did someday?  My last reading post for the old year highlights debut novels.

Dissension, by Stacey Berg

Stacey is an author I’ve followed for some time on Twitter:  @slbscifi.  (She followed me back, so I’m not a total stalker.)  Berg is not only an author of speculative fiction YA books, but is also a medical researcher.  As a chemical engineer who dabbles in speculative fiction, I look to her as a role model for how one might balance a left brain career and a right brain writing avocation.

I love YA fiction, so enjoyed diving into Dissension.  It’s set in a post apocalyptic world where “the church” has taken over directing the survival of humanity.  The main character, Echo, is responsible for protecting the church and the populous.  Berg has created an engaging innovative world and Echo vacillates between being a heroine and an anti-heroine as the story unfolds.  The story was engaging, so I also read Berg’s second book, Regeneration.

From Berg I’ve learned that if you are a science person, you do not have to write fiction in your non-writer area of expertise.  Yes, there are medical aspects of Berg’s books that are important, but that is not what her story is about.  However, her books have a scientific quality that I enjoy:  they are organized and logical.  Understanding that my background can influence my writing but doesn’t need to limit my writing is a valuable lesson from Berg’s works.

I found Berg through Mary C. Moore, an agent I paid to review the first 10 pages of my novel, because I’m not just stalking authors through this little experiment of mine, I’m also looking for an agent who represents books similar to mine.

Mrs. Kimbel, by Jennifer Haigh

Ah, this Jennifer Haigh lady.  She taught me so much last year!  She taught me to find my keystone works for my own books – books that write the way I want my story told.  Then she taught me how she wrote her first book in a way she would never write a book again.  Mrs. Kimbel is a story is of three women, all married to the same man.  It was written as three discreet longish short stories that Haigh had to cram together into a novel: not a process she recommends.  It’s an interesting book, but outside of my normal preferred genre and style.  If you are a lover of interpersonal stories, I highly recommend it.  If you normally read crazy sci fi, epic fantasy, and apocalyptic fiction, maybe skip it.

Because Haigh was so negative about her process creating this first book, I wasn’t sure what I would learn from it.  But books never fail to inspire.  Haigh is a single woman with no kids and no career other than writing.  In her class I learned that she has eschewed a “traditional” life in favor of being a writer.  Writing is her priority.  So, I was surprised that her book about relationships and motherhood felt true.  Whenever an author believably writes about an experience they have not had I feel permission to write prose outside of my own life experiences.

Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi

I adore John Scalzi.  I follow his blog.  I read his tweets.  I reply to his tweets.  (He replied back once, again proving to me that I’m not a total online stalker.)  I also love his books.  They feel like stories that actually happen.

Agent to the Stars, Scalzi’s first novel, is a funny little book about a Hollywood agent who represents an alien.  The book allows the reader to experience human first contact with a non-threatening new life-form.  True to Scalzi’s other works, it’s funny and unexpected.  The audiobook is a joy to listen to, read by Will Wheaton: one of my favorite readers.

From Scalzi’s first book, I learned about voice.  People have told me that my writing has “a good voice.”  I’ve read that agents are looking for works that are more than just technically accurate: they need a voice.  But voice is one of those nebulous things like love or faith or parenthood that you have to experience to understand.  Because I’ve read so much Scalzi has written I was able to sense his voice even in this first novel, and I think I understand the concept better now.  All Scalzi’s works are irreverent, unexpected, and highlight details other authors might gloss over.  Those details make his stories real, which I love.  From his first novel, Scalzi had voice, and maybe now I understand mine a bit better.

I learned so many different things from my first-book experiment, so am continuing it in 2018.  I just finished Point of Direction, a book by Rachel Weaver who is an instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop where I am a member.  I wanted to read Weaver’s book because she’s someone I can take writing classes from, and even ask annoying questions in person: an invaluable resource for the aspiring novelist.

My second planned first-book for 2018 is Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra.  (She’s a WordPress blogger too.)  I also found Mehrotra through Mary C. Moore, who recommended Mehrotra’s author website as one of her favorites.  Expecting some whiz-bang super-designed wonder, I was happy to see that Mehrotra’s site was well organized and easy to read, but not unobtainable.  I also found her site to be a wonderful resource for potential publication journals and she’s taught me what it looks like to be a more grown-up writer than myself.  Again, I follow Mehrotra on Twitter @Rati_Mehrotra – yes, she follows back – and have loved virtually celebrating the publication Markswoman.  (It just came out this past Tuesday, but it’s been so exciting to watch the pre-publication build up.)  I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn from this read.

That’s it.  All my reading analysis for 2017: the good, the bad, and the debut.  For 2018 I’m already 7 books in, and after Markswoman I’m going to dive into an Ursla K Le Guin story or two.  Shockingly, as a lover of speculative fiction, I’ve never read anything by her, and her death this week revealed what an inspiration she was to authors I love.  My bookstack is full, as always, with new stories to love and learn from.  Let me know if there’s anything you’ve read that I should add to the stack.