This is Why I Shouldn’t Take Breaks

WHAT’S PLAYING: Christina Aguilera feat. Nicki MinajWoohoo

Recently, I decided to take a break from writing and recharge my batteries. While that might work for some, when it comes to someone as lazy as I am, inactivity inevitably leads to stagnation. The result being that I’ve written precious little in the last four or five weeks. And I’m not just talking about my novel. Blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, hell even my grocery list, all have fallen by the wayside while I languished in the doldrums feeling sorry for myself.

This morning, I decided enough was enough. No more self-pity parties. I got out of bed, sat down and made a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish today.

This is what I came up with:

Yes, I know it needs work, but it’s a process, right?

*Sigh* Don’t judge me.


Vermont State Science and Math Fair Recap

WHAT’S PLAYING: Live “Forever May Not Be Long Enough

Last week, I had the honor of being one of the judges for the nuclear and alternative energy and engineering sciences categories at the Vermont State Science and Math Fair.

The first thing I thought when I walked through the door was that I was seriously under-dressed. Everyone was wearing skirts and suits, while I was rocking a pair of jeans and my favorite t-shirt.

My second thought was “Holy Sh*t! These kids are amazing!”

Their projects ranged from subliminal messaging and environmental studies to alternative energy and string theory with everything in between.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. You’ve Got a “Friend” in Me? by Lindsey Marcy

Social media has long been a sore spot for me, so this project landed right in my wheelhouse. This savvy ninth grader created a fake Facebook account under a false name. That’s it. No picture, no personal info, just a name. She then sent friend requests under that name to every member of her class with Facebook accounts. Fifty-two percent of her class accepted her as a friend, allowing her to view personal information of seventy-eight percent of the freshman class. Yikes!

2. Conducting Electricity Using a Microbial Fuel Cell (Poop to Power) by Sally Kim and Alison Cook


These two brilliant young ladies modeled their project on cutting edge research going on in the world today. They wanted to assess the energy output of different sources of microbes: chemical/biological waste, sanitary wasted, and river water. They deoxygenated the waste using nitrogen displacement and then ran it through their homemade fuel cell. The best part about this project is not only did they find a way to make energy from waste products, but they were also cleaning the water. Talk about a win-win.  

Big ups to these young ladies, not only for handling poop in the name of science, but for their efforts for cleaner, greener energy.

3. Exotic Spheres in 4-dimensional Hyperspace by Jane Goodwin


This project attempted to explore Gluck twists and their properties as possible 3-spheres with nonstandard differentiable structure. To find a student willing to tackle the Poincaré conjecture was impressive. Discovering that this self-possessed and brilliant young lady was only in the tenth grade made it even more so. (It also made me wish that I had paid more attention in school.)

This list is by no means exhaustive. There were literally hundreds of great projects ranging from the mundane to the fantastic, but they all had two things in common: a love of science and a desire to make this world a better place.

We can all learn a lot from these kids. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year!

P.S. They also thought my rock-paper-scissors- lizard-Spock t-shirt was cool. So, I guess we can add “great sense of style” to the list as well.

Social Media 101 – Facing up to Facebook

WHAT’S PLAYING: Alicia KeysTry Sleeping With a Broken Heart

I joined Facebook a while ago, and I’m still not sure if it was the right move. I am a loner after all. Why go looking for more people to “friend” when I can barely manage the friends I have? I’ve been told that FB is a good place to reconnect with old friends from high school and college. This might be true, but if they were really my friends, then I wouldn’t have lost touch with them in the first place. (Some of you are probably shaking your head at me, but you know it’s true.)

I have serious reservations about social media and how it changes people. I’m “friends” with a few of my younger relatives, and they are completely different online. It’s as if they go from intelligent, well-spoken young people to profane idiots who couldn’t conjugate a verb to save their lives with just a click of a mouse. (You know who you are. Now stop it.) Then there’s the oversharing. (FYI: I don’t want to know what you had for breakfast this morning, or how wasted you got last night. And I really don’t want to see pictures.) The good news is that both issues are easily solved. All I have to do is click a button.

Another good thing is, since I’m not obsessed with making new friends or reconnecting with old ones, FB doesn’t take up too much of my time. I check it maybe once or twice a week at most, and I’ve only posted twice in the last six months.

The problem with FB is that it’s turned me into a bit of a stalker. Not a creepy, rabbit boiling, love-me-or-die stalker. I use it to keep track of what my friends and family are up to and how their lives are going. Which would be fine if I didn’t suck so much at actually checking in with them in real life. Sometimes I go months without talking to them. FB provides me with the unique opportunity to keep abreast of what’s going on my loved ones lives without actually having to speak with them. It’s a loner’s dream. All the important info with none of the messy contact.

Sometimes I wonder if this is healthy. Is it OK to allow a social network to maintain personal connections I should be forming myself? After all, the point of this blog, of all my forays into social media, was to connect with other people. Is it cheating to just sit back and watch my loved ones’ lives unfold on the computer screen without actually joining in?

Truth is, when it comes to connecting with people, I’m crap. I forget birthdays. (Unless FB reminds me.) I have no pictures of my friends or family. (Except for those I’ve downloaded from  FB.) And I couldn’t tell you how old my nieces and nephews are. (No wait, they’re on FB too.)


 Now all I have to do is find an app to take my place at family dinners.

Social Media 101: Tweet This

WHAT’S PLAYING: Ideal “Get Gone”

Recently, I did something I swore I never would. I joined Twitter. It was a homework assignment, but still, it went against every instinct I possess. Now that I’ve been a semi-active part of the Twitter-verse for over a month, I feel qualified to comment on it. 

When it comes to Twitter, I’m of two minds about it. I like it. I didn’t think I would, but I do. I like the brevity, the way it forces me to be concise, to say what I have to say in 140 characters or less. I think it makes me a better writer. I like knowing when my favorite authors are releasing new stuff, or when they’re in my area for a reading or a book signing.

What I don’t like is the insidious way it’s gotten into my head. Every time something remotely interesting happens, I find myself reaching for my cell phone. Just the other night, I had to stop myself from Tweeting about the return of Salsa Rio Doritos. (Though to be fair, Salsa Rio is like the McRib of Doritos. They pop up every other year or so for a limited time and then disappear as quickly as they came.) When I first signed up, I promised myself that I wouldn’t be that person. You know the one. The chick who will Tweet about everything from her kids to her latest visit to the gynecologist.

I also hate the feeling of having to post something – anything – to keep up with all the other people in the Twitter-verse. It’s as if I’m in a race, running as fast as I can, and yet I’m still somewhere in the back with little old ladies power walking their way past me. What can I say? My life just isn’t that interesting. Plus, I don’t want to add to the mindless chatter already out there.

My biggest issue with social media like Twitter and Facebook is that for people like me, it can be a boon or a curse, a bridge to other people or a wall that separates us from the rest of the world. It can bring us together or alienate us even further.

The real world is scary, full of unknown dangers, both physical and emotional. Who wouldn’t prefer connecting with others from the safety of their living room? It’s much easier to reduce yourself to 140 characters. What is the touch of a lover’s hand when compared to the visceral rush that comes with amassing over hundred thousand followers?

I’m still not sure about the term “follower.” Sounds stalker-y. I mean seriously, Jesus had followers, but he also had an important, world-altering message to deliver. All I can got are a couple of anecdotes and blog posts that are hopefully funny, interesting, and most of all, useful.

Twitter is a great tool if you know how to use it. I wanted to connect with other writers, loners and fantasy geeks, and I have. And if I’m completely honest, I like that it gives me an opportunity to meet other people, while providing an excuse to avoid them in the real world. (I am a loner, after all.)

What about you? Do you use social media as a bridge or a wall?

However you use it, try to restrain yourself from Tweeting about Doritos. That’s my thing.

Tackling Resistance: First Book Blues

WHAT’S PLAYING: The Red Hot Chili Peppers “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”

Has this ever happened to you? You’re writing away, and realize that you’re almost finished. Your labor of love is nearly complete. At first, you’re elated. It’s almost over. All the sleepless nights and cancelled dates, they’ve all come down this moment. You let out a whoop, dance a jig, and sit down to finish your very first book.

But then, you check your e-mail. Or play solitaire. Or update your status on Facebook and Twitter. You do everything but write. The next thing you know, four hours have passed and it’s time for bed.

How did this happen? More importantly, why did it happen? What makes finishing a story so hard when starting one is so easy? Short answer: resistance. The dictionary defines resistance as “any force that tends to retard or oppose motion.”

(Baby, you ain’t kidding.)

I’ve come up against some serious resistance in my own writing lately. Words are coming slowly, if at all. I find myself actively looking for excuses not to write. Even this blog has been a struggle. I suppose I could blame it on my crazy work schedule, school, or any number of distractions, but the truth is – on a subconscious level at least – I don’t want to finish my novel.

I want to be a writer more than anything, and I want to share my writing with the world. It’s this particular novel that’s giving me fits. Why? Because it’s my first. Good or bad. Boring or whatever. This is ground zero, from which everything else springs.

Now, I find myself dreading that inevitable next step. The Critique. Yes, I know it’s an important, even crucial, step in the revision process, but I’m still terrified. What if they don’t get it? What if the writing isn’t good enough? Worst of all, what if the story sucks?

I don’t expect everyone to like my writing. (I’m hopeful, but not delusional.) But this is the story I want to tell. If it isn’t any good, well…then I’m screwed. Grammar, voice and technique, I can fix. But if the story doesn’t work, then it’s over. At least, for this novel.

How does one overcome resistance? One thing that seems to work for me is not thinking about what comes next. Focus on writing, choose each word with care and take satisfaction in the craft.

Who can resist that?

Technological Miracles vs. Everyday Ones

WHAT’S PLAYING: Miley Cyrus “Party in theU.S.A.”

A couple of months ago, I bought a new phone. This sucker has a full keyboard, massive screen, camera, video, and all the latest Android technology. Sleek and shiny, it really is a marvel.

And yet, whenever I have to make a call, I find myself reaching for my trusty old tracfone. Why? I don’t know. Probably out of habit. Or maybe it’s my ever-present fear of change.  

Either way, it’s hard to believe that both these phones evolved from the one Bell invented back in 1876.


See what I mean?

I love gadgets. I do. In addition to two cell phones, I have a home weather station that I haven’t set up yet, two iPods (just in case one breaks), a tablet, a couple of DVD players, video game consoles, and various other devices.

When I think about the near miraculous strides humans have made over the past couple of centuries, I’m filled with both awe and humility.

Case in point: here is a link to an article about a robot so lifelike that at first, I thought it was an actor pretending to be a robot. You can find the video here:

(Welcome to Skynet, people.)

My first reaction was, “That is so cool!” Then I realized just how eerily lifelike the android was, even down to simulated breathing. There is a fine line between genius and creepy, and this thing crosses it.

If that isn’t enough real life sci-fi for you, there’s this:

 OK, that is seriously cool. Can a cure for cancer or a recipe for immortality be far behind?

With all these major advances in technology though, I’m left wondering what the future will bring. Already, people spend more time online than they do with friends and family. Then there’s the loss of privacy and common courtesy. Recently, I read a story about a blogger who overheard a couple breaking up in a public restaurant. Instead of ignoring it, he Tweeted the dissolution of their marriage in real-time. Granted, the couple probably should have picked a more private spot to end their relationship, but this guy was out of line.

I’m not a huge fan of social interaction, online or off. In fact, I usually go out of my way to avoid it. Still, when I do manage to crawl out of my shell every now and then, it’s not to update my status on Facebook. There’s more to life than technology and the latest and greatest discovery.

In fact, if you really want to see something cool, just get up early to watch a sunrise. Listen to a child’s laughter, take a walk, or simply ask about your family’s day. You’d be surprised at the everyday miracles this world holds, if you would only stop Tweeting long enough to notice. 


  What could possibly be cooler than that?