Saturday, April 29, 2006

Thank your Laboratory Professional

Yeah, yeah, I know this post is a bit late ... but last week was National Laboratory Professionals Week. I was on the lab week committee, which is a lot of work and a lot of fun. Lab week at Carle is pretty cool--lots of food, games, and prizes all week--and this year was no exception. I'm particularly excited because one of my ideas was well received. We decided to raffle off a few $50 dollar gift certificates and donate the money raised to charity. The Lab Week committee has tried to raise money in the past, but no one ever donated. Dangle a spa gift certificate in front of them, however ... and they go crazy.

My short story is in the hands of a few choice readers. I've gotten some pretty harsh criticism back from one, but it was good. He told me exactly what he didn't like and exactly how he thought it could be better. It helps that he sweetened the harshness with phrases like "it's obvious you have talent" and "you've built too good a story to take the cheap way out." Silver linings. Hopefully I'll hear back from the others in the next week or so.

Probably on Monday I'll start on a new story. This idea came to me in a dream, actually. What if one day some one knocked on your door and told you that you could go back and change one decision you've made. The caveat is that it can't be an obvious life decision, like where to go to college or who to marry. It's got to be seemingly innocuous. So of course you say yes and you decide to wear blue instead of pink one day in grade school. And it changes your life. So now you're in your new life, and it's great. But you know what you've lost, so you want to go back. Or, you're greedy and want to change another choice to make your life even better. But the rules state that each person only gets one shot. How far would you go to get another chance?

Or, maybe I'll write the contract dead people have to sign once their dead. I made a allusion to that in one of my stories, and ever since then I've thought it'd be neat to write that contract. What do they have to agree to? It seems a little cliched to sign it in blood, especially since they're dead, they don't have blood anymore. Yeah, maybe I'll do that one.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

another one bites the dust

I'm about 2/3 of the way finished with another short story. I'm submitting to an open "dark humor" anthology, and so far I'm happy with how the story is turning out. It's a satire on Survivor, written in screenplay format. It's been so much fun to write. The editors will either love it because it's out of the box or hate it for the very same reason. I'll probably submit it in a few weeks, but I won't hear anything until the end of June. Fingers crossed. After that, I'd like to write two short stories a month and submit them to various places. Get my name out there and hopefully get a few more sells for my resume before World Fantasy Con in November.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Goin' to Cali

Well, it's official. Ken and I are joining friends of ours on a trip to Los Angeles. It's a scouting trip--they're moving out there in September, and so we're going to help them look for apartments and jobs and such. It's going to be a good time. A day or two at the beach, a day in the mountains, I can't wait. It's going to be interesting, though, since we've never vacationed with another couple before. It'll either make us friends forever or enemies. Probably friends forever because B and I aren't into petty bullshit. I'm jazzed.

Friday, April 07, 2006


I just finished reading the book "Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld. It's about a middle-class teenager going to an eastern boarding school for high school. The author nailed a lot of things about being middle-class in a rich world, being insecure when everyone around seems so sure of themselves, and general teenage angst with boys and friends. One of my big gripes about the book: the protagonist played herself to be a victim for four years, and I just can't see where someone would allow that to happen. She wanted to go to boarding school, and the whole time she's there, she feels that she can't fit in, and goes to a lot of trouble to be alone. She is sad and angry most of the time, but won't allow herself to quit and go to a different school. She wants to fit in but would hate herself if she did. There's even a line towords the end about how she only feels like she looks like a boarding school kid when she's away from the school.

I don't think as a teenager I was that angsty. I related to a lot of the book--a lot of the experiences the protagonist had were the same ones I had when I went away to college--but I only wallowed in self-pity for a half of a semester. There's no way I could have done it for four years. She denied herself a lot of happiness, then was pissed off that she had been denied this happiness by others.

One scene in particular touched a nerve. Her parents visited during parents weekend for the first time during her junior year, and her feelings of shame and protection towards her parents were something I remember myself doing to my parents. When they would visit me at school, I'd want to rush them through a tour or not spend time in the dorms. My friends would see them and know they were poor, but that's not why I didn't want my folks to linger. I didn't want them to be surrounded by the wealth that I was surrounded by on a daily basis and feel less of themselves. I wanted to protect them from being humiliated and feeling what I felt when I first went away. It probably played off that I was embarrased by them, and I can't say that wasn't part of it, but mostly I never wanted them to feel out of place in a world that I felt increasingly comfortable in.

A few years ago I read a great essay in Unte Reader written by a man who had grown up blue-collar but was now white-collar. The overlying theme I remember is that there's a segment of the population that shares his conundrum: you have one foot in both worlds, and so you don't truly belong to either of them. There's guilt if you leave the blue-collar world behind and resentment if you turn your back on the white-collar world you feel you've earned. I feel this most acutely whenever I go back to my hometown to visit my parents. I wonder if that will ever change.