Most evenings I wind down the same way as tonight, if I’m lucky. A book to open my mind quietly. A Star Trek episode to watch my mother at her devotions (in a future world, she would have been an astronaut as capable as Lt Uhura). A chance to hear my partner’s breathing ease and snort in sleep. A few more words gathered for my current book or other writing.
It’s almost time to meet my partner, so we can eat a bite together before going to the Uni 201 class we do together. I’m a Teaching Assistant, my partner is a student, but really “participant” is a fairer way to describe anyone in the Uni 101/102/201 program. Making learning accessible to people is a very important thing.
The cafeteria is closed for renovations, so we’ll meet at Biblio Cafe here in the McPherson Library building. We’ll probably go to the Student Union Building for muffins and tea, before going to class with our friend.
Angst is much improved after a 3 km walk in the rain holding an umbrella, a bag of peppermints, and a brand-new whoopee cushion I just bought with my debit card. Ya just can’t be too angst-y when deciding who gets the whoopee cushion — and how.
And then there’s the mid-afternoon moment of angst. Filling out forms is never fun at the best of times. I can fill out every blank correctly and still feel horrible. The form can be for some kind of GOOD news, and I still feel horrible. It doesn’t help that most of the forms I’ve been filling out are the kind that are meant to discourage people. But luckily I am an old hand at sailing the sea of angst, and will go now for a bag of peppermints and a walk and things will be far less angst-y in a few minutes.
At first thought, there are few writers more different than philosopher Heidegger and Canadian science fiction novelist Cory Doctorow. But there is an area where their writing intersects. That area is what I’m writing about in an article to be presented at the symposium that will be hosted May 7 by Dr Richard Lane at Vancouver Island University.
The title for Lane’s symposium is — The Many Masks/Masques of Heidegger: Technology, Poeisis and Humanism: A Literary Theory Research Group Symposium. And the working title for my paper is “Where Heidegger and Doctorow Intersect in the Creative Commons Licensing of Pirate Cinema.”
It’s great to take time today comparing what Heidegger has written about technology and creativity and entrepreneurial activities with what Doctorow has written on the same subject, not only in his novel Pirate Cinema but in commentaries meant for other writers to read and discuss. And all of these texts are available on-line, at no charge! I’ve been reading and cutting and pasting and doing searches… much as I love printed books, an index is no substitute for a good search engine when trying to find a certain word in an author’s oeuvre.
The only time I forget to eat is when I’m working in this computer lab. It’s a real effort to get away. Lunch is going to be an apple and a granola bar at the beach.
When I was writing in my old place next to Cadboro Bay’s Gyro Park, I could put down my computer or pen and walk a few hundred feet to the beach with my little inflatable kayak on my shoulder. But now that I’m staying in my mother’s condo on the other side of UVic campus, it’s harder to get to the beach with any of my kayaks. Yes, I know, anyone who can say the phrase “get to the beach with any of my kayaks” really shouldn’t complain. Even so, I didn’t want to drag my kayak around to the library and to the campus and then to the beach and back to campus and then home. I’m phoning my partner to see if we can meet at Telegraph Cove with the kayak in the back of a borrowed van. The van isn’t only to move my kayak around conveniently — after the beach my partner is going to pick up a friend to take her to the Uni 201 class we’re all doing at 6:00.
Enough talk. Off to make the phone call. This is the beach I’m walking to, where I’ll relax for an hour before hiking back up the hill to UVic. I took this photo last year at Telegraph Cove, and the great blue heron held still just long enough for this pose. Aum!
Here’s where I’m spending the rest of the daylight hours of today: the campus of the University of Victoria. Photos from a plane show the Ring Road of UVic campus to good advantage! The big bay beyond Ring Road is Cadboro Bay, where I usually take my kayak.
I’m in the computer lab in the Clearihue Building, laying out a poster for my book launch this August. Well, it’s not just my book launch, it’s a shared launch with two other writers. We all write science books for children, and we’re all attending a writer’s conference in Calgary called When Words Collide. Our book launch gets to be promoted in the program book, and on posters at the event. Since I have access to computers with programs like PowerPoint and PhotoShop and Paint, I’m the one to make the poster for our launch.
Ever notice how hard it is to line things up straight or set them at the perfect jaunty angle on a poster? Or how hard it is to describe us three science writers in energetic terms that make readers and librarians totally want to flock together to hear us read? At least PowerPoint lines up the book cover images neatly on the poster I’m laying out, so all I have to do is write perky terse prose.
So, I’m making a poster that communicates with our audience, and getting it approved by the other two writers, and getting it to the conference program organizer. And it would help if the poster works at various sizes down to letter-size for photocopying, and if it was a small enough data file to be sent as an e-mail attachment. No wonder my friend Dave Duncan wears a button at these conferences that says, “I just write the stuff.”
Today I’m leaving home earlier than most days this semester. Off to the public library with a couple of books to return (one on a subject I’m writing a paper about, one a Young Adult fiction novel from a publisher I’d like to write for) and a book to pick up.
The one I’m picking up isn’t in the collection at this branch — the Nellie McClung branch of Greater Victoria Public Library. But I found it by searching the online collection, and put a hold on it. A librarian at the Bruce Hutchison branch pulled the book off the shelves, and put it in a box being trucked over to this branch. Handy for us home-based researchers who don’t own a car! But then, with buses, my trike, the CarShare Co-op, and the help of the library’s computer records for its collection, a car is just not necessary for today.
And while I’m walking (for my health, walking beats going to a gym!) I’m remembering my favourite line from an action movie… “I’ve got to get to a library right away!” Wonder how many people recognise the film…
One of the writing-related activities I do is teaching community education. Usually this kind of teaching needs some preparation before the actual event, even though the class is not formally structured with grades and credentials. Most often the tools used during my writing workshops are pens and paper. But this morning I’m spending a little time preparing teaching materials for a class that’ll require me to have a computer at hand — and my workshop participants will be watching the screen over my shoulder.
Here’s a photo of the community centre where I’ll be teaching next month — an accessible building in Oak Bay with a library branch and a recreation centre under one roof. In May, I’ll be teaching an informal community ed course at Monterey Recreation Centre, on writing a simple blog. There’s a video I particularly like to use, taken by my partner E.B. Klassen, showing me river kayaking. It’ll be ready in my files, for uploading to a model blog that I’ll be creating in Blogger in front of my students. I’ll also be ready to show it at Langley Library, if the teens attending my Green Paddler talk aren’t impressed by my little folding inflatable kayak on the table in front of them.
I’m starting my Day of DH by doing my electronic correspondence. Living on the west coast of Canada means that when I wake up bright and early, my publishers in Ontario, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are three hours ahead of me. I can log in to check e-mail at 6:00 am and find new notes from my editors. Some of these notes are low priority. Others are calls for immediate action from assistant editors who must have materials in hand for the senior editors’ meetings, or from senior editors who are doing their best to remain employed while the publishing company is re-structuring.
Today I had to prepare a short text file — in the body of my e-mail and as a Word document attachment — containing all the references I used when writing the book What Is Energy? (This book is a new title to be launched this fall.) Had to include my bibliography and recommended reading list and any other references. In a revised MLA bibliography format, by the way, not standard MLA. Had to save the file as a .doc, not a .docx, so it would be compatible with my editor’s computer at her workplace in New York City. Got it to her in time for the meeting.
Half an hour spent first thing in the morning at my e-mail means that I have a stellar reputation with my editors. I am apparently THE writer for fast responses to such requests, though I live four thousand miles and three time zones away. And three times I have been assigned books to write on short deadlines, when someone else has backed out at the last minute and my editor has sent me a hurried note asking if I would be able to send a book proposal on Topic X by noon to consider so she might not have to cancel the project. There must be other writers who have also done fifteen minutes of online researching, then cut apart an old book proposal to write newly appropriate table of contents and outline with marketing and competing titles notes, of course. But when I went from zero to book contract in thirty minutes flat one day, I felt like a writing/computing superhero!
Today I just sent a list of my references. No biggee. Any work I can do in my pyjamas is pretty good work. No superhero costume necessary. Then oatmeal for breakfast, and a little writing.