Daily Thoughts 47: 5 Reasons I Write Fiction

Author's selfie Office day today, running reports, working on documentation, and meeting about projects in progress. As with any organization, there is a great deal of activity that takes place behind the scenes in a library. It runs the gamut from the high-level concepts and values behind library service down to the precise details of how information is entered in a record field.

5 Reasons I Write Fiction

Exploration

Writing fiction offers the opportunity to explore worlds that never existed before—not until I create them. Good or bad, fantastic or not, I enjoy the process of exploring the worlds my of my subconscious.

Creation

Few things compare to the act of artistic creation. Human beings are wired to enjoy creating. Even destruction is in itself an act of creating something new, transforming reality in some way. Artistic creation breathes life into an expression in a way that speaks to another human being. That is a powerful motivator.

Learning

I love learning. I didn’t always love school. If I didn’t think something was worth my time I didn’t do it. I tended to thrive when teachers let me work independently and pursue my interests. After the realization that I wanted to write, everything applied to my writing. It took time to break bad habits, but my grades and focus improved. No matter the subject, it could apply to my writing.

Communication

Writing communicates our thoughts into the mind of another human being. These marks on a page or screen are interpreted by our eyes (or ears, if listening to someone else read it) and directly creates thoughts in the reader. It allows us to communicate with other human beings in an asynchronous fashion across space and time. Even after we are gone, our writings can communicate with people. Our encoded thoughts persist into the future.

Entertainment

I also write for my own entertainment! It’s fun. And it’s fun to share that with others. There’s a lot to be said for art and the rest, but some things are also fun. It isn’t all about being serious and meaningful. Some of the most profound things that we experience in life come in those moments of joy and happiness. I treasure the moments lost in a book, experiencing other worlds and times.

Reading

Cover art for Chanur's LegacyI started reading at a young age and have continued to read daily. I never go without something to read. I snatch whatever time I can to read. Reading forms the core of my professional and creative life, as a librarian and as a writer. In both cases, I work to share that love with others.

Daily Thoughts 46: Ursula K. Le Guin, Selma, and the Art of Resistance

Author's selfie Today I spent time in the Oakville Timberland Library. It’s a small community library in part of the city hall building (a portion doubles as the council chamber). The community spent time and money recently on renovations that made a big difference in the condition of the library. It’s great to see that people value the library. Although not as busy as an urban library, it provides a key place for members of a rural community with computer and Wi-Fi access, as well as books and all of the other resources it offers as part of the library system. In many of these small Washington towns, you see empty store fronts. At least here there is a library bringing value into the community.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Today, as I prepared an email about a science fiction training, I included this quote from Ursula K. Le Guin’s 2014 National Book Award speech.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.

(Transcript available at the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction)

The speech includes other memorable lines, such as “Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art – the art of words.”

For all that, it is a short speech and well worth listening to and then thinking more about.

Art of Resistance

Cover art for Masterpieces of Short FictionOther ways of living depicted in art. That idea strikes a cord. This morning I started listening to one of the Great Courses lectures by Professor Michael Krasny Masterpieces of Short Fiction. I enjoy learning more. Krasny touches on the idea that fiction includes everything. Aspects of the author, the time period, as well as previous stories.

Fiction—art—has the power to show people an intimate glimpse inside the mind of another person in a way that we can’t manage in reality. It provides a mirror to either side of our nature. If the character represents the darker side of our lives, the art makes us reflect on how those tendencies exist inside of us. If the character reveals inner strength and other admirable traits, it encourages us to find those traits in ourselves.

Science fiction and fantasy use other tools to explore what are essentially alternate realities and ways of being. Of thinking.

PEN America (dedicated to defending free expression) recently held Writers Resist on the steps of the New York Public Library.

Tonight I watched Selma for the first time. It has been on my list to watch since I first saw the trailer (as have many other films) and today I had the good fortune to find the movie in the library. I was pleased that my son chose on his own to watch much of the movie with us and was justifiably outraged at the injustices depicted in this excellent drama. It isn’t a historical documentary, but it does a terrific job of telling a story.

We need storytellers and visionaries who won’t be silent. Although I write to entertain, today has been a reminder of the deeper values of fiction.

Daily Thoughts 45: Dr. King, Librarians, Library Bill of Rights

Author's SelfieI spent some time this morning reading various Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and articles. In particular, the article in The Intercept “What the ‘Santa Clausification’ of Martin Luther King Jr. Leaves Out” by Zaid Jilani (2017).

Jilani points out that “King was not just a fighter for racial justice, he also fought for economic justice and against war.”

I wasn’t born until years after the assassination of Dr. King. One of the things that struck me when I started to learn about this period of our history was how recent it was—in that horrified realization that those who spoke and acted against equality and peace were still around. Today that realization is more powerful than ever as we approach the inauguration of a divisive President-Elect.

Librarians and the Library Bill of Rights

Librarians stand for equality and equal access for everyone. The Library Bill of Rights defines these values.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

Many people (including librarians at times) struggle with the notion of including materials for all people of the community. Sometimes a subtle filtering takes place that excludes materials because someone believes that they don’t have those people in their community, e.g., not including books that show other cultures because of mistaken belief that the community lacks members of those cultures, or that members of the community won’t be interested in those materials. The library is the place where the confirmation bias bubble pops. If the librarians do their jobs well, that is.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

If there’s one issue I have with this, it’s the use of “Libraries” instead of “Librarians.” The language is used throughout the Library Bill of Rights. On its own, the institution doesn’t do anything. It takes librarians to provide materials and information—even when those materials represent views the librarian may personally disagree with.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

Once again we see the use of “Libraries” in this section. If I was rewriting the Library Bill of Rights I would also make the language active rather than passive, e.g., Librarians challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment. Likewise, the previous section would read Librarians provide materials and information… The extensive use of “should” throughout the Library Bill of Rights makes it sound weak.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

What does cooperate mean in this case? ALA also provides a number of interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights. It also provides the Freedom to Read Statement which addresses these issues. I particularly like the end of that statement, “We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.”

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

People struggle with this one. Age becomes a frequent barrier for people under the age of 18, with obstacles placed on obtaining a library card. For all that librarians strive to do, they often struggle with this particular barrier. Another issue, tied to background, are perceptions of people due to their economic status, health, or other factors such as mental health. Policies are passed that exclude people based on traits that make some people uncomfortable. People may be profiled even at the library.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit space and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

People have the right to peaceful assembly, yet often lack spaces in which to associate. Time, place, and manner restrictions, along with requirements for permits, makes it difficult for people to assemble. The lack of free meeting space also creates challenges. Many city-owned community centers requirement payment to use the space. The library is often one of the few places which may have a freely available meeting space in the community.

I believe there is room for improvement in the Library Bill of Rights, yet it remains an important document, along with other statements produced by the American Library Association. It’s also worth looking at the work done by the Progressive Librarians Guild to see additional views on the librarian’s role in the community and the ongoing conflict between librarians advocating for neutrality and those arguing for social justice. Librarians haven’t always challenged inequality and discrimination, though it remains a key part of a librarian’s role. The fact that librarians advocate for unrestricted access is not a neutral view.

Librarians need to reevaluate some of the assumptions around the profession. As information scientists, as advocates for justice and equality, they stand poised to take on a significant role in the information age—or risk being supplanted by commerical interests with different motivations and values.

Daily Thoughts 44: Executing Plans

Author's Selfie I’ve been enjoying my day off. I made a point of not getting up early this morning. I had decided to sleep in today. I almost made it to 6 a.m.! Late, for me. I’ve started incorporating some running into my morning trek. I turned on the chases in Zombies, Run! and break into a run when chased. Right now I have it set on easy! Eventually, I plan to increase the frequency and the difficulty of the chases. I just don’t want to push too fast so I’m easing into it.

Executing Plans

Screenshot of the Just Writing Plugin in action

I’m working with the Just Writing Plugin. It adds some functionality that the distraction-free environment in WordPress lacks by default. One of the chief things missing in the default environment is a way to center the editor and set the width. Just Writing does center the editor and sets a decent width by default. The main thing lacking, that I’ve noticed so far, is that the writing ends up at the bottom of the screen as the post gets longer. I’d really rather have some sort of typewriter scrolling. There are a few other things that I’d do differently with the editor if I were creating the plugin, but I’ll leave that to another day. I have ideas about what I’d like to do.

Screenshot of the Trello Coding Board

As usual, I have Trello boards set up for various projects. This one is my coding board, currently with a focus on JavaScript and Python. These are two languages that I haven’t mastered yet. I need to develop my skills with these languages in order to execute all of my plans. I have a stack of books that I’m working through, along with courses at Lynda.com.

I scheduled the rest of the short stories I plan to post on Mondays. I’ve missed some weeks, but for this next semester, I plan to post a story each week until I have them all posted in June. I’ll be done with the semester by then. I’m also planning to start writing more stories, so if I can get some written and start producing a new story each week, I won’t stop. I’ll keep posting stories.

Of course, I also want to start submitting new stories to a few of the magazine markets. I’d like to break into Analog and Asimov’s, possibly a few others. After a story has a chance to make the rounds to those markets, I’ll post it on the site. I’ve already released one collection Collected Stories of 2009 (which I plan to include in my reboot plans). I want to release annual collections for the years that have followed. I didn’t write many stories in the last three years, so I plan to combine those into a single volume, 2014-2016. I’ll have a lot more stories to write in 2017, and going forward, though I may not get many new stories written until after the semester ends.

Once I’m finished with classes, I’ll still have my e-portfolio to write in the fall, but I plan to continue working on other projects as I execute my reboot plans.

Executing Learning

Between 2009-2014, I spent a great deal of time writing, studying, and being coached by professional writers. I’m picking that back up this year on my own, and with the plan to attend a couple workshops in 2018. There will be reading and writing to do this fall in preparation for those workshops. One offers a chance to write for several professional anthologies (should be lots of fun), and the other is a craft-focused workshop taught by the incredible Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Learning from Kris is always a workout for my brain.

Executing the Reboot

I’m also taking steps to execute the reboot. Practicing drawing and painting, with the goal of creating quality illustrations for my books. I want to do cover art, certainly, but also some interior artwork as well. I plan to publish new editions of the novels, as I’ve mentioned, in hardcover editions with dust jackets. I’m aiming for high-quality print editions that someone might like to collect. Besides working on improving my illustration skills, I’m also working on typography, graphic design, and layout skills.

When I look at the numerous art books I’ve collected, I see so many terrific artists! I want to create artwork like that of Michael Whelan, John Harris, or so many others. I also want to write as well as (or better) than my favorite writers. I’m not suggesting that I’m as good as they are now (I may never get there), but I plan to continue learning, practicing, and trying to improve my skills in every aspect.

Executing Code

I mentioned my coding board earlier and plans to learn new programming languages. I have other plans in mind for learning the code. From websites to apps, there are many creative things I want to do with coding as well. Like everything else, I’m always working to improve.

Daily Thoughts 43: Author Earnings

Author's selfie Challenges happen in any endeavor. It makes life interesting—and sometimes difficult. We don’t always know what is going on around us, even when we think we do, because we lack data to make useful decisions. We’re stuck going from our gut unless we can get the data. I’m spending a good amount of time working with data, learning about data, and ways in which to analyze and share data. It is interesting that we live in such a changing landscape of information.

Author Earnings

2016 Digital Book World Keynote Presentation

If you haven’t taken a look at Author Earnings, it’s worth your time to get a view of the sorts of data being collected around what authors make.

Daily Thoughts 42: Flights of Time

Author's selfie Funhouse mirrors used to entertain people and now we can do the same sort of thing with an instant filter on a camera. I’ve been busy this week, with few chances to take a break—even though I’ve often encouraged people to take breaks and even posted about it the other day!

Less Time

My main issue this week revolved around other people driving my daily agenda. From places I needed to be, to meetings, I found myself moving from one place to another without pausing. I still have one more day (working tomorrow), and even then I’ll be busy on the weekend. It’s rare that I have a day with no demands on my time. With such restrictions on my time, it’s more important than ever to find ways to devote at least some time to my own health and mental well-being.

To do that, I walk. I meditate. I read for enjoyment. I even watched some TV this week, The Flash and Arrow. I have a lot to do to get ready for the new semester, which is starting soon. I’ve also been listening to Divergent by Veronica Roth. I’ve enjoyed it! I had seen the first movie, so some elements are familiar even though they’ve changed many things. I plan to listen to more in the series.

Posts

I’m trying to keep my streak going as far as the posts go. I won’t always have much to post about, given the time available, but I at least wanted to check in.

Daily Thoughts 41: Gremlins

Author's selfie I made it out to the beautiful North Mason Timberland Library in Belfair today. It is one of our larger libraries tucked into the woods with high ceilings, exposed wood, and a spacious feel. I don’t make it out to all of the libraries as often as I’d like simply because of the number of libraries and the distances involved. Today was a sunny (cold) morning which gave me a good view of the snow capped Olympics on my drive out.

Gremlins

In 1984 Gremlins came out. It included elements that I continued to enjoy with both humor and horror. It’s available on Amazon Prime at the moment.

 

Daily Thoughts 40: Breathless on the Backs of Elephants

Author's selfie I don’t have a topic tonight, except a brief note about being busy. During a conversation today, a co-worker mentioned not having taken a lunch break. Likewise, I found myself rushing from one thing to the next the past couple days and not taking breaks. I don’t recommend it. You may have days where that is the case—but typically the world won’t fall off the elephants if you stop and take a break. Whether it is at work, school, or in your own creative pursuits, make the time to take breaks. Sit quietly, take a walk, ready, juggle, or do something else for your own peace of mind and enjoyment. If you give yourself a chance to step away and enjoy your break you’ll be better for it, whatever you’re trying to accomplish will be better for it, and everyone you interact with will see the difference.

Daily Thoughts 39: Libraries, Privacy, and a Creative Life

Author's selfieI’m a bit tired tonight. It was a bit of a rushed day. I started with a wet, icy walk this morning before work. I started listening to Divergent by Veronica Roth on my walk. I also finished Packing for Mars by Mary Roach. I headed out early this morning to visit the folks at the Hoodsport Timberland Library and talk about our plans for building renovations later this year. After getting back I ended up in a series of other meetings for the rest of the day. Tomorrow is also taken up with meetings and an eye exam. As I’ve aged my eyes have undergone the normal process of fossilization—presbyopia.

Privacy

A key role played by librarians is the preservation of the privacy of our patrons. It’s a fundamental aspect of librarianship and the protection of intellectual freedom. It’s the focus of Choose Privacy Week. ALA has created Privacy Tool Kit with valuable information. The Library Freedom Project also provides valuable information and advocates for improving the privacy and protections of our patrons.

Although privacy is a core aspect of librarianship, we often fail in a couple areas in regards to privacy and confidentiality. One, when it comes to youth, libraries at times do not follow the recommendations made by ALA and routinely violate the confidentiality of youth. It is not uncommon for libraries to do so, rather than encouraging parents to talk to their children or explaining to the parents what options are available to them. Let me give an example to illustrate this point.

Suppose a young person keeps a diary, it is locked, and the parent is concerned about what this youth might be writing in the diary. The parent might simply talk directly to their child, but rather than doing so, comes to the library and demands that the library staff give them the key to the diary.

What is a librarian to do? Hand over the key (entrusted to the librarian by the child)? Or suggest that the parent is better off speaking to the child?

I’d be happier if the vendors of the integrated library systems created software which allowed anonymous use of libraries and prevented librarian access to anyone’s records. I’ve done some preliminary work on just how such a system might work. After I finish this degree I may pursue that further.

The other thing librarians fail to do in regard to privacy is educate the public on the services we do provide to protect their privacy. Yes, there are ALA initiatives, but on a day-to-day basis, we need to do a better job of training librarian and non-librarian employees to make it clear that this is one of the core services and values of libraries.

And, to make it clear, there is value in privacy even if “you have nothing to hide.” Here’s Glenn Greenwald to talk a bit about that.

Michael Nobbs

Cover art for Drawing Your LifeA few years ago I bought a book titled Drawing Your Life by Michael Nobbs. In the book Michael Nobbs encourages you to draw, to do one thing each day, and pursue a creative life. That led me to his website where I learned that he was diagnosed with ME/CFS, which put limits on his energy. I have plenty of energy but it is impacted by working full-time and going to school full-time, as well as having a family and pursuing my own creative work. I found Michael’s One Thing Today podcast very helpful as I worked through issues in my own life and figured out what I was doing. I very much enjoy the podcast and encourage anyone looking for some support in their creative efforts, for a gentle, kinder approach, to check it out.

 

Daily Thoughts 38

Author's selfieI caught up with Black Mirror on Netflix the other day. I’ve enjoyed the show. Interesting ideas there. Well done. I haven’t enjoyed many shows as much. I’m going to follow it up by watching Dead Set.

Zombie apocalypse on a reality TV show. In the case of a zombie outbreak—or any disaster—people will find themselves in all sorts of situations. I have a bit of fondness for disaster stories. And zombies. This is one I haven’t seen yet.

Creative Yard Work

I haven’t done any writing or sketching today. Rather, I spent time outside working on clearing our fence line as part of a longer term project to improve the property. I also spent time researching materials, measuring the fence line, and figuring out costs.

Other than the work on the fence line, I spent time on errands and other tasks today.