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Pixar's Brave is a distillation of approximately 60% of my childhood fantasies. Red hair? Check. Princess? Okay, chieftain's daughter--check. Feisty? Check. Good at archery? Check. Pretty, pretty horse? Check, and exactly the sort I wanted forever until I actually got near a horse and decided they weren't all fiction cracked them up to be.

(P.S. yes, that link implies that I now have Tumblr.)

I got a free postcard yesterday at work. I am not sure which way is up. It's from the College de pataphysique, a slightly absurd (but not absurdist) and kind of surreal (but not surrealist?) French organization of which, for some reason, our Archives and Special Collections seems to be a member. At least, the publication I was trying to find a WorldCat record for yesterday doesn't seem to exist, so maybe it's one of their "internal publications" they only send to members?

I just submitted my application for summer funding. To go to London and do research for five weeks! I have never been off the continent. And part of the other 40% of my childhood fantasies involved England. And it's an awesome topic (Anne Conway! you rock!). And omg British Library. (And London Pride, and the World Shakespeare Festival is happening, and The Mob will still be in Cardiff when I get to the UK so I could go visit. So many reasons to flail and cross my fingers.)

Other than that, life continues apace. Homework, occasional rehearsals for Midsummer, work, poking occasionally at story-like things.


Feb. 16th, 2012 09:23 pm
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I know I ought to Start Working On Something New, since I've started querying agents and all. But, well. There's only so much I can do, and my classes-and-work responsibilities have been eating my brain, nevermind the research proposal and associated duties. Today the work excitement was "run a class visit to Special Collections all by yourself with no particular training in such areas". (It went well, and they seemed to like the books I showed them. Yay!)

In the meantime, though, I have been reading. These days reading two books in as many days counts as a major achievement these days.

Yesterday it was How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, which a friend had recommended. I picked it up at the library, didn't find the first few pages too grabbing, but kept reading and got sucked in. Gracious. There are things I could quibble with, but overall it's quite the book and I'd recommend it.

Today, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. I first found this back in Minnesota at a bookstore, enjoyed the beginning, but didn't quite want to commit to spending the money (college student!). Happily, I ran across it in the New Books section of our college library today. Spent part of the afternoon devouring the rest of it. Also good. The closest comparison I can make, off the top of my head, is The Last Unicorn for ten-year-olds only a bit thinner and portal fantasy.

And tonight, because my brain was tired of staring at computer screens (fixing website stuff at work today, etc.), I started rereading Pamela Dean's Tam Lin. Even though my college life is very different from those characters', aspects of it hew awfully close.
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I did science research this summer to decide whether I wanted to go to grad school, and emerged thinking that I do--to get an MLIS.

Talked to people at Houghton a couple of times last week; it sounds like going into Special Collections librarianship might actually be something I could do. I have experience, so mostly I guess it's in getting the library degree and a job at a rare book room (which people seem to do concurrently). Processing, I think, is where I'd enjoy myself the most--getting to work with lots of different items all the time, but getting to work with the physical objects of the books. Either that or book conservation, which is its own entire thing. Or taking care of a smallish rare book room where I'd get to do some of all of those.

Which was all happening right as my science research program was wrapping up. Yesterday morning I uploaded all of my relevant files to the wiki, so I have discharged my obligations, taken care of my responsibilities, et cetera.

Other things I did recently include buy a copy of a Harlan Ellison book in Greek. I'm not a huge Harlan Ellison fan, but it was a dollar used and after taking Homeric Greek last year I've been wanting to try to learn a bit of modern Greek.

Today I've been writing--finished, finally, a full draft of the story that's now called "Lightening", tweaked "Katabasis" and sent it out again--and packing, sorting all the papers I've accumulated over the course of the summer. I can't believe I am leaving in two days. I can't believe the summer is almost over, either. Didn't I just get here a little while ago? In some ways I long to be back on the Mount Holyoke campus, but in other ways I want to demand another summer--one where I can relax and write more. Ah well. At least I get a couple of weeks' break in the middle, and I get to go back to Minneapolis.
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Apparently, since I curated this display, I get to post pictures of it online.

teaser picture! )

Putting this together was, overall, an awesome experience. I look forward to making more displays... possibly not with quite such a time constraint, but hey! That's life sometimes.

No progress on A Returning Power because I have a) been busy and b) figured out that it's not so much what I do with the dragon as what the war is about and why the people who win it do so. Tricky business! And I have had no space in my brain for novels, worse luck. (I tend to get really terrible about working on things once the school year hits; the hope is that having the outline up on my wall this year will prod me to add some words to it once in a while.)

On the bright side, as I posted to facebook a few days ago, I know how to say "I have an evil plan" in Homeric Greek.

And hey--tomorrow is Inauguration (aka a good excuse to not have class on a pretty late-September afternoon; not sure yet if I will go to the event itself), and the weekend looks like it will be awesome. Maybe I will even find my brain enough to get some writing done.
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Today was more exciting than I had expected.

I went in to work this afternoon assuming I'd be on the reference desk for a couple of hours, maybe work a bit on a side project after that, I might have to answer the telephone once or twice if it turned out to be a busy day...

As it turns out, GEMELA (whose web site I just looked at for the first time) is having a conference here on campus (and at UMass) next weekend. And Special Collections had said they'd get up a display-case-worth of our pre-1800 Spanish books for the library court, except no one got back to them until just today.

At which point, since the rare-books librarian is out until Tuesday and the display has to be up on Monday, the answer became "Well, Alena will be in for three hours this afternoon--she can just put something together!"

I would like to make note of a few things here:
1. I have never put together a display for Special Collections before.
2. I do not speak Spanish. (I really don't speak 1700s Spanish.)
3. I only know about pre-1800s Spanish history indirectly (from my History of the Americas class two years ago in high school).

But I was game to try--as I always am--so despite these facts, I managed to:
a) Take a list of books fitting the criteria in our collection and figure out which ones were vaguely relevant to the conference topic;
b) Go through them and find interesting things to show off--images, something I could write about, etc;
c) Figure out how many (and which) of the things I found would fit in said display case;
d) Lay them out prettily, with wedges under them and book-snakes to make them lie flat (sub-category of figuring out which things could be made to lie prettily with addition of book-snakes and wedges; also, use of huge Cantigas volume which I was instructed to put in the display);
e) Draft info-cards about the books/why all of the things were interesting.

Tomorrow, I will print the info-cards on nicer paper, attempt to get into the display case, put everything in the display case (with luck the estimate of its size is correct and all the things will fit), and then... well, go to class.

My big fear is that I have done something unspeakably stupid, in my selection of books or my description of them on the info-cards (I tried to check information in several places on the Internet, but there weren't always several English sources readily available). Ancillary to that, the fear said stupidity will cause the historians to think I am unintelligent and/or that Mount Holyoke is not a very good place. I kind of doubt any of them will even notice the display's existence, but--you know. I hate turning out any kind of rushed or only-passable product, even if I just had three hours to do it in.
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Today was my last day at the archives, which was kind of awesome, and kind of not. Awesome in that I finished my third box of political cartoons, bringing me up to a sum-total of 7 years and over 1800 unique cartoons; not in that there are still years and years of cartoons left I didn't even touch. Awesome in that my boss-person brought in cupcakes 'cause it was my last day; not in--well, you know the drill. Food allergies, which are irrelevant enough to library work that I hadn't mentioned 'em, but the thought was really nice.

On the writing front, it's possible that reading the last of Delany's About Writing while in novel-withdrawal mode wasn't the greatest plan ever planned. But I read the rest of it! Weirdly, he talked about Alphabetical Africa and then it came up in conversation with [livejournal.com profile] epicrauko this weekend/last week, and then a copy of it came across my desk at the bindery yesterday... so maybe I'll pick up a copy sometime, who knows.

Anyway, About Writing was good. Delany makes me think about writing in an orthogonal way to the way a lot of writers do. A few key things of his, so I remember them: each word building on an image--add things to the image, don't cut away what you've already caused the reader to picture; structures and patterns create plots; a story about a man going into a store and buying something can sideways-talk about []ism as easily as science fiction can (somehow I hadn't quite gotten that before, and I still don't quite believe that it's as easy, but maybe my brain just works in speculative fiction because I have read so much).

Yesterday--maybe the day before?--I sat down and thought, via a pen and notebook, about where I am in the novel-rewrite process. What's going on, and why, and why it matters to the plot and the themes and all those fun academic writer-y thinky thoughts. I didn't end up actually sitting down and working on it, since I didn't have a ton of free time by a computer that day and I want to at least skim through what I have so far before I go on, but...

...today I sat in the park after the archives, and the rewrite grew a title. So it is officially no longer Mad Library Hermits (which it was until I realized that that was problematic), and it is no longer Badass Library Hermits--both of which were joke-titles off a throw-away one-liner not even in this draft so far. Instead, it is A Returning Power.

Which might be a terrible title anyway, and will likely change, but it's actually about the novel, not my jokes about it. That's a step in the right direction. The fact that I know enough what the novel is about to make it grow titles is proof of a step, too.

Sometimes I feel like one day I will actually be a Real Writer. (The rest of the time is evenly split between "I'm a Real Writer already!" and "I will never be a Real Writer." In case you were wondering.)
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338 / 350

I want to be done with this novel so badly that I keep rushing the pace accidentally. This is bad. Slowing myself down = in some ways, pacing the writing of it out. So this is going to be good for tonight. I have... some time, at least, to take with this.

In the archives, I got into 1907. I am going to rather miss this job--okay, it can get a little tedious, just cartoon after cartoon after cartoon, but I won't get the tidbits of history. Particularly Minnesotan history, like "Fish" Jones who started a fish stall in the downtown Minneapolis market.

He bought a front-page ad in the paper, a picture of him with oysters for wings. With the money he made from the fish business, he bought some animals--a tiger, I think, and a camel and a bear, and some other things--and started a zoo. When the neighbors complained, he sold the land (they built Basilica cathedral where I had some high school choir concerts, this grand huge thing with lovely acoustics, on the spot) and moved out to Minnehaha Creek and built a sort-of mansion there to keep all his animals.

You can't make this stuff up. Or, well, you could, but no one would believe it.
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White Cat, Holly Black: Awesome. Um. Can I just leave it at that? There were a couple of times when I frowned at the book, but of course totally unreliable narrator in several senses so you come to expect that. I will definitely read the sequel. (Possible-allegory-for-gay wizard gangsters/mafia types? Yes please.)

Rashomon: Interesting? Not quite in the Minnesota, "well, that was... interesting" sense. It didn't blow my mind, but it's possible that that's because enough of the media I consume now has been influenced by it (and similar things?) that it doesn't seem all that revolutionary. I wasn't sure in the end how I felt about it. A good example of an odd structure, though, [livejournal.com profile] alecaustin, so thanks! Was there anything particularly that you'd want to point out to me to consider?

In library work: I got to 1904, and the second box of political cartoons. We are making progress through history. This is good. I now know, among other things, where Teddy Roosevelt's summer home was, who the Democratic presidential candidate was in 1904 and all the names of the Minnesotan gubernatorial candidates of the same year, and just how tired everyone was of William Jennings Bryan, i.e., very.

Also, I found a 1903 cartoon making fun of Minnesotans for saying that when it gets to thirty below it's so dry you can't really feel the cold any more. So there is historical precedent for me feeling that way! More than a hundred years, in fact! This is deeply consoling.
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Ridiculous revision dash:

20.5 / 80

According to my "5k a day!" plan, I am behind. This is because I spent much of yesterday: a) working at the archives (I got to 1903!), b) on buses, and c) hanging out with friends. So I, um, only did 4k yesterday. But I might get a bit further in the rest of today, so.

Updates on a couple of books read:
Issola, Steven Brust: I seem to be really good at picking up weird books to start with. This is definitely not the first Vlad Taltos novel. It's a credit to Brust's skill, however, that I still felt like I got more of what was going on than I sometimes do in other people's first novels of series. (It probably helps that I've read Phoenix Guard.) I will keep trying, though. Maybe someday I will actually pick up the first one.
A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner: Mostly my reaction is, "Wow, I really need to go back and read The Thief again." These later novels are drawing a whole lot more out of that than I realized was in there; many of the details have fuzzed in my brain. I couldn't decide if I liked the format or not--or rather, in some ways I did and in some ways I didn't. Still, I enjoyed the read (and will likely reread The Thief soonish), and look forward to any more books.
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264 / 350

Seventy-five percent! This means I get a new color. *g* (To 260 the day before yesterday, the rest yesterday; I proceed onward apace.)

On the revising-a-novel front, yesterday I took markers to my Glorious Closet Door Of Notecards and color-coded things. (Categories include various themes, settings, and "trains".) Going back to look at the Scrivener files based on my ponderings, I separated Part Four into parts four and five at a pivotal point. The five parts/acts are 15k 20k 15k 13k 16k, respectively, each of which has a general main Thing that happens in it and the beginnings/ends of which sort of make sense. Which is rather respectable, really!

I want to switch current-part-two to be part three, and rearrange some things, and have some plot threads going on at the same time instead of "um and THEN they tried this OTHER thing, and THAT didn't work either!". One of them might even work out so that a secondary character can have an arc! At any rate, it's neat to see how my brain worked things out for me to start with, and there is a framework/skeleton there that, with modifications, might hold up a second draft.

So that's good.

More political cartoons in the archives yesterday. If you had asked me "how's it going?" I would've said "Well, McKinley just died, and we just managed to settle the coal strike..." Of course, these things happened a hundred and eight/nine years ago, but time elides easily there.

Anyway, I've reached the end of November in 1901/1902--it's odd, but earlier in the year there was much more similarity in topics. Then there was the coal strike in 1902, and McKinley died in 1901, and for a while I didn't even need to double-check what year cartoons were from. (Hint: the "oh noes anarchy!" ones were from 1901; the "hey, arbitration kinda works" ones were from 1902.)

Some books read recently )

About six of my reserved books are In Transit to the library right now (including Delany's About Writing, the fourth Attolia book, the sequel to Graceling...) so those should keep me busy for a while when they get here. Yay, libraries.
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207 / 350

Yesterday was up to 204/205, for record-keeping's sake.

Problem with not quite knowing where the plot is going: you start writing just sort of "and then this happened", and then the shape of the novel starts to feel all off, and then you don't even know where you are in that sense any more.

The other thing that happened today was that I realized some fail (namely of the 'race' variety) that is true of my novel right now. (I've also been realizing some vague hints of non-cisgendered-fail in the novel lately.) I started trying to think my way through that, and how I want to address that--specifically via the plot. Because, well, a bunch of the fail is fail that a lot of urban fantasy novels have. And I'm writing an urban fantasy novel, but this one is supposed to be more awesome and (ideally) less fail-y. But that's shifting how I think about the plot, and--see last paragraph, because that hasn't completely settled yet. Still and all, it'll be stronger when I figure this all out... it's just holding me back right now.

Today's archives adventure: I realized that, of the two-months-plus of 1902 political cartoons I logged and described last time, approximately 35-40% of them were actually from 1901. If you need someone who can tell a 1901 daily political cartoon from a 1902 daily political cartoon? I'm your girl.

Except sometimes, because some of the issues--tariffs, etc.--just kept popping up so much that the cartoonist started riffing off the predictability of it, and those riffs don't come in a sequence. Unfortunately. But other than that, I'm pretty darned good at it.
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181 / 350

I got up early today and re-outlined. As with the previous re-outline, this consisted pretty much of writing down chapter numbers (in this case 20 through 40) and then copying everything that was written on the previous outline into this outline without changing anything.

The important thing, though, is that my perspective on it changed. Apparently my brain was pretty clever; it stuck a couple of key events in at exactly the right places for turning points in the second half. Good job, brain.

So then this evening I wrote some more pages. Tomorrow I'm not going to the library, so I'll be able to write even more! Knock on wood.

Today I did go to the library, though. I checked out some books--including The Beastly Bride, which I've started reading; By the Mountain Bound; The Court of the Air (it was recommended on the Politics of Steampunk panel at Wiscon); and a novel by Stroud I hadn't seen before.

But that is orthogonal to what mostly happened there today. Tuesdays are archives days. My new project for them involves going through a set of proofs for Charles Bartholomew's daily political cartoons, 1902-1915, and writing up a sentence describing what each one is and what it's talking about. (Apparently they were quite popular at the time, though Wikipedia now thinks I'm asking about a Gossip Girls character. Ouch. Posthumous apologies.)

What this means in normal English is that I spent five or so hours staring at pieces of paper and got through two and a half months of political cartoons.

Also, I now know entirely too much about the day-to-day political climate of 1902 than anyone has a right to. Someday I am going to write a novel entirely set in Minnesota in 1902 and everyone will marvel at my eye for historical detail. Possibly it will star a political cartoonist.
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159 / 350

Actually the document has 160 pages, but that's because it's the end of a chapter and I don't know what the beginning of the next one is, so this is where I'm stopping for the night.

I worked at the library again today. It's easy when the folders are organized by subject and numbered; then I just have to whip through, type it up, and be done.

Even though I'm more of a rare books person than an archives person, I find the stories fascinating. Stories of people whose files I work on, whose reference questions I hear about.

One of the people whose papers I worked on today was Lillian Barrett, who died at 18 in 1921--after a poem of hers had been accepted by Harper's Magazine, but before it was published. She'd sent it to them as "L. Barrett", so the editor sent her a letter addressed to "Mr" asking if the poet's full first name could be published with the poem. Her parents wrote him a letter back saying she had died.

Books I got out of the library today: Holly Black's short story collection, The Poison Eaters, and Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon. My library seems to have discovered the wonder that is Small Beer Press (etc), because when I got back this summer they had a bunch of their books. This can only be good, I think.
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153 / 350

This might have to be enough for today.

Today which, among other things, was my first day at the library. Really I'm more of a rare books person, and they have me working in archives, which--okay, I can deal with that. (Although if you keep scrapbooks, or plan on donating your papers: please, make your (under- or un-paid) archivists happy. Organize things.) It's a pity that I don't get to play with the awesome rare books (full set of Audobon! huge manuscript of monk music from the 15th or 16th century!), but sometimes that's just life.

After I had spent sufficient hours digging through and organizing papers, I begged off--promising to return tomorrow--checked out Megan Whalen Turner's Queen of Attolia and King of Attolia (I didn't get them when I read them, and enough awesome people of my acquaintance love them that I was willing to try again; on evidence of Queen, which I have read again now, I was right to do so), and wandered down the pedestrian mall for a while before I went home.

Now I am talking simultaneously to far too many people for someone sitting at her computer in her living room, and I had better get some sleep so I don't completely fall over tomorrow, but--hey. I sat down and wrote a couple of pages, at least. That's something.

Other awesome thing: I also get to work in the bindery, where they use a tool called a bonefolder.

That needs to stand on its own, I think. Bonefolder.

Ideas for what a bonefolder should be are absolutely welcome in comments. I have a few already (tool to fold bones with, peculiar word for a grave, creepy creepy character in a children's book--or book for anyone, really--story that's a record of someone's life who's dead now), but I would love to hear more! (Also I can say what it is in this universe and what it's used for, but that's no fun.)
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Having finished all of my midterm obligations, what I have done today, apart from "go to class" and "work":
- read Chill
- sent one (1) summer-stuff-related email
- picked up one (1) letter of reference to send to physics REU
- made one (1) to-do list
- read eight hundred (800) lines of Agamemnon aloud

...that looks like a day off, except for the Agamemnon part. I really like the translation that we're using--Greene and Lattimore--it has a nice poetic tendency. Hence me reading the whole thing out loud. Like Shakespeare, it parses better that way.

The plot's all coils of gender relations and familial murders and vengeance, and I like it. I like Clytemaestra, who seems thoroughly underestimated by the Chorus--well, by everyone. I don't like Aegisthus, who is a smug and violent creep. I love that Agamemnon contains enough knots of theme, of character, of imagery, of emotion and resonance, that I suspect you could spend a lifetime unpicking them and end up with a lap draped full of strings tugging you off in new directions.

(Is "I would like to see what Agamemnon is like in the original" sufficient reason to learn ancient Greek? Not that I didn't want to before, that's been my plan all year, but still.)

Today's work discovery: a folder in the "Administrative Offices" section labeled "Master Plan Office". No, really. Disappointingly, it contains only two memos--no copy of said Master Plan whatsoever. I believe that this can only mean the Master Plan is so secret that the Archives do not know about it. I await further developments.

May 2017



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