Friday, February 24, 2012

Boss Nass in 3D

I ventured into the realm of writing a fiction short story this week. I was sent a link by a friend to a publisher soliciting short stories that incorporate the element of cartography and "place." Well if there's one thing I know it's cartography. Couple it with writing, and it becomes nirvana-like for me. I was looking to submit something I'd already written, when my writing instructor said why don't I try writing a fictional piece for it? I couldn't think of a reason why not and like she said, it would give me a little break from the non-fiction pieces I had been focusing on.

I set about it with a shell of a story line. I wonder if that's how most fiction writers start out? Do they just start hammering away and totally make it up as they go along, or do they know how it's going to end before they start? This is new ground for me, so the questions are many. I found it easy to get revved up and the first couple pages came off easily. Then I started to think how this story would be compelling enough to get people to want to read more. Anyone can write an OK story, but the ones I find best are those that are complex and have interesting plot twists. Then I started to get too complex thinking I was writing a whole book instead of a short story. It's these kinds of things that anguish me as a writer and I wonder if others struggle with the same things?

Memoir and Creative Non-Fiction is all about memory and recall. Recalling events, people, circumstances and time. Fiction is all about creating worlds, events and people. Everyone is capable of both, it's just I'm not used to the latter. In that sense it is a stretch. It's forcing me to use my imagination in ways that non-fiction does not. Both are good in their own right, but both pushing me in different ways. The process is cool in both cases.

I just saw the Star Wars Episode I in 3D on the big screen. I had seen that they were re-releasing each of the first 3 episodes and they would be in 3D, so I was psyched. After seeing the first one I was a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong, seeing it on the big screen was amazing. The digital sound was amazing. Costuming, special effects both amazing. The 3D end of it though was just OK. Not eye popping, not riveting, just OK. It gave the movie a depth for sure, but like Alice in Wonderland, it was used more in a muted form where things really didn't pop out at you. My recommendation is to see it, but don't expect to be blown away.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Maps and Legends

I spent the tail end of last week at the WI Land Information Association (WLIA) Conference in Steven's Point. It was a map geek conference that happens every year. There were 350 land information professionals in attendance and like most every conference, we talked about our work constantly. We talked over breakfast, in the hall after the sessions, at lunch, at the social events, in the elevators and  even on the ride home.

Yes, we're pretty pathetic.

At the same time, I would argue that we're passionate. We love our jobs, that's why we gather every year. We share ideas, talk through problems, argue, critique and laugh. I remember one time my boss's wife went along on a conference with him and by the end of it she said "You guys never stop talking about work, do you?" The answer is nope. Oh sure we catch up on each others' families and such, but after those three minutes are up, we're back to talking about terrestrial scanners, relational databases, Light Detection and Ranging, Digital Elevation Models, Point Clouds, spatial overlays and secured web services.

Throw on top of that a gazillion acronyms like GPS, DEM, DTM LiDAR, SOAP, REST, API, JSP, RAM, RAID, XML, MXD and many more and it kind of makes your head spin.

This past week was a reminder of how important it is to maintain the relationships with these friends and colleagues in the GIS profession. Much like my writing experience of late, you learn from these people, you get better at your craft, you find out you're not alone with your struggles and hopefully you pick up a bunch of tricks along the way as well.

Speaking of cool conferences, there is another couple of them coming up in Madison in a couple of weeks that I hope to make. The first is Canoecopia which is all about canoes and kayaks. There are tons of workshops, speakers and vendors. I fully intend to go and get some ideas on a kayak to purchase at some point.

The other conference is the Blackhawk Pulse which is all about art from a Christian perspective. Two of my favorite Christian artists are going to be there, namely Singer/Songwriter Sara Groves and Author Shauna  Niequist. This one is a bit more of a stretch, but as I said, I'll be in Mad-Town anyway, so may be able to make part of it. We'll see.

Making those connections to people who have the same interests is important, be it at conferences, trade shows, expos or other venues. If you're not growing, you're stagnating. (Profound, eh?)

Blogging off...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Truth and Fiction

I had another fantastic writing class on Wednesday. We've got a couple of new students in the class, so it's nice to not only have new faces, but to hear fresh, new writing as well. One of them is writing adult fantasy, a story about a witch from a coven. There are a couple of other students, past and present, that have written about witches, so I am learning more about witches and witching than I ever wanted to. It's nothing that I would ever write about, but I respect people who do their homework and research about the subject, enough to write creepy stories about them. Even more though, I respect their ability to use their minds and creativity to evoke emotions of fear, sadness, excitement and fun from their readers.

The other new student is working on a fiction piece that is based on truth, or true events. That is a style I'm enamored with at the moment. Being someone whose style (strength?) is memoir, I like the idea of taking a true event and fictionalizing it, which then takes out the need to be 100% accurate with regards to events. My questions are, how much do you need to fictionalize or fabricate in order to be safe? Because it's a new concept to me I'm curious what the boundaries are.

One of the things I struggle with most is what is my story lacking as far as relevant detail(s)? Does the actual year, time, date, location matter in every situation? Memoirists have a writer's obligation to get things as close to accurate as he/she can. If this involves fact checking, then so be it. If it is entirely personal and only involves the writer, then they are tasked with recalling the event as close to how it happened as possible.

Changing subjects wildly, I had breakfast with a couple of buddies this morning. We're trying to make it a monthly thing, and two months into it, I really enjoy it. Good "guy time." We talk about a number of things including politics, sports, our families and marriages. This week we got on the subject of Facebook for a while and the good and bad of it. We all kind of agreed that kids tend to use it for spewing much more than adults, but that adults were far from innocent on it as well. One guy was off of it entirely and the other said he stayed on it just to kind of keep his finger on the pulse of politics.

I can respect both of their arguments. I once "gave up" facebook, but my writing instructor was quick to point out that it is a decent medium for getting your name/work out there. I re-signed up and have been on it ever since. It's been a struggle to keep positive about everything I'm seeing. People get ugly. People trash other people and politicians. People lose friends. People lose "friends" who were never anything more than a facebook friend and shouldn't have been "friended" in the first place. Kids post inappropriate stuff, and their parents let them. (Don't they monitor?)

At the same time, there is much good on it too. Causes are brought forth. People send heartfelt notes and posts to others. People pray (or claim to) for others who are sick or going through tough times. There's lots of good humor ("Who ya finna' try, who ya finna try" or the talking dog video come to mind.) There's timely news posts, like the tragic Walpole Elementary shooting yesterday. Good musical posts and peoples' pictures and cool family moments.

My thought is, just like the internet itself, something that started for good, has turned into a place where you have to tread lightly. Statistics estimate that between 30-40% of the internet is pornography. I would wager that facebook approaches those numbers for spewing vs. valued content, at least from my chair. Like most people I know, I've had to "hide" some of my "friends" because they bring me down. If I consistently see someone bringing people down (including themselves), I hide them. It just makes life easier. That way I can still pick and choose the good from the bad and keep my fingers on the good of facebook just the same. I believe facebook is what you make it, and I'm going to keep it real.

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day


The strange winter of 2012 continues. It was 40+ degrees again today and almost all the snow is gone. It's been more like a hard Fall than a Winter around here. They attribute it to some sort of La Nina offshoot, but I have to wonder if it's not a continuing reminder of the way greenhouse gases are affecting our climate. We've seen some really weird weather these past ten years or so, and while I'd like to chalk it all up to the weather randomness, I fear the worst. Maybe it's for naught. I hope it is. Besides, I have to have something to worry about.

Evidently Puxatawney Phil saw his shadow so we're blessed with 6 more weeks of winter. I guess if that's the case, at least it will be mild 6 weeks.

I got news today that my poem "Angel with Dirty Faces" was accepted for publication in the 2013 Wisconsin Poets Calendar. My writing instructor and another of her students were also accepted for the calendar as well. I am excited, as it's been a while since I had something published. These little victories keep me going and whet my appetite for more. I've got to get more of my work edited and out there. It seems to me that I spend so much time creating new material for class (and my next memoir) that I don't get enough of it into a final form that can be published. My instructor said that I should devote one day a week to submissions, so I'm going to give that some thought and try and build it into my routine.

Speaking of writing class, we started a new session yesterday. There are a few new people that are in it as well as a woman from previous class. It's nice to have more chairs filled as you tend to get more feedback, and it makes for a livelier discussion. We had a great time again last night. There was murder mystery, memoir, young adult fiction, and adult fiction. So many diverse styles and voices. It makes for a crazy array of stories and keeps it interesting. It's good to be back at it.

In the interest of getting more submissions in, I'll devote the rest of this post to doing just that.

Blogging off...