up and down and up

pills on my shelf

So it’s been a set of months. I did go to London which was great, but I’ve spent most of the rest of the time dealing with variants on a “My sinuses hate me and the feeling is mutual” theme. I’m not even better but I’m at the point where I’m not taking Advil every night to sleep which means I’m well enough to sit up and type and not just want to recite the litany of remedies which I have been trying (and I DO NOT want your advice on what else to try, thank you for caring but I have had it). So hey, I had a weekend which was notable because it was fun and not just because it was pain-free or because something really fascinating came out of my nose.

Jim came up after I’d gotten through watching Gone With the Wind for the very first time with my friend Wendy. It’s hard to explain how you can dislike a movie viewing experience so much (all those characters were awful) but also be glad you went. It was about time I saw it. I enjoyed reading about Hattie McDaniel very much. Then Jim met us and Forrest and Kelly for food and beer at the restaurant across the street and it was great to see people and hang out and be hungry. Jim and I retired home to watch a good episode of Saturday Night Live (we have a standing date to watch it together, if not in person then at least at the same time with a chat window going). Got some good sleep and woke up the next day to have a late lazy breakfast and then went to Silloway Farm with Kevin and Karen to have maple snacks (sap boiled hot dogs, maple kettle corn, cider donuts with syrup for dipping, sugar on snow with a pickle on the side) and sit around in a room full of maple steam, saying hi to neighbors and friends.

Afterwards, I dragged Jim to my “Bethel University” graduation. I taught a class for a little pop-up school thing that Bethel is doing and had ten people learning iPads for a few hours at the town library. The graduation was a chance for teachers and students to get together in the Bethel Town Hall and have a potluck meal and share some of what we learned and taught. I met some people who took line dancing, one of whom is a longtime driver for the Dartmouth Coach who I sort of recognized. Jim headed home and I hunkered down and got some reading done and prepared to start my week. It was so nice, so normal, so devoid of tissues and sneezes and random pains.

I also wrote two things that you might like to read in this past week. The first was a nerdy copyright article about Flickr and why they didn’t have a public domain setting and why that meant SpaceX’s photos (which they wanted to be in the public domain) were not actually available. And then a funny thing happened… Flickr changed their policy. Now I don’t think this was a coincidence, but it also wasn’t one of those “I did this!” things. It was just a cool thing that happened as a result of the work me and others have been doing for a long time. I wrote a nice little follow-up article sort of summarizing and giving credit where it’s due. They’re both worth reading. No foolin.

a few words from the other jessamyn

I hate to hear myself. I never listen to an interview. I don’t sound like the person I think I am.”
– Jessamyn West interviewed for the Paris Review, 1977

Totally forgot one of the things I wanted to add last time I typed in this box. WNYC has an Archives and Preservation department. They got a grant. They are putting their old stuff on the air and online. I think I’ve mentioned in the past how I like Jessamyn West’s writing and how I’ve always imagines she would have been a neat person to know. She liked writing in bed, she didn’t suffer fools gladly, her books had compelling and interesting female (and male) characters and she always looked snappy in photographs. I’ve read a lot by her–she sent me a few cards as part of a “write a letter to someone famous” assignment I had in elementary school–but never heard her voice. Here is a speech she gave at a Book and Authors Luncheon in 1960: Jessamyn West on an Author’s Responsibility to Her Readers . Ignore the photo of her, it’s from fifteen years earlier.

oh yeah, about that book


It’s finished! Well by finished I mean I sent it off to the editor and expect to not hear about it for a while. So, from the time my [soon to be] editor wrote to me saying “I’m an acquisitions editor … and I’m looking for someone to write a book on technology and rural libraries. Are you interested in exploring the possibilities?” and the day I emailed the manuscript back to her, a little over a year went by. But really, if you look at the picture, I did most of the actual writing/typing in the past few months. And fractionally, I did an awful lot of it in the last ten days.

This last spurt is not because the book wasn’t basically done, it was, but because there were a whole bunch of other “Oooh, I should really make sure I mention that” ideas that came up when I was sleeping or eating or doing one of the other very short list of things that I’ve done in the past week. This short list did not include much in the way of getting out of my pajamas, showering, exercising, or what I’ve come to call “deferred maintenance” around the place. I did manage to feed the birds, feed me, answer the phone and do a few short stints at an actual library (which would send me home with an “I’ve got to make sure I mention THAT” bee in my bonnet, lather, rinse, repeat).

Anyone following along with Twitter would have been able to follow along with my word-count-as-zip-code which, when combined with a neat looker-upper like this one by Ben Fry gave me a loosely east-to-west trajectory which was a better general way to feel that the project was actually progressing. By the time I turned in my 98506 (Olympia Washington!) word draft, I was not hating it, which is more than I can say about my college thesis.

The book is due to come out in January 2011. It’s for sale on Amazon and it is totally okay with me if you do not buy it. Really. The thing about writing books is that in almost all cases, it’s really not something you do because you’re going to make any money. If I thought I would have been able to keep to a writing schedule through my own independent motivation, I would have maybe self-published if cash were important. I probably have the reputation and self-promotional chops to actually sell the thing on my own. But I never would have written it.

Having a real publisher and a real human editor is the only way this project really got done. And so my 15% or whatever it is that I take home when someone purchases my book basically rounds to zero when I think about how much time I put into it. And with my critique of capitalism generally, and how this revenue split works out, I know my younger self would basically be telling my current self that I’d be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. I’m okay with that. I think people will buy it and read it, and a good chunk of them will like it okay. And with any luck at all they can take some of my advice to heart (whether through agreeing or disagreeing really, just be thinking about it) and use it to help the people who really are getting the short end of the stick in our brave new information age. That’s what I would like, besides a good shower and a nice reunion with the outside world.

google is sending me a t-shirt

Because there’s nothing like an apology that comes straight from the marketing team. But really, I’m happy it’s straightened out and a little freaked out that I was 100% sure that this was how it was going to play out. It’s the most useless sort of psychic ability. The song and a little story about the Google Maps Debacle was on the front page [below the fold] of the local paper and I was at an event wearing a nametag today and someone recognized my name and said “You’re that lady who wrote the poem” and I could have kissed her.

Home stretch week here. I am retiring to bed with a printed manuscript–don’t hate me trees–and a red pen to look for typos and outline what is left to be done. The other Jessamyn West also wrote in bed, though she did it longhand. I am lucky that I can stand my own creative output [I must have listened to that “Hey Google” song a hundred times] because I’m surrounded by it lately. Manuscript ships out June 30… oh wait this is a long month… ONE MORE DAY.

It’s drama in real life here, folks. I’ll report back when I’m finished.

the most boring people in the world are writing books

Jericho Town Library

I swore I was only going to write here again when I explained how the town finally got out of the lake, but it’s there still and I had a few things to say.

First, yeah wow, I’m a little surprised that it takes this long to correct an obvious map error, but that’s sort of the good news/bad news about doing your business in the cloud yes? Google Maps is great because it’s got a ton of data and delivers it to people with very little human interaction needed. Downside being when you need a human it’s pretty much impossible to get one.

I took a day off from writing yesterday (I’m ahead with my word count) and drove to Underhill after having lunch with my friend Stephanie in Montpelier. No idea how I missed Underhill before. In fact I’m pretty sure I must have been there before but the maps show no highlighter pen and I can find no record of it. Underhill is sort of a co-town with Jericho. They even have a shared website: Two Towns Online. The back road I wanted to take was under construction, a casualty of the weird snow we got this week, so I got to take fairly normal roads to get up there. And there was snow! I stopped at the local library [not the one in the photo] and did a little email checking. Once I got home I was curious about the funky looking building that also said library on it. Of course, there’s a web page explaining it.

I’ve installed keylogging software on my machine because I’m convinced that whatever amount of words I’m typing for the book, I’m doubling it with email, blog posts, chatting and whatnot. I wanted to check if that was actually true. I realize this makes me a crazy person. I will report back with my findings.

The bigger deal is just that as much as I’m enjoying writing this book, watching the word count increase, getting my thoughts on paper, I’m also somehat blasé about it, sometimes to the point of being downright yawningly bored. I can’t explain to people what it’s about without apologizing and even though it’s all I think about lately, I feel like I have nothing to talk about when I chat with friends. “Still writing the book.” I say. “Great.” they say. And then we talk about the weather or something interesting. I realize that this is normal. I felt this way about my thesis. I’m sure I will miss these days, when the book wasn’t a set of words on a page but a set of ideas in my head. Fixing things to paper gives them a terrible finality that makes me somewhat nervous.

I look forward to having something else to talk about, just a month or two left. And in the meantime, I read quotations from the other Jessamyn West, who had been writing much longer than I have.

Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers having had their hell on earth, will escape punishment hereafter.”

no particular place to go

As is typical, I’m back from a short trip [quickie hello Boston!]. I went to the gym to get some exercise and now I have the sniffles. Sometimes I wonder if I am just allergic to my home and have only a subconscious understanding of this and that’s why I travel so much. Or I am allergic to exercise maybe?

I got a non-apology from United Airlines that came with a $250 certificate for future travel which is pretty okay when I just asked them to refund the $8 I spent on parking for my dopey abortive trip to Portland. Along with all the meals with friends that I am not having in Oregon, I also missed a chance to talk to my book editor about my impending book. I got an extention on the thing til June and I’m sort of in the hustle phase of writing about the digital divide and technology instruction at public libraries.

The good news is that this is not difficult. The bad news is that I am a terrible procrastinator. Or rather, I am a good procrastinator. I am pretty alright at putting other “to do” things in the path of my non-writing so that, for example, I finished up my taxes yesterday. I rarely just click idly around the internet, though I am slightly captivated by the OwlCam. The trick at this juncture is not worrying about writing enough, but making sure I don’t leave anything out. I have checklists. I finally paid for Scrivener. I made a backup. Now I just need to … keep beginning.