My Life This November: In Which College Life is Crazy and I Give Up on NaNoWriMo

Hi folks! It’s the last Monday of the month (already), which must mean I’m here telling you all about my life. It’s been a little crazy this month (isn’t it always? I can’t remember the last time I had a quiet month), so I shall try to organize my thoughts by putting them into semi-coherent sections, and hopefully thus not overwhelm you all. Here goes!

Student Life

Ah, the dominant section in the great dichotomy of my life. Well, by November, the fall semester is always in full swing. All my classes have ramped up considerably; we’re doing unknown labs in microbiology and the very complex topic of intermediary metabolism in biochemistry, and I have three exams on December 1st, lucky me! But at least I had Thanksgiving break this past weekend; happy Thanksgiving, everybody! I’m thankful that I got to sleep in for three days in a row (luxury!). And I’m also thankful for time spent with family this weekend, and creative time (more on that later), and that I registered for spring classes before Thanksgiving–yay! Next semester, I will officially be taking Genetics of Prokaryotic Microbes, Biochemistry II, Biostatistics, and Plant Systematics, which I’m the most excited about because I love plant classes.

Research-wise, I’ve been plugging right along. In two weeks, I should see the end of a long experiment involving rice leaf development that I’ve been working on since September. Then, over winter break, I plan to get cracking on all the work I haven’t been able to do by being busy with classes, as well as running another drought/salt experiment (I just love torturing rice plants, haha). But before then, we will of course have Christmas, and I’ve enjoyed watching decorations get put up this weekend, though I haven’t been able to participate because of studying. It’s so strange to think the year is almost over already. But more of that next month.

Writing and Creativity

Those couple paragraphs I wrote above do not convey how completely school has taken over my life. Yet I’ve had more creative time this month than I thought I would. I started the month on the whim of doing NaNoWriMo again, knowing how good it was for me last year, and I epically failed. I got almost to 2,000 words in two scenes, and that took five days. I have concluded from this (and other) experiences that you really can’t force creativity. Don’t get me wrong, writing every day and being super disciplined like that is amazing, and I admire all you who do it; but I’m at a stage right now where it’s more beneficial to the quality of my work (and my mental health) to go with the flow, write whatever comes into my head, create however I feel like it.

So writing-wise, I haven’t gotten much done. I’ve picked at my Windsong reboot a little (I actually need to finish a scene), and it’s at about 18,000 words, which I’m proud of. I did decide, against the conclusion of my last paragraph, to do a disciplined rewrite of Circle of Fire, last year’s NaNo novel, but first, I’m writing a synopsis for it. So far, I’ve almost finished the rough draft of that. I meant to work on it more this past weekend, but I got caught up in the visual arts; I don’t usually think of myself as being inclined toward, or having any talent in, painting or drawing, but I started a watercolor a couple weeks ago, found it fun, and on Thanksgiving surprised myself with a decent pencil drawing of one of my characters. It’s always good to have creative outlets other than writing, and I think I’ll be doing more visual stuff in the future when things pop into my head.

That’s it for me this month! How was your month, and your Thanksgiving? Did you do NaNo this month? Did you win, or give up like I did, or something in between? Did you not do NaNo but still write? What are your creative outlets other than writing? If you’re also a college or high school student, how’s your semester going? And have you started decorating for Christmas yet? Share in the comments!

 

 

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I’m Back! Or, My Life This Summer and New Plans for The Story Scientist

Hello, followers! I’ve returned from my long hiatus! Yay! I’m so happy to be back with you all.

Now of course your question is, “But Anna, where have you been for the last six months?” Yes, I know. Six months is a long time. As such, this will be kind of a long post. I have a lot of exciting things to report, including new plans for this blog, as advertised in the title. So let’s begin!

Life

So I left you six months ago at the end of April, and a lot has happened since then. (No, I’m totally not being redundant. Why do you ask?)

In school: I finished my sophomore year. Yay! And now I’ve started my junior year. Small yay. I’m very busy and it’ll be a much bigger yay when I finish junior year. Anyway, I am currently taking General Microbiology, Applied Plant Genetics (which has no exams–!), Genomics and Bioinformatics (in which computers and I have a love-hate relationship), and Principles of Biochemistry I. That last is my major source of the dreaded College Nightmare this semester–for instance, before the first exam I dreamed that my professor spent 35 minutes of the exam period talking about what a hard grader he is, and didn’t hand out the exam until there were 15 minutes left . . . but I digress. Bottom line is, I’m doing well in all my classes so far, and more importantly, enjoying them (most of the time).

This summer, I also participated in a great full-time research program, in which I spent 35 hours a week doing my rice drought-and-salt-tolerance research. I’m still working on the preliminary work for that project now, actually. I’ve learned that research is incredibly slow and complex, and if you want to do anything big at all, it takes a lot of work and a lot of time. And yet I love it. I’m passionate about it. (I actually realized this because I was agonizing about it the same way I do about my writing, funnily enough, so that must mean I’m on the right track!)

I also did a lot of traveling this summer. In late May, I visited Pennsylvania for the first time with my family! We went to Pittsburgh, Fallingwater (a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house–look it up if you’ve never heard of it before!), and Punxsutawney, the home of Groundhog Day. Pennsylvania’s hills are massive; they really make New Hampshire look flat. Pittsburgh was surprisingly a great city; I think it’s really underrated. The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History were a real highlight, as was Point State Park.

In June, I went to a conference in Atlanta, Georgia with my summer research program. It was weird being in Atlanta twice in six months (including the Georgia Aquarium), but in a cool way, and the conference was great for learning about graduate school and how to get there. And at the end of July, I went to another conference at UC Berkeley, where I a) presented my research, b) went out of the Eastern Time Zone for the first time ever, and c) visited San Francisco for a day! (Don’t ever try to do it all in one day. It’s much too big.) My favorite parts of San Francisco were the Golden Gate Bridge (it is NOT overrated) and Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. We also got to ride on a traditional trolley to get to Lombard Street, which was so much fun! And traveling is always better with a couple good friends along. If nothing else, they give you something to take photos of.

In short, life has been incredibly busy, but I love research, traveling was really cool, and in just seven short weeks the semester will be over!

Writing

. . . Or, the lack thereof.

Because of all the aforementioned busyness, I haven’t written very much at all. When I left you, I was working quite seriously on editing Circle of Fire, only slightly less seriously on outlining This Hidden Darkness, and I’d given Windsong a break altogether. Now, as ever, things have changed. Windsong has started up again, as a very loosely structured reboot (read: I write when I feel like it, whatever scenes may come to my mind, and I’m hoping a four-book series will magically appear). I got out of the editing groove for CoF sometime before going on vacation in May and haven’t gotten back in yet, though I have some germs of ideas that need sitting down and developing. And unfortunately for the main character, THD has gone entirely to the backburner, to be written “later” when I have more inclination for it.

All this may well seem wishy-washy. It seems that way to me quite often. My perfectionistic mind has been going around and around lately; why am I not writing every day, what’s wrong with me? The answer, of course, is partially that by the end of a day full of science classes and research and so on, my brain is drained. And creativity takes brainpower; I can’t just whip off beautiful writing without staring at the computer screen for a long time. And that’s the other part of the answer, time: between research, coursework, tutoring, and applying for scholarships/fellowships, I’m much too busy to do much writing.

Which is obviously why I’ve created a novel for NaNoWriMo next month.

Stay tuned if you’d like to watch me crash and Burn (the title).

New Plans (As Advertised)

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for!

So, obviously, I’m resuscitating my blog, and you want to know if it will be just like it was before. The answer is a resounding No, followed by a wimpy But It Will Be Similar. Let’s break this down into categories.

1) Posting Schedule. As you may have noticed, it’s Monday, not Saturday. I will now be posting things on Mondays so I can have the weekend to work on them, rather than scrambling on Friday night to write a post for the next day. I will, however, continue to post weekly (except for this upcoming Christmas, which will be a Monday, so I’ll probably be taking that week off).

2) Types of Posts. Some of these will be the same; for example, Story Starters and My Life This Month will continue to be posted on the first and last Saturdays Mondays of the month, respectively. I will also continue to do science posts, but since I don’t think these were very popular when I was last doing my blog, I want to make them more relevant to writers. My areas of interest and study are plant biology, genetics, and biotechnology, of which the latter two are very popular in sci-fi these days, so I can definitely do some posts on that. If you have any particular topics you’d like to see addressed, drop them in the comments and I’ll take a look!

That leaves one Monday (in most months), which I will probably use for the Beautiful People link-up. I used to do book reviews, and though I enjoyed them, they’re rather time-intensive, so I’m going to stop doing them for now. In months without Beautiful People, which happens sometimes, I’ll probably post a random thought on writing or science or literature, just something of interest. And on those extra-special fifth Mondays, I may do anything and everything: guest posts, special random thoughts, or perhaps book reviews, since those are now out of the regular lineup. That’s just a sampling of what to expect, though!

So I’m back! I had a good summer; how was yours? Did you travel anywhere? Read any particularly good books? Write very much? Do you have any science topics you’d like to see me address? Are you doing NaNoWriMo next month? What are you most interested in seeing on my blog? Share in the comments!

My Life This March: In Which I Do Lots of Science and Celebrate a Blogoversary

Hey, everybody! It’s the last Saturday of the month, time to wrap up what I did this month. March was kind of crazy for me, and I can’t even remember most of what happened, but here are some of the major things.

Mostly, this month has been full of school. I’m taking 19 credits this semester, rather than the usual 16, and four of my five classes have associated labs. Don’t get me wrong; I love school, and it’s great to finally be taking advanced genetics courses. It’s just been crazy taking that many credits and squeezing in time in the lab.

One of the major things I’ve been doing this month is writing a 12-page proposal for my summer research project. I really thank God that He gave me the inclination to write in my childhood and that I’ve practiced enough that I can now write what everybody said was a pretty killer proposal. But it wasn’t without its difficulties. There are enough articles written on the role of polyamines in rice to fill a two-volume encyclopedia, and I had to boil that down into five pages for the literature review part. But it worked out in the end, thank God, and I was able to submit it for my funding request. We’ll see what happens!

Just because I hadn’t finished the proposal didn’t mean I couldn’t start my research. I’ve been spending a few hours every week in the lab, growing rice and, this week, starting tissue cultures. I’m really excited to try to make this work and to present my preliminary data next month.

Because of the general madness, I didn’t get much writing done this month. I think I picked at Circle of Fire maybe four times, but progress is progress, right? I also haven’t thought much about This Hidden Darkness, which was supposed to be my secondary project, but that’s because I’ve decided to treat my “break” from the Windsong storyline as one long brainstorming session. This may even involve a prequel that won’t make it into the main storyline. So far, I’ve done some thinking about villain motivations and being more creative with my worldbuilding.

Also, this month marks my first “blogoversary”–I’ve been blogging for a year! Yay! *throws confetti* I’ve really enjoyed having this blog since I started it last March. I love interacting with everyone who reads, likes, and comments, and writing about random science and book things that I enjoy makes a great little break from studying every week. I definitely plan to keep it up further this year. Stick around; I have some good things in the works!

So that’s my month in a nutshell; how was yours? Did you do anything exciting, or was it pretty much the usual? If you have a blog, when’s your blogoversary? How much writing did you do this month? Have you ever done a research project? Share in the comments!

My Life This January: In Which I Revel in Winter Break, Visit the Sunny South, and Start Yet Another Semester

Hello, all! It’s the last Saturday of the month, so I’m here as usual chatting about my life this month. In January . . . a lot happened, to say the least. Some of the most important (and/or all-encompassing) things are listed up there in the title.

Winter break is always a joyous time, when after a semester-long drought, I return to voracious reading, sleeping in, and even (gasp!) lying around doing nothing. It is glorious. I read six books in five weeks (including Ender’s Game and The Progeny–more reviews coming soon!). I also did (pitifully small) amounts of outlining a new project, tentatively titled This Hidden Darkness, and started picking at some editing for Circle of Fire. Mostly, though, I refilled my creative juices with some art. I started with pottery and managed to make one thing before I got on a stained glass kick; my dad has had all the stuff downstairs for years, and since he got back into it, I started working on my projects from a couple years ago, too. It was great to sometimes spend the whole day downstairs cutting and grinding and being creative with glass.

Of course, I also worked over break. I continued to hold down my entry-level job, and also worked in the lab. I don’t think I mentioned last month that I changed labs; I’m now in a plant genetics/biochemistry lab where I’m going to start working on rice this semester. I’m really excited about that, and I enjoyed learning stuff like seed germination (in Petri dishes) over the break.

The major thing I did over the break, though, was fly (by myself for the first time) down to Georgia to see my best friend Olivia for a week. It was really nice, especially towards the end of the week when it warmed up to short-sleeves weather. We went a lot of cool places together, like the Georgia Aquarium, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, where I got to meet Victoria Howell. We had lunch in Marietta at an Australian bakery, which was really cool, then went to the park and hiked up the mountain and looked at the Civil War battlefield. We don’t have many Civil War sites in New England, so that was a really cool piece of history to see. It was also a novel thing to see the snow leftover from the weekend storm on the mountain; I mean, I see quite enough of snow, but snow in Georgia was neat to experience. We also went to see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra perform Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, which was really cool, since I haven’t been to really any kind of live music in years. And the symphony building was beautiful. Other than that, we enjoyed just hanging out, playing games, and feeding Olivia’s horses and playing with her cats. It’s always great to see a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

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And within the last three days of this month, the new semester has begun! It was supposed to start on Tuesday, but had to be delayed due to a bad snowstorm–that’s New Hampshire for you. I’ve enjoyed most of my classes so far; physics is the notable exception, since I just don’t like the subject matter. Organic chemistry, though, has two of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and of course I love my two advanced genetics classes. I have a packed schedule, though, so it’s going to be a very busy semester.

That’s pretty much it for me today. See you next week!

How was your month? Did you travel anywhere? Meet any new friends? Have you ever been to Georgia? Did you start a new semester of school? If so, what did you do over break? Have you ever done stained glass? How is your writing going? Tell me in the comments!

My Life This December: In Which I Wrap Up a Semester and Reflect on the Year

Hello, all! It’s the last Saturday of the month, hence my summary post. Today, it is also the last Saturday (the last day, in fact) of the year. 2016, where have you gone? So today’s post will be partly about my month and partly about the whole year. Since rather a lot happened, let’s dive right in!

The most notable thing that happened to me this month was that I finished my third semester of college. I survived, fortunately, with only a minor, tiny drop in my GPA. I also started working in a new lab, where I am going to be studying rice starting next semester, so I’m very excited about that. Next semester starts in the last week of January, so I’m currently relaxing and enjoying my break, with a  chance to get some reading, writing, and other creative stuff done.

Speaking of writing, as you may recall, last month was NaNoWriMo. I finished out with roughly 48,000 words in the complete first draft of Circle of Fire. I’ve been taking a short break from that project, and am only just starting to think about editing. During that break, I’ve started outlining another project, currently sans title, which has an incomplete draft lying around from NaNo 2013 that I’d like to restart. I still need to fill a lot of plot holes before I can start drafting, but I like how it’s coming so far. I tried to take a look at Windsong again a few weeks ago, but couldn’t stand the sight of it. I love the story, but at this point, it’s a hopeless mess, and I’m not sure how to save it. My plan is to write five or ten books before coming back to it so I can learn the writing and editing process better.

Christmas also happened at the beginning of this week (Merry Christmas, everyone!). My family had an Italian dinner on Christmas Eve, and our grandparents came up on Christmas day for the traditional turkey lunch. For gifts, I was delighted to get the Writer’s Digest Annotated Edition of Jane Eyre, as well as Starlighter by Bryan Davis. I’m really looking forward to reading both of those!

In the yearly roundup, I’ve read a bit this year. Not a lot (I haven’t even made 20 books, according to my Goodreads list), but considering I’ve gone a total of eight months with scarce reading during school, I’m happy with the number. (I’m hoping to get one more book on that list; I haven’t quite finished The Bourne Identity, but I think I can do that by the end of today. . . .) I made a grand total of four five-star ratings: A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin, Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland, and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Most of the others were four-star ratings, with a couple of three-stars thrown in. Apparently I’m generally a positive reviewer; I don’t think I’ve rated any book lower than three stars yet.

In general, 2016 was a good year for me. I did my second and third semesters of college and my first research fellowship in between. I read a lot of good books, and wrote one that will become better with editing. I did get fed up with my primary project, so I’m taking a long-term break from it and letting it percolate for a while. And I started outlining a reboot of a book from three years ago.

And, of course, I started this blog! This is my fifty-third post since I started in March, not counting a little post a couple weeks ago to notify readers about changes to my schedule for December. I’ve written more book reviews, science posts, and “my life this month” posts than I care to count at the moment, as well as a number of book quote and story beginning analyses. And I’ve jumped on the Beautiful People bandwagon for almost every month since March, including Beautiful Books last month. I even wrote a movie review when I hadn’t read a book to review (oops–but it was fun and you may see more in the future!). All in all, I’ve really enjoyed having this blog, and I want to conclude today by saying thank you to all the readers, “likers,” and commenters; like reading is the other half of writing, you all are the other half of blogging. Thank you, and see you in 2017!

That’s it for me this year! How was your 2016? What did you read and/or write? Did you do any kind of school? Are you looking forward to 2017? Tell me in the comments!

 

My Life This November: In Which NaNoWriMo Happens and the Semester Marches On

Hello, everyone! It’s the fourth Saturday of the month (finally), which must mean that I’m here summarizing my month for you. It’s been a bit crazy this month, so I’m not quite sure where to begin. I’ll probably be quite brief.

First, of course, in the writing domain, National Novel Writing Month (fondly known as NaNoWriMo) happened this month, and is still going on. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo this year (I mean, what college student has time to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days?), and then on October 31st I thought, “Well . . . why not?” And here I am.

As I’m writing this post this morning, my current word count is 35,847 (5,500 or so of that is from October). I’m well aware that I’m not going to finish by Nov. 30th without losing massive amounts of sleep, which would be bad for my driving to school and generally being awake in class, so basically I’m not going to hit 50K by the end of the month. But at least I’ve written probably a lot more than I otherwise have. I’m more than halfway through Circle of Fire, and I’m really enjoying it so far. I just love writing rough drafts in general. It’s so freeing. I’m really looking forward to getting to the end; it should be fun.

In other news, it’s fall in New Hampshire, and a lot of leaves fell down this month. Then, on Monday, we had our first snow. It wasn’t much, just a coating, but it still caused a lot of ice and problems on the roads. Getting to school was interesting that day.

School has been pretty good. Organic chemistry and physics have taken over my life more than ever as the semester starts to wind down to the end. I only have three more exams left before finals (yay!). It’s hard to believe that, by the end of next month, I’ll be a full year and a half through college. It’s quite exciting. And perhaps I’ll get more writing time over winter break. . . .

So that’s my month! What about you? How was your Thanksgiving (which, of course, I totally forgot to mention in the body of my post), if you’re American? Have you had snow this month? Are you also in school? How’s it going? Are you doing NaNoWriMo, and if so, how’s that going for you? Share in the comments!

My Life This October: In Which I See a Broadway Show, Catch a Cold, and Start a New Book

Hello, everyone! It’s the last Saturday of the month, which means I’m summarizing my month here for you. October has been a pretty full month for me, what with studying and numerous exams and being sick for much of the month (see second item in the title), so I’ll just give some of the highlights.

Near the beginning of the month, I got to go to Boston to see a Broadway show, stay at a fancy hotel, and have dinner in a fancy restaurant thanks to the McNair Scholars Program, which I am a part of at UNH. (If you’re a qualifying college student, you’re interested in doing research, and your school has this program, DO IT. I’m going to do it next summer and I can already tell it’s going to be awesome.) The whole weekend was really fun. I’d never experienced Boston like that before; I’ve been a lot with my family to visit museums and stuff, but it was a totally new experience going with a group of students for a night out. It was a blast. I saw my first ever Broadway show (Jersey Boys), and it was really good apart from lots of language and innuendo which I didn’t appreciate so much. As a writer, though, I thought it was very well written, and even the language and stuff was probably pretty accurate to the characters. I really enjoyed the music, too.

Image result for jersey boys boston
Not what my playbill looked like, but it gives you some idea.

Dinner was also really good. It was a sort of stir-fry place where you get all your ingredients yourself (they have pasta and burgers, too), and then watch the chefs cook it up on one of those big round grills. UNH actually has one at one of their dining halls, but it was cool to see it on a larger scale. The ice cream was also fabulous. And staying overnight in the fancy hotel was a lot of fun, too.

Unfortunately, the month took a turn for the worse the next week, when I caught a nasty virus, the current “UNH Plague.” As I’m writing this, I’ve had it almost three weeks. It’s getting better now, but for a while it was really messing things up for me–I got my first ever 59 on an exam partially because of it. (Granted, I was above class average on this exam, because it was too long and everyone found it really hard, but still . . . a 59. . . .) But life goes on, viruses or not. And since I’m taking organic chemistry, the labels on medications are a lot more interesting now, even if I don’t actually fully understand what they say.

And somewhere near the beginning of this month (or the end of last month–I can’t remember which), I finished outlining as much as I felt I could at the moment and finally let myself jump into drafting Circle of Fire! It feels so, so good. First drafts are kind of my writing happy-place because that’s what I’ve done most and therefore what I do best. (I’ve gotten really good about letting my writing suck, haha.) It’s so nice to just have a creative release of words again. It’s also interesting to write in a different genre than usual; CoF is difficult to define as one genre, but I’d say it’s mostly thriller with fantasy elements. For age range, I might place it as older YA or cleaned-up NA, new adult, something I’ve never done before. I think that’s all I’ll tell you for now, but I’m going to keep doing Beautiful People posts for CoF characters, so if you’re interested, you can get little tidbits from those.

As far as life in general, school goes on. Week 10 of the semester has just finished, and we march on steadily toward finals week. I have eight more exams between now and then . . . I just have a lot of exams this semester (counting organic chem “quizzes” as exams, that is). I have determined that, for all my ranting about organic chemistry last month, physics is that much worse. Physics, even dumbed-down physics for life science students, is no joke (that’s the exam I got a 59 on. Yeah.). I’m glad I’m getting it over with this year. Genetics, though, has only gotten more interesting with the introduction of molecular genetics, which I love. And I’m thrilled to be taking advanced genetics classes starting in the spring. (The fun will soon begin. . . .) I’m still working in the lab, doing PCR and DNA extractions and to a lesser extent looking after baby seaweeds. So . . . yeah, that’s about it for the month. I’ll be back next week with a Story Starters post!

What about you; how has your month been? Are you in college or school? Have you been sick this month? (If you have, I feel your pain, believe me.) What classes are you taking? Have you done any writing this month? Started any new projects recently? Let me know in the comments!

My Life This September: In Which the Molecules Hijack My Life

A quick word before I begin: I can’t believe it’s September. September is almost over! Can you believe it? (I often marvel at the passage of time; that probably won’t be the last time I express amazement about it on this blog.)

Well, as it is in fact the fourth Saturday in September (!), I am here once again to present to you the roundup of my month. This month, it looks a lot like this:Image result for organic chemistry molymod model kit

 

Image result for organic chemistry jones fleming

Image result for organic chemistry resonance forms

As you may have guessed, fall semester has started (as of August 29th, actually), and with it, my year of organic chemistry. (I don’t technically have to take the whole year, but I am anyway, because . . . well, I guess I’m crazy.)

Organic chemistry is an infamous subject. Presumably, it has made non-doctors out of hordes of pre-med students because they could not tackle this class. Whenever people complain about pre-med requirements (not me–I’m not even close to pre-med), they complain about organic chemistry. Invariably. It’s just a fact of life.

So, this month, my life has been hijacked by molecules. I bought the book in the middle photo with expedited shipping so it could get to my house before the semester started and I could start studying. I have taken profuse notes from the book (which I never do). A little way into the semester, I bought a molecular model kit like the one in the top photo, because a) to help my studying as molecules get increasingly complex and b) why not? Molecule-building is fun. Organic chemistry loses half its daunting air when the student acquires a box full of colorful plastic pieces that can eternally be put together and taken apart–although it is annoying that I don’t have a big enough model kit to put together a strand of DNA (nerd problems). (Seriously, though, my kit doesn’t even have enough nitrogens for one nucleotide. And who thought to put in 12 carbons and only 20 hydrogens? There should totally be 24. But, as usual, I digress.)

Apart from life organic chemistry, I am taking four other classes: organic chemistry lab (it’s its own class with its own lecture worth two of its own credits), Principles of Genetics, and Biotechnology and Society (just for fun). And I have had so many deadlines, molecules, papers, molecules, exams, molecules, quizzes, and molecules flying around already that writing (like for fun, not papers) has quite gotten lost in the mix. I have had time to do little more than coax an introductory hook and some hazy subplots out of Rahara and crew from Circle of Fire, my new project (check out the Beautiful Peoples if you’re curious!). And having released myself from self-imposed deadlines (you have no idea how good it feels), I haven’t worked on Windsong at all, besides letting the characters float around inside my head, which they were always going to do anyway.

That was a very long two paragraphs, and now I have run out of things to say, so it looks like it’s curtains for this blog post! One last note: do come back next month and check out my next guest post from Olivia Hofer! It promises to be a good one. 🙂

So that’s my month in a nutshell! How was yours? Did you go back to school? Are you in college? Any other writers and STEM majors here? (Shout out if you are–the struggle is real!) Anyone else taken organic chemistry? (No? How about chemistry at all?) Anyone else take a break from a project and start “working” on a new one? Tell me in the comments!

My Life This August: In Which I Finish My Fellowship, Work, Edit, and Gear Up for School

Hello! I can’t believe it’s the last Saturday of August already. I’ve been blogging for six months! Where does the time go?

This month has been pretty routine. Halfway through, I finished up the research fellowship I started back in May. It’s hard to believe I’ve got a summer of full-time genetics research under my belt already, and I’m looking forward to going back to it in the fall to finish up my projects!

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been working my other job and trying to edit Windsong in between. I wanted to finish before the 29th (which is when school starts up for me), but at this point, that looks doubtful, due to lots of work and having to write a final report for my fellowship. So I guess I’ll continue to pick at it while I’m in school, if I can.

On that note, much of my time has been spent gearing up to start school again. For those who don’t know, I am going to be a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire this year. I live close enough that I can commute and not have to spend the extra money to live there.

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A view of Thompson Hall at UNH. (Image not mine)

This upcoming semester, I am taking four classes: Introductory Physics I, Organic Chemistry I, Principles of Genetics, and Biotechnology and Society. To be honest, I’m probably most excited about Biotech and Society, with genetics a close second, since I am a genetics major and considering work in the agricultural biotech industry. Physics is required to graduate, so I’m getting it out of the way now. And organic chemistry . . . well, let’s just say that’s what people complain about if they’re going to complain about pre-med requirements. (I’m not pre-med, but I’ve met a lot of people who are, so.)

I’ve already bought three of my textbooks (for genetics and organic chem–its lab has a textbook all to itself), and received one, my genetics book. It’s a shiny new hardcover, which is really cool. 🙂 And I’ve already started reading it, and it promises to be quite interesting. I’ve also bought other school supplies, like my five-subject notebook for the semester and highlighters and stuff. (And my parking permit, because I commute.) I am all set to go back on Monday the 29th!

What about you? Are you going back to school soon? Are any of you out there fellow college students? Any STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) students or prospective students? (Shout out to you all, especially if you’re also writers! It’s a weird life sometimes, but fun.) What did you do this month? Any writing or editing? Working? Tell me in the comments!

My Life This June: In Which I Visit Washington, D.C. and Do More Research and Editing

Hello, everyone! It’s the fourth Saturday of the month, which must mean I’m describing my life this month for you. This June, I went on a family vacation to Washington, D.C., which made me promptly forget about everything else I did this month. . . . I did, however, do some more lab work and writing-related things, which I’ll talk about at the end of this post.

So I was in D.C. (we stayed in Maryland, actually) from Saturday the 11th until Saturday the 18th, which is why I didn’t respond to any blog comments made during that time until I got back. Sorry for the delay, everyone! On the 12th, our first day out doing things, we went to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, even though it was over 90 degrees outside and the zoo is a very walking-intensive place (from where we parked, you had to go all the way up a giant hill to get to the famous pandas). Despite that, it was a great place to visit! I had only been there once, ten years ago, so it was nice to go again. Below are some of the animals we saw. It was particularly cool to be in some of the exhibits with wild birds loose around us.

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The next morning, we walked around various monuments (since Washington, D.C. is monument land) and passed through the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden. This was the first day we passed cool buildings, like the National Archives and the Department of Justice.

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Later that afternoon, we visited the National Gallery of Art itself. This is a great big art museum composed of two buildings; the east wing was designed by famous architect I.M. Pei and is very modernist and cool, while the west wing is a more traditional design. The east wing was a pretty quick tour, since it was under renovation, so we quickly passed under the street to the west wing. This wing was full of beautiful and interesting art, including Ginevra de’ Benci, the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in either American continent, and The Sacrament of the Last Supper by Salvador Dali, my new favorite painting (even though I don’t usually care for Dali’s surrealist work). Anyway . . . here are some more pictures for you.

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On Tuesday, we attended to the actual reason we were in the D.C. area, which was so my brother could compete in the national competition of National History Day. For those who haven’t heard of it, and are junior high or high school students, you should check it out (at the link above). Students compete in the paper, exhibit, performance, website, and documentary categories, as individuals or groups, junior or senior high. I’ve never done it, but this was my brother’s fifth year, and his first attendance at nationals. It was pretty cool to go. Students from different “affiliates” (there were students from places like Guam and South Korea as well as the fifty states and D.C.) traded buttons to try to get all of them, and the different range of projects was pretty interesting. Although my brother did not win any awards at the Thursday ceremony, he still had fun and will do NHD again next year.

On Wednesday, we did a few different things. First, we visited the U.S. Botanical Garden, which was a really neat place, not least because it was the result of George Washington’s vision of a botanical garden in the nation’s capital to educate the populace about plants. (George Washington appreciated plants!) There was a conservatory and some outside gardens. My favorite was probably the orchid collection in the conservatory, although the endangered plants and sensitive plant in the “Plant Adaptations” section were also pretty cool. See the pictures below!

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After the botanic garden, we went back to the National Gallery, since we didn’t see nearly everything on our first run through. We found a few Vermeer paintings and visited the da Vinci and Dali paintings again. After that, we went to NHD night at the Smithsonian American history museum, which is a great place if you ever go to D.C. They have lots of cool stuff, like the ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz, the hat Abraham Lincoln was wearing when he was shot, and lots of first ladies’ inaugural gowns. They also had some NHD exhibits on display that day, so we visited a couple of those as well.

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Thursday and Friday were much quieter. On Thursday, we attended the NHD awards ceremony, then went back to our hotel and hung out. On Friday, we visited the Phillips Collection, which is apparently America’s first modern art museum, mainly to see The Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a famous Impressionist painter. It was a beautiful painting, and very absorbing; I sat in front of it for a while. They also had other interesting works by modern and contemporary artists, and a lovely little courtyard.

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That wraps up my trip to D.C., and since this is becoming a monster post, I will be brief about the rest of my month. I have continued doing research, spending most of my days in a lab happily analyzing seaweed DNA and growing seaweed spores in a little culture room. I’ve learned a lot of new lab techniques this month, such as the polymerase chain reaction (hugely important in molecular biology). I have also been plugging away at my editing, although I recently made a list of the scenes I have left to edit and realized I am going to have a huge time crunch later next month. (I set a goal of finishing my macro edit by July 31st. We’ll see if that actually happens.) But all in all, it’s been a good month, even the three weeks I wasn’t on vacation.

How was your June? Did you go on vacation this month? If so, where? Have you ever been to Washington, D.C.? (If you live outside the U.S., have you ever been to your nation’s capital, and if so, what was it like?) Have you been to any of the places I visited? If so, what did you think of them? Have you ever done National History Day? (If so, kudos to you! I could never get through all the yearlong work, haha.) If not, does it sound interesting? And lastly, have you been writing or editing this month, and if so, how has it gone? Share in the comments!