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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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 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 May: In Which I Finish My First Year of College,Win a Free Book, and Climb Over Rocks in Search of Seaweed

Hello, and welcome to today’s (celebratory) “My Life This Month” post! I am going to deal with the things in the title in chronological order, so finishing my first year of college will have to wait a couple paragraphs, but that is mostly what I’m celebrating this month.

I actually won the free book at the very end of last month. I was surprised and pleased, since despite entering various giveaways whenever I get the chance (nothing better than free books, right?), I have never won one before! I reviewed the said book, Edge of Oblivion by Joshua A. Johnston, last week, so you can click here to see what I thought of it.

Now on to the main event! Halfway through this month, I finished my first year of college, which is a little crazy. It seems like I just started. I was thinking about it, and I’ve learned so much since then, and not all about academics:

  • Having a good teacher makes a class that much better.
  • Gas prices fluctuate constantly. Try not to fuss too much.
  • Don’t discount anything before you’ve looked into it. Your last option might become your first.
  • Backups happen, and there may not be a way around them. Leave the house early enough that you can sit in traffic and still be early to class.
  • An empty lecture hall is a rare and beautiful thing.
  • Chemistry is a hard subject. Grade scaling is necessary and good for your GPA.
  • Calculus is easy. (Stranger things have happened.)
  • It is possible to eat applesauce with a fork. (Seriously.)
  • Commuting can be frustrating because it makes it harder to make friends.
  • Commuting is great because your only roommate is your cat and you get to see your family every day. Plus, when your residential classmates are complaining about packing, you can smile to yourself and think, “I don’t have to do that. . . .”
  • That first semester is rough. Give it time, and college will become one of the best experiences of your life.

I have finished a variety of classes this year:

  • General Chemistry I and II
  • Introductory Biology I and II
  • First-Year Writing
  • Professional Perspectives in Biology
  • Calculus for Life Sciences
  • Global Public Health Issues
  • Myths and Misconceptions about Nuclear Science

And here’s what I hope to tackle next year:

  • Principles of Genetics
  • Genetics Lab
  • Organic Chemistry I and II
  • Applied Biostatistics
  • Introductory Physics I and II
  • Biotechnology and Society

Hopefully, the scheduling will work out for half of those in the spring.

Even though I’ve officially finished my classes for the year, I’m still at UNH for the summer. I mentioned last month that I got a research fellowship to study seaweed, and this week, it started. On Monday, I found myself slipping and sliding over rocks trying to get under a bridge and find a very specific kind of seaweed.

Porphyra umbilicalis, a type of nori, or sushi seaweed. (Image not mine)

The goal is eventually to domesticate this seaweed, P. umbilicalis, but first we have to find out what species it is. On Thursday, I and the grad student in the lab got some samples from Dover Point, under another bridge (I’m fairly sure the people walking by thought I was crazy when I started shouting to the grad student that “I found some!”). I extracted the DNA from those on Friday, and next week, hopefully, we can use the DNA to identify what species we got (as long as I, ahem, actually got DNA out of the extraction).

As far as writing goes, I made some progress on my book this month, even with finals week smack in the middle. I rewrote most of the beginning, which made it a good bit shorter (it was proportionally too long for the book), and started putting in a new scene. Editing goes slowly, but it does go on. I also gave in and started outlining another idea that has been nagging at my brain for months. I’m not sure how far I’ll go through with it, so I won’t give you any tidbits just yet, but I hope (right now) to have it outlined fully by the end of the year, so that by the time I send Windsong off to beta readers, I’ll have something else to start writing.

And that’s my life this month!

What was your life like this month? Did you get much writing done? Have you ever won a free book? Did you also finish a year of high school or college? If so, post in the comments, and we can celebrate!

 

 

 

My Life This April: In Which I Go to a Research Conference, Get a Fellowship, and Take Way Too Many Exams

Good morning! This is my second My Life This Month post. For those who don’t know, I post once a week on Saturdays, with occasional extra posts (such as Beautiful People, which didn’t happen this month) on Wednesdays. On the first Saturday of the month, I post a book quote analysis; on the second, a science post; on the third, a book review; and on the fourth, My Life This Month. On fifth Saturdays, like this month, I post extra exciting things, like this month’s introduction to my work-in-progress.

One thing I’ve learned this month is that, in April, college ramps up. I’m nearing the end of the spring semester (my last final is May 16th), so I’ve done a lot of schoolwork and not a lot of writing. As you can see by today’s title, most of the highlights of my month were school-related. I’ll do them in order, though that order isn’t necessarily chronological.

Earlier this year, faced with the prospect of a career in genetics research, I decided I should visit UNH’s Undergraduate Research Conference, or URC (at UNH, everything is abbreviated). So, this past Saturday, I made an extra commute over to the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture’s URC event. COLSA is my college, so I hope to present at this event in the next few years, and I found it very interesting. Because I’m still a freshman and haven’t taken biochemistry yet, some of the presentations went over my head, but I enjoyed learning about various topics, including garbage-raiding elephants in Sri Lanka, the ability of horseshoe crabs to sense temperature, and how plants grow in hydroponic versus aquaponic agriculture systems (in hydroponics, you grow plants in just water; in aquaponics, you grow plants and fish in the same recirculating water). You can read more about the COLSA URC here, if you’re interested.

Secondly, some of you might have seen me talk about my work in a seaweed lab before. I have now been awarded a fellowship for paid work in that lab over the summer! I’m very excited; it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever applied for and received. It’s an awesome summer job and a great step forward for me, so I couldn’t help mentioning it just a little. 😉

The last one is really self-explanatory, so I’ll try not to complain too much. As I said, college really ramps up in April. This month, I have taken six exams and had one major paper and many various lab reports due. Welcome to the life of a genetics student. (It’s good, though. I really do like college. I just wish that I didn’t have three exams in one day sometimes. . . .) To make the focus more positive (one of my general goals for life), I’ve learned a lot, about photosynthesis, the cytoskeleton, reduction/oxidation reactions and batteries, and bioinformatics (look for a science post related to this next month!). And that’s just scratching the surface.

As far as writing goes, as I said, I haven’t done much. I set my own goal for the month with the Go Teen Writers April monthly challenge (check this blog out if you’re interested in writing challenges!), but didn’t get it nearly finished. I did write more than I probably would have otherwise, though, so in the end, let’s call it a success.

All in all, I had a good month, though a bit busy. I look forward to next month’s life post, when I can officially say I’m done with my first year of college! Woohoo!

What about you? What did you do this month? Have you ever been to a research conference? Do you think it’s something you’d be interested in? Have you achieved any milestones this month? Have you made much writing progress? Are you a college student, too? Tell me in the comments!