Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Salon: January 26, 2014

From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Today's Weather:  We continue on the roller coaster ride that is Winter 2014.  Today will be sunny with a high near 55... and tonight the temps will bottom out near zero with a high tomorrow of only 18.  So I plan to get outside a bit this afternoon and enjoy the glimpse of spring before I must return, once again, to hibernation.

What's on the menu:  Last night I improvised with a few leftovers in the house:  frozen shrimp, canned water chestnuts and fresh zucchini and created a stir fry that I served over plain rice.  It was surprisingly tasty.  Today we plan to treat ourselves and have brunch on the Plaza followed by a nice walk around the area.

Highlights of the week:  It was indeed the low-key week that I had hoped.  There was not one great event that occurred, but I did manage to begin a walking routine (more to follow) and I learned how to convert my manuscript into a mobi file that can be read on a Kindle - complete with a hyperlinked table of contents.  While the Scrivener software does all the work, there was most definitely a learning curve to complete the process.

Teaching Overview:  Both Brit Lit and English Comp had in-class sessions to work on their research papers.  Brit Lit learned how to organize their completed notecards and create a detailed outline to help with the flow of the essay and discover if there are any research holes that need to be addressed. We also reviewed the structure for an introductory paragraph, which culminates with the thesis statement.

English Comp is just getting started on their papers, so students brought in two resources on their chosen topic and began writing notecards, making sure to include the source (for citation purposes) and only writing brief fragments to avoid inadvertent plagiarism.  They also began work on a K-W-L chart, that is: list what they currently KNOW about the topic and then... what they WANT to know about it (L stands for what they LEARNED ... but cannot be completed until research is done).  As students research, they should constantly be asking themselves questions... adding those questions to the "W" list... and then finding more resources to address those concerns.  This is what will allow them to dig deep into the topic, rather than just settle for surface information.

Currently Reading:  I am still working my way through New York on my Kindle; I believe I am now on page 176 which represents 17% completion.  This will take a while....

I also read a book on writing this week, Writers and their Notebooks, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  One of my assignments over the next two weeks is to begin a writer's notebook to capture those fleeting ideas or observations or snippets of conversations to be gleaned for future projects.  I seem to have a mental block, however.  There is no good reason for it... I love to write... I love journals.  But perhaps it is because I still do not consider myself a "writer"... and because there is no "right" way to use a journal that stymies me. But the book helped, and I would recommend it to anyone who writes and enjoys reading about others who love the craft as well.

Writing Progress: Inspired by the above reading, coupled with my need to be a good student, I bought a few journals.  A good friend turned me onto the website, Live-Inspired, which sells unique writing supplies at an affordable price.  I ordered several different journals last Saturday, one for each project, and received the package on Friday.  Great service and a very nice product.

In addition to the journals and the manuscript compilation, I also used some time this week to conduct some online research for our upcoming cruise.  I have revised the working title of that compilation of future essays to Visiting the Saints and have a special journal devoted just to that project.

I have another idea for a middle grade novel and I have begun preliminary research into that as well.  While I know the subject, I am playing around with possible ways to structure the book.  One idea is to continue a "series" of the NaNoWriMo project; another idea is to tell the biographical story in first person and present it as a "year in the life" series.  It was a noodling kind of week...

Weekly Exercise:  As it turns out, I am highly motivated by accountability.  You see, we are a family of type A personalities (some would even argue A+)  Even those who marry into the family as a laid-back B become As after spending time with us.  After Christmas four members of the clan purchased FitBits... which is a device that not only monitors your own exercise levels, but also allows you to create a friend list and monitor their levels as well.  As you can imagine, competition is fierce in the Totoro household.

Last Sunday I finally decided to join the craze and purchased a FitBit One, and while I only use it as a glorified pedometer, the comparison of stats with other members of the family urges me to get off the couch and to the gym more than anything else.  I managed to walk on the treadmill six out of seven days this week and I feel accomplished.  I hope the competition does not grow old, but continues to spur me to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Artist's Date:  None per se... but the low key week did provide me time to reflect and ponder creative projects.  Just looking at the pile of new journals is invigorating to me:  the endless possibilities!

I plan to bring my camera with me to brunch today and I am sure the walk along the Plaza will provide some photographic moments.

Craftiness:  Valentine's Day is quickly approaching and I did spend some time this week looking for greeting card ideas and then posting them to my Pinterest Board.  I have all the supplies in house:  paper, stamps, ribbon, etc.  I just need to settle on an idea and then create.

Photography:  While I did not take any pictures that are worth posting... I did spend quite a bit of time learning my camera this week.  I discovered the use of a few buttons that will help me quickly meter and focus, and I even practiced with Manual mode (I tend to shoot in AV or TV modes only).

I also skimmed the book, How to Photograph Absolutely Everything, paying close attention to beach and landscape scenes, since that will be the focus on my photography on the cruise, and I began re-reading the book, Photos that Inspire.

The mechanics of photography are not intuitive for me.  There are some people, like my son, who can quickly assess a scene and know how to set ISO - aperture - shutter speed - white balance - spot meter - picture style - and the variety of other options that I often forget.  I am lucky if I can remember to change the white balance (although the horrid color tinge of the photo instantly reminds me).  But I am determined to learn.  And while the learning curve is quite long... and accompanied by many frustrations and poor shots... I know that I am in this for the long haul.

In addition there is the creative side of photo composition, that is also difficult for me.  I used to think that symmetry was the ideal; but I am learning that is not the case.  And there is so much to consider: the horizon, the rule of thirds, the point of view, the depth of field.  This is truly a hobby that requires me to use both sides of the brain ... and while that is a real challenge, I like it.

And finally there is the post-processing, which I am learning is another craft in and of itself.  While I strive to take a quality picture, there is comfort in knowing some imperfections can be reduced after-the-fact.  But post-processing does not only improve a photograph, it can in fact, be a creative endeavor.  And I enjoy the opportunity to create art when I have no drawing or painting skills.

Yes, photography is indeed a life-long learning endeavor.

What's on the Horizon:  More of the same, I think.  This was a good week and I hope to continue the momentum with walking, writing, journaling, reading, and photography.

I wish you all a peaceful, warm and relaxing week as well.


  1. Okay you talked me into it. Ordered Writers and their notebooks. Thanks for the link to Live Inspired. Can see where some of my money is going to go. :) Congrats on figuring out how to convert your story to read on Kindle. I haven't gotten quite that far yet. Have a great week!

  2. I use a journal to write my thoughts when frustrated. It's a way of venting without loading it on others.

    People say to use a journal to jot observations and so on, but I've never seen much point in that. When writing fiction, you're not writing your own observations about something, but filtering it through the lens of your viewpoint character's personality, and then, what you're writing has to be 100% relevant to the story.

    So it seems there's no point in wasting time thinking up colorful ways to describe something, when your viewpoint character would experience the same thing differently.

    Unless, of course, you were writing those observations "in character," and for the purpose of understanding your character better.

    Not that it would hurt, as an exercise, to describe things as you personally see them. But the usefulness to your fiction is limited.

  3. I considered a fitbit a few months ago, but promptly forgot about it during the holidays. Your enthusiasm has me thinking about it once again...

  4. If you're creating a journal, you might be interested in this: I don't know if you know Tif, but it might be worth checking out. Your talking about journaling made me think of her.

  5. I just requested How to Photography Absolutely Everything from the library -- thanks!

    Have a good week. And stay warm!

    Joy's Book Blog

  6. We haven't been to the Plaza in so long. Used to try to get there most any time we went to K.C. but have found so many other things to do now. Where did you enjoy brunch?

  7. How do you like your FitBitOne? I'd like to get one. They sound pretty cool. cheers.