On: The Perils of Sharing In-Progress Fiction with Friends & Family

I’ve been part of fiction workshop groups for nearly a decade now, and sharing early draft fiction with other writers has become easy, even when I expect (and receive) a lot of constructive feedback and criticism on the work. But I’ve yet to share any of this early stage work with close friends, family members, and even my husband. The reason for this isn’t because I don’t trust them; it’s because they’re not fiction writers. I don’t expect my programmer friends to show me early drafts of their code, because, although I have a rudimentary knowledge of JavaScript and can follow the logic if I put my mind to it, I am not a programmer. I can’t interpret what they’ve written with an eye to fostering growth or providing useful critique. It’s the same with fiction.

Based on their typical lines of questioning, I think those who don’t write fiction might imagine it to be something like memoir. I’ve gotten the question about whether this is a thinly-veiled retelling of actual events. I’ve gotten the question, which character am I? These questions always offend me. If all I can do with my craft is change your name and move the story from Florida to France, I’m not a very good writer of fiction, am I? Thanks for the vote of confidence. :/

But I shouldn’t be so hard on them. After all, they don’t write fiction. A few of the fundamental qualities of a fiction writer include her tendency to daydream, her rich reading life, her vivid imagination, and her curiosity about the inner lives of others. This culminates in an understanding of the world that folds fiction into experience. Fact doesn’t hold supremacy when you’re used to discovering truth in fiction just as, or more often than you find it in a data set. So when fiction writers read Virginia Woolf, we never think, which character is Leonard in this novel? We think, my god what gorgeous sentences! and isn’t that so truly how our minds ping-pong through experience!

That’s not to say that fiction writers don’t mine our own experiences for insight that gets used in our stories, but fiction is not memoir. A writer’s fiction does not reflect the secret inner workings of the writer’s mind and life. If it was filled with facts, a writer wouldn’t call her work fiction. She’d call it verité, an article, or maybe even essay. If her work was memoir, she would call it memoir.

The trouble for readers who know you well is that they think they see themselves, or moments from your past. They layer what they know of you into your work, and that can destroy it, especially early on. If I’m wondering whether my husband thinks I’m living a double life because I write a story exploring the quest for happiness, the artistic impulse, and the ways people sabotage themselves when trying to achieve fulfillment, through  a protagonist who is leasing a secret flat to escape from her family or working for the CIA when she tells her spouse she’s going to the office… I won’t write that story.

I care about my husband far more than I care about my sentences, but I’d like to be able to have both — so, as a rule, I don’t share my work while I’m feeling my way through it.

Fiction writers are using pure imagination – we craft lies that we hope illuminate a truth. We find that truth and we get to know our characters by writing them, and every early draft is really just an exploration. If we share our work with those who we fear will layer our own biographical details in and think they know something about us — because, for instance, the writer happens to have a mole on her cheek in exactly the place that the character has a scar! — their reading will stunt the continued writing of the story. Writers worry about enough without also worrying about whether our fledgling stories will make our mothers think we hate them.

Fiction writers aren’t narcissistically plumbing the depths of our own histories and consciousness. We’re using our imaginations — all the what ifs that bang around in our skulls all day — to inhabit the experience of others. Writing fiction is about empathy, about crawling inside the life experience of someone else, a character we construct from puzzle pieces of the hundreds of people we know, love, hate, meet, acquaint ourselves with, observe, read about, overhear on the bus… We create composites that, to us, become real as we write them.

Some writers do create characters that are more similar to them, and some write those who are as unlike them as they could possibly be. Either way, the drive to write fiction is a drive to understand the world through the individual eyes of others, and if we are using story to explore our own psyches, it’s in the sense that we’re digging as deeply as we can into the questions we can’t stop thinking about. Writing fiction is fundamentally about curiosity, and we try to satisfy that curiosity by bringing characters to life on the page.

Writers of fiction need to protect the writing process. We love and trust those close to us, but we also need them to know that the creative process is a messy one, and it’s not about them. We aren’t keeping secrets, we’re building worlds. We need to be able to do that without a layer cake of worry, expectation, and influence. And, yes, we do need to share our work, to give and get feedback to hone our craft. But this is work, above all. It’s not a hobby that we care only marginally about, spare time stuff. Writing fiction seriously is a vocation; to obtain useful feedback, we share with our peers, colleagues — those who know firsthand that fiction is full of imaginary friends, worlds that don’t exist, and the quest for beautiful sentences.

A unified theory of fashion.

Just what the world needs: another person weighing in on the meaning of style, right? One reason we’re all obsessed with how we cover our bodies is that, generally, we all (full-time nudists excepted) cover our bodies. There are certain parts of the body — which differ culture-by-culture — that are sacred enough to conceal, and how we choose to shroud those parts is a signal, a clue to who we are and how we perceive ourselves, as tempered by our circumstances. Bodies are generally adorned with things. Naturally, we’re interested in those adornments.

Essentially, every outfit is an autobiography.

There are as many ideas about fashion as there are heads in which ideas percolate, but those I’m interested in unpacking concern the negative elements of the industry, i.e., “slaves to fashion” and the consideration of style as self-representation, to wit, how do clothes help us understand ourselves, alter our perceptions, and affect our circumstances?

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fashionista: “enslavement”

Above all, those on this side of the argument contend, clothes are functional; they’re nothing more than a form of individual shelter from environmental forces like sun, wind, rain. Thoreau warned, in Walden, to “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes…” He recommends becoming a new person in order to fit the old clothes of a simpler world.

Valid points are made when considering what is called “fast fashion”, the multi-season cycles of clothing lines which rotate in and out of retail stores and sites, as if they’re on one of those sushi conveyor belts. Oh, and also like those sushi belts, don’t worry, the same piece will come back around again soon. The biggest problem with this kind of clothing is that labor is outsourced to markets where conditions are poor and worker safety is unregulated (which is to say, labor is cheap), so that retailers can keep up with the frenetic demand for disposable fashion. Robin Givhan states, “…we have created this idea of what a bargain is and we want things so cheap that — at some point along the way — somebody is suffering…” Luxury is defined as anything you don’t need, but, maybe a bit like Veruca Salt, you want to have it. Of course, this could be as innocuous as a chocolate bar or as toxic as a factory of women shucking  them by the thousands to find you a golden ticket.

It’s also true that, for some, identity goes no deeper than the red sole of a pair of Manolo Blahniks or the interlocked Cs on a Chanel handbag. The fashion industry’s lifestyle fantasy, with its origins in the 1920s advent of advertising as a trade, is a fiction. It doesn’t exist except under those many layers of artifice, like a stack of mattresses with a pea at the bottom, an arbitrary way of separating the princesses from the commoners. Cintra Wilson dubs this lifestyle branding: “Fantasies for people who have forgotten to have any of their own,” (313).

But the beauty & fashion industries can’t duplicate the delicate nuances of a style that really represents a person in the world — the best they can do is to maneuver the Venn diagram of desire and advertising to influence consumers in such a way that sells the fantasy to the highest bidders. Wilson reminds us that codes of dress, whether in the HR handbook or on the glossy foldouts in magazines, are at their core, restrictions, whereas style is permission that you give yourself to press beyond those boundaries, surpassing artifice for art. “Even if we can’t afford the painting in the museum, we love looking at it. No debate about fashion can exclude the priceless value of joy,” (Patner).

And joy, I think, is something we overlook if we think of clothing as merely functional. If one occupies a place of privilege that allows a consideration of pleasure in the wearing of garments, one should embrace that delight. Shred the do/don’t lists and wear what brings you the most happiness. Some of my most successful outfits have been mainstays on all the “don’ts” lists for fat women, e.g., don’t draw attention to “problem areas”, don’t reveal body parts that you’re not proud of. The day I wore a hot pink tulle skirt that failed to hide my hips and stomach, I tallied more than twenty emphatically expressed compliments from women who appreciated the whimsy inherent in my choice of skirt, ranging from “you’re so badass in that skirt!” to “that skirt is SO. BEAUTIFUL.”; I was even stopped by a street fashion photographer for an impromptu photo shoot. Another example? My biceps are not toned, in fact, they’re pretty flabby. But I wear sleeveless dresses and blouses all the time, when it’s hot outside, and I feel just fine about it. I don’t feel a single shred of shame about the shape of my bare arms.

 

Which brings me to my own theory of what fashion is for…

fashionista: liberation

Personal style fosters self-awareness. When I stand in front of my closet to pick an outfit, I ask myself: what’s on my agenda today? how do I feel today? and, more importantly, how do I want to feel today?  The outfit I choose for any given activity reflects more than what looks back at me from the mirror: it can be a kind of weather vane for inner atmospheric conditions.

Most people have fashion “tells”. For instance, if I’m not feeling well — if I have cramps, or am hungover, or woke up late & I grabbed literally the first thing within reach to put on as I scurried out the door — I wear casual pants, either jeans or those crepe sweatpant-style pants we’re all wearing these days. I wear heels most days because I like the kind of stomping confidence I get by being a few inches taller than I am in sock feet. And when I’m leading a tour or teaching a class, I wear what I think of as my “congresswoman” outfits — high necklines, conservative hemlines, and a dash of personality, via a pin, scarf, or blazer of some kind. Of course, this theory only goes so far — I mean, sometimes what we wear is determined largely by whether we were able to get to the laundromat this week or not. It’s wise to remember that above all, style is highly personal, and always subjective. But in general, and as Cintra Wilson states it, “…fashion consciousness isn’t about fashion as much as it is consciousness,” (312).

This consciousness manifests primarily in how fashion changes your mood, and also in how that — mood combined with style — can change your circumstances. In short, we become the characters we create for ourselves. Capital-F Fashion’s modus operandi is to manufacture a culture of desire, but lower-case-s style can be a humanizing, connective force, a gathering to yourself all the pieces you’d like to assemble in the puzzle of who you are constantly becoming. When you discover and refine style, you can use it to become the person you want to be. It’s that trope about dressing for the role you want: the development of one’s visual interface with the world, a kind of UX design for the self — how will others interact with you? how will you present yourself to them? In my job, where I could “get away with” dressing business casual at all times, people comment on my fashion choices often enough that it’s a thing: yes, I’m comfortable, no, I’m not trying to prove anything; I wouldn’t think twice about how differently I dress compared with my colleagues if it weren’t for the fact that it gets called out for me to consider. I wear the clothes I wear because I like them, and I like wearing things that I like. It’s that simple.

…But the truth is, I do end up projecting things at work and in the world, that reflect this person I’ve made myself into. People tell me I am friendly (when in colorful dresses) or scary (in spike-shouldered sweaters). I have been described as hard-working, organized, and prepared — and I think the reason for this is because I am those things. I’ve unconsciously developed a visual interface that represents hard-working, organized, and prepared to others because I follow my preferences when I decide what to wear. Dress for the role you want? Sure. But also, for the love of pete, dress to make yourself happy — and then you probably will be.

I presume there’s plenty to critique in this ragged little late-night, coffee-fueled manifesto on style — after all, it is difficult to see how one’s particular cocktail of privilege manifests itself — but every manifesto is (or, if not, should be) a work in progress. My favorite fashion diktat is summed up beautifully by the very revere’nd Cintra Wilson: “If there are no fashion rules, then it’s impossible to break them,” (243).

Easy enough: Anarchy 101 for fashionistas.

 

 

A FEW SOURCES

Fashion blogs:

http://luziehtan.de

Luciana has amazing style, and describes her blog’s animus as a cross between two concepts embedded in the name of her site. Anziehen means getting dressed as well as attraction. She interprets attraction as a function of attitude, self-awareness, and bold choices.

http://www.thesartorialist.com

“Founder/blogger/photographer Scott Schuman began The Sartorialist with the idea of creating a two-way dialogue about the world of fashion and its relationship to daily life.”

Style lookbooks:

I Love Your Style: How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style by Amanda Brooks

Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen

The Truth About Style by Stacy London

Paris Street Style: A Guide to Effortless Chic by Isabelle Thomas and Frédérique Veysset

Fashion critique:

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline

Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style by Cintra Wilson

Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern by Joshua Zeitz

Journalism:

“The High Price of Fashion” by Josh Patner, 2/13/06 http://nymag.com/fashion/06/spring/15735/

“The Real Costs Of Cheap Fashion” with Michel Martin hosting Robin Givhan, NPR audio broadcast, 5/1/13 http://www.npr.org/2013/05/01/180304715/the-real-costs-of-cheap-fashion

NaNoWriMo, again…

I started doing NaNoWrimo pre-aughts, maybe 1999? My buddy and I, two writers adrift in a sea of mutual funds boredom (at least on my part; I mean, he’s an accountant, so I think he likes numbers as well as letters; I’m more of a letters kind of dork though) — we decided to try this weird new thing, to write a novel in a month, OMG,

…and this was pre-OMG, nobody texted anything then.

It’s been an off and on flirtation since then, but I credit NNWM with establishing my writing habits. Thanks, Office of Letters and Light! In those days, I’d show up at work 2 hours early, camp in the caf with a cup of corner store coffee, and scribble until everyone in my department started filing in for their morning vending-machine muffin. I got up earlier and earlier, until I was waking up at 5 a.m. because the story just wouldn’t shut up.

15+ years later, I like to sleep in, so I reserve only one hour for writing in the morning, and the coffee is much better, but the pattern is the same. I start the day writing the story, spend idle moments in the day thinking the story, and then come back to it after work, to re-read the morning’s writing and pen maybe 500 more words before dinner.

  • Caveat: you may end up with twenty first drafts and zero second drafts.
  • Bonus: you may need to write twenty shitty first drafts to get to the one story you can bear to write the second through fiftieth drafts of.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth, established by the nonprofit organization to promote literary pursuits, specifically by challenging participants to write 50,000 words in 30 days flat. Yikes! Awesome! [pro tip: depending on which of these reactions you just had to that sentence, you’ll know whether you want to give it a try.]

  • For your information, I am hbt003, and you can buddy me if you want to write together and razz one another about our word counts.

This year, I started by planning to write a Moby Dick retelling from Pip’s POV with a modern twist, and so far I’ve written a LFTR PLLR ripoff chapter (day one), a Fight Club ripoff chapter (day two), and 1,000 words of Amy Schumer-inspired satire (today). Basically, this is a novel jumbled with all the things floating around in my consciousness. No worries, I’ll sort it all out later. That’s what we NNWMers do in December.

I’m writing with an IRL group this time, one I started at my library. We meet once a week to bitch about writing and share advice about writing and then, y’know, actually write for an hour at minimum. Day three: so far it’s fabulous. Stick around and try to pinpoint the moment when it gets grueling. But for now, JOY.

nanowrimo2015-design-by-eric-nyffeler-e14464396652062

The main reason to start NaNoWriMo is that it’s fun. And maybe-just-maybe it will establish a writing practice that you continue. But don’t focus on that just yet. Go with it, write a terrible first draft, and see what happens. Vive l’écriture!

Science & Speculation: On Sleeping During the Day

The joy of a good nap cannot be outdone. I woke from one this afternoon feeling keenly aware that I haven’t napped since I traded two or three part-time gigs for my shiny new full time job. This is bliss denied me by the Nine to Five Anti-Nap Pro-Productivity Brigade. grr!

…Actually, I’m sure my workplace would allow me to get forty or so winks during a long lunch if I came in earlier or left work later, so it’s 100% my own urge toward nine to five industry that robs me of a decadent mid-afternoon siesta. In the 50’s there was the “nap and nip” for businessmen — a doze after lunch, followed by a highball before dinner. Today, I ride out the afternoon blahs with a strong cup of coffee.

For me, a nap involves dozing off on a couch in a sunny room with the window open. I require some kind of natural white noise to sleep mid-day — a fan won’t work, I can tell that a recording of whale sounds isn’t an actual whale in my bedroom, so it’s just distracting. I can only nap really well in our living room, the sunniest room in the house. The open window means breeze, and the rhythmic knocking of the shade against the frame. It means kids on the playground at the end of the block playing basketball during recess, groans of defeat, squeals of joy, and the teacher’s whistle to usher them back to class. Birds squawk, planes whoosh overhead, car chassis clunk over the too-high speed bumps. A nap divides the day, and when I take one, I feel more productive, energetic, and happy in the hours I am awake. My ideal day would involve rising at 7:00 am, napping at 2:00 pm, staying up ’til 11:00 pm (for work and/or play): that’s nine hours of sleep, with the other fifteen split into manageable chunks of seven and eight hours, respectively.

In Sleep Thieves, scientist Stanley Coren reports on an experiment illustrating how people sleep when they’re left to do so whenever they feel like it. Once acclimated to this kind of sleep-when-you-feel-sleepy lifestyle, untethered from the manufactured rhythms of the workday, most subjects started taking 1-2 hour naps every day. Check out the list of more recent studies on napping in the footnote. Summed up, their results indicate that a lack of sleep causes premature aging, decreased memory function, delayed motor function and reaction times, and other generally negative results. The studies suggest that daytime sleep, in particular, contributes to sustained long-term learning, relaxation and alertness, and promotion of “attentional stability”. Humans’ circadian clocks would have us falling asleep between 1 and 4 am, and again between 1 and 4 pm. Hence, the necessity of that coffee bump after lunch.

As an aside, I would like to point out that it was the Victorians who gave us day beds — and what seemed to be the deliciously debauched concept (for the UK/US middle class) of sleeping during the day — in accordance with the Victorian cult of domesticity, an interior space curtained off from intrusion. The day bed meant that naps were secret, furtive, but also important enough that there was a class of furniture made just to accommodate them.

“On Lying in Bed”, GK Chesterton

“If there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals, it is the modern strengthening of minor morals… The tone now commonly taken toward the practice of lying in bed is hypocritical and unhealthy…For those who study the great art of lying in bed there is one emphatic caution to be added. …if you do lie in bed, be sure you do it without any reason or justification at all.”

One famous napper once said, “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination.” If Winston Churchill approves, I guess I’m in.

Research on Napping:

Dynamics of nap sleep during a 40-hour period

Fighting sleep at night: brain correlates and vulnerability to sleep loss

A nap to recap, or, how reward regulates hippocampal-prefrontal memory networks during daytime sleep in humans

Sleep level prediction for daytime short nap based on auto-regressive moving average model

Nap sleep preserves associative but not item memory performance

Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function

And an article on Coren’s research:

Sleep deprivation, psychosis, and mental efficiency

Remember Me?

<big yawn>  Has it really been so long…again? Lately, I’ve been thinking about writing a fashion-focused blog, but every time I begin to plan it out, I also begin to break out in hives. I’ll run out of things to say about clothes, I’m certain of it. I love getting dressed, but it’s not that interesting.

Here are a few things I’ve done since September 2014, and even though my twitter feed is still far superior to my memory, this time I’ll rely on memory so I don’t barrage you with minutiae:

  • I graduated my Master’s program and promptly got a job as a librarian at a small subscription library founded in 1854. I’ve been there since August and I love going to work every day — well, almost every day. Which is not bad when you consider how hard I dreaded going to work every day when I worked in finance just seven short years ago.
  • An award for writing excellence from LITA & Ex Libris was presented to me at ALA conference in San Francisco, and the paper I submitted will be published in a peer-reviewed library science journal in December. It’s not the Paris Review or anything, but I’m pretty proud of my first publication.
  • After finishing the initial draft of a new novella (163 pages) in 6 months flat, I drank some champagne with my fiction critique group-mates last week to celebrate. Don’t rush me; I’ll start revisions next month.
  • Races have continued to be a fixture: one every few months, all of them of the nice & easy 5K persuasion. I like to think of myself as a hedonist when it comes to athleticism: run only as long as it feels good. And eat a cupcake afterward.
  • I went to a couple of professional library conferences this year, as well as a writing conference in Minneapolis, where I dined solo at a James Beard Award-winning restaurant. I highly recommend both La Belle Vie’s elegant food and ambience, and the experience of luxury dining à soi-même, if you have the inclination and don’t mind breaking your piggy bank for the splurge. Donna Meagle & Tom Haverford would approve.
  • And, oh yeah, I’m a blonde now. It’s even on my driver’s license, so it’s true. I can confirm that blondes don’t necessarily have more fun, but more people do stare at them, which I assume is because the brightness is blinding, yet captivating, like a solar eclipse.

<dust> <dust> The bricolagerie is back in business. Again…

Collection Management for Bibliophiles

At the moment, I’m working on an assignment comparing the collection development policies of two libraries (an academic library and a public library). Since my personal library is gigantic and beginning to leak out of the den into the rest of the house, I decided it’s time to write my own collection development policy. Boiled down to basics, here’s what I came up with:


Mission

For the reference use, edification, and entertainment of Ms. HBT.

Major Collections

  • Short Stories (DDC 800)
  • Technology (DDC 000, 300, 600)
  • Science (DDC 500)
  • Writing Reference (DDC 000, 800)
  • Libraries and Information (DDC 000)

Minor Collections

  • Music (DDC 700)
  • Graphic Novels (DDC 700)
  • Art and Large-Format Materials (DDC 700)
  • Poetry (DDC 800)
  • Novels (DDC 800)
  • Fashion (DDC 300, 700)
  • History and Society (DDC 900, 300)
  • Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion (DDC 100-200)
  • Books in French (400)

Weeding

  • If I have a special connection with the author, subject matter, or individual work: keep it.
  • If I want to read it but not necessarily to own it: keep it on the “for now” shelves. Make it a priority to read these items and then get rid of them.
  • If I’ve read it and not adored it, or not read it but it’s easy to check out of the library, or not read it and not sure why I bought it in the first place: DESELECT!

Acquisitions

Since I quit working at the bookstore, my acquisitions have tapered off significantly. Recent additions to the collection include: Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig. I’ve purchased two books in the last month. Contrast that with the two books per shift I’d purchase when I worked at the bookstore. [I can’t be trusted with a debit card and a shipment of new books.]

Going forward, additions to my collection should be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Certain authors are required reading, e.g., Karen Russell, Chris Adrian, Phillippe Claudel, Fred Vargas.
  • New-to-me authors whose work has been highly recommended by those whose reading tastes are similar to mine may be added to the collection.
  • Materials needed to enhance my work should be purchased as needed, including literary journals and library-related materials both practical and theoretical.
  • Occasional imprudent purchases are fine — sparingly.

Using my new collection management policy, I have so far weeded more than 150 items from my library. Next up, I need to determine what to do with them: sell, donate, or some combination of the two.

Animal Crossing, Camping, and The Bear — Oh My

Here’s what. I’ve been obsessed with Animal Crossing: A New Leaf. So obsessed that I did the final project in my Web Usability summer class (A+) on how to improve player interaction with Blathers. It’s very annoying how he goes on and on and on… Let’s just say he is aptly named. All I want to do is donate a fossil, okay. TAKE MY FOSSIL, PLEASE!

Anyway, everyone in my town is saying I’m a fashionista because I change my outfit every day that I play, and I just dyed my hair white and got it cut like Anna Wintour’s.

Last weekend I went camping, for the second time ever. I felt a little bit like Miss Piggy. Y’know how she’s always dressed to impress and gets huff-and-puffy when she isn’t reclining on a divan in a lovely dress eating bonbons? Well, I guess I WISHED I felt more like Miss Piggy, because I was wearing some frumpy cutoff jeans and the only huffing-and-puffing I did was up a “moderate” slope that didn’t stop going uphill for about 40 minutes. There were s’mores though, and that’s kind of like bonbons, so okay.

I sound like I’m complaining, and I did think I actually might die of a burst-open lung on the hike, but the shower afterward felt like heaven at a quarter a minute, and it was really fun being with friends for the weekend in the great outdoors. So it was worth the suffering.

Anyway, it occurred to me that camping is sort of like Animal Crossing. There was a bluejay who kept screaming for his friends to come join him in stealing our trail mix. There were some grumpy squirrels who kept throwing acorn shells at our heads. And every single neighboring tent BYO’ed their dog. These IRL animals didn’t have the same level of manners that my Animal Crossing neighbors have, but it was still nice to wake up to their twittering, and to have them chuffing around the campsite while we cooked potatoes and drank a billion cups of good coffee from Four Barrel.

Speaking of twitter, it was kind of nice not to have any cellular service. Except when that 6.0 earthquake hit and we didn’t know if it was the apocalypse or what, so we just went back to sleep after confirming everyone was okay and not crushed by a falling rock.

The other thing I did was, I brought a book with me, because I never go anywhere without a book to read: just in case. The Bear by Claire Cameron begins with the brutal mauling death of a mother and father by a bear, leaving their infant son Stick and barely verbal, pre-school daughter Anna to make their way to safety off the island campsite, solo. Not such a great book to bring on a camping trip. I mean, there’s a photo of a bear caught on film by motion-triggered cameras in the visitor center of the state park we were camping in. Still, I read it all, and it’s a good book, written wholly in the daughter’s voice in a compelling stream of consciousness style. Anna doesn’t know what has happened or what’s going on, but the reader does, and that builds the appropriate level of tension to sustain the story as the kids bumble through the forest and encounter dangers they can’t fully comprehend. I give it many stars.

Speaking of stars. We went to a star party, which is even more awesome than it sounds. But I’ll leave that for another post, since it’s not animal-related.