#FridayReads Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill

If you were to read the summary presented on the NLS site, you would get the sense that this was all the book was about. By itself, I figured “hmmm, it could be worth the read”. But that description hardly does it justice.

As the story starts, we see the main character (I suppose her name is spelled Aminata Dialo, but that’s where audio can get me in trouble), in London toward the end of her struggle, working with the British to have slavery abolished. But then we almost immediately flash back to her residing in an African village, I think somewhere around present-day Mali, where she and her family practice Islam and farm the land. It takes on a Roots-like feel, as she is snatched, placed aboard a slave ship for the vivid ride over, and taken into a property on St. Helena Island off of the South Carolina coast.

The story continues in this vein, flashing forward to London at the beginning of each major section then back to the time that had been left off, spanning from approximately 1754-1793. She doesn’t experience the outright cruelty that is often seen in such tales, but the psychological trauma along with people’s constant betrayal of her trust are just as bad in the long run. And of course, she continues to dream of returning to Africa, which eventually happens but doesn’t turn out to be all she had hoped either.

Aminata, (called Nina by people in what would become the United States), tells the story in first person, with the amazing rhythm that comes from her initial culture, and even some snippets of the language she spoke. Interestingly, Colleen Delany the NLS narrator who reads this, reads the entire thing in an African accent. I must admit she does pretty good with this, as well as an American could be expected I suppose. Probably her American slave accents were not as good, but one really does not have issues when listening, as the power of the story itself takes you away.

I think the thing that interests me most about this piece is its presentation of a little-known portion of the history of slavery in the US, how Britain and their soon-to-be-Canadian colonists treated these individuals after they had aided in the fight against the American colonies, and even many Africans’ unwillingness to truly assist them. The latter happened in many respects because those coastal folks were being sweetened by the resources provided by their European colonizers.

I don’t know who this Lawrence Hill guy is, but I want to see if he has anymore work. Because this book, 18+ hours of audio, has me so captivated I can hardly put it down, even when I grudgingly have to at work. This woman’s life was amazing, and it does us all well to expand our views of how people lived under and rebelled against that awful institution.

Booking It With Libro, Supporting The Locals

As a blind person, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to exist in this era, where for the first time in history I can partake in printed, or recorded, words as they are revealed to the public. Books, maybe not necessarily the opiate of the masses, but the opiate of me. The only thing that makes it possible for me to slink along through this crazy life and the work needed to thrive in it.

I remember when I was first able to consume books on my own, be they in Braille or on tape. The specialized programs in our school subscribed us to our North Carolina branch of the National Library Service for the Blind (NLS), and we would receive a well-used copy of some hopefully interesting title that we needed to send back after consumption. Discovery was kind of fun though as often we had no idea what they might push to us, but in many cases we didn’t enjoy it either. And we didn’t have a whole lot of choice, aside from giant Book catalogs that would be distributed on a bimonthly basis and from which you could order, assuming your library’s branch even had it on hand.

The Braille books were bulky and often stretched across several volumes. The tapes, recorded for play in a “long-play cassette player especially designed to allow them to be slowed (or sped up, I’m not the only blind person who had tons of fun turning everyone into chipmunks) would often get lost or meet a bad end being “eaten” by the player. It was fine though, the library would usually take it on good faith if you reported a lost or destroyed item and allow you to continue . receiving new titles.

Even with that generous system, most of the time the best we could hope for was to be reading a book nearly a year after the hype had died down. But more commonly, we only had access to at most 5% of readable material, and that was better for us here in the US than in much of the world, a difference I hope is going away but which I fear still persists to some extent.

Anyhow, imagine my, our, joy when the Internet came into existence. Of course the NLS has digitized its collection, and really nowadays they get a lot of support from commercial outfits as well, which is nice because it definitely grants us more access than we’ve ever had. Then in the textual arena, there are services like Bookshare, which even further broaden our ability to grab great titles and take them in via Braille display.

On the larger stage, in the instances when commercial titles are not available via NLS, I had often purchased them from Audible. I suppose I like Audible well enough, but A it has become an Amazon company (something of a “big guy” in town, and B, I had often wondered how I might support independent booksellers. I believe these community stores do just that, enhance and keep our communities thriving. I met Rachel Simon, the wonderful author of Story of Beautiful Girl and Riding The Bus With My Sister, at Charlotte’s Parkroad books, for instance.

So, I grasped at the first opportunity I saw to merge both of those worlds, a site called Libro.FM which has Audible-like functionality (they’ve just introduced a $14.99 membership credits model), but they allow the Indies to take a cut from each purchase. You the consumer are allowed to decide which store you wish to support, and so I chose Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books because we also have a thriving writing scene in this area. Simon pegged her earlier titles while residing in the region, and my current favorite, Carla Buckley, is still putting out the good stuff while residing here as well. I want both my writer friends and the stores that in many respects support the work they do to continue to survive, even as the world turns into one big chain.

And on top of that, Libro has great customer service. Via Twitter, I pointed out, when downloading the iPhone app and taking in my first title, a few unlabeled buttons when using VoiceOver. They began working on it, and emailed me recently asking me to go back and take a look. I hadn’t had a problem with it even then, but it is still great when developers care enough to take the time to look into and fix an issue.

So I suppose that, for the time being at least, I am going to move away from the larger entity and stick with these folks for a while. If you would like a way to help the locals out in this digital age, I would invite you to do the same.

When Gentrification Arrives At Your Door

Or renovation. Rapid re-creation of a whole neighborhood. Call it what you want, the effects are the same.

We’ve all read the stories. Person, hard working, toward the lower end of the economic ladder, suddenly finds him or herself homeless. As we read this, we sit back and wonder to ourselves how this could have happened so quickly. Well I would venture to say that our current rental structure can contribute.

I have resided in my current large community here just northwest of downtown Durham for over four years. Each year, the costs have increased by about 20 to 30 dollars. Not too bad, right?

Except this year, they’re gonna hit me with the haymaker! They have been engaged in a steady process to re-design all of these older units to make them trendier, and probably more amenable to modern appliances. And let’s call it what it is, more expensive.

I get it. Located close to two medical facilities, Duke Hospital and the VA Medical Center, as well as that major university within easy walking distance, there is lots of money to be made in this area. And as guardians of the community (however all that internal stuff works), they have a responsibility to get that money flowing into their coffers if at all possible.

But what are those of us who are barely hanging on supposed to do? It’s a question I probably ask at least once a year, and every year it becomes demonstrably worse. Affordable housing is simply disappearing, and especially from places that need it the most for instance near said medical facilities and along transit lines. An example of this need? I have (had? well I think she’s still here somehow) a neighbor who moved into her apartment and lived there for 25 years so that she could have easy access to Duke Hospital in the event of somewhat regular heart emergencies. My guess is she has some kind of special dispensation that will allow her to remain there for as long as she pleases.

Certainly other than that though, I have noticed that this place has become a lot quieter. Most folks started packing up and moving out a good while ago, and my guess is it will be a while before the upper incomers start trickling in, once all of the reconstruction work has been completed.

As for me, this is not a tremendous deal. This is because I would have been moving on by January anyway, so that I can begin life as a married man. To transfer for the six or seven-month gap between now and then (I must depart by June 24th,) I have to pay these fine folks an additional $330 a month. That is a sixty (60!) percent increase, and would mean I would be living a lot closer to significant disaster due to any unexpected occurrence than I wish to experience. It seems silly though to relocate to some entirely unfamiliar venue for such a short period, and even if I decide to do that I am not sure where that would be as most of Durham, the Bull City’s prices have crept in that general direction. In any event, I have a couple of weeks to figure this out, on top of possible needs for other employment, grad school, and other general living interests. Chaotic, to say the least. But, it’ll all work out somehow because it has to. Wish me well.

Continued Community Integration: I’m in a @GoTriangle Video

If we, people with disabilities, wish to have our voices heard, then we must first make an effort to be part of the conversation. I have often done this with GoTriangle, our local transit system. I fairly regularly leave feedback, good and sometimes less happy, to their Twitter feed, and I usually receive a prompt response when one is called for.

Last month, I asked their social media person Samantha Allen to participate in an interview for the podcast I posted from the prior class. (I got a 97 on that by the way, which makes me very happy). I was pleased with all of the assistance I got in putting that together, and so I jumped at an opportunity to do my part by adding comments regarding GoTriangle’s push to create a light rail line that runs through Durham and Orange counties. I was indeed featured in the video which you can see buy clicking that link. My clip is about 30 seconds in, and lasts for approximately ten seconds.

I am impressed that they managed to distill something useful from that hour-long conversation, because it was difficult to think straight after a long workday that had left my brain in a fog. Beyond what was played, I discussed how blind people make use of automated announcements (which seem to have been modified slightly already,) the need to ensure that any such system would be accessible to all, including persons in wheelchairs, and the potential viability it could add to the community. I do think my thoughts were heard and considered, which I appreciate.

I saw on the video that a commenter already made the point that “disruptive technology” (think, Uber) is changing the equation when it comes to public transit. Well I don’t entirely agree with that. I think these two systems can work in concert with each other, especially as ride-hailing costs considerably more. It is good to have in a pinch and can grant me access to other areas that are not as easily reached by public transit, but for an affordable way to and from work as well as better crowd-moving during sporting events and the like large-scale mass transit still can’t be beat. Not to mention that it actually does contribute to the life of the community, resulting in real connections that change things.

So I am looking forward to the creation of this system, assuming I will remain in the area long enough to see it come to fruition. Frequent, widely available transit will increase my choices for where to live and work, and I believe that we all deserve as broad a level of access to those dimensions as we can get.

Thanks again to the folks at GoTriangle, who in my op[inion are in fact making an effort to get input from every aspect of their communities before going forward with this project. I will continue to generate comments as they come up during my commute.

I’m The Mac Daddy!

Pressing and stressin’, thinking and screaming, all of these have been the music of my household this past week. Why, you ask? Because I have chosen, I think I’ve about settled on it anyway, to leave the Windows computer environment and venture fully into the world of Apple. I have acquired a Mac.

As the dust settles, I can admit that if I’d known what I was getting into, I may have made a different choice. I got this thing last Sunday, and it is fair to say that I really didn’t get all the kinks worked out till this morning. I guess I hadn’t conceived that a system could be so fundamentally different, but why not?

Back in 1997, when I gained my first exposure to Windows so that I could complete a test in the university’s disability Services office, I remember being frustrated multiple times because I would press a button and my previous results would disappear. Definitely a harrowing way to learn a machine as one is also worried about surviving a difficult exam.

It took till 99 for the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation services to realize that the current blind and low vision college students could benefit from at least a crash course in Windows and the Internet, and so they shipped us off to Governor Moorehead in Raleigh where we stayed for a week to learn from their technology people. By the time I returned in the fall, and spent many an hour in the university’s lab ostensibly doing work but mostly firing off e-mail messages to women, I was becoming an expert.

Anyway, it is easy to forget the accompanying angst that initial computer exposure caused, until one’s basic structures are rattled again. So it has been with the Mac. First, there seem to be so many keystrokes to remember. But yes, I know I will become ever more fluent in them as I use in real time. Second, and the bigger problem, is the devil of security. Of course I’m not naive about that, I know it is very much needed. But two-factor authentication in particular is a bear to me. It usually requires me to quickly enter a code sent to my phone into the computer, and I just kept failing at that. Then attempting to turn it off proved difficult, because I was unable to verify the email address, answer three security questions, and sacrifice a lamb in time before the security timed out. (that last is an exaggeration, but only slightly). I give credit first to our local Apple tech support guy, a blind man who actually works at the store, for suggesting that I call the Apple Accessibility hotline to try and work it out, and then to Bonnie, the rep who spent nearly an hour trying this and that problem until we got it to work at least provisionally. Whew!

So now with that madness out of the way, I can get onto the fun part of really learning the ins and outs of this beast. I have already sent my first tweets, done a discussion board assignment for class, and completed an email message for someone from this surprisingly small console with keys that look like they should be hard to type with, but that I can actually bang with relatively little thought. Autocorrect is on, which helps of course, but also there just seems to be something more natural about the finger response. It’s kind of fun! And without doubt, the more I learn with this tech stuff, the deeper are my career and other such possibilities. So we’ll see how I feel as next Sunday, the last on which I can return this thing if I want a refund, approaches. Until then, VoiceOver On!

On Creating a Show/Podcast

Grad school is filled with many projects that have me pulling my hair out one by one, or banging it’s container on the table as I try to slog to the end. Probably the week 1/4 paper exemplifies that to the highest degree I have yet encountered.

Thankfully though, I followed that extremely challenging literature review, where I was to collect 20 articles and design them into something remotely coherent, with a more fun podcast. This was to be on employee identification within organizations. I had to locate three interviewees, one of whom should be a leader of sorts. I tapped my network and was able to speak with a newspaper reporter (thank you Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan,) a director of Community Relations (thank you Linda Convissor,) and a social media manager (thank you Samantha Allen.) I had to then ask questions that get to ways in which people operate in the ever-changing, now always-on culture.

I recorded the interviews with my iPhone using Voice Memos, and actually got pretty clear audio. Then I used Bossjock to convert them to MP3 so that I could import into Audacity, where things could be edited and moved around. After hours of manual reading and clicking this and that, I finally masted the basic art of adding clips after I spoke. Extraction of my first clip took nearly an hour, but once I fully understood the technique I’d gotten clip removal down to mere seconds.

Is it top-knotch professional? Well I’m not silly enough to think that. First, I still feel my voice is too monotonous, and maybe I need to try and drop it a bit so that I sound more authoritative. Also, obviously I didn’t have the real studio set up that I would need to remove the resonance that comes from being in a relatively hollow room.

But did I enjoy it? Indeed I did. I think if nothing else maybe I can be the one who writes the copy that an anchor/reporter reads. I had fun constructing the narrative and deciding what fits and how. I could probably also improve my audio editing skills fairly quickly, an area into which I plan to look more thoroughly upon completion of my degree. Finally, I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever really have a “radio voice,” but do wonder if there are courses that could help me pursue that goal as well.

I’m stating pre-grade, but whatever the outcome this project was the most desired thing I have done during my time in the program. It obviously comes close to my stated aim to do some kind of work for NPR, and I feel I can grow a lot from that experience.

And with that, another course largely ends. Amazing how quickly these things move! I do have a mini-reflection paper to complete next week, but the “sweaty stuff” is now behind me. Do I want to see what’s coming around the corner? Hmmm, I don’t know… More later.

Job Days No. 5

Well so what I’ve usually done these in March, this is my fiefdom and I do as I please! And besides, there is some precedence, as my second such post was done in April of 2014, rather than the somewhat arbitrarily agreed-upon date of March 23 on which many of the others have fallen.

RELATED: Job Days No. 4

I’m making it now, because I have lots of reason to be evaluating my place in this job/career world. I’ve now started year five (5!) with my current employer. This means that in all likelihood, I’ve already worked there for more days than I had during my time in the Charlotte blindness workshop location, as I never quite worked a five-day week there.

As fate would have it, I’m about done working five-day weeks here as well, at least for the foreseeable future. Yeah that grad school thing? And the important sleep thing? Don’t, quite, mix. And, that is causing big problems at the workfront, as the latter wishes to take me away at wholly inopportune times, prompting intervention from substitute supervisors. I do respect that lady though, as she not only gave a verbal notification, but was also willing to listen to my challenges and help me initiate the solution, which is to downgrade to four days. I just need more time to master these massive projects coming down the line at me now.

So that’s the biggest change. Let’s take a look at how much my routine has altered since last year. In order to really capture it, I write this post prior to having reviewed the last entry. I don’t want to be influenced by the nuance, after all.

4:45: Alarm sounds, whether it is needed depends on the day (see above). Out of bed, shower, dress.
5:05: iPhone in hand to begin reading until and after departure, even on six-minute walk to bus. Had been pleasure-reading, but academics are taking a larger and larger chunk of my time. (In one book this week, for example, we have to read from pp. 1-86, and 157-198. And about seven other articles! Where is that kind of time, y’all?)
5:32: Hop onto bus and resume reading, which had stopped so that safe street crossing could be had. Continue reading for 18-minute ride to Durham Station.
5:50: Chat with other regulars, (esp person who works six days a week, often from 7 AM-9 PM, and I thought my day was long!) Bemoan hot, cold, wind, rain, whatever the flavor of the day is, until bus pulls in (hopefully on time at 6 AM).
6: Listen to podcasts as GoTriangle 700 Express Route whisks me along Durham Freeway and I-40 E with no stops, to arrive at 6:15.
6:20: Stand in increasingly long line as people attempt to clock in with newfangled (touch-ID) tech, get buzzer that says “try again!” Finally check in and walk to break room, where podcast listening recommences. Fire off arrival text to fiance, usually about having missed sleep yet again.
6:35: Read other book on Braille display till time to go in.

As far as the actual work goes, I still do the same job of packaging light sticks. I have managed to gain another order of magnitude in speed, and now can go just about as quickly as the fastest person back there. So I finally rarely get complaints about that, unless they are about how we’ve gone too quickly and thus have run out of work. It is hard to win in there!

And that’s about all. As usual, I am crossing my fingers that year five will be my last, but with the increasing depth and richness of my network, this has never seemed more likely. Let’s see if I can secure this Master’s degree first, which does appear to take some doing on my part. I’ve just got to find my feet right now, but am still ok on the whole.

So, how long have you worked with your current employer? For class, we’re reading a book by Dalton Conley called Elsewhere U.S.A, in which he proposes that job mobility has not actually changed as much as we think, and that most still work the same place for 20 years whether they like it or not. That book was written in 2008 though, and so I find it rather difficult to believe this still holds true. I think even over the last ten years, things have changed significantly. But probably more on that in an upcoming post on my audio editing fun as I attempt to create a podcast for this class. Till then, keep rockin’ and a-rollin’ and workin’ in the coal mine!

#FridayReads Salt To The Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

I don’t have to tell you that we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of unparalleled times. Without going too much into politics, I will just say that any type of generalized discrimination against race/ethnicity, country of origin, gender, ability/disability, etc, is incredibly dangerous. Taking such a hardline stance against people because they don’t come from here makes little sense, given that problems can be generated from bad actors from within also.

But avoiding a full dive into that, which could go on and on, I thought it would be interesting to read a book proposed by one of my Twitter followers who suggested that it might make us more aware of the plot of the wartime refugee. It’s titled Salt to The Sea, by Ruta Sepetys. Yes, it’s another World War II book, of which there are many. I know, because I’ve read at least a quarter of them. It’s an era that has always fascinated and terrified me, given that really one man’s ideology could end up causing so much strife throughout Europe, and by extension and alliances, through Asia and Africa as well.

But the thing that makes this book more interesting is that it focuses on what happened toward the end of the war, as Germans, Polish persons, and others alike ran for the ports in an attempt to escape an uncertain future. The story is told from four perspectives: that of Joana, a nurse who takes care of many of them; Emelia, a 15-year-old who is contending with the loss of her mother and family; Florian, a runaway German soldier; and Alfred, whom I think is still serving in the German army. They all have different dreams and desires, for instance the German who is still serving recites the ethnicities Hitler wishes to wipe out and fantasizes about how he will help the Fuhrer achieve his awful aims. Emelia ponders what it will be like to reconstruct some kind of family that at least resembles that which she has lost. I’m still only 30% of the way through the story, but apparently these characters, along with other minor ones such as a “shoe poet,” a little boy and even a blind girl named Ingrid, will converge aboard a ship. I am anxious to see how this turns out.

I did want to address that blind character. First, I wonder to what extend that was influenced by All The Light We Cannot See, the bestseller from a couple years ago. Or, were there just a lot of blind folks out there walking around then. It’s interesting. My only small quibble with this individual is the usual; the idea that Ingrid has special sensory powers incurred by her lack of sight. Ability to hear things long before everyone else does. Can tell eye color by some sort of feel? Often has ability to deduce more about one’s personality than most everyone else.

On the sensory issue, as far as I know we do not have “more powerful senses,” but we just learn to use and integrate the information we receive more effectively. In a sense, we use all of what we have left to make up for our eyes, and in some case our ears as well. For instance, I have learned to use the smell of laundry to guide me back to my apartment door in some cases, when my neighbor happens to be running her washer. This isn’t always available, of course, but it can be handy. Along with the sometimes useful tactic of reorienting myself by using the Air conditioner’s hum, (only when it’s hot enough, so again I’d better kind of know my way!) But y’all, I think anyone could do this sort of thing if he or she really had to. It’s more about the repurposing of brain areas, as our visual cortex maps itself accordingly.

As far as “feeling” colors? Well I admit I’ve heard some say they can do this? But I have no idea how it works, and don’t think it’s at all common.

And finally the personality issue: we can see more with our heart than you can with your eyes and all that clich├ęd stuff? Hmmm, well again I don’t really know. I would say I do tend to have good vibes about people. Whether that’s to do with my blindness is an open question. But I can and do get it wrong as far as how people might actually come across, and I along with all of the other blind people I know are far from perfect and have the same kinds of flaws as the general public.

I think what I’d like to see most is a more complicated blind person. But maybe it’s my job to try and write one? We shall see. In any event, it is a pretty good book, and for the most part I don’t have a big problem with this portrayal. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Family Bonding

They say that marriage is about not only the joining of individuals, but also of their families. Long ago, this involved swapping of farm animals, land, and the like. Of course these things hardly apply to us in a modern society, so we have begun by doing things our own way: having a meal at a significant restaurant.

Fuller’s is a Southern/soul food spot with a couple of locations. It’s flagship used to be Lumberton, NC until the recent hurricane and subsequent flooding that wiped out large parts of town. I had really been looking forward to having a meal in that spot, given its place among her family’s traditions and such. Sadly, this wasn’t to be.

They have relocated, probably permanently now, to the former Western Sizzler building on Raefort Road in Fayetteville. We surmise that it will be permanent, because the parking lot was so full that several circuits were required in order to find a place therein. Even so, the atmosphere initially wasn’t too bad. However, a party of 30 soon arrived, and well as usual I could hear only what was spoken directly into my ear. It was ok though, as I enjoyed some delicious fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, and a sliver of chocolate cake, along with that most Southern of staples, sweet tea. Most people partake of the buffet, as we did, and so you could consume as much as your heart desired. I always have to be careful not to overeat in these situations, as it makes me feel bad for a long time afterwards. I did opt for some popcorn shrimp though in addition to everything else, because I love that stuff and don’t get it very often.

The main goal here was to introduce both sets of parents. And by all accounts, they got along famously. Boisterous conversation continued for nearly 3 hours, with the servers anxiously circling that highly prized table but unwilling to force us to depart. During our time there, we heard at least three birthday chants, and much boisterous laughter, along with the obligatory really loud kid that makes you want to ask their parents if they can quiet her down!

Even with all that I still enjoyed it, and especially the sports talk (mostly about our opposing sides in the Carolina-Duke rivalry). Mixed in with the fun and funnies was useful advice about how to proceed down this fun but complex path toward marriage, much of which I have spent this day contemplating.

I admit I’m not entirely sure what’s coming next in this journey, but I’m enjoying the ride. I hope you too have benefited from this little piece of positivity amid all of the current madness. Back with some sort of entry next week, I hope. Working on Class 1’s major project, the good of that is it will be over by next Saturday! Not surprisingly, this is also the bad as I’ll be skating on the raisor’s edge for the next week. Ah, such is my life!

Meeting Carla Buckley

A moment for which I had been waiting nearly since I completed her fantastic book, The Good Goodbye. Very rarely have I read something whose characters stick with me long after the last page is turned, or word is played in my case as I consumed the Audible version. The two mothers, and two cousins have such complicated, entwined issues as the kids prepare to start university in a less-than-expected situation that I find myself unable to stop pondering them. Then you throw in a female professor taking advantage of the shakiness of things and a male who becomes involved with both of them, and the story becomes filled with intrigue. All of this literally goes up in smoke, creating the major event that separates before from after. If you’ve not read it, I shall spoil no more. But go check it out!

That’s right, I had the pleasure of meeting Carla Buckley, after having inquired about when such an opportunity might be available via Twitter and being told to drop in on her speaking engagement at the Chapel Hill Public Library. As I strode in, tired from a long workday, Buckley immediately came to shake my hand and even had a picture of us taken seated together. Then I graciously consumed the cookies and coffee that were offered me, giving a needed energy boost.

There were an appreciable amount of people in the room by the time 4 PM, its start, had approached. I think she wanted to go ahead and start so that things wouldn’t get too loud for the library atmosphere. A brief introduction was given, wherein Buckley’s birthplace of Washington DC, the four published novels she has out as well as her forthcoming work were noted. And then she began to speak. They had already moved me to the front of the room, as I’d informed them of my hearing issues, and she also repeated information received from the back of the area.I really appreciated that, as I thus missed little.

Her speech wasn’t too long at all, focusing on the art of writing and what helps her do it well. “I write when the kids are at school,” she says “whether I entirely feel like it or not”. I think initially out of necessity she had begun writing while in the library, and now she finds it to be the most productive way to engage in this craft. “I don’t like writing sometimes as much as I like having written,” she says. Now that’s an interesting thought. I know sometimes I don’t quite feel like writing either, but letting those words out then feels good when I have managed to produce something no matter what.

The audience posed some excellent questions as well. “How do you structure a book?” She’s a Plotter, not a Seat-of-your-pants writer (or pantser). She laughed about the friction that can exist when individuals from both camps are attempting to work together.

“How do you come up with your stuff?” “Not everyone writes this way of course,” she replied, “but for me I write about things that deeply emanate with me”. Those are most often family issues, how they are formed and thought of by the individuals who comprise them. This could also be seen in The Deepest Secret, another of her books which I have read and enjoyed about a boy who has a rare disease that makes it dangerous for him to be out in sunlight. In this story, she wanted to explore the relationship between mother and son, which may have differences from that between mother and daughter. Incidentally, she notes that this novel also has her favorite opening line, a “great question!” that someone asked but had not been previously considered.

Not long before closing, she discussed how research involved in one of her four unpublished books regarding watching a building being taken down with dynamite had informed a scene in her later work. “I love conducting research with people who are passionate about what they do,” she says. “It is amazing and gives so much insight.”

I enjoyed the presentation, and the chance to encounter someone whom I had only known through the pages and social media contacts. I also met a kind volunteer who has worked in the library for a number of years, I think public libraries actually get much of their service from such, in many cases older, individuals. I thank them for the work they do as well in bolstering our communities.

So that was the first major event of 2017. What you got next, year? Assuming I can surface from these projects that roll like waves, breaking from them even in ways that I probably shouldn’t but must in order to maintain my sanity. Now to hit submit and get back to work on this discussion board! More soon.