Day 14: A non-fictional book

Image description: A photo of a person taken from behind and to the right of them sitting in a chair and reading a book on an e-reader.

When I wrote “I am very tired today” in my last post, what I meant was “I have COVID but don’t know it yet, and then when I recover I’m going to dive right back into summer reading at the library and be so busy that I’m going to forget about this challenge for two months.” But I’m back now!

Is it weird to not want to say what the book is? (Yes.) Because here is my situation: I’m in grad school, and a local entity sent my program a call for library science students to come facilitate book discussions of a certain book over the fall and winter. I have never facilitated a book discussion outside of probably an old high school assignment, so I jumped at the chance. Now I can’t remember which date(s?) I signed up for and haven’t received a confirmation email, so I’m sort of holding off on reading the book until that happens, because I know no matter how good my notes are, I will not remember a book well enough to talk about it with other people if I haven’t recently read it.

The book is nonfiction (which I suppose makes it “non-fictional”). It is by a well-known writer. It is new-ish. It’s been on my to-read list since before it came out. And yet!!!

The last nonfiction book I read was The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation, a book that has since been soundly discredited because it turns out the conclusion the group in the book came to about who betrayed the Frank family (and caused them to be sent to concentration camps, where most of them died) was a pretty wild one. They locked in on their answer and went, “Welp, this must be it!” and then the book was published and people started being like, “…???” It was a good listen — I found the listening experience was more like a new season of Serial in more ways than one — but, you know, you can’t really believe a lot of it once they start going down the path of blaming someone.

So yeah, I mean, I would like to read this unnamed book next for sure. I would just also like to wait until someone tells me to read it, not unlike in school. And then I will fully commit to it and do such things as name it.

Oh, man, speaking of school, that starts in two days. C’est la vie.

This is an entry in my 30 Day blogging challenge. Read the first post explaining it here, or see all the posts in the challenge here.

Day 13: A fictional book

Image description: A still from an episode of The Simpsons where Mr. Burns asks Lisa, "My God, are you always on?"

I am very tired today, so luckily, I’ve already written about “a fictional book” (a book that exists only in a fictional world… or, in this case, doesn’t exist), so I’m going to share a part of a post I wrote in 2017 instead. Thank you for your understanding.

Those two middle panels really speak to me, as it is never not amazing how productive you can be in other areas while you “should” be writing. In the past, I’ve cleaned my entire apartment to avoid a day of NaNoWriMo where I’m just not feeling it, or even done other, more painful writing for my classes so I don’t have to face a daunting personal piece I’d thought about writing that day.

It’s the final two panels that remind me of my brief stint as an English major, though. There was a Starbucks about a block away from my freshman dorm, and I’d go there to read, write, and people-watch, all because I had concocted this image of myself as the ideal English major: coffee-drinker, all-black-wearer, eclectic-fiction-reader, deeply-personal-piece-writer. So I’d head to Starbucks wearing a black T-shirt, order a hazelnut hot chocolate, and let Fight Club inspire my hashtag-deep writing. (The point here is that I was insufferable. Let’s not further mince words.)

It’s not even that Lisa is insufferable here as much as painfully relatable. When we’re deep in the “real writer” mindset, it’s so easy to not see it until it’s been a day and we’ve produced nothing of substance. But at least the CD collection we haven’t touched in years is properly alphabetized and sorted by genre.

This is an entry in my 30 Day blogging challenge. Read the first post explaining it here, or see all the posts in the challenge here.

Day 12: OK

Image description: A black-and-white photo of a typewriter, but the typewriter is offset so only the left two-thirds can be seen in the frame.

(Today’s prompt is the second of five throughout the challenge called “Something random.”)

I wish I could write. I know I’m better at writing than most people. I inhale grammar rules and exhale clean copy. I like to research. I like to find information and share it with others. I am going to library school because I know how to use Google to get what I want. I write short stories that I pour all of my sadness into, but still leave enough for myself. Some of them get published because someone else likes them. Most of them don’t. I would make a good managing editor of a literary magazine. I know how to put things in order and make them make sense. I know how to teach, but I’m scared of teaching. I know how to make a clean spreadsheet. I know how to organize data, but only in a stuffy, clinical way. I have friends who seemingly effortlessly put words on the page, beautiful words, the type I figure I might stumble upon by chance in my own writing. I have stopped writing to come up with the next sentence to write here at least three times in this paragraph, each time for several minutes. So little of being a writer is actually writing. So much is agonizing over what’s next. Should there be a next sentence? A next chapter? Should I know what I want to say when I start, or should I let it come to me as I go? How much can I know? Is this supposed to be good? Is this bad? Is it OK that it’s bad? When will I be proud of myself? When will I have earned my own approval? (When I learn to write, the voice inside my head says, and the cycle repeats.)

This is an entry in my 30 Day blogging challenge. Read the first post explaining it here, or see all the posts in the challenge here.

Day 11: A photo of you taken recently

Image description: Christine, wearing a mask, takes a close-up selfie in front of a University of Wisconsin banner hanging from a building.

One of my main worries about moving to a new city to start a master’s degree is that I won’t be employed enough when I arrive. The first on-campus job I applied to seemed like an okay fit, but a combination of unrelated events pre-interview ended up with a sweaty, rambling mess (me) trying to nail a Zoom interview I’d been dreading, absolutely dreading more than anything, in a too-humid room with a cat banging on the door asking to be let in (that last part is pretty normal, though).

But as time passed — it’s been over two weeks since the interview now — I realized part of the reason I was a mess for this interview was that I really actually probably didn’t want the job? That this job is considered a good get for first-year students, but it doesn’t really align with my long-term career goals? And sure, money is money, but did I want to lock myself in for two years doing one thing when I could be carving my niche in jobs I want, or at the very least, jobs that are much more readily available to students on campus than working professionals?

I told a few people recently that I was finding myself hoping I didn’t get this job, that the interview really did go as badly as I felt it did, because since then I’ve applied to a couple of positions that are a little more in my wheelhouse. And so today, when I got the email that I didn’t get that job, it was a relief. Like, yes, fantastic, now I am fully cleared to focus on something else.

In short: still unemployed come August, but boy, I think I really dodged an unpleasant thing, and that has to count for something. Go Badgers (unless Iowa is the opponent).

This is an entry in my 30 Day blogging challenge. Read the first post explaining it here, or see all the posts in the challenge here.

Day 10: A photo of you taken over ten years ago

Image description: Christine plays violin outside in front of a wooden fence, surrounded by other children and their teacher also playing violin.

I decided very early that when I was older, I wanted to attend college at Southern Oregon University.

In the late ’90s, I attended a violin camp in Ashland, Oregon with my Northern California violin studio. We drove up for a few days during the summer, performed a handful of times (including once on a train), and, most importantly, stayed on campus, in a dorm at Southern Oregon University.

I didn’t know that a place like this existed. I’d been to hotels, sure, but this was different. Here, my sister and I got our own room, just like at home, because none of the dorm rooms had more than two twin beds; it was like we were in college even though we were both under ten years old. Later, I honed my pool and piano skills in the common room (I could live in a place with pool tables and a piano?!), and during our end-of-camp talent show, I showed the fruit of my labor: I played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on piano, the first song I ever taught myself to play by ear. I didn’t know any of the notes, so every time I played it, I picked a white key to start with and hoped for the best.

By the end of the trip, I fully believed all of these amenities — the dorm room, the common room with pool table and piano, the beautiful Pacific Northwest campus — were exclusive to this university. And so I told my parents that when I was finished with high school, I would be attending Southern Oregon University. I remember they never fully bought into my decision, but it was never fully rejected, either. They just knew that once I looked at, say, a second college, that I might start to understand they were all basically the same in the ways that were important to eight-year-old me.

Though every college campus thereafter would be compared to SOU in the late ’90s, because it had to be.

Why didn’t I end up picking Southern Oregon University? Because when colleges started contacting me after I took the PSAT for the first time, it wasn’t among them. I got letters from the University of California system, the Cal State System, from Columbia and Mount Holyoke and Syracuse, and eventually decided that if I was going to go out of state, it should be somewhere “more prestigious” than a public school that was basically in California (so I rationalized it), so my Pacific Northwest offerings dwindled to Seattle and Gonzaga.

One of my first official activities as a Gonzaga student was a pre-orientation camping trip with a handful of other incoming freshmen. We took a school bus to Montana, and for five days, we all slept under a tarp draped over a rope tied between two huge trees. We ate food cooked over a fire, or sandwiches that weren’t cooked at all. We went hiking and biking and, crucially, white water rafting, an activity that was offered to us at violin camp but that my parents declined. So really, in the end, at least my chosen college gave me that experience.

This is an entry in my 30 Day blogging challenge. Read the first post explaining it here, or see all the posts in the challenge here.