Category: Life

A Year of Adventuring: April through August

LifeMonthly UpdateTravel

As usual, I’ve gotten behind on blogging. The good news is that I have been keeping up with my resolution to visit new places, so I can still report on my results here (in a very shortened form, of course). So, without further ado, here’s five months of travel updates:

April

April was one of those crazy months that just flew by. Luckily I had a trip planned at the end of the month that I was really looking forward too, so it didn’t bother me too much! I spent April in the thick of my GrubStreet course, Master Novel in Progress. It was an incredibly intensive workshop, but it went really well and definitely deserves its own post (soon, I promise).

I visited a friend in London, which was a really amazing trip. I took an overnight flight Wednesday and came home Sunday (I know, everyone has been telling me how crazy I am). We went down to St. Ives, which is on the southern coast of England, and spent the weekend on the coast. We went to the beach, did some hiking, ate a ton of fish and chips, and drank some beer. It was pretty perfect, and honestly more relaxing and enjoyable than hanging out in London would have been. And I got my yearly fill of train rides and tea and scones (with clotted cream!), so that’s pretty much all I needed.

May

In May, I did a lot of things around Boston, since I knew that I was going to be traveling a lot over the summer. One cool thing is that I went to my first Red Sox game! To be honest, it was a slightly miserable experience, since it was cold and rainy, but I’ve since gone to games that were much more enjoyable, so it all kind of evens out in my head. I also visited Hammond Castle, a medieval-style castle on the North Shore of Massachusetts. It was interesting and a lot of fun, so I highly recommend it (also, Gloucester has beautiful beaches too, so you can make a day trip of it).

June

In June, I went camping with a few of my very best friends. It was amazing. We camped in Watkins Glen State Park, did some hiking, and then spent an absolutely perfect afternoon driving up and down the lake to different wineries.

I also made it up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire for the first time. A friend and I went to the New England Brewfest, which is in Lincoln, NH, and decided to get some hiking in. It made for a really awesome day, and I really can’t wait to do it again next year!

July

At the end of July I took a trip to Colorado to visit some friends. I’d been before, mostly to Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, but it was winter then and we honestly didn’t do much other than sit inside, watch movies, and drink tea. This time I got to visit Denver, Boulder, and Estes Park! The weather was really nice (well, hot) most of the time I was there, so we also did some hiking too. Of course, when you’re visiting old friends you realize that what you do is less important than the fact that you’re together.

August

August was a pretty awesome month in terms of travels. I didn’t leave New England, but I went to a lot

of new places. I did a bunch of hiking, which allowed me to explore New Hampshire a bit more. I also took a ferry to Provincetown. I’d been to Cape Cod before, but Provincetown has an atmosphere that’s completely different from anywhere else I’ve ever been, so it was pretty awesome.

But probably the most exciting traveling I got to do in August was staying in a tiny house on Birch Island, off the coast of Brunswick, Maine. We did pretty much everything you can do on a tiny island: making s’mores, hiking, kayaking, hammocking–you name it, we did it.

 

A Year of Adventuring: March

LifeMonthly UpdateTravelWork

March was an exciting month. I presented at my first conference, ebookcraft, which was in Toronto. I’d never been to Toronto before, so that was a completely new adventure in itself!

As the months go by, I find myself feeling extremely lucky that I have a job where I’m supported and encouraged to do things like travel to conferences and share my experience. (Mostly because I’ve never really thought that I had anything worth sharing.) But just as in my travels, I find that the more I go places and talk, the more I realize how important it is to me. I love talking to people and . There’s a simple humanness to learning from each other that makes the hours of preparation and nerves worth it.

Now, the exciting part: Toronto!

I’ve been to Canada before, briefly, to visit Niagara Falls, but I really consider this my first Canadian experience. Something about exploring the city on foot makes it a completely new experience, and I’m thankful that I had the chance to spend some time in Toronto after the conference was done. I learned a lot about myself, as usual, and also about my boyfriend, who I was traveling with. For example, he loves trains. I know this because we spent many hours in a railroad museum while he drove the train simulator. We also took a tour of a local brewery (Steam Whistle Brewing) and saw The Book of Mormon, which was hilarious.

Mostly it was a welcoming and relaxing vacation, not too planned or hurried. I’ll admit I often try to pack too much into my short travels (as you’ll see in my entry for April), but this was pretty perfect.

A Year of Adventuring: February

LifeMonthly UpdateTravel

February always feels much shorter than it actually is, and as usual, this year it passed in the blink of an eye. Despite that, I still managed to pack in a ton of stuff–birthday celebrations, phone calls with old friends, conferences, and weekend trips. February was an exciting month.

Keeping up with my New Years resolution, this month I visited two new places: Washington, D.C. and Vermont!

My trip to D.C. was short and sweet–I spent about 24 hours in the city for a day-long conference, but also managed to squeeze in some sightseeing and dinner with one of my best friends. (Note the picture of me grinning way too hard at the Lincoln Memorial at 6 am.)

Vermont was super exciting, partly because I’ve been wanting to visit Vermont forever (and it’s so close, you’d think I would have by now), but also because I got to go skiing for the first time! The trip itself was fun, though really weird, in a sitcom kind of way, and skiing was really the highlight. I won’t talk too much about what happened (spoiler alert: I fell a lot), but I did manage to make one run without falling, so I’m considering the entire thing a success.

I think I’m starting to get the hang of this New England thing. (Though, to be honest, I stayed inside all day yesterday because the windchill was in the negative and I’m really just not into that.) Things have been a little crazy, particularly with writing (more on that soon) and work, but I’m figuring out the balance of everything and starting to realize just how excited I am for this year.

Concentration in Chaos

LifeOn Writing

Last Tuesday, my Panda Express fortune cookie told me, “You are a bundle of energy, always on the go.” While I was slightly upset because that’s not a fortune, it was kind of interesting to read because it is very true. I’m the kind of person who’s not happy doing nothing. I get antsy after being inside for three hours, and I’d rather go for a walk than relax.

Normally I’m good at balancing this, but since I’ve been taking this class at GrubStreet, I need to spend a lot more time actually writing. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t been working out for me.

This past week really should have been exactly what I needed. MIT closed two days for snow, and I spent the rest of last week working from home due to dismal travel conditions (and maybe just a little laziness). But somehow I didn’t get much writing done. Instead I filled my time with useful, but notably less-important tasks such as cleaning, laundry, shoveling snow, and teaching myself Javascript. I’d even venture a guess and say that this blog post is just another procrastination tool…

So how do I move forward and concentrate on writing, when there are so many other things I could be spending my time doing? For one, I’m going to start writing on my commute again. Hopefully those snippets will help keep the creative juices flowing, making it easier when I try to sit down at 9pm and churn out some pages. I’m also going to make more specific writing goals, rather than just putting “write 3 pages” on my to-do list. For example, right now my goal is “write at least 8 more pages of that Thanksgiving scene you started, and don’t forget that you’re supposed to be using first person.” If those things don’t work, I’ll probably have to go back to the old standards: prayer, sleep deprivation, and snack-based motivation.

Ebooks and Accessibility – a few words I find myself explaining on a daily basis

LifeWork

I normally keep my work life separate from my personal life, which for me, includes my blog. While I love my job and take pride in my work, it’s not my entire life. But I digress – the reason I mention this at all is to say that, for once, it’s time for me to talk about work on my blog.

I work as a Digital Products Assistant at The MIT Press. I’ve been there about a year now, and I still have to explain to everyone (including people I work with) what my job actually entails – which is, in a word, ebooks. I convert them from print book formats (using some basic HTML/XML and CSS coding), send them out to vendors (like Amazon, so you can read them on your Kindle), and spend the rest of my time figuring out what to do when things go wrong. That last one takes up about 60% of my work day.

Anyway, recently I’ve become interested in another aspect of publishing that no one understands: accessibility. It’s closely tied to ebooks, in that people are asking how we, as publishers, can make our digital content accessible to those who can’t read our print books. As you might expect, it’s not a simple question. In addition to trying to educate my coworkers at the Press, I’ve been trying to learn the basics of this myself.

And somehow, because of my interest in accessibility, I now have the opportunity to lead a workshop at ebookcraft, a conference held annually in Toronto specifically for ebook developers (like me). This is completely terrifying, but also amazing (but mostly terrifying, if I’m being honest). Luckily I have the support of my entire department, my friends and family, and one of my peers at Michigan Publishing, who is much more experienced and wise than I am.

One of the best things about me being so interested in learning about accessibility is that I have the opportunity to share information with others who feel just as lost as I did not too long ago. Recently I wrote a blog post about some of the basics of accessibility in publishing, and if you’re curious, you can read it here.

A Year of Adventuring: January

LifeMonthly UpdateOn Writing

I always make New Years resolutions – you can probably browse through my old blog posts and find a few posts about them. Normally they’re about writing or reading, but this year I’ve decided to do something different.

I spent 2016 experiencing new things. I moved to a new city, started a new job, met new people. I traveled everywhere (at least it feels like it). It was pretty perfect. So I want to carry that momentum into the new year. Just because I won’t be starting a new job or moving cities doesn’t mean that I can’t focus on trying new things and going new places. So this year, I’ve decided that I will go somewhere new every month. It doesn’t have to be big or crazy (like a new country), but it does have to be new.

When I explain this to people, they always think I’m a little crazy, or maybe just overzealous. Someone actually told me there couldn’t possibly be new things for me to do here in Boston. Well, after yesterday, I can confidently say that there are. I didn’t do anything amazing or extravagant, but I had a lot of fun and went to four (yes, four) places I’ve never been before.

1. Barre and Soul, Brookline

I’ve never been to a barre class before, mostly because I’m not a fan of paying $25 for a one-hour class. But my roommate introduced me to Classpass, so I’ve been able to take a lot of classes I couldn’t before. The barre class was amazing – not at all what I expected, which was probably for the better.  It was hard, and my legs were definitely shaking most of the time, but I didn’t feel the need to stop and give up. It was a successful experiment. 

2. Corey Hill Outlook

After barre, I decided to walk instead of taking the train home. It was in the high twenties, and windy, but the sun on my face felt warm so I enjoyed myself immensely. I stopped to grab a bagel and coffee and continued my walk when I stopped at the crosswalk at Summit Ave. It’s been on my list for a while to visit the outlook at the top of this street. People mention it as a great workout – run up the hill, look out over the city, do some push-up, run back. I had too much stuff with me to actually run, but the walk was enough of a workout, especially after barre. Luckily, the view was worth it. 

3. Coolidge Corner Theater

After living within a mile of this independent theater for a year, you’d think I’d have visited before. But no…. So when my roommates and I decided to go see La La Land yesterday, we made the choice to give our money to this cool, local place instead of the huge theater we normal frequent. That was a good choice on our part, not only because the movie was amazing, but because we were able to watch it in a place that captured the same old Hollywood charm as the movie.

4. GrubStreet

Technically, today wasn’t the first time I visited GrubStreet – it was the second. But I thought it was worth mentioning because I did visit it for the first time this month, and it was a big step for me, and will probably have a long term impact, unlike the others.

Sunday was a busy day, packed with lots of new, fun things. And while I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend every day like that, it was a really great day that I’m hoping will set the tone for the rest of this year.

Moving Forward (with a little help)

LifeMonthly UpdateOn Writing

It always happens – you start the year off well, writing and reading (or generally achieving whatever goals you set for yourself). But slowly, over time, things fall to the side. You start spending more time watching Netflix and staring at your phone than doing all of those things you said you would do.

It’s no secret that many of us could use some help staying motivated, and I am definitely one of those people. So, in early December, I decided to apply for a ten-week long novel workshop at GrubStreet. I kind of figured it would be a long shot, but by some miracle (and some help from my writing group on the sample I submitted) I was admitted, with a scholarship!

This means that, starting January 8, I’ll be attending a weekly workshop. In many ways, that’s not unusual. I spend a lot of time meeting with writers, sometimes workshopping and sometimes just chatting, but other than classes in college, I’ve never been in a formal workshop. They’re casual, and because of that, the feedback is often pretty casual as well. It’s not that it’s not helpful, but it’s definitely not always as targeted as I would like it to be.

I’m a little nervous, considering the fact that I’m sure many of the writers will be much more experienced than I am. It’s the usual apprehension I have when I get ready to share my work with a new group, only a little stronger. This class is also supposed to help you finish and polish a novel in progress, which is a bit scary in itself – as any writer will tell you, declaring something “finished” or “ready” is not an easy thing to do.

But I’m also excited, since I started my novel around this time last year, and it’s been at a bit of a standstill for the past six months or so. I’m hoping that the extra eyes and perspectives can give me the boost I need to fix some of the problems I’ve run into and finally decide that the novel is finished and ready to send out. So here’s to accepting help and moving forward in 2017.

Breaking Up and Making Up with Your Writing Group

LifeMonthly UpdateOn Writing

I feel like there have been so many things for me to write about since I’ve moved to Boston, but for some reason I haven’t been able to put any of it on paper (and by that I mean here, on my blog). I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime in these two months, and maybe that’s why it’s so hard to pick just one thing to write about. (But I’ll do better, because I’ve missed this.)

The reason I’m even typing this right now is because I can’t ignore the feeling that things are right at the moment. And when things are right, it’s kind of hard to stop thinking about them. They creep into your thoughts, your everyday conversations, your Google searches – don’t worry, I’m not talking about a person, I’m talking about writing groups.

I’ve been going to writing groups for over a month now. I’ve tried new ones, stuck to one I thought was good for a while, then stopped going. Let’s just say they didn’t have this feeling. Sometimes they were awkward. Sometimes I felt like I was connecting with people, but only on a superficial level. Something was off. And then, two weeks ago, I went to a new writing group that was starting up.

First, I’ll just say it wasn’t perfect. There were too many people, and we kind of all wanted different things, and I didn’t write one word that day, but there was something about it that felt good. It didn’t matter that it had taken me almost forty minutes by train to get to our meeting place. I wanted to come back to this group, with these people.

And then our group organizer stepped down, essentially citing irreconcilable differences. And yes, it felt like a divorce. Without a leader, who was to say that this group would ever meet again? Well, I decided to say that. I thought about it for a week (it might not seem like a big life decision, but it definitely felt like it at the time), and then I said yes, I’d organize the group, on one condition: if someone co-organized with me. I wondered if this was the time to be stating conditions, but sometimes you have to think about yourself first (right?) and what would be best for you.

So someone stepped up, and somehow we became leaders. Yesterday we had our second meeting. It felt simultaneously like our first meeting (“Hi, I’m Kristin, I moved here in January”) and like our twentieth (“You know, sometimes you just want to write about an elaborate murder”). And that’s how I knew it was right.

A New Normal

LifeOn Writing

It hasn’t taken long for me to settle into life in Boston. In fact, it has been surprisingly easy – I have great roommates, an amazing apartment, possibly the best job I could have hoped for, and a new place to explore. All of these things have made my transition pretty painless. In many ways, the hardest part is getting used to the fact that yes, this is actually my life, and this is what it’s going to be like for a while.

But it’s also a bit of a difficult task to figuring out how to merge the aspects of my life in college with the new ones I’m just beginning to explore. Nothing is just normal anymore, and everything I do makes me realize that I’m creating a new normal. A lifestyle that is similar to my usual one, but different somehow. And I think that’s been the real challenge.

I have the basics laid out – normal includes going to work, watching TV with my roommates, sometimes getting takeout. But then there are things I find myself missing, like yoga, and hours spent writing in eccentric coffee shops. I’ve started trying to incorporate these things into my daily schedule, but it’s hard when a part of me really just wants the old normal – Common Grounds and my favorite Sunday night yoga class.

So my goal for this week, which is somehow only week three of being in Boston, is to find those things. And maybe they won’t look exactly like what I’m used to – maybe it’s not a coffee shop, maybe it’s an hour spent writing after work; maybe it’s an early morning yoga class or a run instead. Either way, I know that this is the time to make the new normal one that I can live with, one that I know is right for me.

An Attitude of Adventure

LifeTravel

“You’re moving all the way to Boston?”

It’s the first thing people say, but it’s often followed by something else.

“It’s cold there.”

“I hope you’re ready for the snow.”

“Boston’s expensive!”

And they’re right, Boston is full of things I’m unfamiliar with, from the cold to Dunkin’ Donuts. But rather than see those as things that may prevent me from enjoying the city and my life there, I’ve chosen to see it all as an adventure.

I have lived my entire life in Texas, and I love it. But I also love to travel, meet new people, and explore new places. And because of that, I’ve learned to take the time and the effort to make other places feel like home as well. Sometimes it happens quickly, which is great, but other times it’s harder. I know that it will take time to get used to Boston and its weather (though the unseasonably mild weather is helping with that), and it will probably take a while to make some new friends as well. But it will happen eventually.

So no matter how hard it is, I’ve chosen to see every change as a new adventure. While it can be a challenge sometimes – especially when you’re sitting in your apartment thinking about how you don’t know anyone in this city – it’s also ridiculously worth it to appreciate the adventure of everyday life.

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