Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Calm Place in the Whirlwind

Life is busy. At my engineering day job, it seems like no task gets closed, yet many more get open. I can't quite get my current floodplain project to work. The lateral structure I entered, as a way to simulate an overflow pipe, needs to be revised, and I haven't yet figured out how to revise it to make it correct. Or rather, I believe I know what needs to be done and how to do it, but time to do it hasn't materialized. I figured it out at the end of the day yesterday, but today so far has been fully consumed in...

...teaching a class at my company, and preparing for it. I haven't done a class in at least three months, due to busy-ness, and several people have been saying they needed professional development hours. So I decided to teach a class titled "Five Important Construction Items Often Overlooked During Design". Creating the PowerPoint presentation to go with it took all morning—or all least all of the morning that I didn't let myself get distracted with a couple of personal things. Even half my lunch hour went to that. I didn't actually prepare what remarks I was going to say. I just talked an hour from the PowerPoint, using my many years of construction engineering experience. From the comments of attendees, I did pretty good. Add this to my list of classes for listing on a resume or on a website, if I ever get one built.

Back at my desk after teaching, I talked with my wife. It seems I am to go to the next town over after work and purchase a used jungle gym to give to our grandson Ephraim on is third birthday in two weeks. That's if the one called ahead of her doesn't take it. We are second in line. Hopefully we'll get it. Sounds like a good bargain. But, it does take away time I could have used on something else.

My writing efforts right now are fully consumed with the John Wesley small group study. One chapter done, another half done, the outline finished—except today I realized I had left out a major part of his writings, the many hymns he wrote, and the many of his brother's he published. How can I leave those out? I can't, so I will have to insert another chapter (I think I'm up to 22 now), figuring out the best place for it to go. The pressure to have the study ready around September 1 is off, as I believe the church is going to do another all-church series. I might not need it finished until December or January. That would be nice. I might be able to work on volume 2 of Documenting America. I'm still inching toward e-self-publishing volume 1, maybe in less than a week. It looks as if I'll have to do that without any beta reader comments, as no one has gotten back with me. I think I ran four or five of the chapters through my previous writing groups, though they were shorter at the time.

So where, you ask, is this calm place in the midst of life's whirlwind? It was last night, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the Bentonville Public Library, as we held the second meeting of the BNC Writers group. The previous meeting was to organize; last night was for critique. The same four of us met. Four others who want to attend couldn't because of illness or other unspecified reasons. About the time some would be traveling here the sky opened up with another round of rain, which probably contributed some to keeping people home.

But the four of us who met had a great time. Last meeting I had given them copies of my short story, "Mom's Letter", not for critique, but just as a sample of my writing. But they came back with some critique, and I will consider it. It's already for sale on Kindle, but I can easily make changes and re-upload it if necessary. As group leader, I chose the order of presentation. The three ladies went first. Brenda shared a short story based on a dream she had. Joyce shared the first chapter of a novel she has just begun. Bessie shared a non-fiction story from her years on the mission field in Papua New Guinea. I know that was her first formal writing, and first time sharing writing in a critique group. I think it was also Joyce's first time. She had been involved in the writing process before, helping writers through critique and editing, but I think she is just beginning her writing efforts.

We had a great time with the critiques. Our procedure is for each person to have copies enough to pass around, then for the author to read their work while the others follow along and make notes. We then discuss the work, making suggestions, asking questions. In the end we give the author the copy we have marked on. The author can respond to comments, sometimes indicating what their intent was, but always accepting critique with graciousness and thick skin.

Alas, we ran out of time, and I wasn't able to present the Introduction and first chapter of Documenting America. Maybe next time. I did receive the crit on "Mom's Letter", so it's not as if I was left out. We will meet again in two weeks, probably at the church this time, which will allow us a full two hours, not limited to the library's allowed schedule for conference room use.

I left the group and went home, to evening storms (outside and inside), a checkbook that wouldn't balance, a pile of mail to go through, and no time to write, very little to read. But that was okay. A momentary respite out of the whirlwind was sufficient for the day.

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