January was a fairly quiet month. The most notable event was that the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference was here in Philadelphia. I didn’t attend because I’m not actively involved in any groups right now, but it did give us a chance to see one of our best friends who was in town.
I may have seen more old colleagues except I was battling a cold that weekend and didn’t feel like doing much. We did go out to dinner with the aforementioned friend one night and then hung out with her during a Saturday afternoon.
Going back to work after our long winter break was rough. I thought I had adjusted to the new more open office plan in the fall, but I’ve had a difficult time re-acclimating to the shared space.
The weather hasn’t been particularly bad for January, but it’s been cold and/or rainy enough that I haven’t been out taking pictures very often.
Holly attended the Midwinter Conference so the Sunday of the conference I went out to shoot while she wasn’t around.
I wandered to University City which I don’t get to very often now that I no longer work in that area.
I first finished the roll of Kodak Gold 200 that was in my Minolta, but when I switch the the Olympus, I discovered the battery was dead. I replaced the battery not so long ago so didn’t even think to check it before going out.
I think I just had a bad battery. The battery that came with the camera lasted almost a year so I doubt that there’s an issue with the camera. Nonetheless, I was disappointed that I had gone out on a long walk and wasn’t able to finish both rolls.
I had gone out twice with the roll in the Minolta.
The first time was just a walk around our neighborhood and a little beyond on an atypically warm January day which also included a stop at a wine bar.
Although the temperature was nice, it was still January so I was concerned about shadows and a general dwindling of daylight, but the photos turned out mostly fine.
With just a couple exceptions, I used the Minolta on fully automatic mode. It has a shutter priority mode, but I was feeling lazy and more wanted to enjoy the walk in the nice weather. Although I’ve shot only two rolls with it so far, I’ve enjoyed using it and have been pleased with the results.
My only complaint is that the lever to set the ISO is on the lens, and I have bumped it out of position a couple of times, only slightly so it hasn’t altered any photos but the possibility is there.
My other issue has more to do with me than with the camera. I have to get used to the fact that the viewfinder shows more than what the photo will capture. I have to pay more attention to the guidelines in the viewfinder. Some of the pictures are more cropped than I anticipated.
As I mentioned, my second walk with the Minolta was to and around University City.
Drawing and Graphic Design
I have also been working on an Introduction to Graphic Design tutorial in Lynda.com. It’s less an introduction to design concepts (although it does provide some) and more of an overview of some of the basic functions of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I have worked with all of these before but getting a refresher has been helpful.
As I wrote in my 2019 Update and 2020 Goals post, I simplified my goals for this year and, basically, decided on two:
- More posts here on This Creative Midlife
- A refreshed and thoughtful approach to my short stories
I’m pleased to report that I made progress on both of these. Reducing my goals to two had kept me from flitting from project-to-project as I have often done in the past.
Last year, I had a total of 20 posts on this blog. This January, I posted 6 times so I’m off to a good start.
I guess being more “thoughtful” about my approach to short stories is hard to judge, but I did another round of revisions on the four newer short stories I mentioned in my goals post. I also dusted off an older story and revised that.
After getting the stories into better shape, I sent them off to 8 journals. Despite my complaints about the long wait inherent in submitting, I actually did already get a rejection for one of them. But I am still waiting to hear about the 7 others as well as my story collection.
Regardless of the quick rejection, working on those stories felt like progress.
I have long been logging what books I read during the year but decided I also want to list the short stories I’ve read since reading more short stories is part of my more thoughtful approach to my own work.
I think I’ll just list the ones I enjoyed just to keep the length manageable.
I recently subscribed to The Atlantic which I had been contemplating for a while since I read it regularly online and have often been confronted with their paywall. I was enticed to finally subscribe when they announced that they are planning to publish more short fiction.
And for the past couple of years, I have been subscribed to The New Yorker.
Another nice thing about The Atlantic (and the same holds true for The New Yorker) is that, as a subscriber, I have access to their archives. With their new focus on short fiction, The Atlantic has also been promoting some stories from their deep archive which lead me to read Vladimir Nabokov for the first time.
The New Yorker archive came in handy because I recently watched, thanks to the Criterion Channel, the 1968 movie The Swimmer which was based on a John Cheever short story. I was intrigued enough by the movie that I was curious to read the story and was fortunate to find it in their archive.
Short Stories Read in 2020
- The Swimmer, John Cheever (The New Yorker)
- Birdie, Lauren Groff (The Atlantic)
- The Aurelian, Vladimir Nabokov (The Atlantic)
The year got off to a good start books-wise as well. As I have done the past four years, I set a goal of reading 36 books for the year.
I read three in January so I am on pace to meet that goal. I don’t put a lot of stock in a reading goal since the raw number can really vary depending on what I am reading, but I do find it fun for whatever reason.
I finally read Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying which had been on my to read list for seemingly forever. And it was all I hoped it would be and definitely worth the wait. The only other Jong book I ever read was The Devil at Large: Erica Jong on Henry Miller which I can’t even estimate how long ago that was. I have a vague recollection of liking it but can’t recall any specifics. At the time (whenever it was), I certainly was reading it more out of my interest in Henry Miller.
The second book I finished was Rich Karlgaard’s Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement which I hope to write a post about in the near future.
Finally, I read David Lebovitz’s L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home. I have been following Lebovitz’s blog for awhile and had read his My Paris Kitchen so I was interested in his tale of finding an apartment in Paris. It’s an enjoyable story interspersed with recipes. Not a life changing book but it was a pleasant diversion from the real world.
Books Read in 2020
- Fear of Flying, Erica Jong (Kindle Book)
- Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement, Rich Karlgaard
- L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home, David Lebovitz (Kindle Book)