Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lord Voldemort's reply

To an unworthy Muggle:

The Dark Lord has received your letter, and would have gladly accepted your proposal were it not for your Muggle sensitivities. Upon reading that you had resorted to Muggle remedies to alleviate your suffering, the Dark Lord knew you were not fit for his great cause.

The Dark Lord usually disposes of those who waste his time, but I am certain he had forgotten about you within seconds of setting your letter aflame. However, being his most faithful servant, I have noticed that those who annoy him are often cursed in some way. Since you are a lowly Muggle, I suspect you are now afflicted with a common cold, another silly ailment that Muggles can't cure.

This is your warning to not bother the Dark Lord again; next time he won't be so generous.

Peter Pettigrew, aka Wormtail

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A letter to Lord Voldemort

To the Dark Lord:

At the risk of you AK-ing me on the spot, I have a confession to make: I am a big fan of your arch-nemesis. What can I say—I like sassy underdogs who know how to give proper hugs. Everyone knows this about me, and I see no point in hiding this fact from a great Legilimens like yourself.

But there is something I desire that I'm afraid the Potter boy can't provide.

You see, for about eight months out of the year, I am plagued by something generally referred to as allergies. I'll spare you the sordid details, but just know that I've spent many a day wishing my nose away.

In following the Potter boy's story, I noticed something about your inspiring rise to powerful evilness: somewhere along the way, your nose slowly transformed into a new, less imposing part of your facial structure. And I often wondered, does the Dark Lord ever experience a runny nose or have to fight the urge to attack an incessant itch? (Forgive me for thinking of you in such mundane terms.) Does he ever fear what will happen if he strolls through a vibrant field of luscious grass and blooming flowers?

Silly, frivolous problems, perhaps, but it's enough to make me wish every spring that I could be more like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Powerful. Crafty. And most importantly, immune to pollen.

After getting by for weeks on unsatisfactory Muggle remedies, I've finally decided to take more drastic action. Harry Potter can't cure my allergies—the best he can do is a quick fix on the inevitable day when I finally break my nose by violent scratching—but you can rid my face of the offending appendage altogether. I can't think of a more attractive solution to my problem.

In return for this service, you will gain a faithful Ravenclaw for life and one less fighter for Harry Potter's cause. If this proposition intrigues you, please respond by owl by the end of April.


A potential Death Eater

Monday, April 18, 2016

Part of that world

I've been on a Disney kick lately. Disney movies, Disney songs, blogs and podcasts that compare Disney movies to their source material—I'm swimming happily along in the magic right now. I've been wanting to watch The Little Mermaid for weeks now, which I finally did last week.

It's always been one of my Disney favorites. It captures that feeling we all get at least once in our lives—the deep yearning for something that you just have to have. Even as a small child, I felt the power of Ariel having a dream and pursuing it. I, too, wanted to say to the world: "Watch, and you'll see. Some day I'll be part of your world."

The trouble with dreams, though, is that when you're a kid, you have to grow up to get them. And then when you're old enough to understand what you'll have to go through to achieve your dreams, sometimes it's better to just forget about them and save yourself the stress and anxiety.

For instance, I've always wanted to travel. Settle down in a quiet corner of Utah, yes, but get out occasionally and see some exotic places with my own eyes. New York. Australia. Japan. England. Kansas. It didn't matter where it was, I just wanted to see a lot of things.

But as a teenager, the minutiae of travel scared me so much that I was content with the thought that I just wouldn't travel without the aid of an adult who had a clue, and if said adult wasn't available to take care of me on foreign soil, then so be it, I'd just stay home for the rest of my life.

My teenage vision for my future was simple, because I just couldn't fathom being brave enough to do anything unfamiliar. Overcoming my adolescent fears has been a slow process, but it's by far the most liberating part of being an adult. Eventually I decided that being scared was better than being safe, which has led to 10 years of checking item after item on my "No Way, Not Happening" list.

As the list got shorter, travel—one of the Great Fears—kept trying to get my attention. And as the years went by, the thought of traveling on my own scared me less and less, which is one reason I joined ACES last year. In addition to some word nerdery and sight seeing, the annual conference would be the trial run I needed to prove to myself that I can handle adulting when airplanes and hotels are involved.

I planned my trip down to the minute. For days leading up to my departure, I would run through my itinerary when I was supposed to be falling asleep. The fear and panic I expected to hit never came; instead, my overpreparedness had me raring go on an adventure, despite the many things that could go wrong.

One of the things that surprised me most about the trip was how routine all that stuff my dad usually handles felt—checking my bag at the airport, figuring out what time to catch the train and getting off at the right stop, how to best fit something fun and different into each day, finding the best places to eat, etc. Little things that were once childhood fears turned out to be not a big deal (although still tiring—I have new respect for what my dad goes through every time we went on vacation), and the routine-ness of it all was thrilling in a way. Any time I turn a dependent experience into something I can do on my own is a significant victory. It means I'm more in control over how I live my life and the color and variety I bring into it.

After seeing a new part of the world, I was more than happy to return home to normalcy, where I knew the lay of the land and didn't need to rely on my phone for everything. I've still got a lot to learn about traveling, but taking that first step toward something I had previously written off as impossible is exciting in a Disney-magic sort of way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Word nerd vacation: The city

On average, there are 144 sunny days in Portland per year. I got to enjoy four of them. I only wore my jacket in the freezing conference rooms, and hardly saw a cloud all week. I may have missed out on the complete Portland experience without having to walk around in a downpour, and part of me is sad I didn't get that adventure, but it was fabulous exploring a new city under a canopy of sunshine. Especially since it was 40˚ in Utah when I left.

The first item on my tourist to-do list was to visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden. I had hoped to practice some of the techniques I learned in my photography class, but the sun was too bright to get any good pictures. Oh well. It was still a lovely little garden that made me forget I was in a bustling city.

These window things were cool. They are designed to show only a small portion of the garden, completely cutting off any view of the outside world, giving you the illusion that you're surrounded by serenity. After spending four days in the heart of downtown Portland, I can see why that would be important.

Next up was Powell's City of Books, which was what I was most excited about. (Re: word nerd vacation.) It's the largest independent bookstore in the U.S., and I could not wait to check it out.

This was one of those occasions where traveling alone really came in handy—I could nerd out over dictionaries for as long as I wanted without worrying about someone getting bored or begging to go home.

Seriously, some of those dictionaries were HUGE. This one, Webster's 3rd, I think, was old and dusty, as dictionaries should be.

Powell's has a section for everything—my favorites were the Jane Austen collection, the special editions of books, and, of course, the language section. By the time I made it over there I had a stack of books that was getting awkward to carry. Luckily, no one was around, so I plopped everything on the ground for 10 minutes or so and scoured the shelves for treasures.

I ended up buying 7 books plus a few extra items. The price tag may have gone into the triple digits (I love having three-paycheck months!), but sometimes happiness can be bought.

Now, we need to talk about one of my other favorite things: food. Portland has it. I did my best to hit some good restaurants, and mostly succeeded. Sadly, the food trucks I had heard so much about didn't live up to my expectations, so I didn't give them a second chance. (Maybe I just picked the one bad egg of the bunch, but for now my opinion of Utah food trucks is far superior.)

My food quest included a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts, which I've been hearing about for years. Legend says the donuts are so good people are willing to stand in line for hours to get some.

I picked out my favorites: a chocolate cake donut and an old-fashioned glazed, with a giant apple fritter thrown in for fun.

The verdict: no one does chocolate cake donuts better than Dunford's Bakery, and the glaze on the glazed donut tasted too candied. But it's still worth the trip if you get the chance to go.

I saved the apple fritter for breakfast the next day. It probably would have been better warm, but I enjoyed it all the same.

On Saturday I checked out the Portland Saturday Market, which may have been the best decision I made all week. By that point I was weary of constant city-ness and just wanted to see some trees and sit on a patch of grass. A country-like fair seemed like a good compromise, so I headed over during my lunch break and enjoyed myself so much I was 15 minutes late for my next class.

The market has tons of vendors selling interesting, handmade things, and delicious smells follow you wherever you go. I bought two pairs of earrings and some fudge, and then got a quesadilla from a stand that smelled like my dad's burritos. It was very tasty, and unlike any quesadilla I've had before.

But perhaps the best thing about the Portland Saturday Market is that it's right next to the beautiful Waterfront Park, which had far more than a lone tree and a simple patch of grass to sit on. It did my heart good.

When my last session got out, I dashed back to the park and found a lovely walking trail, which surrounded a lake and included two bridges. I wish I could walk this trail every day.

Once I got away from the city a bit, it was easier to appreciate its beauty.

The best part of the walk was this tree.

I really wanted to climb it, but I didn't want to draw attention to myself, and besides, I only had 10 seconds before the self-timer snapped a picture of my mischievous ways, so this was all I managed.

It's a lovely setting to stop and Facetime your mom and sisters, too.

Books, donuts, and trees—Portland, it was nice to meet you. Let's get together again sometime.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Word nerd vacation: The word nerd part

When I told people I was going to an editing conference, they would first look at me strangely, and then they would have to concentrate their efforts on keeping the look of incredulity from taking control of their face. Editors have conferences? What do they do—talk about commas for three days?

Yes, editors have conferences, just like every other nerd community. And while we certainly enjoy discussing commas (although we've learned to keep the serial comma debate to the minimum—it can get rather dangerous), editors touch so many parts of the writing/publication process and language changes so much that continuing education is a must.

But that's only a small justification for going to an editing conference. The real reason is so you can be surrounded by fellow word nerds. We're an interesting group; we care passionately about things normal people don't even think about. And when you're in the minority like that, it's soothing and rejuvenating to band together, whether it be to commiserate, learn from one another, or to just have a good time.

I joined the American Copy Editors Society (called ACES for short, which is just punny enough to be appropriate for its audience) last fall for all of these reasons. (Okay, and I wanted an excuse to go to Portland in the spring.)

Before the opening session even started, I knew I was in the right place. These were my people. They took the written word seriously. Laughed appreciatively at language-related jokes. Let out the loudest communal groan I've ever heard when this billboard was brought up:

Images of this sign in the hotel also circulated Twitter, with many wondering who the honored guest could be:

The big announcement of the event was that the AP Stylebook is going to start lowercasing Internet. This news was met with gasps and cheers—I kid you not, this is a huge deal in our world.

Each of us faced difficult decisions every day, with several intriguing sessions often claiming the same time slot. I took half a notebook of notes on freelancing, working with self-published authors, Microsoft Word tips, Google research tools, the future of copy editing, and more, drinking in the experience of being in a classroom environment again with other editors.

Everyone should belong to a group of similar nerds; it's good for the soul.

655 people registered for the conference. The role of the editor may be changing, but you can't make us disappear. (P.S. I'm in there somewhere—can you find me?)

But we weren't there to just work. Editors like their jobs, but we like to play too. And Portland was ready to deliver.

Stay tuned.