“what the hell do i write about?”

“what the hell do i write about?”

this is a question i’ve mulled over for ages and i can’t seem to find a satisfactory answer. i tried chick lit many years ago but while i loved to read it (shut it), several of my pieces started out strong and eventually  fizzled. i suppose if i found an editor who could help make a difference it would have been different, but in the end my heart wasn’t into that genre anymore.

next came fantasy/sci fi/paranormal/magical realism. i love the works of terry pratchett, jasper fforde, and others, and i’m keenly interested in mythology and fairy tale, and while that’s all well and good, and i have notes up the wazoo on various pieces, i just cannot get going on building my worlds.

then i started dabbling in mysteries with cabinet particulier (working title), “…a book project about a near-failed Edwardian actress who finds she is extraordinarily talented with a still camera. A little too extraordinary. It’s 1907. Throw in a bit of magical realism, fairies, Arthur Conan Doyle, motorbikes, and a murder and you have the makings of a fantastic world” (i apparently write fabulous summaries), but that’s stalled not because i’ve lost interest but everything else going on in my life has pushed the book far into the background.


i’ve been contemplating recently on two very important points:

  1. i should keep writing no matter what i do
  2. and this quote by theodora goss: “i tell myself that I’m allowed to be jealous of another writer if i’m willing to be jealous of everything, the good and the bad.”

the last one is particular poignant because i follow two women writers who’ve started from nothing and ended up blowing up huge. i’m jealous of their success, their recognition, and their fans who love them. but i remember both struggling, finding an audience, wanting to be read more than anything in the world, their  failure after failure and lastly, never ever giving up.


one thing i’ve learned about myself this past year, and one trait i’m thrilled to finally have down pat, is starting something and continuing on. i’ve meditated for 413 consecutive days; i’ve recently started weight watchers and i’ve been diligent on keeping on track (and so far losing 12 solid pounds since starting and 19 pounds from my highest weight recorded earlier this year); doing yoga on a continual basis, and the most important one: being smoke free since january. these are but small things but knowing i can start and continue a single thing has helped pushed me into doing more things  i can actually follow through with.


this new ability is v. important. i have adhd and coupled with my other brain gifts, starting projects, following through, and finishing those projects has only succeeded 1% of the time. so why the (positive) change? i attribute it to drugs, mainly, but the feeling of doing something and finishing something has made a huge impact on my life. i remember the feeling when i finished my book; this feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction i created something and i gave it to the world, which gave me a natural high.

and that high is addicting.


i’ve spent a good portion of my morning reading through what i have written in scrivener and upon closer inspection, things aren’t as half bad as i feared. the writing spanned from chick lit to magical realism; some better than others (despite my earlier assessment) and i found myself wanting to complete some of that work. there is a lot to work with, with some pieces closer to completion than others, which is only right. i have some fairly good ideas i cooked up and i can see where the mania pushed some work further down the road in terms of tone and plot while others are dark and short relative to the depression i was going through at the time. there is quite a few non-fiction pieces in addition to the fiction, with smattering of erotica and poetry (which is terrible. i am certainly no poet.

my voice in some pieces is fresh, while others are still in need of a lot of work. i caught myself, after reading a few pieces, finding stuff similar to other voices. the question gets turned not from, “what the hell do i write about?” to “how can i make this mine?”


“what the hell do i write about?”

the question remains valid. i am worried, and to be frank still am, i would be regulated to writing about the things i feel strongly about (myself, mental health, libraries, comics) rather than widen my horizons into other areas (short stories, novels, erotica).


i’ve always struggled with anxiety about my writing: it’s trite; it’s not strong enough; the story has been retold too many times. i feel overwhelmed i cannot compete on the big stage. my writing is never good enough.

i’m going to add more pieces of advice i received about writing:

  • read your work out loud
  • remove as many “thats” as you can
  • use a thesaurus liberally
  • watching your “-ings”
  • watch your verbs
  • just because you’re sick of your writing doesn’t mean someone else is

the last piece stays with me more often than not and is underscored by people who tell me they love my writing. so why don’t i have belief in myself?


“what the hell do i write about?”

in the past i felt writing about this topic would get done to death, but today i think it’s okay to keep hammering the point when necessary because it’s a good reminder it’s okay to be scared, overwhelmed, and insecure. not everything is going to be perfect from the belly and it’s okay to have some bad work as well as exceptional work.

the last piece of advice i’d give a new writer: it’s okay to be scared.

 

p.s. i’m going to do a variation of the #100dayproject where i write one page a day for 100 days. i’m not going to post that shit on instagram, as dictated on the project page, but i think in the end i might post here to my blog or do something for accountability. anyone want to do a project along with me (doesn’t have to be writing) for moral support?

here we are, yet again

blew the dust off of scrivener a few weeks ago to see what horrors laid within and discovered two short stories i recently allegedly written. alleged as one of them is very well by me as it is about a serial dream i had several years ago but the voice and tone is slightly different and the other? the other i’m not so sure as there are glimpses of me here and there but the story and verbiage feels like someone else. does that make me hack? i’m so poor in creating my own world i must reach out to take someone else’s voice?

who the fuck knows.


lately i’ve been contemplating on changing my writing professional name to something else. sometimes i think lisa rabey is too tinged in controversy to move forward than i think i would find redemption in my writing life by keeping my name.


a piece of advice i received seemingly a lifetime ago was thinking about writing was also work. just because i wasn’t putting pen to paper didn’t mean i wasn’t doing something and that it just happened to be in a different space. i remain skeptical.


i’ve become a huge fan of newsletters in the last few months because why browse the internet for things to read when someone else is already doing it for you? many of the newsletters are written by writers who add essayists to their slashes (fiction/memoir/essayist would be my slashes) as well but are getting publication and maybe payment for their work because THEY ARE ACTUALLY PITCHING TO THESE WEBSITES.

i know — i’m as shocked as you are.

as i read their work, i became more influenced on what i could write and the list just keeps growing.

as of this writing, i have come up with 20 different pitch ideas and essays i’d like to write. maybe it’s not too late afterall.


it is seemingly convenient to forget when i was on a pitching spree last fall those pitches were accepted and some of them were paid gigs.


longtime readers of exit, pursued by a bear know i’ve been traveling / moving around a lot these last two years and many of my belongings continue to remain in boxes. much of these boxes have been repacked and renamed so i always slit the tape, check the contents, and then tape it back up to verify its contents when i land in a new place.

a couple of boxes remain what they are marked: notebooks. as one would guess, notebooks covers diaries, journals, other writing from my catholic tinged youth until my mid-20s. much of it is fiction, more of it is diaries. i’m afraid to read any of it because what secrets they hold may be just that – secret. but these boxes are comforting, they tell a linear story i seem to casually put on the shelf and maybe i am not the hack i continually tell myself to be.


here we are, yet again.


if you’ve been paying attention you get the subtext something is up and that something is i’m going to keep trying. even if i have to recoup and beat and recoup and beat until my dying breath on this topic of woe is me and woe is my writing life,

i’m going to keep trying because that is what i do.


i expressed my fears to the ex-husband, he who is my biggest fan, and he remarked he’s played thousand of hours of basketball but he’s always suspected he wasn’t quite good enough for the nba (though at 6’7, he’s certainly tall enough) and because of that he has never tried out. so maybe, he posited, that is what it’s like for me? maybe it isn’t about the name recognition, literary fame, or writing a solid story. maybe it’s just the sheer joy of writing that should sustain me.

i’ve been thinking about his comment and i’ve come to the conclusion it is not so much as being rich and famous but that i have a voice that i want the world to hear.

maybe that is all that matters.

So now you’ve got that in-person interview!

Dear Internet,

Another institution contacted me today to schedule an interview. #fistpump Once I confirmed I was still interested, I started researching the location to see if it would be a good fit for me. Now you may be wondering why I’m doing this as it’s the “get to know you” interview. Simple: I applied for the position as it seemed like a good fit and now I need to see if the location fits me too.

Here are the questions I ask myself and how I obtain my answers:

  • How much are they paying me? You have a good chance of finding your potential salary on the call of applications and it will usually have a range. Because of my experience, I place what I should be commending between the median and high end of the range to give me a rough idea of what to expect. If I fall below that, I negotiate like heck. If they don’t advertise it on the call for applications, you can do one of two things:  The institution may require you meet the meet all the requirements of the union, whose website they gave me, to obtain tenure. I checked the union’s website and it gave the list of the pay ranges for each track of position, in this instance, full, associate, or assistant professor. Often, instead the pay ranges via the union, they will have a pay band, usually associated with a number or letter, so this job may fall into pay band of A21 which the pay is between $55K-$70K. University / college websites are so convoluted you’ll not be able to find this information easily so in google I use the search “salary site:nameofcollege.edu” to find the info. (As a rule, I do not use the college’s search box because it’s always terrible.) If none of this works, email HR to get the salary range. (One of my pet peeves is when institutions want you to provide your salary range. Don’t. This gives them the idea of what they can pay you versus what is available plus that number, for you, might be flexible. If you can live on $60K in one city, the cost of living in another might be low enough for you to live on $45K. So don’t tell them and it’s none of their business.)
  • Holy cats! Can I afford to move to XXX? Cost of living rules our daily lives. For example, we know living on the East Coast is more expensive than living in the Midwest. But just how much more expensive is it and can I use this knowledge to negotiate a higher salary? Let’s start by comparing your current location with the prospective one. For this I use Sperling’s Best Places to get that answer. For this example, I’m comparing moving from Grand Rapids, MI to Louisville, KY with a salary of $60,000. The increase to move is only 2%, which to me is negligible but depending on the pay range of the new institution, if I was near the middle, I’d probably negotiate higher.  If I were to move from Grand Rapids, MI to NYC, the increase is 90% and heck yeah would I be negotiating that salary. Remember this is an estimate and not an absolute number.
  • How much rent can I afford? Now that you have a rough idea of pay, and you have a rough idea of cost of living, let’s take a look at the biggest chunk of your paycheck: rent. To get this number, I head to Zillow’s rent calculator and use the following equation: $X (salary) x .75 (I am generous with taxes/SSDI and usually go 25%) / 12 = monthly take-home. For this example: $60K x .75 = $45K / 12 = take home of $3750. I plug that number in and leave monthly expenses at $0 to get your max amount of rent you can afford each month. (I leave the monthly expenses at $0 as they shift too much to get a minimum and I’m more interested in the max of affordability.)
  • Make an effing budget Now that you have a general idea of how much you’re making and what it will cost for you to live, how are you going to pay your bills? In December I had scored two second interviews with two institutions and I had to be prepared to make a decision so I needed an idea of what i’m looking for. I knew some things were constant (cell phone bill, car insurance) but others were going to be variable (gas, food, internet). I figured out what I was spending in Louisville and amped it up by at least 25% to give me an idea of what my disposable income would be. Make an effing budget.

You have your average salary, cost of living, and what you can afford for rent, the next step is to figure out where you want to live.

Let’s assume you’re moving to a new city and you don’t know anyone, so finding an area that fits your needs is going to be rough going but it’s not impossible. Just like the list I gave the other day on my requirements, for location virtual scouting these are the tools I use:

  • Walkability score  I am not and never have been by any stretch of the imagination a suburbs girl, so I always check the walkability of places I’m interested in. What this also gives you a good idea where neighborhood markets, coffee shops, bookstores, and the like are located. Check out Walk Score to see where your neighborhood lands and Walk Score also allows you to sort by the most walkable areas.
  • Google Maps  for anything I am interested in (coffee shops, trader joe’s, comic book stores, whatever), I use the search string “coffee shops near name of city” in google maps. Up pops a lovely map of all the coffee shops in that city, which I cross reference with my other requirements. Now I have a general idea of where I want to be
  • Google I use search strings like “best bars in X” or “best whatever in X” to also get a good idea of locations. This should also pull up local magazines, newspapers, and websites dedicated to the area since they typically run these type of listicles.
  • Wikipedia I use wikipedia to get an idea of what the town, overall, is like and get an idea of culture.

    Is this a lot of work? Yes — I can spend an afternoon or two just doing research but remember, you’re interviewing the city as much as you’re interviewing the instituion.

Good luck and may the gods be with you in your job search.

personal anacdotes on misc

(Edit: I totally spaced that LibUX interviewed me for their podcast and it went live this week! If you have 30 minutes, go take a listen!)

Dear Internet,

Wednesday is job hunt day and right now I’m up to slightly over 20 positions I need to apply for in the next week or so. I’m now breaking them down by deadline rather than when they were posted so I don’t miss the cut off. There have been a few cases where I’ve applied for positions past their prime and got interviews, but I like to be on top of things. On being thorough: once a librarian, always a librarian, and all of that rot.


This past Monday I had interview with an institution and I’m feeling pretty sure the interview did not go well, which sucks because this may be the interview that breaks my streak on going from phone to in person interviews. (This I realised was very true. There has not been a phone interview that did not end up in an in person interview. Getting the job, obviously, was a whole different matter.)

What went wrong? Several things, I believe, did not bode well. I also worried I wasn’t clear on my points, which TheExHusband (who works from home and thus heard my side of the conversation) thinks I’m being too hard on myself and that I sounded fine. Despite this, the one thing that I wasn’t keen on was the scripted questions. Three of which were so close to the other, I inadvertently answered them all in one go and had to reformulate my answer for questions two and three. I was also not thrilled to see they didn’t have back-up questions when it became evident several of the questions were repetitive.

Recommendation for search committees: I get you’re have constricted time for phone interviews but please, from a candidate’s point of view, consider having back up questions in case a main question does not apply or has already been answered in another form. Also the candidate is interviewing you as well, so please allot time for that to happen.

(I’m also super glad I did research on the school and prepped typical and often potential questions with answers before the interview so I wasn’t fumbling. I was also a girl scout.)

(I made the decision during this cycle of job applications my final question for the search committee is going to be, “Do you have any questions about my resume, web sites, or the case?” What’s happening is I feel I’m getting jerked around going into the in-person interview when I know they’ve been hammering and combing through my sites before the second interview and they’ve already made the decision I’m not the incumbent before the second interview even takes place. You’ll be hard pressed to dissuade me from that thought since I’ve had two job offers rescinded due to their probing of the sites AFTER extending the position. So let’s just get the elephant out in the open shall we?)

This position was one of my top choices due to the school’s reputation, the location, it’s alumni (yep!), and what the job would entail. If I don’t get called back for the second interview, I’ll be super bummed but life goes on and all that jazz.

(Thank you to everyone who is being super supportive of me during these job hunt cycles and telling me a place will be lucky to have me. Your support really keeps me pushing forward!)


If you have been to lisa.rabey.net  before, you may notice I’ve changed the design of the site. As I’m spending more time in keeping the content current, I choose this particular theme because I wanted something clean and easy to use but with a touch of pizazz. I adore the Commodore 64 and TI-99 4/a old computer and gaming images because they juxtapose what it stands for (computers) and what is perceived of my profession (books)  so rightly gives where my interests and skills lay and it seemed apropos. Get it? (Sometimes when I think I’m being clever it could be construed I take it a bit too far.) In addition to the theme, I also liked that it had my beloved right sidebar and the font was easy on the eyes. All in all, I’m really digging the new look.


I’m constantly tweaking my resume as I need to clean up or add new things. In recent interviews I’ve been talking a lot about the courses I’ve been taking at Team Treehouse like Front End Web Development / Full Stack JavaScript and I also recently started a class at Library Juice Academy on Introduction to GIS and GeoWeb technologies, so instead of just talking about them I wanted to illustrate them on ye olde resume.

(The LJA course is a month long while the TeamTreehouse classes are collectively 50-70 hours to be completed (not required but as a challenge) before the cohort starts in May. THEN it’ll be 50-70 hours of work over 12 weeks. Phew.)

(Recently I talked about GIS as a futures of libraries subject so when the opportunity came to take a course, I jumped on it. Hack Library School predicted it as an upcoming trend / requirement in 2012 for those wanting to get into Digital Humanities or continue the tech track so it’s not necessarily a super new thing. While HLS saw this coming, I didn’t see any positions requiring and preferring GIS skills until the last year. I know when I hunted in 2010 and partially in 2014, it was pretty rare where now it’s not. It’s also becoming a standard class in library schools.)

Where were we? The resume!  I updated the digital version and carried on to the site (I’ve also got one with redacted contact information available if you are in desire of downloading such things). As I’ve been talking about the classes I’m taking, new interests, and shifting and emphasizing on previous job duties, it seemed wise to make everything across the web and digital spheres cohesive. MY CV is now five pages long. (TheExHusband commented wasn’t that too long and I quipped making it two pages was nay impossible even if I cut it down to the bare bones. Oh. Youths.)


In addition to all of this, I recently took on a job of building a site for a friend with about 100 hours of projected work, give or take about 25 hours. The client and I thought it would be a simple knock up with a few pages here and there but as I interviewed her more on what she and her partner wanted, the more complex the site became. I’m close to the website owner’s husband, and they as a family have been wonderful to me, so I easily said yes about the job. The payment is going to be in chocolate (you’ve read that correctly) with half due now and half due on delivery.

I know a lot of you are grumbling that I’m possibly screwing myself by doing it for exposure BUT this will allow me to use current skills and learn new ones and while I have experience in knocking websites up it’s not something I do for a job but would like to (hence the Team Treehouse classes). If it were anyone else, I’d require minimal per hour free (by designer standards). I’m pretty comfortable with this arrangement. (To be fair, they have asked me to track hours so hopefully some cash may be coming down the pipeline in the future, even if it is a token amount.)


I know I’ve talked about professional development in the past and when I sat down to organize my education, I knew I was pushing myself too thin to do full stack (front and back end development) and GIS with taking on other areas of interest. I’m currently in the weeding process to not overextend myself but it’s hard when I genuinely have a lot of interests. What needs to happen is figure out a better cohesiveness of my career and those concentrations while using the secondary interests for pleasure. It has to be the right combination of in the now skills with enough cutting edge interests to make you seem forward thinking.


In the realm of forward thinking, the draft post I have on the future of libraries part ii will more than likely be broken out to individual posts for each topic. The first piece in the series with the summary of a few futurisms clocked in at nearly 2000 words and this piece, just an update on my life, is closing in on 1500 words. I’m verbose and if you read my personal blog, you know I do not take umbrage on being succinct.

I obviously have a lot to say.

How To: Become a Library Future(ist) – part i

Dear Internet,

How do you become a library futurist?

Easy. You let others do the research for you.

This is, scout’s promise, not a dig at anyone.

Total pinky swear.

Let me explain.

“What is the future for libraries?” is one of the most popular question I’m asked in interviews. I have a couple of pat answers which are gleaned from the conversations I see on Twitter and mailing lists — but those are getting tired and repetitive.

My secondary answer comes in the form of, “I don’t know. Each library is different, has different needs, and plans for their future. It’s not always maker spaces and nerd nights. The future of libraries, therefore, is flexible. Libraries can be anything they want to be.”

Or something along those lines.

But that answer is also getting tired (and is also a cop out).

What really is the future of libraries?

First, it seems many ideas of what the future holds is related to technology. so let’s start with that first. TechCrunch, Wired, TheVerge, and ReadWrite are the main sites you’ll want to RSS or visit on a near daily basis. You’re going to see overlap between these four (and similiar) sites so don’t be afraid to narrow down to only one or two blogs to keep current.

Why?  I once posited reading tech sites had a better return value of keeping up with the profession over reading professional literature (and much cheaper):

While plowing through mailing list emails one day, a conversation erupted on the “value” of professional journals and magazines, meaning that what is the point of spending several hundreds of dollars for a personal subscription to LibraryJournal when a print subscription to Wired, which some consider more relevant for librarinating, is only $10?

Second, on top of tech sites and blogs, you’re going to want to look at places for special interests you have such as UX, Digital Humanities, or social mediaWhy? Academic articles take roughly 6 – 18 months from submission to publication. By that point, there are already several incarnations of whatever passing on by, which makes the article dated as hell. This is not to say you shouldn’t read those professional publications but you want to make sure you have complementary content in the mix.

In addition to the usual library land publications (too numerous to list and I’m sure you have your favorites), I’m fond of the list of journals found at Researching Librarian.

So you’ve got the sites / blogs / magazines, there is a lot of content — how do you determine what exactly is going to be the future for libraries?

Easy. Look for patterns of subjects across those sites and how they will work within the library ecosystem. Within a couple of weeks, I pulled enough content (which also coincided with chatter across Twitter, Facebook, and mailing lists) to come up with a solid list of nearly a dozen things we’re going to see in the coming future of libraries.

  • Security / Tor / Encryption  Who? The two people who come to mind in library land in this area is Alison Macrina (founder of The Library Freedom Project) and Ian Clark (radical librarian, politico, and curator of  surveillance.infoism.co.uk). What? TLFP’s goal is to “…make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries. By teaching librarians about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance, we hope to create a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the local communities they serve.” This work is especially crucial  to keep libraries on point with ALA’s Code of Ethics, specifically article iii, “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.” Clark is especially passionate about privacy (in all forms), surveillance, and inclusion in a post-Snowden world. Why does this matter? Macrina’s, and Clark’s, goals is to hold library associations accountable for their statements in regards to intellectual freedoms as well as educating libraries and patrons on those rights. As more people continue access information on public networks, the ability to protect that information is huge.
  • Library as co-working spaces Who? Me! What? If you’re unfamiliar with co-working spaces, it’s a shared space for those who may typically work from home or on the road and need a singular location to work. For a small membership fee a month, the co-working space provides food/drink, wifi, unlimited printing, boardrooms, parking, and a whole lot of other perks. (I found that using a co-working space tends to be significantly cheaper than using coffee shops or other areas for work.) Why does this matter? Co-working spaces have become de riguer for 21st century work force. If you were paying attention, many of these things are things already provided at libraries, so what’s the difference? For a nominal fee every month, users can get expanded services (unlimited printing, better wifi, locker location, snacks/drinks) with free services already available such as access to databases and the stacks. Most public libraries I’ve seen already have the infrastructure in place to handle this addition so the investment could be minimal AND it’ll (eventually) pay for itself with the nominal fees being charged AND if you get them in them in the library, you’re going to see an increase in circulation and programming PLUS it’ll be on trend with what communities will be looking for from their libraries.
  • Geospatial / Geolocation Technologies Who? Academic libraries. This seems to be either a popular requirement in positions or its own position. What is it? In the broadest sense, geospatial technology is mapping of the earth’s features using GPS and running analysis against the data. Why does this matter? In many of the positions that have the title of “geospatial librarian,” they tend to work with the earth sciences departments and analyze / provide references to maps and other components, which makes sense. But for (most) other libraries, the use of geospatial technology is to map out the library’s stacks and other accouterments to make it easier for patrons for find materials down to where on the shelf or in the physical space where the item is located. Nearly every interview I’ve had that had this “preferred” requirement, they wanted this project completed within a year. Ha. Ha. Ha. As libraries continue to grow their technology, expect them to require GIS related education (of course they will) as a way, they think, to remain relevant.

Here’s the thing: one of my original pat answers in interviews, “Each library is different, has different needs, and plans for their future.“, remains true. You’re going to find all type of libraries, regardless of size, trying to cram the future to fit them, even if it has nothing to do with their community or purpose, to remain relevant.

Come back later when I have more thoughts on library futurism such as copyright, social media, digital preservation, internet of things, and a whole lot more.