Saturday, May 28, 2011

Winchester Award

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I had another award coming soon. Last night it was announced. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there. The Journey Takers received the Winchester Award from the Mormon History Association for the best thoroughly researched family or community history relating to the Mormon experience and published in 2010. The award was announced at their annual awards banquet held in conjunction with their conference, this year in St. George, UT.

You can see the Deseret News listing of the awards here. My award is listed on the second page. They gave out awards in several categories including some for graduate papers, thesis and dissertation awards, as well as a couple of other book awards.

I was very excited about the award – and sad I couldn’t attend the banquet. I actually considered going for a while – looking into plane ticket prices etc. I’ve never been to the Mormon History Association conference, but I’m sure I would love it. Maybe someday….

One of the reasons I couldn’t go was because my oldest (turning 11 on Monday) had her birthday party last night. It had a cat theme. Here are a couple of pictures.

Facepaint and headband ears turned all the kids into cats

My friend made this cute cat cake.

One of the funnest parts of the party was having the kids eat and drink like cats. They really got into it!

So, I could have been receiving this wonderful honor in St. George, but instead I was hot gluing fluffy pompoms to help the girls make their cat craft.

By the way, I plan to actually have a blog post with information for doing genealogy research soon! I have a post in mind about hints for finding your ancestors’ hometowns, so stay tuned…I’m feeling my burnout fading. I’m not sure if this is due to the award or the fact that we are taking a little trip to Cape Ann for Memorial Day. Can’t wait to sit on the sand (no way am I getting in that frigid water) on the beach – as long as it doesn’t rain!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Advice for Burn Out?

I should start my post by saying this is not an entry giving advice on avoiding getting burned out. It is a post seeking advice!

This last week I believe I have come down with a serious case of burn out. I hadn’t expected to come down with this ailment this spring. In my mind, I associate burn out with getting tired of doing something – or having to do something you don’t want to do anymore. That’s simply not how my burn out is functioning – and probably why I was surprised to get it. I am not having to do something I don’t want to do. And, I’m not really even tried of doing what I have been doing. I’m just tired in general.

I actually LOVE what I do. Although, like everyone else, my life is pulled in many directions, I tend to think of myself as having two major categories of demands. One is family. The other is work. This is not unique to me obviously. I thoroughly enjoy both aspects of my life. I love my four children (and my husband) and while I find it frazzling sometimes, I enjoy being a mom. And I love genealogy and writing and all that goes with it. Overall, I feel happy and content in my life. So why am I so burned out lately?

I think it has to do with intensity. It has been a very intense spring. In fact, as I thought about it I decided that this past year has been the most intense year of my life possibly second only to my second year of graduate school when I had a toddler and was miserably sick from being pregnant with our second child. It has not been a bad intensity (unlike that year in graduate school). It has been a good year filled with wonderful things – FILLED being the key word here.

Both categories of my life – family and work – have been extra busy for the past couple of months. My kids have intense schedules in the spring because this is when sports get going full swing. We also have all kinds of end-of-the-year events now – dance recitals, piano recitals, band concerts, programs at school etc. Add to that that three of my children have birthdays and I find that just keeping up with my family is a scramble. Then, spring is also perhaps the most intense time of year in the genealogy world. I have been doing a lot of speaking and book events lately too.

The result of all of this is that lately I have a burning desire to plan trips all the time. This is generally what happens to me when life gets stressful. I have been able to justify it because we actually do have some trips coming up this summer that I need to get the plans made for. We are driving to Texas for my sister’s wedding at the end of June and then taking our time coming back, spending time in Memphis, Smoky Mountain National Park, and Shenandoah National Park. In the past week, I’ve gotten all the details worked out about hotels etc. I have also reserved our hotels for Brazil in August and planned our basic itinerary and started looking into plans for a short trip to Acadia National Park we’ll make in August also. While this all has to be done sooner or later (and in the case of Texas, sooner), I am also aware in the back of my head that I am doing this now because I can’t bring myself to do some of the other things I need to do. Soon, I am going to run out of trips to plan and besides, my to-do list is growing.

I would love to hear thoughts from others. Does this happen to you? How do you avoid it? How do you cope with it once it happens?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Writing Award, a Review, and more to come....

Something went wrong with blogger for a few days, so my last post on "A Speaker's Perspective" appeared, then disappeared, then appeared two times in a row (all without me doing anything), but now appears to be right again.

I have a couple of exciting book news tidbits to share. First, this past weekend the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors had their annual awards banquet which takes place every year at the National Genealogical Society Conference. I was not in attendance this year (this week has already been the busiest one of the year for me....), but I just learned that my book excerpt, which was published in Family Chronicle last December, received first place for articles published in 2010. Hooray!

The excerpt is on my book's website. You can read it here. Just click on "excerpt" from the top. I read part of this excerpt in my book talk too!

I also just got an email from Miriam Robbins Midkiff letting my know that she has reviewed The Journey Takers on her blog, Ancestories. Yuu can read her review here. She concludes her review with this paragraph:

"Family historians will benefit greatly from this title for a variety of reasons. The depth and scope of research required to create a quality history of Huber's ancestors' lives is marked. The careful documentation and source citations are to be applauded. Creating a realistic and sequential narration out of the bare bones of facts is to be commended. To be able to research, analyze and synthesize the details of family historians' ancestors in such an interesting and valid manner is something to which we all should attain. Huber's book is a strong example of a fascinating story married to a quality researched work and as such would be a excellent addition to any genealogist's personal library."

If you're not familiar with Miriam's blog, you should check it out. It has been consistently rated in several places as one of the top genealogy blogs out there.

Finally, I got another exciting email last week about an upcoming book award. However, the banquet for this award hasn't taken place yet, so I'm not allowed to share for a couple weeks...(Is that obnoxious?)

I can't resist just two photos. My third child, Sarah Ann, turned six yesterday. We had her birthday party with 14 kids (counting three of mine - Christian was NOT invited)! Here's her with one of her two butterfly cakes and then one of the whole group (minus one child who preferred not to be in the photo). By the way, I gave three book talks last week and I just want to say that frosting those birthday cakes was WAY more stressful than any of the book talks!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Speaker's Perspective

I am a crazy person this week. Well, maybe this whole month. For parents of school-aged children, May might be a busier month than December. We have soccer (with two players in the family – one doing travel soccer which requires driving an hour each way for some games) and softball season (one player – also traveling for games) both in full swing. On top of that there is the regular two dance classes and two piano lessons a week. There are end of the year dance recitals, piano recitals, and band concerts all coming up. AND, my three oldest children all have birthdays in the next month – which means three birthday parties. My husband, a college professor, is grading finals and calling in students who cheated (because of an error in the answer key, he determined that 25% of his class cheated on their homework) and attending graduation, and I am deeply involved in the busiest part of the year for genealogy speakers.

Which brings me to my topic at hand. (No, it’s not the woes of being a mother of four and living in the car – French fries are okay for toddlers to eat for dinner, right?) The topic is being a genealogy speaker. My topic was inspired by Thomas MacEntee who challenged bloggers to write about this – a couple of weeks ago. (I’m a little behind the times. What else is new?)

I gave my first genealogy lecture in the fall of 2006. Now I’m confessing personal information here. Maybe I shouldn’t….Oh well….here goes anyway. I had never attended a genealogy meeting of any sort until August of 2006 when I went to FGS in Boston for one day. I particularly remember listening to Craig Scott speak about…speaking. I was enthralled and instantly thought, “I can do this.” How’s that for arrogant? I had experience in genealogy. I had studied genealogy in college at Brigham Young University and had worked full time as a professional genealogist tracing other people’s families. I had also been writing for genealogy magazines since 2003. Until I started writing for magazines, I had remained unaware that there even were genealogy societies, meetings, or conferences. I had just moved from Valencia, Spain to Massachusetts a few weeks before FGS that year – and decided to see what it was all about.

I brought some speakers’ brochures home from FGS with me and went about designing my own brochure. Then, having never been to a genealogy society meeting in my life, I mailed them out to local genealogy societies I found in my area. I attended my first local society meeting in September of 2006, and gave my first lecture in November. I loved it and was instantly hooked.

My speaking has increased dramatically since my book launched last July. Since July, I have given nearly 80 lectures in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, Utah, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, California, Maryland, and Virginia. I have spoken to large groups and small groups, to genealogy societies, state historical societies, libraries, senior centers, museums, book clubs, and other places.

Here are some of my thoughts on it:

1) The pay. Let’s be honest. The pay is not great. I once had a society offer me $75 for a one hour talk with this question: “Does $75 sound fair for one hour of your time?” Sure, but that’s not the exchange here. I’m giving WAY more than one hour of time. (And, except in very special circumstances I don’t speak for $75 a lecture either.) I use time to correspond with the society, to prepare the lecture, and to travel (more below). I’ve never known a genealogy speaker who feels like he or she can make a living from speaking.

2) The travel. I love to travel. By that I mean, I have tickets to Rio de Janiero in August and I can’t wait. I’m super excited for our family trip in June to Rocky Mountain National Park, Memphis, etc. Loving to travel doesn’t generally include three hour drives to little New England towns. I have done a lot of traveling in the last year – a lot for me and my family anyway. Tonight I will drive two hours each way to speak in WInchester, MA and on Saturday, I’ll drive almost three hours each way to speak to the Falmouth Genealogical Society. In March, I spoke in Virginia and Ohio and in February, I spent 11 days in Utah. That said though, I actually don’t mind the travel so much. I enjoy listening to a good book on CD or listening to NPR in the car (as a mom of little kids, “alone time” is pretty exciting!). And I also try really hard to combine speaking engagements with other travel. For example, I was invited to speak in Ottawa in October and we have decided to make a family trip out of it and stay five days in Montreal and Quebec City. And in June when we do our big trip, I’ll have three lectures along the way.

3) The prep. It’s A LOT of work to put together a new lecture. I always try to turn lectures into magazine articles to maximize the benefit. I have a dozen or so prepared lectures. I am usually not willing to put together a new lecture at the request of a society, although I am willing to tweak or adjust a lecture I already have. Every so often, I develop a new lecture. This past year, I’ve given my book talk MANY times. I know it so well that I don’t even glance at my notes ahead of time. I just hop in the car and head to the next venue.

4) The nerves. Actually, I generally don’t get nervous. When I first started speaking, I got nervous for the question and answer period. I was afraid I wouldn’t know the answer to something someone asked me. I have gotten over that. Not because I always know the answers. I don’t. But I’m okay with that now. Setting up my equipment can make me jittery if something isn’t working well. This is why I ALWAYS bring my own projector and laptop – even when the group is providing it. I leave it in the car…just in case. There have been several times when I have needed to get it. Sometimes nobody in the society knows how to work the library’s equipment or something similar. I KNOW that I know how to work my own equipment. I also bring an extension cord with me.

5) The benefits. Of course, practically the main reason I have spoken so much lately is to get the word out about my book. Besides, as I mentioned before, I love to speak. Why? I really enjoy the dynamic of interacting with a group of people – and of sharing information that I’m excited about. I love to feel like something I’ve said is useful to others. I have especially enjoyed talking about my book. It is extremely rewarding to have people tell me that they have read my book and that they related to it, or that it emotionally impacted them, or that it inspired them to want to write their family story.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

One Simple Truth of Writing (or should I say editing?)

I suppose I should start this post with a disclaimer. I am a big believer in editing. I spent lots – and I mean LOTS – of time editing my book, and I spend lots of time editing each and every magazine article I submit. However, I do not believe in editing my blog posts. Why not? The main reason is simple: I don’t have time. I really don’t have time to blog. But if I’m going to blog, I really don’t have time to edit. Is that terrible? Maybe so. I think of blogging as a much more casual, conversational kind of writing. When I give a lecture, I prepare my remarks carefully, but of course when I’m just talking to someone about genealogy, I just talk – I don’t prepare ahead of time. I think of my blog as a conversation with others about genealogy while an article is a prepared lecture.

Okay, enough of philosophy. Really that is just all an excuse because I want to “talk” about editing here, yet I don’t want anyone to hold my blog entries up as examples of how to edit. They would be very bad examples because they are NOT edited.

The editor I worked with on my book (and by the way, her name is Kristine Thornley and she’s great if you are looking for an editor) has George Orwell’s Six Rules of Writing on her webpage. Actually, I think of them as editing rules. To me, writing is just the stage where the information spews forth. To shape the writing together into something meaningful and enjoyable to read – that takes editing. Anyway, I have taken the rules to heart. They are:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Aren’t those great? I love them because they remind me of a simple truth about writing. When I first started writing, I wanted to somehow sound smart – or at least fancy – when I wrote. I wanted to use impressive words arranged into poetically abstract sentences. The simple truth I was missing was this: Really good writing is clear, succinct writing.

This sounds simpler than it is. We usually don’t speak succinctly, and, without concentration, most of us don’t write succinctly either. So, to have this clear, concise writing, we have to edit. And edit. And edit. We have to read through our writing and look for these extraneous words, these unnecessary long or complex words. We have to read and reread to focus our language and thoughts more effectively.

In my lecture on “Writing a Page-Turning (But True) Family History,” I describe how after I “finished” my book, I had to do many revisions. In one of these revisions, I cut 50,000 words or about one-third of the manuscript. This always makes people gasp. They are concerned about this deleted material. Afterwards, people ask me what I did with those words. They want to make sure I saved them somewhere. (Some of the words came from deleting entire sections and chapters, but many also came individually out of the middle of sentences.) Well, don’t’ worry. I did save them. I save everything (of substance – not individual words obviously) I delete from a manuscript and paste it into its own little file – in case I ever decide I want it back. But guess what? I never have. Not once have I re-pasted the deleted material into my document. With my book, I had found a way to say the same thing with many fewer words by tightening and weeding out unnecessary material.

With that little pep talk for myself, it’s off to some more editing for me.