Hey, look, I’m on LGBT STEM!

I am currently on a botany field trip to the mountains, where I am likely out of cell phone range and not answering comments, but hopefully taking lots of pictures to eventually post. But through the miracle of post scheduling, I’m posting this now! A couple of days ago, LGBT STEM posted an interview with me on their site, so go check it out.

Or just look at this lovely parrot pitcher plant. You’ve probably noticed my fondness for carnivorous plants by now. Or maybe it’s not that noticeable, because doesn’t everyone like carnivorous plants?

An arachnophobe, a hemophobe, and an ophidiophobe walk into a forest…

(Arachnophobia: fear of spiders and scorpions. Hemophobia: fear of blood. Ophidiophobia: fear of snakes.)

In any job dealing with wildlife in the field, you’re eventually going to have to deal with things many people find frightening, disgusting, or just plain creepy. I have caught and been bitten by snakes, walked through countless spiderwebs, and waded around in ponds with a thick layer of scum on the surface.

One of my projects in the summer was to trap, measure, mark, and release snakes. To that end, my co-workers and I set up giant X-shaped silt fence arrangements with a trap in the center and buckets as pitfall traps at each end. The buckets were covered with little plywood tables to provide shade. One day I lifted up one of the plywood tops and found this:

Arachnophobe's Nightmare
Arachnophobe’s Nightmare

That is a pigmy rattlesnake in the bucket. Next to it is a very large wolf spider. On the underside of the plywood is a black widow spider and the dried-out corpse of a scorpion. An arachnophobe’s nightmare.

Continue reading An arachnophobe, a hemophobe, and an ophidiophobe walk into a forest…

In Which I Cheat at the Blog Award Game

So, Vibrant at blabberwockying! has nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger award, and both Kathy at PsycheServices and izabolinha at The Turtle Way have nominated me for a Premio Dardos award.

As we say where I live: “Thanks, y’all!”

The way these awards work is like a game. The English translation of Premio Dardos is “Prize Darts” and I think it’s very descriptive. You throw your “darts” in the form of links at other bloggers; then they throw them at more bloggers, and so on. Blog awards are like a chain letter, minus the promises of true love if you forward it on and a gory death if you don’t. I am resistant to threats of gory death from anonymous letter writers. But a compliment from a fellow blogger is another story.

So: Thank you for thinking of me! I appreciate it, but I am going to cheat a little. The problem is, I don’t know enough bloggers who would be receptive to this and who also haven’t already received both awards to write posts for all of these. So, to those who named me for the prizes, I hope you will accept this big combined award post, which gives me an excuse to mention some friendly Blogging 101 classmates who may not write about things that would ordinarily come up on a nature blog. So this is one big, combined, all-purpose award post. I’ll call it the Bethany-Is-Lazy Award, and it’s a one-time thing that nobody is expected to pass on. It also gives me a chance to try out this pagination thing, because this post is gonna be long.

How I Succeeded and Failed with a B.A. in English

The Bitchy Editor’s post How Your B.A. in English Prepared You for Failure got me thinking about what constitutes failure or success in relation to a degree. I have a B.A. in English. It is my only completed degree so far. I was, by some standards, a success: I actually used it to get a job. It was still a giant mistake.

I was trying to double major in English and wildlife ecology, until I was so burnt-out and broke that I decided to just finish the degree I was closest to and get the hell out. I only needed one more class for English. I was working a string of temp jobs and just beginning what looked like a promising writing career, and I could see myself doing something like writing or editing until I could make a living writing my own stuff. So I took that one class and got out.

I bounced around in temp jobs until I was hired as a copy editor of construction textbooks. I thought, hey, I’m good with words, and I’d like to learn about construction. Perfect!

Not so much. The job killed what little attention span I had, and after staring at a manuscript all day, I found that the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was write. When I did force myself to write, it was not great prose. It was, well, forced.  I’ve never been a heavily stylized writer; I aim for an invisible style. But everything I wrote then was as flat as a plumbing manual for vo-tech students. Continue reading How I Succeeded and Failed with a B.A. in English

Who is this for?

Blogging 101’s Day 4 assignment is to consider my intended audience. The easy thing to do is say, “Whoever wants to read what I want to write,” but let’s get a little more specific.

When I write fiction, my ideal audience is me. I start writing something I’d like to read. (When I edit fiction, the readers I have in mind are my college fiction workshop professors, which is both helpful and terrifying. Those folks pulled no punches.)

But for Overlooked Nature, my ideal audience is not me. At least not the real me. It’s some alternate-universe version, a me who studied archeology or illustration instead of ecology. Perhaps a me who stuck with the fiction writing and actually made a living from it, instead of getting sidetracked right when she was starting to sell stories.

I want to present things I know, the same way I like for others to present things they know to me. Factual, but memorable. Detailed enough to be interesting, without being too detailed for the curious adult or teen to grasp. I want this to be a visual version of the podcasts about psychology and physics and history that I listen to in the car. I have never taken a class in any of those subjects, but the narrators break it down so I never have trouble understanding, without sounding like they’re talking to children.

That’s what I want to do. So, my ideal audience is the curious layperson. Maybe a recent arrival to the South who wants to know what’s in the creek in their backyard. Or someone who wonders why they should care that the sandhills are being developed so quickly — it’s just some pine trees on a lot of sand, right? (Spoiler: No, it’s not.) Or someone from far away who wants to see pictures of exotic-to-them creatures. And, of course, anyone who wants to read what I want to write.