Monday, December 31, 2012

Pitch Wars: An Unexpected Journey (that's only just begun!): Part 2: Even More Colons In The Title Than Before!

So when we last left off, I had just discovered that two awesome ladies wanted to mentor my manuscript in Pitch Wars. And I had come to the awful realization that I could only work with one of them.

Okay guys and gals, I'm going to be upfront here and say that you won't find many details in this post about WHY I made the decision I made. I respect both Sharon and Cupid waaaaay too much to publicly post why I chose one over the other.

The 24 hours immediately following the Twitter-splosion were, how shall I say, intense. Here is a breakdown of what happened:

The emails/ DMs/etc. came in between 2 and 3 in the afternoon, while I was at work. I went and stared at a cheetah for a while and took care of some parrots, all while in a daze, then drove to a birthday dinner with friends from work around six. I shared the craziness there and tried to resist checking my phone every five seconds. I think I only checked it every ten.

When I came home around 8:30/9, I discovered that my rabbit had not eaten her dinner and was lying with her belly pressed to the floor of her house-- a sign of intestinal distress in bunnies. Instead of the intelligent, thorough research I told myself I would do before making my decision, I spent the rest of the evening snuggling her and trying to decide if it was a bad enough episode that she needed to go to the emergency vet or if she would recover with some home-administered first aide. I was also a bit concerned because I had to be up at 5:30 AM to go back into work. I stayed up with her-- dozing off for a few minutes here and there-- until about 4 AM when she started showing signs of improvement and finally ate her dinner.

Since none of you know my rabbit, I will say now that snuggling her is pretty much a three-handed endeavor. Even when she doesn't feel well, she's . . . wily.

When my husband finally came out to ask why I hadn't come to bed, I went back to bed with him and managed to get a little over an hour of sleep, telling myself I'd do that research on my break, or my lunch, and email my decision then.

Yeah. No.

Things popped up all morning long, keeping me from doing little more than reading emails they'd each sent me and remembering what I could of blog posts I'd read. All that did was make the decision more difficult. I called my husband and my best friend and chatted briefly with a close writing friend between cutting up vegetables and weighing all sorts of pellets and meat for animal diets. Brenda was patiently waiting for me to tell her my decision so she could finish her blog post. Not to mention Sharon and Cupid!

To employ a narrative cut, I chose Cupid.

Was it a hard decision? Well; given that it took me about a month to find a new laptop-- yes. I'm a HUGE what-iffer, which has served me well as a writer, but not so well in real life. I'm great at finding reasons to doubt myself once I think I know what I want.

Do I regret my decision? Hell naw. I only regret that I couldn't pick them both. But that would have been a bit selfish of me, huh? (Also against the contest rules, and all that. Whatevs).

So yeah. Not glamorous. Not even all that exciting-- though it was action packed.

Now comes the truly hard part, anyway! Time for Cupid and me to get to work!

Watch out, #PitchWars!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pitch Wars: An Unexpected Journey (that's only just begun!)

Last Monday, something incredible happened.

Well, really, the story starts a bit earlier, on the last day to submit to Pitch Wars. Pitch Wars, if you haven't heard, is an online contest that's been all the talk on Twitter lately, run by Brenda Drake and a team of very. awesome. mentors.

The game? Each mentor picks one mentee and a couple alternates from the pool of people who applied to them with their query letter and first pages. The teams would be announced on Wednesday, December 12th. If two mentors wanted the same person, that person would be notified on Monday, December 10th, and decide which mentor they wanted to work with. Each mentor/ mentee combo would have a little over a month to perfect and critique the mentee's manuscript, pitch, and first page, and near the end of January each entry would be presented to a panel of agents.

Okay. Now to the meat of the story. I almost didn't enter because I couldn't decide which manuscript to put forward. After putting up Twitter pitches, a couple of mentors expressed interest in different manuscripts, which didn't help narrow it down but did help me feel like I might have the tiniest hope.

One of the mentors, Sharon, had asked what might be holding people back from entering and I told her that I felt it was too late and mentors had already made their choices. But her encouragement convinced me to enter anyway. I wrote three emails, one to Sharon Johnston, one to Andrea Hannah, and one crazy off-the-walls one to Cupid of Cupid's Literary Connection. I sent them off and held my breath.

Actually, I tied all my hopes up in a basket and sent it down the river. I've been down this path before-- and been covered in armadillo hide by the battle scars. Plus, it was absolutely crazy to submit to Cupid. I may as well have forgotten that entry right away-- I'd seen Cupid's other contests and the people she worked with were GOOD. Really though, my chances were slim with any of them. I'd also seen the entries in recent contests, and the other work out there right now is... well, let's just say I had tough, tough competition.

Last Monday, the 10th, I still had it in my mind that I'd be waiting two more days to receive my rejection letters. I'd talked to Sharon some on Twitter and she had asked for more pages, but that didn't mean anything. I'd been there before, too.

I woke up and made a gingerbread house before rushing off to work. During a quick break in my afternoon, I stopped and checked my phone.

There was a DM on Twitter from Brenda Drake. Two mentors (Sharon and Cupid) had selected me. Could I please make my decision and let her know?

Cupid had followed me. So, actually, had a bunch of other people. And the mentions and messages were still pouring in.

And then I read my emails. And cried, right there, behind the scenes, with other employees shooting me confused looks (but not concerned because of the huge smile on my face). The things Cupid and Sharon had to say about my manuscript!

Not one, but two people I liked and admired, liked my work. Liked it enough to want to work with me.

My high lasted a few hours until the end of my shift and the start of a birthday dinner with friends. On the drive to dinner, I realized the downside:

I was going to have to say no to one of them.

More on the decision later!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A few words and a lifetime of silence to remember

This won't be long. 

Yesterday, something horrible happened. A person shot and killed 20 small children at an elementary school and at least five adults as well. (I keep hearing different numbers, so pardon any inaccuracy). 

Every time something like this happens, I get sucked into the media frenzy surrounding it, much like most other people I know. But this time I'm just angry. I can't watch, can't look. I don't want to know. I just want to be mad. 

Plus, I refuse to give the shooter the notoriety he was certainly hoping to get, at least in my mind. 

Instead, I want the media to please, please, please change tactics. Quietly, respectfully, tell us about the victims, after a time has passed. Let their families mourn in peace for a while and then bring us THEIR stories. Have THEIR names and faces be the ones we remember. Not the shooter's. Not ever the shooter, ever again. 

The (thankfully fatality-free, thanks to a hero by the name of Rich Agundez) shooting at my high school in 2001 occurred TWO WEEKS after another, multiple-fatality shooting in the same district. Why do you think that happened?? Why do you think this shooting in CT occurred only a few days after the mall shooting in OR? 

Do what else we, as a society, need to do. But take away the fame and the haunting "glory" that accompanies this.  

Please. I beg you. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What I Do (In) The Zoo

So perhaps you've found this blog randomly, or have been following me for a while. Or maybe you follow me on Twitter and have heard me talk about the awesome stuff I get to do at work over there.Well, I talk about it to some degree.

I figure I may as well put this right up front here. I know it might be a little frustrating how little I share, but the thing is: my job is IMPORTANT to me. I won't do anything to jeopardize it, and that includes linking my semi-anonymous internet writer life to my very, very real life.

Believe me, there is so much I wish I could share.

In the meantime, as always, if you have any questions about my job or a particular animal or animal behavior/ biology/ care/ training in general, I'm your gal. I'm always up to answer questions.

What this post is actually supposed to be about is sharing a little more. The first question people always ask me after I tell them I work at a zoo is: what do I do there?

That's a tricky question to answer. For a while, I tried to say "a little bit of everything" because that is the shortest, most accurate answer I can give. But it was always met with this blank stare, and I realized that most people really have no idea what that means.

So now, with 90% of my job being devoted to animal care, I simply tell them, "animal care". Sometimes, I throw "give tours" in there, too, because that's also true, but I mostly focus on animal care. With that said, I figure I may as well give a more detailed answer here, because if you get a case of the blank staresies you can click away at any time. But if you're interested? Read on.

Here, in no particular order, is a list of (almost) everything I do at my zoo, on a regular basis:

Clean. Well, okay, I said no particular order, but this consumes most of my day in one form or another. Cleaning falls into the following categories:
     -Cleaning up poo and old food
     -Cleaning animal enclosures (changing substrates, moving "furniture" around for enrichment, wiping down dust and dirt, removing cobwebs-- all daily chores)
    -Cleaning workspaces-- scrubbing sinks, sweeping front and back areas, dusting, mopping, cleaning enclosure windows
    -Cleaning animal crates (used for transport)
    -Cleaning food and water dishes, and animal ponds

Water and feed. Explains itself. This varies in difficulty, depending on the species. Some animals are toss-and-go, others have to be hand-fed and counted, like the frogs I work with.

Prep food. This is like making dinner for 80, with everyone wanting something different from the menu. In two hours. It's great fun, if you enjoy following recipes. Unfortunately, I can't memorize them because they change practically weekly.

Talking about animals. I do this, a lot. Most of the questions I get asked fall into the same few categories, though. I really love it when someone comes up with a new and interesting question. Those are the conversations I remember! Most people want to know a.) what is that, b.) is it a boy or a girl, c.) how old it is, d.) if they can touch/ hold it, e.) what it eats, f.) what its name is, and, for our nocturnal animals, g.) what does it look like. These are all totally valid questions and I'm not saying you shouldn't ask them-- just that I will love you forever if you ask something else!

Giving directions. Yeah, it's not all glamour. (Because raking up crap is really glamorous!). Sometimes people just need to know where the closest restroom is and where they can get something to eat.

Snuggling and socializing. The animals, not the people. I'll be totally honest-- I don't get to do as much of this as I'd like to. But the snippets I get are my absolute favorite part of my job.

Training. I also don't to do as much of this as I'd like to. But it is there, and I'm lucky to get as much as I do.

Paperwork. Believe it or not, there is a LOT of paperwork involved in zookeeping. Each animal has its own records, and there are reports that have to be filed with the bosses daily, as well as separate health reports to our on-staff vets and curators. We spend a lot of time weighing back leftover food -- how much is left of what-- so we can report to our nutritionists what our animals do and do not eat and adjust their diets accordingly. We also weigh the animals regularly and track this, as well as how much they're drinking, eating, going to the bathroom, and where they like to hang out. We monitor temperatures of their enclosures and humidity for some species, and order raw foods and supplies. About an hour of our day is devoted to paperwork; and we do more than that while working.

Enrichment. Enrichment is, basically, stuff to keep an animal's mind active. It can be anything from foraging for their food to training sessions to "toys" to socializing with their keepers. We spend a lot of time thinking of new ways to provide our animals with enrichment and ensure that things are always interesting for them.

Give tours. Exactly what it sounds like. 

While this is not comprehensive, it's a pretty good overview of a day in my life. Pretty much every day I have at work falls into at least two or three of the above categories. Most days, I hit them all. As for which animals I've worked with, well-- if a family of animals lives on land or in the ocean or flies in the air, I've probably worked with it.

Phew. If you've read this far, you're a champ. Any questions? Well, that's what the comment section is for!

Interested in pursuing a career as a zookeeper? See my ultimate guide here.