about me

Welcome! I’m an aspiring writer (not just aspiring to write, which I already do, but to become a “writer”, whatever that means today). Here I’ll share some of the things I learn along way about writing and all the technical nearly-relevant issues surrounding it (for instance, composing while camping at sub-freezing temperatures).

IMG_7845sI just finished my physics postdoc at MIT, the last episode of a long series in academia, and I’m writing (and helping with house renos) in Saint Louis for a brief stint.

Along with physics and writing, I’m near obsessive about climbing, mountains and the wild outdoors.

So, for this summer, I figured why not combine them and write in the wilderness. After scouring for portable energy sources (solar, wood2, wild/water/bike mill) to power a low energy ‘computer-equivalent’ (OLPC, Raspberry Pi, hacked e-ink readers) having inconveniently given up handwriting a long time ago, I’m currently testing the combination of usb charging wood stove and my hacked nook. There can be no typing and charging at the same time, not necessary given the low power consumption of the nook and given that actual charging will coincide with open flame cooking and making tea/hot chocolate/coffee.


backcountry skiing across Garibaldi lake

Between my tent and the various shelters in the BC Coastal mountains, a wealth of dried foods prepared by my most supportive mother3, and a decade of learning and experience camping, backpacking and everything outdoors, I’m ready to take to the hills. Look for me writing in the mountains when the weather warms again in 2013.

1. Where by jobless I mean simply no salaried 9 to 5 job.
2. I have a biolite stove and it’s simple and powerful (at cooking and charging!). Along with their support after hurricane Sandy, they have a HomeStove version with 95% less smoke and power output proving themselves a socially minded company I’m glad I supported.
3. This Christmas, she and I will work to get her own food blog online — coming soon!

6 thoughts on “about me

  1. Hi Lara,

    I’ve got a quick question for you. I’m also a science postdoc (marine biology rather than physics though and done under my real name rather than my pen name), and I wanted to ask how you find the transition between writing for scientific papers and writing fiction (at least I’m presuming here you write fiction)?

    To me they’re very different styles and approaches (one much drier and more passive than the other) and it requires me to be in two very different frames of mind. This means it takes me a while to shift from one to the other so I have to spend blocks of time either doing fiction writing or science writing rather than easily switch back and forth between the two (although now I’m blogging regularly, I’m getting much better at this).

    I’m interested to hear about how others find this.

    All the best,

    Colin

    PS Quantum dynamics of vortices? That’s pretty knarly stuff you’ve been doing there!

    1. My phd superviser used to complain about my science writing for being too imprecise ;). But yeah, switching from any sort of physics work to fiction was always hard. Even now, taking time off from physics to focus on a novel, my best writing is late in the day at the same time I could write after a day of physics + unwinding. While postdocing though, I tried to focus on one or the other — working extra hard for stretches of time, then easing up to let my creative side take over. That didn’t mean no physics — loads of physics is creative — just not the gnarly technical stuff.
      What brought you to marine biology? I grew up on an island on a river, but still relatively landlocked in Quebec. The stars were fabulous there and astronomy led to physics.

      Cheers and thanks for stopping by :).

      1. It sounds like you deal with crossing between subject matters in a similar way to me, although my problem is more that my fiction tends to be too stiff and stand-offish in the early drafts until I get it whipped into shape in the editing.

        I came to marine biology because I spent most of my holidays pottering around rock pools on the west coast of Scotland so it seemed logical to take up a career than mean’t I could get paid to do something similar.

        I think if I’d been allowed to do physics at school (long story there!), I might well have gone a different route. I read about quantum dynamics etc whenever my brain needs stretching and Richard Feynman is one of my all time heros, both as a scientist and as a writer (his autobiographical books are great!).

      2. In a given writing session, I start out stiff and formal too, but about 10 min in the writing is looser. I follow the ‘write the first draft fast’ advice and it works decently well.
        You can be ‘not allowed’ to study physics? Hmm.
        I love the west coast of Scotland! [I studied in Vancouver — maybe West Coasts are just better in general?] I went camping/hiking on vacation twice (well, the first trip around Glencoe but the next trip out to Skye and _loved_ scrambling in the black cuillin!).

  2. I go with the fast first draft option too for fiction – I also do this for academic papers though and have found the discipline of writing academic papers has helped with two areas of fiction writing. Firstly, getting an idea down in a concise form and within a given word limit (the number of times I’ve had to whittle manuscripts down to get them within a journal’s maximum length!) and secondly, dealing with comments from people when they read early drafts, especially if they’re not particularly positive (I’ve always had worse for my science work when I’ve poked some academic ‘grey beard’ with an analysis that shows their life’s work is wrong).

    I like the west coast of Canada too – I spent a month there after my undergrad graduation camping on various small islands off Vancouver Island, listening to killer whales as they passed. I also spent much of my teens and early twenties messing about on the hills around Glencoe. Great fun! Did you have a drink in the Clachaig when you were there? Skyes nice too, although I’ve really only seen it from the sea and haven’t climbed there.

    The physics at school thing was because I wasn’t allowed to take three sciences (and I was more into Biology and Chemistry back then) because it was seen as specialising too soon. Always regretted not being able to do it but might yet still go back and do a masters or something in it if I can get the time.

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