Sunday, October 30, 2011

Welcome to the Season of Reflection

As the Northeast lies dormant under a Nor'easter storm bringing snow before Hallowe'en, I've started thinking about the quiet season that is beginning, more harshly for some than for others.  It's about to be colder.  The leaves are about to take the wind and pile up in drifts.  The pumpkins are ripe and the butternut squash are full of flavor, but it's hard to find a tomato with that summery taste.  I have started to accumulate books to read over the winter break, and I have some ideas that I want to write about as I extend the bits and pieces of my new novel.  Now that I live in SoCal, it's hard to remember how fierce the wind was in fall in North Carolina, how bitter the cold felt on my neck and how icy the air that I breathed into my lungs on early fall mornings walking to school, how long it took to get ready to go out of the house, with boots, sweater and coat, mittens, scarf, and hat to find and assemble.  I enjoy sipping camomile tea with vanilla and sending my mind back to reflect on those days, so I can use some of that sensory detail in my writing.  And I love having long periods to read and write, instead of snatched, almost stolen bits of time.  So welcome to the time of reflection, or to the anticipation of it.  Fall is here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Message from Postdoc Kate Sleeth

Hi friends of reading and writing,

My memoir was written to fill a vacuum of information about the lives of women who have successfully balanced family life and careers in science, and I've been gratified that quite a few schools and other organizations where young women congregate have invited me to speak about it, making that message more accessible.  So I was very pleased when recently a young postdoctoral fellow, Kate Sleeth, blogged about a talk I had given and about my book on the Stanford Medical School blog site, here:

When I wrote the memoir, I knew I couldn't keep harping on the same message or it would become boring immediately.  I was very pleased that Kate saw in the book and my talk those things I hoped women would get, even though I had backed off from hammering people over the head with them.  I feel that my life has been an interesting balancing act between being a serious scientist and professor on one hand and being a wife and mother on the other hand, so simply trying to recreate what it has been like for me is sure to bring the balance issue to the forefront.

I don't mean to address only young women in science; I hope that trying out the life of a female scientist is different enough from most people's experience that the memoir is worth reading for that alone, in the same way people read about a woman fishing boat captain or a woman secretary of state to find out how it is to live that life.  But my special "now hear this" audience has always been young women who might reject a career in science because so many people now say it cannot be combined with family life.  Yes, it can.  I know quite a few women who have put that combination together, and my memoir is a kind of existence theorem (yes, it's possible, see, I exist!) for one's ability to do it and be glad of the effort it requires.