Thursday, October 19, 2017

Birds, books, and other crazy plans


  Birds, therefore I am. Last year I held my chin in my fingers and gazed up at the sky wistfully, thinking “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could get paid...for birds?” 
  Accordingly, I began making crazy moves left and right, starting with volunteering at the TCBO last fall as a first step towards getting hands-on experience with bird research on a field station.
  I also wrote a Korean birding memoir of sorts for most of last year. It'll come out one day, but it turns out it’s a challenge finding an agent when your writing CV reads “I has blog.” So I meekly followed the sage of advice of Stephen King (read On Writing today), among others, who hammer home the necessity of having a few published short stories under your belt before you start shopping yourself to agents.
  The product of my resulting endeavours is a dubious collection of a dozen short stories about birding. These birding stories, however, aren’t your average birder-meets-bird tales. Rather, these are silly, X-Files/Twilight Zone-style episodes about birding – some straight-up ghost and goblin stories. About birding. (Looks sheepishly at the floor...)
  I sold my first such short story last week, which felt pretty damn good after months of solid rejection. The story is titled Subho, Werewolf Birder, and recounts the fantastic tale of a birder who wakes up to find a series of images of staggeringly rare birds on his camera's memory card...which he has no recollection of taking. It will be featured in the Halloween edition of an American literary mag - I’ll put up a link when it becomes available. Dreadfully silly stuff.
  Another iron in the fire was the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Online Bird Biology course I enrolled in last year. I finally completed it last month, after working on it in fits and starts since the spring. It’s a serious course with a serious book, and I found myself having to re-read every paragraph twice when it came to some of the more science-y chapters. That being said, I ‘got something’ out of every chapter, with regular No way! moments along the way. Overall it was highly rewarding, and I’d say go for it, if you’re a birder looking to head to the next level when it comes to understanding those little dinosaurs in the trees.
  Last week, a well-known Scandinavian ornithologist and writer of incredible field guides asked to use one of my pictures in a new photographic handbook to Western Palearctic that’s coming out next year. So that was also pretty cool.
  Lastly, if you happen to find yourself in Victoriaville on October 28th, come on down to the Congrès QuébecOiseaux 2017 (click 'Horaire des conférences' to see the program). I’ll be giving a 25-minute presentation on the ups and downs of being a foreign birder in Korea, with an emphasis on the conservation battles being waged there. Oh, it’ll be in French, with Q&A after, so that oughta be...entertaining!  Who the hell knows what any of this will amount to. If I’m honest with myself, most likely a big steaming pile of nothing. But a man can daydream, innit. And that brings this soliloquy of self-reassurance to a close. Birds!
  Oh yeah, I almost moved back to Korea this month.

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