November: The Busiest Month — A Recap & Reflection

Hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of the month. Over the last few years, the Eleventh Month has become the Busiest Month, much of it related to writing-related activities. This year was both more packed, but more manageable, than most. Herewith a recap, in no particular order.

  1. Library election. With all due gratitude and appreciation to the 17 people who wrote me in for the Nov. 3 election for the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Board of Library Commissioners, another candidate managed to get more than 450 votes. Wow. I am considering running on the formal ballot in 2017, because I still believe GRPL is far too parochial and antiquated in its thinking, particularly about local writing talent. The Kent District Library far outpaces GRPL on that front. Doesn’t need to be that way.
  2. Caffeinated Press update. Speaking of GRPL, we presented at the KDL fall writer’s conference in October, to a group of probably 200. We (John, Brittany, AmyJo and I) had 40 minutes to talk about the gotchas of moving a manuscript from your desktop to a publisher’s desktop. Likewise, I’ve been working like a mad demon on book projects. In the last six weeks, I’ve wrapped up production on A Crowd of Sorrows, A Broken Race and The One Friend Philosophy of Life. I also completed our corporate catalog and helped John with final proofing on The 3288 Review (vol. 1, issue 2). We even managed to hold a well-attended kickoff for National Novel Writing Month, here in the office, and to nominate six worthy pieces for the prestigious Pushcart Prize. Next on the list: Edits on Letters lost then found, final production on Grayson Rising and proofing and production on Brewed Awakenings 2.
  3. The Children of St. William’s. My own NaNoWriMo novel, The Children of St. William’s, recounts the tale of Sarah Price, a young progressive woman who, although she had known she was adopted, discovers that she has several siblings. The novel addresses her shifting motivations for tracking each of them down — and how connecting all these people together both hurts and helps them all, while her parish priest struggles to understand how and why the adoptions happened in the first place. Currently at just a hair above 40k. On track for a NaNo “win.” I like the story and will continue to work on it; the current storyboard targets around 85k words. More to come.
  4. Treks to the Windy City. This coming week, I drive to Chicago for NAHQ’s State Leaders’ Summit. Then in January I have back-to-back NAHQ-related Chicago trips, both by air — the first for the quarterly board of directors meeting, and the second for the inaugural meeting of the Recognition of the Profession Commission (which I chair). Interesting professional-growth opportunity. Looking forward to the National Quality Summit in Dallas in the second week of May.
  5. MAHQ Conference 2015. Our October conference went off well — more than 60 attendees and fairly good results. I spoke about the health policy climate in the state government, as well as serving as overall conference chairman. Our venue, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, served lovely food, but wow … horrific service standards. I expected better from the Amway. Did receive, however, solid support from ExperienceGR.
  6. Requiem by Brahms. AmyJo and I went to see German Requiem by Brahms earlier this month. The performance, guest conducted by Rune Bergmann, was a delight; the symphony was wonderful, as usual, and the chorus was well-balanced relative to the symphony. Before the performance, we stopped at Reserve for wine and cheese. In all, a great way to de-stress after a rough month (for each of us, individually). I have so few folks who enjoy fine-arts performances, so slipping out with AJ was awesome. (And I’ll have to book another opera trip with April soon.)
  7. Fully staffed! I now have a completely staffed department at Priority Health. A few weeks ago, two of my new hires — Jen and Maria — joined the team. A few weeks before that, it was Gabriel. And now we have Patrick. Focus will be on predictive modeling, quality improvement analytics intended to transform the care model, and ongoing support for our employer-group reporting team. Exciting time to be a leader in health data analytics.
  8. RIP Abbey. My classmate at West Catholic, Abbey Czarniecki, passed away recently. She was a lovely lady; may her soul find eternal rest.
  9. Hell = Frozen Over. I ended up buying an iPad Mini 4. The device makes work at Priority Health so much easier, since Spectrum Health’s IT department apparently only understands iOS. That said, although the device is conveniently portable, I still prefer my Surface 3. The way I see it, the iPad is great for quick, single-focus tasks, like answering an email or browsing something on the Web. But iOS falls far short compared to Windows 10 regarding multitasking and true productivity work. On my Surface 3 (not even the Pro model), I can do pretty much the same stuff I can do on my CafPress laptop. For context, the CafPress box is an HP laptop with a medium-high-end AMD processor and 8 GB of RAM. On the Surface 3, I can use Scrivener and the full MS Office suite. On the iPad … I can use simple versions that look and feel like Web apps. I’d give iOS the edge in core OS stability, app availability and ease of executing single tasks; Windows 10 wins in terms of sheer power and versatility and harmony of design. (Yes. Design harmony. You have no idea how hard it is to find basic settings in different iOS apps; some are in the app, some are in the Settings app. Geez. And writing with a stylus? Astonishingly infantile on iOS, smooth as butter on Win10.)
  10. VLO 250. Hard to believe that a weekly 30-minute podcast dedicated to casino gaming, premium cigars and fine adult beverages would last five years and 250 episodes, yet yesterday Tony came into town and we recorded through episodes 247 through 249 for The Vice Lounge Online. Wow. In December we’ll hit the quarter-millennium mark. We’re planning a “VLO Anniversary Party” for April 1-3 in Louisville, KY. Basically, distillery tours, the Urban Bourbon Trail and fine dining. And a cigar-related event. Probably no gambling, though, unless we do something minor at the Horseshoe Southern Indiana. More details to come. And I believe VLO is doing something fun as a scheduled activity in this summer’s 360 Vegas Vacation III in Las Vegas.

All for now. Have a lovely December, y’all.

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