Tag Archive: Chemistry

Mar 08

Finding the Chemistry in my Writing

WHAT’S PLAYING:  The Wallflowers “I Wish I Felt Nothing”

“To a chemist, nothing on Earth is unclean. A writer must be as objective as a chemist.”

Anton Chekhov

I just started work on a new project this week. It’s still very much in the early stages, but it deals with some very unpleasant subject matter – rape, murder, and suicide. (Did I mention that it’s YA?)

I’m very passionate about this project, but sometimes I wonder if I’m skilled enough to handle it with the sensitivity and unflinching honesty that it deserves. I wonder if I’m going too far, if I should pull back a little and let my protagonist off the hook. Not to mention the effect it’s having on me. Sometimes I have to take a break because I find myself getting too emotional. So why do I do it? Why wallow in filth and horror when I don’t have to?

One simple reason…because the story demands it.

I won’t lie to you, sometimes I want to abandon this project and turn to something lighter, funnier, something uplifting. But I can’t. Not because I don’t enjoy writing humor or escapist fantasy. It’s because I know that if I turn my back on this story – the story I’m burning to tell in the here and now – simply because it makes me uncomfortable, then I might as well quit writing all together.

It’s at those times – times when I’ve poured so much raw emotion on to the page that I feel drained and deflated – that I have to remember that pain is a part of life. Pretending otherwise is not only foolish, but also makes for boring stories. As a nuclear chemist, I handle dangerous and volatile substances every day. So, why shrink from them when it comes to writing?

I love science. It’s steady, predictable. It makes sense. Math and science are the only constant things in this ever-changing world.

I love writing for the opposite reason. Anything is possible in fiction. Dragons and unicorns exist, the past can be altered and happy endings are guaranteed.

Writing and chemistry are the two great loves of my life. Together, they allow me to explore new worlds while keeping me firmly grounded in this one.

What more can a science nerd/fantasy geek ask for?

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/03/finding-the-chemistry-in-my-writing/

Jan 03

Stuff I Learned the Hard Way: Stink Bombs and Step Moms

WHAT’S PLAYING: Elvis Presley vs. JXLA Little Less Conversation

Lesson #4: DO NOT leave a homemade, super stink bomb in the kitchen where your stepmother may come across it and give it an experimental shake.

It was a month before we could use the kitchen again.I was grounded for almost as long. Seriously, who goes around shaking random containers?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/01/stuff-i-learned-the-hard-way-stink-bombs-and-step-moms/

Nov 23

Picking up a Book and Blowing up the Porch

WHAT’S PLAYING: Evanescence “Call Me When You’re Sober

I have two great loves in my life: chemistry and the written word, though the path by which I came to them was a rocky one.

When I was ten, my uncle gave me an old chemistry set, and with my first successful experiment, I was hooked. I spent my days lost in a world of “what-ifs.”

As you might imagine, my passion for chemistry came with a laundry list of issues. Like the time my brother distracted me while I was cooking up a smoke bomb. It took hours to air out the kitchen.

Then there was the incident with a batch of super-charged homemade gunpowder. (I was trying to make my own fireworks and wound up almost losing the porch and my eyebrows at the same time.)

And then there was the time I decided to make a homemade stink bomb. Nothing too difficult. Just cut the heads off some matches and stick them in a bottle along with some ammonia. Give it a swirl and then leave it for 3-4 days. A perfect tool with which to prank my older siblings.

That is, of course unless a certain person who shall remain nameless decided to alter the recipe for maximum stench, and then forgot about it, leaving the bottle in a kitchen cupboard for two weeks during one of the hottest summers on record. And if that nameless (and blameless) child’s stepmother happened upon said bottle, gave it a little shake, and then opened it…. You get the picture. I was grounded for a month and the kitchen was uninhabitable for almost as long.

It was then, that my family embarked on what became known as “Operation: Distract Jacqui”. They knew that reading was the only thing that could compete with chemistry in my mind, and so every time they saw me walking around the house with a glazed look in my eyes that signified my wandering off into “what if” territory, they would immediately suggest I read something. Anything. As long as it didn’t involve chemistry.

It was incredible. Suddenly, I didn’t have to beg for trips to the library any more. If I wanted a book, it was mine. My father would call ahead and reserve a stack of books so I wouldn’t have a chance to browse through the science section of the library. Holidays were particularly stressful.

“But you don’t understand,” he would say, his voice rising in desperation. “If we don’t get my daughter some books for the weekend, she’s going to try to blow up the porch! Again!”

I’m lucky. I get to do what I love and get paid for it. I still wander around in a world of “what ifs,” only this time I’m wondering what would happen if I put an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation. What will they do? How will they react? Will they emerge a stronger, better person? Or will they abase themselves or lose their humanity? What if?

What about you? What led you here? What dreams have you decided to pursue? Writing? Music? Art? How have your childhood fantasies come true?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2011/11/picking-up-a-book-and-blowing-up-the-porch/