I'm back from my trip to DC where I helped decide how three million dollars worth of government funding was being spent (after reviewing about sixty million dollars worth of proposals). My ulterior motive for putting myself through this eye-melting chore was to possibly figure out a way to make this my permanent job.
The morning of the second day, we were greeted by one of the big wigs in the organization. He spoke eloquently about what they were trying to accomplish, and I thought to myself, he sure would be a good person to get to know.
Fast forward about ten hours, to where we are all having dinner at a local (and delicious) Vietnamese restaurant. I find myself sitting across the table from this big wig, and lo and behold I don't have anything to say to him along the lines of small talk.
I've never been good in these types of situations. After all, I work in a lab and spend the majority of my free time writing. I'm focused on drinking my ice water when he makes eye contact with me and says, "So, you write quite well."
I paused to let my red face fully develop. For a second I thought I might be able to pass this off as a science-related comment, but by his smile it was obvious that he had discovered my fiction.
He asked me to tell him about my awards.
I did, briefly. (Most of the people on my half of the table were now quieting down to listen.)
He asked me how many novels I had published.
I was happy to report that I had published none. This, at least, was a sign that I did spend at least some time working on science!
"But I've read several of your short stories, and they are quite strong," Mr. Big Wig said.
"Thanks. I try to fit them in when I can."
"I bring it up because--as most of my colleagues know, I'm sure--I am an aspiring writer myself."
Scrreeecchhh! Crrkrkkrkkrkk! Huh?
Yep. It turns out he had always wanted to get into fiction. We spent much of the evening talking about our favorite writers and how a novel could be completed in fifteen minute sessions even while one is writing a dissertation. We even got into details about revising to make sure your voice is consistent. And, yes, he had read some posts on The Literary Lab.
I have been spending the last few months trying my best to introduce my pen name and get my writing-related information off of the internet. Well, in this case, it turned out, the fiction writing helped to make a nice connection with my science colleagues.