December Updates

While my blogging has been a little more spread out this year than in the past, I love looking back this time of year and reflecting (internally if not always in writing) on where I’ve been as well as where I hope to be and what I hope to do in the coming year. I had the amazing opportunity to serve as Relief Society secretary in my LDS single’s ward through April. (I’m currently serving as a visiting teaching supervisor, and I love it!) I became an aunt/first cousin once removed. I lived in a tent in Kenya for six weeks, networked with some wonderful people there, and rekindled my love for the natural history of the earth. I started working at an environmental consulting company, and I have learned and grown so much from all of these things and more.

I’ve submitted another round of grad school applications. Three of the four schools I’ve applied to are outside the US (one school is in the UK, and two are in Canada). My hope is that obtaining a master’s degree in a paleoanthropology field will allow me to be more competitive when applying to PhD programs again down the road. Advice I received this summer was that schools outside the US are more likely to offer terminal masters programs than US schools (most of the US schools I’ve looked at do not offer terminal masters). I also have duo citizenship with Canada, which I’m hoping might be a cool and worthwhile thing to tap into at this point where graduate education might be concerned.

For writing news specifically, my story “Thought Power” will appear in Jason King’s Valcoria Awakenings anthology on the 19th of this month. I have not seen the book cover yet, but it should be coming soon! The other authors contributing to this anthology and I have all been waiting quite a while for this to come out, and we’re very excited to have you read these fun adventures set in the world of Jason’s fantasy series.

There is also a giveaway on Goodreads for a free copy of the anthology. Check it out! http://bit.ly/2B3p6bg

I don’t know exactly what the new year has in store for me, but I’m so grateful for all of the supportive people I have in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am as a writer and pending scientist without the wonderful people I’ve come in contact with, and come to know and learn from over the years. Thanks so much for reading and for following my writing journey online.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and have a wonderful new year!

October Updates

Happy Halloween!

It has been a long and busy couple of months. I’m in the process of filling out graduate school applications once more. Three of the schools I’m applying to are outside the US–two schools in Canada and one school in the UK (and a fourth program I’m applying to is State-side). I learned from some of the researchers at Koobi Fora this summer that graduate programs outside the US are more likely to have terminal master’s programs in the field of paleoanthropology than US schools are, and I’m hoping that getting a master’s degree will make it easier for me to get into a PhD program in the future. The four schools I’m applying to (in total) all have programs and faculty that would be great to work with, and I’m excited to be making this attempt once more.

I started working for an environmental consulting company in September, which I’ve been really excited about. I wanted to get more comfortable doing field work in preparation for graduate studies, particularly where I might be leading undergraduates out on excursions in the future. It would be nice to have the confidence that I can search for things without getting lost in the wilderness… So far I’ve only worked on one field project because I pulled a muscle that put me out of hiking shape for about a month. It’s been a bummer, but at least I’ve had plenty of time to communicate with grad school professors and work on my applications.

Writing has been a bit slow still, but I am still working on my Woodcutters novella and hope to complete that this year. I am also still working on my orc novel.

I also got a pretty sweet rejection from Tor.com for a story I submitted to them about a year and a half ago (I submitted this story in January of 2016 and just heard back last week) that included some feedback. Most magazine rejections do not include feedback, and it was a treat to learn what I had done well and what was lacking in my submission. Not everything described in this letter will make sense without reading the story, but I wanted to share what I learned.

Dear Mx. Seeley,

Thanks so much for submitting to Tor.com, and for your long patience while we evaluated your story. Unfortunately, “Phantasmal Rot” is not quite right for us. We received an unprecedented volume of great submissions, and we’ve been tasked with choosing only a few. Most of what we let go concerns taste or style rather than quality.

This is a unique premise and I hope you’ve written more in this world. There seem to be all kinds of promises made in the story: the description of a single page and its importance to the spell; the moment the supervisor takes off her gloves; and the revelation that the author’s name has gone missing. It didn’t seem like the narrative chased any of its own potential, however, and instead ended with a somewhat mundane fix. I was expecting more from the masterful foreshadowing, so the ending felt abrupt. Another editorial team might respond differently to your story, so I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere. 

Tor.com Submissions Staff

Though this story wasn’t quite right for this Tor.com editor in its present form, it was very encouraging to learn that the premise I created for this particular story might have some more potential that I can expand on and work with than I had previously considered.

To all my readers–you are awesome. It’s not always easy to understand the twists and turns in our life’s courses sometimes or to recognize worthwhile opportunities among the curve balls, but I hope you also have moments of discovering new potential in an old, abrupt, or abandoned story in your life that didn’t go quite as planned.

Stay awesome, and keep writing!

Summer Updates

I have had many wonderful opportunities come my way over the summer, and I have been meaning to update on those events. Among them, I have found a new job as an archaeological field technician/cultural resources technician for a consulting firm with an office in Salt Lake City. I embark on my first project with them next week, and I’m really excited. I’m also looking forward to applying to graduate schools again for next fall–likely including schools outside the U.S. in my search this round.

I still intend to write a post specifically about my adventures in Koobi Fora, Kenya this summer (and a gear recommendation post as well), especially since many of my friends and followers contributed to a GoFundMe fundraiser to help me meet my deposit for the trip. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am exceedingly grateful for your support. I want to tell you about what I did and how things went!

In the mean time, I also want to update you on my next author-related event, coming up in less than two weeks. I will be attending Salt Lake Comic Con, appearing on a panel called War and Peace in Science Fiction and Fantasy with John Morehead (as our moderator), Michael Bacera, Sarah Hanisko, Eric Swedin, and Timothy Zahn on Saturday, September 23rd in room 151A at the Salt Palace Convention Center. I love attending #SLCC and am honored to have been included in the event once more.

To anyone attending Salt Lake Comic Con, I’d love to have you come to our panel presentation–it should be blast! You can also check out the event schedule here: http://saltlakecomiccon.com/schedule/.

May Updates: Preparing for Kenya

For all those who contributed to my GoFundMe campaign at the beginning of the year, you’re all angels, and I thank you once more for your generosity and encouragement in helping me meet my initial deposit for my course. This update highlights the status of my trip preparations.

For the past three and a half weeks I have been taking an online prep course as part of the study abroad experience, and will be finishing that up at the end of this week. Interacting with my long-distance classmates and getting my feet wet for the field has been a delightful experience so far, and I’m look forward to embarking on this adventure. I officially leave June 8th (in a little over a week!) and return home July 24th. I’ll be spending six weeks in Kenya, studying the environments that surrounded the biological origins of man through George Washington University’s study abroad program. While abroad, I will have the opportunity to see fossil and artifact collections at the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi before leaving for more remote locations connected to the Koobi Fora Field School. This will be part refresher course and part completely new experience for me as I learn more about how different sub-disciplines within the field of paleoanthropology blend together to contribute to the big picture of the natural mechanisms that shaped our species and made us human.

I will be going to a wildlife conservancy ranch to observe living ecosystems and animal behavior as a model for past ecosystems and behavior, then learning more about ecology, taphonomy, faunal analysis in bone assemblages, the emergence of the earliest stone tool cultures, using stratigraphy and sedimentology (geology) in a paleontological context, and discussing human evolution in the fossil record as a whole to reconstruct past environments and understand evolutionary pressures that shaped human anatomy and cognition. I will also be participating in an independent research project under the mentorship of one of several participating professors. (This will be mentored research project number three for me, alongside my undergraduate projects exploring insect scavenging patterns on sauropod bones from a Dinosaur National Monument site, and learning how to reconstruct the family trees of fossil dragonflies using their wing anatomy).

Most of my preparations for the course (plane ticket, medical check-ups and vaccinations, gathering supplies) are just about complete. I have a few more things to do before I’m completely ready, but I’m pretty much literally all packed. (Okay, I’m still trying to figure out how to fit everything into my bags and what’s going to stay behind…but I’m getting really close!) I’m mostly camping for a month and a half, so I’ve splurged on an ultra-light cot and a little portable solar panel pack to charge my camera batteries and such to go with my ultra-inexpensive Walmart tent. Plus I’m bringing loads of sunscreen, hats, trail shoes, flashlights with rechargeable batteries that double as power storage, pens and notebooks, many of my usual toiletries… And I’ve got a mini set of scriptures all packed too.

This isn’t my first time flying outside of the US, and it isn’t my first time flying alone–but it will be my first time leaving the country AND flying solo. (I’ll be meeting up with my classmates, who are coming from around the world, when I reach Kenya). This will also be my first time going on a big academic trip as the only LDS person in the group (at least, I assume I will be the only LDS person in the group). Weirdly enough, my biggest concern has been over not being able to attend church for six weeks (I’ll be in remote locations most of the time and may not be able to have access to a meeting place–which, really, will be fine for a short period of time), or having someone think I’m weird because I don’t drink tea or coffee. My mother’s greatest fear, on the other hand, is that I’m going to get eaten by a lion or a crocodile. Or that I’m going to contract some crazy illness from mosquitoes.

I’m most excited to meet my classmates and to explore…The Circle of Life… *Had to make a Lion King reference.*

I may post one more time before I leave. But if not, I will post again when I return at the end of July and share the details of my adventures then (I will have little access to the internet, or to conventional electricity for that matter, for most of my trip). I will also take lots of pictures and post them online somewhere (so far I have requests for giraffes and elephants–if I see some, I’ll take pics). I cannot fully express how thrilled I am to be going on this trip, both for academic reasons and for enrichment. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity. Many of my friends and family have been rooting for me, and I have felt your love, encouragement, assurance, and confidence, both communicated and unspoken. While it has admittedly been a little nerve-racking figuring out the financing for this trip, so many things have come together to make it happen. This field experience is going to be hard work, with many new and challenging aspects for me–and I’m excited to learn. Whether I get into graduate school or not as I continue to apply in the future, I’ll have some wonderful adventures to share from this trip and inspiration for new tales.

Sarah E. Seeley is a fantasy and horror author, and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association. She has a bachelor’s degree in geology and loves exploring the science of human origins.

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