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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Who Has Your Backup?

We’ve all heard nightmares about lost manuscripts.

In the days of paper and typewriters, writers worried about fire. We bought fireproof safes or rented safe deposit boxes for our precious manuscripts, lest they burn up before they got published.

Today writers face even more concerns than fire. We can also lose our files through a technological breakdown. I’ve met authors who wore flash drives around their necks, carrying their words with them wherever they traveled. Flash drives make odd jewelry, but they do offer a sense of comfort.

Years ago I bought an external hard drive. After relying on it for a while, I discovered it had a mind of its own and chose which folders to copy and which to ignore. For certainty, I backed up my important documents manually, provided I remembered to do so.

I felt comfortable with my external hard drive backup system. Yes, in a fire my computer, processor, external hard drive, and all my backup information would melt beyond repair, but such a disaster would never happen to me, right? Wrong. Instead of fire, water shook my world. In September 2009 much of Woodstock, Georgia, experienced a flood, and water seeped in through my walls. Even though the flood did not, thank heavens, affect my computers, it messed up my floor, walls, books, photos, and anything else stored within a few inches of the floor.

Since then I’ve been collecting information from others about how they back up their files, and it came as a surprise that most writers “plan to do something” about backup but rarely take action. After eight months of information collecting, I experienced a revelation: with my procrastination, I had joined the ranks of folks who had no safe backup system.

Finally I joined a service that automatically backs up my documents and holds them on the Internet for me. If my entire home fills with water or goes up in flames, all my documents and digital photographs are safe. I will scan my most important printed photographs and back them up, too, to ensure they survive the next flood, even though we were told it was a 500-year event. At last I have peace of mind.

Will our current technology last? No one can say, but it’s all we have to work with, so I took the plunge. (Whoops! No intentional reference to my prior flood.)

What have you done to protect your precious files? Don’t merely think about it. Don’t procrastinate any longer. The creek’s rising. Do something!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Writers Conference Makes Waves

I just returned from tropical St. Simons Island, Georgia, where I spoke at the Scribbler’s Writers’ Retreat. I could not ask for a more inspirational setting. Behind the speaker’s lectern a wall of windows revealed the ocean breaking on the rocks a few feet away. Dolphins rolled in the waves, swimmers walked past on their way to the beach, and sailboats and ocean liners floated by. Inside we heard talks from the trenches, writers who wrote through serious hardships, who bucked the odds, and who spoke from years of writing experience.

The Scribbler’s Writers’ Retreat awards quite a few scholarships to young college students, plus it attracts people of all ages. How reassuring it felt to scan the room and see a wide variety of ages, origins, and interests, yet everyone shared one important trait: we all loved words.

In my talk, “Yes, You Can Make a Living with Words,” I told of my high school English teacher, Martha DuBose, who selected me among only twelve students to take a creative writing course in our senior year. Being picked for that class gave me validation as well as information. Because of her I believed in my ability to communicate with words and so set out to make a career of writing and editing. The day after I told that story, one of the other speakers struck me as having an uncanny resemblance to that same teacher, although Mrs. DuBose would be considerably older, if she is even still alive. How eerie a coincidence, I thought, that I should mention someone one day and see her doppelganger the next. Think about it, though. If such a juxtaposition appeared in a novel, it would constitute too much of a coincidence to be believable, right? I’d have to tone down my life, my coincidences, my ups and downs, to turn them into a believable novel.

I liked the setup of this latest conference, because all speakers spoke to all participants, with no breakout sessions and no need to choose between speakers or topics. It meant I also could sit in on all the other speakers and glean information to pass along to readers.

The keynote speaker, John DeDakis of CNN and author of Fast Track and other novels, revealed that I had earlier inspired him when he attended the Harriette Austin Writers Conference in Athens, Georgia, and heard me speak years ago. What an honor!

As a bonus, writer and artist Charlotte Harrell sketched each speaker. If you want to see the sketch she made of me, visit my Facebook page (become my friend at Bobbie Rothberg Christmas), where I have posted the image.

I believe in attending conferences, no matter what skill level you possess. You never know what you might see, learn, or experience, and the networking is priceless.