My love-hate relationship with lab notebooks

As some of you may already know, I used to work in scientific laboratories—specifically, those having to do with biochemistry and molecular biology. I no longer do lab work, mainly because of my mild disabilities which rendered me unable to manipulate some of the intricate devices used in the field. However, I never lost my fascination with and respect for science. We can all thank science for the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic emergency was recently declared over.

One thing that anyone who has ever worked in a scientific lab will tell you is that it is very important to keep a neat, detailed laboratory notebook. I learned this in my undergraduate biology and chemistry classes and it has stuck with me ever since. A lab worker who comes in your place after you have left should be able to look at your lab notebook and replicate your work (not necessarily your results, but what you did for the experiment).

I loved lab notebooks because in them, I got to write. And is writing not my favorite thing to do? I got to write stepwise procedures and describe results. Oftentimes, I also got to draw the results. I love to draw. (I preferred organic chemistry class to general chemistry because in organic, I got to draw compounds and molecules.) I can think of at least one class I took as an undergraduate where my lab notebook brought up my final grade.

However, I also hated lab notebooks because in some situations, I had to be so detailed that it drove me crazy. When I took a class which simulated work in the biochemical industry, there was a horrible amount of detail involved in the keeping of a lab notebook. There was the issue of traceability, where I had to document the brand name, lot number, model number, and expiration date (if given) of every single compound, reagent, or instrument I used. If I made any kind of mistake, I had to put a single line through the error and write the correction next to it along with my initials and the date. Finally, at the end of every lab period, another student would have to sign every page of my lab notebook for that day. Whew!

If you work or have ever worked in a scientific laboratory, what are your thoughts on lab notebooks?

Journaling away…

Last week, I stated that editors should be readers.

This week, I am saying that editors should also be writers.

Editors help authors write, so an editor should know the ins and outs about writing. What better way to gain knowledge about writing than to write?

An editor does not have to write the great American novel in order to be a writer—although I have known of some editors who are also novelists. (If you have the creative juices in you, I say go for it, although you may need the assistance of a developmental editor or copyeditor down the road.)

The easiest way to practice writing, however, is to journal. For this endeavor, you only need a pen or pencil and a simple notebook. In a journal, you can write about anything and everything without people reading what you have written (just be sure to tell the people with whom you live that your journal is off limits to them).

Journaling, for me, is extremely cleansing, for it is when I let my emotions rush off my heart and onto the lined page. I tend to journal about my worries and fears. My counselor taught me to do this and I soon found it to be very therapeutic. If I were to let you read my journal, you would probably think that my life is very messed up. It’s not. My worries and fears are on the pages of my journal because that is where they belong, not in my mind or body causing me distress.

I do not give myself a required amount of time to journal, but when I have finished writing, I always go back and read what I have written. Doing this is like a balm to my frayed nerves.

Do you journal? What do you think of the practice?

“Plum crazy” about these books

An editor should be a reader. An editor who does not like to read is like a dentist who hates teeth.

It dawned on me recently that I don’t often write about what I read, and maybe some of you are curious about what books I’ve been reading (or if I read at all). I read, and I like novels. My favorite kind of novel right now is a mystery. In this post, I am going to write about one of my favorite mystery series: Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books.

Stephanie Plum may be my favorite principal character in mysteries. She is a thirtysomething former department store buyer who, having been laid off, becomes a bounty hunter for her cousin’s bail bonds outfit in order to support herself. The books which feature her are all written in the first person from her point of view. She is physically attractive and tough as nails, but has a sensitive side as well, as evidenced by her interactions with Joe Morelli, her off-again-on-again boyfriend, and his dog Bob, who eats everything.

Stephanie spends much of her time chasing criminals who didn’t show up for their court date. Evanovich makes these criminals either hilarious or frightening. The hilarious ones make me laugh inside and the frightening ones give me goosebumps. The character of Lula, Stephanie’s best friend, is riotous; I often picture her as looking and speaking exactly like Queen Latifah. I also picture Stephanie as Sandra Bullock and Connie, her cousin’s secretary, as Rhea Perlman. I always “cast” novels inside my head.

Evanovich has come out with 29 books in the Stephanie Plum series and is gracious enough to give us one more each year. I tend to get excited when the most recent one comes out. When one of my dear friends got me into the series back in 2006, I did not start with book number one; I actually started with book number 11. That’s one of the beautiful things about the series—it is not necessary to read the books in any kind of order. The last one I read was Game On, which is number 28 and which contains a nice mixture of old and new characters.

What is your favorite kind of book to read for pleasure? A novel? A biography? Anything else?

Alexandria or bust!

I believe I said a few months ago that I had registered for EFACON, which will be my first professional conference as an editor, and that this even will be held in Alexandria, Virginia (near Washington, DC). I believe that I also said I was going to stay with my mother each night and take the Metro subway to Alexandria every day of the conference.

The plans have changed.

I am now going to stay at the hotel where the conference will be held. I booked a room back in March.

“But Suzelle, you are semi-local to Alexandria. You are only two hours away. Why are you staying at the hotel?” you ask.

There is more than one reason.

First, I do not want to be limited in my networking. If I meet another editor whose work I really admire and whom I wish to talk with for a good long time, I do not want to have to tell them, “Oh, it’s ten o’clock. I need to leave to catch the Metro.” Who am I—Cinderella?

Second, speaking of the Metro, I do not want to ride it back to my mother’s area at night. That is way too dangerous for a woman traveling by herself. I hear about Metro incidents almost every day on the DC local news.

Third, I do not want to have to duck out of evening events so I can catch the Metro. I will be very resentful if I must.

Fourth—and this is embarrassing—I have never been to Alexandria and I want the total experience of being there. I want to go out to dinner with colleagues and explore the waterfront and other attractions with them in our free time. The reason this reason is embarrassing is that I was born and raised in the DC area and have never visited Alexandria. I have heard there is nothing like being a tourist in your native area, though, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this city. Besides, I have heard that Alexandria is a lot like Annapolis, Maryland—my “happy place,” along with Wildwood, New Jersey.

Have you ever played tourist in your native area? If so, where did you go and what was it like for you?