Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Banned Book Review: Speak

Title: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Contemporary YA
Length: 198

Quality Rating: 8
Content Rating: PG-13

The Quality Rating:
Speak is a beautiful book. It takes the reader into the mind of Melinda, a girl who has been raped before the events of the book starts. She is a girl trying to start her ninth grade year, an outcast and in pain. She hasn't told anyone about what has happened to her -- can't talk to anyone about what happened to her -- and it's destroying her on the inside. Her fellow students hate her and don't want to understand her. Melinda doesn't want to talk and says next to nothing aloud throughout the entire book.

This entire story is about Melinda dealing with her pain, dealing with the monster who literally roams the halls of her school--the monster so many others worship as the hottest boy in school, and learning to find her voice, to admit what has happened to herself and to others.

Everything about this book is beautiful, from the prose to the story line. And I can't believe anyone would want to take it off the shelves.

The Content Rating:
This book is very mild in everything, except when it comes to one rape scene and one attempted rape scene. However, I disagree with claims that the rape scenes are graphic and pornographic--as some one dared say in an attempt to ban this book. The rape scene itself gives few details of what is physically going on, but keeps you in Melinda's head with the pain and confusion she is feeling. When it comes to sex scenes, I'm a lightweight. I can't handle much. But this isn't a sex scene. It's a scene of violence and it isn't graphically descriptive.

The attempted rape scene is pretty much a fight scene, but with the emotions of a girl empowered to fight back, of a girl who doesn't want the pain to happen again, who doesn't want that pain to happen to anyone.

I think this book is appropriate for anyone in late middle school or high school. In fact I think this book is necessary for any middle school or high school library to have, because....

How Could This Book Be Banned?
It's ironic, really. Melinda finds a poster of Maya Angelou that her school library tossed aside because I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was banned from her school, undoubtedly because of the rape scene. Do you guys see the irony? If Melinda had been allowed to have access to Ms. Angelou's book, she would have been able to read about a woman who had a similar experience to her own and survived. She would have better been able to handle her own emotions and known that she should speak out, that staying silent is slowly killing her.

This is why Speak must be on the shelves of schools. Books are written about people going through bad and awful things so that the kids who actually are going through those bad and awful things can feel they are not alone. So the victim doesn't feel like the villain. Without books like Speak, girls who are raped will just stay silent, like Melinda, afraid to come forward. But with this book, a girl can realize she should speak out, that she should tell someone, and that it isn't her fault.

Taking a book like Speak off the shelves is an atrocity. And this is why we must continue fighting the banning of books.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Banned Book Review: Twenty Boy Summer

Title: Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
Genre: Contemporary YA
Length: 290

Quality Rating: 7
Content Rating: R

The Quality Rating:
The real reason for a "7" in quality rating is that honestly contemporary books really aren't my thing, even setting aside the whole YA aspect. Somehow I have a hard time relating to a teenage girl, which is weird since I was one three years ago, but then again I didn't relate to teenage girl protagonists even when I was one. But that's my own personal baggage. Book wise, this book was an engaging read that isn't really about what the title indicates. Hearing this book is banned and looking at the title, one's mind might jump to the gutter and think it's about sleeping with twenty boys in one summer. Let me assure you that this is incorrect. The title comes from the idea that the two girls in the story will talk to (or flirt with) twenty boys in the summer, at least one for each day they are on vacation, in the hopes that one might be a summer romance.

Truly though, this book isn't about romance. It's about grief and mourning. The premise of the story is that there were three best friends, two of which were brother and sister. The brother and other friend (the next door neighbor) have a kindling romance, but the brother doesn't want to tell his sister yet for fear of hurting her. Then before either can tell her, the brother dies. So the sister has to get through her grief of her brother dying, and the other friend has to get through losing a boy she loved--a boy no one knows she loved.

This story did at times make my eyes a little moist. No full fledged tears, but it was very moving. You have two girls who are both dealing with grief and their different ways, and one who feels like she can't even share her grief with anyone else. It's a story about moving on, without forgetting the person who has died. I found the story to be excellent and a good read, even if its not my usual cup of tea. I found I liked it, despite the fact it took place on a beach in California and not in a fantasy land.

The Content Rating (aka probably why someone tried to ban this book):
This book has underage drinking and premarital sex. Worse in many eyes, it has teenage premarital sex. (Can we really say one sin is worse than another? I'm not sure. Granted I would rather not my theoretical teenage kids be having sex, but does it really matter if there sixteen or twenty if they're not married? Either way it's wrong).

I didn't find the sex to be too descriptive or graphic, thank goodness, for sex scenes certainly aren't my cup of tea. I don't prefer them or really like them in my books. But I didn't feel like Ockler was glorifying teenage sex at all. Granted, there didn't seem to be a clear message of "premarital teenage sex is bad", but I felt like the character didn't have sex because she particularly wanted to. Rather she did it, because she felt like it was something she had to do--part of growing up, if you will. The sex seemed empty and hollow, and I think that's on purpose.

Would I prefer my (theoretical) ten year old to read this book? No. But this book does bring up discussion for parents and teenagers (probably of the female variety, since I doubt too many males will be reading this book). It allows teenagers to ask themselves the question like "is sex just a coming of age thing that you have to do?" I think that's a valid discussion point in today's society. At least, from what books and television seem to be telling me. None of my friends had sex in high school. Heck, the one guy whose girlfriend offered herself to him for sex broke up with her. True story. A male broke up with a female because he didn't want to have sex with her in high school. According to the media, that would never happen. But this was like six years ago, and it did happen, so take that media.

Banning Books, an Aside
It is important for every parent to try to know what their kid is reading. It's an impossible task if your kid is a voracious reader like me, but banning books isn't really the answer. What do I think the answer is? Hmmm....maybe you should check out my past post on Rating Books.

The moral of the story is that no non-parental unit has any right to tell a kid what they shouldn't read. That's a decision between parents and the teens. It's not the school's decisions or the districts. So even though Twenty Boy Summer wasn't my cup of tea (though it was a very good book), I still read it to support books and the freedom to read them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Banned Books Week

So this is an unscheduled Friday post, but it's necessary because I totally forgot this coming week is Banned Books Week! What's that you ask? Well this Saturday (Sept. 25) to Sunday (Oct. 3), people across the nation are celebrating our American right to read whatever we want by reading books that people have tried to ban in libraries, schools, or any other place.

Now when I told one of my friends I was going to Borders (my bookstore of choice) to buy a banned book, he was confused and asked me how I was going to find a book that wouldn't offend my sensibilities. I didn't really answer his question because he sort of confused me. I guess it's because when he thinks of what I read he thinks SF/F and he thinks those aren't controversial genres? I'm unsure what he was thinking. It's really hard to offend my sensibilities in a book. I've been reading adult books since I was many ways I'm way past sensibilities.

Regardless, I did come up with an answer. I explained to him that a lot of totally random books that offend few people are banned. Like The Catcher in the Rye. What's there to be offended about except there is a whiny annoying self obsessed teen who somehow represents the 60s (or is it the 70s? I forgot)? Or To Kill a Mockingbird. Seriously, what's to hate about a loving southern family who fights for civil rights and justice?

Or for that matter, Harry Potter in the Sorcerer's Stone, one of the most popular books to ban at the turn of the millennium.

I was (am) something of a Harry Potter nut, and I vividly remember the day my parents had "the talk" with me. Not the birds and the bees talk. The Harry Potter talk. It was just before the fourth book was going to come out, and it was the summer between seventh and eighth grade. Apparently, they had been listening to their friends talk about how Harry Potter was the devil, and they were concerned because I had already read the first three books. They told me they thought I shouldn't read the next book and I burst into tears right there, on the spot, sitting on their bed, in their room, where we were having this talk.

They were somewhat disconcerted by this.

Luckily, when I got over my tears, I put up a pretty logical argument. I had been reading The Wheel of Time longer than I had been reading Harry Potter. I had been reading fantasy books from the adult side of the store since fifth grade. What made Wheel of Time ok and Harry Potter wrong?

My parents were (are) both Wheel of Time readers as well, and quickly got the point. If we're going to say one fantasy story is wrong, we have to say they're all wrong. They then asked me to explain Harry Potter to them, to describe the events, and if I thought anything was strange or satanic. I explained the story lines of boy trying to save the world, and they let me read the fourth Harry Potter book.

I'm still not sure my parents get the allure of Harry Potter for my generation, but thank the Lord they let me read them. I can't imagine how different life would be, how outside of conversations and crazes I would have been, if I had not read Harry Potter. Harry Potter was something my siblings and I got to bond over, and trust me, my siblings and I pretty much bond over nothing. Harry Potter is like our only common ground.

So banned books aren't all sexually explicit or anti-God. And even if they are, I don't think any book should be banned, even if it does go against your personal sensibilities. You don't have to read it, but it's someone else's right to be able to read what they want.

However, when it comes to banned books this year, instead of reading oldies but goodies like Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird, I'm going out on a limb and reading books that have recently been attacked. And shocker of all shockers, they are both YA books.

I know, didn't I say how much I dislike YA yesterday?

True, true, but I also said YA is getting better. Everyday better and better YA books are being published that is helping YA turn around. However, while I'm certain both of the books I bought are going to be fantastic, I think both are well within the teenage girl drama that usually fills YA. My main point, which I'm not sure I got across yesterday, is that I want YA to open to more genres. It's still a chic lit if it's about a girl falling in love in space. Please, just give me a regular SF that happens to star teens (like I don't know....Ender's Game.)

Anyway, that's way off subject for this post.

So this week during banned books week I will be reading two books:
  • Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
For me this is a step out of my comfort zone - the YA section that is - but I encourage you to do the same. Look up some local book controversies. Peruse the list of Frequently Challenged Books. Read a book that people have tried to take off your shelves and think for yourself.

Everyone has the right to monitor what their kids read. No one has the right to dictate what I or my (theoretical) kids should read. I make my own decisions, and you should to.

Read a banned book. And enjoy Banned Books Week.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Boy Books, Girls Books, and Me

So there has been a lot of discussion among authors and agents recently about YA and boy books versus girl books. So for those of you who are out of the loop YA (young adult) fiction is pretty much dominated by girl books. So these are your books like Twilight and The Hunger Games. MG on the other hand is dominated by boy books (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc). And the boys who do read skip straight from MG to adult books. There is a push among authors to want to fix this--to make more boy oriented YA books, but publishers are against it. Because boys don't read YA, so you can't sell YA boy books, and it's really an argument that's very circular and sort of self fulfilling popular.

This is a discussion I find most interesting because though I am female, I always identified with the boy side of things as a reader.

When I was in elementary school I read MG. Then I hit fifth grade and began to read adult books. I never read YA until late high school and then it was only because I made a rule to read every book my little sister read. She loves YA. Even now, I will only read YA if it's highly highly highly recommended or my little sister's reading it.

I don't like YA as a book group.

I love MG. It's all about discovering yourself, making friends, and saving the world. I love adult books where we dive deep into societal issues and the problems people have (and we save the world). But YA? Why would I like it? They're all the same. Girl meets boy. Despite girl's inherent awkwardness and boy's insane hotness, they eventually fall in love. The end.

I hate romances. I really do. Because this isn't the way life is. YA books, what they promise our daughters, are wrong. Most of my female friends didn't date in high school. Not because they're psycho school focused career driven girls (as someone once said they must be). But because boys didn't ask them out. Some of my friends still haven't been on a single date even though they are almost 24 years old. (Of course, on the other hand, others are married). Life is not like romance novels, which is why I don't like them.

And that's most of the YA section. It's not a YA novel if it doesn't have a insanely strong romance element that is probably the main plot of the book.

As a teenager, I thought there was something wrong with me because boys didn't ask me out. Because TV and the teen focused books told me that was the way life was, that was the way life should be. After all, despite the herione's numerous faults eventually she gets the hot guy.

I know YA has a come a long way in recent years. I have greatly enjoyed many of the recent YA books I've read, but YA is still drowning in these stories that are essentially harlequin romances toned down slightly (only slightly--if at all) for teenagers.

It's not just boy readers YA is losing. YA is losing readers like me. Female readers who are sick of the way girls are presented, as if romance is the only thing we care about. As if we're so shallow.

I don't think we'll ever be able to stop kids from jumping straight from MG to adult, not until writers start realizing that teenagers like the themes and adventures of MG and adult books. Please, write me a teenage book where the herione saves the world....oh wait, that's The Hunger Games.

And you wonder why it was popular.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Eye Contact

Every once in a while, I realize the amazing amounts of meaning that can be conveyed in a glance. I have a friend who stares down cars when she steps out onto a cross walk. She steps off the curb and glares at the car until it come to a complete stop and allows her to cross the street safely. Somehow the power of her glance stops a moving vehicle.

So in the building where I work, there is another way glances play a part in my every day life. Usually something like this happen:

I'm busy at my desk but then decide to take a break to go to the bathroom. I get up and step into the hall and notice a smattering of other students. Mostly male. And then I notice another female grad student. I know her, and I smile at her, but she refuses to make eye contact. In fact, her step speeds up.

This can only mean one thing. She's headed to the bathroom.

Suddenly we're locked in a walking race, where neither girl will look at the other. We know the prize: the bathroom. That's right my friends, there is only one, and it can only serve one person at a time. This is what happens when you go to a school that's mostly male. Heck, you're lucky if there is a bathroom on your floor.

Looks, or lack of looks are important. We all know this. And yet so many writers, like me, overuse looks and glances in our stories, and our readers are like "Do your characters have to 'gaze' or 'glance' so much?"

How can we overuse something that's so prevalent in real life?

It's something I struggle with, I'll admit. I think the reason why glances are so hard to come across in fiction is because it's hard to describe them. In real life, a look can convey a hundred words, meanings, and feelings. An author actually has to describe those hundred words, meanings, and feelings. It's more difficult than a quick glance is visually.

So somehow I need to let go of my use of "glances", "looks", and "gazes". I need to do better at describing the emotions that should come across in the scene, and not rely on visuals that can't come across well.

Anyone out there struggle with glances too?

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Day in the Life of Me

During the school year I blog less than I do in the summers. Yesterday, I could not find the time to blog at all, even though I swore I would maintain a Tuesday/Thursday blogging schedule. Why is this? Why is my life so awful during the school year?

Well let's look at my schedule in the summer, while working:

6:00 am Wake up
6:45 am Drive to Work (listen to a podcast, usually a sermon or book on tape)
7:15 am Arrive at Work. Start, well, working. Usually I have three projects or so that I use to keep myself busy while I work
4:45 pm Leave Work. This is a nine hour day with 30 minute lunch break. I work nine hours, because I still have a student mentality even in the summer and really can't fathom going home after only eight hours of work
5:15 pm Get home. Eat something. Work on my WIPs. Blog
8:00 pm Read a book for pleasure
9:00 pm Go to bed.

Yes, it's an exciting life, but it's really not that busy. I do work. I write. I read. I sleep. Wooo.

Ok, so to give you an example of my life during the school year, here is this past Wednesday's schedule:

7:00 am Wake up
8:00 am Leave for school.
8:20 am Arrive at my desk. Check my email.
8:30 am - 10:00 am Do research
10 am - 12:30 pm class (Rocket Propulsion and Planetary Sciences)
12:30 pm Lunch
12:40 pm Homework
3:00 pm Senior Design Lab (I'm the TA)
6:00 pm Run to my car, drive home, take my dog out, feed him, eat something
7:00 pm Back to School. Grade papers
10:30 pm Leave school.
11:00 pm Pass out

Notice in this schedule there is no time for writing or reading. I read for pleasure while eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So that's about 45 minutes total of the course of the day. I write a little in lectures, but we're talking 500 words a day.

And the sad part is, I don't even get a break on the weekends. Tomorrow I will be coming to my desk at noon and work on orbital mechanics until I feel a need to break for food around seven pm.

I know we're all busy. Some of you go to work all day and have kids, which means you like never have a moment to yourself. And it's easy for me too look at my schedule and think "I can't write!" And I can feel sorry for myself or whatever.

But I don't. I chose to go to grad school. I chose this life. And I do occasionally find times to write. And I still get holidays. I'm already planning my fall break trip (going to Boston to see my sister--woo!).

So I know all you guys understand my busyness, and forgive me for not blogging yesterday. I know we're all busy. So how do you guys find time to write if you're writers? Do you write during lecture like me? Or do you wait until the kids are in bed and you have twenty minutes to yourself?

Thursday, September 16, 2010


So it's late and I haven't written a post yet. I know, I know. I'm a slacker. So today's post is being postponed until tomorrow.

Sorry! But I promise, I will post tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


You may not remember, but several weeks ago (or maybe months) I posted about my four writing projects. You can check that post out here. If you did read it, you may recall that I could not figure out where to start my WIP #3, an epic fantasy project. I had tons of backstory and characterization written out but I had no idea where to start this thing. Because I knew the story should start when the king dies, but I felt like there was too much important backstory that needed to be introduced first.

Another problem I was messing with in the back of my mind was that the story seemed to have no definable bad guy, and I wanted to give it one, to make the story more intense if you will.

So I was recently reading a story where there were two brothers vying for a throne and brother number 1 refused to kill brother number 2 when brother number 1 won the battle. Since my story does involve (inadvertantly and on one of them's part unknowingly) vying for a throne, my immediate thought was what if Brother A kills Brother B.

Now this is a trope. It's Cain and Abel, one brother killing another. One brother killing the other for a throne. But it hit me like a jolt of inspiration. Because in my original story Brother A and Brother B were the type of people who would never kill the other.

In short, they were too nice.

So even though I'm not sold on ending my story with one of them killing the other, I am sold on completely changing Brother A's character. He starts out the herioc hero I originally wanted him to be, but over the course of the story he changes into the sort of character who would kill his own brother for a throne.

This has almost completely changed my story. I know have to structure events so that they cause Brother A's character and ideals to morph.

I went back and redefined each character's growth throughout the book, thinking about how I wanted them all to get from some point 1 to point b, but most importantly leads Brother A to go from hero to villain.

And suddenly I knew where to start my story.

It is going to start with the death of the king, but now I don't need to explain a whole bunch of backstory beforehand. Because now it's important to know who each character is when the king dies and to see who they become in the aftermath.

I'm excited about getting to work on writing the first couple of chapters, to define these characters.

Now if my homework would only give me time to write!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dragon*Con Revisited

Everyone does cons in their own way. For me, I like to go in with a plan. I created an excel sheet that planned out my days including primary events and secondary events, in case primary events were canceled or changed. As I said, not everyone does this. Some of them just show up to Dragon*Con and do whatever they want. Some of them just roam around the dealer's rooms. Any method, it's always fun.

In addition to my over-excelled weekend, I also had four goals:

1) Shake LeVar Burton's hand and get his autograph.
2) Get Michael Shanks' autograph for my younger sister.
3) Get Brandon Sanderson to sign both my ARC and hardback versions of The Way of the Kings.
4) Buy a T-shirt.

That last one seems a little less extravagant compared to the first three, but every year I add at least one nerdy t-shirt to my collection.

This year I met all my goals. It was fantastic, even if there were a few panels that were canceled that I really wanted to go to. Ah well. That's what the secondary panel list was for.

I also bought an official Wheel of Time Great Serpent Ring. That's right I'm a nerd, but I'm convinced it's the best frivolous purchase I've made in a long time. It's made of sterling silver so it's shiny, always a plus. It's a ring, so I can wear it every day, not just once every two weeks like a T-shirt. And the biggest appeal of all, it's an Aes Sedai Great Serpent Ring. So every time I look at it, I think of Wheel of Time, and I get a little happy on the inside.

Seriously, it's amazing how happy looking at this ring can make me when I'm banging my head, trying to figure out how to code the N-body orbital mechanics in Matlab. But in the middle of my look, I'll look down at the ring and think "Ah, Wheel of Time, good times." And my brain comes back from the edge of stress and I can get back to my homework.

So enjoy the little things in life, like Great Serpent rings, that make you happy.

And now I need to go buy some frames for the signed LeVar Burton and signed Michael Shanks pictures.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Post Dragon*Con Recovery

If you've never been to a SF/F convention before, you really can't comprehend what you're missing. Imagine the most crowded environment you've ever been in. Then add at least 20,000 more people. Then imagine that half of those people are in costumes. This image only scrapes the surface of Dragon*Con.

Dragon*Con is an environment that can make fifty-year-old men act like sixteen-year-old girls. Seriously. My dad almost passed out when Richard Hatch (from BSG) walked by him.

So Dragon*Con is four days of awesomeness. I attended classes for writers, Star Trek Panels, Stargate Panels, author talks, and all sorts of awesome things. So the question is, after a weekend of pure amazing-ness, how do you recover? How do you go back to just mundane and quotidian?

Well first off, you have to understand that there are two stages of Post-Con feeling. The first stage is exhaustion.

Sure you had a great weekend. You shook LeVar Burton's hand. You heard Brandon Sanderson read from the next (unpublished) Wheel of Time book. You saw costumes that made you think someone stepped out of the Lord of the Rings. But it's been four days--and the con runs for the full twenty-four hours of each day. You've basically only slept four hours total. You are tired and a small little part of you is actually relieved the con is over. You can sleep. And your bed is soooo inviting.

So the first stage of your recovery is passing out in your bed as soon as the last panel closes (or you fly back to your home, depending on the closeness of your home).

The second stage is regret. You've waken up, you feel mostly refreshed (it takes close to a week to recover from such exhaustion), and you reflect on the awesomeness of Dragon*Con. Then you remember that the next Dragon*Con is a full year away. You now have 365 days until you can experience anything that amazing again. Sorrow and sadness wash over you, as you realize that you have to go back to work or school. You can't just spend the rest of your life talking about science fiction and snapping pictures of fantastic costumes.

So how do you recover from this? How do you move past through this regret?

One answer: start planning for the next con.

Who needs to live life from day to day? Live life from con to con. Start planning next years costume.

Though maybe you should do orbital mechanics homework is a little incomplete.

Ok, ok. The best way to get past a con is throwing yourself into your work and your actual life. But that doesn't mean we can't dream about the next con.

Only 364 days!!! Wooo!!!

A Schedule Reminder and a Few Notes

Recently, there's been a lot more traffic on this blog, so I just want to remind all of our newcomers of the schedule during the school year. While Georgia Tech is in session, I only post on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I can't maintain an every day blogging style while being a grad student.

Also, for those of you new to the blog, I wanted to make a brief post about the focus of this blog. Generally my posts are about life as an Aerospace Engineer, a grad student at Georgia Tech, and an aspiring Science Fiction and Fantasy writer. I tend to talk a lot about scientific/engineering concepts, hopefully breaking them down so others can understand. I've also recently started a series called Engineering Spotlights, which is basically an interview of other fellow engineers. However, all of my engineering and writing talk is with an extreme Christian bias, since I am a born-again Bible beating Christian. Ok. I don't actually beat my Bible. I have way too much respect for books in general and way too much awe for the Word of God to start beating it. Not even really sure how that phrase came about.

This is not today's blog post, just a note. During the school year my blog posts tend to get posted in the evening, so expect the real post for today to be posted between six and ten tonight. The post will feature my amazing adventures at Dragon*Con this weekend. (Did I mention I am a nerd? A really really really big nerd.)

For more information on who I am check out this post, this post, this post, and my own personal engineering spotlight.

So in summary: I post every Tuesday and Thursday.

And please check back later for a post on Post-Dragon*Con Recovery.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I feel famous

My dear blog readers, today something completely unbelievable has happened.

A guest post I wrote is being featured on Stuff Christians Like.

*passes out*

I promise I'm not quite as funny as the blog post. The blog writer, Jon Acuff, did change a few things. He's a little more in touch with pop culture than I am. BUT I would say 95% of the text was written by me.



So please go read it. The link is here.

Which means someone thinks I'm funny. Odd. Usually not the adjective people use to describe me. But still VERY EXCITING.

And I do really love handbells. And I am totally the mercenary.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Engineering Spotlight: Kyleen J., CEE

Name: Kyleen J.
Major: Civil Engineering
Title: E.I.T., Bachelor of Civil Engineering
Company: Nannies R Us (not really, but I am currently a nanny...)

Why did you want to become an engineer, and more specifically, your particular type of engineer?
Unlike my dear friend Alisha, I did not enjoy playing with Legos. I did, however, enjoy math workbooks. In fact, I used to complete my brother's workbooks at the end of each school year for fun, even though he is three years older than me. When senior year rolled around, I knew I wanted to attend Georgia Tech. After looking at the majors, I chose architecture on my application. Then, I went to a meeting for incoming architecture students and realized I was the only person in the room who hadn't played with Legos. I asked the advisor how I could do architecture with more math and less art, and civil engineering is what I ended up with. Since then, I have fallen deeply in love with many aspects of civil engineering, including land development, city planning, environmental management, and construction.

What do you do? (At your job or in your research?)
I take care of a 7-month-old baby. Seriously. But what I'm looking to do for my career is anything that's at the intersection of civil engineering and public policy. I live in Los Angeles, so there aren't a lot of jobs available for a recent graduate in my field, but I've heard encouraging things about the energy field, so I'm shifting my job search focus to that area.

At my co-op, I did land development, which gave me the opportunity to work alongside public policymakers, hydraulic engineers, transportation engineers, architects, surveyors, drafters, sanitary engineers, city planners, and construction workers. And here in L.A., we were often working alongside the ocean or celebrity properties, which always made the day a little more interesting. I got to spend time in the office, working with my wonderful co-workers on designs for residential and commercial properties, but I also got to spend time on construction sites, learning about the different stages of construction and the unique challenges for each type of job. Some days, I got to do some light surveying tasks in the field, which included counting parking spaces, measuring distances and curb heights, and taking pictures of wheelchair ramps at every intersection in a particular city. I also got to attend a public hearing on the changes that were being made to the Stormwater Pollution Protection Plans for Ventura County. Sometimes, I'd set alignments in master files for projects or mark up a set of plans to check quantities in cost estimates. A couple of times, I got to go downtown to do research for projects. These were my favorite days because it was usually just as quick to take the freeway downtown as it was to take the Pacific Coast Highway, so I got paid to drive the PCH and see dolphins jumping in the Pacific Ocean!

I loved every single day of my job. There were rough times when an engineer wouldn't trust me with a task or when layoffs came through our office or when I just couldn't meet a deadline, but I was reminded every day that God has given me the ability to perform the tasks necessary for a career that speaks so strongly to many aspects of my personality and my calling.

What do you do outside of engineering?
I spend a lot of time at coffee shops, meeting plenty of people from all different walks of life. God has blessed me with unique ministry opportunities at coffee shops all over L.A. I also enjoy being with my roommates and other believers here, sharing our triumphs and struggles with each other as we seek to live out the Bible through God's transforming grace. I always have a beach towel in my car because I love driving down to Malibu to see the sunset or just soak in some fresh air and sunshine. I really treasure this time in my life, when I can spend hours alone with the Lord and then drive somewhere to meet up with a friend who needs encouragement and then come home to my sisters, who are always up for a good conversation.

Anything else you would like us to know about you or your work?
Civil engineering takes a great deal of technical knowledge, communication skills, determination, and openness to change. Even though it's the oldest type of engineering, technology is changing the field daily as more projects are being handled using video conferencing and 3-D CAD. I can't wait to watch civil engineering evolve into a more sustainable, more ethical, and wiser industry.