Awkwardly Answering Questions

Well, here it is, as promised (or threatened). The post where I answer the questions from last Tuesday’s award acceptance. There was even interest in my archaeology work. Apparently I haven’t killed your curiosity about it with my Poetic Archaeology posts. ;) So, ready or not, here we go.

The General Questions

If you could choose to be remembered for one thing only, what would it be? (Vanessa Chapman)

This was the hardest question to answer. In some ways, I’d like to leave a minimal footprint on the planet. But if I’m remembered for any length of time, I hope it would be as someone who tried to do the right thing and was a nice person to be around. Is that two things? If so, cut it off at doing the right thing.

If you were stranded on a tropical island, list the following things you’d want to have with you: one friend; one mode of entertainment; one survival tool; one food; one skill. (4amwriter)

If I could only have one , I’d go with the survival tool. If I could have one thing from each category, I’d choose my husband, who’s also one of my best friends, a musical instrument that doesn’t require batteries or electricity, a good Swiss Army knife, Belgian chocolate, and the ability to build a fire from scratch.

Do your work colleagues know you write fiction, or do you keep it to yourself? (Carrie Rubin)

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but not because I don’t want them to know or I’m embarrassed about it. A part of me is toying with the idea of seeing if anyone figures it out once I do get the books published. My family and friends know I’m writing.

If you could travel to any time, any place, where would it be and what would you hope to achieve/experience there? (Mskatykins)

Now that’s a great question for someone who’s writing a book with time travel! The temptation to try to “fix” something would be so great—prevent Lincoln’s assassination, for example. If the “Grandfather Paradox” is true, however, Nature would find a way to prevent you from doing that—possibly killing you to do so. I’m not going to risk that.  I’d like to go back to 1780s Virginia and meet my brick wall of a GGGG grandfather so I could ask him about his family. Who the heck were his parents? And where did they come from? Learning that information shouldn’t affect the past, so Nature shouldn’t have a problem with it. Then I’d look up other brick wall ancestors. Getting the chance to experience history as they lived it would be fascinating (as long as I didn’t catch the plague or something like that).

Imagine your life as a writer was made into a movie — who would play YOU? (Brigitte)

I’m thinking Stana Katic, currently on Castle. If an actor of Serbian/Croatian descent can play an Irish detective, then surely she can play an archaeologist and writer of  Serbian-Irish-Greek-English-Czech-Scots-Welsh-Dutch-French-German descent, don’t you think?

I’m not saying I look like her. But as an actor to portray me? I think she could do the job.

The Archaeology Questions

What was a meaningful moment for you during your archaeological career? (Anne Woodman)

This may not be what you’d expect. I intended to do Maya archaeology in Central America and Mexico. I did Master’s fieldwork in Honduras and worked in Mexico for dissertation research. But the sexism and chauvinism were more than I wanted to deal with. Had they come only from local men, maybe I would have persevered—that’s part of their culture. But seeing it from male colleagues directed toward female colleagues was more than I would take. I switched to North American archaeology.

What is your favorite discovery and why? (Lisa Anne Hayes)

It’s something so insignificant, I don’t think twice about it today. But it was something from my first archaeological field school. It was the first flake I properly recognized. In Illinois, there’s a lot of “glacial till” in the fields. Basically, till is gravel and rocks that were caught up in ice as the glaciers moved southward. When the glaciers melted, they dropped those bits of stone. Learning to recognize “chipping debris” in all that background noise takes some practice. That’s when I knew I’d be able to identify even small, ephemeral sites on my own.

Are you an Indiana Jones fanatic or do you pick movies like that apart because Hollywood gets things wrong? (Char)

As long as I turn off my internal archaeologist, I enjoy movies like the Indiana Jones stories. They can be a lot of fun. Personally, I don’t think they should have made the last one. That plot was just too far-fetched and stereotyped for me. (Come on, Russian Cossack dancing in the rain forest?) And there’s no way Indy would survive his “escape” from the Nevada test site. Things like that are hard for me to get past, but not because I’m an archaeologist. There are just some areas where I can’t “suspend disbelief.” (Note to self — be careful about that when writing novels!)

So there you have the answers to all the questions posed. You can wake up now. :)

40 thoughts on “Awkwardly Answering Questions

  1. You survived the questions! :) These were fun to read, and quite enlightening, too. I think some of those questions are very difficult, especially the one about the actor/actress who would play you. I find it interesting that your (was it four G’s?) grandfather is as far back as you can go in your family history, and mysteries like that make me salivate — there is a story there, I’m sure.

    Your experiences in Mexico for your dissertation research are disheartening, and I am sorry that happened. I appreciate how you differentiate the cultures, knowing that in Mexico it’s to be expected.

    American men should know better, certainly, and the fact they mishandled their working relationships with women reflects how nervous they were about the competition. :) Their inexcusable behavior also reflects the tendency of males to conform to the majority standards for fear of being outcast.


    • They were all good questions, some being a little easier to answer than others. :) And I suspect they make for a popular post to read. We are curious about others, and we like to know more. That’s hard to balance with my generally introverted nature! But none of them were too personal. :)

      Some lines I can take back farther than others. It’s frustrating to be stuck at my GGGG grandfather on the direct McDowell line. I swear he dropped out of the sky one day in Virginia after the Revolutionary War. ;) I have a gut feeling who his parents were, but I can’t find any documents to support it. So I’ve been stuck for years on him. Other lines? Back to the 1630s in New Amsterdam!

      The attitudes of some American men were a big disappointment in Latin America. Especially when there are a significant number of women archaeologists. I don’t know if that’s changed since my grad school days—I hope so. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Another factor I forgot to mention was the bureaucratic headaches all foreign archaeologists faced, male and female. You really have to bite the bullet (and your tongue) sometimes if you want those permits. Kat Donnelly of Summer at the Crossroads could tell you a few stories. :)


    • It’s funny, when I first read that question, I thought, “what good artifacts/sites have I found?” And then I thought, no, those aren’t my favorite moments. Memories of that first field school just popped into mind.

      I was a bit hesitant about a post like this, but I think it’ll become one of my favorites!


    • Thanks, Brigitte! If I can get through the revisions of this draft, I might feel more confident about the book. I’m at one of those awful (but inevitable) moments of doubt. Still, I’m moving forward. :)


    • Glad to do it, Lisa. :) It really triggered some memories for me — fun times with fun people discovering something I really enjoyed. I may not be as enthusiastic about “digging holes” on hot, humid days these days, but I still enjoy discovering pieces of the past. :)


  2. Fun QA session! I agree. Indiana would never have made it off the Nevada Test Site. I’ve been there and seen what those bombs do. Yikes!


    • I’d bet the test site must show some major scars from those blasts. I cannot imagine the scale of destruction. Even when I see photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it’s hard to comprehend the devastation. May we never see anything like that again.

      I hope this award catches on — I think the questions and answers can be fun and interesting. I may just have to forward it to a few more people. . . . :)


  3. Great answers, and I’m glad my question featured! Although my favourite question was 4amwriter’s one, that’s a really good question. I might jot down some of these questions for future use…


    • Yours was truly the toughest! And I really enjoyed the variety between them. They were all so good, I decided I couldn’t skip any of them. :) And they also have me thinking about potential post topics, so they’re working overtime right now. :)


  4. What a fun post. Creative way to learn more about you. Thanks for answering my question. Funny how many of us never discussed our writing with colleagues. Oh, and as for the deserted island? I’m with you on the Belgian chocolate.


    • If I’m gonna be stranded, I want my favorite comfort food. :) Nobody makes better chocolate than the Belgians.

      One daydream is surprising everyone when I resign because the books are doing so well. :D Don’t get me wrong — I really like my colleagues and job. But it would be kinda fun to drop a little bombshell like that!

      I’m seriously thinking about forwarding this award to a few more bloggers to help get it rolling. It was a fun one to do. :)


    • This really was a different post for me. :) The rules for most awards let the blogger choose what to say. This one creates more interaction between the blogger and readers. More work for the blogger, but I think the results are good.


      • It also makes you think, “Do I really want to answer that question?”

        Blogging lets us pick and choose what we share with the world, answering random questions, way more intimate.


  5. Enjoyed the post. Great read.
    Working in male dominated careers/ foreign countries with different views is very difficult – and requires a lot of soul searching. Nice you found a workable solution (there’s plenty of mysteries to keep you busy)
    Like the way you plan to tip toe through history without disrupting – wouldn’t it be nice to hear those stories – and solve some of those mysteries, too!


    • I admire people who can put up with the headaches and hassles so they can do what they enjoy. For me, the enjoyment couldn’t outweigh the difficulties. I had to choose another path. But I’ve enjoyed it, too.

      I think it would be so fascinating to meet the ancestors who came before us. We might not like all of them or approve of everything they did. But their choices and actions led to us, and I’d love to know what they thought and why they made the decisions they did!


  6. Well done, JM. Full disclosure, but not too personal. I think this is a great award; it really fosters interaction between bloggers and, coming in two parts and with the need to recommend only a few nominees, isn’t too onerous to participate in. Plus, it’s a way cool graphic:) I suppose I’d better tell Scott, eh?


  7. Fabulous answers, JM! I loved the questions as well, particularly Char’s question – that was great! I’m really looking forward to doing mine too! :)


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