Posts tagged ‘Legislature’

September 30, 2013

Favorite scents to write to

My office scent-dispenser

My office scent-dispenser

I often see posts from other writers about songs that inspire them, but what about scents? Is there a favorite scent that sparks the imagination more than others?

Personally, I think I work quite well to the scent of clean. In my home, this seems to be a mix of citrus scents, light floral scents and an occasional very light whiff of bleach. I’m sure this is because I’m less distracted when my home is clean. However, I’m starting to wonder if there’s more to it than that.

Years ago, someone told me people think more clearly when they smell peppermint. If I remember right, it had something to do with helping oxygen cross the blood-brain barrier. I wondered about it for a long time, particularly after the school my daughters were attending started passing out peppermint gum for children to chew during testing situations.

More recently, I read about an experiment in Belgium where the scent of chocolate was studied as a way to aid marketing. The outcome was intriguing: sales in romance books or books related to foods rose 40 percent, while sales in other genres saw an increase of 22 percent.

From the article:

Researchers observed every fifth customer who came into the store, for a total of 201 customers. They observed “purchase-related” customer behaviors like looking at several books closely, reading the summaries of books, hanging out in the store, talking with staff and asking questions.


Overall, the researchers found that patrons were twice as likely to look at multiple books closely and read what they were about when the scent was in the air. They were nearly three times as likely to interact with personnel and ask questions after browsing the whole store.

I have two thoughts on the matter:

  1. Someone should invent chocolate-scented paper and/or chocolate-scented e-book readers.
  2. I stay at my desk and get more work done when my Scentsy-type candle warmer is on…could this be because I keep mint chocolate scented wax in there?

Hmmm. Food for thought…please pardon the pun.

Just for fun, I raided the drawer where I keep all my scented wax cubes to see what I use most. Here’s the verdict:

Mint chocolate still comes in first.

Scents with lavender are a close second, and then scents with cinnamon and/or vanilla. I also really, really like scents that remind me of the woods. I use white pine, spruce and Christmas-y scents, although not so much in my office—those are mostly used in other areas of my home.

I’m reminded of a friend who goes to the library to write, partly because with three children, it’s the only time she has to herself. When I think about it, I always remember the smell of old books. I think I could write to that, too.

I’m also reminded of a horrible incident where, unbeknownst to me, half a can of tomato juice spilled on a neglected stack of papers behind my office door in North Dakota. During this time, I was working twelve hour days covering the state legislative session for a local paper. Because I was so busy keeping up with the daily deadlines, I didn’t have time to look for the source of the smell until the weekend. By then, I couldn’t concentrate any more.

It was truly awful.

So now I have to ask: do other writers have favorite scents they write to? Or scents that make them unable to write at all?

January 9, 2013

The North Dakota Legislature and Bakken Oil


The North Dakota State Legislature is in session. I’m here in Utah, getting bits and pieces of what’s going on through the news and short interviews as I work on a Bakken Breakout article.

In some ways, it’s still odd to think I’m not a part of that scene anymore. I only covered the Legislature for two sessions, but the experience was life-changing.

During the 2007 session, I heard about the Bakken area of North Dakota for the first time. I had hydraulic fracturing explained to me, was introduced to horizontal drilling and realized there was more beneath the surface (literally) than I ever imagined. Who knew that it would spark my interest so much?

Now, as I write about the industry, my mind floats back to one particular Senate committee meeting.

I don’t even remember the bill the committee was working on, but it had to do with the Bakken area. There was standing room only. With so many bodies packed into the modest-sized room, it was unbearably hot, even near the door. I took notes while standing, shifting from one foot to another when the discomfort got to me.

Several people testified. The Department of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas Division brought rock samples to pass around, which helped them explain terms like porosity and permeability and cap rocks. During one of the presentations, someone held up a jar about half full of oil from a Bakken well.

“You can see this looks like honey,” he said. “This is actually oil. We call it light, sweet crude.”

It did, indeed, look like honey.

Perhaps it was being able to swirl it around in the jar or handle the rock samples. The heat and the standing drained my energy, but something about that experience filled me with anticipation. It was like getting a sneak peek at a science experiment that could save the world someday.

I don’t know if it’s really that dramatic, but the Bakken hasn’t failed to provide surprises. Science and technology developments continue there. Those oil fields provided money for the state when the rest of the nation struggled, and for those of us who simply like watching good things happen, the excitement reaffirmed our hope.

I’m glad I’m not at the Legislature this time around. There’s no way I could handle it and a toddler, too. I learned a lot during my time there, but I’ve moved on to different lessons, and they take as much energy as I can give them.

I’ll be watching, though, and I expect to see good things.

December 8, 2012

The blog I used to write

The blog I used to write...

The blog I used to write…

Sometime around 2005, I began blogging for a local blog network. The blog I worked on was called Dakota Lifestyle: beyond the weather. I chose that name because, at that time, North Dakota wasn’t a well-known state. My out of state friends routinely asked me two questions: how cold it was, and how far it was to Mount Rushmore.

“Mount Rushmore isn’t even in North Dakota,” I’d tell them. “Why don’t you come visit sometime, and I’ll take you to Fort Lincoln State Park, instead?”

Very few of them came.

It’s odd to think how things have changed in the past seven years or so. Now my family and I have moved away from North Dakota. When we tell people where we’ve moved from, we hear things like “Oh, I have a brother that just moved there. He’s got a good job in the oil field.”


Oil production, specifically in the Bakken area, put North Dakota on the map. People know about it now, but they don’t always understand what a great place North Dakota was to live and to work. I still like to brag on the outings my family and I had there. It’s a historically rich area of the country, full of tiny, very interesting museums (including the house General Custer lived in at Fort Lincoln State Park), gorgeous riverside parks, and wide open spaces. Around the end of June and beginning of July, a country drive looked like a green, yellow and purple patchwork quilt. Those canola fields were some of the brightest yellow flowers I’ve ever seen. Side by side with a blossoming periwinkle flax field, it was breathtaking.

Utah is beautiful in a completely different way. There’s geometry here, triangles of mountain peaks and rectangular slabs of swirling sandstone, blues and browns and reds stacked on top of each other in interesting patterns. There’s oil here, too. The northeast corner of the state is peppered with new wells.

I don’t have a blog for writing about Utah, but I’m as proud to live here as I was to live in North Dakota.

I gave up that first blog sometime in 2007. If I remember right, I had just finished reporting on the 2007 session of the North Dakota Legislature (where I heard the name Bakken for the very first time). I was weary of writing on strict deadlines. Sometimes during that session, I wrote up to four articles in a day. By the time that session of the Legislature ended, setting the blog aside and taking some time to breathe seemed like the most sane thing to do.

Funny how life works. I’m blogging again. I’ve missed it. As I’ve mused on that first blog over the past few days, I’ve discovered three important things about myself:

  • I keep writing. I’ve told myself more than once that I needed to slow down, to pace myself or to quit writing for anyone but myself altogether. I’ve even tried it, once or twice, and I always find myself excited about taking new assignments again. It’s more than an addiction. It’s something that I need to do–and most of the time I don’t care what the topic is. I can write about serious, intricate topics like the Bakken oil industry just as happily as I can write about chocolate. Life–my writing life–is simply delicious.
  • My family likes me better when I write. A few years ago, one of my daughters told me, “Mom, you’re cranky. You need to go write something.” Even now, a few days away from a deadline, my children seem content to see me clicking away on my keyboard. The fun of it all is beginning to rub off on my oldest two children. They’re both working on books of their own now. Whether anything ever comes of it doesn’t matter. The fact that they’re joining me in my craft (and finding as much pleasure in it as I do) matters quite a bit. Writing is how we include each other in our secret worlds, and I think my children like connecting with me this way.
  • I like myself better when I write, too. I like the sense of accomplishment after meeting a deadline, the warmth of laughter at the end of the day when my daughters and I share what we’ve worked on, the quiet ebb and flow of thoughts while I’m sitting behind my desk. Writing has turned me into someone who can think, feel and talk about important topics with other people, but most of all, writing has made me a heroine in my own world.
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