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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Boxes For Books

My last post for this blog was November 14th while I was happily up to my elbows in NaNoWriMo. One might think that I have been so busy writing and subsequently editing that I haven’t had a single excuse to share. I wish that were true. Unfortunately, the reverse is true: Excuses abound! My husband took a new job and I had to switch gears and focus on moving. In short, I had to exchange my book for boxes.

The New Year is in full swing and I have not focused on a single writing resolution instead I have focused on housing to-do lists. We have been very fortunate in this market, though, and we are almost at the end of our journey. In exactly three weeks’ time I will be watching the mover’s load our belongings on to a truck. I am sad to leave here only two short years after moving, but I am also excited by the new possibilities this move represents.

And I am excited to get back into a writing routine – to finish the work that I’ve started. Over the last couple of years, I have unleashed my wild writerly mind and it is not happy to be caged while I am busy with other things.

I have given my brain very little time to think creatively unless staging a home counts. I look forward to getting back to my novel, getting back to this blog – getting back to writing.


More to come in 2014! Until then, I’m going to work on my moving to-do lists!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Need Some Motivation

Lagging behind on my NaNoWriMo word count and in need of inspiration/motivation. And, apparently, I feel like sharing so I am plagiarizing NaNo pep talks for my blog this week (It's not really plagiarizing if I state the source, right?).

Here's excerpts from two pep talks that spoke to me. The gist is the same as always: just sit down and write and the rest will fall into place eventually (like in the revising).

Pep Talk from Neil Gaiman:
By now you’re probably ready to give up. You’re past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You’re not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You’re in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more—and that even when they do you’re preoccupied and no fun. You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing. 
Welcome to the club. 
That’s how novels get written. 
You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Entire entire pep talk here:
http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/neil-gaiman

Pep Talk from Malinda Lo:
Here’s what happens when I sit down to write. First, I turn off my access to the internet by engaging Freedom. (The internet is the number-one killer of writer productivity!) Second, I open Scrivener. (Substitute whatever word-processing program works for you.) Third, I force myself to sit there with my work-in-progress until Freedom says I’m done. (I always set it for at least one hour, and often three.) I don’t allow myself to get up to make endless cups of tea (one will do). I just sit there. That’s all.
How often am I filled with inspiration before I start writing? Pretty much never. Instead, I usually stare at my work-in-progress with a vague sense of doom. I often think to myself: What the hell am I doing in this scene? I don’t understand how to get my characters from Point A to Point B! I really want to check Twitter!
The trick is this: As long as I sit there with my work-in-progress, at some point I will write something, because there’s nothing else to do.
Whatever I write may not be any good, but that doesn’t matter. When you’re writing a first draft—which most of you are doing this month—the most important thing is to keep moving forward. Your first try will be riddled with mistakes, but that’s what revision is for. Right now, you only have to put those ugly, wrong words on the page so you can fix them later.
Read the entire pep talk here:
http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/malinda-lo


Monday, November 4, 2013

#NaNoWriMo WHAT?

I am in love. I am all starry-eyed. I am wondering, where have you been all my life?! What has me all a-flutter? A little movement in the writing world called NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriWhat?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month (which is November).  It’s when crazy would-be novelist such as myself set out to write a novel in one month. Or, at least 50,000 unedited words. It’s a way to stifle the inner critic, the mounting excuses, the list of procrastinations, or the myriad of things that get in the way of sitting our butts down in a chair and writing.

The idea of NaNoWriMo started in 1999 when Chris Baty and 20 of his friends set out to write a novel in one month. (What was I doing in 1999? Still dreaming of one-day writing a novel) On the NaNo website, Baty describes that first year:

That first year there were 21 of us, and our July noveling binge had little to do with any ambitions we might have harbored on the literary front. Nor did it reflect any hopes we had about tapping more fully into our creative selves. No, we wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twenty-somethings start bands. Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn’t have anything better to do. And because we thought that, as novelists, we would have an easier time getting dates than we did as non-novelists.
Baty goes on to say that in this process they discovered something they hadn't expected: Novel writing is fun.
Fun was a revelation. Novel writing, we had discovered, was just like watching TV. You get a bunch of friends together, load up on caffeine and junk food, and stare at a glowing screen for a couple hours. And a story spins itself out in front of you.
I think the scene—full of smack-talk and muffin crumbs on our keyboards—would have rightly horrified professional writers. We had taken the cloistered, agonized novel-writing process and transformed it into something that was half literary marathon and half block party.

This sounds like college. I’m in! Seriously. This was made for me!

If the idea of cramming in novel writing in one month college-style – with lots of coffee and junk food and friends – wasn't enough motivation, the deal was sealed when I read that Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants during NaNoWriMo. One of my favorite books ever! From NaNoWriMo.org, in 2006:
Then we heard about Sara Gruen. Sara had been one of the first participants to sell her NaNoWriMo manuscript, and had since written another NaNoWriMo novel that had become a bestseller: Water For Elephants. When her new project went out for auction in the fall of ’06, she landed a reported $5.2 million, two-book deal. How did she celebrate? She sat down and wrote another book for NaNoWriMo.
Seriously. Deal sealed.

And, of course, Sara wrote a pep talk directly to me: http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/sara-gruen Alright, I don’t own horses, but you get the idea….

So this November, I will be banishing all excuses to write 50,000 words. When I am not blogging, answering my phone, responding to emails, liking statuses on Facebook, or tweeting – I will be writing. When I am not sleeping, I will be writing. When I am not cleaning, I will be writing.

I am not doing this alone, there is an entire NaNoWriMo community to support me. I’m excited. I’ll keep you posted. Or, maybe, I’ll just see you in December

If you want to hear some other authors talk about this crazy idea known as NaNoWriMo, check out:

http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/james-patterson

http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/john-green

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Feeling Post-Book Blues #Allegiant



Ever since I decided to change the voice of my novel-in-progress to a young adult protagonist, I have been trying to devour any Young Adult book I can, especially teen dystopian novels (like Hunger Games). But none have grabbed my attention quite the same way as Hunger Games did.

Until I read Divergent by Veronica Roth. Roth’s writing style is different than Collins’ but I am not going to critique that here because, quite frankly, 20-something Roth has done way more than 30-something me so there is no room for my critique. Plus, Roth did something in her Divergent series that even literary geniuses have trouble doing – she gave  us a story that propels us through each book and characters that we love and root for. (And, also, I have decided I like Veronica Roth so any holes I may find in her writing are immediately forgiven).

Sunday night I finished the third and final book in the series, Allegiant, and I am still feeling the post-book blues. Yes, my heart is breaking because of the way that it ended (no spoiler here, sob sob). But I am also feeling empty inside because I will no longer be part of Tris and Four’s world. You know a book has something when two days after finishing it, you still feel the loss! At least the first movie is due out in March, and I have that to look forward to… (And, I checked, the actor playing Four is 29 years old so it is not at all creepy for me to have a crush on him).

Of course, in preparation for NaNoWriMo I came up with an entirely new novel idea so am shelving the teen dystopian novel for now. (NaNoWriMo WHAT? – Stay tuned).  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Week That Wasn’t

Apparently Fall is emerging all around me: the temperature is dropping; the trees are changing colors; and Halloween is fast approaching. Last week I missed Fall unfolding itself right in front of me because I was in my own world. A world where corporations suspend production, where hundreds of jobs are lost, where resumes are updated, and words like “relocation” are thrown around. This is a world I had no intention of being in but there I was – life is fun like that.

I tell myself not to stress about things I can’t control. I tell myself things will work out the way they are supposed to. And I believe it, too. I know that our family will survive the closing of my husband’s workplace. That he will find another job in the area quickly and we won’t have to move. Or, maybe, there will be a company that swoops in at the last second to purchase the plant and continue production.

There is nothing I can do, really, except help my husband update his resume.  My life pretty much stays the same for the moment – I still have the same chores, the same laundry, and the same ever-surmounting to-do list. Therefore, the only logical thing for me to do with my time is to imagine how things will play out. To research the state, the city, the school district, the neighborhood, and the very house that we could live in.

So while things were piling up all around me like the fall leaves outside, I was busy playing with the Realtor app on my phone. Not the best use of my time, but it was cathartic and kind of fun….

It was almost like last week didn't even exist. Last week was the week that wasn't. So, back to reality this week! Back to using my time productively (or at least trying to). Back to using my imagination to write stories (since that’s my goal, right?)! Failing that, I have a new book to read – Allegiant (Divergent Trilogy)comes out today – yay!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Daily Tribute Through Reading

My family is big on reading. Take a trip with any member of my family, and you'd better bring several books because that is what we will be doing: Reading. I think my grandmother was the driving force behind our love of books. She was the one who gave us many of the books that we cherish today. She was the one who introduced me to so many books -- books like the Secret Garden or Jane Eyre I read because of her energetic descriptions of them. As I grew up, I loved to discuss books with her even though we didn't always agree (she being conservative and me being, well, not). And try as she might I never got into Wind in the Willows or Little House on the Prairie but did pass these books along to my children.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my grandmom gave me the book, The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease -- lauding this book as essential to my child's upbringing. I read this book and refereed to it often while my daughter was little -- reading many of the recommended titles including Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little to her when she was just three years old. Reading aloud to our children continues to be a cherished part of our daily routines. We have read The Little House on the Prairie; The Wind in the Willows; The Secret Garden; Heidi; Anne of Green Gables; numerous Beverly Cleary books; Roald Dahl; almost the entire Magic Tree House Series; The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; and recently we've begun the Harry Potter series.

My grandmother passed away a year ago but when I see the love of reading that my 9 year-old daughter has, I feel my grandmom. That spark was started by her and lives on in my family every day. It lives on when I can't get my daughter to do anything because she can't/won't put her book down. It lives on when the last thing my daughter sees at night are the words in a book and the first thing she does in the morning is pick up her book. My daughter makes a little tribute to my grandmother everyday through her love of reading.

Thanks GGMom for being a wonderful example to your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We miss you and think of you daily when we pick up a book!

(If you haven't read The Read Aloud Handbook I highly recommend it, link below:)



The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Enjoying The Small Things, Soccer Mom Style

We are in full fall swing -- school, scouts, soccer, choir, dance, karate, playgroups, back-to-school nights, open houses, etc. Not to mention the fun stuff you just have to squeeze in with the family: hayrides, apple picking, pumpkin patches, fall fests, jumping in leaves, bonfires, etc. Then there are the big chores to attend to: switching over closets, fall cleaning (if you still do that), yard work, etc. on top of the usual chores. Plus all those "back-to-school" resolutions that may have already been forgotten like my resolutions here which top of my list continues to be WRITE MORE.

For a self-deprecating excuse-airing person like me, fall means I have a lot to beat myself up over like not writing enough. But I am going to spare you the boring blog of whine whine whine, promise to change, then whine whine whine some more (lucky you).

Because:

Between all those moments of rushing around too much. Between stacks of dishes and loads of laundry. Between trips back and forth from the soccer complex. I have managed to relax and take a breath. I have managed to stop and enjoy the small things. I have sat back at karate and read. I have enjoyed one on one time with my preschooler. I have watched the sun set over the soccer field. I have stayed up too late with my daughter reading Harry Potter. I vegged on my sofa with my husband and watched useless TV. I spent a Sunday afternoon watching a movie with the kids.

Taking a moment to do these things is no small feat when there is so much to accomplish. I may never be completely on top of the housework. I may never be the perfect mom. I may never cook entirely from scratch. I may never meet daily word counts. And I may continue to meet submission deadlines. But I am enjoying the small things, soccer mom style. Maybe one day all the rest will come.

Sunset on the soccer field