Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nano Frenzy

I had a few posts planned about Thanksgivingy thankfulness as well as all of the books I'm buying and reading with abandon, but those will have to wait since they require fiddling with photographs and time that I don't have. This week was teaching madness, with finals prep and an observation and piles of grading and other craziness, so now I am finally able to settle in and catch up on Nanowrimo. 

And I have a lot of catching up to do.

I need to average 4000 words a day to finish on time, including on Thanksgiving and my busy work Monday. But I'm very stubborn; I don't give up on projects, at least not after I've widely publicized my goal. (See the case of the bicycle trip across the country). And I managed to complete Script Frenzy using less than half of the available writing days, so I should still be able to make it to 50,000 words, right?

Fingers crossed!

No, scratch that; fingers on the keys!


(P.S. I totally give up on the font battle.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Favorite Reader


If I didn’t already know that reading is vital and fundamental (sorry, FUNdamental), my current jobs would leave me with no doubt. So many of the struggling writers I tutor are very intelligent and creative people, but they don’t seem to understand how language works. It’s not a coincidence that most of them also hate reading. Of course sentence structure is confusing and idioms are unfamiliar; without reading, they don’t have enough exposure to how other writers use language. 

I work with so many non-readers and cell-phone/television/video game addicts that sometimes I feel like a bitter senior citizen bemoaning the fact that the world has moved on and that no one understands what is important anymore.  

Thank goodness that I also tutor a few students who restore my faith in a literate world. 

My youngest tutoring student carries a book with her all of the time – always one well above grade level – and dives into it whenever she has a spare moment between exercises. She is also ridiculously exuberant whenever she has to read aloud. Today she was happily clutching Eragon, and she explained that she’d had to return it to the library before she was finished and then wait a few weeks for it to be back on the shelf again. I told her that if that ever happened again, I would happily trust her with my own copy of Eragon instead. Her eyes lit up with enough excitement and gratitude to make me feel all warm and fuzzy for days.

She reminds me of myself as a child (and also as an adult I suppose, since I still carry a book with me almost everywhere I go) and she gives me true hope for the future. I really want to search my old bedroom when I go home for Thanksgiving to find childhood gems to pass on to her. Most of all, I can’t wait to someday write a novel that she would be excited to read.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dear New Favorite Coffee Shop,

I’m sorry that you had to learn about my past relationships from a blog post. It’s true: I’m still not completely over my first coffee shop love. But you were great about it and really showed me the love yesterday and today. You gave me a modified latte that wasn’t as bitter as usual, and I had you all to myself for several quiet and blissful hours. You may not have booths or a view of anything other than a parking lot, but you’re still pretty amazing. 

See you soon, 

Jillian

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dear Dolce Vita,


You broke my heart a year ago, and I still miss you. 

You were the perfect coffee shop. Inside your tastefully painted and decorated walls were plentiful outlets, quiet music, friendly people, a picturesque view, a well-stocked book shelf, and comfortable booths. (Booths! Not chairs!) You were within walking distance, and you had the best lattes I have ever tasted. When customers asked, you talked about your special espresso. Now that I’ve tried the inferior lattes at a dozen other coffee shops, I believe you. That espresso was magic. 

I really thought we had a good thing going. Most of all, I was incredibly excited for us to share Nanowrimo. I dreamed about all of the productive and caffeinated hours we would enjoy together. 

And then, just a few days into our Nanowrimo adventure, you told me that we would have to spend some time apart. I was devastated, but you promised that the new people would be great and that the renovation would only take a week.  I believed, and I waited for you. But a week went by, and then two weeks. I tried to call you, but no one answered. I left messages and never heard back. 

Eventually I moved on, but no one could really replace you. I’ve had to settle for casual relationships with three different coffee shops. They try hard, but none are as wonderful as you. 

It’s a year later, and a new Nanowrimo, and your dark storefront still tears at my heart whenever I pass it. Why can’t anyone else (preferably someone with a great deal of money to invest in the coffee business) see how wonderful you really are?

I suppose you’d say that we’ll always have our memories, and that’s true. 

But what I really want, my dear lost Dolce Vita, is a quiet, empty booth and the perfect vanilla latte.

Yours in perpetual mourning, 

Jillian  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NanowrimOptimism


The NanoStats are still mocking me (I’m currently projected to finish in mid-December, and I swear at one point there was a “Days Behind: 5  Days Ahead: 0” line), but I’m feeling much better about my brand new WIP. The world and characters are forming up quite nicely, and the plot is unfolding itself – very slowly and only as it sees fit, of course, but that’s all part of the fun at this point. It will still require superhuman effort to finish on time (especially since the end of November is the start of final exam insanity), but I’m confident that it’s possible, or at least that the experience will be enjoyable and useful enough that I won’t really mind not winning. (Yes, readers who know me and are now scoffing, it is possible for me to enjoy something that I don't win.) 

Sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn’t, but the latter has been a blessing of its own. I’ve realized that I can enjoy writing even when I’m not doing it very well, which is definitely not the case when I’m teaching, cooking, playing ultimate frisbee, etc. (Okay, so maybe I do really like to win.) It’s a really uplifting revelation. Not only does it mean that writing is a good career option for me, but it also means that even if I don’t ever get published, it’s still something worth pursuing for my pure enjoyment. (Though obviously I’d rather win at that too.)

In any case, YAY Nanowrimo, YAY writing, and YAY optimism that makes me yell YAY so much.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nano No-No Update

Decisions are not my forte. 

In the week before Nanowrimo, I finally decided to work on my WIP for the month, even though that's not technically allowed. 

Then, on November 1st -- that't right, the first day of Nanowrimo -- I had a change of heart and decided that the WIP simply wasn't the way to go. This was partly because I wasn't sure that I had enough plot and steam left in the WIP to carry me through 50,000 high-speed words, partly because, deep down, I am a rule follower, and partly because I am naturally and irrepressibly indecisive. 

So I jumped into a brand new story that has been percolating in my mind for a few months but which has little to no plot and only 2 of the 4ish protagonists that I think it will include. It's going to be interesting.  

And as the more-complex-than-last-year (which I secretly LOVE) NanoStats gleefully remind me whenever the site actually manages to load, I am already very behind.  I lost Monday to my indecision, I wrote 1000 words on Tuesday, and I got in a mere 300 words more just now because Wednesdays are my teaching hell days that never end. 

Not. Good.

Did I mention that I'm working without a plan? 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy Halloween!


What do you mean Halloween is over? If Halloween is over, where is my rotting jack-o-lantern? Where is my raging headache from the raucous dance party? WHERE ARE MY BAGS OF CANDY?

Ahem.

Apparently when I’m not a kid or a grad student (the over-educated are surprisingly good at creating costumes and partying), I am a pretty lame Halloween celebrant. I didn’t have a party to attend this year and our third floor apartment never gets trick-or-treaters, so I never got around to decorating or dressing up. I didn’t even post my Halloween blog entry on time, apparently. 

Maybe the secret is having kids. Kids who get excited about the holiday, kids who make me dress up with them, kids who are picky candy eaters and give most of their stash to me... (Note to self: having sugar cravings is not the same as hearing your biological clock ticking.)

My only homage to Halloween this year was in my reading; I always choose a few horror books for the last week of October, especially since it isn’t a genre of choice the rest of the year. This time was strange because (thanks to the recommendations of others) I ended up with two books by authors whom I usually don’t enjoy: Koontz’s The Taking, which follows a young couple trying to survive the invasion of malevolent and violent other-wordly creatures, and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, a collection of short stories based on dark fables. Both were perfect for the season and ultimately enjoyable reads for entirely different reasons. Koontz’s writing style drove me insane, but the plot and atmosphere stopped me from ever wanting to put it down, while Carter’s exquisite prose smoothed over the ambiguities and abrupt endings of a few of the stories. I still wouldn’t consider myself a fan of either author, but even if I had found other ways to celebrate Halloween, I would still be very glad that I read them. 

 I also happen to be reading (and loving) Nix’s Lirael and King’s Wolves of the Calla (they’re going slowly because one is on audio and the other is 700 pages). I didn’t initially include them with my Halloween books because I didn’t view them as horror, but then I remembered that the former involves the undead and the latter involves vampires and wolf creatures who steal children. Apparently I really like horror elements when they are kept in the background. 

Now, since it’s apparently November, I should probably get around to voting, starting Nanowrimo, and buying discounted Halloween candy. You, however, should go to Hulu and watch the Halloween episode of The Office, especially the first four minutes of absolute brilliance.