Monday, October 31, 2011

Waiting to Wrimo

I am getting antsy. 

Not only am I waiting for Nanowrimo to begin (T-minus 5 hours for those of us on the west coast of the US)...

I am waiting for the Nanowrimo site to release word count widgets.
I am waiting for Scrivener to release their Windows version (which, ahem, was promised in “early 2011”)

I am waiting for trick-or-treaters to decide that our alley isn’t so scary.  

I am waiting for it to be late enough that I can give up on the trick-or-treaters ever visiting us and eat all the candy myself. 

I am waiting for these weird marks on my forehead to fade:

They’re from wearing an EEG hood during a psychology experiment that I participated in (for $40!) today, but I’m thinking of just incorporating them into a costume. Alien or small pox victim seem most likely. 

And, most importantly, I am waiting for the kitchen elves to finish baking the goodies that I wanted to have on hand for Nanowrimo. Oh, wait, I was supposed to make those. Hmmmph.

I did have some success with my Nano Prep List though, since I bought some lovely convertible fingerless gloves last week:

And I realized that scheduling around hosting friends and family was actually going to be easier than anticipated. 

You might remember that I also made a goal to finish a full outline for my Nano novel and submit three short stories to journals. Instead, I have half of an outline and one submitted story, though a second one is ready to go when the magazine in question opens up for submissions tomorrow, so that will have to do for now since I am full steam ahead for Nanowrimo. Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it already, I’m being helped along in my story submissions goal by Write 1 Sub 1, which you should definitely check out. My progress on Write1 Sub1, Nanowrimo, and the Off the Shelves Reading Challenge (which I did a great job on last week but am still woefully behind on overall) can be found in my handy Challenges tab, if you're interested. 

And now, back to the waiting...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tagged for Ten

I’m slowly (and with embarrassing moments of computer-illiteracy) adding tabs and features and such. I haven’t gotten around to doing the two most common and useful tabs – info about myself and my current projects but you can get to know a little more about me in this post, since the wonderful and talented Madeline over at The Shellshank Redemption has tagged me for a "Ten Random Things" post. Here we go...

1) I was raised on baseball as well as books. I went to my first minor league game when I was maybe a month old. I learned to keep score a few years later and would often refuse to leave boring, blowout games because I wanted a complete scorecard. We vacationed to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown pretty much every year, and once my brother and I posed for these amazing photos:

2) My hair was stick straight when I was a kid and only gradually got curly. It took a lot of awkward, frizzy years to get used to it, but I’m a fan now. 

3) I have no sense of direction or map reading skills. It’s really, really, really bad.

4) I’m allergic to strawberries (which I looove to eat, sadly) and penicillin. I also get sick if I eat ice cream after I’ve eaten fish, even though I am not allergic to fish or dairy separately. Strange but true.

5) The summer after my freshman year, our frisbee team played for over two days straight to break the Marathon Ultimate world record. I hurt my leg and got mono, and our record has been broken by several teams since, but hey, I can say I was once a world record holder. 

6) Relatedly, my ultimate frisbee nickname is Stitch, mostly because of injuries, but also because of a resemblance/fondness for this crazy little guy:
7) I firmly believe that “relatedly” should be a real word. 

8) I don't have a lot of artistic talent, but I've done some cool collage projects, and after much practice I can draw reasonable stick figures, dinosaurs, penguins, and palm trees.

9) I have a weird ability to memorize the commercials on Hulu. The Mayhem ones are my favorite, and I also find myself singing the Truvia song all the time.

10) I’ve never had any interest in studying modern medicine – you know, the practical, life-saving stuff –  but I am obsessed with crazy medical theories from the Renaissance.

11) My lucky number is eleven, so I'm adding one to the list. I'm a little sad I don't have anything momentous planned for 11/11/11 this year. However, I'm excited to plug Jeigh’s  Eleventy-First Follower Giveaway. It features some amazing prizes and is running from now until, you guessed it, 11/11/11. Check it out!

And I tag...

The aforementioned Jeigh
Jess at Write.Skate.Dream
Julie (who is still running that Early Works blogfest I mentioned - go check it out!)

I'll stop there, but I promise I read blogs by people whose names don't start with J.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

RTW: Why I Write (besides the PJs)

This week's Road Trip Wednesday question from YA Highway: What's your numero-uno reason for writing?

I'll be honest: some days I want to be a professional writer because I really enjoy flexible schedules and working from home in pajamas (though I actually find dress pants supremely comfortable; it’s the dress shirts and the heels that are the problem). Clearly that’s not my primary motivation though, because I don't think I was concerned with a professional wardrobes and schedules when I dreamed of being a writer as a three-year-old.

A lot of people say they want to have to write because there are stories and characters inside of them that need to get out. I certainly have tons of stories swirling around in my brain, and every once in a while a character deigns to speak to me, but they aren't quite my primary reason for writing. (Some days I wish they were – there are definitely times I could use more cooperation from my imagination!)

The number one reason I write is the language. I love writing and wordplay and word origins, I love crafting sentences that sing, I even love line editing and grammar. But why slog through the difficult process of becoming a creative writer then, when it's probably much easier to get other writing or editing jobs? Well...

I grew up writing stories, but for some reason I was too chicken to take creative writing classes in college – instead I stuck to essay writing, which I knew I could do well. In the Writing Center I also discovered how much I enjoyed teaching others to write, so I went to grad school in English Language and Literature, planning to spend my career teaching college classes and writing articles about other people's creative works. 

But I noticed something when I compared my grad school essays to my undergraduate ones: the complexity and critical thinking levels were better in my grad school essays, but the quality of writing was not. Bogged down by concerns about entering the “critical conversation” without sounding dumb, I had lost the sense of playing with language, and the writing often didn’t flow as smoothly. There were a lot of reasons I decided not to pursue a PhD program after graduating with my Masters, but the stifling effect on my writing was one of them. I also tend to lose my writing voice when I'm doing professional nonfiction things, like those dreaded cover letters. Editing/grant writing/freelancing etc. could be acceptable money-making jobs for me, but they'd never give me the relationship with language that I really wanted.

After grad school, I found a community college teaching position that I loved. For the first time in a while I could choose the books I read, which turned out to be a lot of dystopias and YA fiction. I also discovered Nanowrimo and jumped back into the creative writing that I had ignored for far too long. I was hooked on YA writing, and it felt so incredibly right.

So I write for the language, and I write YA fiction for the freedom and the love.

What about you?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Are You Ready to 'Rimo?

It's almost Nanowrimo time! And I'm EXTRA excited this year, because now I'm living much closer to the write-in and meet-up locations, so I can go and meet other writers. In person. It's crazy, I know.

Here's what I need before it begins:

Fingerless gloves
I used to have a pair of cheap gloves that I cut the tips off of to survive winters as a grad student. I even took a picture for some reason. 

Unfortunately I lost them somewhere and all I have at the moment are giant knit gloves that are no good for typing. This must be remedied. 

The real Scrivener, finally
After the last Nanowrimo, Scrivener announced that they’d give a discount on their Windows version, which was supposed to be released in “early 2011.” That apparently didn’t go as planned, but they recently gave October 31st as the release date, and hopefully the hoards of eager Nanowrimos will make them stick to it. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with the Beta versions of Scrivener, so I’m excited to finally buy the real thing. 

A baked goods supply to go with my coffees and lattes
Unfortunately I’ve lost my taste for most over-processed, overly sweet store bought cookies, so I may have to actually bake my own. Oh, the humanity!

A real, honest-to-goodness plan and outline, not just a hazy concept
There was a time this year when I considered skipping Nanowrimo, because I thought I had outgrown it. Then I realized that what I’d outgrown was calling something a novel manuscript when I was just madly putting words on the page and dreaming up scenes that clearly didn’t fit a logical plot arc. I’m still going to embrace the freedom of writing a “shitty first draft,” but hopefully it’s going to be carefully planned and crafted enough that I don’t have to start completely from scratch when I revisit it in December or January. It’s going to be a balancing act, especially since I’m a natural pantser, but I’m giving it a try and using these last two weeks to figure out as much of my story as I can. I just started on my first ever character worksheet this morning. I know, more craziness.

Family and friends with more convenient travel schedules
Just kidding! I haven’t seen my family since we moved at the beginning of July, and I haven’t seen my friend Dave since he shipped out to Afghanistan a year ago, so OF COURSE I’m excited that they’re coming to see us. But it does mean I’ll be playing host twice in November, so I’ll have to schedule some odd writing times and maybe some marathon make-up days. (You know, like everyone else who has kids and a full-time job and way more responsibilities than I do. I'm not complaining, I promise.) 

One thing I don't need now that I live in the Pacific Northwest: This website that makes soothing rain noises, mentioned by Stephanie Perkins. Haha, suckers! I have more natural rain noises than I know what to do with here...Oh, wait... 

Are you doing Nanowrimo this year? What are you doing to get ready?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tiny Athletes and Floating Pianos

I found out about this super-fun-with-super-prizes blogfest a little late in the game, but fortunately Julie at the Rosewood Pencil Box has extended the deadline until October 28th. So dig out those old school projects and glittery unicorn journals and join me in blogging about your earliest writing. 

It’s taken me a long time to seriously commit to it, but my writing started ridiculously early. After I could form letters but before I knew how to spell more than a handful of words, I was determined to start writing stories, so I would sit at the kitchen counter and ask my mom how to spell each and every word. Fortunately she was a writer herself, so she had the patience of a saint about it. 

I still remember the concepts of my first two books: An ant baseball game (very predictable, since I was raised to be baseball-crazy from a very young age) and a boy who loses his piano and finds it floating down the river (no idea where I came up with that one, or why I believed a piano would be buoyant). I included illustrations, of course. Sadly my creations are either long gone or buried in a box in the attic, but I tried to reproduce some of them for you:

That was surprisingly difficult. Hopefully my writing has improved more than my artistic abilities…

Technical difficulties just ate my attempts to add a dinosaur drawing (in the spirit of the blogfest). But these guys would love to drink a toast to your early works, if you'd like to share. :-D