Category Archives: Reading

Resisting NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) takes place every November. The point is to write a novel in 30 days, which turns out to be approximately 1667 words per day. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in it, and every year I have said, “Maybe next year.” The truth is, I could never really see the point. I’m a professional writer with several published novels to my credit. It seemed as though NaNo was for people who had no discipline or needed something like that in order to get the job done. How many, after all, finished anything worthwhile?

Plenty, as it turns out.

Well, this year, when I said, “Maybe next year” to my friend Pam Herber, she said, “You say that every year.” The gauntlet had been thrown.

So I did it. Every day I wrote approximately 1500-1800 words, with an extra spurt at the end that had me finish a couple of days before the deadline, and this is what I discovered:

1. I now have 2/3 of a poorly-conceived, messy, ugly, unwieldy first draft of a potentially good novel that I would not have had had I not participated in NaNoWriMo. I wish I had taken a week to prepare for my project, both plot and character, before the start of the challenge.

2. I had fun doing it, meeting friends in coffee shops to write together with headphones and caffeine.

3. I complained a lot because I didn’t get a Saturday or Sunday off, not even Thanksgiving Day, but I didn’t complain too loudly, because by Thanksgiving, magic was happening in the twists and turns and character development in my book.

4. I watched as my online NaNo “buddies” struggled with and overcame difficulties to also complete the challenge. Not all of them made it.

5. The pep talks the NaNo folks send almost daily are funny and insightful. Though I didn’t attend any regional events, they were frequent and looked to be a lot of fun. I might pop in on the Thank God It’s Over party tomorrow to accept my winner’s pin.

6. NaNoWriMo has writing events all year long. Darfinkle, my regional liaison, is going to give a presentation at the Wordcrafters in Eugene conference next March about NaNo and its camps and youth programs.

7. I read Chris Baty’s funny book, “No Plot? No Problem.” Chris is the founder of NaNo, and he might be more surprised than anybody about how well it has taken off. He has a lot of tips to writing a novel in this book and I found it to be a good read.

Really now, what is the need in the world population that NaNo has filled? That is a question worth considering, because I think that over 600,000 people registered this year, from all over the globe.

8. My process of writing urgently, under deadline, was more than validated. For 23 years I held a series of weekend retreats where all participants were required to write a short story in 24 hours. Though many never believed they could do that, nobody ever failed. 50,000 words in 30 days is a little different, but the same idea prevails.

So now I have a first draft to finish, reorganize, and polish.

Will I do NaNo next year?

Likely. If you do, “buddy” me so we can encourage each other on this crazy journey. It is a writing experience like no other. Highly recommended, at least once. NaNo

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Filed under Learning, Possibilities, Reading, Writing

Discussion Questions

I was delighted to discover that my book Lizzie Borden, has been selected as a text for two Women’s Studies classes at different universities.  Previously, Lizard Wine has received a similar honor. As a result, I have posted Discussion Questions on my website for each of those two books for the convenience of book clubs, literature classes, women’s studies classes, and readers, both professors and students.

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Filed under Reading, Writing

The Hometown Book Signing

I’ve written before about the very few golden moments in an author’s life. Mostly it’s just bloody hard work, disappointment and aggravation. Writing, rewriting, editing, marketing, traveling, speaking engagements, working with editors and agents, rewriting again, more editing, more marketing, schlepping books, trying to get paid, shuffling money while the check is “in the mail”…

I know. I shouldn’t whine.

But Sunday afternoon was one of those times when it became crystal clear that it’s all worth it. I held my hometown booksigning and launch party for York’s Moon. Lots of people came. New friends, old friends, people I hadn’t seen since… since my last booksigning.

I felt the love.

What’s important to me about this event is not that I threw myself a party and a bunch of people came, it’s that people are still reading, still buying books, still supporting the local independent bookstore. We held this event at Tsunami Books, where Scott works 70 hours a week to maintain the local new/used bookstore. It’s an institution and worthy of all the support we can give it.

It always amazes me that I’m fortunate enough to continue to be published in this economy. Apparently, I’m writing what people want to read, and that is enormously gratifying. We sold all the books that Scott brought in, along with a few of my out of print titles. As we were packing up the last of the food (just enough for Al’s dinner), Scott came over to me and said, “You have fans!” I know. I’m humbled by that.

It was a great party, a successful booksigning and a fine launch of what I hope people will find to be a good read. Thanks, everyone, for reminding me about how grateful I am to be doing the only thing I was really invented to do.

P.S. How can you not love a bookstore that has a section like this?

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Filed under My New Novel, Promotion, Reading, Writing

Some of My Latest News

A quick update on what’s been happening.

First, my newest book, York’s Moon is available at Amazon.com and on my website. The launch party will be at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St., Eugene, OR, April 17, 3-5pm. Come celebrate!

The trailer is up on the Candyland website! It’s very dark and creepy.

“Honing Sebastian”, a short story, is available as a podcast at PodCastle.

“Music Ascending”, a short story, is available as a stand-alone.

When Darkness Loves Us is in audio production.

I just got back from a great vacation and am now back at work.

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Filed under My New Novel, Podcasts, Reading, Short Stories, Writing

2011: The Year of Living Simply

I’ve been naming my years now for a while. It’s more than a resolution, it’s a reminder to bring more lovingkindness, more awareness, more sweetness to life. In naming my years, and in holding those thoughts in my head and in my heart, my outlook changes.

In 2011, I vow to live more simply.

What does that mean? To travel less for business. Maybe just travel less.  To only go where my dog can come along. She’s not getting any younger, either, and every day in a boarding facility is just that. To make fewer commitments. To acquire less stuff and to give more stuff away. To appreciate what I have rather than spend time and energy thinking about what I want. To not busy my schedule out a year in advance. To do more of the things I really enjoy and fewer things I dread. To not please people, but to please God instead. Pleasing people is exhausting. Pleasing God is simple.

To do more art. Both in writing and knitting and living. I heard not too long ago that if we, by our countless tiny decisions, make each day a work of art, by the time we’re finished, we’ll have created a masterpiece.

That’s for me. That’s what I want for 2011 and beyond. To build a simple masterpiece, day by day.

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Filed under Aging, goals, Joy, knitting, Possibilities, Prayer, Reading, Spirituality, time, Writing

Writing en masse

There is something to the idea that group synergy equals more than the sum of its parts.

Last weekend, twelve of us got together at a beautiful riverfront resort up the McKenzie River in Oregon to write science fiction stories. This weekend, like the annual ghost story weekends, required all participants to write a science fiction story in 24 hours.  We had some good chats about science fiction, and then at 7pm on Friday, after dinner, we all got down to it.

Saturday at 7pm, the dinner dishes done, exhausted yet energized, we sat in a comfy circle to hear the stories. It’s like having someone reading an entire anthology of excellent science fiction stories. We laughed, we shivered, we exclaimed, speculated, we clapped, we cheered. And then we realized that every one of the stories had certain elements in common. How could that be? There was no collaboration, no collusion. How could every single story have some of the same thematic elements? These were not things we discussed in pretrip meetings or over Friday night pizza and salad. They just happened.

I prefer to think that these things are in the ether. That our mind channels, when opened to the Great Creative Powers become not unlike an insecure internet portal. We wander around the grounds in the sunlight, pondering our stories, and those ponderings collide with another writer’s musings, and bingo! They both come up with a common solution for their outrageously different stories.

We’ve had this type of synergy before in these weekends. I’ve facilitated enough of them now that I thought I’d seen everything, but no. This was extraordinary.

And made every one of us eager to repeat the process.

Next spring: Fantasy Story Weekend.

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Filed under connections, Ghost Story Weekend, Reading, Short Stories, Writing

A February Book Exchange

Well, it took place on the last day of January, but February is such a runt of a month, I think it would be a great time to host a book exchange.

I attended one yesterday, hosted by my friend Christina Lay and a book-loving friend of hers. They had tea and cookies and some delicious teacakes from Germany, and two big tables set up with books that she and her friend were culling from their bookshelves. They put the word out via their respective email lists to come sometime between 2-4pm. The deal was: you can take as many books as you bring.

I arrived about 2:20 with a half dozen books I don’t need any more. I didn’t really intend to bring home more books, as my shelves are currently groaning under the weight of textbooks, so I didn’t consider the strategic effect of timing. If I had arrived later, there would have been more books to mull over, correct? Yet, perhaps they would have been picked over by that time… Christina said the best thing is to host a book exchange. That way you get to see everything that comes in the door.

I left with a small cookbook of sauces and marinades and a novel by Jane Smiley. It was nice to pick up a book and just put it in a bag. No checkout required. Meanwhile, I stood around, munching lebkuchen and discussing our best reads of the year with people I had never met. The only thing we had in common was a rabid love for books, authors, and the need to discuss them.

The hostesses were left with three boxes of books to donate.  Perhaps a few more than the two of them started with, as most people who showed up brought more books than they took.

What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

So grab a book-loving friend and make it happen. Or organize a bigger one within your book club.

Fine (free!) literature is an excellent way to meet other readers and refresh your nightstand.

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Filed under Friends, Fun, girlfriends, Reading