Monday, November 25, 2013

Nanowrimo: Day 25

Nanowrimo: Day 25
Current Word Count: 38,476
Today's Goal: 41,675
Words to write today to meet today's goal: 3,199
Words left to meet total goal: 11,524

Let's be honest about what's happening here: yes, I am blogging instead of getting started on today's Nano. This doesn't mean that I'm disenchanted, or that the honeymoon is over (as it were), or anything remotely anti-Nano. No, this is what I do. Hello, my name is Kristen. I'm a writer, and I procrastinate.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I mean, we as writers claim that all we want to do as our careers is sit down and write, yet when it comes down to it, we do other things. For instance, I sat down to write this morning, and got stuck at researching Ukrainian mens names. Other things I've done this morning include browsing Facebook (big surprise) and looking up synonyms for "awkward." Before you claim I should get that app that blocks Wifi for a set amount of time, I also found myself drinking a whole pot of coffee while watching the dog play, and texting my friend about a funny dream I had. And, yes, now I'm writing a blog about wasting time not writing. Mmmhmm.

This was my game plan: write a mystery novel without knowing whodunnit. This is James Sallis's technique (the guy who wrote Drive which was later a Ryan Gosling movie): "If the writer doesn't know whodunnit, the reader doesn't know whodunnit, and if the writer is interested, the reader will be interested." Today's procrastination has nothing to do with interest. In fact, I'm very interested to see what happens to Constantine now that the cops think that he's the murderer.

There's no anecdote to this story. There's no "hey, just make your story more interesting." It's interesting, thankyouverymuch. This is just an errant thought on a day when I realize for the 6,743rd time that a writing practice requires work and dedication. It doesn't mean that writing isn't worth it, but writing isn't easy. That's why Nanowrimo is excellent: it's training wheels for the real thing. Nanowrimo reminds you that you need to make a commitment to your writing...

...and then stick to it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nanowrimo: Day 19: Excerpt

Nanowrimo: Day 19
Current Word Count: 31,143
Words to Go: 18,857
Average Daily Word Count to Meet Goal: 1572

“Here -take this.” She held out a crappy flip phone, the kind that no one uses anymore except to buy their kids for a dollar at a garage sale for the purpose of mock phone calls.

“Do you even know me?” I’m sure my face was screwed up with disgust, and I know I stepped further back, shielding myself from the biohazard. 

“Take it.” She held it closer to me. “If we’re going to be on a case together, I might need you at random intervals of time.”

“Call my house number.”

“When you’re at Book World or at Denny’s all day? No. If I need you in some kind of emergency, the last thing I need is to be in a compromising situation, rolling through a list of possible phone numbers to reach you.”

“What kind of compromising situation?”

“I mean, can’t you just see it now? I’ll be lying on the street with a broken leg because the mafia attempted a hit-“

“Who brought the mafia in on this?”

“-and I’ll call you at Book World. ‘Um, is Constantine there?’ ‘Sure, please hold.’” Her please hold voice was far too saccharine and then she jumped into some kind of doot-doot elevator tune that I’m pretty sure doesn’t actually exist.

“I think if the mafia attempted a hit on you, you would be dead in the street, not maimed in the street.”

She was still doot-doot-ing and then interrupted herself to say, “‘Thanks for holding, this is Constantine.’ ‘Hey, Constantine, I’m lying maimed in the street because the mafia attempted a hit, but I’m super good at jujitsu and I got his gun away from him and he’s run off, but, hey, I need you to come get me, since I might be paralyzed.” She raised her eyebrows at me.

“That’s the most unrealistic story I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

HiFi Kids Makes Homeschooling Easier

You homeschool your kids because you think it’s important to be interactive in their education, right?

Sometimes homeschooling can be hard. You as a homeschool mom deal with the pressure of picking a good curriculum for them to learn by, you deal with social pressures, and you balance assigning projects and assignments based on their level while you want to push them so that they learn more. You’re invested in your child’s education more than any teacher would be, and you work harder than most teachers because you are not just their teacher but their principal, their administrator, and their school councilor. Great job, mom!

But HiFi Kids is here to make your job a little easier. HiFi Kids can help your kids practice for their studies, meet like-minded friends, and to prepare for standardized tests in the future.

Practice Makes Perfect
Homework is one way of making your student practice, and you might find this difficult to get your kids to do. You might have to bribe and cajole, leveraging chores and allowance around homework responsibilities. But homework isn’t the only way for your student to practice his or her newfound skills.

In the job world, your student will recognize that he or she has to practice these skills through action. HiFi Kids provides action through quizzes. All users of HiFi Kids (parents, teachers, students) can create quizzes with the intention of honing students’ skills. So you as a homeschool mom can not sign your kids up with HiFi Kids to have them take quizzes for practice, but you can sign up with HiFi Kids and build quizzes with the intention of your kids using that quiz.

Interested in building your own quizzes? This offers great flexibility because you can build a quiz in any subject or content area, and then your work is done. The quiz automatically grades the student, instead of you grading papers. And if you are working with other homeschooling families, you can work together with other homeschool moms to create quizzes that you all can test your kids on. Take turns building quizzes and have all of the kids take those quizzes. That way, they’re interacting with one another, and they’re practicing for their classes.

Socialize With Social Educational Networking
When your kids aren’t going to a public school every day and missing the opportunity to associate with almost a hundred people (depending on your region or nearby school), you feel social pressure. How are your kids going to learn social cues for the “real world”? You feel the pressure to make connections for your kids so that they can meet as many different kind of people as possible so that when they have jobs and families as adults, they’ll be prepared. But how do you do that?

At HiFi Kids, socializing is easier now than ever before. Instead of other social media sites that involve kids distracting from their studies with computer games, HiFi Kids builds relationships through their studies. Students quiz each other as a means of social interaction, so your kids can meet other kids who are interested in the same school subjects and ideally can support each other in their studies.

Appreciate and be Appreciated
You work really hard: wouldn’t it be nice to be appreciated for your hard work? HiFi Kids has an Appreciate feature which allows your friends, your kids, and your peers to Appreciate your hard work. Instead of merely being friends on HiFi Kids, your peers can say that “You are awesome”, “You are stupendous”, “You are great”, and other nice things that you might hear on a day you need it.

As a teacher, you can likewise award Appreciations for a quiz well-taken. This boosts self-esteem and students are likely to perform better.

Match With Your Curriculum
There are several different kinds of curricula for home schooling. No matter which curriculum you’ve selected, you can use HiFi Kids to match it. The quizzes and the scores from the quizzes quickly match into whatever grading scale you’ve created, matching HiFi Kids into a beneficial aid instead of just one more outside accessory.

Prep for SAT
Public schools, charter schools, and home schools alike have the same expectation for their students: if the student wants to get into a good college, he/she has to take the SATs. HiFi Kids offers an SAT prep class online that allows your student to get started on learning the syllabus as early as he or she is ready. In fact, your student may not plan on taking the SAT test until a senior in high school, though he or she can start learning as a freshman in high school. Way to plan!

Most homeschooled moms will send their kids to an SAT prep class offered at the public school for one whole Saturday before the test. This is a stressful environment for the student, being corralled into a cafeteria (or some such large space) with sometimes hundreds of students, not being allowed questions, cramming for the SATs all day, in a high-pressure, uncomfortable space.

If your student took the SAT prep class through HiFi Kids, however, students could study in the most comfortable environment: his or her home. On a computer, on an iPad, on a smartphone –whatever comfortable medium your student prefers, he or she can sit on the couch, on a bed, or in a chair to study with a low-stress, self-paced environment, free for any modifications that would make your student as relaxed as possible. Studies show that if students are more relaxed when studying, they are less likely to experience text anxiety, and therein will perform better. Doesn’t that sound like a better alternative?

Need a GED?
According to most homeschool curriculums, your student doesn’t get a high school diploma when he/she is done with homeschooling. In fact, in several states, if your homeschool curriculum does provide a high school diploma, that state still requires that your student also take the GED exam.

The GED prep class is often offered at the community college level, but you may not want your students associating with troubled students who were high school dropouts or who have been court-ordered to finish their education. Instead, consider the GED prep class at HiFi Kids. Your kids will get the same if not better quality education than they would at the community college level, and they can take the class from the comfort of their own home.

A relaxed, comfortable, happy student is a student who is going to perform better on any standardized test, so why not sign your kids up at HiFi Kids to ensure their best chance?

As a mom, you have to make many choices, but as a homeschooling mom that you have more choices. Save yourself some time, energy, and stress by creating a profile for yourself and your kids at HiFi Kids. In no time, you’ll see that this was the right choice.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nanowrimo: Day 16: Writing is My Superpower

Nanowrimo: Day 16
Current Word Count: 28.840 and the day's still young
Words to go: 21160
Average Daily Word Required to Meet Goal: 1333

It's hard to believe we've been writing for 15 days now.

Right about now is when people start getting burnt out, especially teachers and students. "I have homework" or "I just can't find time around grading" are perfectly logical reasons.

But I'm weird, and at least this year, writing seems to be my superpower. It's not like I've got nothing to do (trust me), and it's not like I've got the plot all worked out already (ha ha, trust me), but I'm finding something new every day -and it keeps me coming back.

So this is the novel so far: Constantine Gideon is a feckless writer with writer's block who has put all his dreams into this one last hope that he can become a bestselling novelist. Right about this time is when he stumbles upon a body next to a dumpster at the Outback Steakhouse. "Then I did what any normal, reasonable, well-balanced writer would do: I covered her body with trash bags, and I took her wallet to Denny’s where I planned to thoroughly inspect it to get a better idea of who she was."That's right, my friends: Constantine is obstructing justice to solve this murder himself and use the storyline for his bestselling novel.

But here's what goes wrong: he gets caught by a quirky, troubled niece of the Denny's manager and she is threatening to turn him in unless she can help solve the murder.

Here's a preview of how this goes. NOTE: It's a rough draft so there's a little bit of talking-heads dialogue going on. There will be more setting and description to come later.


“I didn’t want to tell anyone this because I want to do it on my own, but here’s how things look. I”m a novelist, okay? I’m a failed writer who works at a bookstore and has no prospects for my life. I’m thirty eight years old and yesterday my sister showed me how much I need to grow up. It was Halloween, I was dressed as Dracula, she wasn’t… It’s a long story.”
“You were dressed up as Dracula?” she asked, her eyes squinty.
“Yes, but that’s not the point.”
“You couldn’t have done something original?”
“I like Dracula, okay?”
“But really? You couldn’t have picked a costume that isn’t fifty percent off in every drug store?”
“That’s not the point! The point is that I’ve realized for once in my life that I’m not in college anymore. I’m a failure at everything. My own dog doesn’t even like me.”
“Wow. Your own dog doesn’t even like you?”
“That’s pretty sad, dude.”
“You’re telling me. On top of everything else, I need to be a grown up. And the only way I can be a grown up on my own terms is to write a bestselling novel.”
“But you’re a novelist?”
“So why don’t you publish the novel you’re working on? Or aren’t you working on one?”
“I’ve been working on the same novel for the last eight years. It’s not ready.”
“How many pages is it?”
“One thousand, eight hundred, and fifteen.”
“And it’s not ready?”
“Can’t you just cut three hundred and fifty pages out of it and publish that?”
“No, it’s… it’s complicated. It’s not ready.”
She scoffed. “Will it ever be?”
I didn’t answer. It had never occurred to me that it might never be ready.
“So what does your one thousand, eight hundred and ten-“
“Okay, fifteen page novel have to do with you mugging a girl? Are you that desperate for cash?”
“No! I was walking to Denny’s after work-“
“Okay, that part of the story is believable.”
“Very funny,” I mocked. “And I walked right past here. See, the sidewalk is right there. I walked past here on my way to Denny’s and I just saw her here.”
“You just… saw her?”
“And you don’t think it’s unbelievable that no one else all day saw her?”
I shrugged.
“And you don’t think it’s unbelievable that there’s no evidence from your story? Like if you were lying, you could have made up a better lie about your car breaking down or something and then there would be an oil stain on the asphalt that would prove that you were there this afternoon.”
Out of curiosity, I inspected the asphalt and guess what? There was oil stains. Everywhere, in fact.
“Yes, but you see, that proves that I’m not lying?”
She furrowed her brow. “Come again?”
“Because I’m a writer, right? I lie for a living, right? So logically I would be good at it. Logically, I would have thought of the oil stain thing if I was scrambling for a lie, but why would I lie if this was the truth?”
Her expression was unreadable and unmovable. “You do realize that argument will not hold up in court?”
“Well, maybe the court has unrealistic expectations?”
“Yeah, you can’t tell them that, either.” She shifted. “Wait a minute, if you’re so good at lying as you’ve claimed, then how come I don’t know  you’re lying now?”
“Because I’m telling the truth!”
“Wow. Convincing. But you forget that I saw you with a body. You forget that I saw you with a wallet. You forget that you’re here now and you got off work like four hours ago. That doesn’t support your innocent writer act. Innocent writers would have called the cops.”
“But I’m going to solve the murder myself.”
“I’m handling my own investigation and I’m going to solve the murder. I’m on the side of justice, I just don’t look like it.” She didn’t move or say anything. “I’m going to write a novel from the murder investigation. That’s my secret, okay? Dammit.” I started pacing again. “There’s my secret. Are you happy now?”
That is your secret?”
“So I’m here in the dark trying to recover whatever evidence I can so that I can identify the clues and start off on my own. Then I’ll call the cops and have them take care of her.” 
Kimy was silent for a long time. Her eyes darted to the body a few times. She looked at the sidewalk and to Denny’s a few times. She did nervous things like put her hands in her pockets, then take them out, then put them back in again. “Wow.”
“Cool, right?”
“No. Not cool. Worst lie I’ve ever heard.”
“That is the worst, lame-wad lie I have ever heard, and as a novelist, you should have done better.”
“No! It’s the truth!”
“If it’s the truth, then explain to me how you are going to keep the cops from identifying your fingerprints on her wallet and on her body?”
“What? They can identify fingerprints on bodies?”
“Shoulda thought that through, huh? And if this was true, explain for me how you’re going to keep anyone from identifying you at the scene of the crime? I mean, you’re on a busy street for one-“ The cars whooshed by for emphasis. “-And for two, you’re next to a busy restaurant. Not just a busy ma and pa restaurant but a corporate chain. Did anyone from the restaurant see you?”
My face went white.

“Oh, someone did see you. Good. So when I call the cops and tell them that you’re a crackpot sociopathic murderer with purple socks, there’s going to be a witness placing you at the scene of the crime.”

Writing is my superpower this time. Not because I'm brilliant (because you can see from my very rough draft that I'm clearly not) and not because I have nothing to do, but because this story is writing itself. Isn't it weird that characters seem to show up and they tell you what they want to do? I mean, three weeks ago, I would have no idea that a writer would want to take a dead body to his apartment to perform his own autopsy, pass out at the idea, and then return the body. Even yesterday, I had no idea that Constantine has a restraining order because he stalked her as inspiration to write a character, or that today he would break into the dead girls' apartment as a means of leading his own investigation. I mean, who are these people? 

When you're interested, the reader will be interested. And when the writer is interested in her own work, it's sometimes because she has no idea of where it's going. And that's why writing is my superpower: there's no way that what is happening right now is part of my natural writing process. But that's the best part: show up every day and be surprised. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Nanowrimo Saved My Writing Life

Nanowrimo: Day 14
Current Word Count: 22,052
Words to Go: 27,948
Average Daily Word Required to Meet Goal: 1644

If you have an MFA in Creative Writing, you do this, too: you not only use your MFA to get a job, but you use it in silly phrases. I’ve heard other MFA-ers say, “I have a Master’s Degree: I can put together this silly little cabinet from IKEA.” And, yes, we realize that because we read books and wrote scenes for two years doesn’t mean we know how to assemble furniture. Especially IKEA furniture.

But our degree has done something else to us that is counter-intuitive: writer's block. This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s at least true for me and a few of my classmates. Can you blame us? For two years, we had to write tens of thousands of words amid reading a new masterpiece novel every week, writing a 1000-word annotation on that novel the moment we finished it, and some semesters writing long critical essays on top of that. Oh, did I mention that we had to fit in our jobs and lives, too?

Natalie Goldberg is one of many writers that encourage fellow wordsmiths to just write. Just do it. Just put the frickin pen on the paper and see what happens. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t stop to edit. Just go. Put your inner critic in a box and don’t let her out until later. She doesn’t get a voice here.

Most writers struggle with putting the inner critic in a box, and I struggled with it before the MFA. You know what that means? After the MFA, I was screwed. Now I knew what fiction should do. Now I knew what a driving question was and how it relates to tension, conflict, and climax. Now I knew that setting should reflect your character. Now I knew that my scenes weren't measuring up as I wrote them.

Wait a second –I paid to have writer’s block?

Icess, you gave me reality. At the G4 panel “Prepping for Your Last Semester,” you said that you couldn’t write for at least six months after your were finished with your thesis, and that was okay because you needed a break. Thanks for these words of wisdom, because I felt like some writerly part of my brain broke.

I couldn’t write novels. Poems were my go-to genre, but because they were short. I tried creative nonfiction essays, writing down my adventures in the desert, or local historical curiosities. Yeah, those were bad. I attempted short stories again in the dead of winter, and these stories likewise seemed frozen.

Enter freak-out. What would happen if I was the writer who just said I was the writer? What if I turned into that lady at the coffee shop with a copy of Melville who is always so fashionably dressed and who is so eager to talk to passersby because it might mean I would procrastinate from writing? Yikes. No writer wants to be that “writer.”

And, yes, procrastination was a problem –something I still struggle with. (Yeah, I may or may not have wasted half an hour looking for that IKEA meme.)

But then something happened. You know, this little thing called Nanowrimo. (If you don’t know what it is, check out my past blog about Nanowrimo here.) Remember how I told you that it would actually get you working?


Nanowrimo has saved my writing life. I know it sounds dramatic, but after two years of stress-writing for school and then almost a year and a half of building my way up to writing novels again, I needed a push. I needed some kind of motivator that got me to write something on the page that wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever written. My students are crazy sick of my repetitious adage, “Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.” They’re sick of it. I’m sick of saying it, really, but repeat it because they need to hear it. Maybe what made me the most sick of saying it was the hypocrisy of not actually doing it. I mean, here I am saying, “Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft,” and yet I’m the last person to do it. Doesn’t that sound like a problem?

Problem solved. It’s called Nanowrimo. I can’t say this enough, my friends: Nanowrimo gets you to write something –anything- for 1667 words a day. I try to overshoot and write 2000 words a day, which (depending on the scene) only takes me 30-60 minutes to complete.

Can’t do it because you’re too busy? You really can’t take 30-60 minutes out of your day for yourself?

Do it. You’re doing your writing life a favor.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why HiFi Kids is Great For Schools

Principals, school managers, and school administrators, this one is for you.

You’re stuck. You want to have high expectations of your educators and your students, but you have no money to do it with. You want to promote the use of technology in the classroom, but you don’t have the funding for much beyond the internet. Your teachers are working very hard and trying to complete the tasks at hand with greater demands on their time than ever before. How can you have these expectations and logistically master these tough spots?

Try HiFi Kids. HiFi Kids is a social educational network that is free and makes education fun for students and teachers.

Let’s be honest: plenty of products or websites make that claim, but is it really true? Will HiFi Kids really meet that expectation?

You would be surprised. While its main mission is to create a casual learning environment for kids, there are social networking components that allow kids to think that it’s not a boring, educational platform. At the same time they’re taking quizzes and studying for their courses, they can chat with friends and see whose birthday is coming up. Instead of being a social educational network that provides distractions, HiFi Kids makes learning fun by providing kids the ability to take photo quizzes or video quizzes. They can quiz their friends and they can take quizzes set up by their teachers. There’s no one way to learn, and HiFi Kids not only provides many ways to take quizzes and to study, but these are fun quizzes that take the formality and the stress out of studying or testing.

Teachers love HiFi Kids, too. Teachers can post quizzes and have students take the quizzes on the educational platform. When this happens, a teacher doesn’t have to spend hours after school grading: instead the computer grades for him or her, saving the teacher time for other educational activities. Better, the scores on HiFi Kids are easily compatible to any grading system. HiFi Kids doesn’t take away from quality instruction, but adds to it.

Here’s another way that HiFi Kids adds to quality instruction. Teachers can use HiFi Kids to create a quiz and to project the timed quiz onto the board through a computer projector or visual imaging system. When the students use their own response cards (Clickers) to complete the quiz, the statistics of the quiz are instantaneously updated on the teacher’s projection so that there is instant data on the class’s performance. The data is anonymous to protect the students’ identity, and the teacher has instant information to use in his or her instruction. With the best of both worlds, teachers find that using these quizzes allows them to see where the class is so that they can immediately address the weak areas for better testing in the future.

HiFi Kids is not a testing platform, nor is it a tutor. HiFi Kids is intended to be a kind of social networking that doesn’t currently exist. It makes connections between parents, students, and teachers, and allows you to study while you’re online through peers’ or teachers’ quizzes.

To date, there are 1436 members on HiFi Kids right now and that number is growing. It’s comprised of teachers and students who want to use HiFi Kids to meet their educational goals. By using HiFi Kids in your classrooms and with your teachers, you could find a spike in informational retention, in test performance, and in responsiveness. HiFi Kids could be exactly what you need to make this school year a great one for your district.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Nanowrimo: Day 2

Words written today: 2209
Words written so far: 4302
Words to go: 45,698
Days left: 28

Today I set up my Nanowrimo novel on www.nanowrimo.org.

  • Novel: Best Book Ever: A Story About Yes I Do Suck at Titles
  • Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
  • Synopsis

    Constantine Gideon is a failure at everything. Now nearly 40, Constantine has decided that he'll give his dream of being a bestselling author one last shot: except he has writer's block. But when he walks to Denny's one day to do his daily writing, he stumbles upon a body and his life changes forever. Will he use this murder to write a bestselling mystery novel, or will he instead by charged as an accessory to murder -if not murder one?


    "You're pretty and I like that you’re carrying a copy of Dostoyevsky," I said. She was a brunette with oversized glasses and a mustard cardigan, and she blushed as she sat back in her chair. "Do you want to go out sometime? Maybe get coffee. Like now, except we'll go out... Like deliberately intending on getting coffee... But together." 
    I know it sounds like an unsuccessful opener, but then two things happened: first, she giggled and avoided eye contact, and then she said, "You're cute." It was like high school: no one's called me cute in like 15 years.

    "Is that a yes?" She nodded. "Yeah? Ok, cool. Can I sit?” She nodded again so I did. She looked to my hands –empty, except for the cup of coffee- and then returned to fleeting eye contact. "If you have your phone on you, I can put in my phone number." 

    She said it like a question.

    "Oh, uh, I don't have a cell phone."


    "Yeah, I'm a Luddite."

    She tilted her head like an alert, questioning dog.

    So I said it again. "A Luddite. Yeah, I don't participate in anything that requires technology. No computer, no cell phone... My car is from 1986. Might as well be 1886.” I chuckled but she didn’t respond. “Yeah, because there’s no computerization in the dash. You know, back when everything was mechanical and we still supported manufacturing jobs in the U.S…”

    "Oh." Now I couldn't tell if she was confused or unimpressed.

    So I went for it. "Actually, it's probably good if we have this conversation now. I mean, you're cute and I'd really like to get to know you. I think we'd be great together, because I just get this feeling sometimes. Kinda like I got this feeling that my best friend would die in a motorcycle accident -which he did- or that Facebook would change the way we interacted with each other. I just get these feelings."

    "Facebook? Wait -I thought you were a Ludda-something."

    "Luddite. Yeah. But just because I don't use technology doesn't mean I don't know what it is." She made that confusing face again. "But, no, this is good we’re having this conversation. I mean, I think you should be your most honest at the start of a relationship, don’t you think? No false advertising?” Her face was motionless, maybe still confused. “Yeah, okay, so here’s honesty. I’m almost 40, I work at Book World, and I’m a novelist.”

    “Ooh, a novelist?” She smiled again. “What’s your novel about?”

    “Actually, I just quit that novel. It… didn’t work. It was about a Jujitsu master who became an alcoholic but then rededicated his life to brain science. Yeah, there was too much going on in it so I’m putting it away for a while.”

    “That’s too bad.”

    “I’ll return to it one day, when the writer’s block is over.”

    “You have writer’s block?”

    “I do. See here? Honesty. Yeah, I have writer’s block, but I’m looking for a new story idea to break me out of it.”

    She shifted in her seat.

    “Oh, no, I wouldn’t use you to break me out of writer’s block. I mean, I’ve done that before in relationships and –huh- whoa, that didn’t work.” I could see she was getting more uncomfortable, so I chose a different direction. “Okay, other honest things. I hate video games, superhero movies, and sports. I think peanut M&Ms are awesome and addictive like crack, and my favorite movie is 2001: Space Odyssey.”

    “Wait, you said you were almost 40?” Her pretty brown eyes were squinty now.

    “39 to be exact. Okay, go, your turn.”

    “Ok-ay.” She might have sounded unsure. “My name is Melisma-“

    “Oh, like the melodies in baroque music?”

    She smiled. “Yeah. Wow. You’re the first person I’ve ever met who knows that.”

    I shrugged and smiled. “What else?”

    “And I think…” She started tapping ochre colored nails on the formica table. Then, eye contact. Strong eye-contact. “And I think that though I’m ten years younger than you, I’m too old to deal with a guy who picks up girls at coffee shops who’s maturity is stunted at 14 years old. Sorry.” Then, she and Dostoyevsky left. 

    Well, it wasn’t a complete loss of fifteen minutes: I got a table out of it and while a few suckers over there don’t know where to sit.

Friday, November 1, 2013


How many of you know what Nanowrimo is? Would it make a difference if I mentioned that it starts today?

Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month, celebrated in November by crazies like me who think in all our spare time that we can write 50k words by November 30th. Why do we do this?

1. Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines
How many people have you met who lounge around coffee shops with a copy of Tolstoy or Chekov or Austen and say, “Yeah, I’m a writer.” It’s easy to say you’re a writer, but what are you actually writing? And what keeps you from putting your feet up at the coffee house instead of putting your pen to the paper?

Deadlines, dearie. This is why successful writers don’t quit their day job –unless their name is Stephen King or Jhumpa Lahiri and discipline is their super power. I mean, as romantic as it sounds to only be a writer and to have no other job, and to sit in a room in your house with your laptop, pajamas, and cup of coffee, real writers have multiple jobs. Real writers have lives. Real writers make writing work because they only have an hour or two a day (if they’re lucky) to squeeze in writing. Real writers have discipline and get stuff written because the yahoo in her pajamas is still dreaming and saying she’s trying to find a good place to start.

Nanowrimo gets you to start –pajamas or not. Nanowrimo is about beginnings.

2. It’s Fun –Even If You Don’t Win
Nanowrimos strive to write 50k words, but not everyone does. Truthfully, it is a lot of pressure to put on yourself. But here’s the best part: there’s no risk. You don’t pay to play. You don’t lose anything. You set a goal, you either accomplished it or not. Some writers will even join Nanowrimo with the goal of writing only 10k words, and if they get to 50k, great. Why play like this? Because it gets you to write. Just write. Just do it. No one is going to write your novel if you don’t.

Here’s another fun tool: the website is full of stats that keep you going. Not only do you have a team of cheerleaders pumping you up for the game, but you have a website with a profile specifically dedicated to you so that you can track your progress. If this isn’t the way to write a novel (in a month), I don’t know what is.

3. Community
With forums and write-ins and support groups (in the non-substance-abuse sense), you know you’re not alone. It’s not one of those empty phrases thrown out there –you’re really not alone. Currently, there are almost 200,000 writers signed up (198,599 to be exact) and these people are writing on forums, blogging about their writing, and using social media to talk about their writing. Writers need a community to be successful, and this is your community.

4. Success
If you win, you have 50k words to show for it. Does that mean you’re ready to publish on December 1st? Hell, no. But, to steal a metaphor from John Green, you’ve pulled the mud out of the ground to sculpt into clay. To steal another metaphor from John Green, you’ve cut down the tree and now you’re ready to carve the chair. Writing 50k words is about writing a crappy first draft –something that you can mold into something amazing.

Did you know that Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was a Nanowrimo? This is just one of hundreds of published books from Nanowrimo. Does this mean you’ll publish? No. (Stop obsessing about publishing.) This just means you’re one step closer.

It starts today, my friends. Your novel, that is -it starts today. 

Sign up at www.nanowrimo.org