Category Archives: Writing

December musings

It’s December. It’s cold outside, the ground has seen its first covering of sparkling snow, and sunset seems to be getting closer and closer to 4pm. It’s hibernation season. It’s also the season where I find myself looking back on the year that’s passed and to looking forward to what’s coming next.

This past year saw me happily revising the novel that I wrote as part of National Novel Writing Month last November. While the revision process has been slow, hindered by an interstate move and adjusting to my first year at a new job, it has been steady.

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Second draft – done and relaxing on the porch

Slow but steady saw me to the completion of the second draft of the novel in July. It was a day worth celebrating in many respects. I was in Mt. Vernon, Oregon, enjoying a writer’s retreat with three other women who have been writing colleagues of mine for almost ten years. We worked consistently for three days together, 45 minutes on, 15 minutes off. And 45 minutes at a time, in what was a culmination of seven months of work, I finished the second draft.

Since July, I’ve been finally doing the task I put off as long as possible – intensive research. Parts of fiction are invented, yes, but stories are grounded in the real world. Nothing throws me out of a narrative faster than when a “good” swimmer shows up in a novel, but he can’t break a minute in the 100-yard freestyle. Novelists must get the details right. Their credibility depends on it.

I’m taking the time to get the details right. I’ve read more nonfiction than I prefer, I’m overdue to give a donation to Wikipedia, and my friends who are doctors and teachers and veterinarians are probably very sick of talking to me about my very random questions. (Don’t worry, friends, your place is secure in my acknowledgements page.) The result of four months of research? This week I finally jumped in to the third draft of the novel.

So far so good! The first week in the third draft feels energized and solid and full of potential. I’m looking forward to seeing how far this will go in 2017.

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Published in Main Street Rag

My story, “Journal from the Field” has been published in Main Street Rag‘s Summer 2015 Issue.  I’m sorry for the delay in spreading the word, but better late than never with good news!

I’m afraid that you can’t read the story online, but please buy a copy of the magazine. It’s a great issue.

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National Novel Writing Month

It’s official, I’m a winner of National Novel Writing Month!

Nanowrimo

For those of you have haven’t heard of National Novel Writing Month (otherwise known as Nanowrimo) here’s the scoop: in the month of November, write 50,000 words or about 200 pages. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be a final draft. It just has to be new words, written on a story, in the 30 days in November. To be a winner, you have to meet the 50,000 word goal.

I made it! I hit 50,215 words on the morning of November 30. The story wasn’t quite finished, so I kept writing for the rest of the week. I finished the first draft of the novel last Monday. It clocks in at just over 54,000 words (about 220 pages), but I have more to add as I revise. I’ll dive in to the second draft in January, once I can see straight again.

The most striking lesson for me from Nanowrimo was that it forced me to take my writing out into the world in a way that hadn’t happened before. Sure, I’ve written at coffee shops and while traveling, but this has been the exception, not the rule. My habit is to write in the morning, at home.  If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, and that writing day is gone. With Nanowrimo, I couldn’t afford to lose any days. I needed to write in the morning, yes, but if I didn’t get far enough into my daily word count, I needed to write after dinner, or before, or whenever I could find fifteen minutes and a keyboard.

And so I did!  In the month of November, I wrote:

  • In the mornings, at my desk.
  • In the evenings, exhausted from just starting a new job, with a keyboard in my lap and a dog curled up by my side.
  • At Powell’s Bookstore because I still had 30 minutes left on my parking meter after an afternoon meeting.
  • At my local library because I just had to get out of the house.
  • At my friend’s house the day after Thanksgiving, both of us up early, he working on a presentation, me typing typing typing.
  • In the car while my husband was driving.  Or while it was parked.
  • At Burgerville, while my husband was running errands.
  • At my parents’ dining room table.
  • On my sister’s couch, tapping out as many words as I could before other people woke up.

This taught me that writing can happen anywhere, anytime. The muse shows up because I’ve shown up. Writing doesn’t have to be a sacred act that can only happen when the stars are aligned and the tea is hot and the phone is off. It can happen when it’s raining and I’m tired and the day has already been long. It happens because it has to.

And now it is December. I’ve given myself this month to play, to enjoy friends and family over the holidays, to submit stories and write blog posts (this one!) and maybe dabble in finishing a flash fiction or two. And then in January, the revising will start. Maybe it will happen at my desk in the mornings… maybe not. But it will happen. It has to.

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Short story published in Chicago Literati

The online magazine Chicago Literati is featuring stories and poems on the theme “Starving Artist.”  One of my short stories, “Form Ever Follows Function,” has just been published as part of this issue!

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A Community of Writers

My writing is a primarily solitary affair. I do my best work when the phone is out of earshot, when the door is closed, when I’ve created time where nothing else requires my attention. I say no to the dirty dishes in the sink, no to Facebook, no to the long decadent shower before heading off to the day job. I clock in on an Excel spreadsheet to hold myself accountable, and then I force myself to stay in the chair until the allotted time is finished. There is always quite a bit of fidgeting in that chair.

It’s a pleasure when I can emerge from behind the closed door into the community as a writer. My critique group, a small group of three, has been meeting regularly since 2008. They are family: they see my early drafts and work to make them better with care and constructive feedback. Then they repeat the process again and again, drafts two and three and four, and the next story and the next and the next.

Author readings are a delight; it’s far too rare to watch the written word affect listeners. Book readings give this activity space and time and light and air.

Writers’ Conferences are enough to make my brain explode from overstimulation. It’s an all-too-short day or two or three of meeting writers, learning from presentations, being inspired by speeches, and sharing my own stories.

At the Willamette Writers Conference a few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Maureen Kay, a writer in Portland. She is another author in the trenches, working steadily to craft stories that illuminate our world. On her website, she has highlighted some of the other authors in our community that are also working hard, day in and day out. She was kind enough to include me in the list. Take a peek!

http://maureenkay.com/friends-authors-storytellers/

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Story published in Mused!

Happy Independence Day!  Just in time for the holiday, my story, “An Invitation,” is now out from Mused: The BellaOnline Literary Review.  Grab a cold drink, find a shady spot, and check it out!

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Food for thought

Death: none of us can escape it.  We’re born; we die.  Or, as people in my family have said, “None of us are getting out of this alive.”

In my flash fiction story “Dr. Temple’s Eternal Cure,” I play with the idea of choosing the timing of when we’ll die. This question was explored in The New York Times Magazine this month in their piece “The Last Day of Her Life.”  The essay is about Sandy Bem, a professor of psychology at Cornell, who was diagnosed with a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.  She decided to “figure out a way to take her own life before the disease took it from her.”

My story is fiction; Sandy Bem’s story is true.  But the question winds through both: should we be able to control our own death?

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