Sunday, October 31, 2010

The day before NaNo

Twas the day before NaNo and all through the house was much sticking and grumbling as I scittered about like a mouse. The Halloween party had left quite a mess and here and there guests had left parts of their dress.

Cups and bottles, returnables galore, I wasn't sure which chore I disliked more. With much sweeping, vaccuming and mopping ahead, I really just wanted to curl up and go back to bed. But there were decorations, seven totes of them, to put away before I could begin my novel the very next day.

With visions from our awesome regional kick off party engergizing me to write, I began to clean in hopes of finishing before night. The morning would bring the challenge to produce 1667 words and I knew more than half of them would resemble turds. But that's ok, that's what Nano's about, thinking up the story, writing it down, getting it out.

And now with much work ahead for the day, I must stop this horrible attept to rhyme and go on my way. Tomorrow we write!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Attack of the Young Writers Pt 2

We had our second meeting today. I was thrilled to see that my 'do you REALLY want to participate' speech had sunk in and decreased my number by twenty-some. Thirty odd kids who really want to be there is way easier to manage for me. I happily went about our planning meeting with a smile and answered questions from enthusaistic young writers.

Our meeting wrapped up with lots of grins and chattering about cover art they'd all be working on over the weekend. They promised to be back on monday for our first day of actual novel writing. With our satisfying meeting concluded, I packed up my supplies and headed to the office to squirrel them away until monday's meeting.

That's when I happened upon the 'oh crap, that was today?' face of one of the teachers. Again. And I'd even gone in before school even started (because I was there for a special parent student donut breakfast thing we do) to remind all the teachers that we had a meeting a lunch time. But no. I still had a missing group who'd never been down to see me. Ahhhh!

I ended up doing a very quick classroom pitch. Yep, you guessed it, I'm back around forty-five kids again.

We'll see how many show up on monday when the real writing starts.

On tomorrow's agenda: Our regional NaNoWriMo kickoff party with an unbelievable amount of RSVPs over last year. It should be fun!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Attack of the Young Writers

I arrived a little early to my first Young Writers Program meeting with my stack of writing workbooks and my bag of prizes to entice the students. And I waited.

And waited.

Just when I thought the teachers I had distributed the flyer to last week had forgotten the YWP entirely, twelve kids showed up. Hooray!

Twelve is a nice number. Nice and personal. Then I realized they were all from one class. This meant I had three missing class groups. Oh crap.

I waited a little bit but no one else came so we proceeded with the intro. These were all fourth graders who I'd not worked with before. They were quiet and listened really well. At the end of our half hour together, they were excited and promised to be back on friday. I was thrilled.

I went to hunt down the three other teachers and found them all together in the lounge with looks of 'oh no!' on their faces when they caught sight of me. "Was that today?"

"Uh huh."

"We thought it was next week! Do you have an extra half hour? We'll send our kids right down."

"Sure." My day was crammed and I was pressed for time, but I figured half an hour wouldn't kill me.

Ten minutes later, thirty-five kids file into the library. Thirty-five. And these are only fifth graders. There's still one mystery quantity of fourth graders to be discovered on friday.

I'd learned my lesson last year when fifty kids showed up the first day, rabid for pizza and prizes. Umm, nooooo. The pizza party is at the end, after you earn it and the only way to get prizes is to earn them by writing. That announcement got rid of almost half of them.

So this year, I didn't even mention prizes or pizza on my flyer. Yet, the kids still showed up in droves. I spent my extra time with my eager and ultra inquisitive fifth graders doing my best to instill that this program involved writing. Lots of writing. There would be pizza and prizes, but ONLY after a lot of writing.

When I got done with my not near as enticing pitch as I'd given the forth graders, I came out and asked, "How many of you still really, really want to do this program? How many of you will be here for our planning meeting on Friday and be ready to write on Monday?"

Every darn one of them raised their hand.

I love that the teachers adore this writing program and that so many students want to particiapte, but holey moley. This is going to be a very long November. Or a blur. Let's aim for a blur, shall we?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prepping for NaNo

I give up. Avoiding posts about NaNo isn't working since it's taking up a good part of my free and no so free time. I'll probably be waxing on about NaNo for the next month or so. Sorry.

Knowing it will be taking over my life, I've begun the last stages of NaNo preparation. I'm not talking about outlining, character sketches or research. When the time comes to write, I'll write. I'm talking about the serious stuff that will be neglected when this 50k in thirty days washes over me, pulls me under and spits me out on the shores of December.

I spent my weekend catching up on my laundry. My family and I will now be able to get by an extra week or so when I forget to toss a load in here and there throughout the month. I payed all my bills through the middle of November. I did a litle extra cleaning because we'll be going to bare minimum real soon. I got all my business financial reports caught up - I hate doing those and was, well, eight months behind. Oops! I spent extra time with my family. I got everyone's halloween costume ready and mine started. Best of all, I'm now halfway done with the nine hundred christmas craft kits I need to do for my daughter's school.

Not that I neglected NaNo in my preparations. I packed all my goody bags for my regional kick off party next Saturday. All my raffle prizes are sorted into my thankfully huge stash of reusable shopping bags - one for each of the two Young Writers Program schools, kick off, weekly write-ins, our all day write-in, and the TGIO party.

And now with a bunch of stuff crossed off my mental to-do list, I can move forward into NaNo with a somewhat clear head. Which begins.... today at noon with my first YWP prep meeting.

Deep cleansing breath.

What do you do to prep for NaNo?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Unexpected house guest

When I built my new, bigger, better pond this past spring, I hoped some wildlife would visit it. I was not disappointed. One frog led to two and then we released our two tadpole to frog Boy Scout project frogs into the pond. Next thing we know, we have six frogs and probably more. It's hard to tell them all apart except by size and only one is quite large. The rest are very similar.

The frogs have been a great source of amusement for the kids and myself. Each time we go out to feed the pond fish (four of the ten .10 gold fish that have survived in the pond), we count how many frogs splash into the pond rather than fall into the shadow that is giant mankind. The largest frog has become rather imune to our presence and gives off a 'Yeah, whatever. Feed the fish and leave us alone' vibe.

This has been fun and educational all summer long. But now it's fall and with the frosty temperatures, my friendly frogs seem to be looking for warmer places to hang out. Like under my house.

See, I have a tiny, dirt crawlspace rather than a much needed basement. We're used to chipmunks and mice skittering around under there dispite our best efforts keep their numbers down by feeding them the green pellets of doom. The favorite spot for tiny clawed feet seems to be the external lip around my main floor bathroom's tub. I'm not sure who's brilliant idea it was to install a tub with easy bottom access to all wildlife, but I'd love to track them down and have a word or two. Nothing is more relaxing than a nice hot bath and the skitter scratch of little rodents throwing a luau in the unexpected burst of heat.

Our furnace is down there. That makes for a nice warm place for all sorts of creatures. Including, apparently, frogs,- as we discovered when doing the annual fall furnace check. Let's just hope they are going there to hibernate rather than to sing to each other at night or do battle with the furry rodents who prance around my tub.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Busy and busier

I'd like to say that NaNo had stolen all my free time, so that by December I'd be back to my lazy morning hours of time to compose fun blog posts and write. Alas, it is not so.

Lately, my calendar has been full to the brim. For instance yesterday looked like this:
7am - see husband off to work, get dressed, start laundry, watch news, check emails & forums.
8am - get daughter off to school.
8:30 - see son sit in front of xbox because has the day off for conferences. Go to his conferences
10am - stop home. Discuss confrences. Demand son cleans his room. Get grocery list. Get Mother in law's grocery list. Get a few orders done.
11:45 - daughter is home from half day. Feed kids. Throw food in my mouth. Answer emails. Work on pep talks and forum post ideas
1:15 - go to bank, drop packages at postal outlet, get groceries
2:10 - realize while I'm in the middle of getting groceries, my daughter's conference is in ten minutes. Crap. Quick pay and leave.
2:20 -arrive at school, park, go to door next to classroom and learn its locked. Stupid school security. Drive around to main parking lot and run through school to the opposite end. Meet with teacher. Pick up books for NaNo book drive. Meet with teachers whose students I'll be doing the YWP with, copy fliers.
3:15 - drop cranky daughter off at home. Kick son off Xbox, make sure he's let the dog out an has cleaned his room. Go back to grocery store.
4:10 - finish getting groceries, drop off Mother in law's groceries, put her groceries away, scan all my groceries for stupid survey place and put them away.
4:45 -take deep breath. Answer emails, shift laundry to dryer and toss another load in. Consider what to make for dinner.
5:20 - throw dinner in face, talk to family, watch clock closely.
5:45 - leave for Boy Scout committee meeting
6:00 - no one else is there. wtf?
6:15 - others finally arrive. Have meeting
8:20 - discuss NaNo book drive and Boy Scout fundraiser with other moms while Boy Scouts finish their meeting
8:50 - get home.
9:00 - answer emails, read RIF program requirements - yes, I signed up to head that program up while at conferences. *head desk* Gather up the growing pile of things I need to mend and consider whether to work on that, the 100 felt cardinals I'm cutting out for xmas crafts for my daughter's school, or maybe write something.
9:10 - husband wants to watch tv together. Look at pile of stuff, look at tv and sigh. Watch tv.
10:30 - go to to bed and collapse.

Calgon, take me away!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Revisiting the past

Maybe it's just me, but my memories of things I previously enjoyed are always better than revisiting the actual thing. Movies I enjoyed growing up are always better in my head than hunting them down in a fit of nostalgia and sitting down with eager eyes only to miss the movie entirely, lost in a fog of how far we've come with technology and special effects.

Books are no different. Granted there are a very select few that I will stand by, but most are disappointing given a few years between first view and second. Perhaps this is because I've grown as a reader and/or a writer since I've first read them.

In the mood for something other than grammar humor last night, I pulled an old book off the shelf. By the end of the second chapter, I was beginning to question where it got so good that I'd deemed the book worthy of keeping. (I only hang onto books that I'd read again). It was ok, but little things bugged me. Distracted is probably the better word - confusing scene staging, repetition of words and the overall tone of the book itself.

What happened to the awesome book I had put on the shelf after racing to the last page the first time? I distinctly remember it as a book I couldn't put down. In fact, I'd raced through the other two in the trilogy as well. Did the magical suck faeries wave their wands over them all?

Maybe I've just become ultra picky when it comes to reading for my own enjoyment. Maybe I should build a bookcase shield to thwart the suck faeries! Hmm. Nah, it would just be another surface to gather fingerprints.

I think I'll just stop re-reading books and watching movies I fondly remember and just remember them instead.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'm eyeing you

My husband and I were doing a little bedtime reading last night. He’s not a big reader, so this was a joyful occasion for me. A free pass to read without the ‘when are you going to turn that damned light off’ vibe wafting at me. He’s been working his way through a book he borrowed from a coworker. I have no idea what she said to entice him to read it, but I need to find out so I can have more in bed reading time.

Mr. Not-a-big-reader lies next to me, flipping pages. I’m snickering over the current chapter of Grammar Sucks (which I can’t recommend enough.). He turns to me and says, “What the heck does this mean? She cut her eyes to the other people in the room.”

The first thing that came to mind was the MC plucking out her eyeballs, chopping them in mid-air hibachi chef style and aiming the pieces at everyone else in the room. Mmm. Caught one in my mouth! Tastes like shrimp.

Maybe she plucked out her eyeballs, shuffled and cut them and dealt them like cards? Hey, I’ve got a pair!

Visually, really, what the hell does that look like? How about, she glanced at the other people in the room? No sharp objects needed.

I laughed, shrugged and went back to reading. Two minutes later, I’m interrupted by, “Does this seem excessive to you?” He goes on to read a three sentence paragraph that included all of the following: I glanced around, looked at, looked back at me, I caught his eye (Good catch! I hate when people drop my eyes when I throw them. Or cut them. Eek!), shifted his gaze, and looked away.

Holy excessive eyeball usage, Batman! Back away from the eyes. No, really. Put them down and walk away. And don’t look back!

Just below that, there’s another paragraph. Four short sentences this time, including: I looked, He did look, I gazed, glanced at me, I quickly looked.

AH!!!!! Make it stop! Turns out every single movement is being over described in an attempt to add tension. The MCs are watching everyone in the room, people in the room are watching them but everyone is looking away and no one is meeting any one’s gaze (Hello, right eyeball. Nice to meet you.).

We all have crutches we fall back on when writing scenes. But please, for the love of your eyeballs, don’t put them on crutches… er… I mean, overuse them. They need a rest too. No one likes dry, tired eyes.

Monday, October 11, 2010


My goal for this post is to not mention that writing challenge that happens every November that takes over two and a half months of my life. So, moving on....

Yesterday my percolator finally provided a solution to one of my broken short stories. Yay! Now I have to revise the beginning and end again. Let's hope its the last time.

And now for a short rant that has nothing to do with writing because everything that does seems to lead back to that one thing that I'm endeavouring not to talk about today.

I spent the majority of my weekend throwing birthday parties for my eight year old daughter. I had a lot of actual work to do, but I stayed up late both nights to do it, not getting much happy weekend down time so I could perform my all important mom duties during the day. We had a family party, to which my own sister was forty-five minutes late because she lost track of time / switched her plans (even though I'd specifically picked that date and time because it fit in her schedule).

My daughter also wanted a friend party. I'm pretty jaded when it comes to friend parties, having been bitten with a failed party for my son years ago. He has the misfortune to have been born during spring break, when everyone is out of town or has plans. She has a fairly safe birth date, so I agreed to do the whole party shebang as long as we kept it at five guests. I didn't want to go broke.

We sent out invites. We got four official RSVPs and one girl who said she would be there. We got a pinata. We bought party favors. We got balloons. I made cupcakes. We decorated the yard (because it was a gorgeous fall day and if I didn't have to have a bunch of screaming girls in my house, I was all for it). My daughter set up games and I bought prizes. Everything was ready on time. Hooray!

One girl showed up. One. And her mom almost forgot but happened to check her calendar a few hours beforehand and managed to make it.

Thank goodness for that, but still. If you say you are going to be somewhere. Be there. Especially when kids are depending on you. It's darn hard to play party games with just two kids.

Needless to say, she was very disappointed in her friends and I wasn't very happy with their mothers. Instead of having fun with her friends, she learned that she can't depend on them. There's plenty of time in life to become jaded, she didn't need to start at eight.

An hour into the "party", seeing how bummed my daughter was even though she was trying to have a good time, I called a friend of mine to borrow a filler kid -hoping to at least allow the girls to play the games my daughter had proudly devised. I told my friend that her daughter didn't need to bring a gift. I already felt silly enough asking her to join a party in progress and gifts weren't the important part of the party. We just needed someone to come play, eat cupcakes, win prizes and break open a pinata. If I had had a few more friends with daughters of similar ages that wouldn't have been afforted by my asking her to join a party she hadn't actually been invited to, I would have called them. But I didn't.

Her daughter and mine aren't great friends. They don't know each other very well. They're not in the same class or even same grade. But she arrived with a big bag of presents (yes, even after I'd told her not to). The girls all had a great time. When the party was over and the other girl went home, she stayed an extra hour to just play.

I only hope that my daughter doesn't remember her birthday party as the day people didn't show up but the day she met a new friend. Dependable friends are priceless.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Insert witty title

Sorry about the lack of posts this week. I've been down and out with a killer migraine.

On a happy note, I figured out the rough idea of my main NaNo story for this year. It may turn into a 50k novella or it may be one of several short stories. We'll have to wait and see where the blinking cursor takes me.

And yes, I'm going with the deserted bike on a sidewalk idea I brought up earlier.

Commander McWeasel is happy to hear I made some progress with commiting to a story idea. He's threatened to nip my ankles if I don't start with and complete this story before wandering off into sparkly new plot bunny territory. Since I'm still in bandages from my last post, I don't doubt that he'll follow through with it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The cyborg weasel commander has arrived!

He's here! He's here! Last night, Commander Rippy McWeasel beamed into my house to let me know his team of rabid cyborg attack weasels are arriving on Earth. They will be dispatched to your writing areas and will all be in position by November first to monitor our NaNo efforts.

He has taken up his post near my keyboard to keep an eye on me and learn my habits. He tells me this is so he can better tell when I'm procrastinating and when I'm gazing off into space but really working on writing. I think it's so he can memorize my passwords. Between you and me I'm sure he wants my credit card and bank numbers so he can set up a nice little place on the ocean somewhere. Maybe buy an island to populate with hot female cyborg weasels.

Won't he be surprised to learn that the most he could expect out of my finances would be a old, very used travel trailer beside a sludgy river? HA! Jokes on you, Rippy.

Oh crud, he can see what I'm typing. OWW! My ankles! I was kidding, Rippy! Owww!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Grammar Sucks... but it's funny

I loved english classes back in school. Took as many as I could and had a great time. But.... ahem... much time has elapsed between my knowledge gathering and my attempts to make good use of what I once knew.

In sorting through my stack of intended NaNo raffle prize books, I finally came to Grammar Sucks: What to do to make your writing much more better. I've never been a fan of cut and dry reference books. I have a few, but honestly, I don't use them because they're boring. Not so with this one.

In fact, I'm keeping it. Sorry.

The examples alone make me laugh. The chapter and section titles are hilarous. When I'm enjoying myself, I'm much more likely to remember lessons about prepositional phrases, double negatives and adjective phrases. Those all sound like boring things, don't they? But when illustrated with sentences I can relate to, these things sink in.

"The private party behind the garage contains all the cool people."

"The hot chick with blonde hair walked past me on the way to the food table"

"There will not be no Happy Hour today because of the blizzard." (Oh no! Wait. We're snowed in during happy hour and the double negative means it is on? Awesome!)

A lot of this stuff I know, but I have forgotten the actual name for it. Now I know again! If only all memory was so easily restored. Is there a book that can help me remember what I was going into the other room to get yesterday that I swear was important but couldn't remember once I'd walked the thirty steps to get there?

With refreshers on everything from the basics to the nit picky advanced stuff, you can't go wrong with this book. There are even several pages covering the present through past participle phrases of common verbs and plentiful examples on every page.

Both witty and informative, this book is perfect for any type of writer at any level. I recommend it to all of you! Go now! Buy it and laugh (and learn) with me.