Writing Here, There and Everywhere

I’m back. Back home and back from my NaNoWriMo blog sabbatical in which I endeavored to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The annual National Novel Writing Month competition draws hundreds of thousands to compete in this madness, and many succeed.  https://www.cartridgepeople.com/info/blog/nanowrimo-statistics

I wrote 55,000 words. I’m not getting all the NaNoWriMo prizes because I divided my words between two different projects, a nonfiction book that’s still in its early days—17,023 words–and a sequel to my novel Up Beaver Creek—38,130. Add them together, and I’ve got 55,153. That does not count all the other stuff I wrote during the month, including journal entries, new poems, and posts at my Childless by Marriage blog. This word factory produces many products.

I don’t know why the competition takes place in November. It’s such a busy month. Why not pick January when we’re all revved up with New Year’s resolutions, there’s not much else happening (okay, yes, the Superbowl), and there are 31 days instead of 30?

This November was extra crazy. Of the 30 days, I spent 15 away from home. I drove approximately 2,000 miles, bringing my Honda Element up to 130,000 miles. My travels took me to the Portland Book Festival, Ellen Bass’s Fire and Ice poetry workshop in Scott’s Valley, California, a night in Santa Cruz and a day at Seacliff Beach where I spent much of my childhood.

I followed that with three days in Santa Clara writing, catching up with family, and saying goodbye to my childhood home, which has been cleaned out and sold. From Santa Clara, I drove to the outskirts of Yosemite for Thanksgiving with my brother’s family. When I left there on Saturday, because I-5 was blocked with snow, I had to take the long way home, extending my usual California-Oregon drive from 13 hours to 18, much of it in the rain.

Between trips, I prepared for installation of a gas fireplace and a propane tank at my house. I sold copies of my recently published chapbook Gravel Road Ahead and read the final proofs for the next chapbook, Widow at the Piano, which is coming out in March, took Annie to the vet and started giving her four different medicines every day for arthritis and an ear infection, and said goodbye to my job at Sacred Heart Church.

Through it all, I wrote. I had treated myself to a new laptop, a small ASUS with super-long battery life, so I could write wherever I was. I wrote on motel room beds and desks, in coffee shops, on my brother’s sofa in front of the TV, and in the commons at Oregon Coast Community College. I wrote sitting, standing and lying down. I wrote when I knew what I was going to say and when I didn’t, nudged by the counter at the NaNaWriMo website to reach my daily goal and keep the line on the graph going up.

I joined two of the NaNoWriMo write-ins at a new local cafe (Wolf Tree, near the college). I wasn’t sure I’d be able to write with other people around, but it was great. We all focused on our own stories, taking bathroom and snack breaks as needed, and the words poured out.

But for the need to get dressed, I might do all of my writing in coffee shops. Or bars, depending on my mood.

As the end of the month neared, other writers started reporting on Facebook that they had “won” NaNoWriMo, reaching their 50,000-word goal. A week ago, I knew I wouldn’t meet that goal on my novel, although I would make it with both my projects combined. That’s okay. My 38,000 words is a lot of words. It’s 152 double-spaced pages, halfway to a completed novel. My protagonist PD and her friends have already gone through a lot, with more to come. I will keep going, although maybe not at the same breakneck pace. I will go back to taking Sundays off. I will let myself read fiction again. But this novel that was only a maybe, possibly, I’m-not-sure kind of thing is real now. And my other project has a good start.

I plan to do NaNoWriMo again. It’s exciting to write so much so quickly and with such great camaraderie as writers all over the world do the same thing. Not every novel written during NaNoWriMo gets published or even finished, but it’s fun to go into an imaginary world and let the words fly.

Anyone who writes fiction knows all the writing does not take place on the keyboard or the page. Your mind keeps working on story problems. Yesterday, while I was driving through the rain between Eureka and Crescent City, California, I suddenly had such a great idea I was shouting and banging the steering wheel. Yes! That’s perfect! That’s how PD is going to ID the bad guy. Of course! Other drivers might have suspected I drank more than orange juice and green tea with my breakfast.

Kudos to our regional NaNoWriMo leader Nikki Atkins, who finished her 50,000 way early while acting in two different plays at the local theater. For years, she has kept local writers inspired with her enthusiasm and support. How could anyone not succeed with Nikki cheering them on?

So I’m home. Back with Annie. Back at my desk. Back with a pile of receipts for all the money I spent. Back with 163 emails to read. Back facing the six pounds I gained this month eating at restaurants. Back hoping that today, finally, the work on my new gas fireplace and the propane tank outside will be completed, and we will have real heat.

But also back with the glow that comes from setting forth to write something good and succeeding.

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was satisfying. Christmas is only three weeks from Wednesday! I’m not ready. Are you? Here’s a thought. Buy everyone on your gift list copies of Up Beaver Creek so they can be ready when the sequel comes out. Have a great week.

 

 

 

Authors, lunch and antiques=heaven

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Authors Valerie Ihsan, Janet Fisher and A Lynn Ash pose among the antiques

An authors’ lunch in an antique store? How strange, but it happened last week at Indulge Antiques in the Gateway Mall in Springfield, Oregon, and it was good. Amid the elegantly set tables, I found authors and book lovers gathered around a long table where books were spread from one end to the other, along with book-related cards and fancy pens. Introductions were made, and we settled in.

The paper menu seemed to list every possible concoction—I went with the sweet turkey wrap—and the dessert tray held more than a dozen cakes and tortes while the waiter described other delicacies that didn’t fit on the tray. Yes, we ate well amid the antique dressers, baskets and Halloween decor.

But it wasn’t all about food. Amanda Bird, proprietor of The Book Nest bookstore, has been hosting lunches with authors for the past two years. The program was on hiatus for a few months while Indulge moved to its new location in the mall, but now she plans for monthly gatherings. The next one is Nov. 17.

It’s casual. You order whatever you want and pay for your own lunch. You sit at the table with the featured authors, eat, chat, ask questions, and learn about their books. You can also buy the books, of course.

This month’s guests were Janet Fisher, who in her books A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds writes about Oregon history through the lens of her ancestors who came via the Oregon trail; A. Lynn Ash, whose books The Route from Cultus Lake: A woman’s Path to a Solo Camping Lifestyle, and Vagabonda, tell the stories of her adventures camping alone all over the U.S., and Valerie Ihsan, who wrote about her experiences as a young, pregnant widow in Smell the Blue Sky and has since written a novel titled The Scent of Apple Tea. Wonderful women all, and the casual setting made it possible to not just admire but to become friends.

I love antique stores. I love to wander among the old things and imagine the lives of the people who owned them. In some cases, I don’t have to imagine because I’m old enough to have owned things that are now deemed antiques or collectables. I also love books and authors and lunch.

I may not be able to attend these lunches often. It’s nearly 200 miles round trip, and it was raining so hard on the way there that I felt like I was driving through a river. But I got to try out the new stretch of Highway 20—truly beautiful—and escaped everyday life into a wonderland for writers.

If you are interested in attending an authors’ lunch, follow the Book Nest Facebook page and RSVP if you’re going. The restaurant portion of the Indulge Antiques is open to everyone, but you’ll need a reservation. Visit their web page for details.

I want to figure out how we can do this in Newport. Ideas? Volunteers?

Home, home in my yurt

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     When I signed up to stay in a yurt at Fishtrap, the wonderful writers’ gathering in Eastern Oregon where I spent July 9-15, I pictured a glorified tent. Canvas walls, two little beds, a rustic toilet, no privacy.
     I was so wrong. When I slogged into the camp at Wallowa Lake that broiling hot Monday afternoon in my  ailing Honda, I didn’t care where I stayed as long as I could stop driving. But after I checked in and got my little wooden name tag on a string, I was pleasantly surprised to find my yurt, named Coho, was a charming round cottage in a village of other round cottages circling a larger round building where we’d have our classes.
     Up the steps and across the deck, I opened the unlocked door to a pretty kitchen complete with table and chairs, sink, microwave, coffeemaker and refrigerator. Looking up, I saw trees through the big round skylight. There were two bedrooms, one to the right and one to the left. I took the left one while another writer, Judith, would take the other. The bedrooms had double beds, and ladders leading up to lofts that remained unoccupied that week. Towels, sheets, thick blankets and handmade quilts waited for us. We had places to hang our clothes and plenty of electrical outlets. No TV or Wi-Fi, but who needed it?
     If you picture the yurt as a pie, with kitchen and bedrooms being three slices, the bathroom and shower room made up the other slices. We had carpet and linoleum, everything clean, all smelling of fresh-cut wood. It just felt good in there.
   As a bonus, deer wandered the grounds, completely unafraid of us. In fact, a doe and a buck bedded down right outside my window the last night.
    I wanted to stay in that yurt forever.
     What about the writing part? Oh, that was every bit as magical as advertised. In a world where most people don’t understand what writers do, Fishtrap provided an oasis where we didn’t need to do anything but write. We had meals and workshops and readings, all fabulous. I did a lot of singing and guitar-playing. But everywhere one looked, people were hunched over their notebooks or computers writing. We writers had finally found our tribe.
     One day in our songwriting workshop, our leader, Hal Cannon(love him!) had us write parodies of “Home on the Range.” Of course, I wrote about my yurt. I’ll give you just a taste:
Home, home in my yurt,
in my black and red Hawaiian shirt,
where the deer eat the grass as we mosey to class
and leave us their gifts in the dirt.
    Love that yurt.