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.

 

 

 

Writing my way across four states


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Pondering the river during Fishtrap poetry workshop
This week I drove through four states in one day. Twice.
Sunday I woke up in a yurt at Wallowa Lakenear Joseph, Oregon. Outside my window, deer grazed on dandelions and a covey of quail chittered in the bushes. I dressed, walked to the lodge for a breakfast of homemade coffeecake and cantaloupe, said goodbye to my Fishtrap writer friends and drove away. That night I went to bed in Missoula, Montanaat a Howard Johnson’s on a busy highway lined with motels, restaurants, casinos and car dealerships. To get there, I had driven over 200 miles of winding roads from Oregon through Washington and Idaho and into Montana. I went from the vast farms and cowboy hills of Eastern Oregon through the Blue Mountains and along the Lochsa River until I finally reached the rolling hills and suburban landscape of Missoula. Seventy-five mile-per-hour speed limit and no sales tax. Woohoo!
  
After checking in at Howard Johnson’s with Indian desk clerks whose English was unintelligible, I drove down the street to Applebee’s and suffered culture shock after a week in nature at the Fishtrap writer’s workshop. No wi-fi, no phones, no TV, no news. We sat by a river talking about poetry, wrote songs under the trees, and told secrets by the campfire. We ate healthy cafeteria style meals. Suddenly I was in a noisy restaurant with an over-solicitous waiter named “Luc” who was waiting for me to choose from a menu of over-seasoned high-calorie entrees. As I settled for a plain turkey sandwich, my cell phone rang for the first time in over a week. No!
Why was I in Missoula? The main character in the novel I’m almost finished with lived in Missoulabefore she came to Oregon. Toward the end, she goes back for a while. Because I was so close to the border at Wallowa Lake, I decided to see Missoula for myself. I’m glad I did. You can’t really get the flavor of a place from the Internet. I was able to visit the places where she and her husband lived, worked, worshipped and shopped. I ate in the restaurant where she ate. I had a great time following my fictional character through this real setting.
But it got hot, very hot, and I needed to get back to my own nonfiction life. So Tuesday I headed west, taking a different route this time. I drove through C’oeur d’Alene, Idaho, stopped for lunch in Spokane, Washington (great food at the Timber Creek Grill Buffet), and crossed the Columbia River into Oregon near Umatilla. I honked my horn in glee. Hello, Oregon!
Four states in four days. Twice. I bunked in Arlington, Oregon Tuesday night, woke up yesterday at 5 a.m. to the roar of truckers starting their engines and a freight train blasting its horn and set my GPS for “home.” After 1,600 miles, the only state I wanted to be in was a state of rest.
Stay tuned for trip highlights and pictures in the next few posts.