Time to dust off the old blog! I decided to start writing again, and in addition to posts about my everyday life, I’m also starting a new blog project, writing about the 45 U.S. presidents. I’ll be doing a post about each one with some little known and interesting facts, as part of a history and social studies project I’m doing with my kids.
Like so many people around the country, we are “self-isolating,” as they call it. Or as introverts like to say, “everyday life.” Our trip to Legoland for spring break has been cancelled, school is now online, and the CDC is advising “social distancing.” I figured this would be the perfect time to dust off the old blog.
Out of sheer coincidence, I picked up Isaac Newton by James Gleick at the library last week, because I love biographies. Turns out Newton left Cambridge University during the Great Plague of London and took shelter in his childhood home in the countryside. Gleick writes,
The plague year was his transfiguration. Solitary and almost incommunicado, he became the world’s paramount mathematician.
It was during this time that Newton made his famous observations of the apple tree, which lead to new theories of gravity.
Although I don’t think anyone will accomplish anything so grand this time around (after all, we still have the endless distraction of the internet), I do think this period will raise some interesting questions about things we take for granted, like the value of traditional face-to-face teaching and meetings (I hope stupid meetings go away forever, ha ha).
I will be spending the next week rethinking my teaching and how to best serve my students online, while also trying to make the best of being stuck at home with two small children who are disappointed that they don’t get to go to Legoland. Like all small children, they are surprisingly resilient and are enjoying lots of time spend playing video games and board games, and the temporary relaxing of my usual junk food rules.
I’ll use this blog to update you on what we’re doing to pass the time. Meanwhile, I hope you all stay safe and well and sane.
If you haven’t heard of National Novel Writing Month, it’s a wonderful time of year when writers from all over the world come together to write a novel in a month. Or, more accurately, 50,000 words in 30 days. If you’re a writer and you’ve never participated, you should check it out. It’s great fun and an amazing community.
Unfortunately, they spruced up the website and it’s a bit slow and wonky. Frankly, I find it unusable, but I hope things are smoothed out by November 1st and they are just working out the kinks. Regardless, I will be writing a new novel and posting updates here. I’ll also be launching some new site features later in the month. If you haven’t already, be sure to follow this blog for regular updates.
A novel is a huge, unruly thing. I was about to compare it to building a house, but it’s actually more like designing a town, along with the people who live there. Is my novel done? YET? (I know, I know, it’s been YEARS). Well. If I gave you my current draft you would probably be able to follow it and say that yes, it’s a complete-ish novel. But there are a few twists and turns that need straitening out. A few holes that need filling. Some set decorations and a little clarifying dialogue here and there. I plan to send it out by Thanksgiving or Christmas at the latest.
Because revising is a completely different process than writing, I spent some time casting about for help and advice. I finally found this book, which has been super helpful.
Current word count: 52,300
I set my book aside and leaned over to turn on my desk lamp, since it had gotten too dark to see. The wind was really kicking up, an ominous sound that made it seem as if the entire building was going to lift up over the trees. I burrowed under the covers when I heard the thunder, and for some time I just lay there, perfectly still, as I heard the storm get closer and closer. It seemed to roll along the ground, the sound getting deeper and louder, until I could feel the rumbles with my body. I tried to relax and tell myself it was only a storm; we used to get them all the time in Tucson. As I child I would crawl in bed with my parents, but now they were too far away, in every way.
A storm in January? When it was snowing? Was it normal to have thunder and snow at the same time? The windows shook and the storm seemed to be gathering a ferocity and power that I had never experienced before. Finally, it storm was directly over campus, with lightning and thunder crashing down simultaneously.
I got up and raised the window blinds, startled to see the girl from the library standing under the light pole with her head tipped up to the sky, her long brown hair streaming behind her. When lightning struck a few feet away she didn’t move. She didn’t even flinch. I sighed and lowered the blinds and got back under the blankets and started reading Hamlet again. I would have to do what most normal people do when they saw a ghost. I would go see a priest.
It’s that time of year again!
In related news, Oscar and I are reading the same series together. More on that later…
Hello again! Those that follow my blog (who knows why), will be happy to know that I have many posts incoming. This is an exciting time for blogging, and I plan to write a post (however brief) for each day of October. This is part of two events that happen this time of year, Inktober and NaNoWriMo. Inktober is actually for comic book artists and illustrators and requires them to do one doodle or drawing for each day of October. However, I’ve decided to do my own version, which is to blog about the history of photography. I’ll also be doing some blogging about NaNoWriMo prep and a tiny bit about teaching, travel, and family stuff.
As most of you know, I’m no longer on social media, and I love it. I don’t miss Facebook or Instagram at all, and it has been very freeing and relaxing to go about my life without having to make it look good for Facebook and Instagram likes. I know some of you miss seeing the kiddos, and are looking forward to Halloween costumes, so I will be posting a few updates about the kids this month.
I also have a novel update! Brace yourselves, this is big. My novel is currently at 51,000 words! I have written the ending, and have what is effectively a rough draft, but it’s pretty messy right now and not quite ready for readers. Typical publishing length for a mainstream novel is about 70,000-80,000 words, so I’ll also be fleshing it out and adding scenes. However, I’m spending October getting it in shape and hope to start sending it out soon. This is the closest I’ve ever been to finishing so I’m pretty excited.
First post about the history of photography coming soon!
The kids started school last week, and I started teaching this week, hence the lack of blog posts. We’ve been busy, busy, busy! I’m taking some time during a busy teaching day to write this post because I’m determined to keep up this blog.
This semester I’m teaching my usual ed theory and writing methods courses, and I’m also acting as coordinator for my area (English Ed), which adds an extra level of responsibility (and stress) to my work. However, one of my classes is online, which is nice because it gives me a little extra flexibility for things like hanging out with the kids after school while they are still young enough to want to hang out with me. Their new favorite thing is to go to the library after school. I love this too, because it’s such a nice, friendly little library. The librarian in the kids’ area actually used to babysit Oscar when he was a baby.
Now that I’m done prepping for the first few weeks of classes, I’m ready to turn my attention back to the novel. I’ve managed to slowly ratchet the word count up a few thousand words, and I’m telling myself that slow progress is better than no progress. Baby steps!
Novel Progress report for January 15th, 2019
Suit of Coins: 21,786 words
They left Lem’s house and headed back to Anna’s. They were silent for the first few miles as Maria drove deftly through LA traffic. Then Anna said, “I think he’s hiding something.”
“You can be your sweet ass he’s hiding something,” said Maria, suddenly merging across several lanes of traffic. She never took her eyes off the road, but smiled as Anna began bouncing in her seat like a kid.
“Ooooh, this is exciting. Do you think he killed her?”
“No, nothing like that,” said Maria, “but I do think he saw something. Something he’s not telling us. I’m just trying to figure out how he never got interviewed by the cops.”
My novel, working title Suit of Coins, has been in progress since NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2008. Yes, that’s ten years. However, a few things have happened since then. I had two babies, went up for tenure, and found myself snagged in a hopelessly complicated plot tangle that caused me to ignore the novel for an entire year. I got the plot untangled at the end of 2016, but 2017 was pretty eventful, with a ten-day trip with the kids to Disney World, looking for and buying a house (no easy feat in a HCL area like Flagstaff), moving out of the house we’ve been living in for twenty-one years, and planning a wedding. These are not the conditions for writing a book.
What about 2018? Well, except for recovering from 2017 and also trying to unsuccessfully jumpstart my pathetic academic career, I don’t really know what happened to 2018.
Let me tell you something about writing. It’s damn hard. There’s a good reason many writers are single white men. Or women with no children. Or alcoholics or drug addicts. Or insane. Just as an example, I sat down to write for thirty minutes last night and was interrupted no less than seven times. I managed two sentences before I gave up. To put my struggles into context, I know several famous novelists (including George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame), who are years and even decades overdue for their novels. George R.R. Martin’s last novel was published in 2011. These are writers who have no end of time and resources. They are rich, have no day job, and have the clout to lock themselves in a room and do nothing but write. And even THEY struggle.
HOLY HELL I am determined to write this story. The characters are very real to me and keep coming back around, determined to be heard. This may sound like crazy talk but it’s a normal thing for writers. Writing gets under your skin in a way that can make spinning out sentences and scenes intoxicating.
I am trying again. I realized that my plot problems required what they call a “clean sheet rewrite” which means starting over from scratch. That sounds extreme until you realize that the entire novel lives in my head. I just need to get it on paper.
2019 is the year. As Stephen King advises, the first novel is the novel that teaches you how to write. I’m just getting started, and that’s okay. That’s perfectly fine. What else am I going to do?
I plan to post regular word counts (Weekly at a minimum) and little W.I.P. (work in progress) snippets.
Progress report for January 1st, 2019:
Suit of Coins: 18,272 words (my goal is 80,000) so I’m almost a quarter of the way through.
When I was a little girl my mother used to read Shakespeare plays to me at bedtime. Without blinking an eye, she read about people stabbing and poisoning each other, about teenagers falling in love and killing themselves, about war, and bitterness, and revenge. Shakespeare used beautiful words to talk about terrible things. She said, “In literature, murder looks like art.” That always stuck with me, especially years later when my best friend in high school was murdered, and there was nothing beautiful or literary about it. Unlike Shakespeare, I couldn’t find the words to talk about it, not then, not now.
Not much happening here today or tonight. It’s been snowing all day with a high in the twenties and now a wind advisory. This, of course, doesn’t faze the kids. Happy New Year!
Here’s a picture of my almost seven-year-old daughter who still likes to be carried. My middle-aged back does not approve. Behind us is an art installation called Seven Magic Mountains which was only meant to be up for a short time but became so popular on social media they left it up. I’m actually trying to get OFF of social media, at least for long stretches of time (I probably won’t quit altogether since it’s the only way I keep in touch with certain old friends).
I’ve dusted off the old blog, updated my domain to reflect my new name (I got married in 2017–more on that later–but my old domain will redirect here), and have decided to try writing here more than once every year or two. I can’t make any promises, but I’m feeling more and more like posting here rather than on Instagram and Facebook, for a variety of reasons including: I enjoy blogging, I own this domain rather than giving more free advertising data to Mark Zuckerberg, and blogging doesn’t carry with it the same level of distraction and dopamine addiction that social media does (this is its own post). I can also go into more detail and post more pictures of my travels and my writing. One of the things I hate about social media is that the platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) make it virtually impossible to search, bookmark, and preserve content.
I won’t be posting to social media every time I blog, so if you’re interested in reading my content here be sure to sign up for email notifications, which you can do in the sidebar.