Back to School (+novel progress)

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Aria reading at the library.

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

Excerpt:

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.”

Novel Progress

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.

Excuses, excuses.

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.

Excerpt:

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.

Blogging vs. Social Media

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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.

 

Sunday Soup

Sunday Soup
I’m so happy that soup weather is here again!

After several weeks of unseasonably warm weather; late last week I felt that distinctive shift in the way the air feels. I feel it every time the seasons change, and I’m always amazed at how closely it follows the calendar. It’s not quite September 21st, but the leaves are changing, the nights are cold, and fall is here.

The kids and I went to Prescott this weekend to visit my parents and we had a fun and relaxing time riding bikes, playing in the dirt, and going to Peter Piper Pizza. It was a quick visit, just one day and two nights, because I am still plowed under by the avalanche of work that accompanies the beginning the semester.

Here are some pics from the weekend:

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DIRT!

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This kid is growing so fast.

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Oscar shows off his ticket bounty at Peter Piper

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Aria prepares fake pizza in a skirt and heels, as one does.

#amwriting: Process & Projects

My hopeful attempts at regular blog updates are always derailed by real life, this time I’ve been hopelessly sidetracked by summer (when teaching ends and I become a full-time mom for three months) and moving (twenty-one years of STUFF) to a new house. Now that we’re finally getting settled in and it’s almost time for everyone to go back to school (but it’s only July!), I’ve decided to start going forward with some writing projects.

There are three, to be precise, because three is the magic number, right? I’ve also heard from some time management experts that it’s good to have more than one project active (so that you can work on ones that require different levels of time and energy as needed), but that more than 3-5 projects at a time is a bad idea.

The projects:

An academic research paper, which I’m submitting for funding in a few weeks and then trying to turn into an article. This is simply to keep my career afloat, but I do like the process and I’m interested in what I’m writing about, so I can’t really complain. I’m so lucky in this day and age to like my job.

My novel. This hairball has been building for almost a decade and I’m ready to cough it up and spit it out. I’ll soon be looking for beta readers for this one, so keep your ears open if you’re interested.

Finally, I’m working a project called Timekeeper Stories, an interactive storytelling project/alternate reality game that I’ve been working on since last year (the idea came to me the day after the election-HA HA). For those of you not familiar with the genre, typically the PM (puppetmaster) stays hidden and anonymous, and the game is played is if it’s not really a game, but taking place in real life (“this is not a game”). However, this time around I’m experimenting with the genre a bit and trying some new and different things, so the frame story itself will be somewhat unconventional in that it will be autobiographical, and I will provide different different entry points to each story over time (trailheads), which will allow varied levels of participation and immersion. People will have the option to just read the story installments as they are posted, OR they can also interact with story characters and work to solve mysteries and puzzles which appear in the stories.

My motivation for this project is to include a broader audience for the stories (typically ARG audiences are a a very small, select group of people), and to play around with the potential for using this genre for educational purposes.

Why share and discuss these projects before they are completed? I recently read a book called Jay Lake’s Process of Writing, which is a distillation of his blog posts on writing. I found his blog and was sad to learn that he passed away from cancer a few years ago, but his blog is still there and I was captivated by how completely and honestly he shared his writing process: the ups and downs, the good with the bad.

There is little discussion of the writing process itself, and I think this kind of transparency not only helps writers, but students as well. There is certainly no transparency in academic writing, which is something I have struggled mightily to do and have failed at miserably, filling me with a sense of shame and isolation in my career. However, I’m determined to learn the craft and plan to share what I’ve learned here, in the hopes that it might help someone in the future.

Finally, I need the discipline of a daily writing practice, and I like the idea of creating a small amount of public accountability. Already I’ve had some feedback on social media which has greatly boosted my motivation and resulted in an extra long writing session this morning.

I’m off now, to write.

I’m with you…and her

My father and I have two rules for talking about politics: 1. He gets to call President Obama my boyfriend. 2. I have to agree with everything he says. Oh, and he’s voting for Donald Trump. Here he is holding a baby. My baby. But in all seriousness, my father, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, and me, […]