Tag Archives: camp nanowrimo

Postcards from Camp: Garden fun

Well, the writing progresses at a lovely pace; I’ve reached my Camp NaNo goal, although the story has gone from an approximately twenty-three chapter novel to something a little more involved.  I won’t hazard a guess at this point how many books, but more than three, hopefully not topping the Alvin’s Farm series of six.

March 2012 Putting in the initial spider plants

March 2012; the initial planting…

Some ideas execute successful coups, sort of like spider plants.  Amid the noveling and epic-poem scribbling (poems are all written in longhand which sends joyful shivers down my spine), I’ve been attacking the backyard, usually my husband’s domain.  I prefer potted plants, but last year I put in over a dozen spider plants along the western fence.  They have succeeded in taking over that section of the property, and I know are plotting an actual coup for the house.

April 2013 spiders... Bottom three are new

April 2013… They are looking to move eastward, into Nevada, by autumn. The bottom three are newbies, who will hold down the fort as the rest scale the fence, heading for Vegas.

Part of this month’s writing has been poured into a poem that has awakened my love for that form of expression, and given a home to an idea that I didn’t realize meant so much.  I work on the novel in the mornings, the poem in the afternoons, amid baseball and recent outdoor tasks that will keep me busy over the next several months.  I don’t have an emerald thumb, but I do like to get my hands a little dirty.

Marble pathos with a spider in the centre

The marble pathos draping over the edge are cuttings from a houseplant, a spider hidden in the centre. This pot resides just outside my work window.

Like dabbling in melodrama; the WIP-novel-wise has really caught me off guard by its length, and my dedication to it.  With Alvin, even when I was wasn’t sure just how involved it was going to be, I took three to four months off between tackling another installment.

Back in 2009, I was looking at that book as installments, as I didn’t imagine it would take three novels to finish what I had assumed would be a tidy 50K tale.

This plant was bought weeks ago at a local DIY, and is pleased to rest in a bigger pot.

This plant was bought weeks ago at a local DIY, and is pleased to rest in a bigger pot.

But now I’m a wee bit wiser; just how wordy the current novel will become, I cannot guess.  But the intriguing part is that as soon as I wrap up this initial section, I don’t want to wait until summer to return to the story.  I’ll give myself a couple of weeks; I definitely need some down-time.  But come May, unless other issues arise, I’ll get back to spinning some more of that yarn.

One cherry tomato, as an experiment.

One cherry tomato, as an experiment.

And as for that poem…

The big pot held spider plants last year, petunias and zinnias this year.  Small pot takes the overspill...

The big pot held spider plants last year, petunias and zinnias this year. Small pot takes the overspill…

“The Hounds of Love and War” isn’t going to be completed anytime soon; I write three parts, then plop another poem amid the sprawling saga of the Scotlands and Nesmiths, still firmly entrenched in the mid-1960s.  Not all my poems are sturm und drang; one was about my husband’s recently purchased ninja hat.

Leftover zinnias went into the ground near some flowers that survived winter, alongside the honeysuckle.

Leftover zinnias went into the ground near some flowers that survived winter, alongside the honeysuckle.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, of course.

Just for NaNo Buddy Laura; this peach tree was planted last spring, and the crazy thing has peaches already...

Just for NaNo Buddy Laura; this peach tree was planted last spring, and the crazy thing has peaches already…

And then there is baseball (the SF Giants are playing well), family gatherings on the horizon, and I badly need a haircut.  But the muse has tapped into me with all gears.  I can’t tell which I enjoy more, prose or poetry, although the poems are pretty prose-like.  I’ve also scribbled a couple of short stories; pen and paper have lured me into brief flashes of fiction that I type out, fiddle with, will hand over to Top Writers Block.  One future theme is meringue, and I already know just what that will entail; Rae Smith’s foray into perfecting chocolate meringue pie.  If you’ve read the last three Alvin’s Farm novels, well, all I can say is that while Rae’s husband Tommie won’t be trying a slice of chocolate heaven, Chelsea and Pru think Aunt Rae’s latest Todd Lambert Special is just fine…

R.I.P. Brennan Manning  1934-2013

Postcards from Camp: The Hounds of Love and War

Writing is going well, but I have to admit the beginning of the novel was dicey; it’s going to be long, very long, maybe more than one book.  Alvin’s Farm taught me not to discount a thing, so I’m faithfully writing, not worrying, just telling the story.

As for the poetry…  That has been a bigger thrill than I imagined, and today I took a huge step, perhaps over the edge.  During my afternoon walk, I listened to tunes from what I had thought was a defunct playlist, The Hounds of Love and War a shelved novel idea.  Yet, via Cheap Trick, Neil Young, Aerosmith, and Linda Ronstadt, suddenly that idea was firm in mind.  Coming home to baseball on the telly, my husband watching the Giants and Cardinals, I knew that day’s, and many of the next several, poem.  I would write “The Hounds of Love and War” in verse.

August 2011 at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The National Mall

Which is complicated, for a few reasons; most of my poetry is confessional.  Most of it is while not short, certainly not epic.  And it’s an odd idea to squeeze a novel into verse.  But I’ve produced the first part, of how many, who knows!  Fortunately I had character sketches stashed away, in addition to the very necessary music.

I found this photo at an antique store; these are who I picture as the Nesmith siblings, as children, within the poem.

I found this photo at an antique store; these are who I picture as the Nesmith siblings, as children, within the poem.

I need to thank Miss Elliot Rose for her very inspiring quote, which transformed this novel, when I was going to write it as a novel.  Elliot’s words are just as meaningful as this work morphs into poetry: Peace is just a lot of hopes put together.

August 2011, The Vietnam Women's Memorial at The National Mall

Thanks to her mum Sarah for allowing me to use that priceless piece of wonder.  And thanks to my husband for taking me to Washington D.C. to see The National Mall.  And to Penny the basset, who proceeded Buttercup, in my basset realm.

Buttercup on Easter

And of course, thanks to Buttercup too.

Postcards from Camp

My Easter was lovely; after an afternoon with my most beloved, my husband drove us safely home through some fairly stormy weather.  I snapped shot after shot of what to me is like heaven, if I’m not in the bosom of my family.

Easter sky 1

Or writing; today I began Camp NaNoWriMo after a bit of a belated start, sharing breakfast with my husband, our eldest, and her husband.  Now it’s relatively late, well, it’s nearly time for baseball.  The writing took place mid-morning, and from the looks of it, will go on much longer than I thought.  I covered about a third of the outlined chapter, maybe a quarter.  This new novel is going to be long, or just not quite what I originally imagined.

Easter sky 2

Not like that’s a problem, it just is.

And on top of noveling, I’ve joining the fun at NaPoWriMo.  I’ve been playing around with poetry a little in 2013, but honestly, it’s my first love.  For this last month that I’m forty-six, I’m going to let it all hang out.  Not sure what forty-seven will bring, so let’s have one heck of a party now.

Easter sky 3

And in the meantime…  Well, I probably won’t be blogging much here.  My NaNo buddy Laura gave me the idea for Postcards from Camp title, so here’s some lovely peachy peace to her and all.  Scattered within this post are some of yesterday’s storm shots.  Hard to shoot from the speeding car with water on the window, but I’m a cloud junkie, just can’t help it.

Easter sky 4

I’m a writer too, can’t say no to words either.

The struggle against silence

In the last week I’ve written a couple of poems, eaten a lot of frozen custard.  I’ve explored a tiny corner of the desert, watched baseball, soaked up some sun.  I’ve pondered stories, both the WIP and what I want to write for Camp NaNoWriMo.  I’ve considered my time as an author, and what I’d like to do in the future.

Arizona near Picacho Peak State Park

And I’ve thought about this post.  I’ve been thinking about this post since before we left on holiday.  That might sound a little odd; what’s a blog post in the big scheme?  But then, what are all these novels in the long view, not much more than another cactus in the desert.  There are THOUSANDS of cacti in Arizona, along with mesquite trees, various shrubs, and tiny animals be they insects, lizards, or mammals that manage to survive in some pretty desolate territory.  Nothing overtly sexy about the desert, except maybe for the baseball players who grace it for a few weeks right before the season starts.  Which is sort of like writing; very little about noveling is glamorous, save what the writer concocts within the narrative.  The task of writing is butt in chair over and over and over again, ’nuff said.

Yet, as Camp NaNo approaches, the idea of sexy rolls through my mind; a set word count for thirty days or bust!  (For April, word counts are flexible, not the usual November 50K.)  Dude, let’s get those pens to paper, fingers on keyboards, and write some books!  It’s an event, not once in a lifetime, but still pretty heady stuff.  It’s how I got started, because I sure needed a kick in the keister.  I required a few, then suddenly novels were falling from my gray matter like manna from heaven.  Yet, in the quieter, non-NaNo months, writing gets sucked into the vortex of silence, or plopped along Interstate 10 like a Saguaro, sometimes poked by a bird looking for shelter.

Those cacti stand for decades, eons maybe.  They stand until they don’t, but no one’s around to see when they hit the ground, much like a writer who toils through so many travails, finishing that novel, but to what effect?  Writing is a solitary affair, not like playing baseball for a crowd.

San Francisco Giants vs the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Stadium

Now that’s pretty darn sexy.

Before we left for Arizona, I wrote a blog post for the WIP.  As soon as I hit Publish, the left side of the window offered this quote by Carlos Fuentes: Writing is a struggle against silence.  That quote piled onto a post idea that originated from an email I wrote to my NaNo buddy Laura, about the courage writing requires.  As I said to Laura, ‘Writing a novel in a month sounds artistically sexy, but truthfully I think there is more to it.’

It’s courage in writing about a controversial topic.  It’s also the courage to set down half-formed ideas in very precarious prose.  And while I’ve never spoken to Chris Baty on this particular subject, I have to wonder if when he and friends started National Novel Writing Month in 1999 that was part of the reason.  When placed under the 50K or bust banner, hey, now we’re talking flashy, shiny, cool.

Very very cool, even in the middle of the desert.

But cool only goes so far, like an ice cube in Arizona.  It takes courage to keep muddling through a manuscript, especially when November, April, and other designated NaNo months are over.  That’s when the struggle gets truly difficult, maybe how some baseball players feel in late August, fifteen games out of first place.  The early crowds have dwindled and making the playoffs is a faint dream.  It’s baking hot in the outfield, and what’s the point?   For all intents and purposes the season is over, but those final games have to be played.  Sort of like the days past NaNo or Camp NaNo; an unfinished novel lingers in the hard drive or on paper, but to a weary author, those incomplete thoughts look as appealing as walking through miles of desert with no water bottle or sunscreen.

Torturous, to be honest.  And certainly not sexy at all.

So what’s the friggin’ point?  Not even considering publication, but just the act of writing; what’s it all about?  Well, and this is just my humble opinion, I *think* it’s about communication.  It’s about fighting silence, be it personal or on behalf of someone or something else.  A great Chris Baty quote goes like this: There’s a book in you that only you can write.  It’s embossed on a NaNo journal, and to me embodies the real spirit of NaNoWriMo and writing in general; telling a story that only I can express due to my particular experiences and point of view.  It has nothing to do with shiny or sexy, but everything to do with courage.  2013 is a year for struggling against the silence that creeps up my ankles, slides along the back of my calves, making me shiver with that rhetorical query: why do this?  There are many notable ways to pass the time that aren’t so, well jeez, BORING!  Eat frozen custard, watch baseball, soak up the sun…  Those are high on my list, enjoyed just last week.

But holiday is over.  I’m back to real life, which means laundry in the washer and hanging on the line.  I need to get to the store, put away dishes in the drainer, outline Camp NaNo’s project, return to the WIP.  Those poems I wrote weren’t like what I’ll write tomorrow, more like detailing parts of the vacation before it was even over.  But eventually the sexy dies away, leaving the silence and the struggle, which isn’t overly bright and shiny.  It’s methodically putting one word after another until the manuscript is done, which at times feels like trudging through the desert sans water and sunblock.

Now, sometimes it feels like hitting a grand slam or an in the park triple.  I wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t some payoff, and completing a novel certainly falls under that heading, as does publishing books.  But to reach those points a plethora of faffing about occurs, and a lot silence.  Once I’ve listened to the song of the day, there is no noise, other than the tapping of the keyboard.  It’s me, the computer, and the story trying to manage a twirl that occasionally feels like a choreographed tango, but often clunks along like preteens learning to square dance.  Yet, even at writing’s most cumbersome moments, I persevere, because in just those tapping fingers the silence is being broken.  The struggle is being won.

With a little less than two weeks until Camp NaNo starts, I have a lot of outlining to do.  I wanted to accomplish some on holiday, but other than conjuring a few character names and writing them on colour-coordinated pieces of paper for the necessary sketches, I ate custard, watched baseball, took photos of the desert.  I soaked up time with my husband  which was the best part of the whole trip.  But while he was napping, or surfing the web, I considered this post, because it’s important to remind myself, and anyone willing to brave a long song and dance, what the point of writing is; it’s not about penning the great American novel or making money.  It’s about spinning yarns that only I can tell.  Some of them won’t go much further than onto a flash drive, some will be released.  But breaking the silence is paramount.  Not every Little Leaguer will play for a pro team, but kids need an outlet, and baseball provides one way for a person to express themselves.  Writing is another, and thank God I can do it, as I have more plots than sense.  I also want to make my voice heard.

What Chris said...

Life is short, and goodness knows there is plenty to say.  Off I go, one novel to outline, another over which to refresh for tomorrow, another day to kick silence right in the keister.

My novel, my rules…

Today’s title is from Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month.  I picked it up from his poster shop, after reading his latest pep talk from NaNoWriMo.  I have to confess that I skip most of the NaNo pep talks, but Chris cranks the enthusiasm to heights that just ache for the writing to begin.  Camp NaNo starts next month, and I’ve chosen my idea, not the one I described last week, although this title certainly boosts my excitement to write a crime thriller without the forensic minutiae.  The story I’m going to tell comes back to 2013 being a year of courage, in a different way.

But the same sentiment applies; my novel, my rules.  No matter the genre, the theme, the plot; these books belongs to me, in that no one can tell me what to write, or how to go about it.  Freedom teems in those words, and it can be taken in a few contexts; in some nations, publishing a novel about gender dysphoria isn’t even a possibility.  Yet, a writer can put onto actual paper or a virtual sheet just what they want, if they have the courage to move those thoughts from the brain to the hand.  The cantankerous part of me sometimes rolls my eyes at all the lousy news; I’m still looking at the BBC every day, and after today, I’m thinking maybe I’ll make it every other day.  Yet, just this morning, I was inexplicably humming “Mrs. Robinson” while making my husband’s PBJs, and an idea came forth that had nothing to do with bad news.  It was about baseball, and courage, and I think I’m going to write it, when I get a moment, for a co-op of which I’m a part, under the theme of loneliness.

But as usual, I’m digressing.  What about that title, huh?

Well, as a writer, I conjure all sorts of plots, and the ways to write them.  The WIP is mostly a linear novel, but a middle chapter is split in three; starting the story, anchoring the center, then concluding right before the last chapter.  Songs have to start at the beginning, but books aren’t tied to such rules.  Books can be whatever we want them to be.

Short, long, medium-length.  Dialogue-heavy or paragraph after paragraph of prose.  They can traverse galaxies, or stay in one small room.  They can cover eons, or a day.  They can focus on one or two characters, or a sprawling cast that needs a family tree to keep them all sorted.  They can…  On and on are the manners and methods a novel can incorporate.  All it takes is imagination, and courage.

I am blessed to not only write what I wish, but to publish it.  But it boils down to what Chris notes, obliterating the mosquitoes.  Rid all the pesky annoyances, then let the fictional truth fly.  Writing occurs because someone needs to tell a story, truth and varying degrees of falsehoods well mixed.  Rules speak of a modicum of honesty, tenets to follow.  Novels are made up, but under all that pretend hooey lies the biggest reality; someone’s heart.  My soul dwells in even the most fanciful plots, and at times I don’t see it until much later.

But it’s there, begging to be told, in my way.  My novel, my rules.  What truths are you waiting to unveil?