Sunday, November 30, 2008

I will fulfill my 25,000 words, Dad finished his novel

I am the marathoner with two flat feet huffing to the finish line halfway behind the winners and halfway ahead of the quitters. I've been typing madly and will reach my midpoint goal today. And while I didn't have the joy of "winning" a NaNoWriMo you-did-all-fifty-thousand-words badge, I was able to upload Dad's novel and send him his PDF certificate. With 50,061 words he has completed a draft of Faust, The Prequel which he describes as "a romp through the Renaissance with Faust the physician-scientist and his first fifty years that gave rise to the lies known as the Faust legend."

And he wrote this off the top of his head. Knew exactly where to go for further details. He has so much research stuffed between his ears he can leap into almost any time period with no fear. He is rather ecstatic. Says in all the many years of writing non-fiction biography and science books people would tell him he should try fiction and he'd scoff and say he didn't have the talent for that sort of thing. And the NaNoWriMo one month first (and second actually as he had to expand from 39,000 words) draft was enough for him to realize that fiction can free him to play with ideas like never before. He says, at his age, he can still write many more novels, and already has the next one plotted out. He figures he'll develop a 3 draft process, show it to trusted readers, and then send them out to prospective publishers.

I am happy I've come this far. I'm seeing that it takes gobs of pages to find my way into a character and story. Much of it will need to be expanded or discarded. It's like clay, pull some off, stick more on, and at some point in the revision process it gets fired into its final shape. I crown myself a semi-finalist.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Missing Miss New York but not Playboy

My daughter Natalie is in Albany this weekend participating in the Miss New York USA pageant which started the morning after Thanksgiving. I am here in Manhattan writing and working. It is undoubtedly an odd thing having a child want to do a beauty competition when I am a feminist. Odd for me that is, she's having a blast and enjoying the pampering from the staff, hairstylists, and makeup artists.

I had this conversation with her a week ago:

"I think we should come see you in one of your Miss New York beauty pageant thingies, be supportive and all, but I don't think I can handle seeing my daughter in the bikini one."
"Ah Ma you don't have to do that, there are other things I'm doing, you can see me in Playboy."
"WHAT!" I gasp, spluttering.
"Playboy, remember I'm in Playboy? You always forget everything I tell you, I've been telling you for months I'm going to appear in Playboy!"
"No, no," I say. I'm clutching the edge of the couch and sanity.
"Oh...oh.....hahahahah...remember I'm in the play Playboy of the Western World by Synge, not THAT Playboy, hahahahah."

Natalie is an acting major and a friend of hers suggested she do this. She figured, why not? Growing up around me she didn't learn much about hair, heels, and makeup beyond comb, loafers, and chap stick. And as an actress it must be great to really learn how to apply double sided tape where needed and how to walk that walk in heels that make you over six feet tall. But she must be one of the most relaxed contestants going in. She ate a huge Thanksgiving meal the day before--beat my father to a heaping plate of seconds (which has never happened in family history before)-- and happily clutching her full belly staggered to a sofa murmuring "sooo goood" and I wondered how many of the young woman shorted their T-day gorging to mere tidbits in order to maintain their svelte silhouettes? Not my girl.

Go Natalie go.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

20,072 words and sprinting

I am nearing the half way point in my NaNoWriMo write-fifty-thousand-words-in-thirty-days novel. Which, given I'm in the second month of starting my own business, having Thanksgiving tastefully interrupt, and had the launch/reunion trip...not bad. I've also discovered Ebbets Field opened just the year I needed it to and there were two, not one, big comets lighting up the fears of 1911.

I won't finish all 50,000 words but 25,000, you bet! Very delighted I can write 60 pages in such a short time. I'll write the rest at a more leisurely pace of 1,000 words a day and cycle the chapters through my most excellent writing group. I am looking forward to the rewrite, I feel like I finally knew my main character by chapter 11.

Three Astro Spouses and me

Post launch Micki Pettit was celebrating and relaxing on the balcony of her ocean view hotel room, with her close friends, who came for cheer and support, from left: Lisa Fuglesang, Micki, Mandy Sellers and me. Don was well into in orbit as we popped the champagne. Did I mention they were all funny and great to visit with? Micki was relieved when Don got to his destination safely. Among other things, Don is installing a second toilet on the space station. From high to low, keeping people working in orbit takes a huge effort.

Micki is a really good singer and is in a band, Bandella, with two astronauts. For his NASA morning wake-up song, Don was serenaded by his wife. Hear here on days 7 and 12.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The curse of...Tattoo Diabetes

OK that isn't what the TV ad actually said but that's what I what would that be, if it were a real disease?

Woman walks up to a receptionist in a doctor's office and hands in her form.
Nurse: I'm sorry you forgot to fill all of this in, what are your symptoms?
Patient: [whispering] These roses I had tatted on my butt, I'm having an allergic reaction.
Nurse: You need to describe it.
Patient: Can't you smell it? [voice gets louder] I can't stand the smell.
Nurse: [sniffing] I thought that was your perfume.
Patient: Every pore and more is passing attar of roses, you have to help me. I can't take the sweet stink. It's destroying my life, my husband is wearing garlic, people move away from me in elevators, my dog sneezes as soon as I get home!
Nurse: OK, take a seat next to that man with the Pepé Le Pew tattoo.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

STS126 Shuttle Launch in Photos

Click on photo to see it large enough to read captions.

Don couldn't make his own farewell party, none of the astronauts can, they have to pay for and throw a party they can't attend since they are in quarantine. At the party I ran into the talented Chris Jones, journalist and author of Too Far From Home. That book started as an article in Esquire magazine. Micki and Don are the focus, we agreed both of them are fascinating. He was also on assignment with the McCain campaign and described traveling with a pool of itinerant journalists who would have betting pools for key choices and how surprised they were when Palin was picked for running mate, they hadn't even put her on their 30 person list. He says McCain really is someone you would enjoy having a beer with and no matter how long ago you last spoke to him he'd remember what you told him and ask after your wife or mother. McCain has an amazing memory.

Don's middle school science teacher was there and said proudly that in 31 years of teaching there were a score of great students but only one Don. Don was just light years beyond his grade level. Chris noted that Don's college profs said the same thing about his brilliance, as a freshman he sounded like a graduate student. The middle school teacher gave an example, he had his students make a simple pinhole camera with cardboard just to see how light enters and reverses the scene inside the box, a two week project. Don is done in about five minutes. So to make it more interesting for Don he has him build one with a double lens reflex viewfinder. So Don goes home to the well stocked Pettit family workshop and bores a hole in metal and builds the thing out of real materials--prisms and all.

The night after the launch we had two of Micki's friends stay with us, we had an extra room. The fact that they were wives of astronauts was cool, but most of all they were great to talk to. Astronaut spouses are well traveled! Mandy is from the UK, Lisa from Sweden. Mandy and Lisa were smart, strong, and fun. Lisa speaks at least five languages, is an engineer by training. Sweden is exceptionally proud of having an astronaut in the space program, they are celebrities back home. Mandy is a RN. Mandy kept us laughing. If I was in the hospital I'd want Mandy to get me laughing back to health.

Kudos to NASA, they gave us VIP treatment, briefings, and a chance to enjoy their facilities. I wish you all could have been there. Seeing it, hearing it, is so much more exciting than watching it on TV.

Jim's mom and dad hadn't seen each other in 30 years, so it was kind of cool to see them in the same temporal plane. Wish I could have gotten a photo of them with Jim. We hung out with Jim's step-brother Dennis and wife Cathy, his half-brother Brandon, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws by the dozens, the same for Don's side of the family and through it all Micki and Don's twin sons Garrett and Evan were literally running circles around all us adults. I said to Garrett, I'm your Aunt Claudia, this is your Uncle Jim (they didn't quite remember us from last summer's Montana family reunion) and he morosely said "everyone here keeps telling me they are an Aunt or Uncle!" Being seven and at a family gathering is its own special trial. Then he took off after Evan, who was lurking, and went into orbit again.

Stayed two nights with our friends Joe and Jen in Orlando. As always, I wish I could see more of them. Jen is doing NaNoWriMo too. Her first novel ever. She recently left her newsroom job (like everyone else in the dying newspaper business) and is figuring out what's next. And writing a novel with bees in it. Joe is writing plays and designing websites and writing articles. We gorged on lightly steamed oysters by the bucketfull at a seafood bar that offered a concrete trough to throw the shells in. Ah bliss.

I am behind in my word count. To my vast disgust my father is ahead of himself, 75% done. Arrrgh. He chuckled wickedly at my angst. I will be writing a lot over Thanksgiving.

Bitter news, Dad has joyously completed his first NaNoWriMo novel and I am only 1/3 of the way through mine. His follows the Faust story through time, mine is a YA fairy tale. OK compare not apples to oranges, OK, but he is done! Finished. Oh the ignomy, oh the shame, where is my word count now?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

14,241 words and behind the count in Cocoa Beach

Hi, in Florida. Managed a thousand words this morning but now off to sign in at Kennedy Space center for the launch. Special passes. Will see night viewing, tonight. Will write another 1,000 words, somehow.

Top photo: of Don and Micki Pettit greeting friends and family while astros and one partner at safe distance due to quarantine. Don having to explain to their sons why the boys have to stay back with the crowd. He is pointing to where he will be getting a ride tomorrow.
Bottom photo: NASA provided bus rides to take us to a field where we were warned to watch for ants and snakes. There it was, lit up and unveiled.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Van Gogh and the Colors of Night Show

Our friends Glenn and Ryoko and their baby son Tris took us to the member's only preview of the Van Gogh show at MoMa.

My mother's favorite Van Gogh was the painting of a cafe in Arles at night, the spooky lemon yellow gas lighting under the awning, oddness of distance from viewer to patrons, table to chair, and between people; the starry sky over the cobbled road (with echoing patterns), all in an affordable poster that she framed in beach wood she had found herself. At the MoMa show I got to see the sketch for Café Terrace at Night, 1888. It is so fascinating to see the vigor of Van Goghs calligraphic strokes, they express the energy of natural and man made things. He indicates the direction of wind, of light, of animism of line. They didn't have the final painting in the show but I found a Wikipedia image of it. Also great to see what color adds, how it heightens the separate rectangular spaces of man and nature, inside and out, dark and light.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NaNoWriMo 2nd week

Something is starting to change in how I write my novel. The characters are finally turning around and telling me to quit ordering them about. They're shoving back at me. They would like me to start making things happen, already. My main character would rather have a better sense of humor. The neighborhood is starting to have actual smells and seasons. The historical setting is like a pair of new loafers that is finally losing its shoe box shape and with creaks and creases is fitting around my imagination.

I still know I'm writing a derivative (American Girls Dolls novella meets A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) bad first draft but there are finally moments, a few scenes, that might actually be seeds of a better second draft. They happen and I feel as if I am merely taking dictation. Cool. But I am behind in word count. I go on vacation with this laptop and despite beaches, pools, rum and fruit blender drinks, allure of just reading mysteries until my brain goes fuzzy as beach foam, and demands of a launch and family reunion, I will write my 2,000 words a day.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Happy happy joy joy: Neil Gaiman & Chip Kidd

Here are my autographed sketches. I apologize to Mr. Kidd, I wasn't close enough to get a good likeness... and I have a better idea of what Neil looks like due to chance to sit up close and see him read the first chapter of The Graveyard Book.

Tonight I heard Chip Kidd, graphic design Jedi master, Batman enthusiast, and talented author interview Neil Gaiman the talented novelist, graphic novel author, screenwriter, up and coming director, and bee keeper. The event was at the 92nd Street Y, on Manhattan's Upper East Side, rather pricey but totally worth it. Chip asked all the right questions. Neil is such a superb natural story teller he could undoubtedly make a visit to his dental hygienist sound humorous and satisfying. I loved finding out he used to have wake yourself up and feel haunted bad dreams until he started mining them for material in his Sandman comics. It is incredible he wrote 75 issues of Sandman. 20 years later. A lovely commemorative event.

But wait, for a fan like me, this was a double header. Thanks to Neil I read about NaNoWriMo and am now in my second week of writing my first novel. Thanks to Chip I have seen the path a book designer can travel and his creative process has helped me take courage.

So I waited in line to have Neil sign my copy of Stardust, already signed by Charles Vess. I told Neil I'd sat next to Charles at the world fantasy convention and caught his dreadful cold in order to have his lovely sketch and signature in the book. (I really like Charles, he treated me and a friend to a whiskey too) I said I had also published Neil in The Poets' Grimm anthology and he remembered it fondly. Then I had him sign the sketch I'd done of him with my Pelican and he knew a good pen when he fisted it! Looked it over in the way we pen people do. And I use a lovely reddish brown, really a scab colored Mont Blanc ink (I've been using for years, even before I read Neil) in a hue he uses although a different manufacturer I think. He asked if it was a flexible nib and I said no, just that I'd used it a lot. He shook my hand and I am pleased to report that he does not have a cold clammy hand. It is good to know. I felt so happy I sort of floated away. My husband Jim got a shot of it.

I also got to talk to Chip Kidd and get his autograph on my sketch of him and tell him how tremendously much his work, career, talks, book on design, and slideshows about his creative process have helped me. I told him I came in first place in a category in the NY book show last year because I had stolen his ideas and in the process had created something, Alimentum, that looks nothing like his work. And the fact that he has turned his vision to writing novels is also inspiring to me. He was interested to hear I'd quit working as an art director to go freelance. Told him that so far I was getting plenty of work. He flipped through my sketch pad and saw the beginnings of my sketches for a piece on water. And found it interesting. How cool is that! I mean this is Chip Kidd! He was gracious and lovely in person and just as handsome up close.

Jim enjoyed the interview and he reads no comics, graphic novels, and has never once read anything by Neil. But I knew he would be captivated. Luckily someone asked Neil about mythology and and he answered in depth about how religion becomes myth becomes story, comparing the excised gospels about young Jesus and how they read like superboy's education. Complete with naughty killings and resurrections that are at odds with the gentle Jesus I got in my two years of Sunday school (the part of my religious eduction not covered in Synagogue). All of this is so part of Jim's creative landscape. Fascinating. Jim writes musicals, uses myth, I've heard him say many of the same things, explore the hero's journey... there is just something so nourishing about hearing accomplished witty people discuss their projects, past, present, and future. I am in fanville.

Jim says that Neil, like me, speaks in complete sentences, no ums. I had never noticed I was like this, but look at my mother and father, they spoke/speak in complete monographs, dissertations and books. Maybe the other faculty brats are like me in this way. I dunno. But tonight, after all that, I can only say "doh."

p.s. I wrote 1,800 words today in my novel. And a sonnet. I'm on a roll.

I shoulds of me

I should be working on my freelance jobs.
I should be writing my nanowrimo novel.
I should be unpacking the too many boxes in my dining room that have been there for a year (OK longer, but I tell myself it is only a year) since they moved out of storage and I ignore them as if they were schizo ghosts I shouldn't be hearing or seeing (I think individual boxes are starting to hum themes from Holst's The Planets).
I should be packing for my trip to Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach for the family reunion/launch. (Note: Don Pettit is my husband's brother-in-law and very fine chronicler himself from outer space to his ice down under adventures.) And I should be recharging my good camera's battery and packing the tripod because we get to go to the night viewing. Since it is a night launch, if it launches on time, I hope to get some great shots. I wonder if I should bring something to suggest size, as in a troll doll to photograph on the tarmac with the mongo rocket behind it?

But no, I am back to writing sonnets for a crown of sonnets sequence. Seven sonnets where the last line starts the next. I've picked the perfect obsessive yet deeply varied subject, marriage. I am not used to writing in form and it really is hard. I showed one to my friend Chris and after the encouraging bits he wrote, "there are a couple of moments where the syntax gets a little stilted to get the rhymes in the right place," which is a really nice way of saying I'm writing like I have marbles in my mouth. To do what I consider a modern sonnet I want it to read aloud like it isn't in form (no sing-songiness) but show its chops on the page. Wish me persistance because luck is not what sonneteering is about. But then again, neither is a novel. Word by word by word.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My NaNoWriMo graph

Freelance work & election slowed me down (red wordlessness) but today was wordy...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Another issue of Alimetum almost out

I spent the day tidying up and correcting the interior and designing the cover of issue seven with Peter Selgin, publisher and coeditor of Alimentum: The Literature of Food. Peter is also an award winning author, teacher, and artist as well as a good looking guy who swims a lot. If he also happens to be a bit tense when we are down to the wire, I forgive him. I swear a lot at the computer, the software, and blame the aforementioned for my slowness of finger/brain connection.

Peter mentioned he doesn't need NaNoWriMo to get him going. Well fine, I thought, you don't need the world-wide-will and energy of thousands to make you type a word, but I do. Deadlines and rah-rah are getting me into the habit of daily writing. This is a good thing.

Peter is working on two children's books now. I think I'll invite him to meet me & Chris Raschka. He has a great eye. Even if we do growl a bit at each other over punctuation and art placement. Out of growling comes this great collaboration, one I am proud of, one that will appear on news stands and bring reading and looking pleasure around the US and the world. By the way, Alimentum makes a lovely holiday gift...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

7766 words (25 pages) only behind by 2230 words

Think of me as Rip Van Winkle waking up after the election and saying "holy cow I missed a day of typing how am I ever gonna catch up?" The good thing is that after some serious procrastination attempting to find photos of Bushwick Avenue specifically and Williamsburg in general in 1910, and then time procrastinating with a what's playing on Broadway in 1910, as well as a general hunt for kids in 1910... I finally stopped procrastasurfing and did some serious verbiage. 2369 words this afternoon. Catching up with myself. Oh yeah, Obama is still president.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A special break for election '08 coverage

I had a fantastic time last night, along with about 100 million other Americans. And masses of others across the globe, no doubt. First Jim and I joined Len at the cool Exit Art election event. Big space, huge screens with CNN, much smaller silk screening area making posters and fabric with a quote about change and then someone sewing the fabric into change purses! Also masks and cupcakes and photos and poster art on the walls. Lots of people, fewer seats. But when the bands began to play and the TVs no longer made noise, as in talking heads, we left for Times Square, taking along Charlotte an interesting new New Yorker who assured us her home state of California would give Obama the win. And it did.

Times Square was the place to be. We were surrounded by tourists speaking French, German, Italian, Spanish, and English in non-American accents. Not to mention acres of young American voters. At 11 pm when the results came in and Obama was crowned President elect, a wave of joy went through the streets. TV crews went by filming our jumping and cheering. I waved my hat. Escaped balloons briefly hugged the McCain image and then wedged themselves firmly next to Obama.

Then we went to a Westin bar to hear the speeches. The whole bar was silent for the two candidates... John McCain gracious in defeat, the old honorable John McCain, not the snide liar inhabiting his body in the last few months, was back. Then Obama. I admit that the 10 year old scotch may have loosened me up, but I cried through most of the speech and I am pretty hard to affect this way. It was just so good to hear the American story retold through his mind and heart.

Cheers rebounding from buildings, subway cars, and from the streets all the way home and for hours after. Called my daughters, both voted of course, Caitlin for the first time, she told me Skidmore students so happy they had an impromptu parade singing patriotic songs that spilled from campus into downtown Saratoga. Feels like America has really turned an important corner. Away from the fear, illegal war, unregulated greed, Guantanamo concentration camp, political Palin-style suicide, racism, and disasterous economic and disaster relief fumbles of the last 8 years. One CNN guy was a bit surprised Obama got 78 percent of the Jewish vote. How can he be surprised? Duh. Jews and Blacks have been looking out for each other for a long time, they both know a little about persecution... Jim said he hoped science and intelligence would once again be supported. I want to see WPA style options for the young and out of work. I want change.

And so begins the real sweat of turning promise into action. Mario Cuomo said "You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose." Yeah, but even realizing part of Obama's vision is going to help the US. I am so glad I don't have to feel quite so apologetic with my European and Canadian friends anymore.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

4021 words, must sprint, must type faster

Falling behind a bit. Had a lot of freelance work yesterday and just clipped my fingernails so I can type here and pull levers in polling booth with greater ease.

My father, having read this blog, is now also writing a novel in a month. How cool. And he is already up to chapter 5. Being the most prolific of writers, I suspect dad could write two or three novels in a month but won't do so out of politeness to my efforts.

Here is what he wrote:
Dear Claudia, The nice thing about reading your blog is that I can follow your activities and enjoy the way you write (and illustrate) your activities. When I read your blog last week about November is Write a Novel Month, I thought, hmmm. Could I try that? So I started a novel, using the theme of Faust. Now in Goethe's Faust he begins with Faust at mid-life criseis, about 50, and follows his life for the next 50 years (mostly leaving a wake of unhappiness behind him, although he is redeemed in the end). So I make Faust at 50 a sort of Augustinian Confessions and follow his first 50 years and make him the anti-Faust, the Goethe Faust being a calumny against his good name. I then romp through the Renaissance and follow his good deeds and good thoughts. So far I've done 5 chapters (all short) and have a vague idea of where I am going. So thank you for getting my creative juices flowing and come December we can trade first drafts. love, Dad

Monday, November 3, 2008

When Life Goes to the Comics with Bechdel

I just read Alison Bechdel’s memoir in a graphic novel, Fun Home. It is as obsessive as a (visual) villanelle. The novel keeps cycling back to the moment when her father's life ends in an accident that could equally well be a suicide. Her father, her family, were clearly a painful collision of secrets and surfaces. It stunned me. It is well written, well drawn, and above all brave.

For me, with my own mother who died at 43 (Bechtel's father was 44) when I was 18 (she was 19) this memoir comes the closest to capturing the pleasure and terror of having an artistic narcissistic closeted self-destructive teacher parent. We had parents that both flunked parenting 101 and still manged to pass on their capacity for hard work, aesthetics, and enthusiasms. Fun Home was the equal of autobiographies (with no pictures) such as Mary Karr's funny and sharp The Liar's Club. It shared something of Robert Coover's cycling through plot while exploring meta-fiction in his Briar Rose. I could go on. It was good in a way that startled me, given my mother. I have explored memoir in my first book of poetry, but Bechtel's homage shows me there is far more to say and more ways to say it. If I chose to go there. If I dare.

Ms. Bechtel made this fan very happy by thanking me and writing "'obsessive as a (visual) villanelle!' I think that's my favorite thing anyone's ever said about Fun Home!" See, not all gushing fan mail goes unanswered.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

3,774 words and typing

Day 2 of the nanowrimo Olympics found me at another Cosi restaurant in the Village. One enormously long table had been created and I recognized fellow writers from yesterday. Cheery hellos. Then I sat down and just started...typing.

I now realize my entire problem with unedited writing is that my muse is in fact a sweets addicted 6 year old who favors touching scenes devoid of evil and irony. It kills me that I, once voted the most sarcastic salad chef to work a Magic Pan in Minneapolis, the most utterly nasty putdowner of cuteness ever allowed to prowl a toystore in a mall, the gimlet eyed social satirist of a short lived college cartoon strip, am writing sweetness that borders on full bore Disney. I should just march over to the editors of American Girls Dolls and say take me, I am the voice of your dolls...I can only watch the unfurling candy ribbon of prose and tell myself that in rewrite my harsh cynical editorial voice will take a chainsaw to the fudge.

I did have this fine thing happen on my trip to the write-in. Sat next to a dad and his son talking in what even I could tell were London accents. So naturally, after drawing for a bit, I asked them where they were from. "Upper West Side," says the dad, "but I was born in London, as was my son. But my other children were born here." His munchkin was one of those amazingly cute little geniuses. He was sounding out words like "transportation," as he read a subway map. "Look son, this woman to the left of us is drawing and this woman to our right is doing physics." And it was true. "So what do you do in the middle?" "Oh me, sitting? oh, work?" (Europeans just don't naturally discuss what they "do" for a living, I guess this is a rude American thing and yet he chose to live and beget here so I guess it is OK to ask Americanny questions). "I'm an accountant but I'd like to be able to draw--don't know how at all, I like your drawings, and I'd also like to be doing physics. I want to do everything but don't have the time what with changing nappies." I urged him to check out the Art Students League, cheap, pay by the month, stick-figure-only beginners welcome. A month of classes and your doodles would be better, I said. His son likes to draw. We talked about that for a bit. And then it was time for them to get off. Sometimes you meet people briefly and you just know they are good dads. Hope he doodles, classes or not. If I can write a novel, he can draw.

On my way back home I finished my sketch for a graphic novel style food story I plan to submit to Alimentum. Here is what nanowrimo is doing for me, just the act of creative flow (even if it is pure non-diet froth) is freeing me up elsewhere. I'm blogging more, I'm drawing more, I'm smiling more.

The role of a novelist is toppling off that English major pedestal. What Neil Gaiman and so many others have said, you write a book word by word. (Is a small voice whispering talent, research, rewrite? Ignore that smartass until December.)

Of course, I will probably have some deflation of joy in the second week. Plus all that freelance work. But tonight, I'm happy my fingers are creating words and shapes.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

One thousand eight hundred and one words

I did it! I wrote the first 5 pages of my novel. It isn't very good, I am aware I haven't found my tone, it suffers from repetition and a lack of research--which for a historical is a tad troubling--I freely accept that it has the depth of coffee lid and the stale aroma of refried plots, that I was a fool to turn from verse to prose, but it is getting written. Welcome to the first draft.

It was lovely to join a back room of fellow nanowrimo enthusiasts at a nearby Cosi restaurant. I much enjoyed their company. And how nice to answer the odd questions, as in "what did people cook with in dorms before microwaves?" which I was in a position to answer, "toaster ovens and hotplates." Or "what would be a good name of a fake literary novel in a lit course?" And I said "the somethings daughter" since so many novels are named this way lately. As in the Mapmaker's Daughter or The Kayak Maker's Wife... And they helped me with finding names for characters.

They had 10 and 15 minute timed drives, to type full speed ahead with no other aim than quantity. Some were able to type twice as fast as me. I was astounded. Such speed... But at my rate, I realize that it will take me a minimum of two hours a day to do the writing. That pausing for research, quality, or even good plotting probably isn't necessary, and if I must do these things, do them later after the rush of just writing.

And in the small world department, the lovely funny young woman to my left who goes to Barnard turns out to be friends with the one person I know going to Barnard. So I told her to say hi to Hilly and she tells me Hilly is also a nanowrimo-ist and maybe the three of us should get together to write sometime and I am just so happy really that there are all these other people going through the same struggle at the same time.

There is also this delicious urge to write more than our equivalent city. Are we competing with Toronto or London? Does it matter? We are in this inexorable flood of creation, even if it is all dreck, it is dreck in progress, a novel, a rough first draft. Doable. Only 170 pages to go.