Saturday, November 22, 2008

Life Lesson- Toilets and Cell Phones Don't Mix

I can't even blame the toddler for this freak accident. Yesterday while 'using the facilities', I pulled up my pants as I flushed the toilet. My cell phone with remarkable accuracy flipped right into the flushing toilet. Thanks to the amazing technological advances that have shrunk the average cell phone, the sucker just slid through and is now in our septic system.

Instead of writing yesterday, I spent the day trying to get a new phone from Verizon which had some kind of system brouhaha (which doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence about their technical capabilities). I still don't have a cell phone.

I don't use my phone much. I don't even have numbers programmed in it. I barely know how to use it but I like the security and convenience of it. I like being able to order pizza while I'm on the road. And I'm convinced that the moment I don't have my phone my car will be forced off a deserted road by a band of rabid deer and I'll be trapped unable to call for help.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly or NANO Update: Day 22

Life is proving to be a carnival ride. I don't mean those gentle rides which leave you feeling giddy. Think back to that monster ride which left you nauseous, terrified and throwing up in a trash can in front of hundreds of spectators cheering you on. This is me now. But hope is not lost (or I could be suffering from delusions).

The Good

I'm still writing. I haven't accepted defeat. My story is still chugging along and I'm finding new strength and vitality in a story I've been working on for more than a year. YEAH!

The Bad

I'm behind. I need a little more than 20,000 words right now if I have any hope of being a winner. In past years, I've never been this far behind. I'm usually a day away from my goal. I wasn't even this far behind my unsuccessful year. How could this have happened?

The Ugly

I did the math. Without going into excruciating detail of the mathematical formula, I need to write at least 9 pages a day from now until the end of the month. This is no easy task given the realities of my upcoming week. Once again, I ponder the intelligence of choosing the month of November for NANO. (Yes, I'm turning on Chris Baty in my desperation) How about nice calm March? As a NANO participant I would cheer the extra day.

I might even have to give up the notion of actually completing the story by the end of the month. I can see my ending, I just don't know how many steps it's going to take me to get there. Will I be Moses who never enters the promised land?

I'm hoping I can escape to Borders today and knock out 10 pages but that might not be in the cards. Right now I'm huddled in my office with Kisses the Wonder Dog. Snow flurries swhirl outside and the temperature hovers in the low 20's. I want to go back to bed or lay in a vegetative heap watching John Hughes movies but then do I really want Lee Van Cleef finding my sorry ass on the couch. If I'm going down, I'd rather do it with butt to chair typing like a demon.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

In Praise of Crowded Places

I can write almost anywhere. I'm not one of those writers that requires silence or the comfort of the familiar. I have an office in my house but I find that the moment I go inside all hell breaks loose. I tend to roam all over the house with my laptop these days (thankfully my youngest has ended his rivalry with my computer realizing there is room in my heart for the both of them). No matter where I roam, I find home is where the interruptions are and I find myself itching to get out into the world.

Today I had one of my most productive days. I escaped to our locals Borders Books bringing along my trusty laptop. I love working in busy settings. When I decided to become serious about writing, I found this wonderful restaurant on Broadway and Mercer Streets in NYC. The food was tolerable, the service was slow but no one seemed to care if I sat there by the window for hours writing and watching people.

Soon VG's closed (due to the food and bad service no doubt). I continued to write where I could- subway, taxi's, park bench, etc, but these felt too temporary. Then I found my writing home when I stepped inside Pat's Jazz Bar in Chelsea.

A good PR person might have described it as an "intimate venue" which is the polite term for a classic "hole in the wall". Pat's had the best live music in the city. It was the place where musicians would come from gigs at more established clubs to jam into the wee hours of the morning. Pat's was more than just my NYC version of Cheers it was my writing studio.

When I'd find myself in that writing zone, Ralph, the manager, would know and make certain I was left alone. He'd tell people to wait until the book hit the stores. What can be better than this kind of support when you're a youngster in your 20s. People were interested in what I was writing and took my opinions seriously. I don't believe I've had better conversations on writing, literature, music, art and culture than in that place. Often those conversations would spill over into breakfast at the Chelsea Diner.

Borders is no Pat's but I'm able to write. Jen makes the best Caramel Lattes (she's definitely getting a heartfelt thanks in my book) and she always gives me an extra helping of caramel. The table by the window is always empty just waiting for me. I plug in my computer, sip my latte, write, and watch humanity pass around me. Sometimes they even play some good music that brings me back to my days at Pat's.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NANO Update- Day 13

Thirteen days into NANO finds me far behind my word count goal.

Finishing the novel by the end of the month feels like a Herculean task right now when it is quarter to ten and my two year old is still running strong.

I just brewed a hot beverage and I plan on making an attempt to finish Scene 30 tonight. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Soccer Loss and A Lesson Learned

My son George is a member of the Minisink Valley Green Thunder Travel Soccer team and they've yet to win a game. Last season was their first as a team and they were bowled over by larger more experienced opponents. No matter how many goals the other teams scored on them Green Thunder kept trying and learning. It's been a great experience to watch a group of children improve with each game.

Yesterday's game was tough. The other team was rough. The last time they met a girl from the other side punched my son in the stomach. The officiating left much to be desired. The toughest blow on the kids occurred when the referee did not call a goal made by Green Thunder. The goalie grabbed the ball but missed and our team did what they were taught and followed through on another attempt. Members of the other team raced into the goal trying to stop the point. One member of the other team (not the goalie) used his hands to knock the ball out of the goal. No goal. No hand-ball penalty. The wind was knocked out of our team.

One bad call after another left the kids feeling like there was no way they could win even though the score was 1-0. George was kicked in the hip and was uncharacteristically slow to get up. When he did, he was hurting. His teammates saw their chance of coming away with at least one score fading. His coach took him off the field and he iced the injury. He had tears in his eyes but he also had his jaw firmly set. I could feel the electricity of determination coming from him. He went back in the game and scored our team's only goal.

Despite being down and injured, I've watched my son's constant determination. He keeps trying no matter what. Even after playing in the worst weather conditions or against teams displaying poor sportsmanship he enjoys what he's doing, playing even after the whistle has blown and the players head home. It makes me think of writing.

Everyday I start out with these high hopes- today will be the day where I can go in the zone and pour those words on the page. Reality usually intrudes and my writing these days can only be described as being in a continual state of interruption. It would be easy to set it aside and decide to write when life cooperates but then like Georgie, I set my jaw (a trait inherited from my grandmother) and I think if I can at least get a page then I'll still be in the game. Like my son, I'm out there enjoying the thrill of the game.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

NANO Update- Day 8

I've added a little word count widget on my blog so everyone can see just how far away from my goal I am.

The election was incredibly distracting. I tried to forge ahead but those damn polls just kept pulling me in. Even the day after the election, I was too deep in euphoria and exhaustion (from following the longest campaign in history) and could only write in dribbles and drabbles. I left my poor characters trapped in Scene 28 which went on horribly long, even they were pleading with me to wrap it up.

Yesterday, I was intent on finishing that scene and now it's done (cue music and confetti). Now I can push on to the next scene.

FAQ: Are your scenes chapters?

Thanks for that interesting question. Right now during the bumpy draft I have to say no. During the editing process some scenes will turn into full stand-alone chapters and others will disappear or combine with other scenes to create chapters.

Today looks like a busy one. My son has a soccer game (keep your fingers crossed for their first win against a team that was pretty rough on them the last time they met. My son actually had grass in his mouth at the end of that game- Ouch!) and then there will be the usual attempt to to clean the house and corral the children.

My original plan was to write a scene a day which can be accomplished if I flee the scene right now with my laptop and power cord and check into the nearest motel for the rest of the month. I'm hoping for a real come behind victory on November 1st.

Here's a picture of my reward:
I know my simple reward should be the satisfaction of a completed goal but I really really want these! Hey, what can I say, I'm a product of the instant gratification generation.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Did!!

There is joy in our household today as we behold the next President of the United States. It was a hard-fought campaign and the nation spoke giving Barack Obama 52.4% of the popular vote (according to NPR) and 349 electoral votes (Missouri and North Carolina are still too close to call).

I tried to stay relaxed last night. I had every intention of finishing my scene but election fever hit hard. Instead of writing I found myself obsessively checking electoral maps on- Foxnews, ABC (who hands down had the best), NPR, MSNBC, and CBS. Even after Pennsylvania and Ohio were called for Obama I was still obsessively tracking Florida (the shadow of 2000 still haunting me). Even as the networks were declaring his victory and McCain conceding I was tallying up numbers- will they call Florida? What about Virginia or Indiana or Missouri? Always coming back to Florida again.

It wasn't until Barack Obama's victory speech that I allowed myself to believe that it really happened. It was one of the best victory speeches I've heard. Instead of basking in his success he charged the entire American electorate to roll of their sleeves and begin the hard work of building a new America. I'm ready to report for duty Mr. President!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't Forget to Vote!

I headed out this morning, without my four-legged running companion, and ran to my local polling place. I guess I can say, "I ran for Barack Obama".

I've never been one to wear my candidate on my sleeve (or anywhere else you can place a logo). I appreciate the fact that privacy is an important part of the voting process. The fact that I do not adorn myself with my favorite candidate's name does not mean that I am an apathetic voter. I'm actually as far from that as you can get. I love politics and have loved the campaigning process since I was a kid. I was the only child I knew who would sit through the State of the Union Address in rapt attention.

This campaign challenged my 'right to privacy' notion. We have an Obama/Biden lawn sign which is no small object in this heavily Republican community in which we live where it's not uncommon to pass houses and cars with Confederate Flags and racist bumper stickers proudly displayed. I decided because I felt this wonderful sense of hope when I drive by houses where I see Obama signs. Why not pass on this same sense of hope?

I wondered if I would leave the voting booth with tears in my eyes today. As a black person, I must admit there is this wonderful surge of feeling to be able to vote for a black person for President of the United States. Not just any black person but one who offers substantial and serious plans for leading this country into the 21st Century instead of taking us backwards and away from the original intent of the framers of the constitution and their vision of America.

I felt this tremendous emotion as I thought of my grandmother who died at 102. She was old enough to touch our slave past. She was struck by a truck on her way to work one day. The driver took her to the hospital and left her outside like an animal. The accident left her blind. She never missed a vote. Never. I could feel her in that booth with me today as I cast my ballot. She was one of the most color-blind people I knew. Losing her sight allowed her the freedom to hear a person instead of seeing, so she heard kindness, humor and often- to her amusement- ignorance before she ever knew what color that person was. I doubt even she could imagine the day in which a black man would be a serious candidate for President. I could feel her joy and hear her clap her hands and say "Praise God!"

Go out and vote. Let every voice be heard!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NANO Update- Day 1

So far, so good.

I usually get these grand ideas before I start any project. Unfortunately, they usually fizzle when they meet reality.

Today was no different. I decided I would wake up at 5am, head downstairs, make a nice cup of tea and then begin typing. I'd give myself a full three hours without interruption. Well, I did wake up at 5am and lingered in bed trying to convince my body it was a smart idea to leave the warm bed for the chilly, dark morning then I promptly fell back to sleep. With some disappointment, I crept out of bed around 6:45am where I did make that fabulous mug of tea and did begin typing at least an hour before interruptions started, so all was not lost.

I then spent the day fitting in writing wherever I could. While my son was at soccer practice, I was in the car typing away on Scene 28 which I'm hoping to complete tonight. (I need to finish at least a scene a day if I have any hope of completing this novel.) I escaped to my local Borders leaving my husband with a houseful of children- ours and a bunch of the neighbors- where I ordered a large Caramel Latte and wrote. More than two hours on interrupted writing, what a blessing.

Borders is only an option once a week so I'll have to go back to my grand scheme of waking at 5am (which will really be 4am when the time change kicks in-AAH!). Keep your fingers crossed.