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On Not NaNo-ing

Confession:

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo.

Confession #2:

I've never done NaNoWriMo.



Now that that's out of the way, the big question is BUT WHY?

Don't get me wrong, I think that NaNo is (mostly) a great idea.  (I say mostly because, depending on your goals and your writing style, the "you can write a book in a month but you need to revise for the next three months" thing might not be your best bet.  You do you.) I love the community that's built up around it, the support, the energy--all coming from a defined and difficult but not impossible goal.  Who doesn't love goals? Who doesn't love getting encouragement and support on rough days and built-in-cheerleaders on good days?

Nobody, that's who.

So why NOT NaNo?  For me--a few reasons.

1) Resisting the Shiny.  Look, I love a shiny new idea as much as the next writer, but--ooh, hey, the new holiday cards are up on Tiny Prints!

Ok, let me try again.  I love a shiny new idea as much as the next writer,…

Truth: Grad School Cuts Down your Writing Time

Well, the title pretty much says it all, right? Don't cry for me yet--I'm loving my Master's program in English.  I mean, who wouldn't? I get to go to class and workshop writing and analyze Renaissance poetry and write term papers and...

...ok, yes, plenty of people wouldn't and I may be bonkers.  In any case, I am managing to balance work, school, family, and writing pretty well, excepting this pore ol' neglected blog.

So how to keep writing when your time is suddenly monopolized by a new venture--whether that be a new job, a new baby, a new move, a new just about anything?

1) Keep up the old habits that you can.  One of my "good habits" is setting aside large segments of writing time when I can by planning for it and literally penciling it into my datebook. (Subhint: Have a datebook.)  If I have a free Saturday, I arrange for The Husband to watch The Tiny and I run away for a while.



2) Accept adjusting the habits you can't keep up.  Maybe you w…

Are You A Feminist?

"Raise your hand if you're a feminist." Day one of my first French lit class with one of the best profs in the department.  And this was the question we were greeted with.

It was a fair question--the course was "Ecrits Feminin" which translates literally as Feminine Literature, and could also be understood as "Literature for Women."
A few young women proudly raised their hands.  A few other made "nuh-uh, not me" noises or crossed their arms, removing themselves from the question.  Many of us--me included--looked back at the prof with "Is this a trick question?" written all over our faces.
It was probably a good idea to ask that--"is this a trick question"--given how well we got to know that professor over the courses we took with him.  He was wily, that Swede from Minnesota who wore the same rotation of v-neck sweaters every week and had a voice reminiscent of Garrison Keillor.   He didn't ask trick questions, but he…

Let's Talk "Success"

So I ran across this post from the super-talented Susan Dennard and it made me think.

Mostly it made me think because I disagreed with Susan's response, which pretty much never happens.

In a nutshell, the question posed was "Is liking to write enough to be a successful writer...some successful writers say no."

Susan replied with some well-placed expletives and assurance that YES liking to write is enough.

And it gave me pause.

Because I realized neither the question, nor the "some writers," nor Susan really defined "successful."

It makes a big difference.  If successful means published, I have to disagree.  I'll lay it out there--I don't think that liking writing is enough to be a published author.  Liking doesn't mean consistent doing.  Liking doesn't mean that you have set a goal or made a commitment.  Pursuing publication demands a kind of grit that takes your relationship with writing beyond liking it to marrying it, if we'll a…

Writing Retreat: How to DIY

I think every writer has, at some point, maybe a point surrounded by dirty dishes and a whining toddler, wanted to get away on a writing retreat.  I find myself pining for a quiet cabin in some remote woods, surrounded by writers (at nice, comfortable distances from me and one another) who are as engrossed in their own words as I am, tapping away on keyboards and making notes in big, full notebooks.  Maybe we'd meet up for dinners and have long discussions during hikes in aforementioned remote woods.  Maybe we'd make new friends.  Maybe we'd learn new things.  Maybe we'd just get uninterrupted time to write until our fingers cramped up and refused to type another word.

Unfortunately, time and finances don't always allow for a writer to get away in order to submerge herself in a formal writers' retreat.  However, with a little creativity...

...Backstory.  My husband is a Navy Reservist.  He's gone at least one weekend a month and 4-6 weeks a year.  So I'…

A Book for Every Reader

I've been reading a lot about gender and books and who reads them and why that matters.

If you keep up on news, discussions, and general brouhahas in publishing, I'm guessing you have, too.

There was Shannon Hale told by a school she would present to girls only, since she had written "girl books."  Boys, head to they gym for the "other" activity.  Like when we watched the videos about getting our periods and they got the lecture about deodorant (or was that just my school?).

There was Andrew Smith answering a (pretty loaded) question about the lack of female engagement with his work and getting roundly slammed for his response.

There are fantastic overviews of the issues at hand.

I'm finding myself considering, not the context of society and sexism, but the context of my personal responsibility as a writer.  What audience, and what breadth of audience, am I as a writer obligated to write books for?

It's a personal question.  It's probably a ques…

Tools for Naming Characters

"I'm having some trouble naming this character," I complained to The Husband recently.  "Help me."

"How about Trudy?"

Dead silence.

The art of naming characters is a touch more precise than throwing random ideas out there and POW! the first one sticks, isn't it?

Add in the complications of genre--was this name used in 1787? Does this sound fantasy-ish enough without being wacky? Will people still name kids Mary in the scifi world I've envisioned?--and it gets downright dizzying.

Fortunately, I love names.  And there are plenty of resources out there to help a struggling writer settle on the right name.

First, there are the baby-name websites.  You can browse to your heart's content without camping out in the same section of the bookstore as titles such as Screaming Newborns, Happy Families and Birthing Positions for the Modern Woman.  If you're lucky, your friends and family won't even notice, and you won't be stuck answering a…

Things With Which I Am Currently, Shamelessly Obsessed

1) Strid by the Oslo Kammerkor.  It's choral music.  In Norwegian.  That combines folk songs with liturgical music. And it is so much awesome I can't even handle it.

I realize I'm nutterbutters for my love of choral music, but if you're even a little curious, give it a listen and be inspired.  And wish you could speak Norwegian.  This one is admittedly on the odder side, with a traditional shepherding call leading it out:



2) Vintage Travel Posters.  I love film posters, but they're so intimidating.  How do you choose a film poster for, say, a guest room? That's appealing and unique but not pushy in your taste palette?  Enter travel posters, which just feel so much less commital.  They don't declare "I LOVE 1950s scifi schtick starring John Agar, like The Mole People!" the way my living room does.

3) John Agar.  Journey to the Seventh Planet.  Revenge of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  I'm only half-kidding in my love of Agar, and the re…

Painting and Priming and Writing

I've been hard at work in my House of a Thousand Windows, re-doing the guest bedroom.

When we moved into the House, this particular room was painted a dull periwinkle grey and the trim was done in a forcefully average medium blue.  If chronic, unyielding depression needed a place to stay, it would have chosen that room.  Seasonal Affective Disorder was born in that room.  Guests seemed to emerge noticeably...puny the day after sleeping in that room.

It was awful.

So I decided to repaint it a pleasant, pale yellow and make that horrid dark trim white.

Do you realize how much primer and paint it takes to get medium blue to crisp white?

I've been recoating a lot.  I'm on my second can of primer.  This may be due partially to the fact that I bought something on the cheap end, but it was Killz brand, and since that was pretty much what I wanted to do to that room, I thought it was fitting.

The secret to a good paint job, as any painter (or page on This Old House's website)…

Perfection is the Enemy of...well, everything.

I'm sure you've heard the adage, "Perfection is the enemy of good." And it's completely true for a perfectionist like me--stereotypical over-achieving only child.  Hi, I'm Rowenna, and I'm a perfectionist.

There are most definitely times when the pursuit of perfection has me either avoiding starting something to begin with ("What if it's not perfect?") or giving up too soon ("Gah! It's not perfect!").   It's a trait I've tried to curb as I've gotten older, especially as I look back and consider--what things did I avoid because I knew I wouldn't be perfect at them?  What might I have enjoyed or discovered I was actually pretty ok at?

I've never been afraid of writing for that reason--writing was that thing I was good at, even as a kid, so it didn't give me the "What ifs" the way other pursuits did.  For instance, say, sports.  I avoided things I was afraid I'd stink at.  As an example, sport…