Sunday Post #45: Rainy Day Reading

Sunday Post

I ask you: is there anything better than sitting inside on a rainy day, listening to the rain fall as you read and sip a hot beverage of your choice? Especially if it also happens to be fall, and even better, October? I live in New England, and our falls are just perfect. My favorite season.

I haven’t written a Sunday Post in a really long time. I’m making good progress with the R. I. P. Challenge. I read the second two Miss Peregrine books, Hollow City and Library of Souls. I have two other contenders currently on the nightstand: The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte and The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine. Progress on my other challenges is mixed.

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participantI don’t know that I’ll be able to do 50,000 words this November, but I’ve signed up again for NaNoWriMo. I have an idea that I’m very excited about, but it will involve some research, and I don’t have a ton of time to do it. Still, I do have some, and if I can prioritize some things a bit this month, perhaps I can be ready to go on November 1. I’m returning to my favorite: historical fiction. At any rate, I have a Scrivener file ready to rock and roll with some notes and preliminary sketches. I am thinking about whether or not to get involved with some local events. My experience with writing groups has been decidedly negative up until this point. Not in terms of discouraging feedback or anything, but more in terms of finding a group who takes writing seriously and isn’t, you know, weird.

It’s a nice long weekend. I have Monday off. We are still talking about what we might want to do since it’s rare these days that my husband, my kids, and me all have the same day off. If it’s raining still, I’m not sure we’ll go out, but I was hoping we could go into Boston and look around, but if we’re going to do that, we need to make some plans.

Well, I’m going to curl up with the coffee and book again. I have some reading to do. Enjoy what’s left of your weekend!

The Sunday Salon

NaNoWriMo 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015

After a couple of years of not participating, I think I’m going to give NaNoWriMo a go again. You know what I think I’d really like to write? Just a Harry Potter fanfic for me. I’m intensely curious as to what happens with the next generation of witches and wizards. What does a post-Voldemort world look like anyway? So, I think that’s what I’m going to do. Just have a little bit of fun and not worry about it. I’m a little bit rusty writing-wise anyway. My username is “danahuff” if you want to friend me on NaNoWriMo’s site. I don’t know how active I’ll be in the forums.

NaNoWriMo is fun for me because everyone else is also trying to write, so I feel like I’ve got this invisible support network. Plus I feel like it’s a fun way to start a book. I have a couple of books partially written that need to be finished (and need quite a lot of editing), but NaNoWriMo gives me the push to get started writing—even if I need to find something else that gives me the push to finish and edit.

So what do you say? With me? It could be fun.

Review: Unless it Moves the Human Heart, Roger Rosenblatt

I picked up Roger Rosenblatt’s Unless it Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing based on a recommendation from Marsha McGregor, a teaching fellow at the Kenyon Writer’s Workshop for Teachers in which I participated last week. It’s a tough book to categorize: it’s part memoir, part writing advice, and part model for teaching writing to others. It takes the unusual form of conversation as it tracks a particular writing class’s progress.

Rosenblatt explains in his preface that the book is “fiction, top to bottom” but is based on the real problems and subjects his class discussed. It’s admittedly a somewhat quirky format for a book of this type. As such, it will not appeal to all writers seeking advice (or all writing teachers seeking advice, and certainly not to people looking for a memoir). Rather than offering nuggets of wisdom in the form of bulleted lists or bold headings, Rosenblatt’s understanding of what it means to write and to teach writing is buried within the narrative about one class. As such, it invites careful reading, and I found myself reading some pages over and highlighting often. Even so, it’s a quick, conversational read.

I pulled a few ideas for lessons from its pages. I loved the discussion he shared of James Joyce’s short story “Clay,” which I also stopped to read before continuing with that part of Rosenblatt’s book. He has a another idea for students to create their own anthologies—not of their own work, but of poems they like and want to group together. As Rosenblatt says, “By the end of the course they have created a little book that speaks for their taste” (67). The book has many excellent reading recommendations (a book that added to my TBR pile—just what I need!). In particular, Rosenblatt shares models he uses for teaching personal essays as well as types of personal essays he assigns. His descriptions of class discussions are great models for lessons.

As I write all of this, I wonder if I shouldn’t have reviewed this book on my education blog, whose audience might more be the audience for this book, but I’m not entirely sure. I think anyone who writes might benefit from reading it. As I said, the time investment isn’t great—the book is only about 150 pages—and the dividends are worth it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Sunday Salon: Resolutions

A Ride in the SnowJust like everybody else, I am making a few resolutions as the new year begins. However, making resolutions is not typical for me. I usually ignore the passage of a new year, at least in terms of turning over a new leaf. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a teacher or not, but I always felt like the real new year turned when a new school year started. For some reason, I don’t know why, this year feels different. I actually find myself feeling like it is the start of the new year, and for the first time in years, that didn’t feel like a sad thing to me. New Year’s Eve usually makes me quite sad, and this year, while I can’t say I was excited or anything, I felt pretty content. As a result, I started thinking about the things I really want to do better or do more of in the coming year.

No Excuses Art Journaling: Making Time for Creativity I have the usual resolutions regarding tackling organization, etc., but in terms of reading, I want to try to be much more active in reading and talking about my reading here. I have had a hard time making myself blog for the last couple of years, but I do enjoy it, particularly book blogging, and I have missed it.

I also want to do better with journaling, and to that end, I picked up No Excuses Art Journaling: Making Time for Creativity. It looks like a fun way to try a new creative outlet. One of the things I have enjoyed about making soap is the creativity. The soap is like a work of art. No two cut bars are the same, and no two batches of soap are the same. Art journaling seems like a fun way to be creative when I’m stuck. One of the things I’ve learned about making soap over the last year is that it can’t be my only creative outlet, or I wind up making too much of it. By the way, if any takers want to try out my soap, let me know. If you want to check out my soap on Etsy, try here.

So, do you have any resolutions?

The Sunday SalonA Ride in the Snow by DaveLawler

Writing Dreams

رو به سردي

The weather here has been absolutely gross for three days. I’m glad today, though it looks cloudy, at least doesn’t look like rain. I have been wanting to get out and take a walk with my husband, but I don’t really even want to go outside in this weather.

I had a strange writing dream last night. I haven’t been doing much work on my NaNoWriMo novel since December started, and one reason for that is that I have a major plot hole that introduces implausibility. It sounds really strange to say that in a novel in which Shakespeare and Jane Austen are brought forward into the current time that I can’t figure out how to get them identification and passports without having them resort to shady fake documents (and how do they even know people who can make fake documents that fool authorities? or how do they even have money to pay for them?). It’s really bugging me. Man, in historical fiction, you can move people around so easily. They can stowaway on a ship or even book passage legally, and no one glares at their ID for five minutes to determine whether they might be carrying fake identification and could be a terrorist.

At any rate, last night I had a writer dream. I was at NCTE. I saw lots of my friends there, but I was also being followed by some shadowy folks like a bad spy movie. English teachers are classical spies, right? Anyway, out of the blue, Stephen King and Joe Hill (who is Stephen King’s son) showed up at my hotel room with printed copies of my NaNo book covered in blue ink. I have no idea how they got my ms, but they had clearly spent some time critiquing it well. Joe Hill told me it was pretty good, but about 1/3 of it was crap (which is pretty much my own estimate). Stephen King nodded vigorously to indicate he agreed with his son’s assessment. I was thrilled that Joe Hill thought 2/3 of my novel was something I could work with, and I couldn’t wait to read their suggestions on how to fix the 1/3 that wasn’t. They were like my perfect deus ex machinas or something like that. I wish a real writer would jump in solve my ms problems instead of dream Stephen King (who was hard of hearing in my dream) and dream Joe Hill. I was so shocked and happy that they had come to help me with my book.

I think my brain picked them because even though I haven’t read a lot of their work, I think highly of them as writers because I know a lot about their process. Of course, I learned about King’s through [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing[/amazon_link], and Joe Hill has discussed his on his blog. Plus Joe Hill is very opinionated on Twitter, and if he thinks something’s crap, he calls it out as crap—precisely why I felt his assessment of my book was actually high praise. In real life? I’m not sure either of them would like my book. It doesn’t seem like their thing. But they were both as nice as they could be in my dream.

photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani


I Won NaNoWriMo!

Winner!I just submitted my still-incomplete novel for validation, and I am so excited because…


I feel like I should give a speech or something. First, I would like to thank my husband and kids for respecting my need to do this and for giving me the time and space to write. If Steve hadn’t taken this project seriously and supported my efforts to complete it, I just wouldn’t have completed it.

I want to thank Helen Fielding, Sarah Addison Allen, and all the other chick lit writers for giving me a model of the kind of story I wanted to write.

I want to thank Jane Austen and William Shakespeare.

I want to thank Scrivener, which is an excellent app that I will now be able to buy for 50% off because I won! Seriously, this app enabled me to plan and move text around, and it gave me the freedom to write and organize all of my notes in one place. Plus their word count was really accurate. I think the discrepancy between my Scrivener word count and the official NaNo word count was only 34 words, which is really close.

NaNoWriMo Word Count

I think my MS Word count differed by a lot more than that when I won in 2009. Even though this is the second time I’ve won NaNaWriMo, it doesn’t feel any less thrilling. I don’t feel less a sense of accomplishment. I feel as exhilarated as I did the first time, and perhaps even more so because I managed to win even though I went out of town to a conference.

Here’s to hoping I can finish the darned thing. I think this one could be publishable if I can get it into shape, but then most writers probably think that about their work, or they wouldn’t bother. Still, at this point it’s too soon to be discouraged, especially because I managed to write 50,000 words of my novel in 30 days. Actually, 29.


NaNoWriMo News

NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo is nearly over for this year, and with a current word count of 47,333 and two more days to write, I think I’m going to “win” this year. I am excited because I even went out of town to a conference and managed to keep up OK. I fell behind a little, but I had planned ahead and written a lot so that I would have some padding in case there was time I couldn’t write in Chicago. It was a great trip, by the way.

One of the “carrots” for me this year has been the 50% discount on the full version of Scrivener for winners. I can’t see using anything else to write fiction with, and I’m certainly not using MS Word or Apple Pages. Scrivener was designed with writers in mind. I keep forgetting it has templates for nonfiction and academic writing, too.

I am happy with most of what I wrote, but I gave myself permission to write stuff I know I’ll need to cut later just to have it down and move on to the next thing. I think it helped that I set the story in a place I know well. Although I did just manage to send my main character to London, she’s spent most of the novel a couple of blocks away from my house. I also didn’t worry a lot about pop culture references. The movie Anonymous and the breakup of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore both made it into my book. Hey, if Colin Firth and Hugh Grant can both be mentioned in [amazon_link id=”0753158590″ target=”_blank” ]Bridget Jones’s Diary[/amazon_link], I think I’m OK.

Here is to the home stretch. May I have more time to read and thus update this blog on the other side of November.


NaNoWriMo Week #2

NaNoWriMoWow, it’s the end of week two of NaNoWriMo already. I have been pretty busy writing and haven’t updated this blog in a week. At this point, I have 26,604 words, so I am over halfway done and about three days ahead of par. I am averaging about 2,000 words a day, which is great. As a matter of fact, even though I no longer have a plan and the novel is just sort of going off on its own, I am still mostly happy with it. Some days I really struggle with what I write, but I think that reading [amazon_link id=”0743455967″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing[/amazon_link] right before I began was really helpful. My reading has slowed down quite a lot. Just can’t keep up with everything. It’s really important to me to finish NaNoWriMo this year. I have an idea I’m excited about, and it’s still fun at two weeks in.

I’m going to Chicago this week for an English teacher conference—presenting, even—and I want to keep up the momentum even while I’m traveling. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. At least if I get fairly far ahead, I will be able to write a little less if I find I’m too busy.


NaNoWriMo Week #1

NaNoWriMoIt’s the end of week one of NaNoWriMo. I ended the week with a pretty decent word count: 12,115. I am hoping to stay a little bit ahead as I am going to a conference the week after next, and last year, that conference stalled my writing dead in the water. This year, I’m determined to carve out time to write, even if I have to go hide somewhere and do it. Par for day 6 of NaNoWriMo is 10,000 words, so I have an extra day and some cushion at this point.

Erin Morgenstern, whose book [amazon_link id=”0385534639″ target=”_blank” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_link] began life as a NaNoWriMo novel, wrote a pep talk for participants this week.

Of course, I haven’t been reading as much, and truthfully, I haven’t been able to figure out what I want to read. I am dipping into [amazon_link id=”074348486X” target=”_blank” ]As You Like It[/amazon_link] because it figures into my book, and I am still finishing [amazon_link id=”9626343613″ target=”_blank” ]Sense and Sensibility[/amazon_link]. I am hoping to be finished with that one, soon. I’m still waiting on [amazon_link id=”140222267X” target=”_blank” ]Willoughby’s Return[/amazon_link] to arrive in the mail. I am also hoping to read some of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries soon, but those may need to wait until December.

It was a good first week, and given how busy work was, I feel a sense of accomplishment over having kept my head above water with the word count. I am actively not rereading anything I’ve written. I’m not exactly afraid it’s bad. I just know it’s a draft and I can change it, but I don’t want to do it yet. I want to focus on the draft and worry about the revision later.

I wonder if any other Sunday Salon folks are participating in NaNoWriMo?

The Sunday Salon

NaNoWriMo Day #1

let's type

Day one, 2,255 words written. I am not sure how many times I stopped myself from writing an adverb (thank you, Stephen King). I think I did a pretty good job conveying personality in other ways. So far, I am really happy with it. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about something I wrote. I like having a really loose idea of what’s going to happen and then letting whatever happens, happen. What surprised me the most was how effortless it was. It just pretty much came out, boom. I think the fact that I have been doing a lot of writing in general, especially on this blog, has helped me with flow. I tell my students this kind of thing all the time, but it’s great to see it’s actually true.

Meanwhile, I’m flying through Stephen King’s [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft[/amazon_link] so fast that I think I could be done with it tomorrow. Probably the best book I’ve read on creative writing.

photo credit: |vvaldzen|