Monday, November 30, 2009

Writing about NaNo

Check it out! I published a column in the Easton Journal on my NaNoWriMo experience--namely about how trying to write a novel in a month can be about community-building as much as it is about novel-building. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Thanksgiving is about two things: Food and being grateful. (Football probably makes the list for lots of people, but not this non-sports fan!) So I thought I'd make this Thanksgiving-eve post about both.

First, the food. I've been doing a lot of cooking lately, and I thought I'd share some of my new favorite vegetarian recipes:

These spicy sweet potato patties are a delicious side dish, or, if you eat enough of them (and you'll want to!), they're a filling meal.

Here's an easy-peasy brocolli dish that's a little more intersting than the typical brocolli fare.

My mom's Italian, and so I was raised to love love love Italian food. Since my husband doesn't eat cheese, I rarely make the dairy-heavy dishes, but I made these cheese-stuffed eggplant roll-ups recently, and boy was I glad I did. Yum, yum, yum.

And lastly, here's my favorite Thankgiving recipe of all time--acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, cranberries, and hazelnuts. Even the turkey eaters who bless my table on Thanksgiving save a big spot on their plate for one of these babies. I've altered the recipe here and there since I've been making it for 5+ years now, but it's delicious as is, too.


Now onto the giving of thanks. Like most people I know, I've got a ton to be thankful for. Even as we all deal with life's little and big challenges (in my case, a nasty cold/flu virus that has been attacking my poor immune system for the last 4 weeks now!), there are so many things we take for granted, like clean water and warm homes and the internet (really! Think about how the internet has changed your life!).

But I'd like to list the things that are more personally meaningful to me this year:

*Finding--no MAKING--the time to nurture my budding novel and various other creative pursuits.

*The friends who encourage the above.

*The husband, who seems to truly get just how important writing is to me (even though he won't "let" me quit my job and write full time.)

*This blog's readers! It's been so much fun to "meet" new people and reconnect with old friends via this blog.

I could go on and on, but those are the blessings on my mind at the moment. How about you, what are your top 4 things to be thankful for this year?

Here are some pics from last Thanksgiving, enjoy!

My sister-in-law with my chicken chalkboard

My dad being silly while my mom smiles beautifully for the camera.

My mom and I getting down to work.

A Mayflower replica Brian made

The place cards I made

(I'm having some trouble alighning the captions with the photos...hope it's obvious which should go with which!)

Happy Thanksgiving all! Best Blogger Tips

Friday, November 20, 2009

New blog element

Check out the left hand column for my list of "desert island books," aka books I could read over and over and over again. I'm sure there are some I've forgotten, and hopefully I'll come across many more in my reading path...I was happily surprised to see how many short story collections are on there. I tend to plow through novels, but savor short stories, so maybe that's why. I'm still contemplating a book of poetry that should go on there. Will fill you in when I decide...

How about you, what are your desert island books? Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Wild Card

A few random writing-related things on my mind today:

A teacher at Lesley University (the amazing place where I did my MFA) has come out with a new book I want to read, Yarn: Remembering the Way Home. I didn't work with Kyoko Mori much, but she seemed like a lovely, thoughtful person, so I'm guessing her writing will be, too. Also, Kyoko is giving a reading tomorrow night near Boston. I can't go, unfortunately, but thought I would spread the word...

The lovely and talented Erin Dionne is giving away swag with a phrase from Shakespeare's plays to promote Erin's YA book: Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet. One of the pieces of merch is a mug with this quote from Mid Summer Night's Dream: And though she be but little, she is fierce. As a petite, 5'2" woman, that quote sang to me. My next random purchase will be a t-shirt with that quote on it.

Speaking of lovely and talented writers I know, Ms. January Gill's first collection of poetry is about to come out! I can't wait to attend her book party and celebrate this awesome accomplishment. Now go buy her book. :)

And lastly, there's an interesting talk going on at Harvard Book Store on Dec. 2 that I plan on going to. Author Steve Almond will discuss his new book, This Won't Take But a Minute, Honey. The interesting thing about this book is that he self-published it, using an on-demand printer located in Harvard Book Store. I'm curious as to why an established author would go the self publishing route. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 16, 2009

Things I've said no to

* Going on a Halloween bike ride (which sounded really, really awesome)

* Joining the Lion's Club

* Going to my mother-in-law's for dessert on Thanksgiving

* Tutoring an extra evening with the ESL volunteer work I do

* Extending my family Christmas trip to Arizona so that it would take up all of my holiday time off

Which isn't to say that I didn't want to say yes to all of these things (OK, I didn't want to say yes to the Lions Club--being on one town committee, the cultural council, is more than enough). But I am learning my limits. Learning to listen to my instincts about how much I can actually do. Learning to honor the part of me that needs down time, and needs writing time. Learning that if I don't fiercely protect that time, it will get taken up and taken over faster than you can say "Sure I'd love to." Best Blogger Tips

Friday, November 13, 2009


I was home sick AGAIN today, but instead of complaining about my coughing and sneezing, I instead will tell you about my new favorite show, which I discovered during my hours of convalescence: Glee! It's about a high school glee club, and the humor is ironic, the characters are well defined, and the musical numbers are uplifting.

It's just about the only thing in the world that has made me nostalgic for high school. It even made me ask myself the question that sometimes bounces around in my head, Do I want to teach high school? Obviously it'd be a major career change, but it's something I think about from time to time, and this delightful show brought up those thoughts once again.

You can watch most of the episodes on through Fox's website (link above). Check it out. Let me know what you think. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaNo, MeMo, and Cold-Mo

A brief check in to let you all know that I'm still alive, still writing and still meditating, and STILL SICK (ugh, more on that below).

NaNo looks very different for me this year than it did last year--instead of writing like a madwoman every day on my laptop to get my word counts up, I'm taking a more sane approach of writing in my notebook three or more times a week. Then when I finish a chapter, I take some time to type it up, doing a small editing job along the way.

I've finished both steps of chapter 2 thus far. I finished chapter 3 on paper, but need to get it typed up still. I will be starting chapter 4 by hand tonight, at one of our twice-weekly meetings at Easton's Ames Free Public Library cottage. I must remember to take pictures soon. It's a lovely space, and being there really does get me in the mood to write.

So, about this damn cold/cough. It. Will Not. Go. Away. It's like one of those burrs that gets stuck to your clothing when you're walking outside. When you notice it, you pull it off and think it's gone, but then for weeks afterwards you find little spikes embedded in your jacket fibers.

I thought this cold was a goner after I spent a ton of time resting and relaxing this weekend. I was still coughing on Monday and Tuesday, but my energy was back and I felt mostly normal. Then yesterday, I wake up with a headache, and promptly go back to sleep. I slept for hours and still felt exhausted. Today, I dragged my achy butt out of bed and to work, but I am not happy about it. Contemplating staying home tomorrow, though I'm a wee bit embarrassed to take off more time to nurse the same damn cold!

Anyway, that's my rant for the day. Out damn cold, out!

Hope you all are feeling better than I am, and writing just as much! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Some days off

We have Wednesday off in honor of Veteran's Day, and so I took tomorrow and Tuesday off too, just for fun. I have no real agenda for these days, though as anyone who knows me can predict, I do have a long list of things I'd like to get done. That said, in honor of MeMo (MeditationMonth), I am planning to play it by ear, just doing what I want to do when I want to do it. No pressure on myself to complete anything in particular.

Here are some of the things I think I'll feel like doing/hope to get done sometime relatively soon:

Write everyday
Meditate everyday
Make some cool napkin rings for Thanksgiving
Frame some photos to give as gifts
Alter a few pieces of clothing to make them more comfortable/useful
Continue knitting Baby Emma's sweater
Paint the stairs
Work on my Bug room (aka home office)
Rake leaves and winterize the backyard
Make my wedding photo album (5+ years after the fact!)
Try some new recipes
Watch artist-themed movies I have from Netflix (Pollack and Frida, at the moment)

Let's see what the spirit moves me to actually do! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday Scribblings: Interview

My parents and me at my grad school graduation.

I don't know what prompted me to check out Sunday Scribblings just now, but I'm glad I did. The topic is interview, and immediately I thought of a project I have been meaning to do for ages, but that I keep backing away from. I want to interview my parents, on tape, about their childhoods. My dad grew up in Germany during WWII, so clearly he has a lot of important stories that should be recorded. My mom had a less historically significant childhood, but one that I am personally curious about none the less.

Also, I think back to these tapes my brothers and I made of my grandparents when we were kids. Sometimes we would press "record" without telling them, and capture snippits of fights or conversations about mundane details of life, like what's for dinner. After they died, being able to listen to their voices was such a gift for all of us.

I think I shy away from doing this because my family is not a particularly touchy feely one. We don't talk about emotions, or even what's important to us as much as I wish we did. So it's scary. It feels like I'm taking a sailboat into emotionally choppy waters with a crew that has never experiences those waves before.

But as scary as it is, I know it's something I will regret if I don't do. I promise, with this blog as my witness, to get recordings made over the holidays. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ripped from the headlines....and NaNo update

In my writing classes, I often use news stories as writing prompts. When I read this news story about a murdered woman whose body was identified 55 years after she died, it grabbed my attention as something that could spark a number of fictional stories. (I post this with no disrespect to her family intended.) So if anyone's looking for a writing prompt, consider yourself served.

Yesterday, on day 3 of NaNo, I finished a draft of chapter 2 of my novel in progress. Today I'm going to type it up (I've been writing long hand) so I can send it to my critique group. Then tomorrow, I'll start on chapter 3, hopefully making up for today's lack of freshly written words.

I'm fairly amazed with myself for getting a whole chapter done already! It's challenging to move this quickly though, so I'm glad to take a night off from moving my characters forward. I need a little time to percolate.

And now I'm off to have some tea-- one of the plus sides of cold evenings is an intense craving for tea. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Music and writing

I had an annoying evening last night--my train was delayed because of wet leaves on the tracks (Really MBTA? Wet leaves? You didn't expect wet leaves on the tracks in the fall? Maybe you could, I don't know, CLEAR THE TRACKS OVER THE WEEKEND, LIKE I RAKE MY DAMN YARD?) and a dog that is willfully REFUSING to be trained. (Maybe his name, Rufus, comes from a play on refuse.)

So when I got to my NaNo time, I was not in the mood to write. But it was only day 2, and damn it if I'm giving up that easily. I started writing, and then found myself distracted by Facebook and the web in general. I turned off the computer and took my notebook to my bedroom, where I shut the door to get away from said annoying Rufus. But I could hear him pawing at the door to get in.

My Ipod happened to be nearby, so I plugged in the earbuds and tuned into one of my favorite bands, Iron and Wine. I usually can't write with music, but for whatever reason last night it helped me get in the zone. I think the choice of bands was important--I know Iron and Wine's songs so well that I can appreciate them without listening too hard. Plus, the feel of the music is what I'm trying to get across in my writing, so the tones matched.

I just tried listening to music while doing editing for my day job, but that didn't work. The stuff I'm editing is pretty scientific and complex, and the music was just distracting. My conclusion? Music is a good sometimes accompaniment for my writing.

How about you? Do you listen to music when you write?

(Oh, and I'm not sure who created the adorable image I posted here, so I can't give credit, but I do want to link to a place where you can buy shirts with the image on them.) Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaNoWriMo: Day 1

Here's a short look at NaNo Day 1:

Slept late (thank you daylight savings!)

Went for a long walk with sis-in-law and Rufus (the dog)

Read for a while, and contemplated taking a nap

Got a text from two NaNo buddies (in fact, I met them during last year's NaNo and have become friends)that they were coming over for our write in

Frantically cleaned house and made coffee

Chatted for a while, drank Irish coffees, ate lots of pumpkin bars I had made two days ago

Then wrote 5 pages!

Made a bunch of yummy food: Butternut Squash Pizza, salad, and mixed veggie curry with basmati rice

Ate some of the curry; divvied the rest of the food into tupperware to take for lunches

Wrote 1 more page to reach my daily goal of 6 pages!!

Now off to fold some laundry, and then meditate.

Om and Happy Writing to all! Best Blogger Tips