Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Finished the last 1000 or so words this morning and folks, it was painful. I do feel proud of myself for finishing something I set out to do, but I swear I will never ever do it again.

Though I did manage to hit the 50,000 mark, I didn't end up with a novel, or anything close to it. I have a storyline, some characters, and a ton of really forgettable dialogue. This isn't me being modest, I really don't think this project produced anything exciting, though it does have a beginning and and end.

Was it worth the time? Absolutely, but not for the writing itself. By sticking with it, I did get a better feel for the discipline required to actually produce anything substantial. I think I improved my speed and gained some needed confidence along the way. I went into this as more of an exercise of toughness, to prove to myself that I had the sticktoitness to be serious about writing, and in that way, it was a total success.

Now that I have finished, I can get back to the smaller moments, the little beautiful bits of writing that I am hoping will lead me to bigger things. I am working on a series of short stories. I'd like to get ten or so under my belt before tackling the novel again.

If you liken the experience to running a marathon, the next 6K should feel a ton easier and more rewarding now. And eventually, when I get back to it, I'm hoping run the full thing and cross the finish line without gasping for air as I collapse into the gatorade stand.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Permission slip

Maybe it's because I was raised in the south or that I'm fast approaching middle age, but yes, lately I seem to be a little slow in catching on to things.

I started getting serious about writing a few years ago, and with a few exceptions, have been writing almost daily since. This process started with pages and pages of secret writing that no one will ever see, thankfully. But I have been working at it, and I am finally at the point with some of my fiction where I feel like what I am doing is even worth showing people. This week, I brought a short story to class and people really responded to it. I have some things to work out, and I will be rewriting it, but I feel like I am finally getting somewhere. It was only a short story, just around 6000 words long, and it took a few months to get it right. Really, it took two years. Writing is a very slow process.

But that's not the slow part I was referring to. This whole time I've been writing fiction I think I've been waiting for someone to tell me that I had "approval" to continue. I thought that there would be a very clear sign that I had some talent, or enough talent, to keep at it. I thought that there would be some climatic moment that would legitimize what has been up until this point, a hobby. So the funny thing is, even with the positive feedback on my story, there wasn't a time when someone jumped up and said "by God, you have to continue." Shocking, how long it has taken me to get this.

So, yeah, I am working on this permission thing for myself.

This is really hard for me, mostly because I have this practical side. Because I know that sticking with this will not make my family more financially comfortable and that success, whatever that is in this thing, may not happen. I am pretty used to being able to get somewhere by just working hard at it. But to give myself permission, and that's what I have to do, I have to embrace the magic a little.

Believing in writing is like believing in fairies or unicorns. Nice ideas, but c'mon, really? It reminds me of Girlie, who probably at this point realizes that there is no real Santa Claus, but chooses for a little while longer, to believe anyway. So like my little girl, I have to make the leap, believe the unbelievable, even though I know better, and just give myself permission to really go for it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


This year I am thankful for the fullness.

A neighborhood full of friends.
A city full of possibilities.
A glass of wine, full.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cops and donuts

Spotted a group of older women in what looked like police uniforms at my local Dunkin Donuts.

"Are you policewomen?" I ask.

"Meter maids," one of them replies.

"You should get the four for twenty dollars." another says, pointing to the pound of coffee I picked up to take to Hubs' uncle in Maine. "It's a much better deal."

Hmm, I think, maybe a pound of this here hazelnut will make that parking ticket disappear. I glance at the maids (or wait, isn't it matrons?). Black coffees, all around. They won't go for it. Next time, I think I'll grab the dark roast.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mile 20

Today I hit around 36,000 words on my 50,000 word goal, or in marathon terms, around mile twenty. I can say, honestly, that I have no idea how I have gotten this far. The writing, after the first week, has been tedious and painful. Most of it will have to be scrapped. But I am okay with that (sort of).

At the beginning of this month, I set out to hit the NaNoWriMo goal, and barring anything crazy, I should be able to do that. During the last few days, I have started typing as fast as possible, writing for the shear joy of it, not editing myself a bit. I won't have a novel at the end of this. I might have the rough draft of a really bad series romance. Sandpaper rough. Heavy grit.

Still, I have learned that it takes absolute discipline to produce anything of any volume. That a reasonable word count for writing fiction (when you can't spend the entire day doing it) is, for me, around 500- 800 words per day. That I have to turn off all social media for some part of the day to stick with it. That writing is a really lonely job.

The experience has given me hope. Next year, I'm going to start on a real novel with a realistic timeframe. As for NaNoWriMo, I don't think I'll ever do it again.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Deck the malls

I get a ton of email from Pottery Barn, West Elm and the like. Usually I just ignore, then delete them, but something caused me to click on a recent one from Pottery Barn Kids. It seems that they will be hosting holiday sing-a-long's in the stores December 1st - 3rd. Huh?

Caroling at the mall store? What then?

Oh, right. We'll roast marshmallows in the little faux fireplace.

Makes perfect sense.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Free at last, not so much

So I was out both Monday and Tuesday night this week. The first for my writing class and the second for a reading. The writing class was held on a different day from our usual time and there wasn't space available at Grub Street, so we met next door at a restaurant/bar. The second night meetup was a reading that happened to be at a bar too.

So there I was, bar hopping two nights in one week, one right after the other, just like the old days. Then Wednesday night rolled around and I felt a little down. It wasn't as much the scene or the drinks (there were only a few) or any of that, but the freedom of even having the choice to do it, that I found myself missing. The freedom I had before having children.

Girlie will be nine in March. I can still clearly remember, one evening very shortly after bringing her home from the hospital, thinking wow, I can't just get up and walk out of the house by myself right now. And it's not just the big nights, like the ones this week, which now require a babysitter or some mass evacuation level coordination with Hubs. It's the little nights. Like realizing at 10 PM while programming the coffee maker that I have run out of half and half. Kids tucked in upstairs, Hubs out of town, so I'll be drinking black coffee in the morning. I hate black coffee.

Yes, these are selfish desires, and it's probably worse for me lately because Hubs has been traveling for work so much. It's one of those things where I can step outside myself and see a list of reasons why it is okay, even good, that my life is this way.

But, nine years already. I wonder when I'll get over it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Last night I went to a short story reading at Bukowski's in Cambridge (no, I am not linking it because you people have ADD already, so stay with me, it's a bar, and maybe, I am a little lazy). There was a contest, which I did not enter, but a few of my friends had. The first place winner got $2500. The third place winner got steak knives.

We got there to find a line outside. It felt like some kind of club situation or a concert, except the people in line had on the chunky glasses and the quirky haircuts and a few were reading, you know, books, while waiting to get into a bar. The reading started with the third place winner. It was an irreverent bit about a guy who had mistakingly researched the wrong person's bio for a writing pitch. Afterward he finished reading it, the crowd roared. They cheered. They clinked glasses. Over a short story.

There were two more really good stories. More cheering. Seriously, I though maybe the Sox were on (I know, wrong season) or the Pats (possible but, on a Tuesday night?). People were that excited. It was crazy.

There should be more events where people scream over good writing. That, and I love Boston.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I am hovering just below the halfway mark on my writing project. After today, the number of words left to do will be less than the number of words already done. Last night, I hung out for a few minutes chatting with a couple of women in my writing class. I came home feeling excited, completely immersed in the whole experience, writing, talking to other new writers, thinking about my short story for class, thinking about the novel project.

I got home, it was late, around 11 PM, to find that Little Guy was wide awake. This is a rare occurrence, in fact, I can't think of the last time it happened. He's starting to sleep without diapers, the final stage of the whole potty training saga, and he'd had an accident. I paid the sitter, and then changed sheets, changed him, found him a dry pillow (no idea why that was wet too), and then shuffled myself off to bed much later than I'd hoped. Too late, in fact, to get up as early as I needed to today. So I am behind on the writing goal.

Being a parent means buttering the perfect slice of toast for yourself and then handing it to your child who has just informed you that he or she is, after consuming a huge breakfast, still hungry. I get that. I can't expect to come home and bask in the glory of the writing thing every time. I have small children, little human beings who have accidents and nightmares and fevers.

So, as is often the case, I'm still a little hungry. I want this writing thing to work for me. Today I'll have to pop another slice in the toaster (or another video in the DVD player), and just keep trying.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Get down get down...

Today the weather is great, sunny and almost sixty, so we're trying to soak it in while it lasts. I am almost finished with the winter gear shopathon. I finally settled on a long down coat and it's really not that ugly. I still need boots for me and gloves for Girlie.

They say it usually doesn't snow until December, but occasionally it will.

I say bring it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week two and weepy

So I have a confession to make. On Wednesday, I cried about my writing project.

You remember, NaNoWriMo, the novel writing contest with no prize?

It was going really well, until the beginning of week two. I had about 16,000 words in and suddenly felt like quitting. The beginning of a story is fun to write. It is the setup, describing the places, the invention of characters, before you have to make anything really happen. Some really good writing comes out during this period. You start to believe that you are brilliant. Really, you do. The next bestselling author, even.

And then the story starts and it has to go somewhere. All of the writing is supposed to turn into a book. You know, with a beginning (easy), a middle (whups), and an end (crap).

I've written short stories, but I have never completed a larger piece. My goal with this contest is to get the rough draft (really rough) material for a novel. I want to do it and yet I am afraid that I can't. That I won't be able to. So yes, I shed a few tears.

And then I talked to Hubs about it. And then I got an idea about what to write next.

And then I just got on with it. This morning I hit the 20,000 word mark. Just 5000 away from half way there. I am sticking with it.

And keeping the box of tissues handy, just in case.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A sad little ditty, sung to the tune of a Taylor Swift song

The other day I was in the car, listening to Taylor Swift. Shocking, I know, or maybe not, but either way, I have an eight year old daughter, so I am exposed to this particular kind of bubble gum teenie pop on a regular basis. I know the words to several of these girlie Disney backed tunes, though luckily in most cases I wouldn't be able tell you the name of the artist, and my guess is that it doesn't matter, in about five minutes, they won't be around anyway.

But Taylor Swift kind of sticks with me a little, and I hum along, even when my kid isn't in the car. Don't judge. I can relate to the angsty teenaged love stuff. I used to be that girl.

I think, as I approach middle age (forty in two years, and as these youngsters say, OMG), what's really missing from my life is a soundtrack. There aren't any songs that fit my particular struggles, so I feel pretty isolated. Nothing to make me swoon at the sight of my weary husband coming in at the end of a three day business trip. Nothing about the burned pork chops or the bleary middle of the night bedside calls (from the kids, not the Hubs). Nothing about the worries about ever being able to afford anything fun again (Girlie's new front teeth? Hello orthodontist, let me just donate a kidney first.). Nothing about the stress over re-entering the work force or watching the neighbor gals head off to work while I stay at home (she wears pencil skirts, I wear t-shirts).

Okay, maybe none of this stuff is song worthy. Does that mean there aren't any happy endings? Now I'm just depressing myself.

Time for another Taylor Swift song.

** Update: A very concerned friend called to stage an intervention. She claims that country music might solve this problem. I've never been a fan, but I agreed that I might be okay with the old stuff. She's promised a playlist with some Tammy Wynette.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wait! Don't jump!

I signed Little Guy up for weekly play group at a local gymnastics studio. The program, which runs twenty weeks, is all free play. I'm hoping this will help to get us through the winter when we both start getting cabin fever.

At this place, he can run and jump and swing from ropes. At no point during this hour is he required to sit in a circle and I never have to say stop running or slow down.

I love this place. I love it so much that when he asked, I actually jumped on a giant trampoline with him. It was fun for about two seconds, until I realized that every time I jumped, I was experiencing a little, um, leakage.

It isn't a total surprise. I've had two babies after all, and it happens when I sneeze. But jumping?

So yeah, like I said, I love this play group. Only now I'm not jumping up and down about it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Last night, after I tucked Little Guy in bed, I heard some rumbling around in his room. I went in and all the lights were on. He'd taken off his pj's and fully dressed himself, underwear, shirt, pants zipped, the whole enchilada.

I admonished him for getting out of bed, but I had to smile at the same time. My Little Guy had just completely dressed himself for the first time. It hit me, at some point, I won't have to pull his pants up. One day, he'll even be able to wipe himself. As I pulled on his pj's again, and tucked him back in, again, I let myself imagine all of the extra things I might be able to do with the time I'll gain. I might blow dry my hair, or put mascara on both eyes, or even eat breakfast sitting down.


Of course this morning, it was back to the old routine. But still.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Breaking the ice

Yesterday, Girlie and I started ice skating lessons. Girlie is the type of child who will stress out about trying anything new, especially anything somewhat physical. A week ago, it started. What if I fall? What if everyone can skate? What if I am the oldest one there? She'll work herself up, tears threatening to spill.

Yes, she wanted to do it, but worried her way through buying the skates, worried while getting ready to go (I need knee pads!), worried her way to the rink in the car. I was the same kind of kid. Though I can hide it, I am often the same kind of adult, so I get it. I have learned that it is pointless to try to convince her (or myself) not to worry, but I do talk to her about it. I remind her of other times when things turned out great. This time, I kept saying "let's just see."

A few weeks back Hubs and I went through a list of potential afterschool activities. The kids here seem to be in everything and though that sort of thing is completely not my parenting philosophy, I'll admit, I feel the tiniest bit of pressure to keep up. The options include the usual like soccer, dance, piano, art and foreign language classes, but also other things like Russian math (don't ask, I have a whole post about that coming soon, I thought the woman said Russian dance). Girlie already takes gymnastics, but I thought we might be able to add one more activity.

Then I got the flier for ice skating. "That's it." Hubs said.

He thought it would be fun and that since many of her friends have grown up here, she'd want to do it with them at some point. On a whim, I decided to take the class with her. We have separate classes, but go at the same time. Why not? I haven't been skating in years, and I thought it would be more fun to skate, than to sit on the benches, freezing my tushie off watching her do it. Plus I suck at sports, so Girlie thinks that girls don't do those things.

On the way over there, I was thinking it would either be awesome, or a total disaster.

Turns out it was awesome. I didn't fall once and I even learned how to stop without crashing into the wall. Girlie fell a few times, but was doing so well that they bumped her up to the orange group (whatever that means, she was happy about it). Afterwards we went for hot chocolate. We have nine more sessions to go. Nine more Sunday afternoon outings with just the two of us.

It is hard to raise a child who reminds me so much of myself. I can't help feeling guilty when she struggles with something new. I constantly have to work through my own crap just to make sure I'm not making it harder on her. I had a little speech prepared in my mind, of what I would say if she had a rough time of it, how I would get her to continue the classes anyway. So it was a huge relief that, this time, the lesson wasn't that hard to learn.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orchestrating the origami pass

Girlie came home with a stack of books from the school library on making origami. She played around with it for a little while, then asked me to help her.

Folding and refolding paper into tiny little animal shapes? I took a peek at the instructions. First crease in paper half (easy enough),then turning, fold left edge to top, pulling concealed flap to front. Huh? Not my thing.

"Ask Daddy," I said, "he's really good at things like that." Hubs gave me the look. But he's been traveling, busy with work, and gone a ton lately.

I had him.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Doing it and over-doing it

I hit the first 10,000 word mark on the NaNoWriMo challenge yesterday. It seems to be going much easier this year. I feel really excited about how the story is coming together and I feel like I have a shot at hitting the 50,000 words. I do know, however, that the mid-way mark is lurking ahead, when the painfully slow writing starts. So I am charging ahead, but at the same time I feel like I am speeding towards the scene of an accident.

On a positive note, I've reached the point where the Halloween candy is starting to gross me out. I went the whole day yesterday without one single nibble.

Whew. Thank God that's over. Until the Christmas cookies...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Building character

I love the part, when writing something new, when the characters start to live with you. When you begin to think about them like they are real people. When you fall asleep with them and wake with them and walk around with entire conversations, their conversations, in your head.

Eventually, they get on your nerves. After a little bit of time, you hate them a little. The trick, as with any relationship, is to work through that place, and love them at the end, despite their obvious flaws.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Am I a "Gretchen"?

So Project Runway just finished up its 8th season. I don't watch very many shows, but for some reason I keep up with this one. I am pretty much down to this and Mad Men, and occasional episodes of Parenthood. I usually catch the shows on demand and my cable programmer hasn't picked up the finale yet, so I haven't seen it. I do know who the winner is, thanks to these here internets. Apparently, this year's winner is very controversial.

Collections aside, no one really liked this gal. Not the people on the show, not the people watching, maybe not even Tim Gunn. Her nickname was wretchen. The thing is, I really don't see what the big deal was. She was opinionated, but it seemed to me, to stem from her passion around design. From a fashion standpoint she had a really strong point of view.

On one show, she got stuck in one of those I should stop talking moments while standing up for a group project before being prodded by the judges to pick out a loser. She ended up completely contradicting herself, but in fairness, no one else spoke up either and they totally put her on the spot. There was another episode where the designers had to make clothes for Heidi Klum's new sports line, Gretchen mentions to Heidi, "I made what I thought was missing from the collection." During judging, Heidi got snippy. Who was Gretchen to tell her what was missing? An aspiring designer trying to bring something useful to the table, that's who.

Anyway, I am not one of those people to go on and on about a television show and we all know that reality programs are the opposite of real. But I found myself feeling sorry for this chick. She's a little outspoken, takes herself too seriously, likely to be the first person to speak in a group (a little too often), bossy, but also tenderhearted, and genuine, someone who tries to learn from her mistakes. Just like me.

Am I a Gretchen? Yikes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wisdom from Walden Pond

Today I took a little field trip to Walden Pond. I thought, before I went, that it might be one of those places that wouldn't meet expectations. I was wrong. Of course, it is quite stunning. I don't think I have ever seen pond water quite so clear. In the south, the ponds are brackish, soupy.

And yes, the whole idea of Walden seems wonderful. The little cabin in the woods with a stove and a patch of beans and time to write. Before I had kids, it might have seemed a little too pioneeresque, too austere, but now I get it. Lock me up alone in the little house in the woods with my laptop and a case (or two) of wine. Not for two years certainly, but maybe for the weekend.

I walked the perimeter of the pond stopping at various vantage points to take in the scenery. Near the end of the loop there is a site near the original cabin, where people leave stones. A couple was there, placing stones in a little pile.

"Don't you want to leave yours with mine so they can be together?" The woman asked. The guy picked up his pile and put them around hers, making a little stack about three stones high.

"Are you sure you want to take that chance?" she asked, referring to the stack he'd made, "They might all fall." He shrugged and she reached down to rearrange his stack.

Geez lady, I thought, just let him put his rocks where he damn well pleases. And then I realized that the whole scenario, and the reason she irritated me, reminded me of myself.

Come closer, be with me, but do it on my terms.

I was thinking the whole way around the pond, that I wanted to come back with Hubs. Soon, before it gets too cold and just the two of us without the kids. Maybe I'll pack a picnic, some soup in a thermos, and show him the loop. I'll start us out in the direction so that the end of the path will take us to the cabin site, just so he gets the full experience, the building up to it.

But then, when we get there I'll give him his own space. I'll watch him pile his rocks anywhere he wants. Or not at all, that's okay too.

Come closer. Just be with me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Why can't we all just be smart?"

Writing might be making me fat. Okay, not the writing exactly, more like the hand stuffing cookies, tiny bits of halloween candy, bites of crackers, and whatever else happens to be nearby while I am writing, editing, rewriting. For the last few weeks, I've been working on a short story for my fiction class. I'll sit at the kitchen table pecking away at it and before I know it, bam, a half boxes of crackers is gonzo. Not to mention the sitting. See that's how you do it, sitting down. I've tried, but you can't write standing up. You can, however, write while eating snacks.

So the writing might be improving as the waistline is expanding. And this month I am staring down 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. How many extra pounds does that equal?

It reminds me of a conversation I had with another writer friend about all the plastic surgery among women our age. We were wondering how these gals, also busy mothers, possibly had the time to maintain the teeth whitening, the botox, the highlights, the nails. "Why do we have to be pretty?" she lamented, "Can't we all just be smart?"

We can be smart. And our book jacket headshots can always be photoshopped.

Though, I might be getting a little ahead of myself.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ready, set, write

So National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo starts today. 50,000 words in 30 days. Last year I made it to 30,000 and this year, I really want to get to the 50K.

I've had this idea for a book, started writing it, stopped, changed the voice, started again. Maybe it's not such a great story, but I am kind of stuck with it until I really get it down on paper. Anyway, I decided to start over on it. Same basic premise, keeping the title, but writing everything else from scratch and not reusing any of the old stuff (which is against the spirit of NaNoWriMo anyway). Maybe I will be able to get it out this time. And hey, don't you always read that a writer rarely gets his or her first book published. If I can finally knock out my first (albeit crappy) one, I'll just be that closer to brilliance.

I have a plan. Wish me luck.