Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another NaNoWriMo Update

Well, here it is. November 29th. In previous NaNoWriMo years, I've been done by now. Finished. Waving my "winner" banner in everyone's faces. Savouring the triumph and all that jazz.

Yep. Here it is. November 29th. And I'm at 36,500 words. That's 13,500 words shy of "winning" by writing 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th...yeah, in a mere 26 hours.

So, the question is: Is it possible to write 13,500 words in 26 hours, get a few hours of sleep, homeschool three boybarians, and complete the remainder of my extensive "To Do" list, all by midnight tomorrow night?


Why am I lagging, you ask?

Let me count the ways...

1. I was sick with a nasty cold and sinus infection for a complete week...

2. We did a lot of entertaining at the beginning of the month, which included a lot of cleaning of a very dirty house...

3. My Brave Writer class (Literary Analysis: Anne of Green Gables) has sucked a great deal more time from my writing than I had planned. It's a hoot to teach, but it gives me little time left over for writing...

4. Almost everything that I have written has also been edited at least once and posted online, so in a way, I've done double the work...

5. I've had a huge upswing in my own essay grading business, so that's taken a good deal of time, too...not that I'm complaining...

6. My chiropractor was out of town for two weeks, thus my neck and upper back are in constant pain, making typing difficult....

So, yeah. I'm not done. Nowhere near. Either I can take all day tomorrow and type my little heart out (and drive both my chiropractor and my family up the wall), or I can resign myself to abject failure.

Which one would YOU choose?

Okay, okay already--I'm getting offline to go write more of my novel. Sheesh. Who knew you were so pushy?

Blogging when I should be NaNoWriMo-ing,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update

Well, it's been a slow NaNoWriMo month thus far. Yep, eight days left and I'm barely halfway at 28,000 words.

But I've been editing my work at least once before publishing online, so it's rather like writing over 50,000 words so far.

The good news is that tonight I completed one of my stories; it ended up at just over 140,000 words written over 360 days, just five days short of the one-year anniversary of starting it and publishing it online.

Now I can concentrate on my second story...which only needs to be updated weekly which hopefully means that I can actually write now, edit later for the most part. Once I write, edit, and post tomorrow's chapter, that is.

I had hoped to get farther on the second story and have a nice bank of rough drafts to draw on for a few months, but the first story required many more words to complete than I had planned. Yep, those final four chapters ended up requiring almost 24,000 words.

So, yeah, I've only invested about 4K words into the story I wanted to be writing. But it feels GREAT to have one finished. Now my attention goes to the second one and its shorter chapters, so I should make some decent progress.

It helps that we're off school all week, plus I'm "officially" off Brave Writer this week, too. I will check in on my Literary Analysis class here and there, but not regularly as usual. It's kind of a make-up week for them anyway.

So...keep on writing, NaNoWriMo'ers!! I do have to catch up because I have half a writing class at our homeschool co-op who have joined NaNoWriMo for extra credit, and as they've all "buddied" me, I need to keep up my writing rep with them. Especially as one of them is already finished. ;)

Writing onward,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christ the King Sunday

Today is the final Sunday of the Christian Year, the celebration of Christ the King.

And today's daily devotional at The High Calling was superb in explaining this observance. I have copied the devotional in its entirety:

Nov 20, 2011
Make a Joyful Symphony to Christ the King
by Mark D. Roberts
Psalm 98:1-9

Sing your praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song,
with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn.
Make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King!

(Psalm 98:5-6)

Today is a special holiday in the Christian year (sometimes called the liturgical year or the church year). It is Christ the King Sunday. This holiday is not as well-known as other celebrations such as Christmas or Easter. But it holds a unique place in the Christian year as the last Sunday of the year. On Christ the King Sunday, we celebrate the coming reign of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. We delight in the fact that when Christ reigns, the world will be restored, peace shall reign, justice shall be established, and all people will live in the fullness of the kingdom of God.

In the providence of God, our chapter from the Psalms for today perfectly fits the themes of Christ the King Sunday. If you’re new to the Daily Reflections, I should mention that on the weekends I focus on the Psalms, working psalm by psalm through the entire collection of 150. Today “just happens” to be the day for Psalm 98. This whole psalm resonates with the victory celebration. God has won. It’s time to rejoice. Verses 5 and 6 focus our praise: “Sing your praise to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn. Make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King!”

Every Sunday, Christians gather to celebrate the victory of God through Jesus Christ. The one who was crucified was raised on Easter Sunday, thus defeating sin and death. On Christ the King Sunday, we shout to Christ the Lord with gratitude for his sacrifice. We announce his victory to the world, inviting them to join us in our celebration: “Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!” (98:4).

On Christ the King Sunday, we complete the cycle of the Christian year. It began almost one year ago with Advent. In that season prior to Christmas, we set our hope upon God, yearning for our Savior, as did the Jews so many centuries earlier. Today, we celebrate the fact that the Savior came, born in a manger. That he lived among us, proclaiming the kingdom of God. That he died, taking upon himself the sin of the world. And that he was raised from the dead, breaking the power of sin and death itself. Christ rules today as King of kings. This we celebrate, even as we look forward to the time when we will fully enjoy the life of his kingdom.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you live as if Christ is the King of kings? What would it mean for you to acknowledge his kingdom each day? How can you celebrate Christ the King in your life today? How can you celebrate Christ the Kind in your daily work this week?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

Propers for the Sunday Before Advent: Christ the King:

ALMIGHTY and eternal God, who restores all things in your Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords; Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, so that we may abundantly produce the fruit of good works and be abundantly rewarded in your eternal kingdom; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Jer23.5-8; John6.5-14; Ps85.1-13; Hebrews7.1-7

So we pray the old Christian Year out in thanksgiving and praise as we welcome in the new Christian Year beginning next Sunday with the First Sunday in Advent!!

Wishing you a blessed day of victory in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Publication News!

About a month ago, I received the monthly e-mail I usually receive from Victoria Magazine. One of the things listed there mentioned the writing of a short piece about our favorite winter comfort food.

Right then and there, I drafted a short essay on Keith's amazing tortilla soup...how the Southwest cooking warms us on snowy nights, etc. I quickly proofread the piece and sent it off to Victoria.

And promptly forgot all about it.

Until yesterday.

I received a short e-mail from one of the editors at Victoria, informing me that my piece was chosen to be published in the January/February 2012 edition of Victoria Magazine.

Here's my first written acceptance for publication:

Hi Susanne,

I just wanted to let you know that we have selected your letter about your favorite comfort food to appear in our upcoming Jan/Feb12 issue of Victoria. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. If you would e-mail me your mailing address, I will be happy to send you a couple of comp copies once the issue comes out. Take care, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Anne Garry

Anne Garry
Managing Editor, Victoria
Hoffman Media, LLC


It's just a short little piece that should appear in the "Reader to Reader" section at the beginning of Victoria, one of only two magazines I receive (along with Ruminate, a Christian arts and literature magazine, both gifts from lovely friends. But it's my first acceptance for publication.

And combined with Thursday's feature of my post about the Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge of last year, which included one of my poems, on the homepage of the She Writes website, this week has become quite an outstanding one for publication.

Well, I'm quite behind in NaNoWriMo now at only 12,000 words, so I'll have to write 2000 words every single day for the rest of the month, plus an extra 2000 this weekend. It's doable, but it's going to take some real concentration.

Which may be a bit difficult, given that three of the kids and myself are coming down with colds.

Aah well--that's the writing life.

Writing with you,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Last Year at This Time: Nov PAD Challenge

So this year I've returned to the adventure of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) after taking last year off. After all, fiction writing isn't my thing. My participation in NaNoWriMo in 2008 marked my first foray into fiction writing since college, and somehow, nonfiction writer though I am, I was hooked.

I think it was the freedom of NaNoWriMo that drew me in, hypnotizing me into writing until the wee small hours most nights when the rest of the household slept. I wrote with only a single sheet of notes in front of me: just a class schedule, a few background notes, a few street names. And I just let my fingers roam, typing whatever came to mind as I followed my main character around, describing what she did, what she said, how she felt.

I finished the challenge in 2008, and in 2009 I attempted and succeeded in completing the second half of the 2008 novel. It was a heady feeling for a nonfiction writer usually bound by facts, writing stories straight from my brain with such abandon.

But when 2010 rolled around, too many obligations filled my proverbial plate to consider participating in NaNoWriMo, so I tackled a different challenge that I thought would take less time and less energy.

I was wrong about that last part. My choice for last November's writing challenge was anything but quick and easy. In fact, I'm pretty darn sure that I spent more time on it per day than I did with NaNoWriMo.

Robert Lee Brewer, the editor of Poets Market offered his annual Nov (November) PAD (Poem a Day) Chapbook Challenge on his Poetic Asides blog on the Writers Digest website. In past years I had pounced on the opportunity of NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) in April, but with the main website that hosted it now defunct, Brewer's poem-a-day challenge truly appealed to me.

While I enjoyed the different daily prompts which evoked some very different poems from me than I had composed previously, the major advantage to the Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge was the contest itself: a chapbook of poems composed during the Nov PAD Challenge would be chosen by Brewer (and perhaps be published?).

Plus, with some fairly impressive names in poetry participating, some of my poems received some excellent feedback from contemporary poets. The movers-and-shakers of the American poetry scene were coming to my blog and leaving very helpful comments to help me improve some of my more promising efforts.

Brewer's daily prompts seemed fairly simple on the surface, but when explored more deeply, the possibilities (and thus my imagination) abounded. Over the course of the month, my writing deepened and broadened wonderfully, maturing me both as a writer and a poet. And isn't that what we desire more than anything?

If poets decide to participate in NaNoWriMo, Brewer also hosts a Poem a Day challenge in April as well, his own version of NaPoWriMo. So all is not lost if November is too busy to join the Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge.

Link for the rules for Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge:

Link for Brewer's Poetic Asides Blog (the site of the challenge):

Writing with you this month,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quotation for the Week

I'm a teensy bit behind in my NaNoWriMo word count. Just a teensy bit. Our household has been very busy, readying the house for company--friends over for dinner last night and a blogging friend and her husband spending a few nights with us this coming week.

I also have a bunch of work to do for my classes this week: lesson planning for the week for our three home-educated boybarians, new discussion questions to post at Brave Writer for my Anne of Green Gables Literary Analysis class (and responses to their replies), lesson preparation and essay grading for my medieval history and high school writing courses at Heritage Christian School's Class Days, plus NaNoWriMo and posting edited chapters on Wattpad in a timely manner.

So a little inspiration is definitely needed to help me push through this busy month.

And it comes from an unlikely source: the "curmudgeonous" George Bernard Shaw. (Yes, I made up the word curmudgeonous--I think it describes Shaw perfectly.)

"Only in books has mankind known perfect truth, love, and beauty."

--George Bernard Shaw

Yeah, I know. The idea of "perfect truth, love, and beauty" is a bit of a reach to apply to NaNoWriMo, and especially to my teen stories.

But one can dream, right?

I'm just so excited that the main story I'm writing for NaNoWriMo hit a high on Wattpad of #1 in the Thriller category and #3 in its main category, nearly reaching into the Top 100 works on the entire website (#103) this week. That's amazing!! :)

So on I tap, tap, tap, writing furiously while attempting to juggle all else that I need to do in addition to writing a 50,000 word novel, especially this week.

With a never-ending tap, tap, tap,

Friday, November 4, 2011

Update from NaNo Land

Well, it's Day Four of National Novel Writing Month, known affectionately as NaNoWriMo, and it's going well. My goal for the end of today is 8,000 words, and I'm slightly over 7,000 right now without having written today.

And today, with one of the first rainstorms of the wintry season, is a perfect day for writing. I even have a cup of hot chocolate at my elbow to assist me.

This is a strange year for doing NaNoWriMo as I'm juggling two partially-written stories, one nearly done and one only a few chapters in. And as I'm posting finished chapters on a writing website, I have to take breaks from writing freely and creatively to revise, edit, and proof before posting new chapters on schedule: weekends for the nearly-finished story, and mid-week for the newer story. If I don't post on time, I start receiving whining complaints from readers. And that's not good. Some even claim withdrawals, but I wouldn't go that far. ;)

So I'm popping back and forth between the two stories, wanting to finish the first (I have 2 1/2 chapters left to write) then devote myself to the second story for the remainder of NaNoWriMo.

It's also fun having so many Writing Buddies this year. Several former writing students, now graduated, have joined and rejoined, plus a few online friends and at least two students from my current writing class. (Yes, I offered extra credit.) We keep track of one another and give each other a swift kick if the writing totals start stagnating. It's really wonderful.

So I thought I'd post the Prologue of my second story; I've published this prologue and eight short chapters so far online. Let me know what you think, okay?

Prologue to Pinned but Fluttering

How had it gone on this long? I wondered, my eyes listlessly wandering over the nearly-bare room lit by a single light bulb hanging from the water-stained ceiling.

It had all seemed so simple at first. So normal.

Now I was locked in this room nearly 24/7, only allowed out while being escorted to the bathroom three times a day.

Like an animal.

I missed the sun. So much.

But I missed my parents even more. Even after all these years, I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that they're gone. Both of them. It had happened so fast, one right after the other.

Tears rose unbidden to my eyes, blurring the dirty white walls, the plywood nailed securely over the one small, boarded window.

If it weren't for the battery-operated alarm clock on the floor next to the mattress I slept on, I would have never have any idea of the time.

I could tell day from night by the frequency of bathroom breaks, not from the usual rhythms of sunlight and darkness.

Not that either of them would ever let me even pee in peace, anyway.

But I had a strange feeling that things were going to change. And soon.

I could sense the tension between the two of them—the way they bellowed and screamed at one another hour after hour, the animosity building between them each day.

Part of me was scared silly. Change, in my book, was never a good thing. Change had always meant a definite worsening of my lot. Yep, every stinking time. Always. Change was bad.

But part of me was restless, perhaps even excited. Through the thick, bolted door, I had managed to catch just enough of their incessant arguing to figure out what the fighting was all about.

It was all about me.

But this time, I could be granted a chance—the chance I've been praying for every night...for years.

It only took one slip on their part, and I could be free. Free of this tiny room. Free of their anger...which they always took out on me. Free of them.

All love I'd had for them when I was a child was gone...long gone. I wasn't sure that I had the mental energy to hate them, even after all this time. But I did know that I didn't love them. That I would leave them the very first chance that came my way.

Because I knew that one chance was all I would ever, ever get.

So if any of you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, please comment and leave me your user name so that we can become Writing Buddies.

Writing furiously,

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Muslims and Christians

Image Attribution

On this All Saints' Day, a day in which Christians remember those saints, both those recognized by the Church as well as those living quiet lives for Christ's Kingdom, I received a thought-provoking (and prayer-provoking) e-mail from K, a friend of mine serving as a missionary in Asia. She's also a superb writer and this morning she sent out a thought-provoking article on her observations of Muslim-Christian relations. With her kind written permission, I am reprinting her article in its entirety:

As part of my research for the week, I was reading up on the history of missions to Muslims since the founding of Islam.

Mostly, what I read made me profoundly sad. Sad, and frustrated. Because it seems like Christians and Muslims have been talking past each other for several hundred years, and fighting the same battles over and over again, without ever really understanding each other.

What makes it worse is that among Christians, Muslims often have the reputation for “hardheartedness” or “stubbornness” when they don’t immediately accept the gospel offered by foreigners. Reaching Muslims is seen as hopeless, impossible. But often, the problem is not that Muslims are refusing to accept what God has done, but simply not understanding what is being offered to them, because of religious vocabulary differences, cultural differences, or just plain old language differences.

Likewise, among Muslims, Christians have the reputation of being colonialist, overbearing, and stubborn in their insistence on trying to bring a foreign way of life (complete with dirty foreign meats and several foreign gods) into a very, very different culture.

The most heartbreaking passage of this particular paper pointed out that many Christians simply want the demise of Islam – if Muslims don’t become Christian, at least they can become secular. So Muslims who encounter foreigners often feel that the very foundations of their society are under attack – better that they learn to watch “Sex and the City” and wear revealing clothes than continue to worship the Creator God in the traditional way. As attractive as freedom in Christ is, it comes bundled with western promiscuity, western traditions, and a western worldview. And yet, we continue to call them the “stubborn” ones for refusing to change.

Seriously, I wanted to cry when I read that. Call me crazy, but I think God has a deep, abiding love for Muslims. I think their culture (like every culture) still carries strong reflections of God’s image. And I think that followers of Jesus must learn to change from within – first, from within themselves, and then from within their culture. I cannot preach a secular gospel; I cannot say that religious and cultural heritage don’t matter. Nor can I deny the power of Jesus to help people re-invent culture in new, God honoring ways. Because of the cross, everything is redeemable.

We need to stop looking for outward change, without caring about the heart reasons for the change. A woman who takes off her headscarf might be experiencing freedom in Christ, or she might be lusting after western culture. A man who stops praying five times a day could be liberated, or he could be lazy.

And we need to care enough about the people we’re supposedly trying to reach to try to understand their culture from the inside, and not just dismiss it as completely worthless or ungodly. After all, didn’t we all start from a place of unknowing, a place of groping after some form of truth in one way or another? No matter where we come from, God is able to redeem and transform us into a new creation; how can we say that anyone is truly beyond hope?

Thanks for listening to the sadness of my heart on this issue. Would you take a minute to stop and pray for the interaction between the Christian and Muslim worlds – to pray that there would be a brighter future springing from the knowledge of Jesus?

Thought-provoking? What do you think? Especially on All Saints' Day?

Thinking (and praying) tonight,


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