Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quotation for the Week: On Writing

With NaNoWriMo starting on Tuesday, an inspirational quotation on writing seems to be in order for this week. Of course, the daily encouragement e-mails from the wonderful people at NaNoWriMo are helpful, but sometimes a quotation from our own journals, one that snatched our attention and inspired us enough to jot it down months or even years ago, may be just the ticket to start strong and avoid the unsightly procrastination monster.

For some of my consistent readers, a warning: these quotations are reprints of ones I have posted before on this blog. But they're sooooo good that they're worth another perusal, I think. :)

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotion."
--James Michener

"Easy reading is damn hard writing."
--Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
--Anton Checkov

So as we gather our creative forces in preparation for NaNoWriMo, we can find inspiration in the most obscure corners where no one dares to explore, or in the brightest hallways where many have tread and continue to do so.

As long as we keep writing, writing, writing. For it is only in writing that our writing will improve, and thus we seek the heart and soul of our craft: the beauty and truth inherent in the written word.

Writing with you,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yep--Another Banner NaNoWriMo Year!!!

Yep. I'm gonna do it again. I'm participating in NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.

The goal of NaNoWriMo: Write a 50,000-word novel in a month, in this case, November. Thirty days. 50,000 words. Fun.

I participated in 2008 for the first time. Yes, me. The NON-fiction writer. The I-barely-survived-creative-writing-in-college writer. The writer who had not penned a work of fiction since that same creative writing class...which I think culminated in a story about a flea named Spike.

I wrote a story about a single woman on the journey from the evangelical church to the liturgical, historical Anglican church. Of course, the story was quite autobiographical, but I took my creative writing professor's words to heart: Write what you know. And I completed the challenge: 50,000 words by November 29th, 2008.

In 2009 I tackled the second half of the novel which I had titled The Pilgrim Pathway. Have I touched it since November 28, 2009? Nope. It's very rough (actually, "extremely rough" would be more accurate), but mostly complete.

Last year I was teaching an intensive Brave Writer class over the month of November, so I elected to take up a Poem-a-Day challenge through Robert Brewer's Poets Market blog on the Writers Market website. I wrote thirty poems, a few of them decent, and received some wonderfully helpful critiques from some fairly major poets. Cool. But I think I sunk as much time into the poems as I would have in NaNoWriMo.

But the joyous freedom of allowing a story to unfold in one's brain and flow through tapping fingers onto a computer screen was too addicting. I started writing a fiction story on another website in the middle of the month; I've been posting a chapter a week and am down to the final three chapters. The story contains 50 chapters (very short, 25000-word chapters which is what the website handles best), and 200 pages on my computer, 150 pages on the website. And this story has followers: it has garnered over 110,000 "reads" (or hits), over 1100 votes/likes, nearly 1000 individual comments, and last week the 50th chapter reached a high ranking of #9 in its category. So I guess I couldn't stop writing fiction after all.

So I'm back with NaNoWriMo in 2011, and I'm planning to work on a second story I started on the same writing website in August. It's called Pinned but Fluttering. So far I have a prologue and seven chapters written, and it's even more popular than my first story. I posted Chapter Seven early Wednesday, and this morning it's ranked #4 in its category and #2 in the Thriller category--it reached #1 in the Thriller category for a few days last week. Out of over a million stories and poems posted on the site, these rankings are very encouraging!

And the exciting thing about NaNoWriMo this year is that I'm doing it with friends! In 2009, I "friended" a writing student and a member of our local writers workshop, and we worked together, encouraging each other. My local friend and I even met at our library and wrote next to each other, our fingers typing as we composed companionably.

But this year I will be participating with several former writing students, all having graduated high school, plus my workshop friend. And on a whim I offered extra credit to my current writing class in our home school co-op--one extra credit point for every 1000 words written, with a maximum of 50 extra credit points. And almost half the class raised hands when I asked who was considering participating in NaNoWriMo this fall.

And NaNoWriMo is more than a bunch of people writing: over a quarter of a million adults participate, along with school programs for kids. But NaNoWriMo is a non-profit, so in the spirit of sharing the love of writing (and the money), I'm posting a two-minute video on all they do, with the hopes that many of us will send in a few bucks to keep the ball[point pens] rolling..

So...who's in??? Post your NaNoWriMo user name in my comments, and we can journey together!!

Writing with you,

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quotation for the Week

I've now been sick for over a week. I started feeling ill last Saturday night, then stayed home Sunday from church. I tried to have a normal school day on Monday, but went to bed very early--totally unlike myself. Then I just couldn't function for the rest of the week and spent most of Tuesday through Sunday in bed. I managed to finish grading essays for my Brave Writer course, but that was about it all week.

Last night I did the boys' school planning, and I was lightheaded the entire time.

This morning I woke, planning to return to my normal schedule, and I just can't. I'll try to stay on the sofa so that I can help the boys with their schoolwork, but I'm definitely going to have to take it easy.

So as I peruse the quotations in my journal this week, I came across an odd truth from an unusual source. See what you think about it....

"Man can't do without God. Just like you're thirsty, you have to drink water. You just can't go without God."
--Bob Marley

We "can't go without God." Isn't that the Truth? Marley seems to be paraphrasing John 15:5: "...for apart from me you can do nothing."

So as we walk with God this week, depending on Him for everything, may we ponder the simple yet profound words from an unusual source...dreads and all.

Wishing you all a blessed week,

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thankful for Autumn

This week autumn made itself felt. Our first winter storm came through, bringing rain and high winds, and the boys carried in wood and built the first fire of the season. Each morning I have to scrape frost from my windshield. I've put away the capris of summer, pulling out jeans and sweats and wool socks.

Autumn is my favorite season. The heat of summer wanes into crisp, clean days, a few cirrus clouds spreading across the skies, filmy mare's tails. The days grow shorter, and the apples ripen, blushing on the branches of our Pippin tree. The days are warm and pleasant; the night cool, often downright cold. We add another quilt to the bed at night. The boys stop watering the garden and start hauling firewood, our main source of heat in the house. I open the windows in the mornings to warm the house with temperate breezes, closing them when the sun dips, bringing coolness of evening, the opposite of summertime in which we open windows at night to cool the house and seal it up tight in the mornings to keep the rooms as comfortable as possible.

So with the arrival of autumn, I continue on the journey to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience as I thank God this day...

671. for the nearly full moon shimmering through evergreen branches in deep dusk

672. for midnight-blue skies illuminating silhouettes of pines in dusky twilight

673. for the neighbor strumming guitar, practicing Christmas music in early October evenings

674. for the first frost of the season icing morning windshields

675. for harvest of pumpkins from community garden

676. for persistent toad who keeps returning to visit my spa

677. for new milestones for my stories

678. for first winter storm, bringing oh-so-welcome rain

679. for warmth of wool socks and UGG-style boots

680. for late lazy sunrises and early sunsets as autumn days wane

So as pumpkins are harvested and harvest moons wink in chill evenings, I count the days of autumn, treasuring each one. We make popcorn, apple cider, and hot chocolate in afternoons, and soup reappears on our dinner menus. And we look forward to Thanksgiving, the day set aside here in the States for gratitude for the good gifts of God.

Journeying in gratitude, now and always,

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Quotation(s) of the Week: On Literature

This past week has been all about writing.

I've been grading the first drafts of my Brave Writer MLA Research Essay class. I've been writing and publishing parts/chapters of my two stories, and I've been helping my boys write their essay assignments, one writing a "keen observation" essay and the other rewriting a scene from The Hobbit from another character's point-of-view.

And as I write what I consider to be "fluff" writing, I keep thinking about the difference between fiction and literature.

Fiction (what I'm writing right now and the focus of my writing for the past eleven months) is writing stories not based in actual events (like biography and history); they may be loosely based in real life happenings, but they're disguised by the writer so as to be fairly unrecognizable.

Literature is fiction with longevity. It's not just "fluff"; it contains universal themes, quality writing styles, deep character development, and wide appeal. Literature often morphs into a "classic" with the passage of time.

I very much doubt that my current writing projects will become literature, but I hope that some of my future work will aspire to the literary category.

I have jotted down a few quotations about literature that seem memorable to me; I hope you'll find them worthy as well:

"Good literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree."
--Ezra Pound

"It is in literature that the concrete outlook of humanity receives its expression."
--Alfred North Whitehead

"Oh, literature, oh the glorious Art, how it preys upon the marrow of our bones. It scoops the stuffing out of us, and chucks us aside. Alas!"
--D.H. Lawrence

So as we devour fiction and literature and books of all sorts, and as we write what we hope will become literature (or at least hope to be published!), may we express our very hearts in the guise of deeply-resonant characters, exciting plots, lovely writing styles, and memorable prose.

Writing furiously, as always,

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Buried....and Quotation for the Week

On Friday the students in my online MLA Research Essay class at Brave Writer submitted their rough drafts. And I've been buried ever since.

Using Open Office's editing function and margin text notes, I marked everything in all the essays regarding content, MLA formatting, and language usage. Each essay took between four and six hours to comment upon.

Yep. Four to six hours. Each.

So, I spent all day Saturday, all day Sunday (missing church), all day Monday when I wasn't homeschooling, and until five in the morning this morning, commenting on rough drafts.

So no blogging, Tweeting, or Facebooking this week, along with no writing of my stories. I didn't even have time to do more than text "Happy Birthday" wishes to two dear friends.  It's been a stressful few days to be sure.

At least when the final essays are submitted on Friday, grading them will not be nearly as much work since I've already commented on the major issues in the essays. (Thank goodness!) Plus, I have ten days to turn around the essays, rather than three days. (Thank goodness, again!)

So as my students write and I dream of writing, I thought that a writing quotation might be appropriate for this week:

"Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish."
--John Jakes

Even though I'm not much of a John Jakes fan, this wise advice is a guiding force behind our teaching at Brave Writer:

--write what you know
--write from the heart
--write with passion

And as I continue to experiment with fiction writing, I'm learning the same lessons. I'm not much of a creative writer--never have been, except for poetry. So I'm pushing myself in new directions as I work on a couple of stories that are becoming quite popular on a publication website. The comments are very encouraging, but I know that I have a long way to go before I am writing truly good fiction. But this site is a good place to experiment, to "cut my teeth" before attempting greater things.

As my students will continue writing, I'll continue grading, and when I finish the grading, I will continue writing my own little stories, learning as I go....

Always, always with pen in hand,


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