Monday, October 22, 2012

To NaNo or Not to NaNo...

I've taken part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) several times in the past few years.  NaNoWriMo involves writing a 50,000-word novel during the month of November; the fun part is that NaNoWriMo is a global effort; participants do the challenge with over 300,000 other writers around the world. One can have Writing Buddies, and participants also receive encouraging e-mails from some fairly impressive authors; participants may update their progress daily. NaNoWriMo provides some fun bells & whistles that allow progress to be posted on blogs or websites.

With a bunch of my online friends, I joined up in 2008 and managed to write half of a highly-autobiographical novel called The Pilgrim Pathway that I doubt I'll go back to edit; it was a decent first attempt at writing fiction, but it isn't really interesting or publishable. In 2009 I completed the second half of  The Pilgrim Pathway. I took a break in 2010, participating in a poem-a-day challenge on the Writer's Market website, hosted by the editor of Poet's Market. I don't think writing a poem a day was much of a "break"; it was actually more taxing than writing the 1,667 words daily to complete NaNoWriMo.

In 2011 I returned to NaNoWriMo, challenging the students in my homeschool co-op expository writing class to join me for extra credit. Between teaching two co-op classes and an online course through Brave Writer, plus homeschooling the boys, it wasn't easy to find time to write 1,667 words per day...which I rounded to 2,000 words/day to keep it easier to track plus allowed me to take off Thanksgiving and a few other days (such as teaching days). But I still ended up posting 14,000 words on November 30, verifying the completion of 50,000 words with eight minutes to spare. Whew!

So, with only one co-op class to teach (but with more students than last year) and the same Brave Writer online class going, plus the three boys to teach, should I attempt NaNoWriMo this year or not?

Last year I completed one of the novels I was publishing online in weekly installments, and I managed to get several chapters ahead on another novel I was also publishing online. If I attempt NaNoWriMo 2012, I will be completing the second online novel and then either starting a new novel or completing several unfinished short stories. I would love to be that productive!!

However, the problem I ran into last year was that as I post a new chapter online each week, I have to go back and edit that chapter for publication. Yikes! That's a lot of extra writing!!

I am offering the same extra credit incentive to my co-op writing class as I did last year, so I will need to participate somewhat so that I can track their progress. Plus, at least one member of our small town's writing group is participating, and we meet once a week during NaNoWriMo to write together in the library.

In addition, a lot of writers in the online communities where I post my fiction are doing NaNoWriMo, and I've made two NaNoWriMo accounts, one under my real name for my students' benefit, and one under my pen name for chatting with my fellow fiction writers.

So, should I participate in NaNoWriMo or not? I'm hoping to, but I suppose we'll see if it's realistic to actually finish. So I suppose at this point that I will TRY, but know that I may not finish this year.

If anyone is doing NaNoWriMo and would like to become a Writing Buddy, you can find me under the user name of SusanneB--I love having writing buddies!! :)

Writing with you,

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Poetry and Quotation of the Week

I have long been a fan of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. I became a fan of his work in my literature classes at Point Loma Nazarene University as we studied his poetry in several classes. Hopkins is an admirable man as well as a talented poet (and history shows us that those two qualities do not often coalesce in the same person!).

As the Poem of the Day e-mail from the American Academy of Poets stated today: "...Gerard Manley Hopkins once gave up writing poetry for eight years while training to be ordained as a priest, though he later returned to the craft."

So with Hopkins we have a dual talent: poetry and the priesthood, a combination that birthed some of the most original worship poems ever published. Today's Poem of the Day celebrates Hopkins' most famous poem, the final lines of which are among my favorite lines of poetry of all time.

Please enjoy with me "God's Grandeur" by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! 
bright wings.

Have a blessed week, everyone!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Epitome of Busyness

Lots of stuff has been happening in the month since I last posted. First of all, I have a new laptop and have bequeathed my HP laptop, Sirius, to the boys. I really needed Windows 7/8 for some of its features which help greatly with my teaching online classes at Brave Writer. The side-by-side document feature is a huge help as is the built-in speech-to-text feature which saves my hands from typing when they get painful and swollen.

As I always name machines (my ancient Corolla is "Molly" after Molly Weasley in Harry Potter (she isn't pretty, but she works hard and gets the job done); my mom's Jetta which we use while they're in Hawaii and is covered with Hawaiian stickers, license plate covers, etc., I named "Lilo" after Lilo and Stitch; my first laptop was "Eeyore" (slow and gray); my former laptop was "Sirius Black" since it was shiny black and had a big "HP" on it...for Harry Potter, of course!!), this new laptop, with its appearance of brushed steel has been christened "Remington Steele" after my favorite old television program that Keith and I used to watch together when we were engaged, plus "Remington" was also an old typewriter brand used by many great writers of the 20th century (like William Faulkner, Stephen Vincent Benet, Agatha Christie, Allen Ginsberg, Rudyard Kipling, Margaret Mitchell, Flannery O'Connor, George Orwell, George Bernard Shaw, and Tennessee Williams); I can only hope that a spark of their brilliance will rub off on me, LOL! So "Remington Steele" it is. :D

In September I led the Boomerang Book Club discussion of Jane Eyre at Brave Writer. It was soooo wonderful to discuss my favorite novel of all time with this group of amazing students. Literary discussion classes are a load of fun, but they are also a load of work; I pulled a couple of all-nighters in keeping up with my eager students. It's a wonderful problem to have, but it is labor-intensive.

This past Monday I started teaching the MLA Research Essay class at Brave Writer as well. I've been teaching the MLA Research Essay for twenty years now, starting with my Writing 110 (Freshman Composition) courses at Point Loma Nazarene University in Fall 1992. I also taught Writing 116 (a two-unit research paper class for transfer students who enter with only a three-unit writing component when PLNU requires five units of writing) several times, and it quickly became my favorite class to teach at PLNU.

I have twice as many MLA students this fall at Brave Writer as I had last fall, so I'm quite happy with the class size. The topics are really intriguing, too, everything from reforestation, the benefits of raw milk, and the dangers of video games to King Tut's death, electric car emissions, and the "Paul McCartney is dead" urban legend. It should be an intriguing six weeks. :)

I'm also revising old Boomerangs (the monthly literature subscription for grades 7-9+) for my work at Brave Writer, so this weekend, I need to pull together, revise, and edit the old version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for publication in November. I was going to lead the discussion, but I haven't read the book and wasn't looking forward to overlapping a time-consuming literary discussion class with the end of the MLA course...which is the busiest time in dealing with "rough draft conferences" (in which I go over the students' rough drafts with a fine-toothed comb for them--and within a 24-hour turn-around for 10 essays!) and final grading. That would have been absolutely crazy! So I was thrilled when Julie's daughter offered to take over the discussion of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which will leave me time to complete several other projects for Julie.

I'm also teaching the Intermediate/Advanced Writing Class at Heritage Christian School's East County II Class Days. It's a co-op of a homeroom plus three class periods, two before lunch and one after. We have child care for nursery through pre-school, then classes for Kindergarten, grades 1-3, grades 4-6, grades 7-9, and grades 10-12. My expository writing class is for grades 10-12, and I have 16 students, including Jonathan. I'll be grading their first five-paragraph essays for our next class on October 25.

I've also reached an incredible milestone with my online novel...which I'm writing under a pseudonym, with only a few people knowing me by both names. Anyway, I passed 1.1 million reads (hits) this week on one website, and I passed 1,000 reviews (reader reviews of individual chapters) on another website. So I'm quite happy with my novel. Writing a chapter a week is like writing those old serial novels as Dickens and so many Victorian writers did; I know that when I complete it, I'll need to go back to re-read it carefully and close up some of the plot gaps and such that occur when one writes a book over such a long time period. (I started this last novel in August 2011) and hope to finish it before December. But I just added a plot twist, so I'm not sure how many chapters are left. I write without an outline or set plan, allowing my characters to surprise me as we go. It makes for exciting writing, and I hope for good reading as well.

And I'm having to think about whether to tackle NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). During the month of November, over 100,000 writers around the world work on a common goal: write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. No editing, no revising--just writing, writing, writing. I did it last year...barely. I had to write 14,000 words on the last day, finishing with eight minutes to spare. My problem is that I publish chapters weekly for my ongoing novel, so I do have to go back and revise/edit a chapter a week in order to keep up with my publishing schedule. I'm encouraging my Class Day students to join NaNoWriMo for extra credit, so I kind of need to set the example. While common sense tells me to not attempt NaNoWriMo this year, I really want to immerse myself in my current novel and complete it, then start on several shorter projects or a sequel to my first novel (which I completed during last year's NaNoWriMo). Writing for NaNoWriMo is such a "writer's high"---the words come so easily and I just love the feeling of producing so much. So we'll see.

So I've been teaching and writing, plus homeschooling Timothy (12th grade), Jonathan (10th grade), and Benjamin (7th grade) this fall. With all the writing I'm doing on Brave Writer and on my novel, my posts for this blog have fallen sadly behindhand. I hope to do better and post at least weekly from now on.

So thanks for reading my update and understanding my busy life!

Take care, all~


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