Friday, October 29, 2010

A picture book nanowrimo? No, really?

Yes, really. I'd say, why didn't someone think of that long ago, but they did. Well, at least about three years or so ago, which is when PiBoIdMo was started by Tara Lazar. She gave it a dry run in 2008, and introduced it to other writers in 2009. Now it's firmly established as the picture book equivalent of the better known Nanowrimo.

The general idea of the Picture Book Idea Month is not quite the same as National Novel Writing Month. Instead of writing a first draft of 50,000 words as is done in Nanowrimo, writers are supposed to come up with thirty picture book ideas, one per day, through the month of November. The goal is to become a veritable idea generating machine, creating plenty of material for you to work with when the month is over. Also, there is no upload (like Nanowrimo) or post of the ideas you come up with. This means you'll be operating on the honor system in that you actually did come up with the 30 ideas.

Oh, and did I mention that there will be prizes? For PiBoIdMo participants who hang in there to the end of the month, Tara has lined up some pretty great prizes to win. I don't know about you, but next to picture books, I love prizes.

So if you've never been there, take a quick trip to Tara's website and find out more about her and the PiBpIdMo event, but don't wait too long. November is almost here, and to be eligible for those great prizes, you need to participate every day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

To Nano or not to Nano?

That is the question, and you might be surprised to hear it coming from me. After all, I've been pressing everyone around me to Nanowrimo with me this year, just like last year. But at this point, I have misgivings about whether it is the best course for me.

My personality leans toward the kind which hones in on an objective, finds a way to make it happen, and hits it like William Tell puts a shaft through an apple. Sometimes at an unfortunate cost to my family, since I am the mom. This said, it is also true that I am careful about what I commit myself to, since I don't like to back out of what I've said that I would do. A man's (or woman's) word in this day and age is not seen as binding as it once was. Still, a man swears to his own hurt.

So I have become cautious in these last few days before Nanowrimo, since I'm not sure it is the right course for me this year. I am pleased with the progress on my work in progress, but it is not entirely finished, which is where I hoped to have it before November. Since I do not intend to set it aside for a month while I churn out a novel which I may not pursue later, I must make a decision.

Also, last year every person in our family of six wrote a novel. This year, only a few of us plan to, which means there is less support or sympathy from those not involved. Hmm. Food for thought.

What do I do?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Book review of Chuck Sambuchino's 'How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack'

Do you have a garden gnome or know anyone who does? Believe it or not, those innocent little lawn statuary you've trustingly placed around your yard are, in fact, nefarious pretenders who are waiting for you to turn your back so they can carry out their devious plans. If you've let them into your house, you're really in trouble, but knowledge is the first step toward saving you and your family from impending doom.

Chuck Sambuchino's How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack reveals the true intent of the common garden gnome, in addition to providing important strategies for protection, eradication, and disposal of these troublesome, dangerous creatures. From constructing your own moat or quicksand pit for local gnome entrapment to disposing of unwanted gnomes in remote locations such as the Laurentian Abyss, 3,000 fathoms beneath the ocean floor, Chuck's book has many creative ideas to insure the safety of your family. If you're looking for a gift that's sure to entertain and protect the garden gnome fan among your friends and family this Christmas, this book is the one for you.

(If you're safe from gnomes but have a writer in the family, check out Chuck's book 2011 Guide to Literary Agents in order to aid him or her in finding the right literary representation going into the new year.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

I forgot it was Monday: Nanowrimo alert

How can a person be totally aware that it's Monday, yet forget that it's Monday? I'm not really sure, but I think I did it. Somewhere along the way, my mind began to think that it was really Thursday. The upshot is, I didn't even bother to write anything for today's post. Since I don't know if anyone reads it, I feel somewhat comforted by the fact that I can be human and fallible to a limited number of people.

But now that I have realized, with two hours to go, what day it is and what that means, here I am.

It's time once again to begin the subliminal message service that I provide this time of year to make sure you all get involved in writing the novel you always wanted to write for National Novel Writing Month, better known as Nanowrimo. You have an overwhelming desire to write a book. The nice thing about subliminal messages is that they're conveniently painless. You don't have to do anything but read my blog, and they hurt way less than, say, shutting your finger in a door or getting a paper cut. Your mind is filled with plot ideas for a novel of 50,000 words.

In fact, subliminal messages are a great way to get yourself motivated for the next month, because you're going to need it. About halfway through week 2, you're going to think you're nothing less than a raving lunatic for signing up. Sign up on the Nanowrimo site today. This is when it's a good thing that you've told all your friends and family what you're doing so that you are obligated to finish in order to save face, thus avoiding the need to skulk away and end your days in Tahiti, where no one knows you. Warm climates are loaded with enormous unpleasant bugs—you will write 50,000 words by midnight November 30th.

With that in mind, I just want to wish you all well and encourage you to join in the Nanowrimo fun in November. Get motivated by making a bet with your neighbor to walk his dog every day for the next year if you don't finish.

Now take a deep breath and get ready, because when you're finished, you can have the immense satisfaction of knowing that you really, really, really did it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A silent time to write

I've read so many books about writing that after awhile, they all bleed together like watercolors in a painting so that I can't tell where one piece of advice begins and the other ends. But maybe that's not so surprising since successful writers often repeat much of the same information. Most will tell you to write daily, to study to increase your craft, and to read a ton of books in your genre, etc. One thing they also mention is writing time. It seems like the writing time of preference is early in the morning before life gets moving, and there are lots of writers who got up at 5 A.M. to churn out their quotas before their families are up for the day.

This doesn't work for me, but I think I'm in the minority. I usually write late at night, after all the kids are in bed. This is a silent time in our house, and I'm able to let myself go and have some fun with my characters. In the morning, I have kind of a daydreaming time where I work on plot ideas. They percolate in my brain during the day and I put them down solidly in the eleventh hour, so to speak.

Now I know that real writers should be able to shut out life at will and write like the wind with ten kids in the house, loads of laundry awaiting their tender mercies, and dinner cooking on the stove. I can write under those conditions, and I sometimes do. In fact, you really have to train yourself to do this if you're a mom, because you'll never see any progress if you don't. But my preference, having grown up in a very quiet home in the remote countryside, often spending many hours alone, is to write during the silent time.

I'm curious. When is your favorite writing time? Is your silent time physical, or is it a mental state in which you don't allow yourself to be impacted by surrounding activity?

Saturday, October 9, 2010


How many things do we part from on a continually basis? Everyday things, good or bad?

Most of us experience a time where a loved one has to part. Some of us encounter a day, where we have to find the supernatural strength hidden within us to take our faithful dog to the vet and allow it to part.

Seasons part. A beautiful October day in Elgin, Illinois I felt lead to disregard the plans I had made and follow the leading to walk past the Fox River to the library. I was hoping to meet someone there. As I was walking down the drive way I noticed that the big tree right outside the house was the exact same tree and probably had the exact same height as the one in front of my house in Germany. I had been staying with these dear friends here in Elgin for maybe 2 months already. That tree was right outside my bed room window, too. How come I hadn’t noticed it? It’s not that this kind of tree would just grow anywhere. In Germany I had never seen another one of its kind.

Strolling down the street I delighted in the surprisingly warm sun. It must have been almost 80 degrees. Shorts and t-shirt in October? In Elgin, Illinois? Suited me just fine. The bright red and yellow of the turning leaves made me wish for a constant Fall, everything would just be suspended between Summer and Winter, combining the irresistible beauty of a strangely mesmerizing decay and comforting warmth. I knew that I, too, had to get ready to part. I began to think about the many places I had passed by through out my life, carrying a purse and a laptop. I thought about college days in the city of Chicago, thought about the street of Wellington, New Zealand. I remembered the confidence and purpose that I had sensed during that time, as well. Just as I did today.

I felt lead to sing in tongues as I walked, just enjoying the knowledge of not being alone. To everyone else I probably appeared as such, but I saw myself walking down the street with the light and the Greater One inside of me and small army of angels surrounding me as shining orbs around me. I felt such gratitude for a God who created such beauty even in something that would soon be passed away. I could feel a thankful heart ministering unto me, even as I walked. I thanked God to be able to take the time to just be, knowing that He is God without having to go on a retreat, but right here, in what seemed like every day life to those looking on from the outside.

I continued to pray in tongues softly as I approached the river and let it flow into song. I took a moment to record the parts that I could interpret on my MP3 player. I felt such peace and purpose and embraced it with bliss and gratitude. Walking alongside the river I noticed the stones of the pavement, listing names of dozens of people whose significance I did not know. As one of them caught my eye and I stopped to ponder on it, I noticed a couple holding little booklets and looking around. “I wonder what these names are for!?” The woman asked me. “This one talks about Hiawatha?” I said, not sure what that even means, but I had heard the name before…

To be continued.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Driving 45 on the Interstate

That's what it feels like sometimes.

I don't know if you ever listen to the tales of Garrison Keeler about Lake Woebegon on the radio when you were a kid. I did. Every story had a thread of truth tucked into it, plus a wide load of humor. One story that sticks with me was of an elderly resident. For some reason, he was supposed to drive his nagging wife to the city on an interstate highway. Not having had much experience on the highway, he managed to survive by driving half on the shoulder at about 45 miles per hour while trucks and cars roared past.

The whole experience rattled him so much that he forgot his wife at a truck stop and didn't remember her until hours later. Then he had to figure out how to turn around.

Anyway, that's how I feel as a writer some days. I get up early and lurch into real time, working my way through the day. When things finally wind down about 10:15 P.M. and most of the kids are in bed, I get my brain back to use without interruption, but its shelf-life has almost expired and there's not much creative juice left. The result is that as a writer, I feel a little like the old bird on the highway with the traffic zipping by. I'm moving, but definitely not in the fast lane, and plenty of people are getting there so much faster that it's discouraging.

I hate that.

The problem is, no matter how many self-help writing books I read, it doesn't change the fact that I have x amount of hours in the day which are largely consumed by tasks which are necessary and cannot be set aside. Plus, after weeks of chiseling away at sleep time in order to buy writing time, I feel a little ragged and my husband gets concerned.

I have no easy solution to this problem. I don't believe there is one. But I am working on strategies to minimize the problem. Take a look, and if you have some to add, please share with us all.

Beth's Sanity in Writing Strategies:

1. Delegate.

I figured out early on that if I didn't split the chores between the inhabitants of our house, I would drop from exhaustion trying to keep up. Everyone child has a main chore for the week. They are required to do it or face the consequences, usually of extra jobs. In this way, the house is staying moderately clean and the laundry moderately kept up on. I can live with that.

2. Don't say yes

But what if it's really important? It doesn't matter. See if you can redirect the task to some other piece of humanity first. It's not that I'm trying to get out of things. I just have learned to stick to the things only I can do. Very hard for mom-types.

3. Don't say no

What? Now you're confused. This time I'm talking about writing. Don't tell yourself that you're too tired to write, that you don't have time, that you're too distracted, etc. Say yes to writing a specific word quota or for a specific time each day. I'm still working on this one, but at least once a day, I'm saying yes to writing.

4. Let it go

I have come to grips with the fact that my house is never going to look like Martha Stewart's, and I'm okay with that. When it comes to decorating, I go for functional and keep decorations to a minimum that fit most seasons. In December, I hang up my pencil for a couple of weeks and make cookies and decorate trees. Otherwise, I let it go.

5. Organize

What? That requires time, you say. True, but in the long run it saves time. I got this one from Jim Denney's Quit Your Day Job. Thanks to him, my desk is a little less cluttered, and I think it's helping me to be more productive. Also, the more I organize my time, the more time I have to use at the end of the day, which is when I like to write anyway.

In the meantime, it helps me to remember that although I may be in the slow lane, at least I'm going somewhere.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Reflecting on one of the best things God has given me to write all week:

September 29th will always be a special day: no longer will it be marked by dread of remembrance of evil but a celebration of my Father's goodness. Deepest gratitude floods my heart for the work He's begun in me and the progress I experience. Thank you for comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding, for delivering me from bottomless hurt. Thank you for breaking my heart from the grief that would brake yours!

My prayer is that I may be a light to those that are still in the dark and wrongly accuse you of the loss that I learned to count as gain. Thank you for having blessed me with a mom that loved those around her! That I am the friend, the sister, the spouse that fights with the heart of a lioness just like she did and be the strong pillar I was created to be, extending comfort and encouragement to those that still suffer. Happy Homecoming Mom!