Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo is over.

Happy birthday Samuel Longhorn Clemens; you did it your way. I kind of like his real name, sounds distinguished. Sounds like he would go on to be successful and famous, but evidently Samuel didn't think so at the time. The Mark Twain pseudonym is the result of his river piloting days meaning it's "safe to navigate". I like it that he took a name with real meaning for him. He must have loved the river and relived his days there through Tom and Huck's adventures. Sam wrote 28 books and I couldn't even meet my word goal during NaNoWriMo this month.

My all time favorite Mark Twain quote is "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."
That resonates with me and my writing struggles and is why I never seem to meet my NaNo goal: I spend too much time thinking about which words to use and spellchecking and editing and not enough time WRITING. NaNo is over today. Maybe next year!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Broca Is Not A Whale

When was the last time your surprised your Broca? Or failed to satisfy your schema? "Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads" by Roy H. Williams is a delightful book about successful marketing. In it he briefly explains that the Broca is an area of your brain that "energetically generates verbs, enthusiastically constructs sentences and anxiously anticipates what others are about to say". I get the mental image of a panting puppy waiting not so patiently for a bone. When the Broca has done its job, it passes it along to the prefrontal cortex for action. This is a simplistic explanation, but it's that "anticipates what others are about to say" that is pertinent here. If Broca knows whats coming it can refuse to pass it other words YOU ARE BORED.

I've taught many classes on keeping your Broca unbalanced and interested--none of which had anything to do with writing. But, good writing is all about the Broca. Don't stay on the muddy path made by others; wonder off into the lush head-high grasses of the rain forest or the jungle and find new creative unusual ways to portray old archtypes. Keeping the Broca's attention will serve you well regardless of your vocation.

Oh, and your schema? You can look that one up for yourself. (Surprise!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Just write...

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. ~James Michener Wow! Really, James said he wasn't a very good writer? I'm not sure where that puts me on the literary food chain...the missing link possibly? Not missing link as in answer to cryptic questions, but missing link as in actually missing. But, he's an excellent rewriter...hmmm. This gives credence to the NaNoWrMo superDUPERcalifragilisticexpialidocious way of writing this month. Write like an egg being scrambled...grammar, style, voice be hanged...write like your life depended on word count alone. Run with scissors, shoot a BB gun, swim after eating. Write like world peace will happen if you hit that magical 50k count on November 30. Or at least peace between Mizzou and KU fans. Close your eyes and channel that other world that lives only in you. That story that only you can tell. That epic waiting to debut in a style that is uniquely yours. It's ok to rant and ramble in this first draft. It's ok to murder syntax along with your victim. It's ok to change point of view three times in one sentence, dangle your participles and misspell. Gads! Did I say it's ok to misspell...don't tell my husband. Just ignore those red words begging correction. The idea is to get the idea form. Write endlessly like the Mobius Strip. Type, write with abandon, run with the James Michener wolves: REWRITE, REVISE LATER. I like January for this. My gardens are not calling, the roads are too bad to go anyplace, my fireplace is crackling and a pot of herb tea is brewing, that is the time for the proverbial blue pencil. But, right now: WRITE.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mustaches and Word Count

Evidently writers aren't the only ones who use November as a catalyst (National November Writers Month) to get things done. If you are of the male persuasion and can grow or ever wanted to grow or think you can grow a mustache, Movember may be your calling. My man Gary has a mustache as does his brother so I happen to be partial to them. And Tom Selleck, well he just seals the deal; I mean even if you could resist Magnum no one can resist Quigley. Movember began in Australia in 1999 when a group of hirsute men decided to raise money for charity. The rules were simple: you must be clean shaven on November 1 and grow the mustache until November 30. Sorry, beards and goatees don't apply.

Now, if you are a writer you can participate in both NaNoWriMo and Movember, in fact it may be quite productive. You can closet yourself away, write like a fiend and you don't have to shave. Bathing optional.

As a NaNo participant I receive posts from all over the world. This morning I recieved an email from Maureen Johnson. (Check out her She just so happened to have used Australia to illustrate the writing difficulties of being in the middle of the month. Since I, too, am writing about Australia today, I took that as a sign. A good sign..that I will cross the finish line with a decent word count..regardless of how tattered and torn, beaten and threadbare, I will keep on keeping on and all that stuff. I just hope I don't finish with a moustache.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

English...who can keep up?

I recently read this line in a popular on-line blurb: It is the commonest preventable cause of blindness worldwide. Really? Commonest? I'm sure it's acceptable and probably even proper, but in my head Mrs. Traugott reigns supreme. Mrs. T taught me English for four years in our small but respectable home town high school. And commonest just goes against the grain! It's just wrong! I'll stick with most common...that is until an editor blue lines it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To Gary

As many of you, I have a long line of veterans in my family: grandfather, father, husband, son. They served at home, on far away shores, on the sea, the land, the air. They wore uniforms of the Air Force, Army, Navy and even the Sea Bees.

Last year in this column I honored my son as it is also his birthday (Happy Birthday, Chad).

Today, I thank all veterans everywhere, but making it personal makes it more meaningful to me. Today I honor my husband. Thank you, Gary, for serving. Thank you for putting yourself in harms way in the jungles of Vietnam while I slept warm and safe in my bed. Thank you for eating rations when I dined on steak and sipped fresh tea. Thank you for sleepless nights and anxious days, for standing duty, for marching in mud and swatting strange bugs and avoiding poisonous reptiles. Thank you for lying all those months in a foreign hospital bed bleeding and without family. Thank you, Gary, for my freedom. Freedom to walk in my yard and gardens; to communicate with anyone on my computer or cell or walk across the yard and speak with my neighbor. Thank you for fighting for my freedom to say whatever I choose whenever I choose. I can go to the library or bookstore and get just about anything I can think of to read. My clothing today is my choice. I can wear a T-shirt that is insulting and degrading or one that is uplifting and thought provocative. I CAN CHOOSE because you chose to serve. Thank you for your sacrifice and service to your country. And, most of all thank you for coming home. I love you.

Gary touring Queen Mary

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's the Secret, Neil?

I'm feeling a little stressed as I am behind in the "NaNoWriMo" November writing marathon. That know-it-all smarty pants spelling bee runner up inner-critic keeps popping out insisting that I have used too many commas. What does it matter, I say, stand back, I'm on a roll. You misspelled recipe, again, she says. No I didn't, I say, it's supposed to be receipt, now go away. She tosses her hair, adjusts her rinestone glasses, purses her lips, throws her scarf over her shoulder, gives a little huff and puff, and slides back into my psyche. For a while. Now my concentration is broken. I may as well take the puppy out, update my face book, go get the mail, clean the oven, check in on my two blogs, figure out why my neighbor is staring into my yard, read the posts of other NaNo participants and wish Neil Gaiman happy birthday--Happy Birthday, Neil. How is it that he is so prolific and I, well, am not? Does his inner-critic constantly interrupt the creative flow? Does she sneer and pat her foot if she is ignored? Come on, Neil, what's your secret?

OK, back to work...

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo rocks!

NOW, if I can just figure out how to get this widget over to the side!! Drat. Or do I want this one....