Thursday, November 30, 2006

NaNoWriMo Winner Here

Today is the final day for NaNoWriMo participants to finish their 50,000 word novels. Everyone who submits a manuscript of 50,000 words or more is considered a winner. I finished mine yesterday. Well, sort of. I hit the 50,000 word finish line. By my estimate, I still have at least 25,000 words to go before the story is complete. One of the authors in my online writer's group asked NaNoWriMo participants what they learned from their experience in the month-long writing marathon. Here’s what I said:

"Winning" NaNoWriMo takes a far second to the joy I have about this novel. Had I not taken the challenge by Lori Weinrott to join, propped up by Brian Howe's enthusiasm, I don't think I would have started this novel--just yet. Each paragraph, page, and chapter convinced me that this is the book I should be writing right now. I'm setting aside WHISPERING NIGHTS while I finish TSSD.

I started out composing at a genteel pace, but as the days slipped by and I got behind, I began to feel crushed by the approaching deadline. I don't think there's a switch to turn off my inner editor. I don't like schlocky writing when I read it and I tolerate it less from myself. Nevertheless, it's still a shi**y first draft. It’s going to need some serious editing in the second round.

In the beginning I was excited by the new story and the words came easily as the characters revealed themselves. As my word count lagged behind the daily goal, however, I became hyper aware of every word I produced, clicking the word count meter every few pages. Toward the end I reverted back to my normal writing style, which is imagining and framing scenes for content and plot progression, rather than word count sessions. This put the joy back in the journey.

This is the first morning I haven’t plunged myself into TSSD. I’m taking a day off from the story to do some other writing tasks (like updating Ovations). Not to worry though, THE SWORD SWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER is even now sitting on her bed in the doll room, glaring at me to come up and play.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Sword Swallower's Daughter is Conceived

My friend EJ posted a comment to the previous blog entry, kindly reminding me the post was getting a little old. More than two weeks old. Truth is I’ve been busy. Everyone gets busy, but I mean buried with details. But you don’t want to hear about the two-day holiday event for 500 people that I’m coordinating for SITE-SoCal. I’m pumped up about this annual event, excited about mingling and jingling with industry friends, and most of all hoping to raise $200,000 for the three charities (Camp Alandale, La Calle, Oasis of Hollywood) we’ve chosen to support though this event.

It’s not like I’ve been holding out on you, but the holiday event is not what’s been filling my early morning creative hours. I’ve started writing a new novel. I’ve joined several of my writing pals for a month-long novel writing challenge called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). NaNoWriMo is kind of like the Boston Marathon for writers. The course is 30 days of 1667 word writing stretches. Everyone who writes 50,000 words and submits their manuscript at the end of the month is a winner. Although I’m not a quantity over quality writer, and I haven’t met the daily 1667 goal every day, as of this morning I reached 22,297 words in 16 days. I’m behind the nano quota, but I’m confident I’m going to cross the finish line with a novel I am proud of.

THE SWORDSWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER is a coming of age novel about loving people despite their failures, faults, and fetishes. The title, which has boiled around in my head for years, is autobiographical and many of my character’s experiences are loosely—emphasize loose here—based on my experiences growing up with an unconventional father and an over-conventional mother. Set the turbulent 1960s of my white Southern California childhood, it was an era when divorce was a sin, negroes were untouchable, Vietnam sent bloody images into American living rooms, and the Beatles led the British invasion of rock and roll.

You can read the first chapter of THE SWORD SWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER on the fiction page of my website. Click the title above to get there.

I’m nearly half-way through with the NaNoWriMo challenge, but THE SWORD SWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER will end when the story has been told. Check my daily word meter to see the progress. And leave me a comment to cheer me on.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I've Been Tagged

Some children played tag, red-rover, and hide-n-seek. Perhaps my cousins and I did too, but the most memorable game I remember was called "Machine Gun." There were seven of us, plus a few neighborhood kids thrown in to make a fun group. One person was the gunner and the others lined up across the yard. The gunner would assume the machine gun position with arm outstretched and finger pointed and say, GO. As the gunner made the ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah sound the rest of us ran across the yard only to be slain by the gunner. Then the gunner would walk through the fallen and choose the silliest, wildest, creepiest death position. That person would be resurrected by the gunner to become the next gunner. The game would begin again with a new gunner, while the former gunner would join the soon-to-be corpses. There was no trying to make it to the other side or to bring down the gunner. The object was to be chosen for having the creepiest death position. It's a wonder that none of us became assassins.

While it's not exactly a game of tag, this memory was prompted by two things. Yesterday was Halloween, the creepiest day of the year, and my friend EJ Knapp tagged me in an online game of blog tag. To fulfill my destiny I must write five things about myself that are not commonly known. Then I must tag five others to keep the game alive. So here goes:

  1. I was born in Los Angeles to a San Francisco bohemian father of Italian descent and a Midwest fundamentalist mother whose roots trace back to Benjamin Franklin. They were unhappily married for ten years, divorcing when I was seven. My stepfather, a latent beatnik who introduced me to Joan Baez, Isaac Asimov, and kite flying, stepped in as the father my birth father couldn’t be.
  2. I was an in-betweener in high school. I wasn’t part of any single clique, but had friends in all the crowds from the existentialist intellectuals, to the pot-smoking loadies who hung out in the bathrooms. I was senior class president, wrote for the HS newspaper, and was editor of the yearbook my senior year.
  3. I follow the Christian faith, not because of blind adherence, obligation, or the need for a crutch. There was an emptiness in my life that pursuit of knowledge, pleasure, romance, or creativity couldn’t fill. I explored intellectual atheism, mysticism, new age thought, and Eastern religions, but in the end, I chose the grace that my study of the peace-loving Jesus revealed.
  4. I went to Orange Coast College in SoCal, but never got to the university level. If there are any regrets in my life, this is the biggie. I took an internship with Contemporary Christian Music magazine and loved the job so much I accepted a fulltime position with the expectation of taking night courses to finish my degree. I was promoted to assistant editor of the magazine and then life took off on a zipline adventure that was exactly what I needed at the time.
  5. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than being a mother. Creative endeavors like writing, music, and art nurture me, but I realize that I am a nurturer at heart. I have loved every age in the life of my children and now as they stand on the cusp of adulthood, I am in awe of who they’ve become.

It’s time to tag five more people: Lori Weinrott, Susan Henderson, Karen Dionne, Brian Howe, Danielle Schaaf, and one honorary family tag to my daughter, Bella Voce.