Survey – Looking for help with Unlock Your Creative Block course

Greetings, writers! I’m creating an online course about breaking writer’s block, but I’m stuck and I need your help.

If you’re a WRITER who is feeling blocked or stuck, and are LOOKING for strategies on BREAKING the block, please take my short survey.

I want to learn more about the problems you might face while learning and how best to help you. Thank you so much for taking the time, it’s much appreciated!

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Freddie Award for Writing Excellence (FAWE) deadline extended!

Calling all writers!

Due to the recent hurricanes we’ve experienced nationally, MWA Florida has extended the deadline for our annual writing contest.

If you’re interested in entering the Freddie Award for Writing Excellence (FAWE), the deadline is now November 15. Details are at : http://mwaflorida.org/contest/

Nana’s Teapot

I’ve been sharing recipes and will again. Today I’m sharing my grandmother’s teapot.

Dorothy H. Richardson died January 3, 2017. We called her Nana. She was born in 1914, and Thursday would have been her 103rd birthday. Longevity runs through the maternal line; her mother – my great-grandmother, called Grammie by my generation – died several weeks before she turned 102. They had the usual mother-daughter tensions, and I sometimes thought Nana wanted to live longer than Grammie just to say she had.

She was an avid reader as long as I can remember, and the first Nora Roberts book I read was one of her earliest category romances for Silhouette, borrowed from my grandmother during a visit to my grandparents’ home.

Nana had a way of doing things throughout her life that were givens. Fresh flowers on the table was one of them. My husband made a big impression on her when he met her for the first time, using the best flowers from my aunt’s Christmas arrangement and mixing them with new flowers from the florist to create the centerpiece for dinner. She was struck by several things, not least of which was his ability and willingness to do this.

Age and illness had taken their toll on Nana. She’d been living in an assisted living facility for the past several years after leaving Hospice care. At the time, she and her doctor thought she was close to the end. She entered Hospice, went off all her meds, and got better. The decision to leave was mutual: Hospice had a policy that precluded extended stays, and Nana was getting depressed seeing the friends she made while she lived there dying.

When she turned 100, we surprised her at lunch on her birthday. Both of her children, all five of her grandchildren, and a couple of her great-grandchildren were there, and she Face-Timed with a great-grandchild and her only (at the time) great-great-grandchild. She wasn’t up for a long visit and went back to her room after a short time, overwhelmed by the number of people celebrating what she hadn’t considered to be a big accomplishment.

Fast forward to the week before Christmas 2016. She decided she would leave on her own terms, and made the decision to stop eating. My mother was scheduled to go to New Hampshire January 4, but her brother called the week before to say she needed to come sooner. Mom flew up to NH from the family gathered for the holiday in Jacksonville, Florida. She visited with Nana for a couple of days before the morphine that eased her pain ended conversation. Nana died a short time later.

She liked her tea, and her teapot is below. My mother brought it back from New Hampshire to St. Louis, and gave it to me when I was in St. Louis two weeks ago. Not wanting it to break if I carried it on the airplane, I opted to have FedEx deliver it.

I haven’t used it yet – I know she’s gone, but I feel like the first time I use it will reinforce her absence. For now, I have it on the counter as a reminder of my proper grandmother who sent thank you notes, wore scarves around her neck almost daily, and loved her tea.

NaNoWriMo: Week 1

November 1 began the writing adventure that is National Novel Writing Month. This year’s theme is “The World Needs Your Novel.” This month I’ll be posting on Monday about my experience the previous week.

Many people over the years have told me that one day they would like to write a novel. I’d been writing for years before I heard about NaNo in 2004, and accepted the challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Sound daunting? It is.

This year is my twelfth year participating, and my eleventh year as a Municipal Liaison (the fancy title for those of us who organize local Kick Off parties, weekly Write-Ins, and TGIO parties). Does this help me each year? Yes and no.

Yes, because having done it before I know I can do it again.

No, because each new story is a new adventure in plot, characters, dialogue, setting, theme, and all the other things that go into crafting a compelling read.

Each year I’ve been able to count on having 28 or 29 good writing days in the month. This year I’ll be visiting family (including a new baby!) for Thanksgiving weekend, and I really have only 25 good writing days. Instead of a daily word count goal of 1,667 to reach 50,000 in 30 days, my daily word count is 2,000 words per day.

The first week has gone really well. My word count after the first 7 days was 15,000+ words, so I am where I need to be to get to 50,000 by Thanksgiving. 

The first week is historically easy. The story that you’ve been thinking about for the past few months (or weeks, or days) comes gushing out once November 1 kicks off the month-long writing challenge. It doesn’t need to be coherent, and at this point it isn’t. Writing is rewriting, and that’s what December is for. November is for getting the draft done.

I’m working through my story idea, and although I’ve outlined roughly, once I start working the details I see where the gaps are, what I need to fill in, and who else needs to die (I’m writing a murder mystery). Past events, current events, and my personal life all affect what I’m writing about, and how I write it.

I write an outline with the beginning and end of each act and the midpoint. I include days of the week, so that I don’t have characters reacting on Friday to something that happens Saturday. I print out this rough outline, and pin it to the corkboard in front of my desk. 

This keeps me going when I run dry. I can look at the outline and see what dramatic action needs to occur against the backdrop of solving the mystery. Sometimes I write scenes out of order, when I have one fleshed out and I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Sometimes I write in circles, trying to find the kernel of the story. I’ve found that keeping my fingers typing on the keyboard, even if it doesn’t seem to be part of the story at the time, can lead to breakthroughs that I might not have gotten to if I had stopped writing for the day. 

When I’m on a roll, I keep going. Having words in the bank, so to speak, makes up for the days I either don’t have enough time to write my 2,000 words, or for the days when the story isn’t coming no matter what tricks I use to tease the muse out from her hiding place.

The good news: I’m on pace. The bad news: My back, hands, and neck ache. Sitting in a chair for as long as I have been, writing as much as 5,000 words in a day, takes a toll. 

I remind myself to stay hydrated, which benefits me in two ways. I function best when I drink about 80 ounces of water a day. When I drink 80 ounces a day, I am getting up at regular intervals and take the opportunity to walk around, shaking out my hands, and stretch out my back.

Week 1 is done.

Week 2 begins.