sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 17, 2006

busy weekend ahead
posted by soe 3:50 pm

The weekend ahead is going to be a busy one.

We start tonight with a Bob Dylan concert. He’s performing with the Raconteurs (Jack White’s second band) way out in Fairfax. I’m pretty sure that’s in West Virginia. (Okay, it just might as well be…) I’ve heard Bob perform before on double-bills with Joni Mitchell and with Paul Simon. I like Dylan. (Who doesn’t like Dylan?) But I really believe that his songwriting far surpasses his ability as a singer, even if Bear Mountain Massacre is a kick-ass song.

I’ve not heard anything from the Raconteurs, although Sam did not give it a ringing endorsement. But it would seem that’s because they were a bit too … cheesy … for his tastes. I like cheese. Particularly if it’s in tune. I’ll reserve judgement.

Tomorrow I will rise before is humanly reasonable and go on a walk to raise money for programs aimed at helping the homeless. Thank you to those who donated to help me raise money for Martha’s Table. Anyone else who would like to contribute is welcome to head here… My friends Sarah and Amani also will be walking tomorrow morning. I’m particularly grateful to Sarah who is no more fond of the early morning than am I and who, therefore, is less likely to mind if I spend the first mile or so half-asleep under my warm, woolen hat, a cup of tea nestled between my gloves.

Tomorrow night, Rudi and I head out for another oldie but goodie — Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame. (Last week I wouldn’t have thought it necessary to explain who he was, but I’ve been asked several times, so I’ll just make it easy for you.) I’ve never been impressed with Brian’s live appearances on tv, but Rudi has seen him in person thrice now. And the last time he raved about the show and said I should have gone.

FYI, Rudi lists that show as one of his top ten concert experiences ever in his blog:

A magical night, as Brian and the band performed SMiLE in its entirety. Brian was in a fine voice, and his band is top-notch. The brass instruments ace actually played by horn players, the string parts by a string sextet. And the Warner is a wonderful old theatre, perfect for concerts like this.

Rudi has a pretty good sense of my tastes after 11+ years together, so when he says, “You’ll regret not coming,” I listen. And I’m looking forward to the show.

And somewhere in there I need to pound through some major quantities of words. The problem with a word-count goal is that you stop thinking of the best way to say something and start thinking of the longest way to say it. I already lean more toward the Faulkneresque in my writing style, but apparently I need to be yet more verbose. (That sentence contained 20 words. I could have said, instead, “I already have a tendency to write long compound-complex sentences that make people’s heads spin while they try to suss out the meaning I intended, but apparently I need to use even more words in an attempt to say what I mean in the least concise way possible,” which would have given me 44 words.)

I eked out only a thousand words last night. Just as I was checking my email before going to bed at 3 a.m., the ringleader of NaNoWriMo dropped all the participants an email saying, as long as you’re at 35,000 words before next Friday you’ll be fine. Ummmm, yeah. If we double what I have written up to this point, I’m still not at 35,000 words. (Ooh! How would that be for a narrative trick? I could just pause where I am currently, go back to the beginning and retype everything that’s happened a second time! Better yet, I could just cut and paste! Instantly, 35,000 words would no longer seem so intimidating! And if I paste it in for a third iteration, I will nearly be done! I think we have ourselves a new plan!)

Does anyone else sense sleep-deprivation induced mania coming on here?

Category: arts,nanowrimo. There is/are 6 Comments.

November 16, 2006

yellow lane, watercolor, and pretty paper
posted by soe 5:41 pm

There are always three beautiful things to think about on Thursdays:

1. A street near my house is lined with ginkgo trees. In early fall, when their fruit is dropping, it’s not really a pleasant place to walk. (Ginkgo fruit, when it splits open, smells like dog poop.) But in late fall, their leaves turn a brilliant yellow and the trees stand gorgeous against the deep blue of the sky. Sunday, in the midst walking through a driving rain, I paused on the corner to see that the leaves had fallen in the storm, blanketing the whole street in rivulets of gold.

2. Today is kind of like an Impressionist watercolor painting or like Bert’s chalk drawings in Mary Poppins, even down to the tower rising up out of the mists. Living in D.C., most people wear sensible, dark, business-like colors and carry black umbrellas when it rains. But just often enough to keep it interesting, someone pops up wearing color — a turquoise polka-dotted umbrella, pink paisley galoshes, or a chartreuse rain kit. My own rainy day outfit includes a pink and yellow raincoat, a rainbow-hued umbrella, and my green corduroy hat. I feel cheery just putting it on.

3. On Saturday, Rudi and I stopped by Eastern Market on our way to a belated lunch date. While we were there we visited the card vendor, who sells British cards, wrapping paper, and stationery items for cut-rate prices. We came away with several boxes of Christmas cards, half a dozen sheets of wrapping paper, and half a dozen gift tags for something like $11. Now I just need time to address cards and packages to label and to wrap in pretty paper….

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names needed
posted by soe 1:42 am

I need some names for a cappella groups in my novel. Ever wanted to name a band or a singing group? Now’s your opportunity…. Leave me a comment with your ideas.

(For those who did not attend a liberal arts college in New England, an a cappella group is a singing group that does not use instrumentation in their performances. Some adapt modern pop music and fake the instrumentation with human voices.)

(Edited to add: As the strains of my favorite Kris Delmhorst song came over the computer speakers tonight, I passed the 15,000 mark. And it’s not even 3 a.m. yet!)

Category: nanowrimo. There is/are 6 Comments.

November 15, 2006

nanowrimo: the first half
posted by soe 2:45 pm

Two weeks have passed since the beginning of NaNoWriMo and I continue to trail behind the word count I’m supposed to have in order to get my novel to 50,000 words by the end of the month. This is particularly problematic since the second half of the month includes two concerts and the Thanksgiving holiday, during which I plan to spend many hours stuck in traffic. Some of this problem has been alleviated by the arrival of the laptop, but I can (and should) only write when not driving, so it’s not wholly fixed.

The first part of the writing experience can be found here.

Day 6: The night of the James Taylor concert. It has been a crappy day at work and JT has finally turned it around for me. I opt to become a bit more behind in lieu of actually going to bed in a good mood acquainted with the candidates I need to vote for in the 2006 election. I do not regret the decision. Words written: 0.

Day 7: Election night. The day starts with clouds and ends with a steady drizzle. (It is November, after all.) But I walk from my polling place to work in the morning, so I feel more energized and less resentful of a day spent inside. Plus, didn’t you know that all great novels really get going on “a dark and stormy night?” I alternate between typing and goofing off. I knit and watch House. I return a few emails. I watch election coverage, and rejoice as good news rolls in. But I also put in 2000+ words, which is the daily goal at the time.

Day 8: I sleep in a writing position over the keyboard.

Days 9-11: Writing officially goes on hiatus for several days while I reconsider whether I want to keep writing a novel. Reaction is mixed.

Day 12: After encouragement from home and abroad, I get back into the saddle and plot out where the book is going. This helps to resolve several questions. I include the outline in the same Word document that contains my manuscript, so it currently is being added to my word count. Hearing that one of the D.C. moderators is writing while undergoing cancer treatment does not make me feel encouraged about my slacking off; nor does it lessen my desire to slack off instead of write. The first conflict to feature both a suspect and a victim takes place.

Day 13: The novel crests the 10k mark and surpasses 20 pages. Suspect #3 is introduced. A person can get by on 4 hours of sleep. I know it’s possible. It just hurts. When is my victim going to die?

Day 14: I attend my very first write-in at a nearby coffee house. Sadly, less writing gets done than one might expect because participants are so excited to talk to someone, anyone. I did hear the reassuring tale of a girl who, last year, wrote the final 34,000 words of her novel in the last two days. I pick a random plot device out of a tin: A rusty hatchet. Despite my novel being a murder mystery, it does not really help my story. Perhaps it fits one of my readers’ stories and they would like it for their novel. If so, I bequeath it to you with the best wishes of the DC NaNoWriMos.

Day 15: My goal for tonight is to write 2,600 words, which will bring me up to 15,000 words over the first 15 days, and to kill off my victim right at the end. That will place the murder pretty much at the end of the first third of the book, which seems about right for the standard mystery genre formula I’m following.

You can’t read my novel, but you can view my progress. Please note that the progress bar measures by actual date. My own progress is recorded in “college days” (the idea that a day does not end until you go to bed; i.e., if you haven’t gone to bed in 36 hours, you’re still operating on one day’s worth of time), so writing that happens after 11 p.m. (their clock seems to still be running on daylight savings time) or so tends to get shuffled into the next day’s work. So really the progress bar makes me look like less of a slacker than I am.

Category: nanowrimo. There is/are 3 Comments.

November 14, 2006

our cats like people food
posted by soe 11:56 pm

Most cats like certain human foods — tuna fish and yogurt are two such examples.

Ours, however, like less obvious foods:

Della enjoys a nice tomato sauce.

Jeremiah fancies Rudi’s microbrews.

And I discovered the other night that Posey wants to share the peanut butter with me.

Oh, and they all like oatmeal.

What strange foods do your animals like?

Category: cats. There is/are 5 Comments.

November 13, 2006

new reading challenge
posted by soe 11:59 pm

So in browsing Kat and Paula‘s blogs, I learned about the From the Stacks Reading Challenge, being sponsored by Overdue Books. The idea is, between Nov. 1 and Jan. 30, to read five books that have been languishing in your collection collecting dust.

Readers and knitters alike enjoy adding to their stash, so the hardest part of the challenge is merely winnowing the list down to five. I personally am a huge fan of buying books at library book sales, particularly those that let you fill up a whole bag for $1.

I already convinced Jenn to join, so I guess I’d better get my butt in gear and post my own list:

  1. King Lear, by William Shakespeare. I know, I know. It’s shameful that an English major managed to receive a B.A. without reading this classic. But I did read A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley’s feminist retelling of the story, so my degree isn’t totally without merit. But this is my greatest English major guilt, so it’s time to assuage it.
  2. Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. Nope. Never read this one either. (For the record, while I was assigned Defoe’s Moll Flanders in college, I didn’t finish it. I don’t remember caring for it much, so my guess is that I sold it back to the college bookstore after the semester ended.)
  3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. I meant to read it this summer but instead found other things more immediately compelling. (It may have something to do with the fact that our copy of the book is in a mostly-complete compendium of Adams’ work, which is tough to carry with me on the Metro.)
  4. Silas Marner, by George Eliot. I’ve tried to read it before and just haven’t managed to get past a certain point. It’s such a short book that I really don’t think it should be as hard as I’ve made it out to be.
  5. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith. This is another book that I’ve begun and put down a couple times over the past five years. It’s considered a modern classic, so I think it’s time to finish it off.

This endeavor will be made more challenging by the fact that I’m not doing a whole lot of reading during November or December as NaNoWriMo and holiday knitting are going to take up a lot of my time over the next six weeks.

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