Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day Twenty-One: Hitting the Wall

For three weeks you've been busily writing, following your outline (if you did one before NaNoWriMo began) or going with the flow as ideas flow from your mind, through your fingers, and onto the screen. Your story has taken some interesting, unexpected twists and turns, your characters have led you down different paths from the ones you thought you were traveling, and you've been meeting or exceeding the daily word count minimums. Everything is going great until, one day, you sit down at the keyboard to write, and...nothing! Suddenly, it's like someone dammed the river, and now there's not even a trickle of an idea coming through. What do you do when you hit the wall known as "writers' block"? Here are a few suggestions that might help get things moving again.

First, realize that this happens to everyone, even well-known, experienced authors, so don't beat yourself up over it. It doesn't mean you can't write. What it may mean is that you're striving for perfection, and worrying that you won't achieve it. Your writing, especially in a first draft (and that's what NaNo novels are--first drafts), doesn't have to be perfect. That's what editing and revisions are for. The important thing is that you just write. Get the story down on paper. You can go back later and correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, plot discrepancies, etc.

Walk away. Don't give up, but do step away from the keyboard for a while and do something else. Watch a movie, take a walk, call a friend, jump on the treadmill or stationary bike, work in the garden...anything to get your mind off writing for a little while. Then, after you feel refreshed, come back to the writing with a new perspective. Maybe something you've seen, heard, smelled, will trigger an idea for your story.

Write about it. That may sound contradictory since writing is what you're having trouble doing, but sitting down and writing out why you think you're feeling "stuck" might just get you unstuck. It's like talking out a problem with a friend. They might not have the answer, but you'll feel better because you've gotten it out in the open. And, sometimes just talking about it will suddenly give you clarity about the solution.

Try doing a writing exercise. This can be as simple as going to Writer's Digest's online writing prompts (, picking several random words from the newspaper and writing a story using all of them, or just writing down whatever comes into your mind (stream of consciousness writing).

Remember why you started writing in the first place. NaNoWriMo is a challenge, but it's voluntary and it's supposed to be FUN! Go to one of the more upbeat forums, such as the Nanoism forum, and let laughter recharge your creative batteries. And remember, the world won't end if you don't hit 50,000 words by the end of November.

Try to stick to a routine. If you write in the same place, at the same time, every day, your mind will begin to make the connection that when you do certain things it's the signal to start writing. Some writers even have a ritual they go through before actually writing, perhaps getting a cup of coffee and putting on a favorite item of clothing, playing a favorite CD or turning on the radio, anything that will let your brain know "this is writing time."

Jump to a different part of your story. If you're stuck in the middle, try writing the ending, then go back and fill in what needs to happen to get you to the end. Add a new character to the mix to bring in fresh action and dialog. Or if you're having a hard time with the beginning, start with the middle. If you haven't done an outline, try writing one now so you know what has to happen to get you where you want to end up.

Breathe. Try some relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, qi gong. Put on some soothing music, close your eyes, and picture a scene that is relaxing and calming for you.

Read. Grab a Coke, some coffee or tea, and a good book and read for a while. Reading what someone else has written may give you an idea you can use in your own story.

Just write. Even if you write a nursery rhyme, copy something you've already written, write a page of "It's your fault," "No, it's your fault," "Is not. It's your fault," etc., the important thing is to let your Muse know you mean business. You're there to write, you're writing (even if it's gibberish--you can delete it later), and that may get your creativity flowing again.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day Twenty: What Would You Rather Be?

While exploring the web for ideas for my blog today, I came across this question: Which would you rather be -- a famous athlete, a great singer, or an important politician?

Childhood memories came flooding back when I thought about my athletic abilities, or lack thereof. Gym class was my nemesis. Oh, it was okay during the early grades where we did synchronized marching, played dodge ball, pretended to be things like trees, crabs, camels, etc., and played games like "Red Rover," engaged in some simple calisthenics, and folk dancing. But in junior and senior high (this was pre-middle school era), sports seemed to take over the curriculum. It was soon evident that I would never be a female Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, or Barry Bonds. There are two things you must do if you're going to hit that ball: (1) keep your eyes open, and (2) don't duck! Occasionally, I would connect with the ball, but by the time I opened my eyes and stood up, I'd usually already been tagged out. Basketball was only slightly better even with my eyes open. Dribbling the ball was fun, but I swear the net moved every time I took a shot to try to make a basket. In track and field, I tripped over the hurdles. Then there was gymnastics. About the only thing there I was good at was the trampoline. So, being an athlete is definitely out. I'll leave that to those who are taller, more fleet of foot, and more coordinated.

As for singing, this is something I did a lot of both in church and in school. In the early sixties, a friend and I taught ourselves how to play the guitar, and led our assembled schoolmates in Hootenannys. For those of you too young to know what I'm talking about, a hootenanny was an informal concert comprised of folk songs. Armed with our guitars, we would mount the stage in the school auditorium and lead the audience in the popular tunes of the day by the likes of Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. It really was a "hoot," and I have very fond memories of those days before Beetlemania took over.

At one point in high school, our music teacher set up an audition for me with a woman from the Metropolitan Opera Company. The thought of studying and singing with that august group filled me with both excitement and anxiety. Then, at the last minute, she had an emergency, the audition had to be postponed, and, sadly, never took place. As an adult, I sang in churches, became a choir director, and sang on local TV a couple of times. I love to sing, but would I want it as a career with all the pressures and publicity? Very definitely, no!

That brings us to "important politician." While I have great respect for those who honestly try to do a good job of representing their constituents (very proud of my Vermont Senators and Congressman), there are just too many who end up in the headlines in less than a favorable light for less than stellar behavior and activities. I'm afraid I wouldn't be very good at playing the "game" of politics, where ideals are traded away for special projects, bills are padded with pork, and the hard-earned money of American citizens is squandered by corporate executives on outlandish salaries, bonuses, and schemes that leave their employees without jobs, healthcare, or retirement benefits.

So, what would I rather be? I'd rather be just what I am: a wife, mother, animal advocate, child sponsor, and, hopefully, a pretty good writer. As a writer, I can use the athlete, the singer, and the politician as characters in my books and hit the ball out of the park, have a platinum album and a world tour, and become President--without all the fishbowl living, the paparazzi, or the negative press, unless I decide to include them. Give me my computer, a blank screen, an idea, and some time to spin a story, and I'm a happy camper. And if something I write is published and other people get to read it, well, that makes me happy, too.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day Nineteen: Ten Things I Know Because of NaNoWriMo

In researching background information for my NaNo novel, much of which is set in Stowe, Vermont, in 1870-1871, I've discovered some interesting bits of information, so thought I'd share a few.

Ten Things I Know Because of NaNoWriMo:

1. On October 21, 1870, in his "Thanksgiving Proclamation," President Ulysses S. Grant recommended "all citizens to meet in their respective places of worship on Thursday the 24th day of November next, there to give thanks for the bounty of God during the year about to close and to supplicate for its continuance hereafter." Presidents are allowed the freedom to call the nation to prayer, but cannot mandate either for or against it without violating a Constitutional Amendment or the separation of church and state.

2. Also, in 1870, President Grant officially made Christmas a US federal holiday.

3. People in America now know what Santa Claus looks like, thanks to cartoonist Thomas Nash who created Santa's image in 1863.

4. It was in the late 1800s that the focus of gift giving at Christmas began to shift away from its religious significance as a reminder of the gifts of the magi to the baby Jesus at Epiphany, to the more social emphasis of our modern celebrations.

5. Prior to 1838, Stowe was spelled without the "e."

6. In 1863, the Stowe Community Church was built for $12,000, significantly less than modern building projects cost.

7. The first school was erected in Stowe, VT, in 1800, eight years after a provision for public education was passed by the legislature. The District #6 Village School (Stowe High School) was built in 1861.

8. The Stowe Free Library was established in 1866, although the public library movement didn't really gain momentum until 1880.

9. Gold Brook Bridge (Emily's Bridge) was built in 1844, but the legend didn't exist prior to 1968. In one account, a high school girl claims to have gotten the story of Emily's death from her Ouija board; in another, the legend was told by a woman to scare her children and/or a group of college students in 1970.

10. At one time, Stowe had ten covered bridges. Emily's Bridge is the only one that still exists. (Maybe the other bridges should have housed ghosts!)

Bonus fact: Originally, Stowe belonged to Chittenden County, then Washington, and finally Lamoille. And did you know Lamoille got its name because of a cartographer's mistake? It was originally Lamoitte, but the mapmaker forgot to cross his "t's."

Let that be a lesson to us writers. Have a good editor check your manuscripts to make sure you've dotted your "i"s and cross your "t"s, or what is left for posterity might not be what you intended.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day Eighteen: Interview with a NaNoer, Part 2

Today I'm continuing my interview with Deni Hansen-Gray Weber, as she shares her experiences as a first-time NaNoWriMo participant. If you missed part 1, you'll find it below today's post.

Donna: Coming up with a title, knowing how to begin the story, or knowing how to end it--what has been the hardest thing for you?

Deni: I pretty much knew how I wanted the novel to end. The novel starts with the main character looking back in time as she is leaving to return to her hometown in what appears to be disgrace, and wondering how it all happened to her. Fairly quickly, I knew how I wanted it all to start--I soon knew how I wanted it to end. Somewhere around 25,000 words, I realized I needed a lot more "plot" than I had, and I was worried I'd not be able to make a cohesive whole that was 50,000+ words.

Donna: What do you hope to take away from this experience, what have you learned from it, and how has it impacted your life?

Deni: This kind of relates to the previous answer! I had to create a number of challenges for my heroine to face--just to fill up space--but I realized she grew through them. Much like myself, she'd look at God and ask, "Why me? Why now?" I soon realized how similar to life this is. It was like I finally figured out that life really is a series of challenges to be met. Yet, time after time, with God's help, she overcame them. She learned she needed to be reliant on God--just as I am learning that complete reliance is necessary for our family with the continuing challenges we are facing.

Donna: Would you encourage others to try doing NaNoWriMo next year?

Deni: Oh boy, would I! I'd encourage anyone who likes to write, or wonders if they have a book hidden inside of them, to try this. The NaNoWriMo site has so many encouraging forums and you can pick writing buddies to support you on your journey. My words? "Go for it!" Doesn't matter if it gets published or tucked away somewhere on a thumb drive, there is such a sense of accomplishment that "I did it!" It was helpful for me to learn that only a small percentage of those who undertake the challenge win, and it's okay not to pass the 50,000 mark. It's a goal.

Donna: Any final thoughts you'd like to share?

Deni: Final thoughts? I don't think it matters if you "win" the challenges or not. There is always next year, and I think it is more a matter of putting yourself out there and trying. To me, everyone who makes the effort is a winner. It reminds me of my favorite saying, "Success is getting up one more time than you fall down." If you continue to write, that's success! Or, maybe you find out writing is not for you--and that's fine, too. I think it's a win-win thing. It is tremendously challenging, but I'd not have missed it for the world!

Donna: One last question, Deni, do you plan to pursue publication of your NaNo novel?

Deni: I think participating in NaNoWriMo has given me the incentive to do further work on the novel. As I had stated before, December is going to be editing and proofreading month in our homeschool curriculum, so I will be going at least that far. I do think that doing these things along with the kids provides a modeling role for them that is often missing from both public and homeschool settings.

Would I like it to be published? I can answer that with a resounding "Yes!" Will I pursue it? That depends on God opening doors for me as I know nothing about the publishing end of writing.

Maybe that will be an addition to our homeschool curriculum at some point--"How to publish a book." I'm sure it would be interesting for both the children and me.

I'd love to see something I have written in print! Yet, I think the most successful part of this for me has been in seeing the creation of something that was once floating around in my head, solidly written (at least I hope so!) and in a tangible form. I am anxious to get past the edit/proof stage and print it out and see how it looks "on paper."

Donna: Deni, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your thoughts and experiences with our readers. Good luck with your novel.

Deni: Thanks for asking me to participate in your blog interview!

Note to my readers: Thank you for joining us today. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and will help me in making this blog relevant for you. I welcome your comments and questions, and encourage you to use the comment form. I also welcome your suggestions for future discussion topics. -- Donna

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day Seventeen: Interview with a NaNoer -- Part I

Today, I am pleased to have as my guest, Deni Hansen-Gray Weber. I first met Deni a few years ago when we were both volunteers for Rest Ministries, an online support outreach for people with chronic illness. Recently we reconnected on Facebook. This is her first time participating in National Novel Writing Month, and I thought it would be interesting to get her perspective, as a first-timer, on what has become an international phenomena.

Donna: Deni, thank you for joining us on Creative Muse Journal today. Perhaps you could begin by telling us a little about yourself.

Deni: The “non-NaNo” me is a jack-of-all-trades. At 58, I’ve gone down a lot of different paths. I’ve lived in Indiana, near Chicago, all my life, and went back to school at the age of 43 for my doctorate in psychology. Unfortunately, by the time I finished school and got licensed, my body decided not to cooperate, and I am disabled and home bound. I love anything creative. I homeschool my grandkids who we are adopting in December. For someone who has “nothing to do,” my life is pretty full!

Donna: It certainly sounds like it is. Having homeschooled two of my own children, I know the amount of time and commitment that takes. Tell our readers, how did you first learn about NaNoWriMo?

Deni: Having recently re-met Donna on facebook, I was reading one of her posts and saw her mention NaNo. I had heard about it last year and had no clue what it was – so I wrote to her asking about it. She filled me in and suggested that we could be writing buddies, and I was sold on it.

Donna: With your busy schedule and health challenges, why did you decide to participate in NaNoWriMo?

Deni: Probably because I love a challenge and I love to write.

Donna: Had you done any writing before this and, if so, what kind of writing?

Deni: I think I’ve written things all my life. I was a rabid journal keeper for many years. I started writing short stories and poems when I was a teen – always kept them mostly to myself though, as I’ve never really felt they were good enough for anyone else to read. I wrote because I was writing for me. I have two unpublished books tucked away: one a suspense novel, and one kind of a cross between self-help book/story about how our family made it through the difficult days after the murder of my only daughter who was pregnant when she died. I really needed to write then! Today, I write devotionals for the chronically ill. Some are published through Rest Ministries and some on my own site.

Donna: It sounds like writing has been a big part of your life and seen you through an unthinkable personal tragedy, yet you've been able to draw strength from that to reach out to help others. How is what you're writing for NaNo different from what you usually write?

Deni: NaNo is different because I really had no goal to start with. I was willing to let the story go wherever it needed to, and it was for sheer fun. I enjoyed the challenge of the word count – this time aiming for more. This is probably the longest thing I’ve written. It got obsessive for me though. (My family will attest to that! lol!)

Donna: It does tend to take over our lives for the month, doesn't it! Would you tell us a little bit about your NaNo novel and what influenced your choice of genre?

Deni: I love the writings of Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters. I enjoy the innocence of those “romances” and knowing that there is usually going to be a suspense-filled book with a boy gets girl, or girl gets boy ending. I decided to try my hand at updating that type of novel and setting it in Chicago in the 1940’s. I love the old black and white movies from that era, and I “saw” a lot of my novel in my mind as I was writing it. There is a Christian approach to the novel as well, but not overtly – just in the message of the book itself. As for the plot summary, this is what I have written on the NaNoWriMo site:

Set in the 1940's just after WWII, a young girl journeys to Chicago from her small farm town to try to forget the boy she was to marry when he came home from overseas. Having learned of his death during the final offensive of the war, Charlie's relatives think a change of scenery will help her deal with her grief. Charlie (known as "Honey" to her friends) finds out that grief isn't any easier to handle there, and that trying to survive the "big city life" is harder than she expected. Used to farm work, obtaining work in Chicago is difficult until she inadvertently becomes the assistant for an advertising executive in one of the city's most prestigious firms. Finding her boss to be tyrannical, she struggles to keep pace with his seemingly impossible demands until an unexpected event brings her into the spotlight of Chicago's clothing designers, and she finds that success doesn't necessarily bring happiness.

Donna: What have some of the problems been in trying to write a book in a month?

Deni: The biggest problem (seriously) has been my posture. I have spent so much time hunched over my laptop, words flowing out of my fingertips, that I have had problems with my neck, back and arms! Once I get started, I hate to stop. I have more problems stopping my writing than starting. My family hears, “Just a minute while I finish this … (line, paragraph, chapter)," and then I emerge hours later!

Donna: Has it been difficult trying to fit such a project into your day-to-day life, and how has homeschooling affected your ability to do NaNo?

Deni: Being homebound and fairly disabled, one of the things that I can do is type. I’m fortunate that I don’t have the demands of a job like others do, so time is not really an issue. It has helped that I homeschool my grandkids and they are involved in the young writer’s group – so they are tap, tap, tapping away along with me.

Donna: What kind of response have the children had to the idea of trying to write a book? What have they set for a word count goal for themselves?

Deni: While both kids were a bit leery of the whole project, when they realized it would count as “school,” they were willing to give it a go. Using guidelines on the young writer's site, my 7th grader has set a 7,000-word goal for himself and the 2nd grader is undertaking 1500 words. We are using a speech recognition program for her and she really enjoys story telling. NaNoWriMo is going to become a permanent part of our yearly curriculum!

Donna: What have the benefits been of writing with your children? Do you feel they have motivated you, and if so, in what way?

Deni: It gives us a “common” interest. “Read this, Mommy and tell me what you think,” is heard pretty frequently. They check my word count on the adult site – and I check theirs. It’s a fun thing to be doing together.

The young writers site has great downloads for the kids, and that has helped them (and me) break the novel writing process down piece by piece. When the kids were in public school there was a criteria for writing a book each school year; however, they did not get the education really necessary for writing a book. The downloads we printed out are very thorough, explaining how to flesh out characters, what the parts of a story are, how to pace themselves, how to use descriptive words. Teaching them those things has helped my learning curve as well. Writing a novel is not as random as I first thought it was.

Reading what they write, listening to how they think, is helping me to know them better, and also makes me want to have a real novel at the end of this, setting an example for them. Next month? We move on to proofreading and editing!

NOTE: Please join me again tomorrow for part two of my interview with Deni. I look forward to hearing your comments, as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day Sixteen: Why Do You Write?

Some of the best elements of NaNoWriMo are the people you meet in the forums, the ideas they generate, and the questions they ask. One such question, asked by Lynnafred, piqued my curiosity: "Why Do You Write?" I asked if some of the participants would allow me to quote their responses on my blog; and today I'm pleased to be able to share them with you. Some general themes that emerged were:

--to make a difference in someone's life;
--to be published, have a degree of fame;
--because I must, I can, I want to, I love it;
--because it became a habit as necessary as breathing or
eating, because I live;
--because I have stories in my head that must come out

Other reasons given for writing were:

krist3ng: because there are certain types of stories I like, certain kinds of main characters, and I have trouble finding them represented in already-published fiction.

edgewritermom: because I like to write. Sometimes I even write well, and it's a shame to do something well but not try to get better at it. Otherwise, you get rusty. If a person wants to get better at something, s/he needs to practice. NaNoWriMo is one big month-long practice writing session. Also, I'm of an age when I need to try new, different, and especially hard things on a regular basis.

friesaregood: because one of the best things in the world is finding the right string of words, the words that go together and just make you think, "That's beautiful." So, I don't write for the sake of getting stories out there, or relieving stress, or creating my own private worlds. I write so I can get feedback, and so I can have the knowledge that I wrote something good. It's how I boost my ego.

Soulless: because it is the only thing that is mine...when everything else can be snatched away, no one can snatch the words you place on here, because even if they claim it's theirs, it's never really theirs.

Sashataakheru: because imagination is a mysteriously and awesomely powerful thing

Lynnafred: because it's...a way to get away from whatever was bothering me...I would work out a solution in my own way--through my characters' eyes, and through their own battles; it would always help me try to find a reasonable solution to my own problems.

Hanabi no Enigma: because I like to say something I think is funny or awesome or chilling; because if I don't do it now, when will I?

libby1861: because writing makes me want to live and get inspired and experience new things. It gives me control over something and it gives me a place to leave my ideas behind...It's necessary, important, and freeing.

Aliteratus: because it's what I am most passionate about and because it's my way of communicating to the world. Nothing makes me feel like I matter as much as writing does. It's simply the thing that I do best, so I have to do it.

Sakatsu: because these are the things that will be left after I'm dead...My art, words, music and photography--everything I do is in some way trying to preserve the idea I want to portray--to make a difference in another's life for the better.

Amanda Fair: because it's fun, it's escapism at it's purest, and because it honest-to-goodness makes me happy.

severeannoyance: because...finding out that I could tell stories was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

[anonymous]: because I think I have something to say in a different way than has been said before; because it usually makes me happy; because it is art, it's an expression of my spirit.

Alt-world: because I have a story I want to tell and the words keep escaping from my head, down my arms, through my fingertips, and onto the keyboard.

End-of-Eternity: because I can begin in a genre/formula that people are comfortable with, then slowly take them somewhere else. I write because I want to one day be published and hear someone say, "Oh, yeah, she's doing something different." I write because I have something to say, and some things can't be expressed through speaking.

Elegy: because it gives me the oppportunity to offer you my views and opinions and let you decide if they're important to you, if they matter. It also gives me the very small and unlikely chance to become rich and famous.

elentari: I write for myself first, for the sake of telling the story and the escapism of the process...Mostly, though, for the satisfaction of seeing my story on paper and being able to think, "I wrote that." If a piece makes someone smile or cry, creeps them out, hooks them in and gets them turning pages, or just makes them feel something, then I count it a success.

stephen_g: I used to write a high school, and when I could in university...Eventually, as I switched from university to writing dropped off a bit. As I transitioned into a full-time job, I didn't write at all...[other than] private journaling. I'm writing because my fiancée is encouraging me to use the creative gift I've let stagnate for far too long.

Gewher: [because] I want people to look back at the writings of this era in history and be inspired. And it would be very nice if my writings were among history books and artifacts...other than that, it's the pleasure that only something requiring hard work, dedication, and self-discipline can bring a person.

Astonished Lemons: because I've got a heck of a lot of random ideas in my head, and they never stop making more. Writing them down is the only way to...flush them out...[and] figure out where they go. The only thing worse then an idea rattling around in your head uninvited is a half-finished idea rattling around in there.

David Brynham: because I owe a debt to so many people in this world. My life has been filled with so many interesting experiences, so many unusual people, that it would be an insult to them if I could not give them some faint tribute on paper.

em56: because it's fun to create characters, and settings, and really a whole little world of your own. I like the challenge of trying to craft something good to read...[and] because I would someday like an audience to read my books...I would be lying, plain and simple, if I said wanting some level of fame wasn't at least a small factor.

pencilcase: because it's my own space. Nobody can tell me what to do...What I do with it is my own business.

Somnia: because it feels more natural than not writing...I have never gotten tired of it...This is something I can do, whether I do it well or not, no one can take it from me. Other people may enjoy it or not, but it gives me a sense of zen and completeness that I don't get from anything else.

mmannm5: I write in the hope of making readers FEEL something: pain, longing, happiness, giddy. That's what makes me love books, and I want everyone to love books...And it's what makes people remember them.

sushimustwrite: [because] there are stories ideas and abstractions living in my head. Without writing, they'd just be trapped...with no escape, and I'd be there too, wondering how to break free. Committing the ideas to paper means I won't be committed.

DBR: because I love language, and words are the building blocks of language. Words are the means of conveying our thoughts and ideas, and creating stories that entertain, teach, provoke, ignite discussion, inflame passion. I love their variety, their potential for precision or vagueness, deception or veracity. Words can paint a picture as detailed and beautiful as any artist ever painted on canvas. They dance across the page and stimulate the mind to create the visual images they describe, a mental motion. Through writing, as with reading, I can travel back and forth in time, go anywhere in the world (or in other worlds), can be anything, do anything. I'm not limited by my physical body, finances, modes of transportation, schedules or responsibilities. In fact, the only limit is what my imagination can create.

Thanks to everyone who responded to my request and gave permission to be quoted. I regret not being able to include everyone, but I appreciate each one of you.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day Fifteen: Paige Pinch-hits

Hi, everyone! This is Paige. Donna is busily working on her novel and getting ready for next week's special blog posts, so I told her I'd write today's entry. Truthfully, I was beginning to wonder if I'd have an opportunity to write a post or two. You may recall that when we started this year's NaNoWriMo challenge, I gave her a checklist that included disconnecting from the outside world for the month, and sequestering herself with the computer. Who knew she'd take me so literally? I've had to step in a few times and remind her to eat and sleep. This NaNo thing has a way of taking over a person's life--at least for a month!

While she's busily writing away, I've been trying to keep tabs on her "real" life for her. After all, the world doesn't get put on "hold" just because a group of people decide to sidestep sanity every year during the month of November. When she returns from NaNoLand on December 1, I plan to hand her my notes and bring her up to speed with the lives of her family and friends. I must say they've been doing some pretty exciting things while she's been immersed in fantasy (writing, that is)--you needn't worry that she's hearing voices or seeing little green men--that comes closer to the end of the month when the sleep deprivation REALLY kicks in!

So, what's been going on around us while she's had the NaNo blinders on? For one thing, her younger daughter and son-in-law went on a European cruise. I'd be really jealous if it weren't for the fact that I get seasick, am claustrophobic (have you seen how small some of the bathrooms are in those cabins?), and my dogs would hate me if I boarded them for even an hour, let alone a week. I don't think the Princess Line or Carnival would let me bring them along. Anyway, the kids had a great time visiting Spain, Italy, and France. It reminds me of the Dr. Seus book, Oh, the Places You'll Go. And go they did--Barcelona, Naples, Rome (including Vatican City), The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Nice (which is nice), Marseilles, Monaco, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some. No "Bang-ups" or "Hang-ups," fortunately, but they did spend some time in the "Waiting Place" which in their case turned out to be six-hour layovers in Newark, both coming and going.

Donna and her husband have a new grand-nephew, born November 12. Welcome to the world, Nathan Patrick! Her husband's brother and sister-in-law are the proud grandparents, and their (the bro and sil's) daughter and her husband are the proud Mama and Papa! So, the "circle of life" goes on.

While some of her friends have been busy in the garden harvesting fall crops and planting bulbs for spring, Donna hasn't planted anything but her fingers on her keyboard--unless changing out incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents counts. And speaking of planting, the weather has been more like spring than fall, with today's temperature topping out at 74 degrees! We should be somewhere in the upper 30s to mid-40s range. Nice for the heating bills, though. Either it's going to be a mild winter, or one of these days the bottom is going to drop right out of the thermometer!

Meanwhile, I've been trying to work on some holiday recipes that are gluten-free and will also fit her son's vegan lifestyle. If any of you readers have suggestions, please leave them in the comments for me. And speaking of food, it must be supper time because Higgins (my cat) and Noah and Cody (my two Border Collies) are ganging up on me. Higgins is eyeing my mouse and getting into attack position. Oh, and don't forget to tune in Monday when NaNoers share their responses to the question "Why do you write?"

Until next time!--Paige