Sunday, December 30, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant
This is a great rainy day read for someone wintering in the Pacific Northwest. That being said, I’d recommend it for anyone whether wintering in Chicago or summering in
Australia or New Zealand.
The Golden Spruce is the memoir of a tree with assorted ramblings by the author. It takes the reader to a part of the world most of us have never been and never will have the pleasure of visiting, the Queen Charlotte Islands. These islands off the west coast of British Columbia are known for their rain and fog, their wild beauty, their native American population and, formerly, for one mutant tree, known as the Golden Spruce. This tree was revered by native and non-native folk alike for its size and unusual color. That color made it a symbol of myth and of the twisted logic of one logger, turned environmentalist and madman.
This book makes for a wonderful teaching tool. The story of one tree is not long enough to fill a book so Mr. Vaillant rambles through bits and pieces of American and Canadian history, Native American lore, a bit of psychology, some environmental science and a two mysteries, the mystery behind the death of a revered tree and the mysterious disappearance of the man who toppled it. Although the story itself is fascinating, the take home message for me, was the tale of the despoiling of the North American forests. I have driven and hiked through clear cut forests, but in no way did I quite realize the magnitude of destruction that mankind has wrought on our forests. As a kid I remember reading about strip mining and deploring the practice. How could I have missed realizing that similar practices were being done just around the corner from my home but for trees and not for minerals? I doubt anyone can read this book and not feel that we are bleeding our planet to death.
This is not a perfect book. Some of the prose is a bit overdone. “Timber cruisers and surveyors are avatars of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: woods-wise and tree-friendly as they may be. . . .” (p. 101). All I can say is, “Huh?”
I have one quibble I need to mention as a mental health professional. At the time this book was written, the main human character, Grant Hadwin, was still considered potentially alive and in hiding. However, someone seems to have released portions of Hadwin’s psychiatric records to the author. These are attributed to a “Confidential Source.” I doubt very much that Canadian mental health law is much different than that in the U.S. Someone violated Hadwin’s privacy and rights in a shameful way and I question the author’s good judgment in quoting from his medical records. If Hadwin ever comes back from the presumed dead, I hope he sues the Kamloops hospital that allowed this to happen.
Please read this book. It will make you think twice, and three times, next time you waste paper and “kill a few trees,” as we all are known to joke these days.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
On the Twelve Days of Christmas
the Ocean Sent to Me:
12 Candy Wrappers
Eleven Feet of Rope
Ten Bottle Caps
Nine Bits of Plastic
Eight Yards of Hose
Seven Tampon Applicators
Six Plastic Bottles
Five Children’s Toys
Four Cans of Beer
Three Assorted Sandals
Two Pints of Liquor
and a Light Bulb in a Fir Tree
Let's all make a New Year's Resolution to try a bit harder.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Actually the sun came out today but people in Seattle like to scare off the "foreigners" by complaining about the rain all the time. Somehow rain is easier to endure here than in Chicago. Maybe because we know that rain is the worst Seattle has to dish out while we've already had a couple of significant winter storms in Chicago.
I think I overdid things for the past few weeks and my brain decided to shut down temporarily. I hardly have the energy to read, much less to write in my blog. I don't even feel like downloading any photos.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Vacation arrives. Except for a bit of left over paperwork (unending it seems) I am done with work for the 2007 year! The past week was long and I was weary so I wasn't posting. I also wasn't taking photos or doing anything but recuperating from fatigue, overwork, a head cold and an overly busy social life. I am someone who maybe goes out once a month and had a run two weeks ago of 7 nights out in a row. Two of those nights were my normal work nights but still.
Dancing in the Nutcracker was a fun mix of terrifying and exhilarating. Trying to remember dance steps, to keep a smile plastered on my face, to keep my head up, to not turn my back to the audience, to not miss a musical cue and so on. Three performances in two days for a total of around 36 minutes (estimated) on stage. Then back to work almost before I found the time to wash the mascara and hairspray off.
I sort of put my blogging brain on hold just to get my life back in order. Today I had to clear out my second office because our lease expired on the 31st. I loaded boxes into the back of the car, bought a few holiday gifts and raced back home for school pick up. Now it's laundry, the paperwork, and a whirlwind packing job. Tonight we go to see the Joffrey Ballet perform, what else?, the Nutcracker. I just got the music out of my head! Why would I want to see the Joffrey? Because one of my dearest friends is dancing a child's part in it and we can't miss her. I'll get to see how the pros do "my" scene. I hope I can stay awake. The full Nutcracker is quite long and some of the second act gets a bit slow. In spite of everything I've just said, dance isn't really my "thing". I'd probably enjoy a play more. Still, the Joffrey is quite a spectacle. I wish I could take pictures but that is vehemently not allowed.
Tomorrow if the weather permits, we're off to Seattle. I'll write more and post some pictures.
Happy Holidays to all.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
That's me in the purple dress. My first public stage performance since I was around 10 years old. Mercifully, I manage anxiety now better than I did at that age. I guess getting older has a few beneficial side effects.
From a local performance of the Nutcracker.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Family obligations, work obligations, a bit of time out for fun, not much for blogging or photography. The Nutcracker is in dress rehearsals and I have to learn how to put on make-up. Being a good feminist I never learned how. They want eye shadow, mascara, foundation and lipstick. (This will be a costly investment--women's cosmetics stink). Apparently otherwise the stage lights make you look like a vampire. I have three performances this weekend. I hope I remember my steps and don't make a fool out of myself.
I also have a cold. And the house is still under construction. As is the office.
The good news is vacation starts in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to a lot of good photos then (and the time to process them).
Monday, December 10, 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
Rob commented on my last post and linked me to a poem he wrote about a close encounter of the ursine type. The poem is quite delightful. This poem and my previous post about my childhood camping adventures brought to mind a few bear stories of my own.
If you travel much in the northwestern United States (and southwestern Canada) you probably will encounter a black bear being fed by stupid people in cars. This is an especially common sight in British Columbia and Alberta. Of course you stop too and take a picture or two but this is not a fear-inducing sight. Nonetheless the human fear of bears strikes me as innate and rather visceral, like the fear of sharks and large cats. But tigers don’t roam wild in our neck of the woods and I’ve never met anyone who encountered a mountain lion. I’ve heard the latter are quite dangerous but they tend to stay away from people.
For reasons unknown, Readers Digest likes to run stories of people mauled by bears. As a kid I would always read those stories with a grim, morbid thrill of fear and, dare I say, fascination? Why they publish those stories and I read them only a more skilled psychoanalyst than I will choose to say.
The stories all went like this. Lisa B., a 23 year old secretary for a large automotive company, was minding her own business hiking in the woods through a patch of berry bushes when she heard a strange sound. She rounded the corner and found herself face to face with a large male grizzly bear. The bear chased her down the trail and knocked her to the ground with a single swipe of its large paw. A well educated woods-woman, Lisa knew the best idea was to play dead. Bravely she curled into a ball on the ground while the grizzly gnawed her arm and part of her face. Then the bear mysteriously lost interest and left her there to die. Fortunately, Lisa was found by two hikers who carried her and her left arm to safety. After 43 reconstructive surgeries, Lisa tells the tale with tears in her eyes but is looking forward to her next backpacking trip in the British Columbian Rockies.
Now, I just made up that story but is there a person on this planet that hasn’t read this story or one similar in a magazine? Lately the stories are of the crazy grizzly lover who, along with his girlfriend, was eaten by his favorite animal. Apparently the entire lovely moment was recorded on the fellow’s tape machine. They made a documentary about him. Now, I have no need to see that one. My imagination makes me shudder plenty without the visuals.
So am I afraid of bears due to too many stories or due to some innate, instinctive fear? Or is it just that I hiked enough to know that around every bend there might just be a bear. I don’t fear earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or snakes. I do admit to a phobia of spiders and a fear of large barking dogs. Well, suffice to say that fears can be irrational, but my nightmares are often populated by bears.
My only in person encounter with a bear was in Yosemite. I was a relatively young kid and was playing in a creek near our camp ground. My younger brother was a few feet away. I chanced to look upstream and there was a black bear. It was minding its own business and I decided to do the same. I had to hiss a few times to get my brother’s attention and then we both took off. If you camp much in Yosemite, at least back in those days, having a bear stumble through your campground late at night was probably fairly common but that was the only bear I ever saw. Not too exciting in the retelling. Someday I’ll post about the earthquake I saw in Yosemite (yes, saw).
My next bear story is of the bear we didn’t see. Many years ago my family and I drove through the Chilcotin region of British Columbia. The area is pretty remote. It feels like the U.S. must have felt at the time the first roads and rails were going through. After some days of camping and hiking we headed in to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. By then we had been driving for days on dirt roads. Presumably my father was praying we didn’t run into car trouble.
The road to Tweedsmuir is quite a trip. Here is one BC site’s description:
“The notorious stretch east of Bella Coola, known locally as 'the Hill,' is 27 miles (43 km) of steep, narrow road with sharp hairpin turns and two major switchbacks as the highway descends from the Chilcotin Plateau. Definitely not for drivers who suffer from a fear of heights, the Hill has a 5.6-mile (9-km) stretch of up to 18-percent grade.”
I’m guessing that the latter stretch is the part of the road my father asked us all to get out of the car while he drove, in case he went over the cliff. I’m glad he made it safely past that switchback.
Well, after this grueling drive, we pull into our campground by a river. It is a lovely spot and is well known for its fishing. Unfortunately for us the campground was deserted. There was no one around for miles. Just us, and the large signs posted over every garbage can: BEWARE OF GRIZZLY BEARS. Visions danced through our imaginative little heads. Just us, having a nice little bacon and eggs breakfast over an open fire, 4 little happy grizzly bear magnets waiting to be eaten. To make a long story short, we had braved the roads, the rain, and the mosquitoes (hordes) but that was the last straw. We drove on to the town of Bella Coola (population in 2007 of 909) and stayed in a hotel.
Now that I have beared you to death (sorry), I will finish with a recent bear tale. It too involves no visible bears. This past August I had the pleasure of traveling through Yellowstone and the Tetons. Bear bells were sold in every store. These are bells used to make noise while one hikes, to warn the bears you are coming—kind of like the dinner bell rung at camp. Not too many people wore them on the trails, except for the Asian tourists. All their children wore bear bells. I wasn’t sure how to interpret this non-scientific sociological finding. Did the tourists think they made great souvenirs? Or did they think that the U.S. has a bear on every corner, one with a special taste for Japanese and Chinese children? People I met in France still thought we have Al Capone style gangsters with Tommy guns here in Chicago. So bears in Wyoming make a certain sense. After all to some we still are a frontier backwater here in the U.S.
Thank you for bearing with me. Blogging live from chilly Lake Michigan, S. Kron wishes you a great day.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
I was just reading Backpacker Magazine and when I put down the journal to look at Sunday Scribblings the prompt was one word, “walk.” I had my theme all set out for me.
Lately, I feel walk-deprived. On my solo cross country road trip I hiked a little but had too many miles to drive daily to hike very far. It was just enough to whet my appetite for more.
My family started backpacking when I was a kid. We hiked the Cascade and Olympic Mountains of Washington, the Rockies of Canada and points south, and the Sierra Nevadas of California. I got altitude sickness in Tuolomne Meadows above Yosemite. I found Indian arrowheads and got stuck with porcupine quills in the interior of British Columbia. We were rained on, bitten by mosquitoes, lost our trail due to snow, lost our trail due to clear cutting and forded rivers on foot.
I experienced the charm of towns with names like 100 Mile House (British Columbia), small alpine lakes, freeze dried foods with names like Turkey Tetrazzini, and the incomparable flavor of blueberry pancakes made with berries picked on Mt. Baker (Washington). I’ve seen ice bergs on Berg Lake (Canadian Rockies), a hike that was notable for our running out of water on the trail up. I’ve carried my little brother in a Gerry Pack for miles. I learned how to string a backpack in the trees to keep the bears away and to speak loudly on the trail (also to keep the bears away). I once camped in the dust of an eruption of Mount St. Helens.
The last time I backpacked I was in graduate school. I hiked in Isle Royale National Park. The place and the hike were a treat although I injured my knee walking on the rocky trails. I had to use a stick for support on the hike back out. To me it was a sign that I was already beginning to get older and less resilient. I may have felt older but, looking in a mirror on the way home, I noticed that the stress lines in my face were gone. My one regret was not seeing or hearing the famous wolves of the park. It will just be that much more incentive to return.
Sometimes I wonder where this hiker part of me has gone. Am I too old to carry my belongings on my back? Do I need a softer bed or more elaborate foods? Or is it simply the demands of career and family? I hope the latter because my kids are growing up and I have learned to manage the career demands. So here’s to this summer or the next or the next. You will see me lacing up my boots, shouldering my pack and heading out.
---last month but was too busy writing to respond. Here are the instructions:
Random Meme Rules
1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you. The blog that tagged me is:
From the Shores of Introspect and Retrospect.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. Don't drink anything over the keyboard while reading this meme on other pages.
4. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
5. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
7. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.
OK here goes.
Seven random and/or weird facts about me.
1. I learned to love herbal tea while living in France 20 years ago. My current favorite is Twining's Honey, Vanilla, Chamomile (hard to find in the US).
2. I lived in a vegetarian dormitory while in college.
3. I was in school for approximately 32 years. (No I didn't flunk 5th grade that many times!)
4. I'm wearing this unbelievable purple/mauve/burgundy? dress for my upcoming performance in the Nutcracker (in two weeks)
5. No, I am actually an incompetent dancer. But two left feet are acceptable for this performance.
6. I had stage fright as a kid. I'm not sure if I do anymore. I have given lectures many times in the past years and have learned to deal with the anxiety. I haven't performed in a dramatic sense since I was in middle school (then called Jr. High School).
7. My first name came from a novel. I can't tell you which one because I use a pseudonym on this blog.
Tagging 7 people, hmmm--some of the bloggers I know don't like being tagged.
1. And So Forth--met recently through Sunday Scribbling.
2. Crunchy Bits who also survived NaNoWriMo.
3. JL--because I just "met" him recently and he has interesting Chicago stories and he seems so, not, a meme-guy. I'm afraid of what he will do with this tag but can't resist finding out.
4. Meeyauw--who takes cool bird and cat photos and cares about the environment.
5. Chronicled and Illustrated who I somehow met through NaNo (and now forget how it happened) and whose blog is well worth a visit.
6. The Thing of the Moment--because his response has to be funny. Or he'll just ignore me which might be funny too.
7. A Blue State of Mind--maybe this will get her posting again.
Tagging people makes me uncomfortable so feel free to ignore me if I tagged you or if I didn't. I want to be a good sport and follow suit but. . . . I probably flunked tag in kindergarten too.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Since the suspense is killing her I will answer TIV's question about Robot Blog Harvesters. As best I can determine these are blogs that take words from other sites, add a new header and a fictitious author, link to the original site (therefore it is not theft) and use the completely unoriginal writing to generate ad revenue. You can find out if this is happening to you by looking for sites that link to yours. Most of them are nice people that genuinely like to read what you write. Others are just using your words and in my mind are no better than the Nigerian Scam artists. (And why is such a person considered an artist?)
I have noted this phenomenon once before and posted my gripe on 6/8/07. I tried to complain to Technorati that listed the blog and to Amazon that ran its ads. I don't know if there was a response since my complaint letters were never answered. Otherwise there is really nothing I can do but grin and bear it.
I am spelling out one such site since I do not want to give them credit for the link. I wish I could make them stop using my words but as I said I think I have no recourse that is worth the effort.
http://directab dot cn slash If you substitute the symbols for dot and slash you will find the site that has done this. My stuff was stolen on Saturday the 24th. The site also "blogrolls" other sites that have identical crap on them.
I truly resent my words being misused in this manner! I'm sure you all would feel the same way too if/when it happens to you.
By the way here is another one, same idea, stole words from another post of mine.
http://booksazon dot com slash
Here is another one:
http://bullshitguide dot com slash
You see what I mean. I'd guess if you post very often it has happened to you too.
I promise no more NaNo posts after this. My final word count was 52,729 words, 86 pages. Now all I have to do is write, write, write some more. Then do 6 months of editing or so. Should be a piece of cake.
Hopefully by next week I will have relapsed to my more normal blogging mode complete with memes and Sunday Scribbling. In fact, maybe I'll do tomorrow's scribbling. See you then.
Friday, November 30, 2007
This sign should be hanging up over my house. You may ask, is that due to a construction disaster or am I the dangerous element? I have to admit that I have been kind of crabby this week. The burst of mental energy that got me to the end of NaNo has dissipated. Even at work there have been these episodes of crankiness (not of my initiating) that I can't tell you about due to reasons of confidentiality. The sad thing is at work I have to be professional. I can't yell back at my patients even if they are being abusive.
I guess I'll have to confine myself to taking my bad mood out on my husband and kids. Or better yet, I could kick the cats. Just kidding. I don't want any cat lovers to fire bomb my house.
Speaking of fire bombs, my house still doesn't have a back end. A lot of it is covered in plastic sheeting which flaps comfortingly in the wind. One bit of sheeting has a zipper (really, you can buy plastic sheeting with a zipper in it) so we can access our back door and so the construction folks can traipse through to use our potty. No, I don't want to think too much about that. When I enter the house from the back I always feel like I am entering a tent. Well, at least that brings back fond memories.
Today the temperature plummeted down to 24 degrees (that's Farenheit). Most of the civilized world now uses Celsius which would make it a nice toasty day. Not so in actuality. Having a drafty house is uncool when it is 24 degrees out. Just now I resorted to nailing a sheet over the back zipper door to reduce the heat loss a bit. Where is global warming when you need it?
The weather report is frightful. Like in the song that means, "Let it snow." Words such as: snow, sleet, blustery, ice and freezing rain abound in tomorrow's forecast. They rate the chance of precipitation at 100%! I guess that means tomorrow is sure to stink! If I am going to be in optimist mode (which I find hard on a November day when I can't feel warm in my own house without wearing a jacket and drinking hot tea) I can say that the good news is:
1. I blog more in bad weather.
2. The weather report always gives me something to write about.
3. It is safer to take pictures in bad neighborhoods in bad weather.
4. I can try yet again to get interesting pictures of snow falling (failed last year at getting the correct exposures) and of snowflakes (didn't have a macro lens this time last year).
Or I can just comfort myself that half my readers live in worse places. All you Canadians, Michiganders(?), Vermonters and so on know who you are. Unlike some of you hardy souls, I haven't had to use my snow shovel yet.
Well, time to get out my bunny slippers and watch the latest episode of House. He's my kind of doctor. Maybe watching him abuse his patients will be cathartic.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
No, 60 Minutes has not shown up at my front door. But this truck driver sure was having a bad day. It is not the greatest of pictures as it was taken through my car window but illustrates a common woe of truckers in my neighborhood. Abandon hope all ye large vehicles that enter here. Unfortunately for Mr. Sealy Mattresses, someone didn't read the little sign that said 11 FT-10 IN. Probably his truck is 11 FT-11 IN. OOPS. This happens all too often. I've actually seen a truck with its top peeled off kind of like the way you open a sardine can. I've also seen a truck sort of folded in a Vee shape down the middle. As the song says, "When will they ever learn?"
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I finished. The official count is 50218. It feels good if a bit anticlimactic. Where are the big party, the champagne, the zillions of adoring fans? Nonetheless I did something I didn't think I could do.
So what next, I ask myself? Well tomorrow is a work day as always. I go back to blogging, reading bedtime stories to my son, making dinner, taking photographs and playing with art supplies. I go back to reading other people's blogs and envying their talent or wishing I lived where they lived (as winter sets in for real here and the sleet is falling). I go back to planning my next vacation and dreaming about summer break.
Some things are still different. I have written a novel. That is amazing! And I have plans for it. I'll finish the month of November by rereading and filling in a few gaps. I'm still working on adding detail and dialog (I'm really bad at dialog). I'll keep on with my reading of YA books. I'll take a break at the beginning of December. Focus on the myriad other parts of my life and let my novel percolate in my unconscious brain.
I'll start my revision process over my winter break. I'll have time and leisure to focus on plotting, grammar, character and style. I'll be able to revisit the locations I used in my story and add detail to my account. I'll use my camera to document details that my non-visual brain will forget after I return to Chicago. Of course, I'll also eat good food, sleep late, play board games with the family, go for long walks in the drizzle and surf the internet.
If I ever get to where I'm comfortable with what I have written I'll work on getting some feedback and taking it to the next level. But I'll save that part of the process for another day.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Sorry for the title. I've been reading and writing too much young adult literature of late. I missed a day of writing and more than a day of blogging due to the demands of cooking and feeding 10 people on Thanksgiving. I lost a little momentum on my NaNo novel over the holiday but I seem to be back on track.
Today, I had the inspiration to have my character read a banned book and I happened to have just the right banned book in my library. (I bought it during Banned Book Week from my local independent bookseller). Last week I attended a local NaNo event and got a little feedback on my work-in-progress from a professional. Her take was that I needed to add more dialog and descriptive detail. She also recommended a couple of books that might help me with catching the adolescent "voice." (Don't forget I live with an adolescent voice.). So I dutifully went out and bought one of the books she recommended, dredged up a copy of Catcher in the Rye from my bookshelves--I never read it since I tried to read it and didn't like it as a teen myself--and bought a couple of modern YA books with catchy titles or themes.
Among my recent thematic readings are:
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
Ice Drift by Theodore Taylor (not YA but an adventure book for middle schoolers about kids surviving alone in the arctic).
Here is my favorite line from Hard Love: "I flopped on the couch, attempting to render myself invisible by passing for a normal teenage boy."
I don't really have time to review these books and others I've read this month. I really need to focus on surviving NaNo now that it is down to the finish line. To get back to the banned books theme, the book I am working into my story is the perks of being a wallflower--omitting capitals seems to be de rigeur in titles of teen books. So far it is interesting. It is pretty obvious why someone might want to ban it. In the first 42 pages there are references to drugs, alcohol, homosexuality and other naughty stuff. In other words, exactly what all the teens in my family and office are talking about. No magic yet which triggered Harry Potter haters to try to ban it.
I also found an interesting blog about banned books. It is recommended reading as is the American Library Association information about Banned Books Week. Happy reading!
The count for the day, so far, is:
77 single spaced pages.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
This is the back of my house. Note that it has a big hole in it. The prior photo was supposed to show you the back yard and the sorry state of the coach house I have my office in as it was losing its roof.
I'm just setting the record straight.
44438 words, 73 pages.
Work calls. Cheers.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
The prompt for today is “I carry.” I haven’t been keeping up with my usual photo memes and writing sites because a commitment to writing 2000 words a day on a novel seemed to be enough for me but I find I am missing the community, readers and commenters (hint, hint). In other words, I am feeling lonely and neglected. I guess this is a normal woe for aspiring writers.
Whining and humor aside, lately I feel like I am carrying a lot of stories inside of me. Writing intensively has made me more aware of myself as a repository of stories. Yesterday I dredged up a childhood story while looking for something I could use in my novel. (The words “my novel” made me do a double take just now. I feel like an impostor!) The story itself seems to have no application to what I am writing but it is worth the telling, I think. So here is the story I carry today:
Back when I was around 10 years old I lived in the
One of my favorite things to do was to explore the woods near my house. They were located in a deep ravine with a small stream at the bottom. I would play in a half finished tree house I found, climb in the ruins of an abandoned power plant and lose myself in the miniature wilderness I had there. Even then I knew that safety was relative. The old power plant had some deep pits in it and I knew that if I fell it might be a long time before anyone would find me.
One day I was in the woods with a slightly younger friend, Jessica. I was the leader and she the willing or unwilling follower. We were running around the woods and encountered a man. He seemed young to me even then so I’m guessing he was a young adult. It was odd to see anyone else in the woods and we were scared out of our wits when we saw he had a knife. In my memory, I believed that he was showing us the knife to tease us but it wasn’t an assumption I was willing to test.
I have plenty of pointless anxiety but I don’t get incapacitated by fear. This has served me well as a parent and as a doctor. So I knew what to do when confronted by a man with a knife. I grabbed my friend and we ran. I found us a hole under a fallen log and we crawled in and hid. My friend was more scared than I was and I had to work to keep her still and quiet. I seem to remember thinking that we could hear the man looking for us so we stayed under our log for a long time until all was clear. Then we ran home.
With the wisdom of a child, I swore my friend to secrecy and never told my mother either. I knew the woods would be forbidden to me if anyone knew what had happened. Fortunately the luck of children held and we never encountered anyone in the woods again.
Now I wonder about the truth of my childhood perception. I know there was a man but did he have a knife? I had no doubts then but now I wonder.
We all carry such stories in us, true or untrue. They stitch us together in a narrative fabric that makes us who were are. Just writing this prompts my memory of a wonderful literary example of this: Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried.
Friday, November 16, 2007
This character makes a brief appearance in my novel.
I saw a checklist of how to evaluate a character in a children's book in The Writer magazine and I decided to answer it in order to see how well I was doing in making a believable person out of mere words and imagination. The checklist reminds me of one of those personal interviews they do in magazines: "What is your favorite comfort food?", "What are you reading right now?" and so forth. A year ago I posted my own version of my answers to a celebrity interview which you can read here.
I decided to print some of the question and answer about my character, Joseph. I will post this in two parts because there are 19 questions and it will run too long. Here goes:
1. What best describes the character's most outstanding physical feature?
He is small for his age and looks mixed race. I wonder if he should describe what he sees in the mirror while cutting his hair. He has dark eyes, medium dark skin, straight thick hair which is slightly wavy and which he thinks makes him look girlish when too long.
2. Does the character like himself? He's never bothered to give this any thought (although his therapists have asked him questions about his self esteem).
3. What is his immediate goal? What is his long-term goal?
To live in the woods and "get out of the system."
He won't figure out more about what he wants to do when he grows up until the end of the story.
4. What is the best thing that has happened to him so far? Getting a cat and making a couple of friends.
What is the worst? Near drowning and getting sick.
5. How is the character seen by himself? By others? I've described this in an entry in the novel so I won't go into it here. In short, he sees himself as tough, wary, slow to trust. He doesn't let people get too close to him.
6. Who has influenced the character the most? How? The character is notable for not having strong adult influences on his life. This is part of what has shaped him. There was a couple he nicknamed the "Gnomes" that were candidates but faded out of his life too soon.
7. What are the character's strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: brave, smart, resourceful
Weaknesses: emotionally disconnected from others
I'll stop here for now. The good news is I had answers for all the questions already in my mind which gives me hope my character will be believable. The other good news is I got a few ideas from filling out this checklist. I had already decided I needed to flesh out the character's personality a little bit. Thanks to the author of the article, Jane Choate, for some good pointers.
By the way, I'm at 33114 words and 55 pages.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Here's another picture of the Washington beaches where my novel is set.
Wow, between working full time and writing a novel in a month, I can't imagine where all the time has gone to. I haven't been keeping up with blogging, my photo blog or much of anything else. I miss the regular blog routine but I'll be back soon. Only 15 more days.
My house currently does not have a back end unless you count some plastic sheeting as a back end! My office doesn't have a roof either. So it feels like total chaos here. We are also going to "do" Thanksgiving at my house. So I'm nuts. Whatever.
I'm more or less on target for NaNo. I've not quite met my most ambitious goal of 2000 words per day although at 29325 words (48 pages) I'm not too far off. Even so I'm ahead of the average required to make the finish line on the 30th and have no intention of quitting. I may not be able to run marathons but I can write them I guess.
My latest research was about the medicinal uses of wild plants. Did you know that nettle tea can be used for diarrhea? You had better wear gloves while harvesting the leaves though.
Well, I have to go. Work calls.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
The research question for the day is:
What do plantain taste like? They're another edible weed. Very common here in Chicago and probably just about everywhere else. And how do you prepare them?
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Here are my NaNo stats--21960--36 pages. I found some information about word counts on a NaNo forum and 50k words might just do for a YA and younger novel, which is what I'm doing. That is encouraging.
I want to make the halfway point soon. I'd like to have just a little more protective padding on my word count in case I get stuck or too busy to write.
Today's research for my novel included how to make salmon jerky. It is amazing what one may learn in the interest of literature.
Friday, November 09, 2007
A couple of days ago I told my kids about my month long career as a novelist. My younger son who is 10 years old was especially enthusiastic. I read the first few pages aloud to him before bed one night. It was a good exercise for me to hear my work read aloud and get a sense of the cadence of the language and it was fun to share with him.
Next thing I know Mr. Enthusiasm has decided that he wants to share the story with his entire English class. He has always been especially fond of show and tell and seems to ask to bring something in to school fairly often even though formal show and tell probably ended in First Grade. I sort of choked at the idea of having him bring in what is still very much a work in progress.
On the other hand I felt I would be very much a wimp if I asked him to keep this a secret so I grudgingly told him that he could bring in a bit "later." Suffice to say, he wore me down. Last night I printed the first 10 pages for him, probably secretly hoping that he would forget he had it or that his teacher wouldn't want to do anything with it. Well, today was my first public reading as a fledgling author. Apparently the first page was read aloud in class and they are planning to read one page a day henceforward.
I wonder what kind of critics a class of 5th graders and an English teacher will make. Will they share my son's enthusiasm? I'm kind of squirming with discomfort at the thought, but if I ever plan to submit anything for publication, I know I need to get over this.
His eagerness to show my work gave me pause for a moment. Independent of my discomfort at coming out of the closet, as it were, I realized what a wonderful thing it is to have my son that proud of me. It makes me sad to admit that this interaction could never have occurred between my mother and myself. The closest I remember our ever getting to this show and tell experience is when she took an essay I had written in high school and that I was especially proud of and gave it to a friend of hers to plagiarize for her college history essay. This was done without my knowledge or consent. I was not in the least bit pleased or flattered.
For now it is ever onward. I'm at 19170 words (32 pages)! I'm still on track and have an entire weekend before me.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
There is more to talk about but not much time tonight. My total NaNo word count is 16746 (28 type-written pages). I tried to calculate what that would be in pages in a standard paperback sized book but my mind drew a blank when I tried to do the math. I'm still on target at over 2000 words per day. So far so good.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
I'm researching edible plants for my NaNo story and one that I found was a common weed called sorrel. There are a number of different kinds of sorrel that have been used in salads, and as a green vegetable. They are high in vitamin A and C according to my sources.
I first discovered sorrel when I was a kid growing up in Seattle. Another kid introduced me to this weed she called "sour leaves." The leaves were easy to identify. All you did was pick them and eat them raw. The leaves taste sort of lemony and I really like them. I haven't seen them around Chicago but a couple of years ago I was hiking and there they were. I couldn't resist eating one and introducing them to my kids (with dire warnings about asking me before they ate any wild plants). Of course, as a kid, I didn't worry about minor details like whether they leaves were clean or if there were poisonous look alikes.
I'm keeping on track with my NaNo goals. I have 15,302 words so far. Yesterday I left for work around 10:30 AM and didn't get home until 11 PM but I made my 2000 word goal anyway. I consider that a minor miracle.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Nano Day 4 is going well. 10,271 words. I beat the 10K mark! I'm going to need it since it's back to work and real life tomorrow. Doubt I can keep up the pace on work days.
The teaser is: my character is trying to figure out if these are good to eat and how to catch one. What do you think?
Here is a link to my NaNo profile.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Here is where I am setting my NaNo novel. If I have to spend a lot of time in my imagination I might as well pick a place I love. I'm fudging a little bit of the geography--a bit of novelistic license--to make the plot function more smoothly.
I'm currently at word 8127 and counting. Not too bad for a lazy bum like me. I think I owe some of my productivity to all the blogging.