Monday, December 29, 2014

Pushing Through the Yuck

After I finished typing the title, I realized that there were several possible meanings. To "Yuck." Several of which apply in this case.

Meaning one could be "The Yuck" of cold that I was unable to escape. I successfully held it off for several weeks, but it made an attack which overwhelmed me three weeks ago and, for the first week, I was lying low. I was sleeping nine to ten hours a night, was cancelling everything except work, which included interpreting a play, so that I could stay home and rest. Get over The Yuck. It took a long time, nearly three weeks. I'm now at 90 - 95% over it and ready for it to be done. That Yuck impacted my writing because it took everything I had to get to work, prepare to interpret and interpret the play, and get myself to those places. Week one was only those activities; week two was a couple of other meetings; and the third week was my normal schedule, although I was exhausted at the end of the day.

Meaning two, I don't like what I'm writing. That is only partially true, fortunately. There are a couple of the pieces in the short story collection that I'm not happy with. I liked them previously, but right now they are on my Yuck list.

Meaning two, and what I originally intended when I wrote it, was the "this writing project is Yuck." Stuck and hopeless and overwhelming and it can't be saved. It's sad when I hit the wall with both currently active projects. But I did. Wondering where to go with them? Are they any good (oh, what dangerous words those are)? Should I just scrap them and start over? Do they make any sense? What's the point (more dangerous words)? And more.

One way I'm addressing The Yuck right now is by knitting. I know, it's not writing. But it is keeping my hands busy, it's creative (I'm knitting a sweater - the first in a long time; I've been knitting hats off and on but wanted a bigger challenge), and it keeps that fussy part of my brain occupied. It's funny that while I'm knitting, I've been thinking about those stories and the novel. I've worked out a couple of things in my head - though I haven't transferred them to the page, yet. I will. But I think that my chattering and figure-it-out brain has been satisfied with the knitting and my writing-brain has a bit of space to move.

We'll see how it goes. But once I get through the expectations and scrambled schedule of the holidays and another major project I'm consulting on gets a little more under way, I expect writing will return more regularly. I'm looking forward to that return.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Write or Die 2

I've been lagging on my posts. Some of what I would write about has ended up on Facebook, in short bites, quick spurts. Some of it hasn't happened.

Some of it got lost in the 10 days of sickness. Only a few of those were significant successfully keeping the creepy crud cold out of my lungs, though it was close one day. Mostly really low energy, stuffiness, feeling blah and a bit achy. And interpreting a play with that going on. Wah wah, I know. But I rarely get the colds which stroll around neighborhoods and cities looking for victims. And if I do get caught by them, I'm usually completely recovered in 24 - 36 hours. But this one got me.

That was how I missed a week of writing here. I'm trying to keep at least a weekly post and am working back up to something more frequent. But last week a few things slipped through my awareness because I couldn't keep on track of everything I had to do; I was too busy resting and sleeping and trying to get over it. Which I am now - though there are a few lingering remnants.

But "Write or Die" has nothing to do with being sick. Except being sick which is what led me on an internet search to find a topic and I came across the updated Write or Die (2) website. I don't know how long "2" has been out, but it looks good.

I first discovered Write or Die in its earlier days, during NaNoWriMo. It was a fun online place to keep words flowing because in the kamikaze mode, the program starts eating what you've written.

Now Write or Die 2 also has positive rewards and the option to set up a positive atmosphere conducive to writing - as well as the traditional color-changing, alarm-sounding options which let you know when you're not being productive, though there are more options within that.

I am entering a period where I will have more time for writing - which I am looking forward to. I might try some of the new aspects of Write or Die 2.

I also appreciate that the original web version (free) and the earlier desktop version ($10) are still available (scroll down to the bottom of the page to find those links). The new version is available to purchase ($20) and you can use it online (free) by clicking on the "Try It" button. It's a fun way to keep your fingers moving.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Being Present in The Room

an excerpt from

The Talent of the Room
written by Michael Ventura

Originally published in LA Weekly, 21-27 May 1993

"The room, you see, is a dangerous place. Not in itself, but because you’re dangerous. The psyche is dangerous. Because working with words is not like working with color or sound or stone or movement. Color and sound and stone and movement are all around us, they are natural elements, they’ve always been in the universe, and those who work with them are servants of these timeless materials. But words are pure creations of the human psyche. Every single word is full of secrets, full of associations. Every word leads to another and another and another, down and down, through passages of dark and light. Every single word leads, in this way, to the same destination: your soul. Which is, in part, the soul of everyone. Every word has the capacity to start that journey. And once you’re on it, there is no knowing what will happen."

You can read the rest of the piece over on Kelley Eskridge's site.

Thank you to Lori L. Lake for bringing this article to my attention at the Women's Writing Retreat in Rockaway Beach in October.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Announcing: Seven Consecutive NaNoWriMo Wins!

Yes, I did.

At 11:56 pm I validated that I have written over 50k words. I had hoped to reach the goal before Thanksgiving. And I did. Barely. But I did.

It has been challenging and fun. For a while I thought I wouldn't make it. But I did.

Now back to working on the story! I reached 50k, but as I suspected, the plot is not complete. There are words to go to actually finish the novel and I will keep on writing to the end. Then return to the other novel while this one rests.

Woo hoo!!

And my winner t-shirt arrived today. How perfect was that timing?!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The End is Within Sight

One thing I am grateful for is my Tuesday writing partner. We have missed a few weeks here and there, or one of us has, sometimes both - but we have kept it up for a while.

I'm sitting across the table from her now at the cafe. We have our laptops open and we've checked in. Now we're writing. Both of us working on our NaNoProjects, one a Pantser and one a Rebel.

detail of silk painting by Dot.
I am closing in on 50k. My total word count as of the end of Monday, is at 44,099. Which means I am 5901 from the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel between November 1st and November 30th. Which will give me my seventh consecutive win.

Will this story be done at 50k? No, not unless I pull out the stops and toss in some deus ex machina. I would rather keep writing and see where the story ends, which is my plan. This is a decent novel plot and I like some of my character development. It will obviously need major overhaul and clean up. I am the Pantser. This year I am the Pantser with a string leading to a plot (I still don't know who
dunnit) and a setting.

Each year I try a different approach. Last year I had a nice cast of characters going into NaNovember. This year I didn't have any characters, except a stage manager (unnamed until I started writing) and a director friend (also unnamed until he showed up on the page) and the title character, the dramaturg, which didn't show up until somewhere around 35k.

Okay. Now back to writing the NaNoNovel. I'm not sure when I will hit 50k, but I hope to do it by the end of the day on Thursday. The weekend is very busy and I'd like to have the target met so I can not stress about that with all of the other activity, and just write the story to the end.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another Character?! Now?!

I will begin with my word count update, as of 10:30 am today: 36,834. The target by midnight tonight is 36.667, which means, all additional words written today are extra, are the padding which will help me complete this novel before the extra busy final days of NaNoWriMo.

Today I am writing in Salem. My partner is teaching an art workshop at the Art Department, Inc. and
I offered to be the chauffeur. Which also leaves me voluntarily stuck in Salem for six hours while she does her Wabi Sabi art magic, wandering the cyber-friendly cafes, writing. Yes, I planned it that way. The majority of this week has been focused on my writing, and today is no exception.

I'm starting off my writing day at The Beanery. So far, so good, as I have already written nearly 1,000 words. I'm not sure where I'll go from here, but there are several options, since I have my car parked in an all day free parking spot.

The new character I referenced in the title actually appeared a couple of days ago, for a few moments. No one important, just the new roommate of my MC's best friend. But now that she has flown out to Minneapolis - her best friend passed out for an unknown reason at a closing night party - and met the roommate, more has been revealed. The roommate is more than just that - I know, big surprise, right? Hah. The surprise is that the roommate-now-fiance has turned out to be the dramaturg! Yay. I was beginning to wonder how the dramaturg would ever fit into this story. It has taken him a long time to reveal himself and that's okay. Now he has a lot of importance to live up to, including show me why he has top billing in the title.

The story is progressing well. I have been finally able to re-immerse myself in this plot and I feel a flow. I'm going back to it now, because the creative river is most likely becoming rocky and shallow for a bit after today.

Thank you, dramaturg, for showing up. Thank you muse and creativity for carrying me along. Thank you to the powers that be for the story and the words and the ability to put them down into a relatively cohesive rough draft.

Enough! Back to it.

No dead bodies. No body parts. But there has been a fainting which may have been caused by a malcontent with revenge or cover-up on his/her mind.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Time Out to Write

This is the final night of my annual NaNoWriMo writing retreat. And I am so glad I started this tradition.

On Tuesday I arrived here with 21,668 words written. That was my ending word count at midnight on Monday, November 17th, I should have been at 28,334 if I'd been keeping up on the daily average word count. I had an appointment and a meeting on Tuesday before I headed over, which meant I started this retreat with a 6,666 word deficit. And remember that each day the goal is to write another 1.667 words in order to finish 50,000 words in 30 days.

The ending word count goal for today is 33,334. I just surpassed that number. Woo!

Tuesday I wrote 2,031 words. Yesterday I wrote 4,552 words.Today my ending word count is 33.627.

I made it! I am back on track. I hope to get in some extra writing in the next two days, because I have a few long days ahead when getting in the daily average will be tough. But I am confident I will pass the 50k mark on time. Yes, I will.

NaNoWriMo Update from the Writing Retreat

It was an interesting day. I was woken up early by several dogs singing nearby. I do mean singing. There was one dog with a very melodic voice. And several other dogs barking in reply. But it sounded like a singing dog with a backup bark chorus.

My muse then took that opportunity to appear with another piece of the novel. Either that or it was the whales playing straight out from where I'm staying calling me to watch them. As I started writing I looked out the windows and saw a spout. Then another spout, a few more. I saw them arch in the water as the waves hit the Twin Rocks and sprayed. When they quieted my attention turned back to the computer and I typed. And typed.

Until I hit the energy wall and had to go back to sleep. I'd only had about four and a half hours at that time. So I went back to bed and didn't get up again until about 12:30. The tide was heading back out, so I made brunch, ate, changed out of my pajamas into beach walking clothes.

I walked on the beach for an hour. I watched a seagull struggle with a live crab for a while, while a companion seagull kept potential seagull thieves away. It took a while, but the seagull won the war. The crab appeared to get in several good jabs and the seagull probably has scars. But the seagull won the battle. The tide came up and tried to steal the carcass away, but the bird grabbed it and dragged the heavy, now water laden body up onto the sand, not being able to get much height in its flight, but enough to save its meal.

I've been writing off and on throughout the rest of the day. Taking meal breaks, stretching breaks, and other bodily function breaks.

I did manage to get in a lot of words today. The story is making progress, though it's not surprising some of what is happening in the story. I still don't quite know exactly what the big mystery is, but it is getting closer. I have some significant hints, but a bunch of details are missing. Even the characters are wondering and they are doing their research to see who else is involved and why.

Today I wrote 4,552 words. I decreased my deficit in half, from 7000 words to 3,400.  My current word count is 28,251.

It also started raining tonight, after it got dark. They are predicting a lot of rain tomorrow, so I probably won't go for a long walk, giving me more time to write.

My goal for tomorrow is to be 100% caught up. And if luck and my muse are on my side, hopefully I will again be ahead in my word count. The words are coming a little slower than I'd like, but they came. And I am happy with what I wrote today.

One more full day of writing (Thursday), some writing time at home on Friday, and several hours of writing on Saturday.

I've got this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Retreat: Rest, Recovery, wRiting

Quick NaNoWriMo update: My current word count is 23,699. By midnight on Tuesday, November 18th, I should have written 30,000 words to be on target. So I am only 6, 301 words behind the daily average goal.

Oh well.

I am here at the coast, in the upper level of a two story house. I have picture windows on nearly three-quarters of the walls, which give me a clear view to Twin Rocks, the beach grass, and patches of the beach itself. If it's sunny I have a front row seat and a short block walk to easy (and flat, for which my knee is grateful) beach access. For when the weather turns, which is expected on Thursday, I have a front row seat to the white caps and blowing wave crests, the wind blowing sand and the pounding rain. No matter the weather, this is perfect.

I have internet access and cable TV, a dvd player. I brought healthy food and tasty snacks, tea and coffee, wine and chocolate. I don't have to leave the house except for walks.

I will write. I have written since I've been here. A little over two thousand words tonight. My goal will be to get caught up and a bit ahead. After I return home on Friday I have a writers meeting that night, and more time to write. And on Saturday I will play chauffeur and then, while she teaches an art workshop, I will cafe and coffee shop hop and write.

I will reach 50k and beyond.

I will get into a flow soon. After some sleep. Tuesday was a long and intense day, all done on not quite enough sleep.

Right now I am going to try to get out a few more words and then go to bed. Tomorrow will be a new writing day and tomorrow I can sleep until I'm ready to wake up. No alarms. No appointments. Just me and my laptop and the ocean and a novel to continue writing.

I can do this.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Still Writing; Retreat in One Day

My NaNoWriMo word count is 21,498. That is still about 5k behind schedule. One more day of work (tomorrow) and a couple of appointments Tuesday morning - then I will be off work until next Sunday. Three nights at my coast writing retreat; another day will have several hours for an extended writing session.

So I'm not worried. Not at the moment, anyway. I will get caught up and get this story done. 

No dead bodies. No body parts. 

But the Minnesota director just seemed to pass out and that mysterious dusty small limo was seen leaving the theater. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

NaNoWriUh-Oh update

Oh boy. I missed a day of writing on Wednesday. Then interpreted a play on Thursday and had final preparation to do - on top of the non-SnoPocalypse which became a mild IcePocalypse. But my word count was very low on Thursday, too.

I just checked the stats and I think this is the farthest behind I have been in any NaNoWriMo to date. Yikes!

As of right now, just a little past midnight on November 14th, I am only at 17,484. I was just a little under 17k as of midnight, which means I was "only" about 4700 words behind. Yikes and yikes. And wow.

Tomorrow is a full and long work day. Tomorrow-now-today. I am contemplating whether to stay up and write more now, or get to bed and then get up earlier and write. There is no right or wrong answer to that question. For me, usually, staying up later works better. But I interpreted a play tonight and I'm tired - so sleep may be the better option.

I know I won't write enough on Friday to get caught up. But I will aim to close the gap a bit on Saturday. Saturday is the halfway mark and the goal is to have 25,000 words written by the end of the day. I don't know if I will make that, but I will give it my best shot.

And I do have the writing retreat next week. I will get caught up. I will finish. And now that this play is done, hopefully, I can get more back into the story I'm writing. The play was good, my team interpreter and I had a good time and I felt prepared, and we had a great turnout. But that story took a lot of focus and preparation and brain space. Now I need that space back for my novel writing!

I am not giving up. I am trying to let go of being 2 1/2 days worth of words behind; the frustration of that will only slow me down.

In the story - the beginnings of an inciting incident are there. It doesn't make sense to me yet - it doesn't seem "big enough" to warrant what is happening, but I anticipate more will be revealed. My MC has been ordered to go "walk it off" during which it seems that she is probably going to contact the friend in Minnesota.

No dead bodies, still. No body parts. Only two conflicting Masters degree transcripts and the threat of losing her job because her qualifications seem to have been faked. Or altered.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NaNo(Slug)Mo - Oh, It's Week Two

Right up front: my current word count (through November 11th) is 15,779.

Which puts me at 2,555 words behind where I would be if I kept up with the daily average of 1,667.

Which is why I started off with a big push at the first midnight write-in and on November 1st. I knew things would get a little busy. I didn't know how busy my schedule would become, with unexpected (but not unwelcome) opportunities, and much "figuring out" to do.

Which is also why I have the writing retreat planned for next week. Just me and my laptop, and everything I need for the time I'm there so the only reason I have to leave is to walk on the beach or soak in the hot tub on the lower deck. Otherwise, it's writing, sleeping, eating + writing, drinking wine + writing, sleeping, eating, writing. You know.

So what. I'm a bit behind.

The story is still progressing. I have quite a full cast of characters and many directions are possible. The big kaboom is about to happen. My MC has a folder in her hand containing documents of .... I don't know yet. They're important but I had to get to work, so I don't know what the folder contains. Other than a civil rights action photograph from an old newspaper.

No dead bodies.

No body parts!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

NaNoWriMo Snapshot Day 8

No, literally. A snapshot of my word count! I hope to write more later today, but in case I don't, here is what I have: 12901 words. 

It has been a very busy few days and word count has slowed. Work and theater and a lot of hours related to theater. It's all good and I'm not complaining - only commenting that writing time has been catch as I can recently. 

The story is still progressing. My MC, the stage manager, has just arrived to work and platters of cookies made by the volunteers. ‎She is about to walk into the AD's office and I have to foreboding that the inciting incident is just ahead. Which makes this the perfect spot to pause and return to the theater for my rehearsal/their opening night. 

In the plot:
No dead bodies. 
No body parts. 
A great lineup of characters with some clashing agendas and at least one has a bit of malice in mind. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

NaNoWriMo Report for Day 5

The words came slowly yesterday. In spurts around other things I had to do. But they did show up. My end of day total word count was 11,245. I am maintaining my word cushion, which is good, since there are some days ahead when writing time will be scarce to none.

My main character had an encounter with another neighbor. Not an alien. Not a serial murderer. She was a little odd and hinted at cracks in time. The main character has written that off to the neighbor's eccentricities and too much time on her hands. Right now my main character is getting ready for work and looking forward to it. The story returns to the theater and that is good!

This is the point in NaNoWriMo when it usually gets a little harder. At the end of week one, beginning of week two. The momentum of the first week, the thrill of a new story, the excitement about what will happen slows. I start wondering where this story is going and how will it get there. I'm along for the ride but the road is less clear. I am confident I will reach 50,000 words in time, but I also need something to happen. The excitement of doing NaNoWriMo is present  - and now the story itself needs a bit of excitement. The foreshadowing or hints of an inciting incident are great, and it is time for the incident.

In the meantime, I'll keep writing. And waiting. It will happen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

NaNoWriMo Report Day 4 : Author or Alien?

My ending word count for day 4 of "Cue the Damaturg" is 9.497! Thanks to my Tuesday writing buddy, I was there - not quite at the appointed time as I was running a little slow this morning - but I was there. And she was there. And we wrote. Both of us working on our NaNoWriMo projects.

She is a NaNoRebel and, well, she is writing and aiming for the same goals, just a different project. But still writing new content every day and aiming for 50k.

She wrote. I wrote. I got into a flow and another character appeared on Lisa June's walk. At first it seemed that this character was going to turn out to be an alien. With what had happened a few pages before, it was possible and things were leaning that way. I was screaming "no, no, no aliens" in my head but I just kept typing. I made a commitment to follow my characters anywhere and so I kept typing.

And hoping that this wasn't an alien.

As the two characters talked, this odd man became a little less odd. And my Main Character became less afraid and was talking to him more. Then he explained what he meant by "lost" and that the person he was chasing was his main character, that he was, in fact, an author!

I giggled as I typed. I was hoping for an author to show up. Because I am hoping to get in some work on the novel I'm editing, and if there is an author in this book, then those words can be a part of this authors book and part of the Cue the Dramaturg story! My author showed up today and I found it funny that he might be an alien. I like it when I chuckle at my own writing.

Still no body parts and no dead bodies. There is nothing wrong with mysteries and dead bodies in stories - I'd just like to try writing a different type of novel this year. As evidenced by being willing to accept an alien in my story, I will take dead bodies if they appear and it will turn into a mystery if it must. But I will be really smiling if things progress as they are and I have a full first draft that is not a mystery.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NaNoWriMo Report Day 3 : It Had to Happen Sooner or Later

I may as well get the low word count days done at the beginning, right? No, not right, but that's what happened yesterday. My word count at the end of the day was 6,675. That leaves me a little bit ahead of where I should be right now (5,000 words), but my flex zone is shrinking.

Losing track of time, traffic, other excuses and reasons. My Monday word count was low but I'm not beating myself up about it.

I did get to the pool and got in my laps. Which is great and my body will thank me. But it left me with less time than I'd hoped and then I forgot something and had to go by home, at which point I gave up the getting in my word count before work plan.

Letting it go. And moving ahead. Back to writing the novel and seeing what happens on Lisa June's walk. Especially given what happened before she headed out. I will aim for at least 1667 words as Lisa June aims to increase her pace.


Monday, November 3, 2014

NaNoWriMo Update Day 2: New Charaters, Foreshadowing

photo: Christopher Allen, Old Light Board: Masonic Temple Theatre

Let me start with my updated word count, because ... I closed out day two with 6,273 words. That is really good.

And I like the story so far.

And, no, I still don't really know what it's all about. But I have met a couple of interesting new characters. There was also another piece of information planted which may grow into a tree. And I ended my writing session with a bit of intrigue.

That is the strategy I am trying to use this year to keep me coming back to the page and to keep the story (maybe) more cohesive than some NaNoFirstDrafts. Leave *myself* hanging. End the day's writing session with something to come back to. If I can't do that in the writing session, at least try to have something interesting, exciting, or a big twist by the end of the day.

That happened today. The two new characters both work in a theater in Minneapolis. (No influence from having recently spent a week with three fabulous writers from Minnesota - no, not at all! And thank you to Jessie, MB, and Judy.) The planted seeds happened at the theater on closing night of the production.

The "ooh, what's going to happen next? What's it all about Alfie?" moment at the close of my writing session was a dusty stretch limo pulling away from the curb. This happened as the lighting and sound operators were sneaking out the back door of the theater to avoid the lobby crowd after the show.

A fun writing day and good momentum on the story.

Oh. And no dead bodies. No body parts.

photo: Insomnia Cured Here, Dusty limo

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo Report Day 1

At the end of the first day of NaNoWriMo my word count is 4,214. That is a good amount to get this novel on the way towards 50,000. That also includes a little trip to Salem with my partner, for her meeting with the owner of The Art Department Inc., where she'll be teaching an art workshop in three weeks: I had put my laptop in the car, in case I was able to get in some novel writing while she was in her meeting, but that didn't work out. Which was okay.

I also had to do my laundry today. In previous years, I've made sure everything is clean before the NaNoKickOff, but I didn't get to it this year. It didn't turn out to be a big deal, because I can write while my clothes spin. And I did.

Two more characters have joined the cast - the stage lighting operator and the sound operator for my MC's graduate school friend. It seems there were a couple of big deal producers at the closing night of the play who have some extra money to throw around. The director is hoping for a little of it to come his way.

So far, no dead bodies and no body parts. This is good. This year I'm hoping I might write a novel, not a mystery. If it turns into a mystery, that's fine. Really, it is. But I thought it would be fun to try, again, for a more mainstream story. Try for a different type of plot and story progress which doesn't involved dead people.

Besides, I have the mystery novel I'm already editing. One other year I set the intention of not writing a mystery and it turned into one. I've read a couple of outstanding novels recently which weren't mysteries, so I'm hoping those will rub off a bit. I have nothing against mysteries, I love them and read a lot of them. I'd just like to try something else for a change, but I will still follow where the characters want to go.

So far we're in theaterville, two of them. One the world of my MC stage manager, the other of her old friend who is a director, and his lighting and sound leads.

For now, it's good night. I want to catch some sleep so that I can swim and write before I go to work tomorrow. Because once I'm at work, I doubt I'll get any words built on the novel; unless something exciting happens and I can write in five to ten minute spurts!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Annual Strengthen Your Writing Practice Event is Under Way

After the countdown to midnight the event commenced with a hearty "go!"

About forty-five NaNoWriters gathered at PDX (Portland International Airport) in the food court to start another year of NaNoWriMo. Some of us were from NaNoPortland and some were from NaNoVancouver (WA). Here in the Pacific Northwest we are not the last group to get started - but almost. Hawaii and her time zone neighbors still had another hour to wait after we were well under way.

The goal of the midnight NaNoWrite-In is to get your first day's word count in before you go to bed. For some of us, the time is not a problem. Like me, because I often work very late, so staying up until 2 AM is kind of normal. For some, that is well past their bedtime and their bodies were dragging along, kicking and screaming with their characters, asking why they couldn't wait until morning; real morning.

One year I didn't go to the midnight write-in. I thought it wouldn't make a difference and I had scheduled myself to work and I thought, really, No Big Deal.

I was wrong.

For me, being there at midnight with other writers, all driving our words towards a common goal, is important in terms of the tone for the month. I set an intent and follow it with an action. In community. Most of these people I don't know at all and may only see once or twice during the month, if that, if I can get to a write-in where they also happen to be. Most NaNoVembers I only make it to one or two write-ins. So the bulk of my NaNoNovel is written alone, at home or in a coffee shop, on breaks at work, in my car.

Midnight as October becomes November is my This Is It time.

It is also my annual renewal to daily writing. The daily writing practice is my struggle. I make the commitment, I do it for awhile, then a day slips here and there, then I miss two consecutive days. I keep trying.

Balance! Balance? Yes.

Even in NaNoVember, I sometimes miss a day or two. Not many, because it doesn't take long to fall behind in the word count. Which is another reason I go to the first midnight write-in : to get a head start on my novel. I will write again today, try to get another full day's word count in the story. This gives me some flex room for the busier days when I can't get in as much time and the goal of an average of 1667 words per day becomes undoable. (I am deliberately avoiding the word, "impossible.") This is also the reason I have taken to scheduling a personal writing retreat around the middle of every NaNoVember: to catch up to myself in word count and sprint ahead. I take three to four days and go to the coast just to write. I pack up some food and huddle in an ocean front rental with my laptop, a bottle of wine, good food, and let the water and sand and air support and inspire at whatever hour of the day or night and I write. And write.

So every NaNoVember, I recommit to writing every day. And if it doesn't happen every day, then I make sure to have some longer blocks of time committed to my writing. Like the recent writing retreat in Rockaway Beach with a wonderful group of writers.

Okay. My word count when I left the write in was 2520 words, by 2:15 AM. As I was drifting off to sleep, my main character, whom I thanked profusely for showing up at 12:02 AM this morning, told me that I gave her the wrong name. I promised her I would change it when I got back to the laptop; I agree that her real name is better.

Get ready for my NaNoWriMo daily updates. Another commitment I make in NaNoVember: to post my word counts each day and give periodic updates on the story, probably.

The working title of my 2014 NaNoWriMo novel is "Cue the Dramaturg." So far I have my main character, Lisa June, and her cat, Charlie Dean. Lisa Jean's best friend, Christopher, has been mentioned but we haven't met him, yet. I think he will be making an appearance soon. There has also been mention of Lisa June's ex, Minea, whom we also haven't met and their has been a little foreshadowing about the Ex, but I don't know what that's about, yet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Announcing TIPS I for 2014-15: RID CEUs Approved

RID has approved up to 3.6 CEUs (CMP and ACET) for the third session of the Theatrical Interpreting Preparation Series (TIPS), Part I, workshop. Preregistration is required and deposits must be received by November 25, 2014. The workshop begins on Saturday, December 6, 2014. See the flyer for full details (link below in overview).

This season I am also offering the TIPS III Study Group (currently under way) and I will be offering TIPS II in April 2015. For TIPS II, Sign Coach Irene Jazowick will be joining me to work with participants in the mentored intensive workshop.  I am also developing a new focused Study Group for spring 2015.


Theatrical Interpreting Preparation Series (TIPS), part I

Description: This workshop will provide participants training in and exposure to the process of performance interpreting, using theater as a vehicle. This initial training is intended for new interpreters, but all levels are welcome. We will meet twice a month on Saturdays for four months, beginning December 2014. Participants will learn different approaches to theatrical interpreting and explore topics such as script analysis, incorporating characterization, translation, altering signing style for the venue and the production, linguistic considerations, and more.  Through a series of meetings, combined with exposure to specific interpreted performances, participants will gain the basic skills necessary for a variety of performing arts situations. Completion of this training is a requirement for the advanced mentored training, which goes through the entire process from receiving the script, translation, preparation, to interpreting a performance of the project show.

You can access the TIPS I flyer here, which includes the dates, fees, included plays, presenter bio, and the registration form.

Fee: $450 includes tickets to all four shows. Preregistration is required with a $100 deposit due by November 25th; this is non-refundable and includes a ticket to the first play. If paid in full by or on our first meeting, you will receive 10% off the workshop fee.

Presenter: Dot Hearn, CI & CT, has been doing performance interpreting since 1997. Portland Center Stage, where she has coordinated the interpreting teams since 2003, was one of her first theatrical interpreting venues. She has also interpreted plays at IFCC, Oregon Children’s Theatre, Profile Theatre, Artists Repertory Theatre, Portland Community College (PCC), OSF in Ashland, and more. Dot graduated from the PCC Sign Language Interpreting Program and went on to become adjunct faculty in that program for eleven years. Dot earned a BS degree from Eastern Oregon University, with a Liberal Arts degree and a double minor in Theater and Writing. In 2001, Dot attended the “Interpreting for the Theater” intensive week-long training in New York City, which was held at Juilliard. That training and the instructors have been instrumental in shaping Dot’s approach to theatrical interpreting and her mentoring of interpreters new to this specialty area. She also served on the RID task force to develop a performance interpreting standard practice paper.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Revisiting Razor's Edge - Writers' Block

I'm happy to report that I am not experiencing writers' block.

But I received an email earlier today from a writer who read a piece I wrote a couple of years ago, which included a link to one of his favorite articles on the topic. (You can read my original post here, from April 2012, Razor's Edge: When Writing Feels Dead.)

The author of the email was Josh Spilker, whom I have never met, but I did click over to the link he provided to a short piece he wrote, 9 Tips To Beat Writer’s Block (Including 1 That Feels Like Cheating). This is a short list of tips and tricks to help kick your writer's block out the door. It's a fun list I thought I'd pass along.

I also wanted to share it because the "controversial" tip is fun and is not often spoken out loud. I have heard it mentioned a time or two, behind closed doors, in the halls. I don't know if I've seen it in print - it probably is somewhere. But it is a nice tip.

The "cheat" has to do with copying. Copying for practice and exercise, "to break the block." It's interesting, because my partner is an artist and I have heard her talk about a traditional teaching/learning technique among artists (really, I'm not making this up!) of copying the work of The Masters. I'm not talking about the "in the style of" paintings, though those do have value, too. I mean really trying to copy a Master's masterpiece to learn about brush stroke, color, line, shadow, and so on. 

Writers can use a similar technique to learn about voice, style, craft, character, etc. Or you can use it to juice the wheels of craft. Click on over to read more about what Josh Spilker has to say. It's worth a few minutes of your time!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Affirmative Assumption, My Writing Retreat Adventure, Part II

One of our walks on the beach.

"Do not ASSUME," the saying goes. "Because when you break it down, it makes an ASS out of U and ME."

You've heard that phrase or something like it, right? If you haven't, well, now you can add it to your list of old fashioned or outdated bits of advice or pack it away in your arsenal of witty retorts.

Assumption has been given a bad rap. I know, I know. It's true that I shouldn't assume that I understand another person's experience if I haven't lived it. I agree, though I may be able to understand some of the feelings or bodily reactions if I have experienced something similar. I know that I can never understand the lived experience of being, for example, a Deaf person in this country (I am hearing), or a person of color (I am white), or a Wheelie ([can I use that term, Bug?]  I am a walkie), and so on.

But it is also true that assumptions can be positive experiences. The writing retreat at Rockaway Beach, which ended one week ago, was proof of positive assumption.

It has been hard to put what I felt into words, in person, when I've tried to explain it to a couple of people. Some success and mostly people "got" what I was trying to say. I'm going to try to put the words down here, as well.

But there was an atmosphere of assumption:
- that each of us are authors;
- that each of us hae a project we were working on or towards;
- that each of our projects are worthy of publication;
- that each of us are or can be published authors;
- that each of us would find our own process about how we needed to take care of ourselves and our writing during the week;
- that each of us would write and process and take breaks, sleep and eat and be involved in group activities as was appropriate.
When the cook was away for a night, we went out for dinner!

That each of us are skilled writers of equal value and importance and writing ties us together was in the air for the entire week. There was no doubt that we were authors and we were writing.

I suspect some people reading this may wonder why that was even a question. Of course. We each went there for a writing retreat. Duh. But it isn't always true when writers or wanna-be-writers come together that there is this total giving over to our author selves as valuable and in a spirit of acceptance that whatever each of us needs to do, she will do it, for herself and her writing. I am grateful to each participant and to Lori Lake. The success of a retreat like this has to have a good facilitator, a good leader, who sets the tone and expectations.

Lori made each of us feel comfortable in our author selves. She made time for each of us individually, before and during and even after the retreat. She led discussions in the evenings, shared resources, was a positive presence throughout the week.

Luca did an amazing job of meeting a myriad of dietary needs and preferences, with delicious and healthy meals. With making sure there was a variety of options for our make-our-own breakfast needs, which happened from the time the first person got up around 6am until the last of us got up around 10am. She also led us in a couple of collage nights, designed specifically for our retreat. Again, Luca was another great leader in the assumption that each of us would participate or not in the collage nights, as we needed to do for our author selves that week.

It was a week of being present. Of writing. Of knowing that I was in the right place and with the right people. Affirmative assumption can be a very good thing.

Rockaway Beach, OR  10.11.14

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Writing Retreat Adventure, Part I

October 5-12, 2014, I was at a writing retreat in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. It was held at the Oregon Writers Colony house, which has an ocean view out one side of the house and a lake view out the other. There were eight wonderful women authors and we were led by author Lori L. Lake and fed by poet, artist, and caterer Luca Hart.

I will admit that I was nervous going into this adventure. Excited and nervous - what I have come to call, lovingly, "anxietement" (the melding of anxiety and excitement, which often feel very similar to me). It is outside of my norm to go away for a week where I don't know anyone. I had met Lori at a conference, I liked her, I liked her writing, I was drawn to what she had to say and it resonated, and she had been very friendly and approachable in email conversations. And that was the only person I knew at all. After I arrived, I did find that I had seen - and possibly met briefly - a couple of the other other authors, but I didn't *know* anyone. And I was going to be sharing a room with someone I had never met. There was nothing to fear and it was a wonderful week.

We don't all have our author websites up and running yet, but I'm sure that all of us will, soon. Here is the list of the fantabulous writers I spent the week with, and their websites.

Judy Kerr
Laura Morrison
Luca Hart

I miss them all and there have been dropped hints/requests for organizing a reunion next year. Count me in!

back row: Me, Lori L Lake, Laura Morrison, Julia Ingram;
middle: Rae Richen, Luca Hart;
front row: Linda Vogt, Judy Kerr, MB Pinichi, Jessie Chandler

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Big Breakthrough


I have put in many hours this week on the novel. I am not done yet. Each step I make gets me closer to completion and yet, sometimes, farther away.

I was going to type, "farther away, it seems." But that has been one of my own discoveries this week is how much I qualify and discount in my story. Especially this story which was first written six years ago. I believe that my writing has improved in many ways since that time, but there is still room for improvement, need for feedback from outside eyes and brains.

This morning I started working on the timeline and plot map, which includes physical location of characters and movement in the story, where important events take place. I have made note of needing to that for at least a couple of weeks. This week, here, I have noted it and it was a major thing I needed to do which I put in my notes. I was going to start it last night, but it was late, I was getting tired, and I knew I wanted to start on it while I was fresh.

Which I did this morning.

I had to stop for lunch. I tend to overtake one end of the main table when I'm writing here. At least I have up until now because I am taking notes on one set of paper and making revisions and have my laptop. I take up space. So I paused for lunch. No problem.

After we were done eating and the table again cleared, I got back to it.

And I DID it! Making the map was slow at times. Some incidents and connections were not as clear as they seemed on the page or in my head. Who went where. What happened before or after what, was complicated.

I was happy it was complicated because I don't want my novel to be boring. But it wasn't as easy to plot it out as I thought it would be. Silly me.

Amazing things happened as I plotted and circled. Drew solid lines and dotted lines.

I realized that the section I moved to the front of the book was not an attention grabber, a hook. No. It really did have to be the first thing that happened. That is the inciting incident. It has to happen first or nothing else makes sense. (Or perhaps it's too twisting and manipulative to make it not be the first important thing.)

I also realized that the reason I moved it to the front originally, the thing I thought had to happen? It couldn't happen there. No way. It had to happen in a different time and place.

That was the big breakthrough. Once I realized that, things really fell into place. Not all of it easily; some events still had to be figured out, counted and timed in a way, noted and considered.

Which I did. I had the visual map. Then it got to a point where I had to write it out in a first, second, third, etc way. In that process I discovered that there were two incidents at one point - they needed to occur somewhat concurrently, so I had to do some thinking about how I wanted to place them in terms of story interest and timing. And I did that, too.

So, now. What's next? I believe I can move forward with rewrites now. Actually with some re-vision. There are no major changes in characters or the significant events. But there are some other changes related to the story and I think I understand now and it will move forward.

This will not be a fast process. But I have a map now. I know where the characters came from and where they're going.

Now it's time to get back to it. I was so excited that I wanted to take a writing break to write this update from the fogged in Rockaway Beach.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

All It Takes Is?

I started to write this as, "All it takes is a little time and space to write." Which is true in that time to write and making space to write are important.

I started this women's writing retreat with the belief or the hope that what I needed was these two things with the novel and I could get it to the next level. I've been moving slower than I would have liked and part of the reason, I thought, was not enough time. I meant not enough long blocks of time.

I was at the combing point of my novel. I needed to go through each scene, each page, each chapter and make notes about characters and settings and plot and much more. It was hard for me to do this adequately in the short pieces of time I made for writing. And I did make time - it just didn't feel like enough.

I felt that what I needed was a big chunk of time so I could immerse myself in the novel and comb through it all within a period of time in which I could also hold it all in my head. Then, I would be able to move on, to take it to the next level of revision and move it toward publication.

And in these first two and a half days that is exactly what I have done.

I have read the entire novel from word one to word final. I have made notes about:
- characters
- plot points
- settings
- time (meaning date; and the actual time or timing in a few places)
- things I labeled FIX (meaning I need to fix it)
- things I labeled SNORE (feels gentler than "boring" and keeps the work lighter and I'm not beating myself up about it)
- things I labeled PROBLEM (bigger conflicts of plot which couldn't be fixed with a few words)
- who is in each chapter or scene
- research I need to do (or redo in most cases)
- plot or story ideas I might incorporate or look into further
- things I labeled as FACT in terms of the story
...and a few more. But I'm sure you have the idea.

I didn't think I would get to this point by this time.

I am happy.

And I realized there was one more factor for me. The magic ingredients were time and space and commitment. I've had the commitment and found the time and space, and the writing camaraderie thanks to the facilitator, Lori Lake.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Week of Writing

This is the first day of the week long writing retreat I'm attending in Rockaway Beach. Which just happens to be one of my favorite places on the Oregon coast.

I will admit, now that I'm here and my fears were unfounded, that I was a little nervous. Excited - and
nervous. I know some people (who don't know me well) might be surprised, but I was nervous about coming to this writing workshop where I didn't really know anyone. I had met the facilitator and talked with her - and felt completely comfortable with her, but didn't know much about her beyond what is available online. I did meet her partner briefly - though I didn't know it was her at the time. And I had no idea who else would be attending. I'm open to meeting new people and I have to do it all the time.

But to deliberately put myself in a situation where I am sharing housing with people I don't know for an entire week? And what's more, to share a room with an unknown person? It's not my usual method.

However, I was so impressed by the facilitator when I met her, I was sure that others drawn to her would be okay. And there was something in her that I knew I wanted to write and discuss writing with her. Bonus that is was in one of my favorite places!

But a week? In a shared house? Me?

Yes. Me.

Today has been great. The weather was perfect. We snacked. We talked. We laughed. I went for a walk on the beach with a couple of the other attendees. The facilitator's partner is a gourmet cook in addition to writing and other talents - so we had a delicious home cooked dinner.

And I do feel completely comfortable with all of the other writers.

All fears were unfounded. All nervousness or anxiety has stepped aside for the excitement and the time and space for writing.

Look at me! I'm writing. I have already made some progress on the novel - which includes the use of something I printed out two weeks ago but never touched and I almost didn't pack, but tossed into my laptop bag at the last minute.

This is going to be an awesome week.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October is Prep Month!

"But, Dot, you're a pantser!"

"I know. But prep doesn't have to mean outline."

"What does it mean if you're not outlining?"

"Things like character sketches. I did that last year and it was fun, it kept my writing creative brain busy and excited about NaNovember, but I wasn't writing the novel."

"Snore. What else?"

"One year I did try an outline, sort of. That was a two thumbs down snoozer for me; the worst NaNoExperience I've ever had and I've never touched that so-called novel since; sucked big time. I've heard many NaNo authors talking about whole outlines of their novels. With research about subjects that will come up. With storyboards. Full worlds created and visualized And plot points and pictures with circles and arrows on the back and --"

"Dot, don't go rambling off into 'Alice's Restaurant' lyrics. Most people won't know what you're referencing, anyway. Back to NaNoPrep. The pantser's view."

"My prep? Reading. Reading more. Seeing what ideas pop into my head which may become novel ideas. Or maybe characters again. I don't know. If I'm getting super excited about NaNoWriMo again, then I want to do something to build momentum so I will be ready at the stroke of midnight which was Halloween and becomes November. Ready for the ML's "GO" to begin writing. Yes."

"Dot? Hello, come back. It's not November, yet."

"I know."

"So do you have any ideas?"


"When will you get an idea?"

"Don't know."

"What are you working on."

"Oh! That reminds me. The novel. It was a NaNoNovel. I really liked the story and my story is that I would never have come up with that story if I would have outlined it. Never. But I like it. So I'm revising. I did some revision a couple or so years ago, then set it aside to focus on the memoir. Now the memoir is marinating on the shelf, so I've returned to the novel. And a book of short stories I'm writing."


"Oh. Yes. The writing retreat at the coast. I'm attending a writing retreat facilitated by author Lori Lake in October. That is really exciting. A whole week away, devoted to writing. One on one meetings with the author. Writing prompts. Some art projects. The beach. That is prep for sure. Plus I hope to get more direction on the novel during the week. And do some more writing of something else. The editing is still going well, I'm enjoying it. But I like to write new material, as well."


"Any more questions?"


"Good. Good night."

"You mean good morning?"

"Not on my schedule. Nighty night!"

Monday, September 22, 2014

Transferring Brain to Page

I'm at another "stump" in the editing process of the novel.

I've made good progress and was feeling confident. It was shaping up nicely and parts coming together. Then I decided to finish breaking up the all-in-one document into chapter and scene pieces in Scrivener to continue working the revision and rewrites. That was much easier to navigate when I was working on the chapters to submit for the upcoming writers' retreat and it seemed like it was time to get it easier to work on than in one giant document.

In that process, which necessarily included skimming chapters as I transferred them to the separate sections, I found several more disconnects in the story. More questions came up. Questions about the characters. About some impossible plot points which need to be addressed and some changed. Places where the story doesn't work as written or where there is significant information to be added which will enhance the story. The lack of physicality of characters. And so on. Editing types of observations.

And, again, I was reminded that - perhaps - working from an outline of some kind would probably make the process easier. The editing process. But, again, it's not the way I write. Or hasn't been the way I've been writing.

I tried to create an outline from what I have. I started a text document in Scrivener - as an addendum to the main work in the file, so it wouldn't be printed with the compilation. I started it in a TXT document; no good. I tried it in Word, with a little more functionality and formatting, but it was too overwhelming and frustrating and was not going to be helpful.

Then I realized that what I needed was more of a "mind mapping" approach. There are three main threads in the novel. They all come together, overlap, are related - eventually. But within each of them there needs to be continuity and each grouping has some strengths and weaknesses. So I thought that the mind mapping format might work to clean up the sections and give space to work with the novel as a whole.

That started the search for mind mapping software. Everything else is digital, so why not mind mapping! I had looked at a couple of programs a couple or several years ago, so I went on an internet search. Some are free. Some are java applications. Some are online; some are downloadable. Some have free trials and videos. I searched. And played.

After I bit I felt I wasn't getting anywhere and I had something else I needed to map out. I have a number of theatrical and writing obligations coming up, and workshops, and was having a hard time visualizing everything. So I decided to get out a piece of poster board - I have a small stock of poster board and other similar foundations for creating collages. I decided to section it into a year -  a rough, by hand, division not going for exactitude, but for separation by month. Then I wrote in the obligations, including a few tentative things with unknown start dates/end dates/ scope of commitment.

In my way - left over from years of working as stage manager - I also added symbols for the different types of events. Then I added a color for groups of types, for a quick glance overview of the activities to come. There is room left over to add activities and notes if needed.

That poster now hangs beside my desk.

As I looked at my theater, performance, workshop, and special event "poster," I realized that what I need to do with the novel is mind mapping - by hand. For the same reasons, to be able to add and draw lines and circles and arrows. To squeeze in something here and there. To literally get my hands on it and feel and see where the novel has gone, is going, what it needs. To know the story in my body. To make that knowledge visible.

It was very late (or very early, depending on your perspective) when I had this realization, so I have not made that insight a reality. Yet. I will.

Yes, mind to hand to paper. This will work.

Note: all of the "mind mapping" images are from online websites with software to share or try - except for this last one, which was hand drawn by the author of an article on the uses and benefits of mind mapping. A couple of the software programs come close - in appearance - to hand mind mapping. But, for me, it's the physical quality of the process, as well - not just the finished product.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Creativity - Austin Kleon's Note

This note is from Austin Kleon's 9/5/14 newsletter, "Notes to Self."

I want to give it a space all its own.

Except to say, "Yes. This."

(Well, except the extroverted part. Though I have to channel my more extroverted friends and mentors at times. I'm working on number seven.)


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In the Midst of Creativity

This has been a busy time. Is still a busy time

And it has been a good time. And a busy time.

It is also a time when I am reminded - or when my knowledge is reinforced - that creativity begets creativity. Our house is buzzing with it and more keeps coming our way. It is not more than we can handle - no - it is just more. There is a flow and flux which is working. I do know that some of it is due to work we've been doing for several years, building to this point. It has not been overnight; no; I know.

New opportunties. New inquiries. Some situations work out, some go away, some are not the right fit. But more comes.

Creative energy in abundance. And life is good. And still busy.

My partner has been working on her second book. Next week they are flying her out for a a photo shoot, where she will be demonstrating the processes she teaches and guides and describes in the book. She has also been working on examples and supplies for the art classes she will be teacher later this month. And working on her own art.

I have been editing a novel and researching places to submit shorter pieces. I interpreted a Shakespeare in the Park production in Bend - and there was much around that event which was good and inspiring.  I also started a new theatrical interpreting training/study group. For the study group, we interpreted an exciting set of one acts by Sam Shepard and that entire process was inspiring and rewarding and filled my creative cup several times over. I have also had a lot of other movement in creative energy related to theatre; more details will be coming about that later. And I did get the opening of the novel revised to fit the specifications to submit to the facilitator of the writing retreat I will be attending in October.

Creativity is present and active. We are busy, but a good busy, not more than we can handle. Excitement, energy, and remembering to breathe and allow time for rest.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Leaves on the Ground

It's funny how quickly the air changes. Yes, I know, it really wasn't quick, it changes all the time, it's only my noticing that changes. 

First it's hot and it's dry and it's summer and each molecule is warmed by the sun, each particle on my skin feels like summer and hot.
Then it doesn't.
Like that.

Like - hey, it's September, welcome. 

It is darker earlier. I did notice that several weeks ago. When the other interpreter and I were preparing for the interpreted performance of Twelfth Night in Bend. On Fridays and Saturdays we went to different wineries to see the play. Same show, different location, different days.
And over those three weekends, the footlights came on a little earlier in the play than they had the week before. So I noticed the light shifting.
Then the fourth week, in Bend, the lights came on at intermission.

I see that our temperatures are headed back up for this weekend. And that's good. My tomatoes could use a few more days of heat, they are already slowing their production.
I haven't had enough of the sweet, round, deliciousness. Each day when I pick the golden orange and red cherry tomatoes, half of them make it to the house. And I remember, again, why I don't eat fresh tomatoes very often at other times of the year. It is hard to find a tomato - cherry or full-size - at other times which taste as good as the ones I planted and tended and picked. And popped right into my mouth direct from the vine.

So the air. Now. There are still waves and layers of warm. But the cooler bits are present as well. 

Heat layers warmth and dry puffs mix with molecules of wetter composition. I can smell it. I feel it on my skin.

The calendar tells me it is still summer.

The leaves already beginning to fall tell me it is the edge of autumn.

My skin says, stay present with whatever it is. 

Cool warm sun cloud water.