Archive for the ‘Nanowrimo’ category

Será – (From Nanowrimo, maybe) Doll/Dreamcatcher

November 26, 2012

Doll by Emma Whitlock, photo by Margaret Bednar


“You know, like ‘que será será,’” he said, when she asked.

“Remember,” he went on,“when Doris Day, she sing it in that beautiful dress, yoohoo.”  Then, wiping beige (foundation) from his own tan fingers,  he turned over a hand-mirror on the countertop.  The back showed a picture of her–Doris Day, decolletée in a red satin as deep as his lipstick.

It was the style he too had adopted, Clare realized, with bleached puffed bangs,  elasticized sleeves he pulled below the pudge of sallow shoulder-

“You know her?”

In fact she’d seen Doris Day lots–afternoon old movies, TV nights late–Doris Day with the smile like milk, Doris Day with the voice like picnic tables, Doris Day with the little doll legs like Keds.

“She so cool, so fresh,” he laughed from his side of the blusher, “She don’t even have to try.  Like you, mamita” he looked at her in the big mirror now, the one in front of them, brushing one honeyed fingernail gently down her cheek.  “Ay que linda.”

She flinched, not used to being touched. And also, because, her cheeks were absolutely not, no way, horrible-to-even-contemplate, like Doris Day’s–

“Not the cheeks, no, mamita–” he laughed, understanding–

“No, no.  Her cheeks,” he looked at his picture, “they are rotund- eh – like the most beautiful bottom in the world.  No, this,” he stared back at Clare in the big mirror, gesturing towards her mouth as if it were something he presented, something on display.  “Those lips , see,” tracing the bottom curve, “that pout they love so much, mami.”  Her lips felt the warm whorl of his fingers; her nose. the fragrance of talc.

”They constantly want me to bite them,” she said suddenly.   “You know, to make them puffier or something.”

“No, no, Mamita, no biting.  Just a little sheen, here.”  And now his soft frame blocked the mirror, his index finger icy with goo.

“A little tinto.”  A baby finger this time, as he bent so closely to her that she could see the individual pores of his black eyebrows beneath the bleached bangs, the curled lashes around his even blacker eyes.

After a space of brush and fingertips, he stood back and she saw what she knew must be herself, only it was now sculpted, cheekboned, svelte.

“Looking good, mami.  Looking so good.  Grrr.”

She wanted to laugh too, but sucked it in like the cheek-hollows, pivoted her face back and forth while he, humming, unpinned the plastic cloak.

Será.   “Looking good,” he always said when she came in for a shoot, even when she knew she didn’t.  Even when he added “ooh but tired, mami,” one finger gentle below her eyes.   “What you doing so tired?  A little girl like you, eh?”

Then, he was gone.  For some time.  And she noticed, sure, but she didn’t actually do that many shoots, and nobody talked to anybody around those places, and so so she didn’t think too much about it, until he was back, only so different this time, round cheeks worn to bone, tan dulled grey.

She could not somehow ask why.  He did not say/ Only “hey you,” and “looking good,” and, after he started with the make-up, “look here, mommy,” holding up one hand for her to turn towards, until just once, when her tooth caught lipstick and he reached our his bare forefinger to wipe it off, to reach right into her mouth–

And then he stopped sharply, sighed, looked her straight in the mirror’s eye, and like a sunken magician who’d lost both handkerchief and dove, extended a small box of kleenex.   “Here, mami, you wipe it, eh?  Okay?”


This is sort of a draft excerpt from Nanowrimo novel I’ve been working on (in a terribly desultory fashion) – sorry, it’s so long.  I am posting it with one of the wonderful doll pictures posted by Margaret Bednar on With Real Toads.  The particular doll was made by Emma Whitlock.  Thank you Emma!  Thank you Margaret!  

I should note (as I wrote to Brian Miller), this is just a little sketch from the manuscript that I thought fit the doll.  It is not central to the story truly.  (Sorry!)  The book, if I ever get it together, is called Outsider Art. 

P.S. since posting I inserted “mami” in place of “mommy.”  It’s pronounced like mommy (when I hear it) and I wanted to keep that sound, but it’s usually used by an adult to a child as a term of endearment.  k. 



Pearl Wants to Help Me Jump-Start

November 21, 2012

Pearl Gets Thoughtful About Nanowrimo.

Pearl is eager for me to me to move more quickly on my Nanowrimo project. I really do have to be careful of her advice though.  She has an extremely poor understanding of U.S. copyright laws.

Doing What It Takes (Pearl Just Doesn’t “Get” Plagiarism)

(Thankfully, she has no copy of Shades of Grey.)

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) Off the Computer – Writing by hand…errr… (Pearl!)

November 20, 2012

It can be hard to write in a notebook, once you’ve gotten used to a computer.

But it really can be done if you put your mind to it,

and sink in your teeth.


I am reposting these pictures from a prior Nanowrimo when my dog Pearl was a bit younger and a lot more helpful.  

I am, in fact, writing my novel by paw (errr… hand.)   At the moment, however, I can hardly imagine transcribing it – first, because my vision is pretty bad, and secondly because the story is so slow!   Oddly, I know where it is supposed to go, but it does not want to go there very rapidly.  I worry this is also fall-out from writing poetry – poems- mine anyway – tend to get involved with the moment, memory, reflection – not so much with, you know, chase scenes.

And then there’s Pearl’s refusal to help out!  At seventeen and a half, she’s not very involved in chase scenes either.  Agh.

Not Sure Where I’m Going (Nanowrimo)

November 4, 2012


Working, sort of, on Nanowrimo in between kvetching about the election and missing blogging and now back in NYC without Internet access (except through iPhone) and can’t quite believe in my new “novel” yet.

So, a bit, frustrated.

Why Revising A Manuscript During Nanowrimo Month Is Just Not The Same–Where are the Pheromones?

November 9, 2011

You Have To Be Really Dogged About Revising

We’re almost all familiar with the pleasures of “new car smell” (even if just in a rental.)

Even more attractive is the zing of a new relationship.

For some of nerdy types, even more compelling is the engagement of new creation.  I don’t mean procreation here (although that might fit in too.)  I’m talking about a new idea, a new piece of writing or work of art.

How uncritical we are in the face of freshness!   Sure, we can see kinks, but they feel trivial in the flow of inspiration–detritus in the stream, texture!

Now that I think about it, working on a new piece is remarkably like a new relationship.  In the charge of fresh pheromones, we feel somehow certain that we’ll fix any problems, the person too.  Later.  (Note to self–fat chance.)

Rewriting, in contrast, tends to bog down.  The flaws are about all we are conscious of; the flow feels like a house on stilts rather than any kind of river.

Sometimes we want to change the whole thing, start almost from scratch.  This may be the best approach, but it’s also important to stop and take a breath.  Are we really just trying to do something new, different?  Something whose flaws we don’t have to deal with just yet?


(P.S. – for those who don’t follow this blog, I promised myself to take this Nanowrimo–National Novel Writing Month–to work on revising old manuscripts rather than writing something new.  Ahem.)

Nanowrimo Begins – No More Excuses! I mean, Yes, An Excuse!

November 1, 2011


Today is November 1, the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, a/k/a Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo is a very fun program for people who want to kickstart their writing.  It provides three very important elements for the struggling writer: a deadline, a community, and, most importantly perhaps, an excuse.

By “excuse”, I mean a reason to give novel writing priority, as in “oh I’m so sorry, I can’t possibly cook the turkey–I have to finish my nanowrimo!”

I have participated in Nanowrimo a few times.  (Luckily, my daughters are great cooks.)  And actually, amazingly, I am about to publish a book that was first written in a month of November.  It is called Nose Dive, and like Nanowrimo itself, it’s a lot of fun. (More on this as the book comes out!)

However, I have also accumulated a number of unfinished manuscripts.

This Nanowrimo month, I am hoping to finish at least one of those.

In order to do this extensive rewriting–which is frankly kind of painful–I really have to force myself to focus, which should mean cutting down on the blogging.  (A relief no doubt to subscribers.)  I’ll probably still post some short things for the communal sites, like dVerse Poets Pub. (You see, I’m already waffling.)  But I really am going to try to force myself to focus on my bigger projects.

Thanks for any good wishes coming my way!  And thanks so much for past support.


 PS – if you are from dVerse Poets Pub, the link I posted for Open Link night can be found here.

Tired at the End of November? (National Novel Writing Month)

November 30, 2010

Horse Cart? Horse Cab? So Much To Brush Up Against

Back in New York City and find myself tired tired tired.

All that physical energy that seemed so boundless in the fresh and cooked air of a Thanksgiving break in the country now seems sadly dissipated.

What has sapped me?

The grind/stress of the job?

The lack of frolicking!?  (Unpopulated spaces somehow lend themselves to dashing and dancing in ways that don’t quite work in most urban settings.)

Or, I wonder, as I drag myself to the subway through all the faces and vehicles, bodies and clothes, concrete and glass, is it the entropy of brushing up against so many different beings and energies–all that collected history, mortar, CO2?

I could point to the end of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month).  Am I tired simply from having scribbled and typed 50,000 extra words over the course of November?

And then I look about me on the train and see that a whole bunch of people have a slumped (non-)edge to them.    Were we all plotting throughout the past month?

(Is that why we’re plodding now?)

Did they also do Nanowrimo?

Mouse Plotter(?) on Train???

Nanowrimo Up…. Date? (Made It Through Thanksgiving)

November 28, 2010


So, what time is it?

What day is it again?

Some day at the end of November.

Thanks have been given without unpleasant incident.  Even as I say that, my ever gloomy mind comes up with mishaps and disappointments that loomed large a couple of days ago (a child who couldn’t make it, a parent who fell en route to a video call).  Even so, the holiday came and went with no regret for never having mastered the Heimlich maneuver, and with a fair amount of tap and other dancing.   That has to count as a win.

Speaking of “winning,” I amassed today the 50,000 word count for “victory” in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month.)  I cannot pretend to have written a novel,  but only a relatively large number of words.  This may account for the lack of ebullience, I feel today (whatever day it is).

Still, I have learned something important this Nanowrimo month:  that I, that you, that probably almost all of us, have a lot more free time and imagination than we generally think we do.

My gloomy side chimes in: ‘yes, and possibly we have a lot less time than we think as well.’    (Darn you, gloomy side!)

So, what time was that again?  Time to get going.


Nanowrimo Update – Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

Nanowrimo Participant At Thanksgiving (And Pearl)

Finally, a free day (well, putting aside chopping, cooking, washing dishes, socializing and trying to get some air!)

What I truly mean is that I am getting down to the wire with my Nanowrimo novel and I should focus today on upping the old word count.

(Nanowrimo, if you are new to this notion, is National Novel Writing Month–a time when would-be novelists/masochists devote themselves to their dream activity.  Sort of.)

The problem is that I suddenly can’t summon the will.

Is it Writers’ Block crashing down? The other side of the ManicD equation?  Simple fatigue?

Is it the fact that I find myself in the middle of a family gathering, with an expectation that I will do something other than work on my computer?

Is the old September NYT crossword at my side really so fascinating?

All of the above is true.

But, oddly, the main cause of my current withdrawal is a kind of success.  As I wrote a couple of days ago, I finally discovered the connection between the disparate characters in my nanowrimo novel, a connection that has some kind of emotional “rightness” (if not, resolution.)

This connection has taken the manuscript (the potential manuscript) to a whole different level.

All of this is good (I guess), but also daunting.   Suddenly, the proposed novel does not feel so much like a what-comes-next game, a free-fall through the unconscious, but a project.  Something that could be worthwhile if I could just devote about a year or more to it.

The coincidence of Thanksgiving brings me to the only helpful response I can come up with:  isn’t the human mind amazing?  All those nooks and crannies where stories, characters,types, lurk.   I readily admit that mine are all stolen–from life, reading, the heard, experienced; only somewhere in this dreamlike process of making one’s self write madly, a mishmash has occurred, a regrouping.

I don’t know if I will have the luck or drive or year (or so) that it will take to actually write the novel that started through this rather random exercise.   It’s another huge leap of faith to think that anyone will read it!   Still, something to be thankful for.

Nanowrimo Update – The Saving Sidelong Glance – Tips For the Headlong

November 23, 2010

What's Going On There?

Like Pearl, I have great faith in the sidelong glance.

When her legs are working, she uses it mid-charge, mid-frolic.  It’s a feint.  She darts to one side and then another, then absolutely stops, her gaze fixed at an intense angle away, then whoosh, starts up again in what seems (to her, at least) an unanticipated direction.

When the legs are stiff, there’s the more passive sidelong glance.  This one that comes from the apparently resting Pearl, the glance that secretly watches the kitchen, always always always on the look-out for the opening of the fridge door, and then, for that distinctive swoop of cheese.

What I’m talking about here are ideas.  How to get them when novelling, especially when doing headlong unplanned novelling; when in other words, you are stalled.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a bit stuck in my “novel”; the bi-furcated plot refusing to “unfurcate,”  my two sets of characters on separate, unfeeling, trajectories–never, it seemed, would the twain meet.

And then, finally, yesterday having just passed through the old Helmsley building trying to shut out the sounds of UPS’s morphed version of “That’s Amore”, having just congratulated myself on my maturity for not checking my email when walking–I glanced it: the connection–closer than Kevin Bacon–and more importantly, with emotional heft.

I kept walking, not really daring to think–well, of course, I was thinking furiously–like Pearl darting around, but all the time also trying to keep my peripheral mental vision clear.

Sidelong ideas creep over the edges of consciousness unexpectedly,  the “eureka” moment often surprisingly off-point.


  1. If you want an idea to swoop down, you have to leave an open runway, that is, a brain that is not actively digitalized.
  2. When I don’t want to just wait for an idea to just swoop down, I find it helpful to think of random images of characters, and especially, dialogue.  Yes, I do go through repeated plot possibilities, but these can have a very arbitrary feel.  I am more successful (or at least excited), when I just let myself hear characters talk.   Amazingly, all kinds of flashes of people and dialogue will arrive, which are somehow “writeable” even if I don’t know yet exactly how they will fit in.
  3. It is also helpful to give characters certain physical and vocal characteristics based on people I know, even if the characters are not really like these people.  (They grow farther and farther away as the story progresses.)
  4. The sidelong doesn’t really like the “headlong” – either the rush of the intensely driven, or the overly-cerebral.   Try to be a little less pragmatic with your characters; let them have a little space, wasted time.  (Don’t tell them you may cut all of that.)