Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNo No More!

or, Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Well, National Novel Writing Month is officially over tonight at midnight. I got my 50,000 words written -- just squeaked in under the wire today -- but the book is far from finished.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, though at times I felt that I was taking a month-long break from reality. At other times, I questioned my sanity because reality refused to take a break from me. In the month of November, the book I am under contract for (for my "real job") went to the publisher. This, of course, required the tying up of the myriad little editing loose ends that always accompany a major co-authoring project.

During the month of November, significant happenings took place with "Against the Wind," the movie about the life of Dick Beardsley that is in development...

November included an entire week of half-days of school, which significantly impacted my writing plans, since it's easier for me to be creative if a six-year old is NOT hanging over my shoulder asking to see what I'm writing...

November means that the choir I direct is adding extra practices in preparation for our annual Christmas cantata the second week of December...

It also holds Thanksgiving... And a thousand other reasons why I should be doing something other than writing.

It's the spirit of Thanksgiving that I will most associate with this year's NaNo.

I am so thankful to Robert, my wonderful husband, and my very good friend Chari, who both clamored (and continue to clamor) for more chapters. They pushed me to keep writing -- even when I got around word 30,000 or so and became convinced that my doing NaNo was an exercise in generating crap. Robert has always been my biggest fan. He has known of the story I am writing (my version of an Arthurian legend) for years. Chari, on the other hand, is completely unfamiliar with my source material. She's my "newest fan." Both of them kept me going.

Robert and Chari's enthusiasm and support reminded me how important it is for writers to say "I'm a writer," and to tell people what they are working on. Telling others of our projects not only makes our work more real, but it also makes us accountable to others and encourages us to finish what we start.

I am also thankful for the students I've worked with this past year who took the time to let me know that I was of use to them in some way. I know of at least three fellow NaNo contestants who signed up because I mentioned the contest. None of the three had ever written anything lengthy before, and all three finished!

Of course, each had to do the work him- or herself, but it makes my day to receive e-mails telling me that I had something to do with motivating a writer to take on something new. Sometimes all a writer needs is someone to think he or she is up to a particular challenge. I love being that person!

And so, as November fades away and December looms, bringing its own challenges, here's to all my writer friends -- especially those of you who jumped into NaNo with both feet this year. May you continually find yourself surrounded with those who encourage you to grow, who support your dreams, and who fill you with thankfulness!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's Wrong With the "10 Best Books of 2009"

or, SheWrites Takes on PW's "White Boy's Club" of 2009

Kamy Wicoff, founder and CEO of She Writes, an online writing community promoting women writers (though not excluding men as members), posted a piece earlier this week responding to the exclusion of women from Publisher Weekly's Top 10 Best Books of 2009 list. In part, Wicoff wrote:

We write fiction, we write memoir, we write scifi; we are bestsellers, we are award winners, we are just starting out; we are working hard, we are writing well; we are...not as good at it as men are.

Or at least that seems to be the opinion of Publishers' Weekly, which published its "Best Books of 2009" list on November 2nd and could not see its way to including a single book by a woman without destroying its integrity or betraying its unassailable good taste. Apparently books by women just aren't as good. Sorry, girls! Poor PW, they felt really badly about it. According to the novelist and journalist Louisa Ermelino, the editors at PW bent over backwards to be objective as they chose the Best Books of the year. "We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz. We gave fair chance to the 'big' books of the year, but made them stand on their own two feet. It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male."

Not only were the writers of the books that made the list all male, but they were also overwhelmingly... white. PW may have been "disturbed," but they evidently weren't disturbed enough to question the validity of their list...

So what's wrong with the list?

"Nothing," some might say, "the books and writers on it are all excellent."

"Everything," others might answer, "but it's not just PW's fault. The shortcomings of the list only serve to underscore the flaws in the entire publishing industry."

No list is perfect -- and Top 10 Lists as a rule bug the heck out of me, because I rarely agree with them. But this particular list is patently absurd.

Of course it is ridiculous to assume that the only people capable of crafting outstanding prose in 2009 were white males. Which makes one wonder exactly what the PW editors and esteemed jury members who selected the titles on the list were thinking. Or smoking.

Wicoff has encouraged people whose literary tastes include more than just vanilla to do something about the "White Boy's Club" this year's list became. She's not suggesting that the books chosen aren't good, or that the writers aren't gifted. She simply feels, as I do, that perhaps -- just perhaps -- there are others out there who are equally talented, who have just as much to say, who don't belong to the Male Majority. To that end, SheWrites will be hosting its first ever SheWrites Day of Action tomorrow, November 13.

On this day, members are encouraged to do audacious things like actually purchase a book written by a woman and explain the reason for their choice. Imagine what literary heights we could reach and what wonderful reading experiences would open up before us if people would do that more -- buy a book and be able to state why they bought it.

I believe I may take Wicoff up on her suggestion. I know I am eager to see what others on the SheWrites site are reading. I'm always on the lookout for a great new book by an author I've never read before. I could use some ideas because, in my humble opinion, "it was on Publisher's Weekly's Best Books of the Year list" is no longer a viable reason to read a book anymore.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Contest Considerations

I am engrossed in my NaNoWriMo project (7,000+ words and going strong), and had decided to blog a big less during the month of November.

But then the incomparable Jim Mercurio, screenwriting consultant to the stars (and a really nice guy who loves The Boss) posted some pithy and cogent musings on contests and their obsessive entrants, and I had to share.

If (contests) can help you enjoy this sometimes lonely and always rejection-filled process of writing screenplays by giving you something to look forward to, then figure out your, as they call it in poker, bankroll: What you are willing to risk on contests? Even losing poker players can have an appropriate bankroll: The amount of money they are willing to lose in spending X hours of their life doing something they enjoy.

If you're a contest aficianado, I strongly suggest you read the entire post on evaluating writing contests and deciding whether or not they are for you. Then continue your education and read other posts in Jim's "A-List Screenwriting" blog. (Grab a cup of coffee when you visit -- he's quite prolific. He'd probably scoff at the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words in 30 days... I, on the other hand, find it no laughing matter. Happy writing -- I've got to go see a Muse about a novel...)