Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'll See Your 50,000 Words and Raise You 507

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Days Left!

Dear Readers,

There are two more days left in NaNoWriMo--two more days where you have to endure a fairly crappy blog post in which I complain about the number of words I have left to write to get my novel (at least a very bad first draft of one) finished.

I'm close though--so close I can feel it.  I cranked out 5,220 words yesterday to bring me to a grand total of 44,351 words.  To get to the 50,000 word prize (which I believe is basically bragging rights), I owe myself another 5,639 words.  That's a mere 2,825 per day.  After yesterday's marathon, I think it's doable.

Do I still like my book and my main character?  For the most part, yes.  I know the book needs some massive changes.  And by massive, I mean the whole first section needs to go by the wayside, and I'm sure there are some dreadful passages where I was trying to come up with something--anything, beyond going with a brand-new story in the middle--just to boost my word count.

Still, I think I have a good start.  I'll take a couple of weeks off to get some other work done and read a bunch of chick lit novels.  And get U2 and Coldplay out of my head.  That's pretty much been my soundtrack for the book, and I'm close to the point where I need to listen to something else.  Or, I need to find more Coldplay, because I've only deemed a couple of songs off the one album I own to be worthy of listening to for writing.

Overall though, I'm down to the wire.  I just need to make sure I finish the race.

See you in a couple!

Your pal,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rambling Like a Pundit--or a Nob

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I checked my blog stats, and I was amazed at the numbers--over double the number of people who usually tune into the blog.  I couldn't believe it--where did these people come from, and how had they found my blog?  It took me until today to realize, Oh, yeah, I wrote about Sarah Palin.

Technically, I wrote about "Sarah Palin and the retarded child," which actually sounds like the title of a children's book, if the book had been translated into another language, but the title couldn't quite fit into that other language, so the translator made something work, and that something--when translated back into English--sounds kind of awkward.  It's like when I lived in Munich and the movie "Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Shagged Me" came out, but in German the title became "Austin Powers:  Spion in geheimer Missionarsstellung," which translates back as "Austin Powers:  Spy in the Secret Missionary Position."  I picture the same thing happening to Sarah Palin and the Child with Down Syndrome.

[Note to publishers:   Please do not consider publishing said title.  It reminds me a little too much of a children's book called Little Wu and the Watermelons, which apparently was a great book when it came out in the 1950s, but in the 1970s, when my friend J and I discovered it on our school library shelf, we found it quite hilarious.  I can only imagine that Sarah Palin and the Child with Down Syndrome would be written in such a way that might seem sensitive today, but would only be heading for a spot on Awful Library Books tomorrow.]

[Note to readers:  In looking up Little Wu and the Watermelons, I discovered that its author Bea Liu lived in a dome house.  The Boy and I still talk about living in a dome.  I now feel slightly guilty for mocking her book years ago, when it turns out that we are kindred dome spirits.  Score one for Calvinist guilt!]

Speaking of books though, Sarah is peddling her own book, and bless her heart, her tour is apparently stopping not only at bookstores, but also at the places where the normal people (i.e.--REAL AMERICANS) hang out:  Sam's Club, Costco, Kroger, Meijer, and Wal-Mart.  And that got me thinking--isn't it kind of a reverse snobbery for the people who only shop at Wal-Mart to pick on the types who don't?  I get deemed as part of the liberal media elite because I don't want to shop at a store that I don't think does good business--though I'm supposed to love it because it saves, saves, saves me money!   Well, these "Nobs" can have their Sarah Palin book signings--keep my elite liberal Massachusetts bookstores out of the hullabaloo!

Anyway, that's enough Sarah Palin talk for one day.  I'm not finished with Sarah Palin though.  Why?  There's bound to be at least one other Sarah Palin out there in America who doesn't like to be associated with the infamous pundit (do you call Sarah Palin a politician anymore?).  I'd like to imagine she's the one who claims her name is now pronounced "SAH-rah PAH-lin" and is trying to make a name for herself, even though she lives in a town full of Nobs and longs to shop at someplace other than Wal-Mart.  Who, upon learning about Sarah Palin the way we all did--when McCain picked her as her running mate--up and quit the beauty pageant circuit, even though everyone in the know had her as the odds on favorite to win Miss America.

Will the two Sarah Palins be inexorably linked forever in the way only Dominick Dunne could imagine?  Keep tuning in and find out!

Your pal,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Relishing Research

Dear Readers,

Today is a day where I feel too chicken to really write the person who's the subject of this entry directly.  See, I'm trying to do a little bit of research to help me along with my NaNoWriMo book, and I realized that I have to re-read a book I used to own--and purged from my own collection because I didn't care for it all that much.

Say what?

Yep, my own book seems to be veering toward the chick lit category, which I don't particularly mind.  I thoroughly enjoy me some good chick lit.  As I near the end of writing the first draft, I wanted to read a bunch of chick lit so that when it comes time to start the editing process, I'll have a better handle on what does and does not constitute a good chick lit book.

Sadly for me, one book that I thought of while I've been writing my own is Wedding Season by Darcy Cosper.  I got this when it first came out, based on a recommendation by Daily Candy.  It's the tale of a woman who's stuck going to 17 weddings in six months.  She and her boyfriend don't ever want to get married, but all these weddings have her reexamining her choices.

I remember being highly disappointed with this book--to me it wasn't "a witty, wicked comedy of manners in the satirical tradition of Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh" as described on the book cover.  But, in my novel, I'm dealing with a large series of events, so I wanted to take another look at Cosper's book to see once more how she handled it, and figure out what exactly I don't like about her book so that I can fix my own.  Color me unthrilled (but thankful that the library had a copy).

Luckily, I have a stack of other chick lit that should keep me occupied--two or three Jennifer Weiners, and a couple of other random ones I pulled off the library shelf.  I hope to cram in some Austen and Bronte too, as well as reread a few that are on my own shelves.  If you've got some favorite chick lit books, let me know.  I want to expose myself to as much as possible.

Your pal,

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ma J's Comedy Gold

Dear Readers,

Oh!  I've forgotten to tell you the latest, greatest Ma Jaracz story!

When I visited them the last time I was in Chicago, I "innocently" asked my mother if she was watching the Sarah Palin reality show.  I say "innocently," of course, because I know Ma J is not a Palin fan, and that she'd probably have an opinion or two about her and the show.  What I didn't expect was the several minute diatribe about Palin and the fact that she was pimping herself on TV and had better not run for President because she was a quitter--but I was not prepared for how she wrapped up her rant:

And what I want to know is, who's taking care of the retarded kid?

Readers, I could not have asked for better comedy gold.  I don't mean to exploit my aging parents, but senior citizens say the best stuff!

At the time, I laughed, because, really, no one says "retarded" anymore in reference to someone who actually has mental retardation.  In fact, "retarded" can be considered a derogatory word--well, except here in Boston, where any jerk can be and is quickly deemed a "fuckin' retahd."

My mom, to her credit, defended herself--because from the way she was saying it, she did mean actually mentally retarded.  She just didn't use the phrase "baby with Down's Syndrome," which is apparently more acceptable and/or the correct way to phrase it (this I picked up from my medical editor and educator friends.  I didn't realize "Down's Syndrome baby" was not accurate).

I don't know if she'll ever change the way she phrases things, but I do have to agree with her--who is taking care of Trig these days?

Your pal,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Catching Up/Falling Behind

Dear Readers,

 I realize I didn't post yesterday.  Sorry about that.  Since I was gone at the WFTDA Championships last week, I've actually fallen behind in a lot of the extra things I do.  Like blogging.  And NaNoWriMo.

How's that going?  Thanks for asking!  If you write recommended daily average (1,667 words) throughout the month, you should be at 28,334 words today.  I'm at 15,063.  Yep.  I'm a little off right now.

I was actually slightly ahead of average going into my trip to Chicago, but then I ended up not writing for eight days, and that's had me playing catch-up.  Yesterday I cranked out almost 3,000 words in the course of a few hours.  Today I hope to do the same (or more).  Hopefully I'll catch up to where I need to be to finish on time.  Right now, my little stats page tells me that at my pace, I'll finish by December 27, and that I need to write 2,688 words a day to finish on time.  That's a lot, but I think it can be done.

How's my story?  That I'm not so sure about.  I've had people ask me what it's about, and I've mumbled some incoherent thoughts about the germ of the idea I had, to which I got silence in return.  Yeah, not a good sign.  15,000 words in though, I'm getting to know my main character a bit, and I think she's pretty cool.  I enjoy hanging out with her.  What she's going to do, I don't know right now, but I think my germ of a story will fade away because whatever my main character is up to is definitely more interesting than what I came up with in the first place.   That happens.  It just means that editing and reshaping the story might be a pain in the neck, but that's all part of the process.  It'd be nice to actually have something that's  worth reading when it's all said and done.

I'll try to keep up with you too, but I'm just letting you know that this month, you might have to take a back seat here and there.  Stay with me though!

Your pal,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gift-Giving Conundrum

Dear Readers,

Over the last couple of days, I've realized that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means holiday shopping starts right after that.  While I'm excited about the gift-giving season, I oddly feel a bit at a loss as to what sorts of gifts to give several (read: most) people on my list.

Oh, sure, gift-giving depends a lot on your budget and the recipient's interests, but I'm curious:  What gifts are you giving this year?  What are you giving to the person who has everything?  Too many clothes?  Too many books?  Too many toys?  Too many years of food gift baskets?  Too much jewelry?  Too many tchotchkies?

What are this year's hot gift items?

What are gifts that you've received in the past that have been awesome?  Not so awesome?  A nice idea, but the item didn't work as well as you thought?

I'm starting to plow through the catalogs now, but I'd love to know what you're giving this year.  Help a sister out!

Your pal,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Quick Postcard

Dear Mucinex,

Please work.


The Boy is getting freaked out about my voice sounding almost exactly like Jeff Da Ref's.


Your pal,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ying and Yang

Dear Readers,

Well, the WFTDA Championships are over.  It was a fantastic weekend of officiating--I got to work with a great crew of officials and watch two other great crews officiate.  OK, really it was like I was on a Dream Team--the level of officiating was really high for every bout, and I was so proud to be a part of it.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  Being a part of an incredible weekend that you never want to end because just about every part of it was SO. FRICKIN. AWESOME!  Yeah, that's how it was.  I mean, nobody would notice this cool little "covering refs during the slow game" choreography that my penalty tracker and I magically came up with during a bout.  It worked fantastically, was beautiful, and totally geeked out my non-skating officiating self.  

It was just nice to be in my element--to know that I could do a good job and was doing a good job.  That I could opine for hours about best practices for non-skating positions and have everyone around me want to do the same.

I'll have to try to hold onto those feelings because I'm heading back down the slide of rejection into my writer's world.  This is a world I also love, but in which I usually don't feel so confident.  Take today, when I received another rejection.  It was actually a really nice rejection, but nonetheless, I felt a little sting, a little taste of inadequacy, a little feeling like I don't really know what I'm doing.  

However, I didn't become a good NSO by sitting on my butt and watching the action.  I only learned by doing.  I just have to keep that in mind when I'm writing.  It takes a lot of practice to write a decent piece, and you're going to have to get rejected a few times before you succeed.  I don't relish the thought, but I'm stuck with the way this world works.  


Your pal, 

P.S.--Thanks for sitting through yet another pep talk to myself.  Things have been slow, so I've felt the need to have a lot of them lately.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who's It All About?

Dear Readers,

I had a bit of a meltdown last night.  The Boy and I like being all civic-minded, so we went to a Parks & Recreation meeting.  Our town is renovating a park; we'd like a fitness trail sort of installation nearby; it made sense.

The evening turned out to be two meetings.  The first was a regular department update, and the second was about this park.

I'll admit, I don't know much about what our town offers.  I've looked up some stuff on the town website, but I haven't found much that's available for someone like me to get involved in.  Apparently, that's because there isn't.  In my town, if you're out of high school and aren't a male over 30 who wants to play on a basketball league, the Parks & Recreation Department has nothing to offer you.  That's right, every class and sports league is for the children.

I've had this rant before.  I get tired of all of our energy going toward the children.  And what happens if you get someone who was really involved with the Parks' program, then graduated from high school and maybe doesn't go to college.  He's around town still, but can't sign up for the activities he used to do.  Welcome to adulthood!

Granted, the department director was well aware of the fact that the offerings for adults were weak and wants to fix that.  It'll just take time and help from us.

OK.  I can deal with that--though it would be nice to have some sort of adult classes through the Parks & Recreation Department, because they tend to be pretty cheap.  Adults do have plenty of opportunities for continuing ed--there's an arts center in town and plenty of other adult ed centers in the surrounding towns and cities.  However, these classes can be pretty pricey--and by that I mean that a several-week class can be way over $100, if not closer to $200.  If you're on a tighter budget, this isn't doable for you.

I'm not asking for the world--just something like a 4-week drawing class for $50.  It doesn't have to be from a master--an art student would be a fine teacher for a class like this.  Just something basic so that I can try it and see if I like it, without breaking the bank.  Is that so hard to provide?

So if the first meeting wasn't disheartening enough, the second one certainly was.  This was the latest in a series of meetings about how to refurbish this park and make it useful.  The drawings presented showed a t-ball diamond, a playground, and a hockey court among all the features.  All things for designed for kids.

As the conversation went along, it became more obvious that the space was intended for children.  One woman complained because even though she didn't mind kids, she didn't want them to be so loud in her backyard.  A little while later, the Boy mentions having some fitness stations for adults, and the designer talks about those a little bit (i.e.--fitness stations work better when they're along a jogging path).  Then I can't help myself and talk about having a space for adults, and how we can't find a frickin' chin-up bar in this town (there is one in the next town over, which I happily stumbled upon one day, but I'm of the opinion that every town needs to have at least one chin-up bar).  Of course, I get that slightly emotional tinge to my voice, and I just have to shut up.

The meeting winds up, and we talk to a lovely woman who tells us that our town is made up of waves of immigrants, so they pretty much worked and reared children--they didn't have time for their own extra-curriculars, so why should the town provide them.  It makes sense, but I still didn't like it....and then as I thought about it in the car, I kind of lost it.

Not a great moment for me, but I just hit my point where I felt that once again, I didn't matter.  I'm tired of not mattering.  I'm going through a little low patch with my writing right now, and I'm dealing with a lot of rejection/no money coming in (or not knowing when the outstanding money is ever showing up).  I don't work around other people, so I don't have a ton of regular contact with the outside world.  I'm a woman, and there are times where it feels that I don't matter as much because of that (another post for another day, but you ever notice on a reality competition show that a woman will say something like, "I really want a woman to win!" and it's OK for her to say that.  A guy never says, "I want a guy to win!").  And--of course--I don't have children.  Sigh.

A few minutes later, the Boy joked me back to normal.  Or at least normal, with a hint of bitterness.

Your pal,

P.S.--I'm heading to Chicago for Uproar by the Lakeshore, the WFTDA Championships.  I may not post regularly through Wednesday, but I'll do my best to touch base.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Sure Repeal?

Dear Massachusetts Liquor Store Owners,

Congratulations!  The ballot question to repeal the state alcohol tax passed!  Now comes the interesting part--the part where we voters have to be diligent about making sure this measure benefits us too. 

The repeal goes into effect on January 1, 2011.  What I hope to see--and I think all of us who voted for the repeal want to see--is that the final receipt is lower than what I've been paying.  I don't want to walk into a liquor store in January and suddenly see that all of the alcohol is priced a little higher than what it's priced at now.  Then it doesn't matter if the tax is gone--I'm still paying the same amount.

I'm actually worried that you'll pull the whole bait and switch move, so I'll be watching the prices and seeing if the repeal actually makes the difference I voted for.  Look, you know I was on your side.  Now let's hope that you're on mine.  If not, fine.  I'll keep taking my money to New Hampshire.

Your pal,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dear Non-Profits,

I've got enough address labels now.  You can quit sending them.

Honestly, I'd considered ordering some from a stationery place when I first moved, but right away I got all sorts of fun address labels from you....actually more labels than I can use for a while.

So, you can stop sending them.  Even you, March of Dimes, who actually sent me a dime.  It's so rare that I get paid to open my mail.  Nice touch!

Really, though.  I budget my annual giving to organizations I care about.  Not that I think the organizations who send me labels aren't doing good work, it's just that I only have so much money, and it just doesn't spread out as far as I'd like.

I know you hope the address labels entice me to send you a little cash, but they don't.  I use them, sure, but that's about it.  Apparently they're an effective fundraising tool for somebody though, because you still use this tactic.

Just take my name off your list before you send out another mailing.  It'll save us both some trouble.


Your pal,

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Not-In-The-Tourist-Guide Adventure

Dear Readers,

If the Boy and I have nothing planned for the weekend, we like to have an "Adventure."  We have a lot of places we want to explore in our new home region, so if we schedule an Adventure, we're more likely to do them.

We've had some good ones so far:

This Saturday, we were talking about what adventure to have this weekend, when I noticed a scab just below my left knee.  I took a closer look--well, I went to pick at it, because that's what I do, and as the Boy was yelling at me not to pick it, I realized it was moving.

I had a tick.  A TICK!

Being a mostly city person, I've never had a tick before.  We don't live too far from nature now, though, so I've been trying to acclimate myself to becoming a little more outdoorsy, which means more walking among the trees.

On Friday, I had to drive the Boy to work, and on my way home, I stopped at a conservation area to take a little walk.  It was nice (we've had gorgeous sunny weather lately--a little cold, but the sun is so nice I don't mind), but uneventful.  I wandered through trees and a field.  Didn't run into anybody--except a 4 1/2 month old puppy who bounded up to me to say hello.

And 24 hours later, I spotted the tick, happily feasting on my blood.

I'm not going to deny that there was a little freak out on my part.  I've never had a tick, and the news around here is that deer ticks with Lyme disease are becoming more prevalent in these parts.  Nothing like the thought of a little Lyme to make the morning exciting!

The Boy got the tick out, and we quickly sent it to a boozy death by drowning it in alcohol.  The bite immediately looked like a bulls' eye, so we called the walk-in clinic at the local hospital to see what to do.

Of course, this meant that we spent a chunk of the afternoon at the walk-in clinic.  

I've had a couple of big fears since moving to Boston:
  1. Which one of us will get the first dings on the car/get into a fender bender
  2. Which one of us will have to go to the ER first?
Number two's basically been answered:  Me.  Sure, the walk-in clinic isn't the ER, but it's close enough. It wasn't an awful experience--just a wait, a look at the bite, and a prescription doled out.  The doctor didn't think it was anything to worry about, but he wanted to give me a two-pill dose just to make sure it didn't develop into Lyme (because that would be bad. Just ask novelist Amy Tan).

So far, so good.  I don't really think anything else will happen with this incident, but it does make me think twice about randomly walking in the woods without making sure a tick doesn't have an easy way to burrow in.

Hope your weekends were better!
Your pal,