So today is November 1st. Which marks the official start of National Novel Writing Month, that zany and wonderful event these folks put on every year. NaNoWriMo embodies everything (or, well, a lot of things, at least) I hold dear about creativity and writing and art, to wit: just…try. Just give it a shot. Who cares if it’s not perfect the first time around, who cares if you think it’s crap, just do it, just have fun with it, just try. There’s a time and a place for detailed, fine craftsmanship and fussing over the placement of every comma, and then there’s a time and a place for grabbing a big ol’ metaphorical brush, saying “Welp, it ain’t gonna paint itself,” then slapping some color down on that page, because guys, this stuff should be fun. Who knows, it might even turn into something amazing when you’re not looking. And doing it alongside a global community of other similarly-crazy folks is even better, because company always helps, particularly when you’re three weeks in and can’t seem to break that 30,000-word mark and need to outsource a bit of plot generation to some sympathetic stranger in Illinois who was having the same problem with her fledgling novel last week. NaNoWriMo’s great. Everyone should do it.

Except, well, I’m not doing it this year.

Heh. For all I proselytize about how awesome NaNoWriMo is, I’ve only ever actually attempted it once. School and work got in the way each year I thought about giving it a shot; as much as I love the concept, it’s kind of hard to swing 1,667 words a day when you’re in the middle of finals season. But I did finally give it a shot during that (apparently requisite) period of underemployment after undergrad, and I didn’t even finish. Got to just shy of 29,000 words, hated my characters, hated my “plot,” hated every word I’d written thus far, threw up my hands in despair and walked away. Several friends (and my dad) have finished NaNovels over the years–my friend Beemer was my NaNoWriMo buddy that year, and she actually finished hers–but I just couldn’t cut it.

And you know, even then? I loved it. I hated the result, sure, but I loooved the process. I loved hauling my laptop over to St. Mark’s Coffee (in Denver), setting myself up in a corner with a coffee and a big chocolate chip cookie, and spending a happy afternoon jamming to the weird mix of music they’d always have playing and trying to figure out how the hell character development is supposed to work when your sorry attempt at a novel is the most thinly-veiled of thinly-veiled roman a clef EVER and nobody cares in the second place. Love! Even though I didn’t get a spiffy winner’s certificate (or a finished novel) out of it, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

But this year, hoo boy. Grad school, first semester, ’nuff said. No NaNoWriMo for me, since it’s going to be my very own personal National Final Paper Writing Life Oh My God Someone Help Me over here. Luckily, the lovely Mags has thrown her pen in the ring this year, and is documenting the process on her blog, so I can live vicariously through her triumphs (and I have no doubt she’ll cross that 50,000-word line in, like, two weeks; girl’s a pro). I kind of love her novel already, from the tiny excerpt she’s posted on her author page (I hope you don’t mind me linking to it here, Mags; it’s not like anyone reads NPoR anymore) (…or ever did, hee), because oh lord can I identify with that online-dating first-meeting sinking feeling and the internal monologue of “okay, no offense, you seem like a nice person, but you just declared your unironic love for Ayn Rand, out loud, in public, and I have to go now.”

Anyway, I’m excited to cheer Mags on, and Beemer, and any other of my friends or relations who are launching themselves at those 50,000 words. Rock on. I want to read your novels when you finish them, because you will, because you’re awesome.

…Funnily enough, Mags had something of a cameo in my abortive attempt at a NaNovel–thinly-veiled roman a clef, remember?–as a badass college RA. Art imitating life, I guess. And you know, looking back through the fifty or so pages in this word document (titled “Five Beers and a Resume,” which really had nothing to do with the plot as it stood, but I think the phrase came up during an email exchange with my dad and I apparently found it hilarious enough to use as a title), there are at least a couple of paragraphs, or turns of phrase, that I don’t entirely hate. Not that the novel’s salvageable, by any means, or that I think I possess any great facility for creative writing beyond slapping self-consciously long run-ons on the page and thinking myself clever, but, you know, there are one or two sentences that aren’t the worst. Maybe? I don’t know. But most of it’s just sort of vaguely ridiculous.

Want proof? Heh. As a gesture of self-humiliation for the betterment of society, here’s a totally out-of-context excerpt from that ill-fated literary endeavor. (It’s actually one of the least roman a clef-y parts, and because of that, I think it actually ends up being a little more successful than the rest of the dreck I managed to produce. Who knew fiction worked better when it was fictional?) Schadenfreude awaits you after the jump.

Continue reading ‘NaNoWriNope’

Last Night’s Rando Dream, In Ten Words Or Fewer

Camping on Mars; third-grade science experiments. Disgruntled pet tiger.

Taking the joke too far, in one act

THE SCENE: Monday. Mid-morning. Gchat.

Colin: So I bought my tickets for New York. Just sayin’.

Megeen Mike: YAY! What are your exact travel plans, so I can resume my intensive stalking of you?

Colin: Well, first of all, I’m going to pack seven shirts, three pairs of pants, two long-sleeved thermals, eight pairs of underwe—oh, wait. Not that specific?

Megeen Mike: …What color underwear?

Colin: Grey, blue, other blue, other other blue, olive green, multicolored stripe, Hello Kitty…

Megeen Mike: Oh, I miss that Hello Kitty underwear.

Colin: I know you do.

Megeen Mike: I haven’t seen it since I had my telescope trained on your bedroom window.

Colin: Well, I know you had at least three other identical pairs when I stole it from your panty drawer, so you can’t miss it that badly. By the way, did it ride up as badly on you as it does on me? Because daaaang.

Megeen Mike: Tee hee. “Panty drawer.”


“Dance like no one’s watching—because they’re probably not.”

Have you ever come across a particular musician, band, song, whatever, that—from the very first note you hear—fits you perfectly, like that hoodie from high school that has fraying cuffs and holes in the armpits but still holds pride of place on your closet shelf because no other article of clothing could ever come close to its comfort; that fills a small hole in your heart you didn’t even know was there; that makes you yell “HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT [blank] BEFORE” so loud you scare the other person in the room, that kindly soul who introduced you to your newfound musical love?

Yeah. Meet Tanya Davis from Halifax. She’s amazing.

Continue reading ‘“Dance like no one’s watching—because they’re probably not.”’

The San Francisco Treat: Part One

"For God's sake, Alcatraz, prisoners. Prisoners, Alcatraz."


It begins, innocently enough, with a Facebook message. STC’s boyfriend, Matt1, wants to surprise her with a birthday weekend a thousand miles away, and he wants you and The Onion Juggler in on it. You think this is a fantastic idea, because STC is one of your oldest and closest friends and deserves nothing less; you haven’t seen The OJ in more than a year, because she lives in the godless north (or Ohio, whatever); and Matt1 is quickly becoming your hero. Yes, you say. Count me in. And so the planning commences.

Here’s the thing: keeping a secret is hard. It’s especially hard when the secret involves plane tickets, hotel reservations, time off work, four people in three cities. You will almost spoil the surprise approximately thirty-seven times. The others will too. You and The OJ will call each other and giggle about the close calls. There will be a panic one afternoon, the three masterminds frantically Facebook-messaging each other back and forth, when it looks like STC can’t get the necessary day off work and everything is ruined; luckily, this will be a false alarm. You should win an Oscar for all the IM conversations you have with STC, not to mention that time you had coffee with her and Matt1, mere weeks before the trip, where you managed to keep a straight face while she complained about missing The OJ and hoped to see her soon, where you managed to avoid knocking over your coffee and shouting “WE’RE TAKING YOU TO SAN FRANCISCO.” Seriously. You’d like to see Meryl Streep top that shit.

And suddenly, after months of planning and secrecy, it’s The Big Day and you’re driving to the airport, squinting against the early-morning sun. It feels like you’re getting away with something, because you know at that moment your coworkers are eating breakfast or sitting in traffic on their way to the office, while you’re barreling east on Peña Boulevard with your carry-on in the passenger’s seat, rocking out to…to…what is this song, anyway? The hell, iPod? You didn’t think you even owned any rap. Whatever. You will gladly listen to all the rap in the world, because you’re headed to the airport. You have a ticket to a city you’ve never seen before, and you’re going in the company of some of your best friends, and the sun is shining and you’re so young and cool and it feels like someone else’s life, someone else’s story, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Continue reading ‘The San Francisco Treat: Part One’

Hyphenation rules and Victorian hussies, in one act

Note: the short-play conceit herein is stolen, with all admiration and respect, from the inimitable Tara Ariano. And, well, Pamie. And probably plenty of other bloggers as well. Also, um, I totally don’t Gchat at work. Nope. Not ever, no sir.


THE SCENE: A copyeditor’s computer monitor, with Firefox pointed to Gmail. A Gchat window blinks open.

Colin: Yo, newspaper girl. AP style question. “Caregiver” or “care giver”? A quick Google indicates the former, which is also my instinct.

Mags: You should always use as few letters and spaces as possible.

Colin: Yeah. And “care giver” seems so…antique. It’s, like, a hyphen away from the Victorian era. “Whither went my care-giver to-day?”

Mags: “To yonder field, sir, to find my glove. …And do the nasty.”

Colin: “Be ware not to knock your bustle askew, madam.”

Mags: Askew you.

Colin: Askew yourself, YOU SOP-WENCH.

Mags: Hee!

Colin: Wait, what is a sop-wench, exactly? Did I make that up? Is that…a thing?

Mags: I think it works.




Mags: Askew you.

Colin: Gesundheit!


Lost and found

I’ve never really experienced the particular compulsion that writers sometimes do, the constant desire—or need, perhaps—to tell the stories of the objects they see lost or discarded, the ubiquitous jetsam of sidewalks and subway stations. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of it, the concept that a whole narrative can be built from a pen cap lying alone in a gutter, from the inherent questions of how it came to be there (where is its other half? Does it miss the pen, the conversations they used to have, their mutual dream of someday being used to draft a Pulitzer-worthy poem or record a groundbreaking interview with a mob boss? What about the owner of that pen—who is she, where was she going when she lost the cap, how long did it take her to notice?), and when I actively try, when I really focus on the world, I can jump-start that kind of storytelling in my head. It’s just not the reflex for me, or the instinct, that it seems to be for other writers. For the most part, my mind is content to let ephemera be ephemera.

Continue reading ‘Lost and found’