Sunday, October 30, 2011

Getting Ready

Most people think writers just write. We put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and are then off and running.

It doesn't quite work that way.

Writers have to take pre-writing steps whether it's researching, outlining, developing characters, taking notes and other such things. That's true of anything, good planning often leads to a good result.

Since my goal is to write about Fenway Park as it approaches its centennial this year, that means research. Research on Boston, research on the team and research on the world at large really. That way when I tell the story of a two girls bonding over Bill Lee's eccentricities in the midst of busing as the Sox are making their pennant run in '75, the reader doesn't need to know the details of the time to have an understanding of what makes the characters bond.

I have spent this last weekend before NaNoWriMo bookmarking pages of local and team history, searching through the online Boston Public Library photo archives and other sites. Along with the historical searching, I'm also going through my writers' resources such as on-line dictionaries and style manuals to make sure those links are along side the historical and sports links.

That's not counting going through my book shelves for resource books to have on hand when I get stuck. Which is probably why I don't panic the way some folks do at the prospect of writing 1600+ words a day for a month.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why NaNoWriMo?

For anyone starting to read this blog and wondering about National Novel Writer's Month (NaNoWriMo) and what it's all about, I suppose I should explain a couple of things.

First the idea is to commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. That breaks down to just over the 1600 word a day on average mark. This is not about editing and polishing. This is about throwing yourself with wild abandon into the sheer act of writing. But if you're wondering about the idea of quantity over quality, I understand your puzzlement. It's really this simple: most of us don't think of ourselves as writers forgetting it's such an integral part of our lives.

For example, think about the business plans, proposals and other practical bits of every day this and that we do professionally and personally. I can't tell you how many people I know who write as a part of their everyday professional life but will tell you they are not writers. ("Really, that legal motion that won over the judge isn't writing?" "It's not the same thing.")

Think about the stories we tell each other. Maybe it was the tale of last night's trip to the grocery store when the unbelievable happened. It's answering your kids questions of, "When you were my age, did you skate board too?" and telling them about how you broke your arm riding that really slick tan colored plastic Hobie cat with the clay wheels down Deadman's hill on a dare.

They're all writing because all writing are stories - whether they're factual fiction or fictional facts.

But it's the planning that often scares folks. However, it's not always the planning. Sometimes the author is the historian, if you will. The secretary recording the minutes in the meeting between the characters with their own form of short hand to be polished up later when it comes time to insert the notes in the annual report.

Hell, that's what the other 11 months of the year are for when you think about it.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is not necessarily to get published. It's a dream for many of us, but that feeling of accomplishing something - good, bad or indifferent - that you thought you could never do that is invaluable. Putting that inner editor aside and just producing to show yourself you can is a powerful affirmation.

Today, as I recover on the couch from a bout of the flu, I started to look through my personal collection of books on Fenway Park and the Red Sox as I get ready to get started next Tuesday. Last week's trip to the library reminded me of just how many books there are on the team, players, the park, history, rules, procedures... everything. In a situation like, just where do you start? Seriously?

But in the course of answering that question, and asking the advice of some experts on the subject, I had a flash of memory that made the craziest of prompts become very simple. You see, in 1978, there was a massive food fight in the dining hall at college the day Bucky "Freaking" Dent hit Mike Torrez's meatball over the wall. A bunch of drunken college students (the drinking age was 18) had spent hours drinking beer and watching the collapse of the Sox. At dinner, one of the cafeteria ladies sent a guy in a Yankees hat to the line on the other side of the room. Given the recent popularity of the movie "Animal House," when the poor kid came out of food line, he was pelted. Chaos ensued and suddenly a prompt of catapults, trees throwing watermelons and birds throwing pickles and ice cream makes total sense.

I know which story will be told first. I will record that incident. Perhaps it will be in a different setting, perhaps not. I know the characters are now emerging and getting ready to tell me their story and, good journalist that I am, I will listen and report.

If you're up for it, join me. Take that risk. For those of you that ride this crazy train with me, thanks for your suggestions.

Oh, and Pat, that story about the cryogenically frozen head of Ted Williams may end up in there this year. It's still debating how long a story it really is and is it a coming of age or a love story. Hopefully those half-crazed Yankees fans waking up from a drunken stupor in the parking lot of a Scranton Dennys on their way to Arizona is ready to be told for real. If so, you'll be among the first to know.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sweet Merciful Cupcakes! They're here!!!

Last night UPS arrived with my brand new all star high tops arrived and I am sooooooo psyched for NaNoWriMo.

Yes, those are cupcake high tops with black and pink trim baby!

So it no longer matters if things go as planned or not, I now have my writin' shoes! :)

Also, I realized I have at least one more "prompt" after meeting Sophie Blackall (Ivy & Bean) the other day. She illustrated a bunch of missed connections notices from Craig's List for fun. It also gave me the idea for one of the Fenway stories as either a missed connection or a connection remade... or both. It may be the "You were the girl in the lower box seats in canvas alley, I was the first baseman that landed in your lap. We had a moment, I think I'd like to see if we can have several more involve you being the focus, not a foul ball."

I need to think about it a bit more but in the mean time I HAVE MY WRITING SHOES!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Where creativity comes from

I look at my kids and think about how creative they are, but all in different ways. People always asked me how I raised "such creative children." I would shrug and say they were always creative. This morning, as I did my semi-annual cleaning of the fridge inside and out, it struck me: all kids are creative until we tell them they can't be.

I have had magnetic poetry on the fridge for years. I have had a notebook in the glove compartment where the family has written "car haiku" - little haikus about life, the universe and everything as we were in the car. There is a whole cycle of haiku about Krispy Kreme's short lived entry into the Boston market before the Dunkin' Donut mafia took them down, about waiting for brothers' to finish ball games, traveling to DC, etc.

As I cleaned, I thought about the running dialogue on the white board before I erased it. That's when it his me, my kids were always creative, I just never told them they had to sacrifice that creativity to grow up. It's part of who we are, whether it was making up songs to sing to the cat to poetry on the fridge to messages on the white board instead of a shopping list.

The moral of the story: stay creative. Maybe that blue elephant should be gray and look like an elephant. Who cares? What you should care about is this: seeing the world through a different eyes. As Tony DiTerlizzi says, "Never abandon imagination!"

Monday, October 3, 2011


National Novel Writers Month is coming up soon and I will be posting 30 short stories here over the month of November. Each story will be around 1600 words. Some will be good, some not so good. That's how writing goes.

The prompts will be served up by a 4th grade class and I'll post them as they are written. So sit tight and keep an eye on this space. :)