Saturday, November 30, 2013

For Small Moments

The dog comes to greet us every morning before we get out of bed. We're retired now. This reminds us we can sleep in later than our daughter. We chuckle at the dog, watch her leave as Emma calls her from the door, and turn over to embrace each other before starting our day.

“Tell Grampa the joke, Lucien.” Two year old Lucien pokes his grampa in the nose and says, “EAR”, and giggles because he knows it's a nose. That's the joke.

A fat cheeked, dimpled baby Opal with wide eyes watches her brothers play with smiles turning her face into a round, joyfilled sun.

Dropping Patrick off to babysit the grandkids, I hear Mattheus yell from the dining room “UNCLE PATCHY!!” and Lucien just yelled.

Two ladies on the train in Chicago laugh and joke with us, telling me how I would look good with my hair in corn row braids. One of the ladies has stayed with us at Ronald McDonald House. I know what she's going through with her new grandson. We embrace and cry a little when Emma and I have to leave.

A homeless man sees us trying to figure out where we are going at the train station. He comes over and asks where we want to go, then he escorts us straight to the platform. Only after we are at the right place does he ask if we have some spare change to give him. When I admit I don't have any at all, he smiles and wishes us a safe trip.

We make it out to the passenger pick-up area just as Chris drives up. For two tired travelers, this is a wonderful moment.

On Thanksgiving morning, I receive a message from an out-of-town friend, expressing gratitude for our friendship. It means more to me than I can express. Today our family is getting together for a meal. The house will be wonderfully loud and crazy. 

Some times I find myself waiting for the big things to happen and forgetting that small moments make up most of our lives. This year, I want to try harder to appreciate all the small moments.

Today I get to practice this after I stepped in dog poop. It was a small moment too, and I'm really, really thankful it wasn't any bigger.

Friday, November 15, 2013

When Novel Characters Go on Holiday

It's November, which is also called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, which is also called, How to Torture Yourself by Writing Fifty Thousand Words in Thirty Days or HoToYoWriFiThoWoThiDa. As a number of women in my author's group were joining in, I figured I would try it, too. It would be good practice for me and, who knows? Maybe I'll end up with one of those surprise successes and be the next J. K. Rowling.

First things first. I had to figure out what to write about. This didn't take too long. I went thirty-four years into my past and decided to write a novel based on my experiences working in a deaf/blind preschool. If nothing else, there were plenty of quirky characters involved. I remember the psychologist who came to the school to offer his advice and ended up talking mostly about the good old days when one could use electric shocks and other aversion techniques. It still makes me shudder.

Next? There wasn't really time to plan anything else. Suddenly it was November 1st and I had a word quota of approximately 1670 words per day over the next thirty days. I've learned a few things about writing in this way:

If you're working towards a word quota, always spell everything out. One thousand, six hundred and seventy counts as more words than 1,670. 

Don't go back and read what you wrote. You'll be tempted to delete something and that will take away from your word count.

Keep tea and chocolate on hand at all times.

Don't over think your writing. The characters sometimes just say what they are going to say. This is called, getting into the flow.

I was doing well with this until yesterday when one of my characters started to yawn. What's the matter, I thought, is my writing really so boring? He yawned again and I started yawning, too. It was contagious. I decided we all needed a day off. I announced this to my characters and let them know I would expect them back promptly the next morning. A couple of them cheered.

This isn't a new concept. I first learned of the secret lives of book characters when I read "The Eyre Affair" and "Lost in a Good Book", both by Jasper Fforde. The characters in these books travel around and generally do whatever they want to do at those times when they aren't needed for the story until page 178. 

If you haven't read these Thursday Next detectives stories, I would highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys intelligent literary humor and having your brain tied in knots while you try to figure out what's going on. Even if you read it just for the bookworms, who sometimes have digestive trouble and start farting apostrophes whi'ch make' eve'ry'one' tal'k li'ke thi's, you'll be glad you did.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the characters in my story. I decided they needed a break just as much as I did. It paid off. They were all back and ready to go to work today. Nobody yawned. I didn't ask them where they went or what they did. I figured it was their time and their business.

We're definitely back in the flow.