Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “National Novel Writing Month”

NaNo oh oh

November is such an incredibly packed month:

  • post first quarter grades
  • plan second quarter lessons
  • parent teacher conferences
  • vote when applicable
  • Thanksgiving
  • No Shave November

oh oh somewhere in there is NaNoWriMo

If I were truly a dedicated NaNoian this should have been my first NaNo post. Well, not wanting to be too crazy this year, I’ve decided not to NaNo in 2013. I have previously NaNoed and have the completion certificate hanging on the wall. I even have bounced the manuscript out to a couple of editors and agents.

This year, however, instead of something new I shall continue with my vow of completion commitment. No more new starts until finishing half-started projects–umm, those of merit.  Some projects should keep on hibernating for both our sakes.

Yes, I am intent on finishing the middle grade historical novel I’ve been working on for the last ten years. I know, that’s an awfully long time, especially when in just a month’s time I cranked out a YA novel a couple of years. Contemporary fiction , I’ve discovered, is so much easier than writing  middle reader historical fiction. researching for a historical novel is one big onion of peel and write. As soon as I peel back one layer of information another layer is revealed.  Yes, peeling historical onions do make me cry. Getting facts straight, setting up proper verisimilitude, along with creating catchy characters, scintillating setting, and convincing complications, conflict, and climax is tough stuff. At least for me. I’m determined to finish this odyssey of a pioneer tale I started, especially when I’ve had an agent express interest.

Sooo, Na No not now, but thanks for the invite. This year my RSVP box is checked “next year, perhaps.”

Oops, on my anniversary

WordPress recently reminded me of my one year anniversary.  Oops. Time swiftly flies when having so much fun?  I didn’t acknowledge the anniversary with a card or make dinner reservations or even buy flowers.  And yet, my life has been enhanced by this relationship. I know my writing has improved, I’ve met an amazing array of people, I’ve been enlightened, amused, astounded, and decidedly enriched through my WordPress endeavour.  Here are some highlights so far:

  • first post on January 5th (I guess I took a bit between registering and actually posting)
  • Ordinary Days was my first blog offering (EagleEyed Editor commented and we have been happily exchanging commentaries since then.  Shout out to 3E!)
  • 128 posts so far
  • 4 pages
  • 44 categories
  • 430 tags (I have never really gotten the whole category/tag designation thing–open to clarification)
  • best day ever consisted of 86 views on March 17th and the post concerned itself with bookcases

But stats are rather dry.  It’d be like saying: “During our marriage I’ve cooked over 15,000 meals, washed the windows over 250 times, made the bed at least 565 times, and rearranged the living room at least 17 times.”  Of course these stats are bogus because who keeps track of that kind of stuff?  I do find it fascinating that WordPress keeps stats and sometimes I wander around them finding out what countries have visited, what posts have earned the most looks, and who is making the most comments.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have someone keep stats on our everyday doings like that?  Or not–

That reminds me of the opening  scene fromStranger Than FictionI don’t think Harold enjoyed having his life tracked in such a manner. Actually, I don’t think I would like it either.

After a year, especially moving into a new year, I should become reflective and resolutionated.  Nah.  That’s smacks of banal and boring.  I will offer the following on the evolution of this blog:

  • I felt I needed to create a blog since so many writing articles pounded the importance of establishing a platform.  I saw it as a “Build it and the agents will discover you.”  Didn’t that work for Julie of Julie and Julia?
    Cover of "Julie & Julia"

    Cover of Julie & Julia

    If you are an agent I am open to talking about that multi-media package of book, movie, and video game.

  • The original intent of my blog was to read books, review them, and address how the book helped me as a writer.  I still do that; however, after a few of these entries I decided to spice things up with different book related entries.  I’m still promoting my journey as a writer as a reader through my posts–I’m a bit more eclectic in my approach now.  After all, I don’t eat the same breakfast every morning.
  • I’m still learning how to blog.  I just discovered the kitchen sink widget.  Thank goodness I’ve located the undo button.  Colors are fun to write in as well.
  • Not content with one blog, I have developed another blog, Veranano, which was a vehicle for my 2012 NaNoWriMo entry.  I didn’t have the heart to disengage Vera once the novel project was completed so I am continuing her entries.  Thinking like a creative fifteen year old who has a singular outlook and variant lifestyle (did I mention her parents are professional writers?) is a stretch for me.  It’s been a while since I’ve been fifteen and she no way represents much of the way I lived life as a teen.  Two blogs with two different directions is a stretch and when I’m writing like Vera I feel a tad schizzy around the edges.
  • My Book Boosters page doesn’t rage up into the hundreds of committed bibliomaniacs as I had initially thought.  On the other hand, I’ve not aggressively promoted it either.  Serendipity signer-uppers has been a pleasant way of gaining growth.  Oh, here’s my chance:  Are you a Book Booster yet?  No? I will gladly sign you up and you will enjoy the benefits of finding yourself on the page with other BBers.  No dues, no annual meetings or conferences.  I’m still working on the secret handshake.

So–thanks to all those 153 followers who’ve made this year memorable.

Oh, and WordPress?  Freshly Pressed?  I wouldn’t mind.


WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

Happy New Year and keep on Pressing,

Blue Skies,


Bright Spots and Pass Alongs

When the world reveals too much darkness I tend to retreat.  I know I can’t just hide and pretend it will all go away, yet I don’t want to dwell on tragedies and troubling events.  So when the world is at its darkest I look up and out and around to find the bright spots.

Beautiful dramatic sky with sun rays  Blue Heavens Idyllic Wallpaper Broad Daylight  Stock Photo - 16019369

Whitetail doe eating with her twin fawns nearby a forest Stock Photo - 7770366
leaded glass dragonfly sticking to window with back light Stock Photo - 13175274
Sunset in autumn forest Stock Photo - 13041518
 The photo of beautiful beach and waves Stock Photo - 12003686
Cute little boy feeding ducks Stock Photo - 10488802
And I escape by reading.
My love and prayers go out to those affected by the turmoil and troubles of the day.  I do encourage everyone to keep looking for the bright spots as I am reminded of Emily Dickinson who spoke of hope:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers— That perches in the soul— And sings the tune without the words— And never stops—at all—
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard— And sore must be the storm— That could abash the little Bird That kept so many warm—
I’ve heard it in the chillest land— And on the strangest Sea— Yet, never, in Extremity, It asked a crumb—of Me

The Rush of Falling Down Happy

I ran track in high school and always complained when coach made us take a long run.  “I’m a sprinter! Why do I have to practice for distance?” I would question.  In her wisdom she explained it built up my endurance.

And so it is with NaNoWriMo.  I usually don’t write every day, and I especially don’t write nearly 1,700 words when I do.  My usual writing regime is to toss down an idea, thought-drop a page or two, or a chapter, or pick apart a passage.  I tend to sprint write, in other words.  I’m not much for sitting down hours at end, pushing my muse to exhaustion.

This is why NaNo has been good for me.

Of course I didn’t think that as I realized (often) at 8:30 pm I needed to enter my daily dose of words.  I especially did not embrace the goodness of attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  And I especially wondered why I would think it a good idea to marathon write when my life was pretty full already.

Because it builds up my endurance.

I know now I can do it–oh, have I shown you my certificate of completion yet?

Day Two

Having completed the grueling word run, even in the midst of parent/teacher conferences, posting quarterly grades, preparing for Thanksgiving, and living life as usual, I now know I can go the extra mile at a pace that is uncomfortable at times, but still doable.

I don’t know if I will make NaNoWriMo an annual event; however, I do know I like the feeling, that rush, of falling down happy once done.

To those who persevered NaNo, I raise my bottled water to you in salute.  Even if you didn’t participate I know you were cheering us along the way.  Thanks, I, and we, needed that.



TaDah and NaNa!

International edition

International edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bette Midler had a great hit with her rendition of “Friends.”  Friends are right up with there with dark chocolate, a good book (okay, a couple of those), and a sky of blue to make it through tough times.

It’s friends like you that saw me through NaNoWriMo this year.  Yup, I just printed out my certificate. Tonight I punched in 50, 316 words and received my prize.  I think I used up all our color ink cartridge printing it out.  It’s a real pretty one this year.

Since my house is small, the hour late, and I’m all out of ginger ale, I will toss out a virtual “Happy NaNo Over Party.” You supply the hats and confetti on your end and I will supply the thank yous on this end.

If there were a NaNo Happy It’s Over and I Finished Party, and we all had the opportunity to step right up to the microphone, here’s what I would say:

“First of all, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to like my posts.  That helped encourage me to keep going and it definitely brightened my day. Secondly, I enjoyed getting to know new bloggers and visiting new sites. Thirdly, what?  My time’s up already? Phooey.  Okay, really fast.  I don’t know what I’ll do with my NaNo novel, but seeing how you hung with it, you’ll be the first to know if anything does happen with it i.e. published, sold the movie rights, t-shirts, bumper sticker quotes–the usual fame route.”

The last post Vera made was about the value of friends, and so here is a tribute about that very subject.  Bettte surely knew what she was singing about: you got to have friends.










Fan (of) Fiction

Caterpillar using a hookah. An illustration fr...

Caterpillar using a hookah. An illustration from Alice in Wonderland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With six days left Vera has finally started her NaNo novel.  Her inspiration is a hybrid of Hamlet and Alice in Wonderland with a bit of Lost in Austen thrown in. It’s fan fiction at it’s *finest*.  Okay, cut the kid a break–she’s only fifteen and has never written anything of length beyond the required English essay.

Actually, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to fan fiction, even though I’ve come across some which is entertaining and well-written, I can’t help but think, “Couldn’t you come up with something original?”  Then again there is something to be said for being inspired by good writing.

For example, Wide Sargasso Sea is on the AP suggested reading list and can be considered the prequel to Jane Eyre.  What?  Fan Fiction considered classic literature?  Told you I was a literary snob.

An ardent admirer of Ophelia of Hamlet and Alice of Wonderland fame, and totally grooving on the Lost in Austen premise of switching places with Elizabeth Bennett, I couldn’t help but have Vera weave all of them together.


NaNo–the most grueling, yet satisfying form of writing under pressure.  Sissies need not apply.



Trying the Tryptophan Diet (Photo credit: biggraham)

Post turkey day and after storing the leftovers in the fridg no one better better say, “Is there anything to eat?” I am learning that less is more as we get older.  By making less to eat at Thanksgiving there is more satisfaction and much more contentment.  It’s tradition to make my apple-custard pie and pumpkin pie. Who is the one eating it? Moi. The scale is snickering at how much weight I have regained since Wednesday.  Phooey.  The tryptophan diet isn’t for me, after all.

You see turkey contains tryptophan, which is what makes us sleepy after the big T-Day meal.  However, according to that isn’t entirely true.  I was hoping if I ate enough turkey I would fall into a long, deep sleep and when I woke up the pie, mashed potato casserole, stuffing and all the other holiday caloric wonderments would be consumed so I wouldn’t eat them. However, I have learned that pumpkin pie is healthy for you.  Good.  Now, I don’t feel so guilty for having it for breakfast.  Wait–doesn’t healthy mean low calorie?

On a more positive note of gain is my NaNo novel.  I am now at 44,000 words with a week to go.  I think I’m going to make it.  Vera needs to get serious and start her own NaNo novel instead of procrastinating and watching movies with Simone.

I so enjoyed having Friday off; it’s like having a double Saturday.  Instead of Black Friday shopping I picked up two more books at the library and a stack of movies.  No lesson planning tonight.  Just my tryptophan hangover and a relaxing evening ahead.

Pumpkin pie, from

Pumpkin pie, from Scrumptious and good for you! Pumpkin pie is loaded with a healthful phytonutrient called beta-carotene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Guinea) Pigging Out on Turkey Day

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...

English: Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m alone with my pie baking and other preparations for T-day.  I’ve cleaned the house, rearranged furniture, and managed to plunk down another NaNoWriMo post.  My MEPA has proven his value once again by doing the honors of entertaining the tribe so I can cook, bake, and relax a tad before celebrating our favorite holiday with our loved ones.  I really need to see about giving him a bonus.  For now he works for Bit-a-Honey and an ocassional dinner out.  I’ve got a good thing going for sure.

My NaNo protag is babysitting the neighbor’s guinea pig over the long weekend.  Vera is not sure what her family is doing for Thanksgiving.  It’s usually at her Grandmother’s, but she’s sure something is up.  I really don’t know what’s going on either.  Somehow I type and the story begins spilling out.  I don’t always know what direction it’s going to go in.  NaNo-ing is a very different way to write: don’t plot, don’t plan, just write.  We’ll all find out tomorrow what Vera ended up doing for T-day.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving–my favorite holiday, all in all.  I think I like it better than my birthday, and that’s saying something.

R and R. Mmmhmmm

The "gravedigger scene" The Gravedig...

The “gravedigger scene” The Gravedigger Scene: Hamlet 5.1.1–205. (Artist: Eugène Delacroix 1839) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


After a couple of tough weeks of school there is nothing like a weekend getaway.  Grabbed a few foodstuffs, a couple of changes of clothes, and of course, school work.  But hey, at least I’d be doing lesson plans in a change of scenery.


First thing I did was nap.  Then I grabbed my Hamlet homework and dug in.  Even though I’ve taught Hamlet for the last three years, and really, really like the play, I know I have to up my game since I am know teaching it ala AP.  Deeper, richer, more insights–get some questions (try to know the answers).  I was delighted to find that my iPhone internet connection functioned which meant I didn’t have to pay the WiFi fee.  Heck, I didn’t even use my laptop this weekend.


I all kinds of Hamlet helps on the Internet.  One especially helpful site was called Shakespeare Navigators.  I drained my iPhone battery working the site so much and had to drive around to charge it up.  Gave me an excuse to go down to the Safeway (a good 40 minute drive) to stock up on essentials like Peppermint Bark Haagen Daz.  You know Christmas is around the corner when the Peppermint Bark comes out.  Fortunately MEPA met up with me on Saturday and brought my charger.  Whew.  A good personal assistant is more valuable than all the Haagen Daz in the freezer.


I tried to NaNo while R and R-ing and managed to get the posts up.  I didn’t manage to update my word count until I got home and looking at my statistics and posting three days worth of word count bloated my chart slightly.


Your Average Per Day: 1,934
Words Written Today: 4,967
Total Words Written: 34,827
Words Remaining: 15,173
At This Rate You Will Finish On: November 25, 2012
Words Per Day To Finish On Time: 1,168
There is no truth to the stat I wrote nearly 5,000 today.  Nope, didn’t happen.  I do like seeing I might finish early.  That would call for more Peppermint Bark.




Serendipity and Fricatives

A sign that designates no swearing in a city.

A sign that designates no swearing in a city. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Serendipity.  That happenstance which is unexpected and delightful.  Like finding that forgotten twenty dollar bill in your jacket pocket about the time you need a spare bit of change to enjoy an impromptu gelato and a movie.

Serendipity also happens in writing.  For instance, the other day my NaNo protag went on a side rant about swearing and she wondered (as I do) why certain sounds satisfy that need of relieving vexation.  Those sounds are called fricatives.

Opening my latest version of Children’s Writer I experienced that serendipitous moment upon reading “Punch, Bold, Colorful: Fricatives” by Vera Boyd Jones. Here is her opening segment:

My friend Brendan, a brand-new teacher, sat at my dinner table complaining that a novel for junior high readers was totally unrealistic.

    “There’s no way a juvenile delinquent would talk like that. His language would be full of words like  *!&**## and $^*&$* and %(^*#. (Substitutes are mine.) Your ears would turn blue if you heard the kids talk in our school hallways, and they’re not in trouble with the law.”
   “That may be,” I said in the tone I reserve for talking to young friends I have known since their birth and who should not be cussing in front of me, “but the first reader of a novel is an editor and once it’s in print, the next readers are reviewers and librarians, and they are not going to buy a kids’ book full of profanity. And I won’t even address the role of irate school boards.”
    “But it’s not right,” he said.
    “It’s not accurate, but that’s where substitute fricatives come in.”
    “Phooey. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of fricatives? Shoot, they’re such wonderful words.”

Jones  goes on to discuss the role of hard consonant sounds (p, f, b, d, k, sh, etc.) in our most colorful (and frowned upon) language.  Fricative, itself, is a great fricative.  Substituting naughty words with imaginative and consonant-rich ones is a solution to being tsked in the classroom.  Chris Crutcher, a popular YA author, cares not for substitutes and runs through as many of the real thing as possible (it seems) in his writing.  He’s proud of it too.  I’ve had him as a guest in my classroom and the students are split between liking the realism of his language usage and being uncomfortable with reading it.

For now, Vera will stick with her frick-atives.  After all, if I’m self-conscious saying them, how can I possibly have my characters utter them?

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