Some NaNoWriMo Confessions

Full disclosure:

  1. I do not know if I can do this.
  2. But I’m doing it anyway!
  3. I do not have an outline beyond the first chapter, and ideas for two more chapters scribbled in a notebook while I was preoccupied here.
  4. So I will have to wing it.
  5. Which is daunting.
  6. And exhilarating.
  7. And possibly possible?

I’ll stop there because I don’t like the number 8. But I could go on… I tend to ramble. (Might this come in handy next month?) I know there are many other writers and bloggers who will also be doing National Novel Writing Month and I meant to comment saying good luck! and how exciting! and can we do this? I think we can! and many other more creative things but it’s been a weird adjustment being back in New York and returning to work, and no comment, and, well, no excuses, but I meant to say hi. So hi. I’m excited to see that so many people are doing this.

This morning I didn’t get up on time. I’d set my alarm for 5:45 p.m., not a.m. Tomorrow I’ll do better, I must!

So if you’re signed up, too, and would like another writing buddy, you can find me here.

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Unaccomplishments

workshopsm.jpgThe new novel has been on my mind. Other things have been happening, but all along there’s been this unsettled feeling in me: I haven’t accomplished enough; I’m not where I wanted to be; it’s time to change that; how long have I been saying that?; is it too late?; it can’t be too late. I try to smash these jumbled thoughts down, but they come back. With them are story ideas, so I’m trying to tell myself that this sense of unsettling has to be good. I expected to go back to college after all this time and have something to show for myself, but I don’t feel that way at all. Here is a picture of a classroom where I had writing workshops so many years ago. I stood there in the empty room, remembering. I will tell you it didn’t feel all good. I guess I expected to come back to campus feeling differently about myself. I also found my senior project in the gallery and peeked at the introductory essay. I felt like sitting on the floor, just there with it, facing what I expected of myself. But there were people around, talking to me, and I got distracted. One person, though, a professor I took screenwriting with so many years ago, gave me such a boost of inspiration and motivation that I hope it lasts once I land in New York. Speaking of NY, I’m at the airport now, waiting for our flight back to the East Coast. November 1 is soon. I don’t know if I’ll be able to write 50,000 words in one month, how impossible that seems, but for some reason I really need this shot at the impossible. I need this month.

Limbo

Windows on the second floor of the Photohouse, Antioch College

No answer yet, and none expected for one, two, three (?) days. As a writer, I am all too familiar with this state of waiting. Someone says they have an answer for you, but they don’t know when. It could be good, they hint, but they don’t say it outright, which brings to mind the doubt (if it was truly good, wouldn’t they just tell you? Why are they not telling you?). And so here we are.

But this situation is not about my own personal struggle to make it as a writer. This is my college on the line. The people here—students, faculty, staff, residents of the town—living through it every day, I can’t imagine what it’s like for them. I go home on Monday; there probably won’t be an answer then.

Anyway, I have no inside information. There are negotiations I don’t know about, couldn’t fully understand. If it means waiting to get that yes, I’ll wait. I don’t think it’s shameful to wait. (Long story; someone else can blog about that comment from community meeting.) I just hope—can I be hopeful? can I?—that we don’t have to wait much longer.

Waiting…

This afternoon members of the Antioch College community are expecting (hoping) for a decision from the university Board of Trustees announcing that the college can stay open past the spring of 2008. The Alumni Board has raised more than $18 million to that end.

We want a yes.

As you can see, signs have been put up around campus to make that clear:

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Going back to campus in a few minutes… Much going on, but it was a good day yesterday. I love the students. The Sexual Offense Prevention Policy presentation was incredible—the students did hysterical gender-bending skits and then talked candidly about what the policy means to them. I was on campus the first quarter the policy was enacted, during the media blitz, so it was amazing to see what current students thought of it. The day was spent wandering, talking, hanging out on the stoop. Saw an open mic. Saw a photo show (pieces of my senior project were in it). Saw graduates I remember from my year, though there were many I missed (!). Had an inspiring conversation with a professor I took screenwriting with. Glad I went back. Wish I could stay. Hope they say yes…

p.s. If you’re my Facebook friend, more photos there.

Ohio, Here I Come

mainbuilding.jpgPlease please please let Antioch College stay open. I’m headed to Ohio now. (Pictured here is an image I remember from my admissions brochure.)

I’ll be on campus shortly, to return to the place where I:

had my eyes opened • had my ideas and views challenged • found inspiration • found my voice • studied harder than ever for myself, as there were no grades so it wasn’t ever about grades • over-credited every quarter I could because I loved classes • learned from some of the best professors I’ve ever had • discovered Jean Rhys • discovered Francesca Woodman • met incredible friends • self-designed my major • photographed dozens of friends and strangers for my senior project • edited the community newspaper, twice (or was it two-and-a-half times?) • edited an anthology of stories • worked for years for the Antioch Review • studied abroad in Kyoto, Japan • co-oped for a community activist organization • co-oped for a newspaper • co-oped for the PR office • wrote the story that got me into grad school, which was later published in Orchid, one of my first published stories • saw some crazy things • heard some crazy things • went out into the “real world” and found it to be even crazier because it was not Antioch • found love • found out who I am

I discovered Antioch accidentally. The first time I heard of the place I was 15. A friend down the road from me told me his dad was a professor there and that it was the most incredible college and I would love it. (To those who know the college, his father was a certain B. Devine.) Ohio! I scoffed at the time (I was living in upstate New York; I had never been west of Pennsylvania). I’ll never go to Ohio, I said.

Never say never.

The Board of Trustees announced they were closing the college this summer. Here’s my initial reaction. But right now a group of very dedicated alumni have been working hard to raise money to try to keep the school open. This is the weekend the Board of Trustees could reverse their decision. It could happen.

The school is for a certain kind of student. Someone passionate and independent and willing to put in the work to design a college experience of his/her very own. It is an alternative—and we need alternatives. I hope it stays open, for people like me.

You might get a kick out of this, featuring the first president of the college, Horace Mann (designed by e):

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That’s where I’m headed. I don’t know what I’ll find when I get there, if I’ll recognize anything, anyone, if a campus with limited facilities due to the impending closing will be too sad to bear. I’ve heard there’s a photography exhibit with one of my pictures in it… I want a chocolate shake at Young’s. It’s been a long time, but e and me, we’re on our way there.

The Giddy Stage

I’m at that point when you’re writing a novel when you’re not even actually writing the novel but still you think you’re gold. You know: The ideas shimmering… Your words poised to come out… Not a single line on the page, but the whole thing seems finished somehow, in your mind.

I bet there are tens of thousands of writers out there having this feeling, what with NaNoWriMo speedily approaching.

This morning before work I got a more solid handle on my idea and started outlining. Then at work I got swallowed and forgot all about the idea, and I only remembered on the subway ride home. And giddiness ensued:

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I was so giddy, I had to write it down on the train. To translate:

I found the November novel this morning. ‘[Title blurred due to superstition]’ is the working title. [Initials of the working title blurred due to further (perhaps paranoid?) superstition]… don’t want to talk too much about it in front of people. I don’t want it to get ruined. But it has my idea for ‘[Title of short story, blurred, of course]’ and expands on it (maybe one chapter could become a story?). Also has the idea for the novel, the [name of place] novel, but I am not going in that direction (adding the adult perspective) yet. If you are wondering [who am I talking to here? my future self?] why my handwriting is all goofy it’s because I’m writing this on the subway. While riding backwards. (Plus my fingers are tired from work, my palms aching from being clenched.) [It’s from holding a pencil. Really.] I love going alongside another train. So this novel, YA or not? I am not sure yet. The end will differ, depending. The perspective. The length. I am almost home. I need to keep outlining. I am going to write a new novel! (shaky train)

Oh, and if you were curious, the outside of the notebook looks like this:

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How delectable. It wants to be filled with wobbly, giddy scribbles. Maybe that’ll happen next month.

5 Writing Strengths, Minus 1

I have to take #1 back.

I said I could handle revision. I cannot. I can handle revision only when I am facing my own notes or only when I don’t care so much anymore, which takes time, loads and loads of time. In order to handle revision, I need some amnesia. It comes, but not right away. In the heat of the moment, feedback is too startling, too raw. Especially feedback I, though I loathe to admit it, might happen to agree with. I was trying to revise a story to send it out on submission this Wednesday and possibly, maybe-possibly-not-sure, read an excerpt of it out loud in front of people next weekend, but now that there is talk of revision the story has gotten all dirty and slimy and just gross and I don’t want to look at it anymore, even in pieces, and so I don’t want to read it in front of people and I don’t want to revise it. I probably won’t touch it for weeks. Probably December at the earliest. I need this much time in order to even begin the revisions.

Clearly this is not a person who, and I quote, is “always willing to plunge back in.”

What I should have said is that my first writing strength is:

1. Willingness to revise—after months and months have passed and I have stopped stomping around like a whiny baby and I’ve gotten a hold of myself and become a more rational person, which could take a year, all things considered.

There. Now that I’ve set the record straight I feel much better.