Wednesday, October 31, 2012

To NaNo, or not to NaNo: That is the question

I'm pretty sure that Shakespeare was thinking about NaNoWriMo when he wrote this soliloquy. How do I know that? I know, because I feel the absolute anguish that Hamlet is going through in this scene. I totally identify with Hamlet.

You see, today is October 31. For most of the world - or at least the parts of the world that celebrate pagan-turned Christian-turned secular holidays - today is Halloween, which means I will be spending the evening sitting outside, freezing my butt off and handing out candy to adorable children and surly teenagers.

But to a smaller portion of the world, this dates signifies a countdown to midnight, when the date rolls over to November 1 and National Novel Writing Month (that's NaNoWriMo to those in the know) begins. In case there is anyone reading this blog that doesn't know what NaNoWriMo, here's the quick and dirty:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

And why does this stir up such an intense reaction in my gut? Because I've done NaNo pretty much every year since 2004, and I've done Camp NaNo (NaNoWriMo in the summer) in both 2011 and 2012. Well, I should say "attempted" rather than "done," because I've only successfully completed NaNo once, in 2009. Since then, I've felt a discordant combination of emotion: on one hand, I'm thinking, "I did it once and I will do it again!" with all sorts of bravada and optimism; on the other hand, I'm thinking, "I've done it once, so why bother proving that I can do it again?"

So, I want to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I feel the weight of many unsuccessful years that have already passed. (The one year that I did win, I practically gave myself carpal tunnel by writing something like 24k words over the last three days of the month, finishing only minutes before midnight.) At the same time, I feel like I HAVE to do it, because I'm a writer, and writers are supposed to write; I've been extraordinarily fallow since I finished my thesis last spring, and part of me thinks this might help get me out of my funk. At the same time, if I DON'T do NaNo, what will I do during the month of November? I do this EVERY YEAR.

So, to NaNo, or not to NaNo? I have no idea, no kernel, no plot or characters in mind, so what will I write? I've been investing all my mental energy into this historical novel idea, but I'm not ready to write that novel yet. And should I be investing my creative energies into another project right now? To be perfectly honest, I haven't been doing much work on the historical novel, so maybe working on a different creative venture will help get the juices flowing again.

What have I gotten myself into here?
Ok, so maybe my problems aren't as big as Hamlet's. He has Danish prince problems (like his uncle trying to kill him), I have first-world writer problems (like my printer won't connect to my wireless network). But really, if you think about it, Hamlet has a really hard time keeping things in perspective. At least I don't have that problem.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Back to J.K. Rowling

It's been a nice summer off, and now that it's after Labor Day, I suppose I must get back to the grind.  I didn't really take much time off from work (though I did go to a writer's retreat, which I will post about a little bit later), but I did take some time off from school, you know, since I graduated and all.  But I'm taking one final (unrequired, but in my estimation, fully necessary) course this fall: Teaching Writing.  We meet on Saturday mornings, which means no more sleeping in on Saturday mornings, and Friday nights filled with homework, rather than drunken revelry and sleeping until noon.

Back in the spring, I posted about the jacked-up price of J.K. Rowling's first adult novel.  In case you didn't know, the price of the ebook version is seriously jacked up as well ($18!!!), and for some very interesting reasons.  And I especially feel bad for the people that paid $18 for a faulty ebook.  Oh, well -- if you don't want to pay that much, the price will drop in a few months, or you might be able to find yourself a pirated copy.

Nice move taking advantage of the circumstance of timing, Hachette (could you have selected the release date any better?), but it also strikes me as a desperate move.  Would Hachette really have done this if the publishing industry wasn't foundering?  Because it feels to me like Hachette and Rowling are price gouging here - I wonder if Hachette is counting on sales of Rowling's book to keep them afloat?  I don't know anything about Hachette's finances, but their other behavior (like price-gouging libraries on backlisted books and attempting "to dictate terms to its rivals on the use of anti-customer technology") seems to indicate that they're not doing to hot, or at least they're worried.  Maybe their new CEO will do a better job.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

M.A. Thesis Readings!

Friday was a big day for me and my 11 classmates.  First, it was the deadline to hand in final FINAL copies of our previously approved thesis: 1) two copies tape-bound for the department archive, and 2) one copy loose, printed on acid-free paper, which will be bound (hard-cover) by the JHU printing/binding office, which will forever live in the JHU library.

Without further ado, here is a video of my reading from Friday:

Unknown to me at the time of the reading, there was indeed a full moon on the evening following the reading.

All my graduation requirements are met, and I will be receiving my degree at the end of the month!  Everyone keeps congratulating me and telling me what a big accomplishment this is.  I don't disagree, but at the same time it hasn't really sunk in yet. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Getting Your Dreams ...

“But I couldn’t be happier / Simply couldn’t be happier / Well – not ‘simply’:
‘Cause getting your dreams / It’s strange, but it seems / A little – well – complicated
There’s a kind of a sort of : cost / There’s a couple of things get: lost
There are bridges you cross / You didn’t know you crossed / Until you’ve crossed”

-- Glinda in Wicked
 Several weeks ago, my friend A.J. O'Connell did a guest post about publishing her novella, Beware the Hawk, on a blog titles Reinventing Erin.  (OK, it was more like 3 months ago.  I've been really busy.)  And I was struck by a thought, and commented:
I wanted to bring this up, as it seems even more appropriate now than it did a few months ago.  It's relevant because I'm required to submit my work somewhere as part of my thesis class, and I haven't been able to bring myself to do it yet.  And I have to, in the next few days.  Because it's required.  I had to email my instructor submission notes about where I was going to submit, etc., so I have a sort-of idea regarding what I'll do.  (I'm playing it vague and loose here.)  But then what?
Ahh, The Warning. I think the biggest thing that holds me back from submitting – I’m not scared of rejection, but I’m terrified of success. Success – having something published – takes the game to a different level, and the stakes are so much higher. What will people think of my work? What if I don’t find the same success with the next book/story/piece? Etc?
After I start submitting, I will no longer be a writer-in-training.  I will be a WRITER.  A most likely rejected, unpublished write - but still a WRITER.  And the prospect scares me, because I feel like I'm not ready, like I still have so much to learn.  I understand that as a writer, I will be constantly learning and evolving in my craft, and I know that I'm ready enough, but I don't feel like a WRITER yet.  I feel like the apprentice masquerading as the sorcerer (aka my thesis advisor), and as soon as she turns her back I'm going to foul everything up.  WRITERs are supposed to be sage,wise, and insightful - but I don't feel like I'm even close to that yet.

Or is it one of those things - like in the song lyrics above - that you don't know you've crossed that bridge, you don't realize you've arrived, until you're already there?  Am I nearing the end of the crossing, and I just don't know it yet?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seriously, J.K. Rowling?

So I loved the Harry Potter books, and I was really excited when I heard J. K. Rowling was writing a book for adults.  That is, I was excited until I saw that the hardcover retail price is THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS!  (Amazon is offering it for $21 right now.)

Seriously?  J. K. Rowling, you're richer than God.  You're the last writer on earth who needs to be charging $35 a book.  And don't tell me that the publisher picked the price.  You're a big enough name that your publisher will do whatever you ask.

So you know what?  I'm going to wait until the paperback comes out, and the hard-cover version of your book gets remaindered.  THEN I'll buy it for $5, and you won't get a royalty off my sale.

So there.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Two Weeks To Go & Counting ...

Time is melting ... clearly not working in my favor.
 Oh, my lord ... March has totally kicked my ass.  Totally.  I keep thinking that at some point, work has to slow down enough to let me breathe, but it hasn't.  Sometimes, I like my job, and sometimes it feels like a never-ending onslaught of shit.

Speaking of breathing, I've discovered (or realized?) that I'm obsessed with breath and breathing, at least I am in my fiction.  It is, apparently, one of my favorite descriptive devices in terms of showing the state of mind of my character.  This is not helped by my inability to remember the difference between breath and breathe.  I mean to say that I know the difference, but sometimes when I'm writing my brain has encounters technical difficulties when trying to communicate this to my hands, so my workshop drafts frequently come back with these words circled.  My glaring technial errors only make the abundance of breathing sentences more obvious.

I can't help it, I just think it's a great detail about a character.  Maybe it's just because I think about my own breathing a lot.

The reason I'm mentioning this is that I finished one of the most brutal revisions I've yet endured.  Practically falling asleep at my desk, I am.  This story ... THIS STORY ... is ripping my heart out.  It's so hard.  For me, writing is like method acting, when the writing is really doing its job: I step into the character, and as I'm writing the scene, I acutely endure everything that the character is.  This is emotionally draining, especially when your character's life is falling apart and she find her boss dead from a cocaine overdose on her living room floor.

Totally brutal.

So, this revision?  Took me FIVE DAYS longer than I planned, because I had to stop and take time away from the pages.  It was simply too traumatic emotionally at certain points, and then there's also all the other work I was doing on the piece - moving bits around, slashing parts, completely re-writing other sections that didn't work after I did the first two things. 

Prior to revision: ~8k words
Cut during revisions: ~2k or 3k words
After revision: ~11k words

I am SO going over my thesis page limit.

And so now I am behind on my thesis revision schedule - I am going to have to bust my ass this weekend to get back on track, because did see the title of this post?  TWO WEEKS.  That's right, the final draft of my thesis is due in TWO WEEKS.  My fourth (and final) story hasn't even had its second revision treatment yet (luckily, the fourth story only requires minor revisions), and then I have to start doing micro, line-level editing on my stories.

I think I'm going to be sick.

Monday, February 27, 2012

... and I've Finished the Second Lap!

I've reached the first big milestone of my final semester in graduate school - the final PennUnion submission. After several revisions, two post-revision discussions with my thesis advisor, and an in-class editing session, my PennUnion piece is finally ready. I think.
The deadline to submit was noon today, and I was still tweaking and making slight changes at ten 'till. I've changed everything identified in my editing group (with one exception that I disagreed with), and some other things not noted by the group: phrases I decided to change in the interest of accuracy, word choice changes, grammatical restructuring.

My biggest concern is that there is something completely glaring that we all missed - me, my advisor, my thesis instructor, my classmates - that I won't see until it's printed. We'll have proofs that we'll check for spelling mistakes, etc., but that isn't a stage at which to make major edits. So I have to be happy with what I submitted via email a few hours ago.
It's funny ... when you start out writing, you write a first draft and you think, This is perfection. Then you have the story workshopped, or you take it to your writing group, and it's completely torn apart. So you go home and rend your garments in similar fashion, because your writing sucks and you decide never to write again, or at least not return to the decimated story that got you into this mess.  But after the would heal, something pulls you back to this story, and when you can look at the critiques objectively, you realize that this story can be saved.  So you do a first revision, which comes out pretty good but still needs more work, so you pass it on to a trusted reader.  With the trusted reader's feedback, you do a second revision, a third, ad nauseum.  Eventually you reach a point where all you're doing is sentence-level revision - which is a pretty good place to be - but when does the tweaking, the micro-revisions, ever stop?  I could have kept going, were it not for my deadline.
So, the punchline is this: initially, you want nothing to do with revision, but the revision process gets addicting.
(Friends, please watch me carefully over the next few months.  If I start to exhibit any of these 7 Signs of Addiction, please stage in intervention and take away my laptops, my netbook and my flash drive.) 
I also had to include a bio with my submission, and the bio I submitted was totally lame because I have no publishing credits or interesting teaching/volunteer work to mention.  I also didn't mention my husband or my cats because I like to keep my private life private.  Are you excited yet?  Without further ado ...
E. S. Cameron is a higher education administration professional.  She lives and works in Washington, D.C.
I know ... super lame, right?  I seriously need to publish something to beef up my bio. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sh*t Book Reviewers Say

Here's your Sunday fun-day!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pretty Young Things

According to the NY Times Magazine Culture Blog, there are some hot young lit mags on the scene that are taking up the mantle.  Despite what many people view as the death of print, these mags are flourishing by utilizing POD technology and the like.

Click the link above to see the list.  I'd like to specifically steer you towards The Coffin Factory, which is no. 4 on the list.  A classmate from undergrad is one of the managing editors.  I haven't read it yet, but anything with her name and influence is bound to be good.

From The Coffin Factory About page:
"The Coffin Factory serves as a nexus between readers, writers, and the book publishing industry. Our mission is to provide great literature and art to people who love books, including those who do not usually read literary magazines.

We believe that quality literature and art are essential for the existence of an intelligent society. In order to perpetuate an intellectually engaged culture, The Coffin Factory publishes phenomenal fiction, essays, and art three times a year."
Sounds fab, right?  Visit The Coffin Factory to learn more.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Room of One's Own

I am exhausted! 

Exhausted and excited, because I just submitted the first draft of my thesis today.  This is a creative thesis, so the focus is on quality, not quantity - maximum 75 pp of quality.  I have spent hours upon hours doing revisions, something that I haven't spent a lot of time on before now.

Revisions terrify me - or, they did terrify me.  I'm catsitting for some friends right now, and they invited me to play their video games, borrow their DVDs and read their books while they're gone.  I haven't done any of that - but I did discover that their apartment is a perfect, distraction-free location to work on my revisions. 

I spent almost the entire weekend working at their dining room table, and I discovered something else - I REALLY like working on revisions.  I have a decent collection of short stories and exercises that I've worked on over the course of my program, all of which needs revising.  I'm tempted to get started on those as well, while I have access to my friends' apartment 24/7.  Sadly, they will be back before it's time to work on my second round of thesis revisions.

I have 2.5 weeks before I get feeback on my first draft, and instead of starting revisions on all this other stuff, I'm going to focus on clearing out my office and making it the work-friendly, distraction-free environment that I'll need moving forward.

Watch out clutter and dust bunnies!  Here I come!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Under the Gun

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment.  You want to know why?  I'll tell you why.

1. The first draft of my thesis is due is six (six!) days and I'm nowhere close to being finished with my revisions.  I submitted my thesis planning form a month ago, and I'm waffling about my story selection decision.  I'm almost certainly going to change it, but I really need to make up my mind because the draft is due in six days.  Of course, that may not matter, because ...

2. I lost my thesis advisor.  No, that's not quite right.  I don't have a thesis advisor.  I am the only person in thesis who doesn't have an advisor.  Oh, I had one selected, and I asked her very early on, but it's been a while since I've spoken with her or seen her, and I forgot to confirm with her before I turned in my planning form ... and I just found out that she's completely booked for the semester.  So I've requested someone else, a writer/teacher who I really respect, but I don't know if she's available or if she'd even be willing to work with me.  I've emailed her, as well as my director and the thesis coordinator, and I have as of yet to hear back from any of them. 

So if this teacher can't (or won't) be my advisor, I just have to take whoever they assign me to.  Which feels like such a waste, even though I'm sure it will be fine, all the teachers in my program are great.  I just feel like I've spent so much time in this program, I've put in so much extra effort with additional classes, that to have a random advisor seems so willy-nilly.

3. I signed up for an additional class (beyond thesis) this semester.  WHY DID I DO THAT?  Again, I'm sure that it will be fine, but the next week is going to be miserable with everything that's going on.

4. Work is insane.  I just have a lot of work-work to do, far more than what I can fit into a regular 40-hour work week.  This normally wouldn't be an issue, I'd just work some extra hours and take care of it, but this week I need every single hour I can find outside of 9-5 to work on my thesis.  Something has to give; my boss demands that work comes first, school demands that school comes first, and my brain demands sleep.

What's a girl to do?  First, she blogs about it - then she gets to work!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Les Jeunes de Paris

SNL was replaying Emma Stone's Fall 2011 episode tonight, which included a French dance off skit that I love.  So I thought I would share.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

NYR Update

I'm pretty happy with my NYR progress thus far -- I'm well ahead of my Publish at least 52 blog posts by December 31, 2012 goal.  This is my fourth post into 2012, and it's only January 8! When I first decided on this particular NYR, I wasn't so sure how it would work out.  I didn't know if I could come up with enough interesting things to write/discuss to post once (or more) a week, but it seems to be going OK.

In regards to Finish the first draft of my novel, I haven't even thought about this yet.  I won't be able to focus on this until May at the earliest.  I always have to work a lot of extra hours in January, and I have my thesis course this spring, along with an additional class (Novel Form, Style and Structure) that I foolishly signed up for as well.  I say I was foolish to sign up for it, but I can't bring myself to drop the course, even though I don't need it for my degree.  I'm trying to get as much out of my program as I possibly can, so I will graduate with 12 courses instead of the requisite 9 courses.

Submit at least six different stories to twelve different journals.  This too will be pushed off a little longer.  Since I will be revising a number of stories for my thesis, my plan is to submit those stories that I've worked on for thesis, so I will probably start submitting in April.

Be more punctual.  Yeah, I have completely failed at this so far.  But I always think of Mondays as a clean slate, and I'm going to do better, starting tomorrow!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fun with Poetry

My work PC went down today, the victim of multiple trojans.  All my work is on my computer.  if my computer doesn't work, I might as well go home.  So while IT was working on my computer, I decided to play on my Nook Tablet.  For some reason, I thought it would be fun to tweet in haiku about my computer problems - and my cousin (@the1skelly) decided that he would tweet back, in haiku.  I was so tickled by our exchange, I thought I would post it here.

@escameron, 11:15 am: Computer virus/No more productivity/Tweet haiku instead
@the1skelly,  12 pm: @escameron Sorry to hear that/ Tech is a fickle ally/ Enjoy your respite :)
@escameron, 1:57 pm: @the1skelly -- Info Tech staffer/My hero, scanned and repaired/Now must change passwords
@the1skelly, 2:10 pm: @escameron Crisis averted/Poetry delay short-lived/Rhyme another day :)

The funny thing about this exchange is that I haven't written a haiku in ages - I think the last time was in 2006, when we had one of those magnetic fridge poetry kits.  When we moved to our current place, the set was thrown away, lost, or boxed up somewhere.  I'd completely forgotten about it.

The thing is, I remember that I thought haikus were really hard to write - I seem to remember struggling with them.  But writing these today, I felt a little giddy, and they just seemed to flow.  I'm thinking that I should write more haikus, and tweet them.  It's fun to tweet in haiku!  And it's a great showcase for little tidbits that might not otherwise ever be read.

My cousin has his own blog, which you can read here:  You can also follow him on Twitter: @the1skelly, but only if you follow me first: @escameron.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Nooky Nook

So, I'm super excited because I got a Nook Tablet for Christmas, sort of.

("Sort of" refers to the Christmas part. My husband and I received an Amazon gift card for Christmas, and he simply can't resist the look I give him when I really want something. I do a wonderful impression of Puss in Boots. So I got my Nook Tablet.)

I am completely enamored with this gadget.  It does SO MANY THINGS!  Netflix, Hulu, Goodreads, email, digital magazines and books, Pandora ... and whatever other apps and games you can find.  It came on Friday, and today is Tuesday.  Since it finished charging on Friday evening, I have watched the entire first season of 30 Rock on Netflix.  (Have you seen 30 Rock?  It is an insanely good show.  I can't believe that I've missed it all this time.  And the characters and the writing are all so strong.  Can this be considered educational?  It's helping me learn about character development and dialogue, right?)

I'm supposed to be revising my thesis in anticipation of my thesis and publication course this spring, and I was supposed to clean in anticipation of a house guest this week.  I'm taking two classes this spring, and one of them is thesis, as in "graduation depends upon successfully completing my thesis."

I am in so much trouble.

Monday, January 2, 2012