Whew. Didn’t get as much done in October as I would have liked. Ah well, I’ll live. Still got stuff done!

Finished the ten-minute play for the competition.
Got the sonnet ready for the sonnet competition.
Got some poems done.

My goal for next month is simple.

You know NaNoWriMo?

Well, I’m doing my own little invention: NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. (Though, I guess it’s not really national, so do we call it Jenny’s Poetry Writing Month? JePoWriMo?) My single, solitary goal:

1. Bang out 120 poems.

My hope is that about half will be viable enough to put together a poetry manuscript worthy to send out. Perhaps half is an optimistic count, but I won’t know until I do it, right?

The fact that there is a deadline for yet another contest has inspired me to finish this project instead of my current novel works-in-progress. But after this month, my only goals will be to finish the two novels until their done. Yep, finish them until their done. How’s that sound?

And I came across this in my internet wandering and, if you’re a writer, you should really check it out: Annie Dillard and the Writing Life.

Deliberate Practice

I’m reading a book called Talent is Overrated, in which the author espouses the benefits of deliberate practice. I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, wondering where I’m going in my writerly career and trying to decide what I have to do.

Apparently a lot.

There are a bunch of great examples in the book about what ‘practice’ really is. Basically, it boils down to working really hard at what you need to improve. Let’s say you can write a novel really fast, great. Speed is not what you need to work on. And, along with the speed, I would guess that you’ve managed to out run your heckler pretty well. Again, editing as you go, probably not what you need to work on.

How’s your characterization? Dialogue? Then it takes practice–and let’s not forget a lot of it–to accomplish any kind of mastery.

Then there’s the idea that deliberate practice is not fun. It’s work. You have to enjoy writing, or music or sports or whatever, before the deliberate practice works because you’re invested in doing well. You need to be willing to do the work in order to improve. You can write and write and write but without focused concentration, it won’t get better. The average for true mastery, according to this book, was about three hours a day. But don’t try to do it all at once…you lose concentration after about an hour and then you are just spinning your wheels.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting. And now my blog-writing skills are tapped.

Yay! I finished a book today!

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Finally, something to review on Goodreads.

I’m also pretty close to finishing up my re-read of Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, our current mentor of the month. Last time I read this book, I was thirteen. Around my birthday. Which is June 12. For those of you who don’t know–Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929. This makes her (or would have made her) exactly 50 years older than myself. Let me tell you, reading that she started her diary on a day very close in age to when I began reading it was a creepy, surreal, life-defining moment. In a way I think she’s always been an inspiration.

Today, she inspired me again. Please check out the following passage, from page 250 of the Definitive Edition, edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler:
“A few of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humerous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but…it remains to be seen whether I really have talent.”–Anne Frank

I sat there and about cried because, quite frankly (no pun intended!), the need of a writer was so clear. Writers need encouragement. They need readers. They need someone to know that what they have to say counts for something. And not only that our words count, but that our words are good. Creative. Refreshing. Emotionally relevent. So what do we do? We join writer’s groups, we make our ever-suffering families read works-in-progress, and

we enter contests.

Like I just did. Nathan Bransford, literary agent, author, and blogger extraordinaire, is hosting a first-paragraph contest on his blog. There’s almost 2,000 entries. I mean, that’s holy-moly-Batman-! kinda numbers. And I entered, hoping like the other almost 1,999 entrants that someone will like what I wrote.

Here’s the thing though:

You cannot base the assumption of your talent on a contest. You cannot. I repeat. You cannot. And, hell, let’s face it. Even if you made a million trillion dollars and won all the awards there was to be won and even if your mother loves it–a real writer, the one that sits down and writes and creates worlds and characters and magic, would alway say that “…it remains to be seen whether I really have talent.”

However, should you like to throw your writerly hat in the ring, here’s the link:
The 3rd-Sort-of-Annual-Stupendously-Ultimate-First-Paragraph-Challenge

I am seduced by the thought of reading…but recently I’ve been on a stop/start program.

Here’s the list of books currently in progress:
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Anne Frank: The Life, The Book, The Afterlife by Francine Prose
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Sun Stone and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories, edited by Jorge F. Hernandez

I’m just not seeming to finish any of them, which is very strange for me because, believe it or not, I’m really enjoying each of them. It feels like a nice mix. Maybe I just need to read 200 things at a time? Have you guys ever gone a start/stop program like that? Did you actually successfully complete the books you were reading?

How’s about you guys? Finish anything recently?

Time to Pay Up

It’s that day:

The day that I must pay up on bet conditions. Since Ali beat me (smoked me! creamed me! made me sit in the corner and cry for three days!) I must now take her to dinner with Deb.

Here is also where I must tell you that Ali, while demonish, is no where near as diabolical as I am. Had I won, I had plans for The Pepper Tree–a very hoity toity kinda restaurant in town with the bestest steaks ever! Also very expensive. Also on my list was Petite Maison because Deb has always said how good that place is. Another alternative in my brain was a trip to Denver and a high quality restaurant that none of us had been to, but that would require a tie and jacket.

Luckily, Ali chose the Texas Roadhouse in Pueblo. It’s far more in a struggling writer’s price range.

Ali should be thanking her lucky, hard-working stars that she kicked my tail…because otherwise tonight would’ve set her back a ways….

And on a related note as far as word count goes:

I was reading in an advanced magazine at work about Stephen King’s new book Under the Dome. Apparently it should be called Under the Tome. The thing weighs in at 4 pounds, over 1,000 pages, and has over 100 characters. See Ali? Just when you think you’ve outdone yourself, someone goes and shows us that we have soooo many more words to write.

Mentor of the Month: Anne Frank: A Question

Normally I start the mentor of the month thing with a quote, but now I’m going to start with a question. First, let me preface:

I just came across a new book by Francine Prose called Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife. Prose is exporing the idea of Anne Frank’s diary as art, as literature vs. historical record. Because it’s been a long while since I’ve Diary of Young Girl, I’m now reading the ‘Definitive Edition’ along with Prose’s book.

In the first chapter Prose proposes that Anne Frank’s diary isn’t a diary at all–that it’s a memoir in epistolary form. Her argument stems from the knowledge that Anne Frank edited her diary after hearing a call on the radio for diaries, journals, letters, etc. to record Holland’s experience during WWII. Anne even titled her book: The House Behind.

Now my question is this (or rather, questions are these):
1. Is literature only literature if it is intended to be read by others?
2. Is literature only literature if the author/creator edits his/her work to make the work more palatable (i.e. if you edit a piece so that there is cohesion to plot, character, etc.)?
3. Can something that was written for yourself become literature? (By literature I mean that others may critique it against a standard–whatever that standard is….)

Using Momentum

If the whole point of the contest was to push out words, I did that. And did enough to accomplish the goals that I set for September. There are more check marks than normal.

So, using the momentum that was created while being challenged by the crazy wordsmiths that are my friends, I have set the following goals for October:

1. All critiques.
2. 40 Pages of La Llorona
3. 20 Poems (for the poetry book that I foolishly requested the CWC to read in November)
4. 10-Minute Play (about 10 pages, for a contest)

Suddenly, after all the word-pushing, this seems very do-able.