NaNoWriMo 2012 – A Promise and a Confession


I suppose it’s not good to blog about cheating but I’m going to. I just signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Write a Book in a Month) for a novel I’ve already started. I’m using NaNo to get me through the last two thirds of the book. I know. I’m supposed to start from scratch. I even considered starting the blasted thing over just to get myself going. But I think I won’t. I think I’ll use the momentum that NaNo is so good at giving me to get the work I’ve started done. I hope the NaNo gods and goddesses will forgive me. \

And I promise not to ever lie to anyone and say I finished the draft in a month. I promise not to apply for the certificate or the web badge. I’m even so grateful for the promise of pep talks and support that I’ll donate this year.

So there it is. I’m cheating. I don’t honestly feel bad about it. I, do, however, feel grateful for this crazy idea that the founder Chris Baty had to get writers together and write like our hands are on fire. So I hope he won’t kick me out.


Articles that Aren’t in the News


This post may not appeal to many people who speak English as a first language. But as I explained for the bazillionth time (probably an underestimate) this week how English speakers use those three little words a, an and the, it struck me what a miracle of meaning those three little words convey. So here for those learning English and for those who speak it and would like a peak into the deeper grammar, is an explanation of a, an and the, otherwise known as articles.

When my sister was born, she had a difficult time. She weighed in at over 10 pounds and my mother had struggled with her birth. In those days, the hospital separated the babies, putting them in a nursery. My father took a look the babies and wondered which one was her. She looked so different from me with jaundiced skin compared to my white as paper skin. He needed to know which baby was the baby. The baby my mother had just given birth to. The baby he would take home. Of course, he found her. But it took some time and a nurse to find the baby.

Like an ID card or a pointer that shows you just which one you are talking about, the is a word  that points out something that is the only one or the only one in our little world of a conversation. Only one baby in that nursery was my sister. Dad needed to find that one. The one.

The is very useful. You can use the with count nouns that are plural and singular. You can use the with non count nouns. If you are not sure what article to use, the is a pretty safe bet.

A and an are more generic. If you go to a park today, you are likely to see a baby. The baby you see is one of many babies. To you he or she is not unique because the baby you see is not yours. Unless, you start to tell a story about her (like I just did). Then she becomes the baby because you have chosen her in your story.

A and an are only used with single count nouns. You cannot use them with plurals or count nouns because they mean one. One plus a plural or one plus something you can’t count doesn’t work.

The use of these three little words can and often does get more complicated. Here’s a link to a more detailed explanation:

And some practice:

A professor from the University of Washington once told me that the most important rule is to put an article (or another quantifier) in front of a single count noun. If you remember nothing else, remember that my sister was either a baby or the baby. She was not ‘baby.’ First language American English speakers would not say that.

Never Enough is Somehow Enough


This morning I spent more time not writing at this computer than I did writing. Way more. I must have surfed and procrastinated for 45 minutes before I got myself going. And now I have to get in the shower to start my day. Often writing looks like for me. A lot of procrastination. A promise to myself that if I just write out a few words, then I can quit for the day. I’ll write the few words and then feel like I can make that word count for the day. It’s then that I get into a groove or ‘writerhead’ as Kristin Bair O’Keefe calls it. And it’s often then that it’s too late. The rest of the day I’ll think about the writing I did and the writing I wished I’d done. Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing and why I’m putting myself through this every morning. I try to imagine what else I’d do besides sit here and muster the courage to write. That’s the place when I remember the truth. I can’t see myself not writing anymore. I worked so hard to become a writer and now somehow I am. It’s in the fabric I’m cut from and ripping out the threads of writing from my life might unravel everything.
I recently read a post by up and coming YA novelist Jodi Casella that is ringing in my mind’s ears. She describes a book with people living through a plague locked up behind walls so they don’t spread the disease to others. They just wait their turn, wondering when it will be time for them to die. Lately, many of those I love have been passing away. Just this week, a dear friend and adopted grandfather for my children died after a brief time with the plague of our time: cancer.

It’s clear like looking into a mountain lake where my friend Rich loved to hike –  writing is something I’m doing while I wait my turn. And it’s something that somehow makes my mortality bearable. So whether I am cracking out my 500 words or just that one sentence I promised myself, writing makes a difference to me.
That’s why I keep doing it and that’s why I can let my words for the day be ‘enough’ even though the writing will never be finished. It frightened me before that I have so many words to write and may not live to see them all down on paper. I’m beginning to accept that I won’t get them down. And I don’t even want to. If I got them all down, what would I do while I wait for my turn?