How I’m Keeping My Balance…NaNoWriMo Style

 

NaNo 2

Welcome, Readers!

First, the good stuff!  It’s NaNoWriMo!  Congratulations to all who have started this journey for the first time,  and a loud “Hazzah!” to everyone who finds themselves back in the throes of NaNoWriMo for a repeat adventure. It’s daunting.  It’s difficult.  And completing it is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever accomplished in my life.

Now for some tougher stuff:  It’s mid-November.  Mid-NaNoWriMo, and I haven’t added to any word count of anything in two weeks.  (You read that right…Not a new word in November…)  I meant to jump right in on November 1, but I just couldn’t.  Sometimes things happen beyond your control, though, and that’s just life.  I am thinking about balance today, because I refuse to let the entire month go by without a word for my characters, or a plot point being reconciled. This post is meant to be as much of a NaNoWriMo pep talk for you as it is for me.

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How can I make it all happen?  And if you are at a point of this crazy writing month where you haven’t met your writing goals, how can you?  Well, for one thing, realize that the month isn’t over.  Any writing you do toward your goal is a step in the right direction.  Personally, I have to stop looking at the calendar thinking that there is no way to succeed at this, when the reality of it is, that even attempting NaNoWriMo is an incredible accomplishment.

But there is always hope, and hope may appear differently than you expect.  A few years ago, our local arts center held a series of NaNoWriMo workshops.  We were all different people, some with day jobs, some retirees, others who were just there to see what NaNo was all about. That was my second NaNoWriMo, and the year I began to work on my novel, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL.  During those workshops, our instructor gave us lots of exercises to help us along.

But no writing time to speak of.

The activities she walked us through approached writing a novel from different angles.  For example, we did a lot of sketching, map-making, TV interviewing, role playing, and other things to get us to know our characters and our story on a deeper level.

Some of you might be thinking this is how everyone writes, but not me.  To tell you the truth, until the workshops concluded at the end of November, I hadn’t realized how those activities helped me reach and surpass my 50K goal.  Up until then, I was worried I was wasting precious time.

It’s those other activities that I am going to rely on when I can’t actually do the writing part.  I may or may not reach 50K new words this year, but for me, and this is the balancing part, NaNoWriMo is more about fleshing out a good story.  That’s how I plan to measure my success.

So from here on out, if I can’t actually write words into a chapter of my current Work In Progress, I will be planning it in creative ways.  I need to know my characters as well as I can, so that when I do have the opportunity to write, I can make the most out of it.

The good news is, my head is in the right place for success.  And that novel I was working on during our local NaNoWriMo workshops?  WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL is due to be published this spring with REUTS Publications!  I don’t think I need any more motivation than that!

I hope I have encouraged you to keep yourself going through NaNoWriMo.  It’s really tough at times, but you can do it!  Dori Just keep writing

How do you plan to keep your balance through this month?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

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Summer to Fall: 2017 Roundup

summer to fall

Hello Readers,

Wow!  I can’t believe it’s the end of August already.  As a teacher, my life is scheduled based on a calendar that has very little fluctuation each year, and my writing life fits within that calendar as well.  As the month of June ticks by, I make plans for what my writing goals will be.  I sketch out a schedule, (which I follow pretty well), which includes writing time to reach those goals as well as other goals.

This Summer, my goals were lofty and numerous, but I am happy to say that I feel as though I was successful reaching those goals and more.

Incomplete

In June, I completed my draft of Misty Dawn and Violet, which had been in a state of “partially done” for a really long time.  Long story short, when I get an idea for a story, I stop everything to get it started.  Needless to say, I had a number of partially finished at the start of this Summer.  In June, Misty Dawn and Violet made it to completion in June, and is in the hands of my agent!  It is a humorous romp of a story, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

July brought with it several new experiences for me and my family.  My daughter, who is ten, got involved with a local theater group.  For two weeks, she rehearsed for three hours a day, and at the end of that they performed Cinderella Kids.  Fantabulous!!!

Additionally, the month of July provided me the opportunity of a lifetime.  As you may know, I had been working on a novel inspired by the prison break that happened in 2015.  It was a very scary time, and even though I knew I had to write because of the event,  it actually took a while for me to get to a place within myself to get it all out.  That novel had been sitting in the “partially done” pile.  On July 22, I had the opportunity to audition for Ben Stiller’s Showtime Mini-Series, Escape From Dannemora!  So that was awesome…  Auditioning for the mini-series was a highlight of my life, and it was just the inspiration I needed to jump back into writing #PrisonBreakADK.

times square

August came, and my son was preparing to head off to his freshman year of college…away from home.  Before moving him onto his campus, we took a family vacation to NYC, which exceeded all of our expectations.  Central Park, Times Square, The Zoo, Stomp, 5th Avenue…there was inspiration around every corner.

It was during that trip that I discovered the magic of train travel.  With #PrisonBreakADK nearly complete, I was able to work comfortably on the train as we chugged down the tracks to Penn Station.  I don’t know how to explain it, but there is something romantic about train travel, and the process of writing, in itself, was such a beautiful experience.  I highly recommend it.  I am happy to report that #PrisonBreakADK has moved from the “partially done” pile and into my agent’s hands.

 

Now, Summer is nearly over.  My son is all settled into his college life, and all is well.  I will be welcoming a new crew of band students soon, and I will create a new schedule for my writing life that will fit into my teaching life.  Little by little, I’ll whittle away at the next project on my “partially done” pile, The First Harbor Bell.  If all goes well, I will be able to send it to my agent by Christmas.

completed

Let’s connect!  How was your Summer?  Did you meet any writing goals?  Please share them in the comments below!

Charlotte’s Take: The Calabiyau Chronicles by Diana S. Zimmerman

Hello, Readers!

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Today, I am sharing a book series review, as relayed to me by Charlotte, my 10 year old daughter.  The Calabiyau Chronicles is a series of books which opened the excitement of reading to my daughter.  When she was in the 4th grade, during her birthday month, she was invited to select a free book from a huge collection of brand new books that had been delivered to a classroom.  The way she described it, the selection of books was so enormous!

secret of the mists

My daughter searched through the piles of books, and emerged with her choice, KANDIDE AND THE SECRET OF THE MISTS.  The cover and the title are what attracted Charlotte to the book.  From my perspective, the book was glorious.  A fantastic cover, intricate artwork within, and written at a level which I was thrilled that my 10 year old daughter had chosen.  The book is fantasy, and features beautiful fairy-like creatures, winged and colorful.

According to Charlotte, SECRET OF THE MISTS was action-packed and exciting.  The most exciting part was when Kandide, the main character and heroine, arrived at the mists, and was attacked by the Garglan, a vicious, hairy creature with wings, sharp teeth, claws, and a long tail.  The Garglan also has creepy red eyes.  Kandide needed the help of wolves to escape it.

The Lady's Revenge

Her excitement about SECRET OF THE MISTS prompted me to purchase book 2 of the series, THE LADY’S REVENGE.  According to my daughter, THE LADY’S REVENGE is mysterious.  A princess, Tara, is captured, and frozen in a block of ice.  If the ice melts, she will die.  Kandide is in charge of making Winter, and so she changes the season to Winter again, keeping the ice frozen.  Kandide enlists the help of her brother to magically save Tara from the block of ice.

Masks of Deception

At the end of Book 2, Charlotte was so anxious for book 3…but it wasn’t released yet!  I had to pre-order it, and she was so thrilled when it finally arrived!  The title of Book 3 in this series, is THE MASKS OF DECEPTION.  This book, like the two other before it, features beautiful pictures throughout.  They are stunning.

Charlotte just finished reading it, and here is what she told me:  There is a war going on between Calabiyau, and the Banshee Kingdom.  She didn’t want to give me too many spoilers, but she did mention at one point, that the Fee’ have to enter the human world, and they get stuck.  This is dangerous for the Fee’ because in the human world, time moves faster and they age really quickly.  MASKS OF DECEPTION ends with “To be continued…”, which delighted my daughter.  We are hoping for a book 4!

It should be noted that there is a beautiful, intricate coloring book that coincides with this book series.  We also own the coloring book.  It’s truly lovely.

As a parent, author, and teacher, I was so happy to find a series of books which my daughter became so enthralled with.  I would also like to point out that when I reached out to author Diana S. Zimmerman about Charlotte’s zest for her books, she was more than happy to connect.  That means a lot to the readers who fall in love with characters and places of an authors creation.  Thank you for writing such a series for my daughter and other readers to enjoy.

Diana S. Zimmerman has a website for all things Kandide:  www.kandide.com

The Calabiyau Chronicles Series can be purchased on Diana S. Zimmerman’s website, or on Amazon

She can be found on social media as well:

Twitter:  @DianaZimmerman

Facebook:  Diana Zimmerman

In Which I Audition For A Mini-Series…

director's chair

Good Morning!

This is typically a blog about books and writers, and my journey through publishing.  However, today, I have something different to share, and it is a doozy!

A couple of years ago, there was an escape at the maximum security prison near my home.  The event rocked the North Country for three weeks, shackling its residents with fear.  It made national headlines.  The drama that unfolded during that time was something my little corner of the world had never experienced, and was the stuff Hollywood scripts are made of.

Literally.

Once I got a grip on my fear during the escape, I began to write, because that’s what I do.  I journaled, I blogged about it, and I began to formulate a novel; fiction inspired by my events and experiences during that time.  The book will be called #PrisonBreakADK, and the first draft is nearly complete.

This past year, it was announced in the news that Ben Stiller (BEN STILLER!!!) had pitched an idea for a mini-series about the escape to Showtime, and we found out recently that the project is moving forward.  This has been big news for my sleepy little town, because as part of the production, they held auditions for extras here, just yesterday, and I was a part of it!

I have been involved in a number of theatrical productions through the years, but those productions are musicals, and my role is to be a musician in the pit.  Never have I been on stage, reciting lines.  Ever…at all.  But when the announcement was made about the open casting call for extras, I just knew I needed to be a part of it.

Here is what I experienced:

It had been reported that the casting call was to begin at 10:00, but my friend Christina and I arrived at 9:00. When we got there, the line already stretched around the city block.  We were numbers 76 and 78 in the queue.  By the end of the day, the number of hopeful actors topped one-thousand, which was way more than anyone expected.  The photo below was taken while we were on line, around the block from the theater.

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While we waited on line to enter the theater, we conversed with the others, getting to relive the prison break days.  Every one of us there, had shared in the same experience those years before, and talking about it made me realize how so many of us were affected profoundly.  In line with us were officers who took part in the search, residents of the local area, like me, who experienced the helicopter searches and k-9 units patrolling our wooded areas, investigators and reporters who had been involved in the search and media, the shop owners who fed the workers in the search…It was nice to talk to those folks about our experiences.

It took a while for the casting company to get organized, considering it hadn’t expected the number of auditioners, but once they were ready, we were lined up by number, filled out paperwork, and took headshots.  Below, the photo was taken after we had our headshots, and shows my vantage point from the waiting area to the left of the stage.  You can see the line of people waiting for their headshots.

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From there, we were seated in another part of the theater, and waited for the interview process.  The next pictures show us waiting for the interview to start.

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The interview was pretty short, and while we answered questions about our profession, where we were from, our hobbies and interests, etc, the casting director sized us up, organized us into groups.  Our groups were directed below the theater stage where we would have to read a script.

Yes, a script.

This may sound unbelievable, but I hadn’t expected to have to read one.  So, yes, I got super nervous at that point.  I wanted to be an extra…in the background!  It turned out that there were still a few cast parts with speaking lines left to fill.  Smaller roles with limited lines and such.  So, with trembling hands, I took the script they handed me, and began to study it.  I was to read the lines as “clerk”.

I tried to convince myself that I could rock it.  I am a writer, and a teacher of the performing arts, albeit music.  I could do this!

As I mentioned, this was the absolute first time I had ever read a script so I could perform in a production of anything.  I have, however, worked on writing a screenplay with someone who was adapting one of my novels, but that is pretty much it.  So there I was, sitting in a hallway in the basement of a theater, studying my lines.

When it was my turn, I was called into a small room.  There was a video camera set up, and a man who was going to read the lines with me.  I hadn’t expected a camera.  Cue: internal freak out #97 for the day.  I ended up reading the lines four times, until there was a decent enough take.

For Christina and I, the process took about three hours. It took longer for others.

I have to say, kudos to actors.  To be able to pull inflection and “attitude” from just a script with a few lines on it is actually really difficult.  As a writer, I didn’t expect that.  Thinking and writing what you want is far different that performing what you want.  Believe me.

In the end, my friend Christina got a call-back!  While I have not, I am super proud that I had the courage to take part in the open casting call.  I felt that I needed to do it as part of having closure with the prison break.  I don’t know if I will get cast as an extra or not, but, even if I don’t, I can mark “Audition for a TV Mini-Series” off my bucket list..and I only realized it was on there a couple of weeks ago!

I send my gratitude to Ben Stiller, and his entire production team, for bringing this opportunity to my little corner of the world.  We were part of something big with the prison break, and I am excited to see how this mini-series plays out.

Thanks for reading about this experience!  Have any of you participated in a TV or movie casting call before?  I would love to hear about your experiences!

Let’s Talk: Writer’s Block and Writerly Inspiration

Hello!  Welcome to my Writer’s Block!  Today, I’d like to bring up the idea of a writerly roller coaster.  Can you relate to any of these ideas?

Being a writer is gratifying:  The pictures in your mind, poured out through your fingertips, and transformed onto the leaves of a page.  It’s a glorious feeling when a project comes to completion, or even simply when an early draft is complete.

But sometimes, being a writer is riddled with frustration.  The pictures in your mind, knotted up in your fingertips, and hurling themselves, if you’re lucky, into a garbled mess on the screen in front of you.  Again, if you’re lucky.  Sometimes, a writer comes up empty.

The struggle is real, folks.  We face the writerly roller coaster each and every day, hour to hour, even minute to minute.  The words may flow with perfection one moment, then…they are gone.  Writer’s block strikes again.

I revel in times of writerly feast, and ride that creative wave for as long as I can, but when writer’s block hits, I have to turn to other sources for help.  When faced with Writer’s Block, there are several things I like to try to dislodge the blocks which hold my words back.

  1. Introduce a new character.  Maybe I’ll keep them, maybe not, but somehow, just putting in a new character’s perspective into the narrative can help.  Who knows!  That character may have just what it take to spin the plot a new and exciting way!
  2. Take the last scene  I wrote, and rewrite it from a different character’s perspective (I think I see a trend…).  As in #1, above, this can help to spin the plot differently.
  3. Seek inspiration online.  Try Googling an image about the scene you are working on.  Sometimes viewing a picture can encourage your mind to come up with words that eluded you before.  This is an image I saw recently, and it really helped with my word flow:  cabin interior
  4. Seek out writerly quotes for inspiration.  Again, these can be effective in getting the writerly juices flowing.  Here is one of my faves: chekhov-moon

The process of writing is both glorious and challenging.  I encourage you to celebrate your successes voraciously; I know I do!  And when writer’s block hits, I challenge you to go after inspiration with just as much gusto!  What are some of your go-to ideas for combatting the inevitable writer’s block?  And how do you celebrate your writing victories?  I’d love to hear all about it!

Thank you for stopping by today.  Please leave your comments below!

Write What You Love, Love What You Write

Summer

Here in the Northeast, we still have school for another week and a half before kids are released for Summer vacation.  But, Summer vacation is upon us!  What does that mean for the writer in me?

Well, I no longer have to get up at 5:00 a.m…though I probably will anyway, so I can get my writing on!  It also means, that I can finally get to finishing up some writerly projects.  Some of you may have seen that I was recently able to finish up my latest draft of Misty Dawn and Violet, and it is now in the hands of my agent!  That is a great feeling!!!

This Summer, I plan to finish up another.  Just one.  Not sure which manuscript it’ll be, yet, but no matter which of my projects I choose to delve into, I can tell you that I am giddy with anticipation.

I have had several unfinished projects hanging over my head for quite a while, and I need to complete one of them.  Again, just one.  It may sound like my hovering projects are actually chores.  They aren’t.  I know this, because recently I took one out to take stock of where I last was at with it.  I can tell you that when I read through my work, I got chills.  Not chills up my spine because I had written a thriller, but the warm kind of chills, from getting to spend time with the people and places I had begun writing about quite a while back.  My characters.  My storylines.

I love them.  I miss them, and it’s time for them to come back into my life.

write what you love

The saying, “Write what you love, love what you write,” has never meant more to me.  Those unwritten stories and characters came to me back then, because I wanted to read about them, and they didn’t exist elsewhere.  And it excites me knowing that Summer vacation is just around the corner, affording me the opportunity to vacation with ALL of my loved ones; friends and family, and literary loved ones, too.  I already feel rejuvenated and inspired to turn my mere words into prose.  I’ll be sharing updates along the way, too, so you can follow along this journey with me.

How do you plan to spend your Summer?  Any writerly things on the horizon for you? Connect with me in the comments below!

 

Embracing The Courage To Fail

go for it

My husband and I were married in 1996, which, in baseball terms, was Derek Jeter’s Rookie year as a Yankee.  During the years that followed, we watched Jeter and the other members of the Yankees became super-successful in subsequent years.  As a Yankee fan, I can tell you it was a thrilling time to follow the team.

Tonight, Jeter’s Number 2 was retired, and to commemorate the event, there were televised interviews and memories shared.  But, what was it about Jeter that made him so great?  Was it natural born talent?  Was it that his parents raised him a particular way?  Was it that he surrounded himself with people he wanted to emulate?  Perhaps.  More than likely, a combination of these created the baseball player he eventually would become.

During the Jeter event today, one commentator made a statement which stuck with me.  He said something to the effect of “To achieve greatness, you can’t be afraid to fail.”

Ugh.  That’s really hard.  So many of us are programmed to “fail to fail”.  We are taught that failure is bad, that failure will keep you from your goal.  As a writer, failing can mean something small, like I don’t complete my word count, or something large, like secure a publishing contract.  It means I might hit writer’s block and not be able to move a work forward.  It could mean that the concept of a work in progress is a no-go, even when I have spent many months, or even years, trying to develop it.

Failure can be debilitating.

But it doesn’t have to be.  During the Jeter festivities tonight, more than one person commented that Jeter expected to win every day.  He gave his all every time out on the field.  When he “failed” on the field,  his took that failure as an opportunity for growth.  That’s why he was such a good Yankee captain.

#Re2pect

Jeter was successful because he wan’t afraid to fail.

As writer’s, we can use this concept to our advantage.  What does failure as a writer really mean?  Sure, the word count miss, or the lack of a publishing contract seems like they are fails.  However, in the bigger picture, we can look at these little failures as part of our eventual path to greatness.  If we keep at it, refuse to give up, change some things when what we are doing doesn’t work out, we will all get there.

Next time, when writer’s block hits, I think I will try something “radical” with my plot or characters, and see where it takes me.  Maybe next time, I won’t be afraid to play with the structure of a work, if it seems to be “failing”.  I hope I have the courage to do so.

what could go right

I’m glad I got to watch Jeter’s celebration tonight between games of the double header.  It gave me the courage to accept failure as part of a longer, more interesting, path to authorly success.

I hope things are going well with you all, and thanks for reading.  Do you have any advice for spinning failure into the big picture of success?  Let me know in the comments!