Aldon Hynes's blog
Recently, as we remember the 50th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy, I got into discussions about those moments in history that we always remember.
People talk about the day JFK was shot, the day John Lennon was shot, September 11th. It seems it is often the sad days we remember. Today is another sad day. Nelson Mandela has died.
Yet I remember the day Nelson Mandela was released. It was February 11, 1990. It was a Sunday morning when we heard the news. I was living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was twelve days before my first daughter was born.
We headed off to Grace Episcopal Church at Tenth and Broadway and the jubilation filled the church.
Tuesday, December 3. It is evening and I’m finally getting to write. In the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook, a challenge of writing one thousand words a day was offered. Normally, I like to write shorter blog posts, but there have been long periods of time that I’ve written a blog post a day. If I add in the status updates I write on Facebook, the comments I share, the emails I write, and other writing, one thousand words a day doesn’t seem like that much.
Yet there are some days that are quieter and I don’t write as much. I don’t want to burden the readers of this blog with all the writing I do just for working on my writing, but I haven’t determined a good alternative place, so on days like today, for the time being, I may end up having some long rambling posts about nothing in particular.
I’m still run down after November, not only the writing, but fighting sniffles, spending time socializing, and trying to figure out my agenda for December, which is likely to be quite busy.
As the days get colder and shorter, it becomes harder for me to get out of bed in the morning, and this morning was no exception. I haven’t been sleeping as soundly as I’d like recently, which also probably makes it harder to get out of bed.
My morning rituals were pretty much the usual. Before setting off to work, I needed to scrape the windshield. I haven’t had to do that much yet this year, but I suspect there will be many more mornings like this.
It was also foggy today. Traffic was heavy in both directions on the parkway. As I looked at the constant streams of traffic emerging from and disappearing into the fog, the call of the raod came back to me. I feel it every now and then, a harkening back to the days of my youth when I hitched around the States and Europe, a desire to just go, and keep going, with no destination in particular.
I made it through the day, writing a fair amount of emails, Played a little Ingress and headed home. All in all a quiet day. Soon I’ll head off to sleep, knowing that for the third day of December, I’ve written a total of over one thousand words, but just barely.
We shall see if what sort of writing I get done tomorrow.
Over the past week, there have been several stories that I’ve been following that all fit together in an unexpected larger theme. The first was the release of John Jorge’s Music Video, Lovin’. For those who don’t recognized the name yet, I think the first time I was him perform was in the Amity High School’s production of Rent.
I believe this was the day before Thanksgiving, which is the second story to pay some attention. Every year, we stop to give thanks for all that has been given us. As a New Englander who can trace his genealogy back to the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, this is an important day for me. Part of what I’m thankful for is the freedoms my ancestors came to this country in search of.
Another big story for me of the past few days is my completion of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I finished the first 50,000 word draft of my second novel on Saturday. There is something very empowering to set out to create something challenging and complete it. I will see if I will go through the editing and revisions necessary to get it to be presentable for publication, either through traditional channels or through self publication.
Then, there was the story in the Washington Post of a teacher resigning because of what is happening in education.
All of this leads up to World AIDS Day and an incredible article in the New Yorker, What Young Gay Men Don’t Know About Aids. I work at a Federally Qualified Health Center that treats people with AIDS. I am a Health Leadership Fellow of the Connecticut Health Foundation working with others to address health disparities in our state.
AIDS is a very important topic we need to have open and honest discussions about, which leads me to the final story I want to focus on.
An article in the Hartford Courant put it this way.
Student representatives from Trumbull High's theater department were told last Monday that the show they planned to perform next spring covered topics too "sensitive" or "controversial" for a high school.
Originally, I was planning to write an open letter to the Trumbull High School administration, pointing out how not allowing the production of Rent was incredibly short sighted. I would talk about depriving students of opportunities for prepare for their careers, as the Amity production of Rent helped John Jorge on his career. How not allowing the production went against the freedoms that our forefathers came to this country for. How not allowing the production was an affront to all people seeking to improve the lot of mankind through creativity. How not allowing the production would damage the school district by showing a heavy handed administration that doesn’t allow educators to challenge their students. How not allowing the production was an insult to the people of Trumbull by saying that students at Amity and in Greenwich where Rent has been produced are more capable of handling “sensitive” or “controversial” subjects.
But the most important topic to me was the health topic. According to The Connecticut Department of Health there were nearly 700 case of HIV infection reported in Bridgeport, the city next to Trumbull during the years 2002-2011. Yes, the rate of new infections has been going down, but every new infection with HIV is one infection too many.
HIV/AIDS is not too “sensitive” or “controversial”. HIV/AIDS is an infection which we can stop the spread of. We can do this by talking openly and honestly about the infection, about the stigma. If we care about the children in our schools, we need to have these discussions.
I am tempted to wax polemic adopting the voice of preachers I know that would point out that by preventing these discussions, there is blood on our hands. Yet I’m not sure that is effective. It isn’t really my style.
But, this evening, I went to a World AIDS Day event where another section of the quilt was unveiled. It commemorated people in Connecticut how had died as a result of AIDS. It was attended by people who were living successful lives knowing that they were HIV positive. These were people who have confronted the stigma, found out their status and were getting the treatment so that an HIV infection for them was a chronic disease, not a death sentence. These were people who knew their status and because of their knowledge, were not spreading the infection.
I wept with them as we mourned the death of loved ones.
In my heart, I prayed for those who indirectly contribute to the ongoing spread of HIV by thwarting opportunities for discussion. I wished they could have stood with me at the unveiling of this latest section of the quilt and I pray that these words might cause some to stop and think about what their decisions mean for freedom, for education, and most importantly, for health.
When I started National Novel Writing Month this year, I wasn’t sure if I could make it. When I wrote my first novel several years ago as part of NaNoWriMo, my work schedule was much different, much more flexible, much less demanding. Sure, there are people who can write five thousand words everyday for a month straight and easily hit one hundred and fifty thousand words. There are others that can hit fifty thousand words in the first day or first weekend of November, but for many of us, it is a struggle.
One idea I had thought of doing this year was going meta. On top of writing the first draft of my second novel, or perhaps as part of it, I would tell my own story of what it is like to do NaNoWriMo; the struggle to come up with the right balance of planning and writing by the seat of your pants, the struggles to come up with good character names and place names, the struggle to have a compelling story, the struggle to have realistic characters the change throughout the story, the struggle to keep going through the boring sections, knowing they are necessary to link parts of the story together, but fearing that if, I, the writer is bored, how much more bored the reader will be.
On Saturday the 30th, I hit my 50,000 words. I tied the pieces together fairly quickly and abruptly and then validated my word count. 51,531. I had done it. I had won. I felt joy and elation. I experienced fatigue and a sadness at the end of this part of a great adventure. I joined online discussions celebrating the victory of other writers.
There is something very powerful about this. Writing the first draft of a novel in thirty days is a major accomplishment. It builds self confidence. Some of my fellow NaNoWriMo writers plan to publish their novels. Other’s may put their novels on the shelf, waiting for a novel in some other year to try and publish. My first novel, after a rough first edit is sitting on a hard drive somewhere. It’s not great and if I become a more accomplished writer, maybe it can be published posthumously. I’m taking a little time away from my second novel before I start editing and deciding what the fate of it will be. I believe it is much better than my first, and I’m looking for readers to share initial reactions and if I do press on with a significant edit, I’ll be doing a bit of research in various areas I sort of glossed over in the first pass.
Yes, writing fifty thousand words in a month is very empowering., but there is something more. One writer posted on Facebook that she had only completed thirty seven thousand words, but that she had two thirds of the way through a story that needed to be told. It raises an important issue, why are we writing what we are writing? For some, it may be the challenge. For some, it may be the fun. Yes, I find writing a story more fun that reading someone else’s story. It may be that it is something we just have to do, it is core to our being. All of this is part of the reason I write, but as my craft improves, I’m finding that I’m also telling stories that I think are important to be heard, not necessarily the story itself, but the subtext. Stories can change lives. I can think of various stories like that for me, and I hope, someday, I might be able to write stories that will change other people’s lives.
So, National Novel Writing Month, 2013 is over. The friends I wrote with this year have their stories. Some have completed first drafts. Others are still writing. Some will edit, others will set their most recent stories aside. Some stories may get published, they may even change the lives of people that read them.
No matter what the outcome, everyone who embarked on #NaNoWriMo this year was a winner in one way or another, and I am proud to stand with them.
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. December 1st. National Novel Writing Month is over. I completed the first draft of my second novel. Thanksgiving and the blackness of the first shopping rush has passed. I have avoided stores all weekend. Today, Advent starts. Today is World AIDS Day. During this time of expectant waiting, what are you waiting for?
Friends of mine who are HIV activists have a goal, Getting to Zero. Zero new infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths. Some think it would take a miracle to achieve this. Others think that by people working together we can get there. Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for miracles.
How much divine intervention is necessary to get to zero? How much human participation? We can argue about the mix of the two, it seems like that is what theologians have done for ages. To me, it seems like a mix of the two. We can pray for divine intervention. We can organize human participation. We should do both.
So as we enter Advent, let’s pray and organize for something much more important than the latest electronics picked up in a Black Friday Frenzy. Let’s pray and organize around getting to zero, Zero new infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.