Community Novel Writing

Humans, by there very nature, are storytellers. From the gatherings around campfires and drawings on cave walls, to the modern day novel, people have always told stories. The problem with the modern day novel, however, that like so much of media in our recent history, it is broadcast. The writer sits down, writes the novel, revises then novel, tries to get someone to publish it, and eventually, it is out there in a static form, broadcast to anyone that will read it. There is very little interaction between the writer and the audience, except maybe at a book signing or in random hate mail. At least that is how it has always seemed to me as strictly a consumer of novels.

Now, however, I am making my first attempt at writing a novel. Sometime this weekend, I expect to pass the half way mark. I’m not sure where the point of no return is, but I believe I’ve passed it and now have to finish the novel.

During this experience, I went to a write-in. To people who view writing as a solitary experience, a write-in doesn’t make a lot of sense. I know that I write better when I am alone and not interrupted or distracted. A bunch of writers getting together to write, and chat about their writing and eat curly french fries, well that just seems too distracting, and at my first write in, I only accomplished 800 words. I probably would have done twice that if I stayed at home.

Yet, I’m finding that writing isn’t a solitary experience, or it doesn’t have to be. The municipal liaison for NaNoWriMo in my area sent out an email to all of us, encouraging us on. It had various statistics about the average number of words written by various groups of writers and the writers that attended write-ins were the most prolific.

More significantly, I’ve been speaking with friends about my novel. I’ve sent them sections of my first draft and they’ve provided great suggestions. I’ve worried about whether I’m bugging them too much, but they’ve commented about how much fun they are having watching my novel unfold and making suggestions.

Perhaps this returns the story telling process to a little bit more like the stories told around the campfire. The audience asks questions and the story take shape with their participation. If you are doing NaNoWriMo, I would encourage you to get to write-ins and to talk with trusted friends that can give you good advice. It makes the experience all the more fun.

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The first snow of the season graces the fallen leaves as I dally in bed. It has been a busy week and I am on overload. Wednesday, I went to ad:tech, and there is still more to write about that. In the evening, I received additional emails about the alleged trademark infringement in Second Life, which deserves much more attention. Thursday, I addressed various business concerns and the never-ending effort to get a little more cash in the door. Last night, I went to a panel, “The State of Student Free Speech” at Quinnipiac University School of Law, sponsored by the American Constitution Society. It was a wonder session that deserves a write up of its own. Through all of this, I continue to work on my novel for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, and process the great input I’ve been getting from a small set of friends who are reading the rough draft of my first write through.

I’m not officially participating in National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo, which has a goal of putting up a post every day during the month of November. This is in part because I’ve got too many things going on already, and in part because the goal of putting up a post every day is one that I’ve been seeking for the past few months anyway, and intend to keep pursuing. I only missed one day in October, none in September, and two in August, so I’m in pretty good shape there.

However, on the email side, I’m not in as good shape. The unread emails in my inbox has expanded back up to close to 1400, and for the first time during NaNoWriMo, I didn’t write the 1,667 words for my novel which is the average number of words needed to be written each day to complete the 50,000 words by the end of the month. However, I am still in good shape with the novel. During my first week, I averaged close to 3000 words a day, so I’m currently at 21,306 words and interesting new subplots keep hatching

So, I’m overloaded. I’ll get my blog posts up as soon as I can. I’ll get back to emails as soon as I can, and I’ll try to keep my novel goals on track. Wish me luck.

Looking for Lilies: Politcs, Media and Role models

I must admit that Glamour is not one of the magazines I regularly read. I dislike the role of being a thin sexy shopper that it seems to promote. It might be that there is something useful between the covers, but It isn’t a place I normally look for inspiration.

However, it is a place that many people look, and last night, I received an email about their Women of the Year.

The article starts off with a quote from Sheryl Crow,

“When I think of strength and grace, I think of Elizabeth’s undefeatable spirit. She is simply one of the most honest, most deeply inspiring people I have ever met.”

It ends with a wonderful quote from Elizabeth,

It’s not only her children whom Elizabeth inspires. “Life is rarely what we expect it might be,” she says, “but we need to look for the lilies. We need to do what brings us joy and what gives us a sense of purpose.” As the whole world watches Elizabeth Edwards doing just that, she’s showing us all nothing less than how life should be lived.

It is great to see joy and purpose brought to the political stage. It is great to see fighting bravely against cancer as glamorous. It is great to see standing up for what you believe as glamorous. It gives me hope that our media and our country isn't as completely screwed up as I sometimes thing.

(Cross posted at DailyKos)

Also, I added a comment there, which I'll add to the body here:

I have a six-year old daughter, Fiona. Those of you who have followed various campaigns may have seen her on the trail.

We are constantly looking for positive female role models for her. We have a list of movies we like to watch, like Bend it like Beckham, Whale Rider, Gracie, and so on.

So, what tips do you have for good role models for young girls?

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Wordless Wednesday

The Wedding Reception, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Tinkering with pedagogical interests

On November 1st, approximately 35 students at Morton West High School in Berwyn, IL staged a sit-in in the school cafeteria. Reports are that around 25 of the students locked arms and refused to move when they were ask to.

As I read stories about this, I can only wonder what Avery Doninger would have to say. Over the past several months, she has learned a lot about what sort of speech is allowed to students, in what locations, and under what conditions.

An article in the Chicago Suburban News uses the word ‘disrupt’ in one form or another half a dozen times to describe the protest. “Officials say their actions disrupted the educational process” the article reports.

The event took place in the school cafeteria, where so many important lessons are learned. The administrations reaction to the protest was to lock down the school and call in the police. One has to wonder if it was the students actions that were disrupting the educational process, or an over reaction by the administration that disrupted the educational process.

The article quotes Rita Maniotis, head of the PTO and parent of one of the protesters as saying, “We don’t want this to come to a lawsuit, but we don’t think it’s appropriate that these children be expelled.”

The article refers to a statement by Superintendent Nowakowski which says,

“Not only do students have a right to express themselves on matters of conscience but we encourage them to do so. In this instance, it is critical to note that the Morton administration did not say that the students could not protest. Rather, we asked that the students simply move their protest to an area of the school that would not disrupt the ability of the other 3,400 students at Morton West to proceed with their normal school day.”

Yet trying to make sure that students can proceed with their normal school day is substantially different with the standards about students’ freedom of speech concerning a substantial disruption of pedagogical intent and this will likely become a key part of this case as it proceeds to court.

Instead, the message that Superintendent Nowakowski seems to be promoting is that of ‘Freedom of Speech Zones”. Yes, students have the right to free speech, and he seems suggest that free speech shouldn’t circumscribed by whether it substantially disrupts the pedagogical intent, but whether or not it is convenient. It is a dangerous trend, runs counter to our history of embracing freedom of speech.

I do hope that Superintendent Nowakowski handles this case better than Superintendent Schwartz has handled Avery Doninger’s case. I look forward to visiting the Second Circuit of Appeals on Avery’s case, but I don’t think I can justify flights out to Chicago.

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