It’s Over? Already? Last WFMAD for 2008

Dang, that was fast!

Today is the last day of July, the last day of my Write for Fifteen Minutes A Day challenge. Congratulations to all of you who participated!!!

If you missed the beginning, or you’d like to see all the entries I made about the challenge this month, then the tag function provides a short-cut to them.

If you’ll grant me a moment on the soapbox, I want to explain why my focus is on time spent writing, rather than word counts, like NaNoWriMo.

Don’t get me wrong; I love word counts. I track my own in a first or second draft because it gives me a sense of accomplishment when the characters and story are still primodial slime oozing from page to page.

But I worry that word counts can give writers the wrong impression. Just because you’ve written 50,000 or 100,000 words doesn’t mean you’re done with your novel. It might mean you’ve completed a draft. It’s the quality of the words and the structure of the story and those etheral things like voice and theme that really count. When/if you weave all of those threads into a coherent world, then your story is ready. How long that takes varies dramatically from writer to writer and book to book.

(For those of you who want a score card, it usually takes me seven drafts to write a novel.)

Some days I can hammer out words, crank out page after page after page. Other days, I’ll spend on one scene, sometimes one stretch of dialog. If I were to measure those against each other, it would be easy to see the day in which I wrote fewer pages as a “bad” day. Which is nonsense.

I believe the critical component of writing is the daily commitment to the task. If you touch base with your story every day – even for fifteen minutes – you are mulling it over somewhere in your mind. That’s why I structured WFMAD the way I did.

I’d love a little feedback from those blog readers who participated in WFMAD. What was it like for you?


Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: proud and relieved.

Today’s prompt: Write about what this month’s challenge did or didn’t do for your writing. Write about what made it hard to carve out fifteen minutes a day. Or was it easier than you thought? Do you want to maintain this habit? If so, what changes do you need to make to your non-summer schedule?


down to the wire pesto recipe & WFMAD 30

The Goddess of YA Literature ventured into picture book territory yesterday and reviewed a number of recent picture books, including INDEPENDENT DAMES. It is an honor and a hoot to have the book compared to the MAGIC SCHOOL BUS books, which I love.

A couple of you have asked for my pesto recipe. I mostly wing it, but here is how I made yesterday’s batch:

6 cups basil leaves (I stuff the cups, cram the basil in, so it’s a lot) washed and destemmed.
1 generous cup chopped pine nuts
1 and one-fourth cup grated Romano cheese (you can use Parmesan – it’s worth buying the good stuff)
10 cloves of garlic. Maybe 12.
Somewhere between three-quarters of a cup and one cup of good olive oil

I don’t have a food processor so it takes a while to chop all the basil into a mush, but the smell is worth it. Once the basil is chopped, stir in the other ingredients. Add a dash of salt and two dashes pepper. Make sure everything is well mixed.

Last night I tossed the fresh green beans with pesto. I think I could eat it with anything, including oatmeal. Might experiment with making pesto bread….

Making it fresh in the summer is fun, but I wanted to have some to enjoy when the snow piles up into 15-foot drifts come February.

Step One – freeze small portions of pesto in glass jars.

Thaw slightly to remove from jars.

Stick in vacuum sealer bag.

Suck out all the air and seal (this is really fun to watch).

Voila! Let it snow! Yesterday’s batch was enough to fill seven small jars worth of pesto, plus eat at dinner, plus have enough to munch on for a couple day’s snacking.

How do you make your pesto?


Today’s goal: write for 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: fantastical

Today’s prompt: Start out with the magic words “Once upon a time….” and write a fairy tale about the upcoming presidential election. Use common devices like villains, enchanted objects, interventions by fairies, etc.


Already Lost in Time & WFMAD 29

Sorry about the lateness of this post. I dove into a few research books early and forgot to come up for air. They need to go back to the library tomorrow, so I’ll not be nattering or ranting today.

Did you do anything about your writing space yesterday?


Today’s goal: write for 20 minutes (Think you can do it? Come on! It’s art! We’re supposed to break rules!)

Today’s mindset: yoga-stretching your brain

Today’s prompt: Write down the type of music that you hate the most, the stuff that raises your blood pressure. Now turn your radio to a station that plays that kind of music and listen to it while you write whatever images that fill your head. Try not to blather on about your feeling, i.e. I hate this crap, etc. Try to allow concrete images that represent the feelings bubble to the surface and write them down.

The point of this is to take you out of your comfort zone. So it’s OK to be uncomfortable.


Hero worship & WFMAD 28

Toni Morrison is one of my heroes for many reasons; she’s a gifted, brilliant, powerful author, she lived in Syracuse NY for a while, and now, she’s helping our country remember. (Here’s a non-NY Times link for those of you who aren’t registered with them.)

That bench is now on my Must-Visit list.

I am deep, deep in my research, trying to figure out how to wind the strands of my character’s story around historical events. I’m swimming in a sea of correspondence with historians and preparing to meet a couple of them.

One of the more interesting aspects of writing historical fiction is meeting those historians who have made one tiny facet of your story their entire life’s work. It’s sort of like challenging Kobe Bryant to a game of one-on-one, knowing that he’s not going to cut you any slack, but feeling like you’ve got your game on and you have a chance.

I spent a good hunk of yesterday marshaling my arguments for a historian who doesn’t believe that oxen were used to pull the artillery wagons towards a fort under siege. I’m pretty sure I’m right; he’s wavering, but he doesn’t seem to have any evidence to back up his concerns. If any of you, by chance, have anything to contribute to this conversation, please get in touch with me.

In honor of today’s WFMAD session, I present to you…..

… my desk.


Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes and maybe a little more, because it’s Monday.

Today’s mindset: organized

Today’s prompt: Today is all about the space in which you write. I have written in many, many places (my former writing spaces are an essay waiting to be written) and now I have my own slice of heaven. I work on the third floor of our house, in a loft space tucked under the eaves. I have a giant teacher’s desk from the 1920s that I trash-picked from my parents’ trailer park. I do not have enough bookshelves, but BH is going to change that when I go away on book tour. This is my creative kingdom.

If you are taking your writing seriously enough to try and do it every day, then it’s time to examine your writing space. What else besides writing happens there? Does it say “Dedicated Writer at Work” or “Sure, Go Ahead, Interrupt Me, I Don’t Really Want to Finish This Novel”?

The Guardian has a regular feature on writers’ rooms. I hope they do more.

If you can’t think of anything else to write about, today I’d like you to sketch out or write about the positive, affirming changes you are going to make to your writing space. Do you need to tidy it up? Get rid of visual clutter? Pay the stack of bills? Add flowers or a candle? Is there music in your space?

Extra-super bonus points will be awarded to those folks who actually act on their palns for their writing nook.


37ish Things About Me & WFMAD 27

Yesterday I harvested a bunch of basil and made fresh pesto. Twelve hours later, I still reek of garlic. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could be charged with a misdemeanor for disturbing the peace if I showed up in a public place smelling like this.

But, damn, it tasted good!

Here are some more odd things about me, yanked from a meme making the rounds.

1. Do you like blue cheese? Oh, yeah. I wonder if I could put it pesto?

2. Have you ever smoked? Yep, stupidhead that I was. I smoked the first three years of college. (Thank God I could hardly afford cigarettes – the habit was rarely more than a pack a week. I apologize to my lungs, mea maxima culpa.) I quit when my fiance and I made a pact: I would quit smoking if he promised to wear his seatbelt, always and forever. It has extended both of our lives.

3. Do you own a gun? Yes. Looking forward to hunting next year.

4. What flavor Kool Aid was your favorite? The most toxic one.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Only if I think they’re going to tell me I’m about to die.

6. What do you think of hot dogs? Hoffman’s hot dogs are sinful and great. I try to not eat them, but I am weak.

7. Favorite Christmas movie? It’s a Wonderful Life. And Elf, if Meredith is here to watch it with me.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? One mug tea, with two mugs of coffee as a chaser.

9. Can you do push ups? Yes!

10. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry? Wedding ring.

11. Favorite hobby? Running.

12. Do you have A.D.D.? Did you see that butterfly?

13. Do you wear glasses/contacts? I can barely see the butterfly without my specs.


15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment? Need more coffee, what to do about chapter 11, will the historian in Albany ever get back to me?

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Tea, coffee, water

17. Current worry? Not enough time before deadline.

18. Current hate right now? No hate – lots of anger, aimed mostly at the Bush administration and the media that is not reporting about the lives of working people in America.

19. Favorite place to be? With my family.

20. How did you bring in the new year? Singing so loudly the ice on the lake shatters.

21. Where would you like to go? Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand.

22. Name three people who will complete this? I have not yet mastered the ability to see into the future.

23. Do you own slippers? Do you know where I live? I have slippers the size of down sleeping bags.

24. What shirt are you wearing? Long-sleeved running shirt bought in the early 90s.

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Ack.

26. Can you whistle? I can call my dog and children from a mile away with my whistle.

27. Favorite color? Green.

28. Would you be a pirate? How do you know that I am not a pirate already, cleverly concealed as an author?

29. What songs do you sing in the shower? Anything by the Eagles or Dave Matthews.

30. Favorite Girl’s Name? Meredith, Stephanie, Jessica. (our daughters)

31. Favorite boy’s name? Christian. (our son)

32. What’s in your pocket right now? Sweatpants don’t have pockets.

33. Last thing that made you laugh? Watching the dog jump on the bubble wrap.

34. What vehicle do you drive? Red Honda Fit and a bicycle.

35. Worst injury you’ve ever had? ::knocks self on head for continued luck:: broken fingers and toes, that’s it.

36. Do you love where you live? I adore it. I live on ten acres of serenity, planted with maple trees, sunflowers, and peas.

37. How many TVs do you have in your house? Two. They can’t wait for football season to start.

I tag you with the meme.

I can’t believe this month is almost over. This is the last Sunday edition of WFMAD. Here goes…


Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: pesto-scented

Today’s prompt: Think about the most irritating thing that has happened to you in the past month and describe it in three or four sentences. Skip a line and write “And then it got worse…”. Create fictional details about the incident, exaggerating and blowing it wildly out of proportion. After each new detail, skip another line and write “And then it got worse…”. See how far you can take your tall tale before you have to end it.