Sunday, November 03, 2019

NaNoWriMo....or how to write a novel in 30 days!!!

Contemplating my novel!!

Perhaps November is my favorite month after all. I thought it was October, but now I have changed my mind. I think it has something to do with the way the sun slants into my windows through the prisms as they dance upon the wall. Or, maybe how the garden looks after the first hard frost and snow, forlorn yet very much alive with birds clamoring for the last bits of berries. Or, could it be the solitary work of writing on that novel with NaNowrite? Maybe it is a combination of everything. With the lawn mower tucked neatly inside the garage along with the kayak, it is time to think of winter projects. There are so many that I worry winter will be over too soon!

I have been a strong supporter of NaNowrite for several years. Let us just chat about it on this first Saturday of November. NaNowrite began in 1999 with just 21 participants. The idea was (and still is) to produce a writing piece of 50,000 words in just thirty days. Let us break that down. To produce that kind of writing, it means you need to write 1,667 words per day. If you did not start yesterday, that means you need to write 3,334 words today. Do not despair! It can be done.
I think this is good advice for anything we want to do and learning to do it in small steps, not just writing. But for now, it is writing I am talking about. Now perhaps you do not want to write the American novel. Right. Perhaps you want to leave a memoir for your kids. Now we are talking, yes?

The best practices for NaNowrite the following tips. Write fast! Yes, do not ponder, dillydally, ruminate or noodle around, just write. Do not do any editing. None. Zero. Nada. That is hard to do and I have trouble with that one, of course our laptops have autocorrect so that is good, but nonetheless, you will want to edit. Do not. Do not research while you are writing. Make notes on a separate piece of paper if you need to, but do not take time away from the actual writing. My last bit of advice to is to set a timer. I use this for everything artistic that I do. I set a timer for writing, for rehearsing, and even for playing music. It is good to stop and stretch…make tea…take a walk…and then get back to work. 

If this all sounds good, then please keep reading. I think getting your thoughts on paper is important while writing a novel or your memoirs…all the same. In the past few years, I have held writing sessions at Trine in Wells Gallery on Sunday afternoons. I have loved meeting you there, but honestly, the group could be larger. This year I have three write-ins around town in two-hour blocks. I have secured these locations so we can meet, chat a bit, and then get to work. All three are different, and the rules remain the same, you can come to one or all three if that works for you.

The first write in will be at Caleo CafĂ©’ on Friday, November 8 from 2-4. (Oh lucky us, we can order coffee!) I will secure the table up front so come on in. If we are not friends yet, we soon will be! On November 13, we will write at the Angola Carnegie Library. Karen Holman has offered us the large table in the basement where it will be quiet and we can work. Our last write-in will be in Wells Gallery in Taylor Hall on the Trine Campus. This event will be from 2-4 on Sunday, November 24. That space is so beautiful the words will just flow.

Bringing your laptop is the easiest way to write when you want to count words, but I have written many stories by hand also. Bring pencils, pens, paper, laptop, and a sparkle in your eye. If you have questions, I can answer those for you, but most of all we will hear the sound of the keyboard or the scratch of the pencil on your paper. Maybe there will be wind or rain outside the window. We will not even notice. 

Sylvia Plath once wrote, “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Halloween in my Small Town...

My friend, Janet, and I are waiting for the goblins!!

The warm cider simmers on the back burner while the pot of gypsy soup slowly bubbles on the front burner. Candles of orange and black, sweets scents of autumn, fill the other crevices of this old house. I look at the calendar in disbelief that this is my last column for October…the golden month and one of my favorite months. I want to pinch myself with the flowing of time to slow it down a bit, but that won’t do it!

My house probably looks a lot like your house. Pumpkins on the stoop, mums in the garden, and decorations around the house including the ones that are voice activated. My stuffed raven sits atop my Edgar Allan Poe book along with spider web-woven gloves. There is more, of course, as I am a Halloween girl and will lament the ending of this day at midnight on Day of the Dead!

Until then, there is much to do…shows to perform (yes, I am back at Pokagon this year!), Poe Night at Trine, treats to hand out (please bring your children to my house), and a costume contest to run on Halloween night at 7:00 on the square.
I still see my dad lurking in the shadows while we scurried up and down our streets as a kid. As spooky as it was (and we went after dark), it was at least comforting to know he was there all along waiting for us. Scuffing in the leaves was almost as good as getting candy and then later on knowing those leaves would be burning on the curbs. Everyone did it then. Now, of course, we compost them ourselves or send them off to leaf paradise in the hands of our street department. But, oh that smell of leaves burning in the street!

The celebration of Halloween is ancient. In 1,000 A.D., the church designated November 2 as All Saints Day to honor the dead. The custom began as the peasants visited the homes of the wealthy families. The peasants were given “soul cakes” as gifts in exchange for prayers for the dead. Later on children were sent 
out to collect these cakes and/or money on All Hallows Eve which is October 31st. The tradition of trick-or-treating came to the United States with the Irish immigrants in the 1840’s following the potato famine. In Ireland and other European countries, a turnip was carved for All Hallows Eve, but when the immigrants arrived in America, there was not a huge amount of turnips to be found. But pumpkins? Well, there you have it! These pumpkins were set outside on stoops and by garden gates to help guide lost spirits home. 

We have many superstitions associated with Halloween such as beware of black cats. The black cat at one time symbolized the arrival of witchcraft by (yes, I must say this) elderly, solitary women. Yep. The pagan goddess of Samhain (the name of this ancient day) was also an elderly, solitary woman known as the crone. And yet even more (sorry about this) the broomstick was once again brought in by the elderly, solitary woman because she usually couldn’t afford a horse so used a walking stick, or a broom, as she maneuvered her pathways in the woods.
The colors of orange and black symbolized the colors of autumn and the death of summer.

Now here is some good news for all of us elderly, solitary crones. Bobbing for apples was an activity by communities across America. It still is lots of fun, but it was believed the first person who got an apple without using their hands would be the first to marry. 

My candlelight flickers, the wind blows, the leaves scatter across my yard. The soup is ready, and I let my bowl of soup cool as I pull out my book of Poe. I read aloud between the sips of tea, and keep the spirit of Halloween alive in this old house. How many trick-or-treaters have crossed this doorstep? 

So, my friends I leave you with a little bit of Poe. (Be sure to read it aloud!)
Happy Halloween! See you on my doorstep!

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Sunday, October 20, 2019

A tiny glimpse of the show...

It was a great night last night for the PL Variety Show under the direction of Elten Powers. There was a matching grant so in all (we think) we raised over $5,000.00 for the community. It was so great to see a full auditorium with friends and neighbors. There is, definitely, no place like our town!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Our Town...tonight!

“Do human beings ever realize life while they live it?-every, every minute?” is a line from Our Town written by Thornton Wilder. Most of us know the play through a high school performance or lit class. Some of us even have a dozen copies of the play on their bookshelf (okay, I do) waiting to direct the play in her hometown. And some of us think about it often, as I also do.

The play, Our Town, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1938. It was a stark and original play with no curtains, no scenery in the fictional town of Grover’s Corners. Wilder chose this simplicity so audiences could put their own town into the scene. I remember the first time I saw the play. I was still a kid and my dad took me to see it. Was it transformational then as it is to me now? Maybe or maybe not. I do know I think about it every day. I think about it every time a guest or a friend says, “You are so lucky to live here.” I love to laugh and say, “Oh, not luck, my friend, it was and is a conscientious choice.” 

This weekend we have a chance to experience our town on a personal level. Tonight is the Pleasant Lake Lions Club Variety Show (aka the Minstrel Show). This show has graced stages in Steuben County for more than sixty years with just a short hiatus. I became aware of the show because of Elten Powers. He has been the director of the show for ten years. 

Elten came into my life about that same time when I was writing and directing the shows of Angola. My leading man became ill when my hairdresser, Mary Ramsey, said, “Call my uncle, Elten, he loves that kind of thing.” I had no idea who he was, but indeed, I did call. He answered. The rest of our friendship is history, along with his wife, Carolyn. 

Elten took over the directorship of the show. Every year starting in July, he begins the search for songs, themes, and the core of the show. By early September, the guys are meeting and learning the songs every week. This year the theme is Our Town. Oh, not the show by Thornton Wilder, but indeed it is the theme of the show. Small towns. Gentle towns. Elten has followed the rules of Wilder with no curtains and no scenery. I was able to get a peek at the show (okay, my band the Genuine Pretenders) will be playing in the show), but aside of that, oh wow. You will know and love all the songs and be singing right along in your seats.

Included in the show this year is a performance by Allie Ryan and Josh Ayers. They will be closing the show with a song written by Iris Dement. I can’t say the name or I will give it away, but I will tell you it is a perfect ending for this show. Allie is able to sing as the song was written. The Mayor has a solo tonight too, but my lips are sealed!

I think this show gives us time to reflect on what we really have here in this town…and surrounding towns. It is said to always “smell the roses,” and that is good, but let’s make sure we take time to see our neighbors, watch the children, listen to the church bells, and take in the scent of Autumn.

It is rumored that Elten will end his directing at the close of the show tonight. I don’t know how you might feel about that (or did you know?), but I find endings quite sad. Elten wants to put his time and effort into his new museum as he continues to leave a legacy for the folks in Pleasant Lake. I want to thank him for his hard work. I have had so much fun joining up with the Pleasant Lake cast the past few years as Minnie Pearl, Lily Tomlin, the Bride of Frankenstein and many other roles.

Our Town is the first play the newly formed theatre will bring to you so stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, come out to the show tonight…say “hi” to your neighbors, give Elten a big thank you, and as Thornton Wilder said, “Let's really look at one another!”

Show starts at 7:00 in the Dale Hughes Auditorium. Come early to get a good seat!

First published in KPC, October 19, 2019