NaNoWriMo, Take 2

Back in 2006 (all those years ago), I took a stab at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo/nanowrimo).

I didn't get too far.

The goal of nanowrimo is to churn out a 50,000-word novel between midnight on Nov. 1 and 11:59:59 p.m. Nov. 30.

That's 1,667 words per day, or about 70 words an hour (daylight savings time ends this month, so we get an extra hour).

In 2006, I set a goal of actually writing those 1,667 words each day. I did great for four days. When I missed one day, looking down the barrel of over 3,300 words got daunting, and I only got 1,000 out. That left me with 4,000 words the next day, and that was it for me.

I'm not going to be so much concerned with daily word counts this year. I may aim for 12,500 words a week, but even then, I'm not going to sweat it too much, because I know if I get going, I can churn out 5,000 words in a sitting, get up, stretch, grab a glass of water, and churn out another 5,000.

And this time, I'm going the creative non-fiction route. As far as fiction goes, I'm really good at creating characters, but just no good at having them do anything interesting. Fifty thousand words of character development with no plot just sounds miserable.

Also, I'm thinking if I do this correctly, I could sell it in pieces, rather than having to shop the whole thing. But maybe that's getting ahead of myself. But I'm geared up for this, think I can really do something fun this year.

I'll keep you apprised.

Embracing the poison

There's a lot of poison in my body these days, although it's starting to leave, slowly.

It started when I was out at Chittenango Falls on Yom Kippur. I stepped on a wet rock, fell, and banged my left elbow.

I can now put weight on it via my hand and forearm, but I still can't lean directly on it. Worse, I keep banging it, even if just lightly, on my desk, on my car door, wherever. It's got one of those "holy crap! that's ugly!" bruises that doesn't hurt as bad as it looks, but it's still one of those injuries that sends bad blood through your veins.

The following Saturday – just over a week ago, now – I was stung multiple times by what I think was a yellow jacket. It somehow got entangled in my shirt, and it got me in the left shoulder and just below the navel, and probably dragged its venomous stinger under my skin for part of that journey. I'm not allergic to such stings, but as with any venom that gets put into your veins, the affected area was swollen. In fact, I'm going to estimate that more than 60 percent of my stomach and chest were swollen.

The swelling is definitely down (a little remains above my pants line, where my abdomen folding over a belt would get irritated), but I'm sure the poison's not out of my system. I'm a little paranoid, actually, of getting stung again, and if it happens soon, I'm going to the emergency room.

One thing Zach Phillips said at the 40 Below summit yesterday hit home with me. To create good art, he said, you have to embrace your pain, whether it's physical or emotional.

I've decided to go with that, and I'm starting to see art everywhere, even if I'm not capturing it. It's really uplifting.

The sound of everything


A 15-second look at Chittenango Falls

I began reading The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi on Thursday.

It's a semi-autobiographical novel about an Afghan woman whose husband is killed by the Taliban. She moves to Denmark, where she must learn a new language – a language that, to her, sounds like bees buzzing.

That I began reading it on Thursday is significant. It was Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of atonement, a day when we connect with God to apologize for our sins over the past year. It is tradition to fast (food and liquid) from sundown to sundown. My take: food deprivation is an altered state that brings you closer to God.

Chittenango FallsIf you've never done such a fast, here is a brief timeline of some physical consequences of a 24-hour fast (I can only speak from my experiences; some of you might have others you'd like to share in comments).

• Dehydration headaches
• General fatigue
• General difficulty focusing
• A sharp hunger pang about 16 hours in, that subsides quickly
• Euphoria
• A return of all senses to normal

Take that last one with a grain of salt because, while it feels like you're running on normal, you are dehydrated and without nutrients, which means your body doesn't work quite the way you expect it to.

It's really the euphoria part that makes Yom Kippur my favorite holiday.

Everything sounds really loud – a bird flushed from the bushes sounds like a motorcycle. A fly buzzing around your table sounds like you have your head in a beehive.

Everything seems bigger and brighter. Visual depth doesn't matter. The autumn colors are vivid, and in very sharp contrast to the sky, be it blue or gray.

After services, I went to Chittenango Falls for the first time. I took five rolls of film; the four rolls of color are brilliant, and it will be a while before the black and whites come back.

I spent about five hours out there. It was a beautiful day, and the colors were at peak, so there were a lot of people viewing the falls.

I also went out on the Chips trail, which is an easy 0.85-mile hike, and didn't see another human for three hours.

It was amazing, from the miles of colors, to the sound of leaves underfoot, to the power of the water. I'm also looking forward to getting back out there sometime in winter, to see the ice buildup at the bottom.

Hey, someone interviewed me!

I always forget what it's like to be on the getting-asked-the-questions side of the interview.

For those of you who don't know, one of the things I do in my job is to run a blog about pro athletes with CNY connections. It's generally fairly dormant in the summer, since the locals playing pro baseball aren't really key players, though they have their moments.

But Orange Chuck, a former Syracuse guy in North Carolina, doesn't hold the summers against me, and interviewed me for his 12 questions series this morning.

Interviews are difficult enough for me – it's hard to be on for whatever question is coming – but also being able to answer honestly and completely, without violating any trade secrets, is doubly difficult.

Anyway, thanks, Chuck, for the opportunity, and I'm glad you're enjoying the interviewing.

“New” apartment, courtesy of music

I am in active disbelief that I had never heard of Kimya Dawson until I saw Juno.

Between her solo work, her work with The Moldy Peaches and with the children's ensemble Antsy Pants (auto audio warning), Dawson appears on about half the soundtrack.

For those of you who didn't know me in my former life, I used to (a) review a lot of acoustic singer songwriters, (b) book acoustic singer songwriters, (c) play with acoustic singer songwriters, and (d) be an acoustic singer songwriter [OK, so I"m still a little (d)].

And Dawson was starting to get her first round of small-club-touring fame right about then; the fact that I could be interviewing and booking people like Pamela Means, hanging out at shows with folks like Ember Swift and Lyndell Montgomery, and playing with women who had me covering Ani Difranco (auto audio) and others and not know about Dawson's existence is just, well, appalling to me.

Dawson's solo stuff is very simple shy-woman-with-guitar stuff, and the recordings I've heard so far appear to be done on simple recording equipment (like, say, four-track cassette recorders). I spent some of this morning looking over her LiveJournal.

She had me wanting to play again, and not just the little bit I have been. So I've spent much of the past week re-doing my apartment.

I've cordoned off the bedroom, so it's no longer a walk-through (it's where the dining room was, if you've been there recently). I got rid of the dining room, moving the table and chairs into the kitchen, which is plenty big enough.

My office is now the carpeted room that was the bedroom, and what was my office now has two guitars, two microphones, one chair and the portable PA system and four-track I dug out of the closet. It's empty and sounds brilliant, and hopefully will serve me well musically and creatively.

Happinesses on a day off

• Sleeping in, which I actually sort of did.

• On the bus this morning, a teenage girl moved from her seat when an older woman who clearly needed one of the seats up front got on – with no prodding or hesitation.

• Acoustic Colin Hay on the stereo at the cafe.

• Moving to within one step of dumping my old clunker: all that's left is to actually get it to the dealership and drive off in my new car tomorrow morning.

• Hand-made greeting cards purchased at Eureka, one for great customer service and the other for a friend who skipped town prematurely.

• Lunch with Jill.

• Also, the day's only half over.

Update: • Going to see Bartolo Colon pitch tonight.

Where the road middles

If you want to drive down Enterprise Parkway in De Witt, NY, you have a choice: You turn off of Bridge Street in East Syracuse, or you turn onto a short connector road from Widewaters Parkway in De Witt.

These will get you to two different ends of Enterprise Parkway.

You cannot get from one end to the other while staying on Enterprise Parkway, if you are driving.

This tree is in the middle.

I like this tree, plain as it appears.

Lest you desire to simply drive around the tree, note that the concrete does not run around the tree, so you will first have to drive over three very large rocks that serve as a barrier, and then you'll have to cross the grass, while avoiding the picnic tables on one side and the wetlands on the other.

In the otherwise pedestrian-unfriendly office park in which I work, this tree is like the last union member, who will not leave the rally until someone not only brings out the ax, but uses it.

Plain as it appears, I like this tree.