Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hypocrisy in A Christmas Carol?

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John L...
Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John Leech in 1843 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ebeneezer Scrooge is a miserly, mean old man, and the perfect example of this is when he doesn't want to give his poor, hard-working employee, Bob Cratchit, the day off for Christmas.

After he sees the ghosts and has his epiphany, he insists on buying the biggest turkey the poultrymonger has, to provide the Cratchits with an amazing Christmas dinner. This is seen as a great example of how he's changed.

...Which means the poultrymonger is working on Christmas.

So, to recap: Bob Cratchit working Christmas is bad, and Scrooge is a miser.  Poultrymonger working Christmas is good, and Scrooge is generous.

I feel like there's a moral to that story somewhere.  Merry Christmas if you celebrate, and happy holiday-of-choice (or just Wednesday) otherwise.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

I Don't Know What I Want... Chapter 5, Part 4

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This

By Julie Jansen

Chapter 5: Where's the Meaning?

Sorry I've been so distant, folks.  It's been a hectic December. Anyway, let's move on:
Step 3: Create an Action Plan
At this point, we fill out a worksheet. I'll do mine here; you can play along at home, in the comments, or (if you're reading this on a mobile device and can't comment) on Facebook.

The kind of meaning I want to pursue is: Balance and Accomplishment

The short-term action steps (tasks/activities) I will take are:
...I have no idea.  The example in the book wasn't really about meaning; it was more about applying that meaning onto a concrete goal.  I don't have a concrete goal.

You know what? Let's go pipe dream. It won't ever happen, I don't think, but we can use it as an example. So! Starting over!

The kind of meaning I want to pursue is: Creative Accomplishment. I want to produce a dramatic podcast.

The short-term action steps (tasks/activities) I will take are:
  1. Re-write my scripts for the first story arc.
  2. Write scripts for the second story arc.
  3. Workshop scripts for the second story arc
  4. Re-write scripts for second story arc
  5. Write scripts for the third story arc.
  6. Workshop scripts for the third story arc
  7. Re-write scripts for third story arc
  8. Write scripts for the fourth story arc.
  9. Workshop scripts for the fourth story arc
  10. Re-write scripts for fourth story arc
  11. Consult Chris for some kind of contract for actors, since I probably won't be paying them, but I'll need them for a while
  12. Audition actors
  13. Find recording space
  14. Record scripts
  15. Figure out how to edit recordings
  16. Figure out how to put it all up on iTunes
  17. Evaluate success
  18. If successful, restart process for Season 2
  19. If any monetization happens, figure out my best tax structure, as money ought to be reinvested first, reimburse actors somehow second. My payout would best come from spin-off items: swag, related novels, etc.
Now, technically, I'm supposed to have due dates attached to these, but I'm currently working on a novel, with a second novel in a drawer for later, so I really don't know when Step 1 will get started.

...But these aren't terrible action items, are they?

Now, these are subject to change, but they're supposed to make us feel more committed to the project.  Kind of like committing to NaNoWriMo did, actually.  

Next time! Chapter 6 begins!

Edited 8/11/14 for formatting issues.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Solo Trips

I don't object when Chris gets invited on a boys weekend. It doesn't happen very often, and he always has a good time.
Metro train over the Potomac
Metro train over the Potomac (Photo credit: LR_PTY)

Ideally, I'll take advantage and go on a solo trip of my own.

Once, I went to Washington, DC, by myself.  That was great. I took the bus down, got a hotel right by the Metro, and spent the day doing free museums and monuments. I ate in food courts. My expenses were low.

That's what I look for in a solo trip.

But I'd like to try something different next time.  I don't have a set "next time" in mind, but it's likely to come up sooner or later.

So let's see. A city I can get to fairly easily by bus, train, or not-terribly-expensive flight. It should be relatively safe for a woman to walk around alone at night, at least until midnight and at least in the tourist sections (later and further are better, of course).  Walkable and/or sensibly mass-transitable.  Plenty to do, ideally with a lot of it cheap or free. Good food, with cheap options. Good local beer is nice, but not necessary. It would be cool if I knew someone in the area for a drink or lunch, but not so many or so close that my entire weekend is obligations to stay there and hang with them -- the whole point is it's a solo weekend!

Consulting my (admittedly not very good) mental map, we've got Boston, which I've done a lot; Philadelphia, where I'd feel obligated to stay with family; Pittsburgh and Chicago, both of which I've done in the cold but would like to do in the warm; Baltimore, which, no; and DC, which as I said, I did by myself before.

I'm open to suggestions!

Do you like to travel alone?  Where do you go?
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Subtly Quirky

I am neither a hipster nor a trendster. If what I like is out of fashion, oh well.  If what I like in in fashion, I stock up, because who knows how long that will last?  I live in variations on a theme: sundress and cardigan; tank top, skirt, and cardigan; tank top, jeans, and cardigan; t-shirt and jeans, with or without the cardigan; cable knit sweater and jeans.

(I've heard this is the year of the cardigan, and while I do have a decent collection, I'm not going to say no to anyone who wants to help me build my stash to see me through until the next time it comes around!)

But I have fun with accessories.  Not wild and crazy stuff; I don't really feel comfortable in big statement necklaces, and I don't actually have pierced ears, believe it or not.

Here are some recommendations for a subtly hint of quirk for the lady in your life whose fashion sensibilities maybe sound a bit like mine -- or if you like something a little wilder, you can always play these up!

One of my signature pieces these days is my dinosaur necklace by turtlelove. It's silly but tasteful, and when people notice it, I get to have a fun conversation about dinosaurs that never existed. turtlelove has a couple different dinosaur pieces, plus states, elephants, ampersands, and more

Next is my watch. It looks heavy and bulky, doesn't it?  Nope! It's slender and super lightweight... and it's made of wood.  There's a ton of styles and a good handful of colors at WeWood, and it seems like everyone in my family wants one!

I have a few handbags, to go with different outfits. Black, brown, grey. Oh, my grey handbag. My sister-in-law had this first, and I liked it so much she got me a similar, if slightly toned down, version, from Harveys. It's made of seatbelts!

When I'm not wearing my watch, I have a go-to bracelet.  Unfortunately, I got it at a craft fair, and I don't have the designer's card. But I cruised Etsy, and this is pretty close. Get your recipient's initial in a typewriter key!

So these are just some ideas. Check out the sites and see what strikes your, or your loved one's, fancy.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

I Don't Know What I Want... Chapter 5, Part 3

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This

By Julie Jansen

Part III: How Do  You Get There?

Chapter 5: Where's the Meaning?

So, now that we have a sense of what we find meaningful, now we get to the downside. 
Step 2: Explore Roadblocks and Opportunities
Well, [once again] Jansen wants us to make a blind list before she gives us any practical jumping-off point, so right now we just list any real or perceived obstacles or barriers to finding your meaning.  OK, let's delve into my insecurities!
  1. I am not charming and fear I am not inherent likable. (Hey, I warned you!)
  2. I have a hard time enumerating my skills, which makes me feel like I don't have any.
  3. The things I daydream about all seem to involve a lot of invested time, for most likely very little payoff
  4. The things I daydream about would require a lot of people getting along and working together, which is not something anyone can control.
  5. Very little I am interested in and/or good at pays well.
  6. Ugh, maybe the nihilists are right and there isn't any meaning anyway!
Now I'm going to peek ahead at Jansen's "most common barriers": 
  • Pay decrease -- I'm lucky to be in a situation where that's not a huge concern, although that does overlap somewhat with my #5
  • Too old -- not a huge concern
  • No specific experience -- A mild concern, sure; I guess that overlaps with my #2
  • Don't know how to find a company that would fit -- not a concern; I thought the whole point of this book is to figure out what you want and then find the company?
  • Can't make a difference -- Haha, definitely overlaps with my #6
  • Don't know how to solve problems in a new industry -- not a concern; that would just be the first problem to solve, right?
  • Don't know if I can change my lifestyle -- not a huge concern
  • Don't really feel passionate about anything -- Definitely a concern, and one I wish Jansen had mentioned earlier.
  • Don't have enough time -- not a concern
  • Not very creative -- very mild concern, more wrapped up in my insecurities than reality.
Jansen then goes through some anecdotes and advice for each of those barriers. I'm not going to outline all of them, but here's what jumped out at me:
  • A women who was in marketing did a super job of selling herself in her new field, and thus managed to keep her old salary.  Well, of course, she knows how to market herself!
  • The "I can't make a difference" section basically says, look around for something that's broken and fix it; you're special, you can do it! But... I've never been in a situation where I was empowered to do more than maybe bring it up.  It was completely out of my hands as to whether anything could possibly done about it.
  • The "I don't really feel passionate about anything" section talks about how to weave your seemingly incompatible passions into your worklife.  Which... doesn't really answer the question.
  • Overall, this section is more pep-talk than actually, usable advice, and I don't find it helpful; in fact, given my personal list, I worry it might actually do more harm than good! (Does that count as a barrier?)
Next time, we attempt to create an action plan. I have no idea how that's going to go.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Penelope Trunk: Find the right career by doing the wrong career

Whew, it's been a while since I've done one of these, and longer still since I've done one as a one-off. It's kind of nice to get back to it, actually.

So, way back in October 2010, Penelope Trunk, founder of the Brazen Careerist, wrote this post. She begins by reassuring us, in her not-particularly-reassuring way:
[E]ven though trial and error looks very similar to aimless flailing, it’s what everyone has to do.
Hmm, that's another one for the Rotating Quotes in the banner, isn't it?

She then gives her tips for productive flailing:

  1. Let yourself try things that are widely seen as lazy and indulgent.
  2. Figure out what makes you special. 
  3. Get other opinions. All top-performers have lots of coaching.
  4. Recognize the difference between a career and a hobby.
  5. Take suspiciously awful opportunities. They might lead somewhere good.
  6. Forget conventional ideas of a good job. A good job feels good to you.
These tips seem the typical combination of easier-said-than-done (if I knew what made me special, I wouldn't run a blog about trying to figure that out, would I?!) and typically Millennial (oh, of course a good job feels good to me.  That's why the good jobs don't pay. So good job=bad job?). 

But 3 and 6 look promising to me, for whatever that's worth. Having some proper coaching or a mentor? Would love it. Take opportunities? Sure!

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Updated 8/25/15 to fix typos and broken links.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Introduction

Presents (Photo credit: Wysz)
It's December, NaNoWriMo is over, and I have long since eaten through my buffer of posts.  And with the holidays and all they entail coming up, I'll have time to post, but not necessarily to post ahead.

So, what's fairly quick to write, nice and timely, and will help me get ahead?

A holiday gift guide, of course!

Now these things won't necessarily be the new and trendy toys. For all the controversy, I have never encountered GoldiBlox in real life, nor do I personally know anyone who has, so I can't vouch for them either way. Instead, I'll be recommending the tried and true: stuff I like, stuff I have given that the recipient has liked.

Just a reminder: Any link that goes back to will provide me a small referral fee if you buy something.  Links that don't go to Amazon net me nothing.

So these posts will show up every couple of days until I lay in a buffer for the new year.  I hope you enjoy them!
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Monday, December 2, 2013

No Plot? No Problem! Chapter 9

Cover of "No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Str...
Cover via Amazon

No Plot? No Problem!

By Chris Baty

A Letter

Before Chapter 9 starts, Baty writes us a letter of congratulations. Whether we cracked 50,000 words or not, we wrote.  A lot.  In just a month.  Pretty cool, huh?

We get our metaphorical participation trophy when Baty explains that the fact that we even tried is impressive. We set ourselves up to fail, publicly, and then worked our butts off to succeed. That's ballsy (ovaries-y?).

Now, crack that bottle of champagne you bought last week.

Chapter 9: I Wrote a Novel. Now What?

So, did I win?

Well... I think the better question is, does my win come with an asterisk?

I went into the last day of the month with a bit over 40,000 words, and a good dose of optimism.
After all, November 30 promised a two-hour bus ride with wi-fi, followed by the Desperation Libation. Plenty of time in good settings.

What actually happened was a one-and-a-half-hour train ride followed by a "virtual" Desperation Libation, which basically meant me writing at home with a chat room dinging at me every few seconds.

But I wrote.  And wrote and wrote.  And took a 10-minute dinner break and then wrote some more.

And at the stroke of midnight, I submitted my manuscript... and was less than 130 words short.

Well, crap.

(What I actually said at the time was a lot more obscene than "Well, crap.")

Giving up halfway through sucks, but it's also a sign that this year, it's just not meant to be. That happened last year -- sometime in Week Two, I realized that the story was too dependent on research, and was not suited for NaNoWriMo. I am still writing the thing, and enjoying it, and I made the right call.  But to get that close and fall short? When 10 minutes at any point during the month would have put me over? When a single extra minute every day would have given me a comfortable cushion?  That just feels like personal failure.

(If you were in the same boat as me, note: I am most certainly not calling you a failure.  That's just how I felt, and I invite you to commiserate.)

But then Chris came out to see how I was doing, and when he saw that the answer was "not well," he took my laptop and peeked at my work.  And said, "Hey, there's no space between these words." He hit the space bar and remarked that I now had one more word. I grumbled that it was unlikely he'd find that 130 times.  

He accepted the challenge.

At some point in the wee hours of the morning, I validated my novel and was declared an official winner of NaNoWriMo with 50,070 words.

So, on the one hand, I did kind of need my husband to pull my ass out of the fire, so that seems a little asterisk-y to me.

On the other hand, I wrote enough words. And if my Internal Editor had let me, I would have seen and jumped on these typos. 

So I'm counting it.  I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get to participate in the enthusiastic congratulatory mess on Twitter or in the NaNoWriMo chat room. I wanted the backslaps and the cheers and the exhausted excitement of brothers- and sisters-in-arms. 

Instead, I got a (literal) gold star from my husband and went to bed.  Nothing to sneeze at, but not the first victory one hopes for.

And before you hit the "reply" button (sorry, folks reading on your phones.  I don't know why the comments don't work for you), I am not saying this to ask for congratulations! Cheering for someone who is bitching about not getting cheered is like saying, "Happy birthday," to someone who bemoans the lack of well-wishes, or saying, "Of course!" when a loved one asks if you're proud of them. It might be true and valid and enthusiastic and honest and well-meaning, but you're still only saying it because social niceties obligate you. For whatever reason, I didn't earn spontaneous celebration, so I don't deserve manufactured celebration.

But enough about my issues!  Did you break 50,000? How close did you get? Is there a gem of something awesome amidst the gravel of typos?

And can we get back to the read-along?

Baty warns us that now that our month of writing is over, we may well experience some doldrums (uh... see above, I suppose).  Despite this, take a break.  Back off from your novel. Take a month or so not thinking about it.  You have other obligations to reconnect with -- and it's the holiday season, after all.  You thought writing around Thanksgiving was hard? (Yes.  Yes it was.) Try it while decorating, writing out cards, wrapping gifts, attending and/or throwing parties most weekends, traveling, making candy/cookies/dinner, volunteering and/or giving to charity, shopping, reveling in the bazaars/light shows/etc., making sure the folks with December birthdays don't get screwed, and doing all the normal, everyday, non-holiday crap besides... and writing a novel. Actually, no, don't. I feel worn out just looking at my calendar for the next month.

But sometime in January or February, pull up that file and read through your novel. See if it's worth salvaging.  See if it's worth spending a year salvaging it. Maybe it's not.  Cool.  You still chipped away at your 10,000 hours towards excellence. Baty gives us a nice quote that I think I'm going to add to my rotation in the top banner:
.Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors.  Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day
 And maybe your novel is worth moving on to the next step.

Which is rewriting.

Which is going to take a lot longer than a month. Sorry.

But you know what's going to help you?  That Inner Editor you locked away back on November 1.

You and your Inner Editor are going to take your novel chapter-by-chapter (if you have set chapters... I don't, yet) and make a note of the characters and actions in each. This will help you see how everything fits together.

Then, break each chapter down into scenes, which you will note on index cards or PowerPoint slides. Lay them out and see what you see. Pluck out any cards that are clearly filler. Toss aside redundant or superfluous characters. Add new cards to tie loose ends together.  And make sure everything has a nice balance.

Then, shuffle them around and see what you see.

Another round will involve tweaking your prose. Expand the descriptions and lose the cliches. Make sure the dialogue feels natural and keep an eye out for anachronisms. Do real research if you have to.

And don't despair if you don't think your book will sell.  Rewriting it is a hobby, just like knitting or yuppie basketball or book club. Low stakes fun, and if something comes out of it, that's a bonus.

Finally, I want to say congratulations.  If nothing else, you made it though my read-along of No Plot? No Problem!  And given some of my rants, I think that's an accomplishment in itself.  I recommend you go read the book yourself next year if you didn't this year.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go spend some time not typing anything.


Aww, my last set of sidebars for this book!

In the first sidebar of the chapter, Baty gives advice on getting people to read your novel. Make sure they have similar taste to yours, and that they can give the criticism in a way you can handle hearing. Tell them exactly what you want them to look for, and then really listen when they give you their feedback.

Make a "blooper reel" where you plop everything you decide to cut from your novel. They could come in handy some day.

The third is another anecdote from a past winner. She was a successful, published author who was in a slump, and NaNoWriMo knocked her out of it.

Likewise the fourth. She wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo... and lucked into an awesome agent.

Sidebar the fifth warns that rewriting your novel takes about a year, give or take. You might get it done in less, especially if you put in the 50 hours of NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month).

The sixth sidebar provides some advice from a literary agent: make sure your manuscript is polished before you submit it; research to make sure the agents you submit to are good fits;  query multiple agents simultaneously; package everything neatly and professionally; be patient. 

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