Getting Real – Conversations in the dark

I had to take another break from my novel.  Life got… difficult, and I’ve needed any moments I happened upon with two free hands to pack and move, to wave goodbye to so many things, and to begin once again the hunt for a Job.

It hasn’t gone well, the hunting.  I have scores of applications floating out there in the ether with no discernible end dates on their viability.  I have received a few rejections, which have almost felt better than the waiting without knowing (I note this to myself for future bolstering when the rejections hit closer to my heart).  If I am honest, I hate the thought of almost every job I have applied to, and I have only applied to those I told myself I could tolerate doing.

The honesty became a tangible thing 2 nights ago, like a cup of warm milk.  Or more like a of rich, dark, spicy red wine, since we’re being honest here.  It began with a disingenuously excited planning session for the grand idea of opening a restaurant with my dear friend and current life support.  We discussed menu options and crowdfunding.  Then baby and I took a bath break while we adults each ruminated on our ideas.  We resumed the conversation after my poor wee one fell asleep in the tub and, tired as she was after a full day of “playing with the big girls,” she took no note of my friend and I continuing our quiet conversation after I settled her quickly to bed.

At some point, we clicked off the lamp and spoke by moonlight.  There is something about conversations in the dark, late at night with a dear friend, that make one bravely face truths that are somehow too glaring in the light of day.

 Truth is I hate the thought of a “normal” job.  Not only do I hate it, I cannot see myself walking that path.  I have never been able to visualize a future in which I work a conventional job.  I never let this stop me from trying, I thought maybe it was just too boring to have a mental picture of.  But there is one path I can see, one path I have always been able to visualize and it has only altered slightly, and in fact is even more clear to me, now that there is a precious, tiny girl to walk it with me as she grows up.  This path, this picture, it gives me goosebumps, it brings tears to my eyes, it makes my heart beat fast and strong.  It is pure joy, but though I see it being my life, I have never taken steps to make it my life.


I want to be a travel writer. 

I want to travel the world, putting my adventures into words and being paid for it.  

That is my truth.

That is my Big Scary.  

Scary because most of the world thinks that is an impossible life.  Scary because there is nothing else I want, nothing else even comes close.  Scary because I am facing it so late and I have to not get caught up in my own self-bashing of having wasted years trying to do something else.  Scary because it means putting my writing out there into the world in a very immediate sense.  Scary because I must let go of the semi-false sense of security that accompanies the idea of getting a “real” job.  Scary because I could really truly be happy doing something I really love and isn’t that the weirdest scary?


But I know I do deserve it.

So my courage in the dark in the comfort of a friend’s a home and a friend’s belief in me brought me to my decision.

I am doing this.

(And no, no I am not giving up on my novel, not even a little, don’t you worry.)

Finishing and Winning – Did that really happen?


Last post I talked about how I wasn’t going to do Nanowrimo due not only to my mixed feelings about it, but also because of the lack of time I have to use both hands on something as “frivolous” as writing.  But I couldn’t help feel the itch of my novel prickling beneath my skin, my characters voices whispering beneath the noise of the real world, asking when I was coming back to them.

It was then I had my epiphany.   I use voice-to-text for almost all my text messages these days and have begun using it for emails as well. I do this of course because of the whole no hands business. It is much easier to talk to a phone than to  attempt to text with the baby needing my hands and my focus. So it was November 1, and I thought well, why not use voice to text to work on my story?? Granted it would take a couple of extra steps to “complete” the process as I didn’t think I could use my wonderful writing app that I love so much, but I know Google docs well, and I had obviously already discovered that I can voice to text email.  So I figured I could email myself and transfer the words later.

Every morning since July, (OK almost every one, I’m not that awesome) I have been taking my baby girl out for a walk in her stroller.  We typically do about 3 miles a day walking coffeefirst thing in the morning.  She’s a morning person and I am not so in order to stay awake during her “happy hour” instead of lying on the bed wishing I could go back to sleep, we get up and go out.  This has also helped me lose weight and allows me to speak to other adult human beings, even just in passing which helps me a lot mentally.  But I digress.

So, again, its November 1.  I grabbed my headphones on the way out for my walk, plugged them into my phone, and started an email to myself.   I decided to skip the bits of my novel that are hard and that I’m a little stuck on right now and jump ahead to where I knew I could simply tell the story,  and I began telling it.   I got home that day, transferred my email to a Google doc and checked my word count.

I was over the recommended daily average to make it through NaNoWriMo!

I couldn’t believe it. That felt so good.  I knew I would still have problems with the averages and the goals, but getting back into my story was so wonderful I decided to go for it – I was joining the rebel camp.   For those of you that don’t know, being a “rebel” simply means you’re not following the original prescribed guidelines (Brand new novel, 50k goal of pure writing), but you are still joining the challenge of making massive, dedicated progress on your novel.   It means you can continue work on something you’ve already started and really that you can set your own goals, even though you won’t technically “win” if you don’t get 50,000 words.  So I decided to set a goal of 30,000 just for myself and keep going.

After that first day I was on a roll and found that I was coming home with over 2000 words a day, every day.  I didn’t want to get my hopes up at first, but it looked like I might actually be able to make it.

As most of you know, a phone’s AutoCorrect is far from perfect and sometimes downright absurd.  Once in a while when I had to re-awaken my phone after pausing to order my coffee or something, I would notice that my words were not being transcribed completely accurately.  I made a choice though.  I decided to soldier on, taking care with my diction and pausing my speech when there was a lot of background noise (it wreaks havoc on voice to text).  And I chose to keep going, without stopping, without editing, without worrying.  I simply told the story.

On November 22, 2017 I came to the point in my story where I actually said The End.

the end

Yes, I reached the end of my book.  I actually wrote the final chapter.  I had also written just over 45,000 words during the month that far. I didn’t quite know what to do with myself that day.  I was so excited and kind of weirded out at the same time.  I still had about 4500 words to go to make me a NaNoWriMo winner and I was looking forward to doing since it was now pretty much a sure thing.  But I also didn’t feel the pressure to get there. I don’t know if that’s because it was a sure thing or if it’s because I wrote my book, so who cared?

Arriving home from a completely unproductive Thanksgiving holiday and ready for my walk the next Monday morning I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Sure there were gaps in my story and I knew I needed to start there but my momentum was shot, and I had to go back and fill in spaces in a chunky funky manner.

In the end I muddled through.  I filled in small spaces in the story until I made 50,000 words.  I did it.  I won.   But it felt… anticlimactic I suppose is the correct word.  Though I am not sure that really covers it.

Maybe it would have felt bigger if I The End and 50k coincided.  I mean that is the point of Nano right?  But that would not have been real.

Maybe it would have felt better if I had had someone to share it with and be excited with.  The Congratulations email from the Nano site just did not do anything for me emotionally.  My friends were excited, by text, but that was all I had.

So I won NaNoWriMo 2017, and I wrote an entire novel.  And it was amazing.

I think.

I´m sure.

But it was 2 (crazy) months ago now and I am barely getting this post out, let alone finding time to work on those difficult bits to make the book complete.

I don´t really know how to feel.

NaNoWriMo – Friend or Foe?

I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo this year.  I didn’t think I could find the time to write and in fact, I had been feeling kind of anti-NaNoWriMo. 

2015 was the first year I did it and there were pretty intense emotional highs and lows. 

I started my first novel, finally!  I got 30,000 words into it.  I was actually putting my story down on the page.  That part was thrilling!


My stats

But I “lost,” by a longshot, and I don’t handle not reaching my goals well.  30,000 out of the 50,000 word goal made me kind of crazy. Watching the bars on my chart not meeting up to where they were supposed to be, I hated that. I am too much of a self-critic to be able to handle falling behind like that.  I would try to make myself feel better about it by telling myself it was an arbitrary goal and didn’t ultimately matter, but then I would get mad and rebel and not write anything for a few days. That doesn’t exactly help with progress.  So then I would try to write some more, but despair about how far behind I was getting whether I was writing or rebelling.  Ugh.  

So yes I got some of my book written and I’m super thankful and happy about that, but it also made me really hard on myself, and that’s not terribly healthy.


camp nano

The other thing I don’t really understand about Nanowrimo is the whole “community” aspect.  I tried doing Camp Nano in July last year.  I had high hopes that I would get some more done and I wanted to dive into the community spirit of it since the rules are a little less stringent during Camp Nano.  But I found myself feeling quite lonely and left out as the people in my “cabin” already knew each other and so they mostly talked only with one another.  There were constant conversations and back-and-forth in the message board and yet rarely would anyone respond to me when I posted comments.  It didn’t feel good.  It felt like real camp and there are too many of us who know what it’s like to not be the popular girl at camp.  I had thought maybe the writers’ community would be different… 

So I was very disappointed in both the experience and my expectations for a community I thought was off-the-wall enough, forward-thinking enough, to not be like that.  So the camp experience and the seeming inability to keep up, especially when faced with the updates by other writers (“I got 5000 words done in the last 20 minutes ! yay me! This is my 16th novel!  Who wants to word Sprint, right now, GO!) were disheartening to me.

This year I wasn’t even tempted to try. I have a seven-month-old who very rarely lets me use both hands at the same time.  When she does, I have other things I need to be doing with those hands – dishes, laundry, shower, etc.   Because of my new stay home mom status, this fall I also started using Twitter more.  I got on it for updates about the world because I am pretty isolated beyond the occasional “good morning” over coffee in my new town.  Of course I couldn’t help myself from adding several writers and writing websites etc. to my Twitter timeline. (I’ll get into the whole social-media-writers-community thing in another post), but suffice it to say for now everyone, I mean everyone, was talking about Nanowrimo even if they were talking about why they couldn’t participate.  I felt a twinge, a twinge of missing out, of missing my book and my characters, of feeling unproductive, useless.



On November 1, I came up with an idea of how I could try to get some writing done, despite the lack of hands free time, tested it out in the morning and signed up for Nano in the afternoon.  I told myself that I would join the “rebels” of Nano, thereby allowing myself to continue my novel-in-progress (I had no interest in starting something new with my beloved adventure story only partly completed) and working towards a more manageable goal.  I promised myself that I would keep my eyes on my 20K word goal and NOT be pressured by that d@mn bar chart.

Skipping ahead (I’ll talk about my writing process in the next post), three days left to go in November I reached 50,000 words.  I won NaNoWriMo.  I won NanNoWriMo and I finished my novel.**   And I didn’t have anyone to tell.

The weather was lovely, so  I bought myself a fancy coffee, but I got a day old pastry, compromising between celebration and budget (wrong choice) and the baby was too restless to let me sit in the sun and enjoy either of them. So we walked home and went on with our day.  I blasted out a few text messages, but nothing more.  I validated my word count on the Nano site and got an email confirming I was a “superhero,”  but then I never went back.   I had reached my goal and I was busy, hands full, both of them so I didn’t even see at the end there where the writers’ community would supposedly be celebrating? I didn’t know.  I assumed something would happen at the end of the month, but I didn’t have time to log in and check or participate, so I really have no idea.   I felt (still feel) really really good, but the feeling was and is sort of just sitting there inside me and I don’t know what to do with it.

In the first few days of December, only one or two people I  knew ever mentioned my win to me again after those reply texts (what is there to say really anyway I guess…) and on Instagram and Twitter many writers were posting about how they “failed” and how disappointed in themselves they were.  It made me sad.  I was sad for me and my effort and accomplishment with a total let down of expectations after succeeding.  I don’t even really know what I was expecting, but Nano builds the “win” up so much that you can’t help but get swept along.  And I was sad for all the writers out there labeling themselves and feeling like failures for not garnering the completely arbitrary “Win.”

I suppose nano is a good challenge, and maybe people write real books that really get published, and I am thrilled I am close to a first draft because I participated.

However, when no novel is really just 50, 000 words long, when “successful” writers’ advice is to just spew out words with little care as to their quality (shovel sand, vomit up a first draft, edit later!), when poking inherently self-criticising people with a 50,000 ton stick, and when providing only a temporary and essentially “cool kids only” community feeling, is NaNoWriMo really the Big Bright Shiny it’s purported to be?



The Berry Patch – A Review and Reminder

As you may or may not know, I am an aspiring children’s book author. I have written two and have since stashed them in one cardboard box or another as I’ve moved them from house to house, state to state, and even country to country throughout the past 12 or so years.  

Today I read a book called The Adventures of Scout and Kit, The Berry Patch by Elise Monsour Puckett to my tiny angelchild and it has renewed my love and hope for my own books. I am so impressed with authors that have followed through and done the hard work to get to the point where someone like me can hold their book in my hands and delight in the colors and the words on the pages.  

The Adventures of Scout and Kit, The Berry Patch is a wonderful children’s story blending fun, magic and just enough education with incredible illustrations that will keep any child delighted for years. I am so impressed by Ms. Puckett and I am also grateful to her for keeping my hopes up and my dreams alive, and for giving me a beautiful book to treasure over a Tea Toast and Berry breakfast in bed with my daughter in the years to come.  

Wasting words?

I set some new writing goals for myself at the beginning of the month.  I had just watched another birthday pass and decided it was time to write some new year’s resolutions.  The year was new to me, and this seems to be more sensible I think, more personal than the start of the calendar year, and maybe that means I will be more likely to keep them.  One item on my list is to submit something, somewhere, every month.

I find writers’ websites, social media posts, and emails listing Calls for Submissions and writing contests all the time.  I have also heard that writing short stories is great practice for would-be authors.  With those considerations, on top of the dreaded “write every day” adage I addressed in the last post, I decided to try this out.  Maybe having short stories to write and contests and such to which I could submit them will help me have a focus for writing everyday, even if the characters in my novel are not currently speaking to me.

Yet I find myself stumped once more in regards to my question – Am I wasting my words?

I don’t believe writing short stories is a waste of words, don’t get me wrong.  What I don’t know though is how to decide which publications and contests are worth giving those words to.

Every writer fears to submit his or her work to some degree.  It means handing over one’s soul for others to judge.  To me, submitting fresh stories to these contests and Calls for Submission seem twofold in the fear department.  Not only do I risk rejection, no one ever gets completely comfortable with that.  If someone says she is, she’s lying, or she doesn’t care and therefore isn’t really a writer.  But I also find myself afraid of giving over what could possibly be a wonderful piece of work to a less than stellar handler, the risk being finding out the piece was worthy of publication and is now lost to the ether in a place that no one reads.

What if that was my one breakthrough piece and I wasted it somewhere it would never be seen?  Many publications do not accept simultaneous submissions or previously published work, you see.

So am I wasting my words sending off stories I work hard on to all these calls and contests?

Is it possible to waste one’s words?  Or does the effort and practice make the potential loss worth it?

And how does one really know which are the worthy receivers?

Lastly, is it silly of me even to wonder and fear, considering my work may not be good enough to publish anywhere, ever, anyway?

Failed Writer?

To be a successful writer, you must write every day.

I see this adage so often, repeated by published authors, fellow aspiring authors, editors, publishers, and general advice givers.  Each time I see it, I wonder, does this make me an utter failure?

I have not written every day.  I have in fact only written on a handful of days in the past 9 months or so.  I have not published a blog post.  I have not added pages, let alone chapters, to my novel-in-progress.  I have not started a new novel.  I have not even kept a journal.


But I have written 2 short stories, one of which was chosen for a local contest to be read during a festival, the other was published in a small anthology (Convergence: Words and Images from the West Elks).  I wrote those pieces in 2-3 days though.

It certainly does not feel small to me to have finally achieved my first published work.  And I have not lost my passion, commitment, or ability to tell the stories in my head.   So I do not feel like a failure. Well, most days I don’t.  I usually shove the inner-critic slightly behind me, out of direct ear shot and stick to my belief one can only be a failed writer if he or she loves to write and simply quits, full-stop.

But am I being too easy on myself?  Am I claiming a title to which I am forfeit?  I have several reasons why I have not written more, though I fluctuate weekly on my opinion of whether they are in fact reasons or just excuses.  I know I cannot let my reasons always get in the way.  Sometimes I need to set those reasons aside and let them be what I have not done.  To be fair, having a baby and moving house and states are not things that can be deprioritized for any amount of time.  Doing dishes, making groceries, putting away laundry though, those things could conceivably be less promptly seen to once in a while if it means moving closer to my goal.

My goal is and ever has been to be a successful writer.  Success is subjective, I know.  My idea of success is different than many peoples’ and should not be considered any sort of hard and fast definition.  But to me it is everything.  I want to have my work published and read widely and to make enough money doing it to call it a living.

The thing that comes to me as I sit here typing is that according to my personal definition of success, no I am certainly not a successful writer.  But as I said, nor do I believe I am a failed writer.  There appears to be a lovely grey area in which I may continue to live, for now, as a writer.  

Hmm, that still leaves me with the possibility that the “write every day” adage may, in fact, be true.

Damn.  Suddenly I am chasing my proverbial tail.

On purpose?  Was this post simply another bullshit excuse not to work on my novel?

Or wait, does it in fact count towards the “every day” requirement and will make me more successful?

Oh bother.  I should at least be going mildly crazy at a pub with a nice whiskey.


The almighty “they” say you are supposed to “write every damn day”  and “shovel sand, you can build the castles later,” and all this other crap about how you need to just sit down and type, type type, and even it’s total shite, you can go back and edit later.  But I just can’t seem to do that.

What’s wrong with me?  Why do I go through these phases where I don’t write for days or even weeks on end.  Is it like working out and I just get totally lazy?  It is my perfectionist side?  Am I “blocked?”  Is it because I need what I write to be good, and if it doesn’t seem exactly right in my head, rather than pushing myself I just don’t write anything at all?  Am I just making excuses and need to be more dedicated?  Some would even say it’s because I’m not a real writer.  That makes me sad though and I don’t want to believe it.

I figure, if I am forcing words out of my fingers and pretty much bypassing the creative part of my brain to get something down on paper, then I will need to go back and erase it all later anyway because it won’t be anything I actually wanted to write.  The critics in my head, and on social media, and the big badass NaNoWriMo, say I am making excuses and that forcing myself to write will eventually create the habit of writing and soon all will be “write” with the world. (yes, I know)

Now, I can understand the possibility that writing each day can train your brain to think in a certain way.   No problem, that makes sense.  But I still can’t figure out how the work I produce through that tactic will one day make the leap from habitual writing to decent, on track writing.  Just because I am spewing forth words, it does not mean the words are meaningful or connect in anyway to the novel I want to produce.

Example –  When I am working on my novel, which is a sailing adventure, to put it simply, and I am having a creative day, I can sit and in about 60 seconds throw down a thousand words like “reveling in the joy of a perfect sunset, I sat in my deck chair 3 days before we set sail, vaguely daydreaming about tropical ports, warm mangoes streaming juice down my fingers, and steel drums echoing happiness from nearby taxicabs bouncing across the potholed streets..”

But when I’m not the mood to write and I force myself to work on the next scene (in which I am supposed to add depth and concern to the male main character), here is what comes out.   “the man he looked *pause* annoyed when I said *pause* something. he ordered for me anyway *pause* fish? I don’t know, I said *pause* interrupted  *pause* his neck gets red, nostrils flare *pause* orders anyway *pause, wiggle back and forth in annoyed trying to think weird gesture*, I don’t know why he’s mad *pause*…”   And then I delete the whole thing because it’s obviously crap and why leave it there just to go back and cut it when I do my first round of draft editing anyway?

Where did that “just sit down and write” exercise get me?  Frustrated, annoyed, feeling like an illiterate moron, that’s where.  So I just can’t get on board with the “write whether you want to or not” credo. NaNoWriMo and it’s Camps are all about this idea.  And if it works for some people, and they someday have enough sand that they can build castles, that’s freakin fantastic for them.  A couple people in my “cabin” this month spewed out close to, or over, 100,000 words in the first 2 weeks of the month.  That’s approximately 267 book pages.  I can only fathom they were following the “write anything, don’t care if it’s good, just write write and write more” system.

Is it wrong, or biased of me due to my perceived inadequacies, to think the majority of that work can’t possibly be either a)something they love and won’t cut at the first round of edits, or b)high quality writing?   Because logically, if 80-90k words is an entire novel, and some people crank out over 100k in 2 weeks… then it follows even if 20,000 words of what they write will be dumped after edits, they will produce something like 24 novels a year.  And I’m pretty sure the whole world would be hearing about authors who were writing 24 great novels a year.

This is why I can’t bring myself around to the value in just writing as fast and as much as you can.  I also can’t bring myself around to keep signing up for NaNos and Camps for the constant base comparison to writers who are mass producing.  It’s simply not my style to try to keep up with that.   I will absolutely say I am glad I signed up for one of each, because both times my desire to not fail at anything I do has kicked my butt into gear and made me get started on a novel that just floated around in my head for years (and start again after having to take months off to focus on my wedding).  I failed anyway, but at least the small amount of competitiveness I do have in me got me started.

This time around though, this “Camp”  has taught me another thing about myself… When I have a couple ‘off days,” when I don’t have the motivation to write, then look at my stats and see how far behind I am, I berate myself for the perceived failure.   I then simultaneously feel bad and get rebellious against my own guilt – “You can’t tell me what I’m doing wrong or how to act or who I should be! I do what I want!”  I respond.  I then turn on netflix and eat cheese for an entire day.

So, I am officially packing up my sleeping bag and my marshmallows and I’m going home.  Home to where I have the support and encouragement of friends, manageable long term goals, an office space I adore, the time and flexibility to write whenever I want, and plenty of cheese.  I have decided nothing is wrong with me at all.  I should not try to change who I am as a writer any more than one should try to change who she is as a person.  From now on, I am doing it my way, writing when I want to write, trying when I feel like I can, and taking time off when I damn well please to research, refuel, or simply go play outside.  I will not cry over unshoveled sand, I’ll build my castles out of big heavy rocks, thank you very much.

(**I mean no offense Ms Hale, I’m glad the shoveling thing works for you and I appreciate you trying to encourage other writers, you are awesome.  ““I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” – Shannon Hale)

Surprises, Superstitions, and Supplies

Kelly was waiting for me at the station in Charleston as he’d said, having had business in the city that evening anyway.  He was taller than I expected I noticed as he unfolded himself from the little hard chairs in the waiting room.  I guessed 6’1” and not too gangly either.   His shoulders looked broader seeing him now,  standing straight and reaching for my hand, rather than slightly slumped in repose the way he always was when we chatted on line.  I was glad he didn’t try to hug me.  We were going to have some type of close relationship in the near future, sure, and it might be one that involved a friendly hug now and then, but I appreciated his awareness that this was not yet that future.

“You really came then,” Kelly said in greeting, relieving my fears he would have one of those creepy, weak handshakes. “ There was a small part of me that wondered if you change your mind at the last minute.  This is quite the leap of faith you are taking I realize.” He hefted my bags from where I dropped them to shake his hand as I laughed aloud.  

“You don’t know me that well yet then.  This is right up my alley.  I wasn’t kidding when I told you about all the places I’ve lived you know.”  

Kelly’s smile was warm and sincere, “Well I knew you were impressive, and now I know you are truly brave.  I am really glad to finally meet you and to welcome you briefly to South Carolina.”  I blushed a little and broke eye contact.

 It always feels weird hear people use such compliments on me, I don’t think I am all that impressive.  And brave?  No way, I was scared to death every time I made one of my crazy decisions or moves.  I didn’t know him well enough to argue with him yet though, so I let it slide.  We headed toward where I could see my bike being unloaded from the train.  As we walked back toward the station doors, he told me of his plans for the evening and following day.  

I would be staying aboard the sailboat for the next two weeks getting us ready to get underway and becoming acquainted with her while Kelly stayed  at his house closing things up there.   It would be nice to have a little time transitioning before he moved on board and we departed.   I was thrilled to see my new home and begin my stay aboard her immediately.  

 I told him so and put emphasis on calling the boat only my new home. I gave a dramatic sigh and Kelly laughed, understanding, but not caving.   He still hadn’t told me the name of the sailboat yet, insisting on introducing us in person.  I kept myself from speculating, I kind of liked the mystery.  Boat names have always fascinated me and I wondered idly if I would be able to trace her history and find out why the original owner had named her whatever he did.

Charleston is about 45 minutes from where he lives and another 10 minutes or so to where the boat is docked, so we had plenty of time to go over what we needed to accomplish in the next two weeks.  We picked up the sushi on the way out of the city and I shook my head a little in amazement as he got back in the car with a little cooler rather than the usual paper take away bag.  Money. I suppose you can get anything if you pay for it. I realized it was a little bit of an eye opener to how differently things might operate traveling with him.  

“We’ll pick up your rental car in the morning so you can run the errands you need to in order to get us ready.” My eyes widened in the dark of the car, but I managed to keep my mouth from dropping open so I think I saved myself the embarrassment of Kelly noticing my shock. Kelly continued on and I realized he must be used to having a secretary or personal assistant with the way he simply rattled off his needs so matter of factly.  Well, he is my captain, as of tonight I guess.  I smiled to myself in awe as he carried on.

“Oh, and check the bar and restock it as necessary or with any of your favorites.  Can you make proper cocktails?” He glanced at me briefly as I nodded, mute. “Good, no offense, you seemed the type to understand the difference between a martini glass and a shot glass, but so many young people these days swill terrible things.  Captain and Coke? Vanilla vodka and Ginger ale?  Those are not cocktails, they are sugar soaked headaches.”

At this I finally found my voice, I couldn’t agree more, and some something inane to the effect of, “a good drink is a thing of beauty and though it’s hard to beat the classics, a well stocked bar is like an artist’s palette. I actually love making cocktails.”  Terribly in-eloquent, but the important part is that he nodded and replied.

“We’re going to get along just fine, you and I.”


I’d had my attention on Kelly and not realized we were already arriving at the marina.  It felt good to realize the atmosphere in the car and the conversation, albeit surprising, was comfortable enough that the ride had flown by.    

Rolling down his window, Kelly held out his marina shipowner’s i.d. to the approaching guard.   Re-entering the guard stand, I could see him comparing the id with some other cards on a clipboard.  When he came back out and passed the cards to us, I noticed the id numbers on them matched, I shouldn’t have any problems with the guards knowing to which boat I belonged.  I slipped the card into my wallet and waved at the guard as the gates swung slowly open allowing us through.

Steering the car into the covered lot, Kelly again took  my bags in hand after helping me unload the bike from the rack.  I hung the cooler from my handlebars and we walked in silence along the dock  until he made a left turn, set the bags down and spread his arms wide, grinning at me.

“Evie, meet the lady of my life, The Slip Away.”

I looked at the sailboat behind him and matched his grin.   She is glorious.  

After showing me briefly to my cabin and dropping my gear on the bed, I went back up on deck and unfolded a couple of sling style chairs and a low, folding table I found leaning on the starboard rail.  Kelly followed me a moment later, a bottle and two glasses in hand.  

“I thought it appropriate to celebrate our first night as a crew of two,” he said, settling the bottle into the now empty cooler.   Glancing at the bottle being opened before me, I managed to swallow my burst of shocked laughter before embarrassing myself.  I should’ve known, I thought, plucking chopsticks apart and opening cups of soy.  Traveling with a rich guy is certainly going to have it’s perks.  

Kelly handed me a flute of Veuve Cliquot and I wondered silently if it was his favorite or just appropriate to his tax bracket.  “Here’s to new friendships, smooth sailing, and an epic voyage worthy of tales to tell when we are old and grey.”

I smiled and with the purest of joys I lifted my glass to his.  “Cheers to that!” I exclaimed and we drank down our first glasses sending our private thoughts to the stars and the lapping waters around us.  I asked Kelly if she had had many owners before him and if he had a chance to ask why she had been named the Slip Away.

“Nope, just one before me,” he replied proudly.

 I turned from admiring what I could see of the sailboat in the moonlight to see Kelly smiling broadly.

“You like the name do you?  Thank you.  I named her actually, and yes, you guessed partly right about why.  I also like the idea of slipping away from my current life and all its stressors for a little while.”

I choked on my sushi and took a gulp of my champagne before allowing myself to respond.  “Wait, you named her the Slip Away? You changed her name?”  

“I sure did.  Her name wasn’t bad or anything, she used to be called Goddesse, yes with the e.  Classy, beautiful, sure, but it just didn’t suit me.”

“Um. Oh…”  It was all I could manage.  I had wanted to sail forever and had watched all the movies, read all the books.  You don’t change the name of a boat.  You just don’t.

Kelly laughed then, noticing my dumbfoundedness.  “ I know, I know, it’s ‘bad luck to change a boat’s name.’ Believe me, I heard it. I had a hard enough time finding someone willing to do the paint job.  But I don’t go in for superstition.” He slanted a look at me with a smirk,  “You know, it’s supposedly bad luck to have a woman on board also.  I’m clearly not worrying about that one either… and neither are you, if I may point out.”  

I sipped my champagne.  He had a point, a point I couldn’t very well argue with.  I told him as much, forcing a laugh.  OK, I told myself, ok.  No problem.  He’s right, it’s an old superstition.  Meaningless really, I’m sure.  Just like the woman on board thing.  I won’t worry about it. It means nothing.  My heart continued to stutter, not stabilizing after my pep talk.  I drowned it in champagne.  Luckily Kelly had brought two bottles.

“Don’t worry Evie, this is going to be a perfect voyage.”  He said it with confidence and poured me another glass as he spoke and I finally felt my muscles ease again.  There was no sense in letting my dream be tarnished by silly, old, sailors’ tales.   We turned the conversation to speculation on what we would see  and I told stories of places I had been before.  Laughter overwhelmed my fear and we chatted late into the night, enjoying the beginnings of a new friendship.

Failing NaNoWriMo and Loving My Success

21 days ago I joined millions of people in spending 30 days going completely insane.  I have 8 days and 19 hours left to complete this mission.  Not only does my brain waver between lucid and completely bat-shit-crazy, but in those sane moments, I realize I am also walking a thin line bordering failure and success. Apparently I have big feet, or I just swerved into crazy again, because I think I am actually doing both.

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month to the non-participants ( I believe this is because participants simply don’t have the time, or extra the synapses, to enunciate the full title, is just what it proclaims.  In a one month, specifically 30 day, time span participants must write a 50,000 word novel.  I do not know where the wordcount requirement came from.  I trust those who chose it know a bit more about fully published novels than I do.  I read them, I dream them up, but until now, I have never considered how many words they contain.

I chose this year to participate for several reasons.  Mostly because I only heard about this madness last year, and partly because last year I signed up right about the exact moment I decided, once again, to completely uproot and change my entire life.  Apparently the decision was too ambitious, even for me.  (I believe I am superwoman.  Sometimes life enjoys disabusing me of that notion.)  Lastly, because I am, still pretty unbelievably, now living a life in which I have the time, the means, the comfort, and the support to be as creative as I please.

Constant and Unconditional Support - they hang out with me, and listen to my madness everyday

Constant and Unconditional Support

That pretty much means that I no longer have any excuses.  I am well aware that my not writing any books  or being published up to this point is exactly that, my very transparent excuses not to.  Even now I try to pat my excuses on the head, telling them they really were very plausible reasons.  I don’t want them to feel bad you see, they have been my companions for a long time.

Without those excuses and kicked in the ass by the knowledge that there was a massive worldwide community doing exactly what I was not, I signed up again and on October 29th I started panicking.  I began a book.  I began it on a patio swing at an Irish pub with friends, whiskey, laughter and imagination.  I began writing it down right here, twice.  NaNoWriMo traditionalists told me though that its best, and most true to the spirit of the madness, to begin something completely new.  Begin something on which you had not worked, had not written a word of.  Begin from word one and go for it!  That didn’t include though outlines, timelines, research notes, character sketches, plot twist notes…  Wait!  No!  I had a book,  I have three books in fact, but one is not ready, one is not a novel, and the other.. I already started!  Not mention, I had not notes, no outlines, no nothing, on anything!  I was a mess already.

How could I possibly leave my love, my baby, my novel in progress, not to mention my other ideas, to make something up off the cuff, just to follow the standard?  I tried.  I asked for prompts from friends.  I got some ink stains on my sheets making notes in the dark.  I missed several conversations I pretended to be a part of.  I asked for forgiveness from my muse.  I couldn’t do it.  Then I realized.. maybe my blog entries, my supposed start to my novel, maybe they could act like my outline.  Maybe I could tell myself they were just notes, and begin again, at the beginning, with a different perspective.  That night I slept.  My muse was happy, my book was waiting.

So I began, November 1st, and it went well.  I used my blog entries as my “notes,” even though I have clearly realized myself to be a Pantser through this process.  I used the blog as notes only because I must write my story, not because I am a note taker, outliner, or Planner.  I write whatever comes next in my head.  So the few entries I had made here were wonderfully helpful, but I found they were cliff notes compared to the book version, and they were over so quickly.  I was soon staring outwardly at empty pages and inwardly at the beautiful story living in my imagination and my dreams.

In order to achieve a “win,” a NaNoWriMo’er must write an average of 1700 word of his or her novel per day.  This is

My stats

My stats

where I am failing.  I am so far behind on my wordcount it is either scary, sad, or hopeless.  I have surpassed (underpassed?) my deficit so far at this point that though other still encourage me, I am losing my certainty, and drive.  Some days, I write 3000 words.  Some days I write nothing.  This is not “what writers do.”  “Writers write.  Writers write everyday.”  That’s what I read, on Pinterest, on Instagram, on the NaNoWriMo website. Write everyday.  You must write everyday to be a winner, to be NaNoWriMo success, to be a writer.  I am failing.

For 21 days I have felt this.  For most of my 21 days I have felt guilty, unworthy.  For the last 2 days I have wondered.  I am so immersed in my book, so in love with my story that I bounce when I talk about it.  I see inspiration all around me.  I buy food and drink that I think my character would buy.  I listen to music she would listen to.  I stare into space seeing palm trees, sailboats, and… (I can’t tell you that part).  But I don’t necessarily write.  So I wonder.  Am I really failing?  I am not reaching my daily or monthly wordcount, but I am deep in research I never realized I would need to do before.  I have more plot ideas and character voice inflections, and even shopping lists for a sailboat voyage than I ever did before.  And I am relaxed, happy.


My R & D Department

My R & D Department

I realized, waiting for my amazon shipment of maps and books yesterday, that winning NaNoWriMo does not allow for days of research, days of inspiration, days of rejuvenation.  If I push through all those things and just write, write everyday, I might make the deadline, but would I have the pleasure or dreaming, the certainty in my words, or even the quality of the novel that I really want? I am not so sure.


Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are many, probably thousands of people who write amazing, fully developed, artistically worded novels in this 30 days.  Also, I praise the system for giving me a goal, a deadline, the kick in the ass to get back into the habit of writing.  I praise it and am immensely grateful that I am finally turning my dreams into reality, my thoughts into words, my excuses into memories.  I am writing my  first novel.  I am writing it the way I want to, expressing each thought, developing scene, getting to know each character, learning how to sail for goodness sake.  I am loving it.  I am finding  success at last.

Keeping me honest

Keeping me honest

And I am totally failing NaNoWriMo.  I’ve got 30,000 words to go. The NaNoWriMo monkeys are scampering around my workshop and whispering in my ear that I just write 1200 words I can’t count towards my wordcount goal.

Hmm, maybe not so sane after all.

All Aboard, Destination Cloud 9

Cloud 8 is a train car, with my feet on the sill of a gigantic window, a bottle of wine beside me, and my chromebook in my lap.

I did it.  I left my life.  I abandoned normalcy, convention, and some would say sanity.  I am leaping head first into the adventure I have dreamed of all my life and never truly believed I able to experience.

Job chucked, all contracts closed out, and belongings pared down to two backpacks, a bicycle, and my favorite coffee cup, I have boarded a train for North Carolina to meet Kelly, Bruce, and Un-Accounted For (the sailboat) to begin living the dream.

Catch-an-Amtrak-TrainI discovered the forgotten pleasures of train travel when I hopped on Amtrak to visit a friend while I was living in New Orleans a couple years ago.  That day I found the upstairs lounge compartment with its swivel chairs and loveseats facing windows that began at my knees and curved up the wall and into the roof of the train car.  There were little personal tables, electrical outlets, and downstairs a snack bar that offered hummus and full sized bottles of red wine.  I had hours of semi-solitude and peace to simply enjoy the view and capture my thoughts on paper.  It was bliss.

So, with the added bonus of being able to easily bring along my travel backpack and mountain bike, I of course snagged this opportunity to enjoy another train ride as the first leg of my amazing adventure.  Kelly said there would be room to secure my bike on the boat for easy transportation on the islands.  Also, he scheduled a run to Jacksonville to take care of some things he needed to there and agreed to pick me up at the train station. Perfect.

So here I sit, on Cloud 8.  I would call it Cloud 9, but I’m on way to get on boat and sail off into the Caribbean… the clouds have suddenly become relative.

I can’t stop smiling.  

The day after the legendary video chat was the beginning of my “weekend” so I dashed out a resignation letter, gathered my uniforms and keys and dumped the lot on my boss’ desk.  I briefly and un-gently informed her that though I was leaving now because my dreams had come true, the leaving was inevitable to protect myself from having my soul completely sucked out and that if certain behaviors didn’t change, the place would soon become a one person business (ie utter failure).  There was a fair amount of sputtered outrage behind me as I left that gigantic weight on my shoulders at the door and walked away into the sunshine to begin preparing for departure.

Equally happily, my landlord proved herself once again to be one of the few non-sheisty-heartless-unethical bastards out there.  I’d been a good tenant for over a year so was on a month to month lease, so she simply wished me well and even did my walk-through before I left, handing me a check for my security deposit refund as we said goodbye.  She absolutely amazed me, and restored my faith a little in people.   The last landlord I dealt with confirmed all the terrible rumors about inhuman landlords who cheat tenants out of their entire deposit knowing they don’t have the means or resources to fight them.  So thanks to that precious lady, I have a little extra money of my own and won’t be buggered when I return from my journey.  Not that it would have stopped me, I think I’d pretty much give up anything to go on this adventure.

I pocketed my check, grabbed what was left of my life after a bit of internet salesmanship and a run to Goodwill, and took a deep breath on my way to crash at a friend’s for one last night in the real world.

I am filled with the most beautiful blend of peace and wild excitement and plan to savor every moment of this decidedly bizarre leap I have made.

[post 6 of the Sailing Adventure, read the entire story here]