NaNoWriMo Summer Camp

As promised, here’s my post about my plans for July. I am going to give NaNoWriMo another try. This month is NaNoWriMo summer camp, and I have committed to working an hour a day on my book every day in July. Because each minute equals a word, if I do what I plan to do, at the end of the month I will have 1860 words.

Although the manuscript has some overall issues that I need to address, I find that too overwhelming to tackle immediately. I have been working on revising chapter one and that is what I am going to continue to do, using some of the craft tools that I have learned while attending the Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop eight-week revision class. Hopefully I can get complete the revision of chapter one and start working on chapter 2 within the month of July. My other hope is that by being so focused for 31 days the focus and concentration will carry over to the subsequent months and I will really make progress on the revision of my manuscript.

As far as blogging goes, I plan to do what I did in November when I was doing NaNoWriMo. I will have short posts every day of the month telling my loyal readership what I have accomplished for the day.

Before posting this, I completed 90 minutes of work on my book. That counts as 90 words.  I hope I have a very productive July and I wish the same for all of you.


First Quarter Report, 2022

In the post I wrote saying goodbye to 2021 I wished for a more even keeled year with less difficulties. Now that three months of 2022 are gone, I’m not sure I can say that has happened. Several members of my extended family have been ill and that has consumed some of my time as well as the fact that our house renovations continued into the new year.

Most of the work for our new mud room and laundry room finished in February and we have now been spending time filling the new space and reorganizing the old spaces. Because I am a neat freak and more than a bit compulsive, this work has elated me.

When the new year started my plan was to begin revising the first draft of my manuscript, Dames, Dishes and Degrees, which I completed in November. I have had a couple of false starts and will honestly admit I haven’t gotten that much done yet. The university press that I had sent a couple of chapters to in the fall eventually said revise it and then send it back to us again without providing any concrete advice about how to do that. It felt like a less than completely enthusiastic response.

This was a little discouraging, but I rallied and then sent off the whole manuscript including a book proposal for a writing contest that an affiliate of Writer’s Digest is sponsoring. You can read more about the contest here.

I also sent a query letter to an agent who then asked to see my book proposal. Other than that, I haven’t really done much work on the manuscript itself. I did sign up for a revision class that Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop is offering, beginning in May, which will hopefully  jumpstart my revision process.

I have managed to continue to post every week even though sometimes it is hard to figure out what to write about. As far as tweeting goes, Wordle has transformed that process. I jumped on the Wordle bandwagon a few months ago before the New York Times bought it. Doing the game every day and then sharing it on Twitter has increased my tweeting output considerably. On the other hand, I am not sure figuring out the word every day is so great for my overall productivity and focus.

This is how the year has been going so far. I will keep you posted on any new developments in my revision and publishing endeavors.


Brain Dump

I wrote the following on Wednesday at one of Nerissa Nield’s Writing it up in the Garden writing groups. It was basically free writing which I then did some editing of. Enjoy!

“I left my prompt in the other room.” That is what Nerissa said before the start of group today. The other participants thought that would be a good poem title or a good prompt in and of itself.

It works for me because I feel very unmotivated today. I am not sure what to do with myself. My malaise probably stems from my anxiety about the first draft of my manuscript and how to proceed but I can’t seem to figure that out. Since I feel overwhelmed, what I would really like to do today is not write anything, not think about anything, and just watch episodes of Catfish. Don’t judge.

I should be using this time to write my blog but I’m not sure what I want to write about, another dimension to my lack of motivation. Instead, I’ve decided to do what Noom Mood calls a brain dump which is my daily activity for this week. I didn’t do my lesson for Monday or Tuesday, so, I have to do three today.

You are supposed to write or speak whatever is on your mind for two minutes. Because I missed two days, instead of the two minutes, I’ve set the timer for six minutes so it’s a three time brain dump. Having explained all that, I have now come to an impasse. I am not sure that I would want to read this to the group but why not? It’s a safe space and I often feel that I write differently from the rest of them anyway so I might as well read this. We’ll see if I have the courage to do it when I get to it in an hour and 3 minutes.

Three minutes and 41 seconds left. The other thing I really want to do besides watch Catfish is do work on the house since the renovated space is now available to us. We have done some work but there feels like there is so much more. I do know that it will all get done. We just have to keep doing it.

Our house renovation is one topic that I could write about for my blog post. I have several potential posts in my draft file in WordPress. One is about adjuncts and how poorly they did during the pandemic and just how desperate their lives are in general. Another is about crime at the University of Chicago. For that topic I could discuss what it’s like when an elite school finds itself surrounded by neighborhood it considers undesirable.

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been under attack for several weeks now. In my chapter on African American faculty wives clubs, I looked at a few of these schools. Without consulting my draft folder, I can’t remember all the other topics. I do plan to write about Jill Conway, but I can’t do it yet because I haven’t finished reading all her memoirs. I read True North and The Road from Coorain is on my current reading schedule.

I finished How to Make a Slave and Other Essays by Jerald Walker, which I really enjoyed. He has a very subtle way of looking at the microaggressions that people of color face daily. How to Make a Slave reminds me of How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston which was very funny, recounting his attempts to lead his life as a black person in America.

The Jones Library chose Jerrold Walker’s book for its’ On the Same Page Amherst. The library is hosting several events related to the book which I hope I will be able to attend. At this point of my mammoth brain dump, I am not sure how much time is left because I have to log back into my phone. After three frustrating tries, I am in and just as I did that the time was up.

This is the best I can do for a post. If you want to read posts about any of the topics I have discussed today, please let me know.


As you know, I attend writing groups that Nerissa Nields leads. On Wednesday she read a prompt that included a Paul Ehrlich quote to the effect that ecology is the subversive science. As soon as I heard that, my mind filled with complicating thoughts.

In 1970 I was a junior in high school and I attended the first Earth Day. My thoughts about the ecology movement or environmentalism as we call it more recently have not really changed in that time. The problem I have always had with the ecology movement is that it is by and large not a political one.

Much of the burden of fixing the planet or not damaging the planet any further falls, as is always the case in America, on individuals. Be a better recycler, compost, don’t use plastic bags, don’t buy disposable water bottles. These are all things that individuals are supposed to be responsible for and supposed to do to be a good citizen. I do these things and have for years but I am not sure it makes any difference.

Where is the part where the government does something? What is the role of the government? Once you start asking that question you get to politics. Until there is a political will to change how the country consumes fossil fuels, to direct people away from eating meat and towards vegetarianism or veganism by what appears in the grocery stores, we really won’t get through ecological change or repair.

The issue becomes even more complicated because of the intransigence of the current Republican Party. For over 30 years Republicans have tried to wish away environmental change, have denied global warming. In the current Trump Republican Party, they don’t even believe in evolution and really don’t understand how a woman conceives a baby so why are they going to do anything about climate change? To get true environmental change, we must confront power.


In May I wrote a post updating what I had been doing during the first five months of the year. The post focused on how I have been taking care of my Aunt Ruth and at the same time, how I was managing the work on my manuscript. The post also mentioned that in Florida I met my weight goal of 140 pounds while being on Noom.

Appropriately, on New Year’s Eve, next week’s post will be a recap of the whole year. Today I want to talk about Noom. It is true that there was a day in April, in Boca Raton Florida, that I weighed 140 pounds. That moment, like much of life, was fleeting. Because I couldn’t seem to maintain my weight goal and the scale was going up instead of down, I stayed on Noom.

As I mentioned in my post, 2021 Goals and Resolutions, Noom is an app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to help people develop better eating habits and lose weight. On June 24th, 2020, I started using the app. At some point, the articles and lessons switched to a maintenance mode, which was not that helpful. I asked my coach, who may or may not be a real person, to set me back to the beginning. This meant that I was doing the lessons a second time. What can I say, I am a slow learner.

The second go around I took notes and really tried to pay attention. These tactics did the trick. Since November 4th, I have consistently weighed 140 pounds or less. The lowest has been 137 pounds. In December 2019, I weighed 165 pounds so that means I have lost 28 pounds.

Noom worked for me. Maybe it was because I paid but I don’t think so. After a year and a half of using the app, I have a better sense of my eating patterns. I now know which are beneficial and which are harmful. My maintenance strategy is to weigh myself almost every day. If the scale starts going up, I will look at my notes and redouble my efforts. I am confident I will be able to maintain this weight. Although it was a slow process, I am proud of the determination and focus I showed in losing the weight.


As many of my readers probably know, I attend writing groups that Nerissa Nields runs. She always starts her groups with a writing prompt. The prompt can be a poem, or an excerpt from prose writing. In October she read from  This is One Way to Dance by Sejal Shah. The book is a memoir told through essays. I haven’t read it, but I would like to.

Nerissa’s prompt dealt with Shah’s feelings about the cold. To escape the cold, she goes so far as breaking into an unlocked car to find something warmer to wear. I am posting the free writing I did in response to the prompt from Shah’s book.


I hate being cold. In the summer when we use air conditioning, I often sleep in a winter nightgown and use a heavy blanket.

In the fall of 2009, we spent a month in NYC. It was a busman’s holiday since we were both doing research. Despite that, we also got to enjoy the city. Fall weather in New York can be very unpredictable. One day – 75 degrees, the next below 60.

I got dressed one morning to go to the 42nd library for a day of research. The previous day it had been warm and sunny. Dressing for the last battle, I put on capris and a short sleeve shirt. I didn’t even bring a sweater, something I usually do. I was already cold before we even got to the library. The building was freezing. I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t concentrate and couldn’t get warmer. Eventually we left.

Being physically uncomfortable and not being able to settle in your own skin is extremely unpleasant. Acute or chronic pain as well extreme temperatures can produce those unpleasant feelings. I have experienced all these things at various times in my life due to accidents, illness and not dressing properly for the actual temperature. All these experiences show me how deeply connected the mind and body are.



NaNoWriMo Summary

I completed NaNoWriMo on Tuesday. I wrote every day in November, even on Thanksgiving. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 30, I wrote 20,998 words. I completed Chapter 8, writing 63 pages to add to the 15 I had before I started NaNoWriMo. After I finished the chapter, I wrote 19 pages of the Epilogue. The shitty first draft is now done.

Besides the over 20,000 words I wrote for my book, I also blogged every day, writing a total of 4,490 words or almost 18 more pages, for a total of 102 pages in a month. I have blogged every day for a month one other time. It was a good experience both times, but I did find writing daily both for the book and the posts a bit draining by the end. To say I was productive is an understatement.

I won ten badges from NaNoWriMo, and I used their counter to update my word count every day. The counter is one of the best features of NaNoWriMo. Doing NaNoWriMo was the final push I needed to complete the first draft. I am very glad I committed to doing it.

The other structures that helped me finish was the yearlong PVWW class and my fellow classmates. The structure of meeting monthly, having to give your work to other people and reading their work in turn all kept me focused on my goal for finishing. The twice a week writing groups I attend that Nerissa Nields runs were also a tremendous help in keeping my motivation strong.

I have been working on this version of the book since the summer of 2015 so it feels great to be done. Of course, there is still plenty of work to do – revising, reference, bibliography as well introduction d conclusion. I am giving myself some time off from the book to let everything I have accomplished settle in. Starting this week, I am going back to weekly, not daily blogging.

See you next Friday.

NaNoWriMo Day 17

Today, I wrote 466 words. According to the NaNoWriMo counter, I have written 12, 461 words so far in the month of November. NaNoWriMo posts daily pep talks. Today’s was from Emily X.R. Pan, author of, among other works, The Astonishing Color of After.

I loved this part of her post. “The book becomes part of the air that I breathe, the impostor syndrome diminishes, and I can focus on the fun. The fun is the important part. That’s why we do this, right? So, enough procrastinating. Let’s go dig up some words.”

I am at a difficult part of the current chapter and I am also worried about the word count ballooning. Pan’s words are a good reminder to think why I am doing this and try to have fun.


NaNoWriMo, Day 14

I have completed two weeks of NaNoWriMo. Because of my headache on Tuesday and the flood on Friday, my daily word production has decreased. I do have 59 pages in the chapter, so the daily production doesn’t concern me that much.

Today I wrote 290 words. Even if I only wrote that amount each day for this coming week, I will definitely  finish the chapter because I don’t really want to have the chapter be any longer that 65 or so pages. I hope this week is less eventful.

NaNoWriMo Day 13

Because of the flood yesterday, I decided to cancel my attendance at Nerissa’s writing retreat. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate and I wanted to have more flexibility over the weekend in case there were things we had to do related to the flood.

When you have a very concrete plan and the plans change, it can be hard to regroup. That is how I felt this morning – a little adrift. Having two floods in nine weeks is also discouraging so that affected my mood as well. I took a nice long walk, over an hour, with my husband, and then came back and wrote 570 words. The chapter is now 58 pages so I am in the home stretch.

As I am writing this post, the sky is getting darker and darker. I am terrified that it will pour and, once more, we will have a flood in our basement.


%d bloggers like this: