NaNoWriMo Summer Camp Day 4

Today’s time/word count is the same as yesterday. – 110 minutes/words. The main issue I am facing as I try to revise the manuscript is the structure of the book and if I need to change it or not.

From 2008 to 2018, I wrote two hundred pages of the book with a chronological structure, starting in the late nineteenth century and intending to end it somewhere in the 21st. I eventually decided I disliked that structure because many of the stories became disjointed.

When I resumed writing in 2015, I envisioned a more thematic approach, with complete stories in individual chapters. I planned to have several “anchor” chapters that would provide a broader context for the various stories.

I did write one “anchor” chapter, which is currently the first chapter of the manuscript. I then abandoned that structure and continued to write the more thematically based chapters with complete stories.

I now realize the manuscript is a mish mash of the two different organizing principles. This is what I must resolve, and I am not finding it easy to do.

 

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.

 

Too Busy

On June 3, my first cousin died. She had been sick for a while and I had been planning to visit her a week later, I stuck to my plans and went to California from June 10 to June 14th. It was a very stressful and draining trip.

I returned late Tuesday night; on Thursday my son and his wife came  to stay. They bought a house in Worcester and needed to attend the closing and do other tasks connected to the sale of the house. My daughter-in-law went to Connecticut to attend a wedding  and see family on Saturday while my son stayed until Monday morning.

Because of my grief over my cousin and having company, I have been unable to get back into my  daily routine. Because I have been so busy the above explanation is all I can mange for a blog post this week. I will be back next week with a description of my plans for July. I am sure you all can’t wait. Have a nice week.

Emails and Identity

As I have said in several earlier posts, I am trying to revise Dames, Dishes, and Degrees. Unfortunately, I have found it difficult to get into a consistent rhythm of working on the book.

The family members that I do a lot of caregiving for have taken up most of my time so that has been one limitation on how consistently I can work on the book. The other thing that happened more recently and pertains to my manuscript is that Hampshire College changed its email system. Essentially Hampshire email is now part of a college-based Google account.

Without getting too much in the weeds, I’ll just say that since I already had my own personal Gmail account, the first attempt at accessing the Hampshire Gmail did not go that well. Monday and Tuesday were involved with figuring out how I could make this new system work and occupied a lot of my time. Wednesday morning I finally figured it out and I think I have a workable process by which I can access all of my different emails in Thunderbird. At least I now have a working system.

The way this email trouble intersected with the topic of my book, faculty wives, and the fact that I am one, is that I have for many years had a Hampshire email account but the username indicates to anyone in the know that I am a guest and not a full functioning member of the Hampshire community. My actual Hampshire email address is amGU at hampshire dot edu. The GU stands for guest.

I’ve been aware of that classification for years, choosing to ignore how badly it made me feel. In this process of the transition from the old email system to the new Google based system I had to stare at amGU, my email address, repeatedly. Looking at it reminded me how precarious and constrained my position at Hampshire has been all these years. Most of the women I write about in my book were in a comparable situation. They were often part of elite families – being the wife of a Harvard college professor is nothing to sneeze about – yet their role, their identity, as a faculty wife mostly constrained them from having an independent autonomous life.

This week I realized, again, that my own life has consisted of constraints that I have endured for many years as a Hampshire faculty wife even though my husband’s position has allowed me to have a very comfortable lifestyle making me, as a white woman, among the more elite groups in American Society. Although triggering has become an overused word and the subject of ridicule by the American right by Republicans, having to stare at amGU at hampshire dot edu repeatedly this week was certainly triggering for me.

The net result of all of this is that I have decided to begin a process where I eventually will not have that Hampshire email address. My husband is retired. We don’t really have an active connection to Hampshire anymore although I did do over 20 oral histories for Hampshire and I’m still trying to get that to be an actual collection in the archives.

In general, we don’t really have anything to do with Hampshire, therefore I can be like everyone else, accept that Google now rules the world, and just have a Gmail account. Another possibility is to have two email address instead of three, keeping mail amymittelman dot com which is from my website where I post this blog. I think at this point in my life I can forget about existing within the constraints of being a faculty wife and try to have an identity that is just me,  Amy,  as I go through the world.

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.

Gratitude

As some of my readers may already know, for a year and a half starting in July 2020 I used Noom to lose over 25 pounds. Noom is an artificial intelligence app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy ideas to help people change their eating habits and their relationship with food. I didn’t really consider it a diet. I feel that it taught me how to control cravings and modulate my food responses to stress. Before I started Noom, I was getting regular deliveries of an Insomnia chocolate chunk cookie. It is not that I stopped doing that entirely, but I am able to realize having a bad day doesn’t always mean I need a cookie.

I often have trouble sleeping, mostly due to anxiety and an overactive brain. Because I had such success with Noom, when I found out that the company had expanded and now had another app called Noom Mood, I decided to sign up. Cognitive behavioral therapy also informs the 16-week program of Noom Mood.

Every week you get a new daily activity. I have enjoyed some of them more than others. The first week the activity was to create some space for yourself by being quiet for 15 minutes and then writing for one minute about what came up while you were quiet. Since I already have a meditative practice, I used the 15 minutes to meditate and then wrote, often for more than a minute.

The second weeks’ activity involved grounding, focusing on your physical body and your environment. To complete this task, I either practiced my recorder or did some banging on a drum. The drum and why I have it is another story that I will save for another time.

I really enjoyed the first two weeks of activities but hit a bit of a roadblock last week. The activity involved freeing your emotions by thinking about where in your body you were feeling a particular emotion. To fully visualize where you were feeling stress, anger, or joy you were supposed to draw a stick figure and mark on it the places where you were having your somatic experience. I found this activity difficult and a bit overwhelming. It was hard to focus on one feeling at any given moment and then figure out where it was expressing itself in my body. Because the activity involved drawing, I now realize that my need to be perfect interfered with my ability to complete it.

This week the daily activity is gratitude. The exercise framed gratitude as a choice, a way to look at life and get something positive out of it. One suggestion was to see if you could be grateful for any privileges you are having on a particular day. The example they gave was time for yourself. Another suggestion was to find something in the present moment to be grateful for. Right now, I am grateful I have the means and ability to write this blog post.

During this past week while attempting to complete the daily activity I’ve tried to think about what I am grateful for and why. Monday, because the weather was so beautiful and warm, my husband and I took a nice long walk. I felt grateful for every part of the experience. The gratitude increased my happiness, which is the way it’s supposed to work.

I have 12 weeks left of Noom Mood. Although none of the lessons so far have pertained to insomnia, I am learning more about myself and am grateful for the insights I am gaining. Life is a process, and you can always learn something. You can always change and grow.

Another Update

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. As I mentioned in previous posts, I am having trouble figuring out how to proceed with the revision process. Since NaNoWriMo worked so well for completing the draft, I thought I would try it for revision. I have now done almost two weeks, using the hack where one minute equals one word and have posted a total of 1,403 words. Although I have consistently spent at least an hour a day on the manuscript since January 1st, the structure of NaNoWriMo has become somewhat oppressive and I don’t think it would be productive to continue.

My new plan, which I’m willing to admit could also be a flop, is to read through the manuscript as if I were reading a published book. Hopefully this will give me a sense of how a reader might approach the book. This kind of reading should give me information about what is missing, where I need to strengthen the writing and where I need to cut.

I am also going to work on my query letter and a book proposal since if the University Press I sent chapters to says no, I will have to start sending these items out to other publishers and agents. I know I will get more rejections than acceptances, so I am steeling myself for that.

I don’t think I will be doing NaNoWriMo again, at least until next November but you never know. Hopefully I will resolve my confusion about revision and not need to post about that again. Next week’s post will be on one of my usual topics, either beer, brewing, women, or nursing. Have a good week.

Revision 2022

As promised, here is my post about my plans for 2022. As you can probably guess from the tittle, my main plan is to revise my manuscript. I am hoping that the publisher I sent three chapters to gets back to me and wants to publish the book. That would give focus and direction to my revision process.

For a lot of reasons December was not a very good month and I was not as productive as I hoped to be. That is however backward looking, and I am trying, for 2022 and beyond, to be in the present and do only a modest amount of planning for the future.

The structure of NaNoWriMo worked so well for completing the draft that I am going to try to adapt it for revising. On the site I pledged (adapted for non-fiction) to:

“edit and revise my manuscript. I swear to undertake the un-luxurious process of editing the first draft of my book. I understand that this process can be messy and disheartening, but ultimately just as rewarding as writing it all the first time.

I will augment the collection of creative implements (pens, pencils, keyboards, touchscreens, quills, and hunks of charcoal) at my workspace with destructive ones (erasers, backspace keys, white-out, and comically large mallets). I will refine and chop sentences, paragraphs, and chapters with impartial ferocity.

Above all, I promise to regard my book with a critical but not cruel eye, for it is a work of mine and deserves to be made even better.”

One of the best features of NaNoWriMo was the word counter, which I faithfully updated every day in November. Because when you are revising, you may work on different pages, paragraphs, or chapters in the same session, counting words could be difficult. I found a hack which is to translate minutes into number of words. My plan is to try to do revisions for three hours every day of January. That means my word total for the month would be 1800 words. My minimum standard is one hour.

I am not going to blog every day of January, but I will give you, my loyal readers, updates every Friday on my progress.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Bye, Bye, 2021

This blog post is going to be a recap of the past year and what I accomplished and what I didn’t. I will save telling you about my goals and plans for 2022 for another post.

My main goal for 2021, which you can read about here, was completing a draft of my manuscript. As you know, I did that at the end of November. It was a tremendous accomplishment, and I am very proud of myself for having had the focus and motivation to meet that goal.

My other goal was to lose weight which I wrote about last week. Losing the weight and finishing a draft of my book means that 2021 was a year of several momentous accomplishments. The rest of 2021 had more mixed experiences – some negative and some positive.

In the beginning of the year, we were still in lockdown and no one in my family had received vaccines. In February both my husband and I were able to receive vaccines and we both spent a couple of months volunteering at local COVID vaccine clinics. This was volunteer work I feel good about and I was glad I could use my nursing training in that way

As you all know, in April, my aunt fell and that consumed a lot of my time from April to July. In those three months we were in Florida for a total of 31 days so one month out of three were spent there. It was very time consuming and often overwhelming.

Despite that distraction and because of posting every day during NaNoWriMo, I posted 72 times while last year I posted 51 times. If I had tweeted only once a day, on December 31, my total would be 4,605. My total today is 4,664 so I am already 59 tweets over and there are a few days left. Being over by that much surprised me because I found tweeting more onerous this year.

The other distracting and stressful event in my life has been the home renovation project that we are doing. For many years I wanted a mud room, and we are finally getting it. However, the two floods we had in the late summer and early fall have dampened my enthusiasm for this home.

Although I think the renovation will be beautiful and our laundry will be upstairs which is a great aging in place move, we will probably spend time after the renovation is complete deciding where we really want to live in the next few years. Since we are getting older one factor in that decision will be where our children are looking.

What I have just written about our home and a potential move means this post is segueing into the future instead of continuing to reflect on the past. I do have more things to say about the future particularly with my writing, but my plan is on January 1st to dedicate a post to that.

Looking over what I have written I realize that 2021 was a year of highs and lows. My wish for 2022 is that it will be a more even keeled year and that everyone I love will be healthy and happy.

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