NaNoWriMo Summer Camp Day 6

I worked on the book for 85 minutes today. I still am pretty confused about what I am doing. My plan is to continue to revise Chapter 1 and then proceed from there.

I would love to hear from people who hav written a draft of a book and then revised it. Any tips on process people can give me would be great.

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 Day3

Today I worked for almost 2 hours  – one hundred and ten minutes. It is very hard work. At this point I feel like I am getting rid of all the research I did. I am having trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Sorry for the clichés. That is all I am capable of at this point.

See you tomorrow.

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.

 

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.

Trees

A few weeks ago, in Nerissa’s writing group, she read a prompt about trees from a book by Richard Powers, Overstory. One of the participants then drafted a beautiful essay about her relationship to trees, both in her yard and in the world. J’s essay made me think about a song I have been trying to learn on the recorder.

Playing the recorder is one of my pandemic endeavors. I am not a musical person. I really didn’t even know how to read music before I started taking lessons. Studying a musical instrument has been a stretch for me. The song I have been trying to learn, “Where have all the green trees gone”  is Swedish with very evocative lyrics.

The essay made me ponder the wetness of our own yard. As I sit here writing, I am looking out at a wide swath of partly dry, partly wet, partly hardened clay in my backyard. This area has spread into an ever-larger mass over the 30 years that we have owned the house. As you might remember we had two floods in our basement within a six-week period. The floods made me acutely aware of climate change and its personal impact. I hope to plant some of the trees J mentioned including the American hornbeam and a river birch.

The lyrics of “Where Have All The Green Trees Gone” are as follows:

Where have all the green trees gone?

Why have they spoiled rivers?

Why do people do these things?

Takers, yes-not givers.

Each of us must do his share,

So our children know we care;

Will you help us save the earth?

Won’t you please be givers?

These lyrics sum up for me climate change in a way many other things have not. When I think about the meaning of the words, takers and givers, and the contrast the song illustrates, they evoke the responsibility we all have for helping other people. Because the song puts children front and center, it reinforces the imperative that we must avert climate change so that our children and grandchildren have an earth to inherit.

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.

 

Book Contest

As part of my never-ending quest to become a better writer, a while ago I subscribed to Writer’s Digest magazine. As a result, I get a lot of emails from them. One that I’ve been getting for a while concerned what they call a “trusted partner” Book Pipeline having a contest for unpublished manuscripts.

Initially I thought I wouldn’t be able to make the deadline because they wanted a book proposal, and I hadn’t really started working on that yet. However, on Sunday I got another email about the book  contest, and I decided to go for it even though the deadline was only five days away, Thursday March 10th.

Deciding to enter the contest motivated me to try to fix my book proposal and I did it. I worked very hard the last few days and on Thursday I submitted the book proposal and my nine chapters, which are just the first draft, for the contest. I won’t hear about the results until October 10th but revising the book proposal to enter the contest means that it is now in decent enough shape that I can send to other publishers and agents along with query letters. Therefore, I don’t feel that I wasted time applying for the contest. Since finding out whether I’ve won or not won’t be for seven months, I will let you know then what happens.

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