Camp NaNoWriMo - The Halfway Point

Sunday April 15, 2018

Today marks the halfway point for this month's Camp NaNoWriMo, the set-your-own-goal online writing challenge tied to National Novel Writing Month in November. Rather than choosing a word count goal, I wanted to use this month to build a regular, daily writing habit.

My current tally is at 18 hours, which would have me more than halfway there if I'd gone with a simple hour-per-day goal. But I had a different plan, as explained on my Camp NaNoWriMo Project Page:
The goal is at least one hour a day (30 hours), plus one additional hour on the days I know I'll have off during the month (+12), plus at least two mini-binge days with two additional hours (+4), for at least 46 hours spent writing in April. 
So with that in mind, I technically should have been at 23 hours today to really be on track. But since my ultimate goal is to build up better habits, I went into this hoping that the month would get progressively better, not planning to have it all come together on day one.

Unlike the every-spare-moment-spent-writing word count crunch of NaNoWriMo, more time for reading was an unofficial part of my April goal. One of the books I read this month was Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

Not actually about birds.
I'd read good things about it and thought it would be a great fit for Camp. Although there ended up being some helpful stuff in it, I must admit I almost stopped reading. I'm not familiar with any of Lamott's other writing, but I quickly got the feeling that she and I simply have a different view of life, which made getting on board with her anecdotes and asides tough.

I'm glad I stuck it out though, as there's a really wonderful section near the end about reasons to write. It includes ideas about writing something as a present for someone in your life, writing something to return the favour to the author of a book you love (even if they're unlikely to ever read yours), thinking of writing as being a host to your readers, or seeing writing as a way of giving readers a feeling of connection and communion. These aren't the practical "instructions" someone reading Lamott might be looking for, but for me they were a refreshing bit of motivation.

On the other hand, I found a very practical suggestion for the rest of Camp in an unexpected place. I've started reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, which I also saw someone recommend online. I'm only partway in, but its already included a story about Jerry Seinfeld's dedication to writing new jokes every day which I think I had heard before, but clearly forgotten:
"Seinfeld continued by describing a specific technique he used to help maintain this discipline. He keeps a calendar on his wall. Every day that he writes jokes he crosses out the date on the calendar with a big red X. 'After a few days you'll have a chain,' Seinfeld said. 'Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.'"
So now a red pen is at the ready by our kitchen calendar, to see if I can get a nice chain going by the end of the month.

Are you taking part in Camp? If so, how's your month going?

Gearing Up for Camp NaNoWriMo

Sunday March 25, 2018

Come April, I'll be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, a month-long writing challenge where you create your own definition of success. It's the more flexible cousin of November's National Novel Writing Month, where all participants are trying to write 50,000 words in those 30 days.

I've twice "won" at NaNoWriMo (and once at the now defunct Script Frenzy challenge), but that was over a decade ago. For my first time at camp, my whole goal is based on writing hours rather than word count or even a particular project. I've never been someone who wrote everyday, but in the past few years my writing sessions have become more sporadic than ever. So I'm going to Camp with the goal of creating new habits which I hope will last long after the month is over.

Want to set your own writing goal for April and have some online friends to cheer you on? There's still time to sign up for camp!

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On Stretch Goals and Goose Buttons

Tuesday March 6, 2018

So if you follow me on any social media, you probably already know that Volume 5 of the Toronto Comics Anthology Osgoode as Gold is currently on Kickstarter. The campaign video even includes a shout-out from co-editor Megan Purdy for the story I wrote, "The Goosefighter", which has art by Austen Payne:

"The Goosefighter" is a Western-inspired tale about a young woman whose day is ruined by a territorial Canada goose on the York University campus. It is one of 27 new Toronto-set short comics that fill the 220 full colour pages of this collection.

Cover by Irma Kniivila
As I write this, the Kickstarter is at just under $6000 raised out of an original $15,000 goal, with the rest of the month to go. I've been rather casually posting about it as a great way to support the Toronto Comix Press and the creators by pre-ordering your physical or PDF copy of the book.

But today - TODAY - they announced the stretch goals. (If you're not familiar with crowdfunding campaigns, stretch goals are an extra incentive to raise above and beyond the original target.) So what are the stretch goals for the Osgoode as Gold campaign? 

If they raise $16,000, the cover text gets a Raised UV Gloss upgrade.

If they raise $17,000, all backers who've pledged $5 or more will get all of the previous anthologies as PDFs.

If they raise $18,000, all physical backers will get an adorable bookmark set.

And if they raise $19,000, all physical backers will receive a set of six character buttons designed by artist Megan Kearney.

Characters from the stories in the book.

These six characters right here:

Bottom row, middle button. Do you see it? DO YOU SEE THE ANGRY GOOSE?

19K people. 19k is the magic number for goose buttons. I believe we can do it. Like that honking V flying overhead during migration, we can go the distance.

Check out the Osgoode as Gold campaign on Kickstarter 

Recommended Reading: Watcher of the Skies

Wednesday February 07, 2018

And it turned out my excitement over the arrival of this anthology from the UK was warranted. Watcher of the Skies: Poems about Space and Aliens is a fantastic poetry collection for kids - playful and insightful and sure to spark the imagination of young writers and explorers alike.

The collection pairs the poems with notes and suggested connections (presumably) supplied by editors Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, along with related facts by Rachel Cochrane, a PhD student from the University of Edinburgh's Institute for Astronomy. This is a wonderful way to put the book together, as it means the poems can rise to any level of whimsy, with the kid-friendly "footnotes" offering the real-world support. 

Some of my personal favourites include the crop-circle instructional "Art 101 for Aliens" by Rebecca Colby and the story of Galileo as told in "The Starry Messenger" by John Canfield. Robert Schecter's "Compared to What?" and Dom Conlon's "The Way Planets Talk" both compellingly present big ideas while "Up Above" by Mandy Coe is a beautiful hint at where folklore comes from.

Of course it also helped to win this Canadian over when the first of the lively line drawings done by co-editor Emma Wright was an illustration of Astronaut Chris Hadfield performing the title action for "How to Brush your Teeth in Space" by Sohini Basak (I do hope they sent Commander Hadfield a copy).

All of this is to say that I highly recommend this book for kids who have even a hint of space or or sci-fi nerd brewing in their souls, or who just love playful poems. I imagine teachers could make wonderful use of it as well. It's listed as being for ages 8+ and I see no reason to disagree. Some of the vocabulary will certainly challenge some 8 year olds, but what better way to encounter new and exciting words than in an out-of-this-world rhyme?

Full disclosure - The Emma Press has a policy that writers can only submit if they're part of The Emma Press Club, which is made up of anyone who they've previously published OR who has bought a book in the current year. So yes, I ordered this book so that I could submit some writing of my own, but this is a genuine recommendation - in fact this is one of those situations where a rejection won't bother me at all, because I'll still have this fantastic book on my shelf (until my nephew and nieces are old enough to appreciate it, that is.)

I ordered this directly from the Emma Press website and I recommend visiting to check out their other collections for kids and adults alike. But if you prefer, at time of writing the book is also available through and through (but don't use those options if you want to get in The Club - or at least send an email first and find out how that would work).