On Edgar

That Leaf Is Up To No Good

That Leaf Is Up To No Good

Above is a papercraft Edgar Allen Poe I made last year. It’s pretty awesome. Unfortunately, the .pdf I used to make this little guy seems to be gone from the Internet. Not awesome.

Anyhow, I mention this because they are celebrating Edgar Allen Poe in Baltimore this week, culminating in a “grand funeral” on Sunday. I guess when he was originally buried, only ten mourners attended. I expect there will be a bit more than that this time.

So, what’s your favorite work by Edgar Allen Poe? Mine is and always be The Raven. I don’t get into poetry a lot, but The Raven is gold to me.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
” ‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door —
Only this, and nothing more.”

I Love My Critique Group

So, I had my writing critique group meeting last night and it was a big success. I always come away from our meetings feeling energized about my writing, and last night was not any different.

First of all, I shared my contest entry for Karen Lee Field’s 500 word story contest (you still have a month to enter). My group very much liked it and had some really nice things to say about my writing, while still offering some suggestions.  Love that.

Secondly, and more importantly, I got to read other writer’s writing. Let me tell you, there was some good stuff this week, particularly from our newest member.

I’m never sure what I’m going to get with a new writer’s work, so I always approach with caution. Boy was I pleasantly surprised, as this new writer’s submission blew my face off. Her writing was fresh, extremely funny, and just a joy to read. It reminded me a bit of Encyclopedia Brown, except with two female detectives in the lead.

So, if you are on the fence about writing critique groups, there is another reason to join one. You get to read and be inspired by some new writing, for free. In fact, it’s your “job”!

Advice on NaNoWriMo


Well, in less than a month it will be National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Are you ready?

I’m not ready yet, and I haven’t even decided yet if I’m participating. It might be a game time decision. That said, I did “win” NaNoWriMo the last two years, so I figured I’d share what I’ve learned with all of you who are going to participate. Plus, writing this just might push me in the direction of participation.

My NaNoWriMo Advice

  1. Math Matters – 50,000 words in 30 days. That means you need to average 1,667 words a day. Write less on one day and you have to make it up on another. It really is that simple.
  2. Calendar Matters – No go get a calendar and turn to November. Anything jump out? Thanksgiving? Are you really going to write 1,667 words that day? If not, adjust your words/day count (it’s 1,724 words per day if you count on 0 for Thanksgiving Day).  Be realistic with yourself. If you don’t think you will be as productive on weekends, adjust your word per day count accordingly.
  3. Start STRONG – Use that opening day momentum and write as many words as you can on the first day of NaNoWriMo. This will give you a bit of cushion for those days when inspiration isn’t there or you are just too busy to write.
  4. Don’t fall behind – Do not go to bed without hitting your word count for the day. You fall behind a bit one day, and you will just have that much more to write the next.
  5. Planning helps – I’m not much of a planner or outliner, but the more planning you do this month, the easier it will be to write next month. Put it this way, if you are planning in November, you are taking time away from writing.
  6. You are writing draft 1 – Don’t worry about getting things perfect. You won’t. Just remember the point is to get a first draft down on paper/ones and zeros. Editing can happen another month.
  7. Have fun with the community – There are thousands of people taking part in NaNoWriMo. Befriend a few of them and keep each other honest. This is key for those who have trouble with self-motivation.
  8. Have fun with the writing – 50,000 words is a challenge, and it can be quite torturous. Still, have fun with it.
  9. Caffeine!

Stick to those points and I think you have a shot at being successful in November. Anybody have anything to add?

Here’s To Old Lady Mellon

Well, tonight is the Pittsburgh Penguin’s first game of the season and the last home opener in Mellon Arena history. Next year they will be in the bigger, better place. Tonight, though, the leaky old “Civic Arena” is new again, at least for a night.

Whether or not you follow hockey, this was a pretty cool video filled with memories of Mellon Arena. Pretty cool song too.

A Writing Pep Talk

When I was a kid, I didn’t want anything more in life than to become a big league baseball player. Every night I’d fall asleep dreaming about hitting a home run in the 9th inning of the World Series to win the game for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I had this dream in Elementary School all the way through High School.  As you all know, it never happened.

That doesn’t mean all that time I spent practicing baseball, worrying about baseball, and playing baseball was wasted. I mean, I got to spend a lot of time with my Dad playing catch and practicing hitting, as he coached many of those years, and when he wasn’t officially coaching me he was still throwing me batting practice. Then there was my Mom, who bravely stood “at the plate” while I practiced pitching in the back yard. I felt terrible when I hit here on my first pitch, even though now I say she was crowding the plate.

I also learned teamwork in my failed attempt at athletic glory. I learned that sometimes being a part of something bigger than myself can be just as good as personal glory.

Well, many of you share a dream with me now. We dream of “becoming writers”. We dream of having our work published, and of seeing our names on the spine of some book in a bookstore. We dream of making money doing something we love, and quitting our day jobs (even if we like them too).

What happens if we don’t make it? Is all that time lost? Should we not bother trying at all? What defines success and failure anyway?

I say we forge ahead, even if the likelihood of being published never happens. That’s out of our hands anyway. What is in our hands is how hard we try, how much we work on our craft, and how we feel about ourselves.

What if you do finish that novel? That’s more than the vast majority of the people in the world can say. What if you finish that novel and give it to your family and it touches them? What if you finish that novel, shop it around, and when that doesn’t succeed you post it on your blog? What if somebody downloads your novel from your blog and it changes that one person’s life? Or what if it doesn’t change their life, but it brightens their day? Have you really failed?

Anyhow, I don’t have the answers to these questions. It’s different for everybody’s situation, I guess. It was just something that went through my head as I was chasing my baby son across the room, trying to get a diaper on his naked bum. At least I eventually succeeded in that.