Wednesday, November 2, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month for 2011 has begun. It's an event where the goal is to write 50,000 words in the thirty days of November. At the end, you can earn a cute little certificate from The Office of Letters and Light, the organization that started this whole event in 1999, and you get the satisfaction of knowing you can crank out 50,000 words in a month. You also may have a first draft for a novel, which you can then edit and perfect and hopefully publish, but there isn't any particular requirements other than getting 50,000 words down on paper or computer.

I have attempted this great feat six times now, but I have only managed to 'win' twice. I have done a lot of writing on those years I didn't win, and most of those novels were continued and even finished long after November was past, so it served the purpose of getting a story started.

I've made new friends through NaNoWriMo, the common abbreviation for the event, as well. And I've learned of resources for writer's that would otherwise been very difficult to locate. There are numerous forums and advice for writers all easily accessed through the NaNoWriMo website.

I highly recommend this event to others, whether you have a goal of being published or not. It's a fun and challenging event and can really stretch your imagination in new and wonderful ways.

As November began yesterday, I had no idea what I was going to write. I had no plot, no characters, no idea whatsoever, but I joined another writer and opened a page on my computer and envisioned a scene and began to type. Three hours later I had over 4000 words. A stellar beginning and an engaging story that I'm anxious to continue.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Quote of Note

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
Gustave Flaubert

Sunday, January 30, 2011

College Bound

Choosing a college or university can be even more complex than choosing a job. There are several additional factors to consider in your search and often you haven’t really discovered yourself yet. There’s determining your own personal interests and degree choices, where you want to live, the size of the school, the cost, and the environment of the school itself. My son has been discovering the ins and outs of college selection over the past few years and we’re heading down the homestretch now.

Counselors and teachers will advise students to begin thinking about college from the start of high school, but few students are even close to considering college at that age. Most students are still trying to figure out their position in high school. They are looking into all the new choices of classes and activities and seeing what their friends are interested in as well. Determining what school or degree they want for college is as distant as retirement. But this is an excellent training ground for determining college as well. The process can be very similar in some ways.

Once a student has established where they fit in within high school, they have already narrowed down their college choices. Clearly a student that has little or no interest in the arts isn’t going to be considering going to a fine arts school, and a student that is deeply involved in music may want to seriously consider schools with large music programs. High school also gives students the opportunity to try out a certain interest and see if it’s really where they want to be. For example, a student may take a theater class and discover he absolutely hates it, or maybe he finds it to be a new passion. Either way, it’s a convenient way to experiment with an interest.

My son has had the advantage of visiting a few colleges within our state over the last few years. This helped him to determine what kind of campus where he’d be most comfortable and whether he really wanted to stay within our region to go to school. His choices narrowed considerably once he’d chosen his major, but many students don’t choose a major until their sophomore year of college. His in state choices are limited, partly due to his GPA, but also because he doesn’t want to live here. He’s anxious to move away from home, and he wants to move far away, not just a couple of hours away. Fortunately, there are some very good schools that fit his needs.

Establishing how much school you can afford is a big factor as well. While everyone hears about scholarships and grants that will pay for the whole cost, few students actually receive anything like that. Assuming you have to pay for the whole thing makes anything you do get icing on the cake, so to speak. There is a federal aid form that anyone planning on college should fill out. You might be eligible for federal money and not even know it. Your high school’s career or college center is also an excellent source of potential money. They usually have a current list of scholarship opportunities and while many are specific to seniors in high school, there are often others for younger students as well. The sources of financing for college are numerous and there are many creative ways to fund a student’s education, but you have to search them out. No one’s likely to come knocking on your door with money unless you have a truly spectacular student, and even then it’s unlikely.

Taking a tour of prospective college campuses is a must. This is where you’re looking to be living for the next four years. You need to make sure you’re comfortable there. Some schools are very small and close-knit and others are immense and spread out over several towns, and still others are somewhere in between. Some schools are very technical and others quite liberal. Each have their benefits, but until you actually go there and get a feel for the place, you won’t know if it’s a place you can really thrive. Visiting the schools also gives you a chance to talk with other students and get feedback about the school that isn’t from someone being paid by the school. While faculty and admissions personnel will tell you all the benefits, they aren’t likely to be as forthcoming with any negatives. While visiting the school, you might also get the chance to sit in on a class and really get a feel for going there. If you can’t stand being in a class with a hundred and fifty students, you’ll know it then. On the other hand, you may find the diverse population of a large school to be exciting.

Our son’s journey into college has been an interesting one, and I hope his choices work out for him and us. We’ve tried to explore as many possibilities as possible, but I know there are things we’ve probably missed. He’s excited about going away and he’s anxious to begin this next phase in life. I’m rather anxious too but more because my life will be changing as I return to the regular workforce in order to help pay for his college. Learning about college has been an interesting journey for our son and for us and there are many more factors to consider than just what degree you’ll be taking. Start early and take your time. Explore the options and ask questions. It’s an exciting experience and well worth the effort.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trials and Tribulations

As I previously mentioned, there are several vehicles in my household. All of which require tires. This can really put a dent in ones wallet. We should get a frequent buyer discount at Tire Rack for all the tires we've purchased and will be purchasing.

When the Mercury Grand Marquis entered our drive, we knew it needed tires, badly. And after a harrowing night many many years ago involving an accident and less than ideal tires, we're a little particular about tires for our vehicles. So we purchased new tires for the car and had them installed locally. Cheaper than just going to the local tire shop, but still not free.

Then we acquired the Miata. It had two good tires and two not so good tires. Well, it isn't a daily driver car for us, so we just decided we wouldn't drive it in bad weather for now and we'd buy new tires in another month or so. That is until the Marquis's thermostat went bad and we needed another car. And even that wouldn't have been so bad except that while changing the thermostat we had a little accident with the intake manifold cracking. Ouch! Fortunately, we found an excellent set of slightly used two year old snow tires for the Miata already mounted on Craigslist.

Last summer we purchased tires for our Corvair Wagon, a month or so ago we purchased tires for the Marquis, this month we purchased some used snow tires for the Miata, next month we'll get new tires for the Miata. Oh, and our Neon needs new tires as well, though not as imminently as the Miata. And we're looking at getting another 'Vair on the road this Spring, and since it's been parked for years, it needs new tires as well. Maybe I should get a job at a tire place.

Since my husband does the work in our carport in his free time, the repair of the Marquis actually took several weeks. Plus we've been experiencing unusually cold weather. We also needed a car for my seventeen year old for several days because of his schedule. So the last couple of weeks have been an interesting dance of who's driving what, when, and where, and where do you park when you come home so you don't block anyone in?

Fortunately, all vehicles are back on the road now, and apparently just in time for some real snow. We got our typical ice snow mix last night, but the forecast for tonight is six to ten inches of snow.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Many Vehicles of My Life

Our fleet of vehicles grew by two this past year, along with drivers in the house. We've added a 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis and a 2000 Mazda Miata. Quite a juxtaposition, I know, but the Mercury is what my oldest chose and once he finishes paying us back it will be his. The Miata is a return to my youth when I didn't have to carry around three kids and a ton of groceries. It also gets better gas mileage than my 2009 F150. So now, we have a '98 Dodge Neon RT, an '09 F150, the Marquis, the Miata, a '64 Chevy Greenbrier, two '66 Chevy Corvairs, a '64 Chevy Corvair Wagon, and a '69 Plymouth Roadrunner. I'm not going to even count the parts that make up the '66 E-type Jag. You can see why I said we have a fleet. Though I must admit not all the antique vehicles are running. Only the wagon and one of the '66 Vairs are on the road right now, the others need new engines, among other items.

The Mercury was my oldest son's choice when faced with searching for a car for between $2500 and $5000. He has really enjoyed driving larger cars and likes the soft ride it has. My seventeen year old calls it "The Blue Pillow", since that's what he thinks it feels like when driving. As long as the one who drives it likes it, it doesn't really matter.

The purchase of the Miata though really was triggered by the realization that my seventeen year old will need a car next year when he goes to college. He's applying to several different schools, none of them anywhere near home. He really wants to get away from home. I've wanted a Miata since before they were available, but back then there was a huge mark up on them. Now that we've had this one for a few weeks though we're thinking of getting an even newer one for after he takes this one to college. The next generation models have a few more features that would make the car even more enjoyable, but in the meantime, I'm having fun with a new-to-me roadster.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Year a New Start

A change in routine should help me reach my goals for the new year. So I'm transforming my daily routine for the new year. I think my daily rut last year had too much time wasted on unproductive and unrewarding activities, so I'm eliminating a lot of them and replacing them with actions that should get me to my goal of becoming published.

Overall, last year was spent trying to take care of unfinished problems and projects, but not a lot was accomplished with my writing career. So, I'm making some changes and hoping a new routine and a new attitude will help move me to where I want to be.

Last year I set in place a good exercise regimen, and it has really helped me deal with some health issues. But for 2011, I want to step it up and lose a few pounds as well. A combination of treadmill, bike and weight machines should help get me to where I want to be, and another healthier shift in my diet should make a difference as well.

Life at home will be changing even more this year, as one son is working and another will be graduating high school and heading off to college. I'll still have my youngest for a good while yet though, so no empty nest for me. Just a lot of radical changes. Looking forward to those changes and watching my sons grow up some more.

One of my changes is to add back my blog time. I really enjoyed interacting with some of the other bloggers out there and devoting a bit of time to get some thoughts out there was a good creative exercise. I don't know if I'll make it a daily post, but I'll be here as often as I can.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Writing and Life

I've done a lot of writing in the last six months or so, though little of it appeared here. Sorry about that, but life has been busy and my muse was insistent. Not sure how marketable any of it is, but I'm sending it out anyway. I think it's good and hopefully so will someone else. I've written a few short stories and two novels in the last six months. That's a lot for me. Heck, I would imagine it's a lot for just about anyone, but several other things took a backseat during this time.

I've been catching up on house projects, a lot of clutter that has accumulated over these months, and a few personal projects as well. Like this blog. It wasn't a conscious decision to not do all these other things, and it's not as if all I did was write. We had a busy Spring with our young Baseball players. A teenager playing in one league and umpiring in another meant a lot of driving to and from events since he doesn't drive yet. Plus, my youngest was playing Little League and my husband coached. Plenty of activities almost everyday between them all. It was rare that we didn't have to go somewhere on any given night of the week from late March through late June. We had a blast though and I took some awesome photos of both boys pitching and batting during their games.

Summer looked like it might give us more time, and I'm sure it did, somewhere, but I was on the move almost constantly and still didn't get to work on this blog. Fall of course means back-to-school and Fall baseball, and this year we had the added activities of a new Marching Band Student. If you've never been closely associated with High School Marching Band, you have no idea how much time it can take. Prior to school even beginning there was a three week band camp that started early in the morning and went into the evening most days. Once school began the practices lightened up to only 3-4 hours a day four days a week. Oh, and every other weekend they went away for at least a day to compete with other marching bands somewhere in the region. So that meant Saturday's were booked.

Of course, once Marching Band ended in November, I made a valiant attempt at National Novel Writing Month, but alas, I fell short by about 20,000 words. Oh well, I did make progress on a project, but my focus was all off for writing. Our holiday season was different for us since we had a record snowfall the weekend before Christmas and managed to get over 20 inches of snow that stuck around for a month. (For those of you in colder climes, my area may see a huge snowfall, but the weather warms within a couple of days and the snow disappears before it gets to be that ugly black dirty snow on the sides of the roads) This time it stayed unmercifully cold for weeks. I'm not sure we broke the freezing mark there for at least a couple of weeks. Very odd for the DC area.

So now it's January 2010 and I'm going to try and keep things current and post with some regularity, though perhaps not daily as some do. I'll be checking in on other's blogs as well, and maybe evening taking the time to post comments again.

See you all in cyber space!