Multitasking and Camp NaNoWriMo

I’m trying to learn how to work on more than one writing project at a time.

Right now I want to be writing the first draft of a novel, whilst at the same time editing my backlog of short stories that are not ready to submit.

One of the reasons I like NaNoWriMo is that the challenging (for me) word count goal of 50,000 words in thirty days makes me stretch myself to figure out what I have to do to achieve it. Plus I have to make creating words the highest priority activity in my life.

Camp NaNoWriMo Badge 2015

But, that isn’t sustainable. So this month I am doing CAMP NaNoWriMo. It’s like nano-light. Less stress because you get to set your own word-count goal for the thirty days of April to anything from 10,000 words on up. I also populated my “cabin” with nine friends for mutual motivation.

After a reality check, I scaled down my goal to a realistic and sustainable 12,000 words for the month of April.  My plan is to continue after Camp NaNoWriMo is over with a goal of adding 2,500 words a week, and finish my novel’s first draft within a year.

In a way that feels like I’ve set my “bar” too low. But this target will leave me time to edit and write short stories at the same time. And because I know that I am motivated by goals and accountability, I’ll be posting my progress on my blog.

Canine Adventures, part 1

One month ago we adopted a dog, named Teddy by one of my kids.

Miriah Hetherington's dog Teddy

Teddy in the back yard

Neither my husband nor I have ever owned a dog before. So this is a learning adventure for all of us.

We adopted Teddy from a private rescue organization that brings dogs from high-kill shelters to the Seattle area. He came from Nevada. According to the shelter documents his breed is “border collie mix.” Since we brought him home I’ve learned what that basically means is “black and white dog.” There could be some border collie in his genes. But likely there’s some bull-dog or pit-bull and maybe even some great dane in there also.

Teddy weighs 75 pounds, so he’s pretty big. He’s a very sweet guy, calm most of the time, and loves belly rubs and squeaky toys. He’s learning to walk on a leash, but still tends to forget everything when he sees (or smells) a rabbit or squirrel – critters we have in abundance around here. We are still keeping him separate from our two cats, who are both rather unimpressed with the newest member of the family.

Microsoft Campus trail Sasquatch sign

Teddy poses for a selfie with me

Third CW Strike

I applied, and was not accepted, for a third time to the Clarion West workshop.

cookies with eyes

My kids made these Illuminati cookies.

 

Dear Reader, if you found this blog post because you are searching for clues about how to write your own CW application letter, then… Alas, I cannot enlighten you.

 

 

 

Unlike the last two years, I was able to write productively in the anxiety-fraught days between the application deadline on March 1st and March 17th when I got the rejection email. And unlike my blogged reactions of the last two years, I’m not going to dwell on how devastated I feel this time.

In my writing “career” (the four years since I started writing down stories) the biggest mistake I have made so far was in January of last year. I was about 60,000 words into a novel and quit. Why? To write a new short story for my 2014 Clarion West application.

HUGE mistake, letting my desire to attend a workshop interfere with my writing. I derailed my novel completely. What I should have done was use an old story for the application and kept writing the novel. (I’m currently working on the outline for a new novel – more about that later.)

I’m lucky to live in the Seattle area because whilst the CW workshop is going on, the instructor for each week will do a public reading. I loved Cory Doctorow’s novel “Little Brother” and Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Salt Roads,” and Connie Willis’ short stories are amazing. I look forward to seeing those authors (and the instructors whose books I haven’t read – yet) in person.

Happy Writing.

A Frosty Transaction

It’s December already. Where did the year go? In honor of December and the holiday/Christmas season, I’ve decided to share a Christmas-themed, horror-flash, fan-fiction story I wrote.

I’m linking this story in the comments on Chuck Wendig’s blog, where he posed a challenge to write a Flash Fiction Challenge: Holiday Horror Extravaganza.

A Taste of Christmas Spirit
By Miriah Hetherington

Ethan rubbed his hands together and blew into them with steamy breath. He looked from the tip jar to his watch. It was six o’clock. Time to close up the espresso stand, and his tips barely covered the bus fare home. At least the boss was paying him double for working the Fourth Avenue cart on Christmas Eve.

He made two large mochas before closing up the stand. He was half-way to saving enough money to buy his own coffee cart, and someday he hoped to own his own restaurant. Ethan decided to save his meager tips and walk home, but stopped by the bus shelter to give one of the coffees to the homeless guy who’d been sleeping there for the last three nights. He wasn’t there, and Ethan hoped he’d found a better place.

Ethan turned the corner next to Macy’s on Main Street and joined a throng of foot traffic crossing the street. On the corner sidewalk, an older woman in a heavy white coat and ear muffs was busy setting up a vintage snow cone vending cart with a snowman painted on the side. As he got closer he heard her humming the Frosty the Snowman tune.

“Hello,” he said.

She turned, and Ethan could see that she was older than he’d first thought, but her eyes were lively and bright. “Sorry, my boy. I’m not open yet.”

“Uh, I wasn’t-” Ethan looked around. Other passers-by seemed to ignore her, and the old woman appeared to be alone. She opened a box full of snow cone syrup bottles and put one on the counter. “Ma’am, nobody’s going to buy snow cones tonight, it’s too cold.”

“I’ve been doing this for over fifty years — every Christmas Eve.” She winked. “Is one of those hot drinks for me?”

Ethan looked down at the two mochas he still held in his hands. “Sure.” He handed over the cup he’d intended for the homeless man.

“My name is Karen.”

“Ethan.” He shook her hand, a little surprised by how firm her grip was. “Would you like some help?”

Karen’s smile widened. “I would be delighted.” She took a sip of the mocha and gestured to the box. Ethan began unpacking the syrup bottles while Karen lined them up on the counter.

An overhead street light flickered in the early evening gloom. The light made the syrup bottles glimmer. He unpacked five shades of red, from blood-red charitable cherry, to wispy pink wise watermelon. Kindness kiwi glowed a tempting green, next to generous berry blue and orange tropical contentment.
Karen placed an empty gallon-size jug on the counter, and Ethan read the sign taped to it. “Pay what you wish?” He snorted, remembering his mostly empty tip jar from earlier. “Really?”

Karen shrugged and began filling a paper cone from the snow bin. “I’m serving Christmas Spirit. Who can put a price on that?”

“Uh-huh.” Ethan regarded the oblivious shoppers waiting at the corner for the street light to change. The old woman was clearly reality-challenged. But he couldn’t leave her here in the cold alone, waiting for customers all night.
Just then, a middle aged woman wearing a stylish overcoat and designer shoes stepped up to the stand. “I’ll take jolly raspberry.” She dropped a twenty dollar bill in the jar.

More customers began to stop at the snow cone cart. Karen poured grateful grape for a sullen teenager texting on her cell phone. A grey-haired man who announced he was a retired traffic cop chose playful peppermint.

A crowd surrounded the cart and Ethan filled paper cups with snow as fast as he could while Karen poured the syrup. Finally, the snow bin was empty except for a corncob pipe, button, and two lumps of coal. Ethan’s announcement that they were out of snow was met with a flurry of disappointed sighs as Karen sent people away.

Ethan stretched and looked at the gallon jug. It was full of bills, none less than twenty as far as he could tell. “I don’t believe it.”

“I always save one cone,” said Karen. She opened a side compartment and took out the last snow cone and an old silk top-hat. “I’m getting too old for this, Ethan. How would you like to take over?”

“Are you kidding?” It was Ethan’s dream come true. “But, I don’t think I can afford it.”

Karen pressed her lips together in a thin smile. “Consider it a Christmas gift. The cart, everything — the jar of money too. But you have to accept the responsibility. The snow bin can only be filled once a year, on Christmas Eve.”

With the money in that tip jar and his savings, Ethan could buy his own coffee cart. The unflavored snow cone glittered red and green, probably reflecting the changing traffic lights. Ethan’s mouth watered in anticipation as he reached out.

Karen pulled it back. “You must accept responsibility for the cart and agree to sell Christmas Spirit yourself, every Christmas Eve. Do you accept?” She held out the hat and the snow cone.

“Absolutely, I accept.” Ethan grasped the hat and brought the snow cone to his mouth. It cooled his tongue with a burst of sweetness like nothing he had ever tasted before. All at once he felt everything each syrup bottle had promised. He slurped charity, wisdom, kindness, generosity, contentment, gratefulness, playfulness, and joy. Everything the holiday season was supposed to be about. Far too soon, the cone was empty.

Ethan regarded the empty snow bin. “Just tell me what I have to do.”
The End

frosty-the-snowman-12
Frosty the Snowman is not in the public domain and doesn’t belong to me, so this story is fan fiction.

Thanks for reading. I hope you liked it.

Shiny first draft

(Why, yes. It HAS been a long time since I posted a blog update. Shut up.)

I entered the Writers of the Future contest for the first time, third quarter (deadline June 30). I heard on September 15th that my story got an “Honorable Mention” status. I feel pretty good about that.

The next entry deadline is almost here, September 30th. I just finished a new short story that I think might be a contender – after some serious revision.

The beach at Fort Worden

The beach at Fort Worden

I thought I’d share my internal dialog:

Right Brain: I finished it! This is the best story I have ever written! It’s so shiny! I love it so much! I have to submit it RIGHT NOW!

Left Brain: No way. We just finished it. This is a rough draft. Do you remember what happened last time we did that?

Right Brain: Okay, yeah. But we revised that story later and, well, THIS story is SO MUCH BETTER! It’s so fluffy! We sent it to Mom and she LOVED it.

Left Brain: Mom loves everything we write.

Right Brain: She said it made her cry.

Left Brain: It was supposed to. But we already know the characterization of the protagonist is inconsistent. And we still have some fact checking to do…

Right Brain: So, let’s do it! Let’s start right now!

Left Brain: We need to catch up on everything we let slide while we were finishing the story. Plus, we already sent it off to our crit group. We need to wait for their feedback. Those women are smart. They always catch stuff we miss.

Right Brain: Okay, okay. But after the crit group meeting we still have two days. Plenty of time. We can revise that sparkly story and get it in before the deadline.

Left Brain: Whoa there. We have to wait for the sparkles to fade, so we can see the flaws.

Right Brain: This story doesn’t have any flaws. I’m sure of it.

Left Brain: Oh, the flaws are there alright, we just can’t see them. Yet. We have to put that story aside for at least two weeks, a month would be better, so we can see the flaws and fix them.

Right Brain: But, but…. okay, you’re right. I guess we have to wait until next quarter to send it in.

Left Brain: Sadly, yes.

Anybody else ever had this conversation with themselves?

because purple is my favorite color

I’ve been wanting to color some of my hair purple (again) for some time.

Miriah Hetherington

Miriah with purple hair


This was the first time I used bleach to lighten (part of) my hair before coloring it. Seriously nasty stuff. I’m sure the fumes killed a spider that has been hanging around my bathroom sink. Also, after it was on, my hair got hot – really hot. I had to ask one of my twins if it was supposed to do that. The purple was easy, but I did have to be VERY careful to clean every accidental smudge right away.

a bee caught by a spider in Miriah Hetherington's front garden

Bee caught by a spider.


I love the lavender that is blooming in front of my house. The bees like it too. As do spiders, apparently.

Have you done anything unusual (for you) this summer?

Happy Writing

Be Entertaining

Mary Rosenblum has this wonderful website, New Writer’s Interface, and recently she blogged her advice for new writers who have trouble figuring out what to blog about. That is totally me!

I subscribe to Mary Rosenblum’s newsletter. I recommend it. She describes herself as the Literary Midwife for new writers. I love the idea of that.

Anyway, her main advice was: be entertaining.

Goats at Farrel-McWhirter park

Goats at Farrel-McWhirter park

Somehow I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend about twenty years ago. She was pregnant with her second child, due anytime, and worried about needing to have labor induced like with her first delivery. Her midwife told her something like, “Have I got a fun assignment for you! You and your husband go home and have sex. A lot of sex. And have orgasms. A lot of orgasms. That will get your labor started.”

My friend’s pregnancy was near term and she was huge and uncomfortable. It was a hot Southern California summer. She was perpetually exhausted. Her (unsurprising) response was, “Ugh! Not only do I have to have sex, but I have to have orgasms too?!?” (I don’t remember what her husband’s opinion was – I think he wisely kept it to himself.)

Where am I going with this? (Nope, not there. At least, not without a pseudonym.)

But I AM thinking, “Not only do I have to write a blog post, but I have to be entertaining too?”

The most entertaining and thoughtfully funny blog I know of is Chuck Wendig’s – he makes you feel like you’re sitting with him drinking a beer. The most engaging blog I know of is Louise Penny’s – she makes you feel like a personal friend.

Clearly, some (awesome) people just have a knack for making this blogging thing seem easy. Blogging is writing, and writing is what I do for fun. So thinking of ideas/stuff to blog about should be easy, right?

Like everything else I guess it just takes practice.

Where do you get ideas for blog posts?

Happy Writing,
Miriah